Summer in the garden


With Garden Designer, Sally Cunis

“Woke up it was a Chelsea morning….” was the song that my husband was singing thirty years ago this May to our baby son who had arrived earlier than expected.

We should have been at the Chelsea Flower Show that morning as I had a couple of Garden Designs in the student tent. The entry tickets remained unused on the hall table but my son and I are visiting the show together this year

May is a glorious time of the year when the swallows return, the woods are carpeted in bluebells, the garden bursts into life, borders fill with the lush green foliage of emerging perennials, lilies and late tulips, the trees break into leaf or are smothered in delicious blossom, and hawthorn hedges are draped in white. Suddenly there is more work than ever to do in both the ornamental and kitchen gardens. Lawns are bright green and need mowing regularly.

Infill gaps in the border with Alliums and tall perennials and place low growing clump-forming plants such as saxifrage along the edges. Seedlings of flowers such as Cleome, Nigella and Verbena bonariensis should be planted out into borders and tubs. Make wigwams of pea sticks to support sweet peas and tie in. Sow flower seeds in drifts in gaps in planting areas but protect from pigeons and cats. Weeds will be growing fast and competing for nutrients and space so it is important to keep on top of them.

Mossy Saxifrage

Whilst not everyone is passionate about roses I think a garden in summer is incomplete without them. Our garden lacked both flowers and roses when we moved to Yorkshire over 25 years ago. By a stroke of serendipity our village has its own rose grower and nursery so it’s been easy to source the roses I love and to gradually fill the garden with them. Roses suit mixed borders; they climb happily over arbours, pergolas and arches, can be tied against frames and up a sun-baked wall. If space is limited, pot up patio roses in a container on the terrace. Underplant roses with Rosemary, Lavender, Heuchara and spring bulbs. They are undemanding, beautiful, hardy and scented.

Cercis siliquastrum

Having just returned from Majorca, I’ve been reminded of the joys of summer climbers such as Jasmine, Wisteria and of course rambling roses. An old favourite, the Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) grows there in abundance. It is a real show-stopper; vivid pink, pea-like flowers appear on bare stems before the almost circular leaves. The pansy tree (Cercis Candensis) is similar with dark purple foliage.

Days are getting longer and hotter so water the garden early morning and late evening. Where possible use water butts or grey water from the house; mulch around emerging perennials and existing plants to conserve moisture in the beds. Top dress permanent pot plants remembering to water and liquid feed container plants and hanging baskets on a regular basis.

Rose Gertrude Jekyll

In the greenhouse, open the doors and vents on hot days. By damping down the floor and keeping the humidity up, Red Spider Mite may be discouraged. Keep an eye out for white fly in the greenhouse also.

Continue to earth up potatoes in the vegetable garden, weeding between crops such as onion and garlic to prevent competition. Thin out direct sown vegetables such as spinach and lettuce and water well. Make new supports for runner beans and peas.

Keep cropping rhubarb; ours has been magnificent this year! Erect netting around soft fruit to deter hungry birds. They love blackcurrants and redcurrants. If you grow strawberries, tuck straw around the plants to lift the fruit off the soil and protect the bed with nets.

Last year we had a bumper crop of apples and pears; judging by the fabulous blossom, we may be lucky this year too!