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Get the Best out of your Garden

Fretting over weeding or shrubs? Here are some tips on how to get your garden looking its best in July and August


We consider carefully what you want from your garden

July is a wonderful time in the garden. It should be full of flowers and the bees should be buzzing happily – the children should be playing in the sunshine and if you’re lucky you could be sitting happily drinking wine on a terrace dancing with butterflies and full of the scent of flowers.

However not all of us manage this rosy picture all of the time – the grass is sometimes parched, and the flowers are sometimes past their best and overrun with weeds leaving the garden looking tired and untidy. Rather than relaxing over your glass of wine, you could be fretting over not having time to do the weeding or prune overgrown shrubs.

If this is the case, here are some tips on how to get your garden looking its best in July and August.


 

Lawns

Lawns are best cut regularly if they are to grow strongly and not be patchy, but if it’s dry, try raising the blades so that the grass can withstand drought more easily. Unless you’re a perfectionist who wants a bowling green lawn, don’t worry too much about lawn weeds – some, like clover improve the quality of the soil by fixing nitrogen in their roots, whilst others, such as daisies are just a delight to have in the lawn and provide food for pollinators. Often when the grass is growing poorly due to less than ideal conditions, the lawn weeds make it look green in spite of the conditions and cause little trouble if mowed regularly. If you have poor soil, consider an area of wildflower meadow, which needs mowing less often (usually not until the flowers are over and have set seed), looks fabulous and is a haven for wildlife.

 

Shrubs

Any shrubs that have flowered before midsummer’s day should be pruned after flowering, but shrubs that flower later are best left until spring. If you have a wisteria, this should be pruned in July and it might then have a second flush of flowers in September. Shrubs that flower later in summer include Buddleja – ‘the Butterfly Bush’. Planting this will help to ensure colour in the late summer garden, not only in the form of flowers, but also of butterflies. If you have room, consider leaving a patch of nettles as so many caterpillars feed on them and then you will get the butterflies later in the season.

 

Other shrubs to plant for late summer flowering

Many roses also continue flowering throughout the summer and there are some late flowering clematis. Hydrangeas and Ceratostigma willmottianum come into their own in late summer and continue through to early autumn, and July is the month for Lavender, Perovskia, Lavatera and hardy Fuchsias. Don’t forget, shrubs are there for structure, height and continuity and, as such, benefit the garden even when not in flower.

 

Perennials

If your perennial flowers are all over by July or August, there are two things you can do next year: firstly you could introduce some later flowering species, and secondly you could consider giving some of your perennials the ‘Chelsea chop’ in May – this means you cut back growing stems by a third before they have flower buds on – this delays flowering and makes for a stockier plant.

 

Plants suitable for the ‘Chelsea chop’

Anthemis tinctoria, Echinacea purpurea, Heleniums, Phlox paniculata, Sedums, Solidago (Golden Rod)

 

Perennials that flower in July and August and beyond

Acanthus (Bears breeches), Achillea, Anemone x hybrida, Asters (Michaelmas daisies), Astrantia, Crocosmia, Echinacea (Cone flower), Echinops (Globe thistle), Eryngium (Sea holly), Eupatorium (Joe Pye weed), Heleniums, Monarda, Rudbeckia, Salvias, Sedum spectabile (Ice plant), Solidago (Golden rod), Veronicastrum

 

Adding interest with foliage, shape and colour

Don’t forget the importance of foliage in the garden and choose some plants not only for their flowers but for their interesting foliage, whether it is the feathery foliage of fennel, the furry grey leaves of lambs tongues, the dark, shiny jagged leaves of Acanthus or the movement created by ornamental grasses – these all add interest and atmosphere.

Consider also what is going to provide interesting seedheads at this time of year. Plant a variety of flower shapes, such as spires (tall flowers) and globes (round flowers), as well as colours, both to provide interest for us but also to attract a variety of pollinators to the garden. And don’t be afraid of repetition – mass plantings or repeat plantings can add rhythm and unity to the garden which is very satisfying.

 

Foliage plants for shade or part-shade

Acanthus, Epimedium ferns, Heucheras, Hostas, Pulmonaria

 

Foliage plants for sun

Crambe cordifolia, Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Ornamental grasses, Stachys byzantine (Lambs tongue)

 

Plants with ornamental seedheads or that hold their shape well after flowering

Alliums, Aquilegias, Dipsacus (Teasels), Eryngiums (Sea holly), Nigella (‘Love in the mist’), Phlomis 

 

Flower shapes

Spires 

Delphiniums, Digitalis (Foxgloves), Kniphofia (Red hot pokers), Verbascums, Veronicastrum

Globes 

Alliums, Echinops 

Umbels and flat heads

Achillea, Amni majus, Anthriscus sylvestris (Cowparsley), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)

Daisy shapes

Anthemis, Echinacea, Erigeron, Heleniums, Ligularia

 

When considering colour combinations, don’t forget the importance of foliage colour – there is a lot of variety from lime greens to the deep dark green of Yew, from greys to yellows to purples. When considering flower colour, think about the atmosphere you want to create – do you want it calm and restful or invigorating? If you want a lively atmosphere, think about introducing contrast both in terms of light and dark tones but also hues – blue and orange, or yellow and purple, or green and red; if you want a more restful atmosphere you could go for harmonies of blues and pinks and violets, for instance.

Always plant for your conditions – for your type of soil, your aspect, according to how shady, damp or dry your garden is.

Don’t forget, nature doesn’t leave vacuums, so weeding can be kept down by filling your space with plants. Trying to keep areas of bare soil is labour intensive and also dries out the soil.

At Jane Hamel Garden Design we consider carefully how you are going to use the garden and what you want from your garden, how much time you have for maintenance, as well as what the conditions are, before putting together a concept design for the garden. We always discuss this concept design with the client and give you chance to feed back any ideas and concerns to make sure you are entirely happy with the design before proceeding to an outline plan, planting plan, construction drawings, setting out drawings and specification and scope of works. We also provide sketches and/or isometric drawings to help you visualize the garden and a maintenance schedule to help you look after it once it’s in place. We offer a complete design package. Our aim is to design gardens that will stand the test of time, by meeting the owner’s needs. A good design will create balance, harmony, unity, and interest in the garden. It will combine simplicity and functionality with appropriate scale and proportions. It will be a unique haven, designed especially for you.