6 easy updates for a beautiful summer garden

When I first got into gardening, I was always slightly embarrassed by my own garden in the middle of summer. Springtime tended to be luscious and green, Autumn was russet-toned and lovely but in the very middle of summer… …well, quite often not much seemed to be going on.

Where were the flowers? Should the grass be that brown? Why did everything look like it might be about to shuffle off this mortal coil?

In fact, since learning a bit more about horticulture, I realise that high summer is one of the trickier times in the garden. Lots of the earlier blooming flowers are over, those that wait for the cooler days of Autumn are yet to impress, and everything tends to be in good need of a large drink of water.

Thankfully, I’ve also learnt it’s not that tricky to resolve the situation, so here are six easy tricks for sprucing up your garden.

  1. Bedding

    Nicotiana | Wolves in London
    Delicate star-shaped nicotiana
Cosmos | Wolves in London
Beautiful cosmos
Sweet pea | Wolves in London
Sweet pea

I used to dismiss bedding as old fashioned, blousy and, frankly a bit naff. If someone mentioned “plugging up the gaps in your beds with bedding” I’d immediately think of petunias or marigolds. Garish flowers that would look perfect in an Victorian park, with head gardeners wasting endless supplies of water keeping them alive, only to rip them up at the end of the season and start again.

Actually, though, there’s plenty of tasteful, beautiful, non-garish and even modern bedding around.

Technically speaking, bedding can refer to any plant that’s an annual, or lives only for a year. Because it’s just a one season thing, it’s cheaper to buy than perennials (nobody has had to look after it for years before it blooms) and often easy to grow from seed.

Some of my favourites, all of which should be available in a good plant shop near you, are cosmos, snapdragons, sweet peas and Nicotiana alata. The last of these has the most incredible scent in the evening, but is fairly toxic, so make sure you plant it towards the back of a bed if you have kids or animals roaming around.

The best thing to do if you’re planning on buying bedding, though, is just taking a browse at a garden centre or (even better) a plant nursery and grabbing anything that takes your fancy and is looking good right now. Remember that it won’t be around next year, so make sure it looks like it’s got a good bit of flower production still left for the season and then just plant it anywhere that needs an extra dash of interest…

  1. Pots

white flowersThis is the quickest win of all when it comes to gardening. Buy some plants already in flower (bedding, or perennials) and put them in a pot in a prominent position.

Gardens Illustrated always has brilliant combinations for plants in containers if you need inspiration, or just follow your heart and choose things you think look nice.

The really great thing about pots is that you can move them around, so once a display is over, put the pot into a hidden corner to wait until next year, or dig up the plants, re-plant in your garden if appropriate and put something new in.

3. Cleaning

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London
Perfectly clean!

I know, sorry, what a boring option! But if you’ve not got the time / money / inclination to re-paint fences or furniture, then just giving them a really good scrub can often work wonders to perking up the whole look of your garden.

Endless spring showers (and often summer ones too) mean that tables and chairs can get dirty and everything can start to look a bit drab and brown.

This is especially true if you have a very modern-looking white-rendered wall style of garden, where every stain and mark shows up. A friend of mine who works as maintenance gardener once described working in these gardens as being a bit like an outdoor cleaner: more often than pruning shrubs or weeding, she found that cleaning the walls made the biggest difference to how everything looked.

  1. Mow the lawn
Walcot Hall, Shropshire
NB, this is not my lawn! (Photographed at Walcot Hall, Shropshire, where we got married.)

I am constantly, constantly amazed what a huge difference it makes to my garden once we’ve given the grass a good mow. Suddenly, everything looks neater and more intentional when set against the backdrop of a finely trimmed sward

  1. Choose some lighting

High summer is prime time for late night suppers in the garden. In an ideal world, we’d all have atmospheric mood lighting to accompany the event. You know the kind: dramatic uplighters highlighting a stately tree trunk, or a string of romantic bare bulbed lights over our eating area. In real life, this is often a fairly expensive option for the rare evenings in this country where we want to be sitting in the garden at night.

But mood lighting can be simple (and cheap) too; candles for eating dinner are perfect. Perhaps a hurricane lamp strung from a tree. Or just some outdoor fairy lights festooning a fence. Anything that twinkles, basically, is a good bet…

6. Add some fabrics

London garden

I can sometimes be guilty of not bothering to carry things outside to the garden, because I know I’ll just have to take them back inside at the end of the day.

But a picnic blanket, some cushions, a hammock strung between the trees: these are the things of comfort and relaxation and long days spent soaking up the sun. Our kids love their red and white striped teepee and can spend hours minutes sitting inside quite happily on their own and pretending it’s a space rocket.

Do you have any other tips for quick fixes to make your garden look inviting? Do share them below…

6 tips for a summer garden update

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

In the garden: June

SeedheadWell, wasn’t the last week of June utterly depressing. Like so many, I was knocked for six with the results of the referendum.

I find the whole thing terrifying and bleak. The result itself, the reports of increased racism that have peppered the news this past week, the furious packpedalling of the Leave campaigners, the Leave voter regretters, but also the really unpleasant bile and accusations that have been rife on my Facebook feed ever since — predominantly from those who share my political views and also voted to remain.

Yes, I agree, it is bloody miserable that more people said leave than stay, but I don’t think that justifies branding half the population either racist or moronic. Nor do I feel much empathy for those who want to take London out of the UK (erm, doesn’t that kind of go against the whole point of staying stronger together?) or moan about how they’ll no longer be able to retire to a lovely villa in Spain.

Anyway, let’s hope that something comes up to stop us actually following through and leaving and that the unpleasant racism and Facebook fighting dies down and maybe, just maybe, we can all stand up against a political system filled with lies and nonsense pedalled merely as a desire for personal gain, irrespective of the good of the country.

In the meantime, pottering in the garden has provided me with some respite from the bleak outlook. June is often a bit of a “flower gap” in my garden, a time when the Spring blooms are over, but high Summer is yet to hit its peak. But there’s just enough of interest to keep me wandering around between all the rainstorms.

Thalictrum delavayi 'album'
Thalictrum delavayi ‘album’

white thalictrum

My complete obsession at the moment are my stunning thalictrum plants. They’re Thalictrum delavayi ‘album’ and the flower buds form perfect white circles that bob about on slender stems, before opening to reveal delicate yellow stamens. I have about nine plants dotted throughout the garden and I just adore them. They were newly planted in the Autumn, but I shall put them in every garden I ever own from now on…

Scabiosa bud
Scabiosa bud
Scabiosa flower
Scabiosa flower
Scabiosa seedhead
Scabiosa seedhead

Another favourite is this scabious; I love watching it unfold from tightly packed bud to luscious flower and then into a rather glorious seedhead. I planted it next to some salvia argentea, which is a huge fat-leaved, hairy silver plant, that looked absolutely amazing for about a week. And then the slugs devoured every last bit of it. Three plants, completely munched through, with only the leaf veins left. Grrrr.Bee on erysimumBee

Regular reads might chuckle to know that, yes, my wallflower is — as ever — in full bloom. Not only does it flower pretty much continuously for 11 months of the year, but the bees love it. It’s a garden staple, I think, if a little unglamorous.

Ladybird

I planted a beautiful pittosporum towards the back of the garden, but it has become a breeding ground for aphids. Every time I see a ladybird anywhere in the garden, I put it on the pittosporum in the hope it will munch those little pests right up. But, a few minutes later, there will be no sign of the ladybird and hundreds more of the little black dots multiplying in front of my eyes. I think I need a more effective form of control, but the hose doesn’t reach that far down the garden to blast them away, and I always feel a little queasy, I have to confess, about wiping them off between my fingers.

Echinops

There is lots on the verge of flowering at the moment too. Some poppies that have grown from seed that I asked the sproglet to chuck liberally across the flower beds are growing well. I can no longer remember what type we sowed, so I watch them every day in eager anticipation, waiting to see what colour the flowers will be. And my newly-planted echinops is getting taller and taller, the flower buds fattening. I can’t wait for them all to burst open.

London garden

Finally, a rather crappy shot of the garden as viewed from the patio looking away from the house. It’s not quite as short as it appears in the photo, but we cleared all the plastic kids crap away to put up the much more attractive fabric tent last weekend, so I thought it needed a quick snap. You can just make out the chicken house and the veg beds at the far end…

So, roll on July. Here’s to less rain, more flowers and, hopefully, a little more optimism in the whole political situation. Fingers tightly crossed.

Save