Our gardening expert Victoria Truman shares her advice for what to do around the garden this June
With summer in full flow, June is one of the best gardening months, simply because of the sight and the scent of roses. Now is the time to renovate the rose garden.
• Deadhead repeat-flowering roses, unless you want decorative hips later.
• Potassium-rich banana skins make excellent rose snacks. Lay flat around the plant and bury under an inch of soil.
• Underplant roses with lavender-blue Aster x frikartii, species salvias or aromatic herbs to disguise bare stems, or against a backdrop of tall purple fountain grass or ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue.
• If you haven’t fed your roses this year, do it now because vigorously growing roses are less likely to succumb to disease attack, and again during July using a specific rose fertiliser such as J. Arthur Bowers rose food. It’s also worth maintaining a thick mulch over the soil surface to make sure the roses do not suffer stress due to lack of water.
• Within the herbaceous border there’s always a lull before the main summer rush arrives, when there’s plenty of foliage but not enough flower to satisfy the gardener or the bees commonly known as the June gap. To supplement the spaces within the flowering herbaceous borders I scatter annual wildflower seeds amongst the perennials to bridge the gap, as they germinate quickly.
• Remember to water–Watering is essential as the weather warms up. Give your garden a big drink once
or twice a week to draw plant roots deeper into the nutritious soil. Containers and hanging baskets will need watering once a day – perhaps twice a day if it is hot and windy.
• For larger shrubs and trees, leave a hose dribbling around the base for an hour. Your hedges can be watered with a home-made “trickle hose” – a length of old hose pierced with tiny holes.
Small Garden Ideas
The small garden is tricky to get right because, inevitably, we try to fit too much into a limited space. Invest in what counts. Don’t just look at what’s inside the box look at the box itself.
The boundary is the most important feature. It’s what you look at from inside the house. Think of boundaries as backdrops to hang things on, to light up or to paint. They can function in different ways. A fence, for instance, might be a slatted timber screen in a series of horizontal lines. Paint the fence dark grey, plant bamboo in front, and you get a striking contrast.
Just because your garden has three sides to it, and the house makes four sides, you don’t need to make the space a predictable box. Change one of the sides, like having a feature wall in a room.
Any feature in a small garden should have at least two functions. A seat should have storage space, a wall should be decorative as well as practical, a tree should have blossom in spring and fruit in autumn.
Privacy is a big issue in the town garden.
You don’t need to cut everything out, it’s more psychological: you just need a sense of privacy.
A seat near a small tree will enable you to see out through the leaves to the neighbours’ buildings, set your seating area at the side of the garden, so you have your back to something, which makes you feel protected.
Town gardens are used throughout the year, so you need at least 30 per cent evergreen, keep the shapes to a minimum and view them as pieces of sculpture that are part of the design. That will
give you more freedom to do what you want with the rest of the planting.
Key to a good design is to steel yourself to leave empty space – that most valuable of commodities. Don’t be tempted to fill every last corner.