In The Garden

For those of you with some extra time on your hands, here’s some great tips to help your gardens flourish this summer!

There are many types of iris that make a good display in the garden but in late spring, the tall bearded (pogon) iris come into their own. Sir Cedric Morris, the Suffolk artist and plantsman, introduced many new varieties. He is credited with propagating the first truly pink bearded iris at Benton End in Hadleigh, including Strathmore, which he exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1948. To quote the late Beth Chatto whose famous gardens are at Elmstead Market, “Cedric’s garden was an extension of his palette”.

However, the rhizomes tend to become overcrowded which stops the iris flowering. Dig up the rhizomes and discard all shrivelled and diseased parts and trim leaves by two-thirds. Then replant the divided sections six inches apart allowing the rhizomes to be partly visible to benefit from the sun. French ‘flag irises’ have more frilly edged flowers than the English varieties but also come in an exquisite colour range with a delicate velvety appearance.

Many plants benefit from division particularly if they become overcrowded – e.g. hemerocallis (day lilies), hostas, michelmas daisies, sedums etc. Remove the old lifeless parts, replant the divided healthy bits and water well.

Camellias, ceanothus, choisya, forsythia, hebes, lilac, ribes and other shrubs that have already flowered should be pruned where necessary. Decorative evergreen shrubs like coprosma, corokia griselinia and pittosporum can be trimmed to shape to stop them outgrowing their space. Any new green growth appearing in variegated shrubs, e.g. elaeagnus maculata, euonymus harlequin, etc should be cut out completely to prevent it becoming dominant.

The spring flowering clematis alpina, clematis armandii and clematis montana should be pruned after flowering. The large showy flowers of the Jackmanii group are about to burst into action brightening up trellis and weaving through roses and other climbing plants.

Prune wisteria to encourage formation and cut laterals and side shoots to 5 to 6 buds after flowering. The stems of the fragrant Japanese wisteria twine clockwise whereas the Chinese varieties twine anti-clockwise.

Buxus (box) plants need trimming during the first week of June. Hopefully your plants have not been defoliated by the Chinese moth caterpillar that has in recent years caused devastation to box hedging and parterres around the UK.

Golden marjoram and purple sage make good edging plants to a south facing border. These herbs need cutting after flowering to keep them tidy. Bronze fennel adds interest and height to any border with its feathery foliage but seeds freely so collect seeds for cooking or scatter them in a restricted space. Oenothera (evening primrose) with its bright yellow flowers in summer is another statuesque herb seeding prolifically so deadhead after flowering to prevent unwanted seedlings. The purple, pink and white flowers of digitalis (foxgloves) are a haven for bees but the leaves are poisonous. This herb too self seeds around the garden and easily adapts to its surroundings. Dead head foxgloves before they seed if you do not want seedings springing up next year or collect the seed for use in the future. Melissa (lemon balm), another freely seeding herb, can be used for cordials and tea as well as a lemon flavouring.

Written by Felixstowe’s gardening twins, Heather and Vivian Pratt