Seven simple tips to get your garden blooming this summer
The garden can be the perfect place at this time of year for relaxing and entertaining. But if your outside space is not quite the horticultural heaven you’d hoped it would be, try taking this seasonal advice from the Gardeners’ Question Time gurus…
1) Off with their heads!
“Remove the dead or fading flowers of ornamental plants to encourage a longer flowering season,” says Matt Biggs.
“Most can be removed by snapping them off between your finger and thumb or snipping with scissors. It’s a particularly useful exercise with roses, because you can wrap your hand right round the petals and gather them before they fall.“
“The ones to leave are the seed heads of fruiting crops, plants producing ornamental berries later in the year, or plants with lots of flowers where it’s simply impractical.“
2) Make geraniums great again
“If you want to smarten up early flowering perennial geraniums and maybe even get a second flowering, cut back the spent flower stems and oldest foliage,” says Matthew Wilson.
“Give them a really good drink of water, and some liquid seaweed feed, and they should produce plenty of new foliage, and if you're lucky, more flowers.”
3) Tough love
“Now’s a good time to acclimatise your young plants to lower temperatures and stronger winds,” says Christine Walkden. “So put outside any plants you bought from nurseries or grew from seed, along with any cuttings you’ve taken at home.”
“Then get them planted out for the summer once you are confident the risk of frosts has completely passed.” (This process is known as hardening off.)
4) War on slugs
“Lots of pests are really building up at this time of year,” warns Pippa Greenwood, “but if you act speedily you can stop them doing too much damage.”
“Slugs in particular are rampant right now and relishing the young plants and germinating seeds in our gardens. So go on night-time collecting hunts and also treat infested areas with the nematode biological control – it works brilliantly and is totally harmless to wildlife, pets and humans!”
5) Plants for your plate
”It is not too late to fill up all those gaps in your garden and don’t just think about bedding plants,” suggests Bob Flowerdew. “You could put in French beans and if you have something they can run up, put in runner beans.”
“It’s a little late to sow sweetcorn but you can put out the plants. Squashes and pumpkins will romp away if you put them in now and don’t forget the courgettes.”
“And if you have any leeks, brassicas and tomatoes, put them all out in the garden. They’ll do much better than in pots!”
6) Show off!
“Some of my favourite plants in the garden are quite difficult to source,” says Bunny Guinness, “not because they are difficult to grow but because they’re just not great plants commercially. “
“Perhaps top of the list is the old-fashioned perennial stock, Matthiola perennis. This has ever-grey leaves and wondrous white flowers in May and June with a terrific scent. Find someone who has it, sow some seeds (it’s starting to set seed now) and grow your own. Like many perennials, it doesn’t flower in the first year but the foliage is good. You can propagate from cuttings too.”
“Another elusive gem is the purple-leaved honesty (Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’) which is just starting to set seed now, but it also comes from cuttings. It’s the most drooled-over plant in my garden.”
7) Make bamboo work for you
“Should you have a large clump of bamboo, you can harvest canes as supports for your runner beans at the same time as lightening the effect of the bamboo,” suggests Anne Swithinbank.
“Using loppers, cut mature canes to the base here and there so the bamboo looks more like a grove than a clump and cut away lower leaf shoots to reveal the beauty of the stems. Tidy the cut stems and use them in the garden.”