In Penny’s gardening blog today – gardening tips for longer-lasting good looks

In today’s blog I will briefly touch on the weather, cheer you up with some garden photos, give you tips on prolonging your garden’s good looks and suggestions for plants to use for this.

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Sedum, lavender, sisyrinchium and stipa gigantea flourishing

The Weather

I have nothing to say. It’s boring and relentless and I am sick to my dwindling top teeth of moaning about it… so, in a cup half full (or actually overflowing) sort of approach, the continual onslaught of rain has been jolly good for our shrubs, trees and perennials. They are loving it. After a pretty dry couple of years, I have observed these plants lapping it up. Everything has shot up to its full height and more. This season, I’ve seen Delphiniums as tall as me (just under six foot).  Last year they were more like four and a half feet tall. The rain can damage this growth, weighing it down and with a little wind can cause havoc, so staking is essential in these circumstances.

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 Sweet rocket, iris, feverfew and euphorbia at the gardens in Riverford

Gardening tips for longer-lasting good looks

For the last couple of weeks I have been stripping out and cutting back various plants that are over, to make space for plants that will flower over the next few months. In the garden pictured below we let campions, forget me nots, feverfews, valerian officinalis, comfreys, euphorbias and sweet rockets seed freely. In the following year they will give a great early summer show and when inter-planted with other perennials, roses, shrubs etc they give a really natural look.

When they are over I cut back and pull some out, leaving a few to go to seed, and use these new spaces to fill with some later flowering plants, suggestions below:

Plant  Suggestions

Some of my favorite annuals are:

Nicotiana Sensation: A lovely scented mix of pinks, purples and whites. Nicotiana lime green are fabulous and look great next to bright pinks, reds and orange plants.  Nicotiana affinnis  are white and the most heavily scented.

Having sowed these a little later than usual I am now inter-planting them in gaps I have created. They look fabulous and scent the whole garden especially in the evening.  Nicotiana mutabilis grows to a statuesque 3-4 foot and have a strange but pleasant sort of bubble gum fragrance.

Cosmos: Another annual fave of mine and if picked regularly, will carry on flowering til the first autumn frosts. I love the various bright pinks and whites of nicotiana ‘sensation mixed’ but also think ‘candy stripe’ a beautiful variety,  pale pinks with a white stripe.

Dahlias: I have been rather worried about myself the last few years as I have taken to liking dahlias, after being really rather snobby about them for the last 25 years!! What is going on?  Maybe it’s an age thing and the next step will be carnations. God forbid! The thing is, they really are a fantastic late flowerer and more often than not will perform for many years if the tubers don’t rot over winter. They come in all sorts of colours and shapes and sizes. My favourites are the deep pinks, maroons and reds and planted up with some lime green nicotianas in front, well all I can say is, its heaven.

Verbena bonariensis: Another late flowering perennial I love. Its little purple flowers sit on top of long see-through stems and I plant lots of this in any gaps available.

Strobilanthes atropurpurea: An excellent perennial that grows to just over a metre, this plant freely bears curved and hooded indigo blue or purple flowers above a mound of leafy stems in late summer. It’s not that commonly grown, but I found it at our local plant nursery, Hill House Nursery in Landscove (www.hillhousenursery.co.uk ).  This nursery run by Ray, and his son Matthew, is an amazing place to visit with a great café and lovely gardens.  It has a classy selection of trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, annuals, herbs, geraniums and well…. I could go on and on. The great thing about Hill House Nursery is the staff have excellent plant knowledge and are very helpful, and they stock many plants you will rarely see in most garden centres.  I believe they have an online shop too. Its worth a visit if you are in the area.

Some other perennials to consider for a later performance are Rudbeckia, Helenium, Michaelmas daisies, Japanese anemones and Sedum.

Here are some garden photos from June to cheer you up:

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 Sambucus nigra, box, roses

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Yew, roses, euphorbia and phlomis

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Acanthus and cotinus blooming in the garden

4 responses to “In Penny’s gardening blog today – gardening tips for longer-lasting good looks

  1. Penny, can you explain the Chelsea chop – is it anything to do with the Chelsea Flower Show, or the time of that, and which plants benefit from it? People talk about it but I am never completely sure…

    • Penny Hemming

      Hi CJ Hawker. The chelsea chop is a method of pruning back various perennials, generally performed around the end of May when Chelsea Flower Show is on, hence the name. The effect of this cutting back (by about a third or even half)is to delay the floweing and also to reduce the height somewhat so it is good for leggy specimens. It is also said to make the plants flower more profuslely. It works well with perennial geraniums, sedums, asters and rudbeckias. i Have recently done this to some michelmas daisies that always get too tall and look rather messy and hope it will do the trick but in this case it would be more apt to call it the hampton court hack!

  2. Penny,

    We have recently purchased a house with a wildly overgrown (nothing done to it for at least 15 years) and largish garden that needs clearing. I had thought of several doses of glyphosate followed by strimming, followed by more glyphosate, followed by more strimming followed by (eventually) rotavating. However there are so many lovely birds, insects, small mammals and a fox or two, who have made our patch their home over the years that I am reluctant to obliterate their surroundings in such a manner.

    Someone suggested ‘borrowing’ or buying a couple of pigs to do the rotavating for us; I have worked with pigs in the dim and distant past and have memories of them being pretty good escape artists. Are there effective methods of keeping them in, my neighbours would not be amused if their gardens got rotavated too. Also, how much ground could two pigs rotavate in how long?

    The neighbours tell me that growing potatoes won’t work as their is ‘wire worm’ here – but none of them have grown spuds for over 15 years – so I don’t think that my mother’s suggestion of growing a ‘good cleansing crop of potatoes’ will work…..and we still have to get rid of all the nettles/thistles/brambles/assorted grasses/elderflower bushes etc etc that have established themselves.

    Any other suggestions gladly welcomed……..

    I also have two other very boring sections of garden that I have to tackle but at the moment they can look after themselves with the odd mowing to keep the grass and the weeds down.

  3. Hi Persephone, I already answered this last week and realized tonight that I cant have clicked on the ‘post comment’ so its evaporated into thin air!! Please have patience and I will re- do a reply in a couple of days. Am tearing around trying to catch up after a weekend away and am off to london for a couple of days. In the mean time look at nhttp://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=935 for more reasons not to use glysophate. Penny

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