Lazy days of summer

Date
Published in
Bella (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

Our brilliant gardening expert Kim Wilde tells you how to get sowing, and more...

This is a time I have really come to look forward to in our garden as the late summer border comes alive with the silvery-blue flowers of Eryngiums and Echinops, while the wine-coloured, pincushion-like flowers of Knautia macedonica and vibrant purple Verbena bonariensis dance through the planting.

The vegetable garden is busy with dwarf French beans, peas and courgettes, all ready for harvest. Our children are enjoying summer holiday picnics with their friends, while we spend the long warm evening outside in our small, vine-covered dining area (we call it the Snug), with a stove fire, plenty of candles and a bottle of wine. Heaven.

Thinking ahead

Now is a good time to sow hardy annuals for flowering next spring and summer. I like Eschscholzia, Calendula and nasturtium. They can be sown where they are to flower or in pots to be picked out and planted in late autumn.
You can also take cuttings from pelargoniums, removing a healthy shoot just below a joint with at least two healthy leaves. Insert them in gritty compost, water and keep in a shaded part of a greenhouse or windowsill ready for next summer.

Perennial favourites

There are loads of great flowers and plants coming into their own this month. Some of the following may be new to you, but they are among my personal favourites.
Sedum 'Herbstfreude' (ice plant) is a hardy herbaceous perennial with rich, pink, starry flower heads. Crowns need dividing occasionally in spring as the new buds start to grow. Beware of slug and snail attacks and use beer traps of Nemaslug (call 01603 715096 or visit www.greengardener.co.uk.
Echinops ritro (globe thistle) will thrive in the poorest of soils. The handsome foliage and tall stems with steel-blue flower heads make this a star in the late summer border.
Anthemis tinctoria 'EC Buxton', with its creamy yellow daisies, is one of the longest-flowering herbaceous perennials, blooming throughout the summer until the frost sets in.
Replant it occasionally in fresh soil to maintain its vigour.
Knautia macedonica is very free flowering over a long period. This herbaceous perennial has dainty, curving stems and branches full of wine-coloured pincushion-like flowers. Plant it with grasses such as Deschampia caespitosa 'Goldschleir'.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake' has white flowers that are 10-30cm long. The green leaves change colour in autumn, turning to vivid shades of orange, crimson and purple on established plants.

Things to do in August
  • Give a boost to your bedding plants by treating them to a high-potash liquid feed to promote plenty more flowering. 
  • Lift and divide bearded irises. Cut the rhizomes (underground stalks) with a sharp knife into individual pieces. Cut the leaves back to a fan about 15cm high before replanting. Plant 15-20cms apart and cover the rhizomes with soil about half way up their sides, leaving the top free of soil. 
  • Place large-leaved house plants such as aspidistras and Ficus elastica (rubber plant) outside where they will enjoy showers of warm rain to freshen them up.