Monday, April 19, 2010

Months of Blooming Flowers Gardening to Enjoy Summer

Summer means sitting in the orchard in the shade, while plants and flowers waft delicious scent towards the resting gardener. With a bit of forward planning this is possible any time after the end of May, when the only task for the rest of the summer ought to be a little light deadheading.

In the cool of the evening, the resting gardener will dunk the watering can in the water butt and then slowly pour the contents over thirsty vegetables or the odd dahlia, before sitting down to supper outside.

As the summer stars come out one by one, the smell of honeysuckle, or jasmine, or rose gets stronger and everything is so utterly lovely that you know it can't last. Of course it never turns out quite as perfect, but at this time of year we can still hope and plan for our long overdue summer.

Flowers that go on and on (but more subtly than bedding plants) are what is needed. The roses that I enjoy look gentler than hybrid teas, but only flower for three weeks from midsummer, with another burst in September.

Dahlias lack the scent of roses, but have more staying power. If you like pastel shades choose 'Porcelain' or lemon yellow 'Glorie van Heemstede'. The darker, richer shades of 'Arabian Night', or scarlet 'Grenadier', but there are masses to choose from. All dahlias need planting in sunny, rich soil once frost danger is past. Once planted they can come through even Cotswold winters with a little protection heaped over them.

They all need staking with stout canes and if there is a drought, an evening drink will be needed. Should they fail to grow well, a booster shot of Maxicrop seaweed fertiliser or Tomorite will give them a lift. Given all the above, dahlias should reward you with flowers from July to October.

The pale team will choose Fuchsia magellanica 'Alba Aureovariegata' or 'Hawkshead'; bold gardeners will want 'Enfant Prodigue', 'Mrs Popple' or 'Madame Cornélissen'. These shrubs are hardy, with mine surviving even the coldest winter for years.

Among herbaceous perennial plants there are a few stayers that will keep going as long as dahlias and fuchsias and add shape and interest. Thalictrum delavayi, with delicate leaves like a maidenhair fern and cloudy flowers, is lovely at any time. Knautia macedonica 'Mars Midget' will flower for months and so will the blue Aster x frikartii 'Mönch' or the scarlet Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Fire Dance'.

Add the sword leaves of the day lily Hemerocallis 'Hyperion' and the fragile stems of Stipa gigantea, the golden oat grass, and you have enough to enjoy all summer, with minimal work.