Preparing for an Exotic Late Summer
Lloyd is busy putting in place the spectacular of exotic
plants that has become a superb feature of his garden
at Great Dixter and ensuring continuity through the
summer in other departments.
With the nights at last no longer worryingly cold, here
at Great Dixter our most important task is to plant
up the exotic garden with all those tender perennials
that we cannot resist collecting.
They have been under glass since last autumn but love
to get out of their pots and to be able to stretch themselves
for a few months. They give us the feeling of being
quite a lot nearer to the tropics than we know we are.
What used to be our rose garden is sheltered and gets
really hot - far too hot for the comfort of roses, in
fact, so that is where we now splash around. In the
driest, sunniest area, we plant out some cacti (opuntias,
especially) and succulents. Where it is shady, close
to yew hedging, we grow some of the shade lovers, especially
begonias with interesting and beautifully patterned
foliage. Ferns, too, and Streptocarpus, the Cape primrose.
There are lots of good foliage plants to make shade,
like elephant's ears, Colocasia Esculenta whose huge,
beautifully veined leaves sway from side to side when
there is a breeze. Plants like that need a lot of water
and we try to see that they get it. Of course, the wet
April and May will have helped.
For colour, we lean heavily on dahlias and cannas. Cannas
also have beautiful leaves, which they tend to hold
rather upright, allowing low sunlight to shine through
them. A pink-and-green variegated one called Durban
is particularly attractive in this way and its orange
flowers pull no punches.
The Long Border, which is a mixed border, is nearing
its peak now, and we try to be on top of the work needed
to stop anything spoiling the show. I don't like the
look of stakes, however necessary they may be, so the
taller phloxes like Phlox paniculata, won't be staked
till shortly before flowering and it is the same with
dahlias. The taller Michaelmas daisies, however, need
support a good deal earlier.
What do you do about
your lupins when their display has finished? We treat
them as biennials, sowing next year's display now and
throwing out the year-old plants when they have flowered.
There are lots of late-sown annuals waiting to replace
them. If you keep your lupins, the flowering spikes,
now heavy with seedpods, need removing. The chances
are that their foliage will get mildewed and I would
recommend spraying against that.
Protective anti-mildew sprays are used on a good number
of plants at Dixter, in summer. On some of the summer-flowering
clematis, for instance. Monardas are so mildew-prone
that we have given up growing them and if that is the
nature of a rose, I give it a miss.
In fact, we don't need to spray our roses at all. We
don't herd them into beds, which is an open invitation
for mildew, rust and black spot to move in. They are
scattered among other plantings and keep healthy without
encouragement. Dead-heading is necessary, but even there
it is wise to grow varieties that don't hold on to their
dead petals but shed them naturally. I know that one
cannot always be wise.
Still, a garden in which roses that need dead-heading
but don't get that attention promptly, looks prematurely
senile, and that's a shame. So I think we should face
up to the realities of the situation. This, in my garden,
means that I don't grow more than about sixty roses
of any kind.
We sow some nasturtiums in small pots, now, for bedding
into gaps. They come on so quickly and, if pot grown,
can soon be turned out of them to make a display from
August on. Both the climbing and the bush kinds come
Shortly, we shall sow pansies and violas for next spring's
display. The seed germinates badly or unevenly in hot
weather, so keep the containers as cool as you can and
don't let them dry out.
I'm not bothered about winter-flowering pansies, myself,
as the slugs make a great mess of them but in containers
like window boxes, they can be fun.
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com