The tender pale greens of the first leaves have gone and hardened up to a denser and more productive darker green in July. Tannins and other chemicals have been made in the leaves so they are less susceptible to insect attack and summer flowers are being produced at a rate of knots.
This, more than any other is the season where we can sit back and appreciate what we have helped nature to produce, but, as always, there are sill a few odd-jobs to do!
What to do in the garden in July
While it’s still possible to plant container grown plants, they are not going to amount to much this year and are for the future. It’s more of a time for planning the hard landscaping items in the garden. Is your deck or patio large enough, do you have one at all, would a permanent built in barbecue area be useful?
There are three garden perennials that are so easy to grow from seed that I wonder why anybody ever goes to buy them from a garden centre. These are delphiniums, foxgloves and hollyhocks, and now is the time to buy the seeds. Sow them in a seed tray in a sheltered part of the garden but out of direct sunshine and they can’t fail to germinate.
Prick them out 15 (3 x 5) in a seed tray and then eventually into 1L pots and then come the autumn, for as little as £2.49 per packet of seed you can have dozens (if you look after them all) of plants that can cost around £10 each down at garden centres.
They really are the easiest of perennials to grow and if you’ve never grown anything from seed before, this should encourage you to greater and more exotic victories to come.
Sow seeds of winter flowering pansies and violas
These are another of the easier plants to grow from seed and if started off now will be good strong plants by the autumn and so able to flower throughout the inter period finishing off with a final flourish in the spring. Pansies are strictly speaking perennials and can be kept going, but they are never again as good as they were in the first, so are best discarded and replaced.
One of the main reasons I grow from seed rather than buying them as plants (as well as the satisfaction of growing from seed) is that you can get a bed or group of all your favourite shades and colours.
Cuttings and propagation
A good time to take cuttings of shrubs. Cut a piece of new stem about 6 inches long and remove all flower buds and all but the end 3 or 4 leaves. Place several of these around the rim of a small plant pot filled with a mixture of sand and compost. Water and place in a shaded place, don’t allow to dry out. Check the bottom of the pot after a month or so and pot up individual cuttings when you see roots sticking through the drainage holes. I always feel that it’s worth trying almost any plant by this method.
Even when I read up how to propagate a particular plant I usually try this method as well anyway. It’s so simple, is done at a time of the year when it is warm, and cuttings are often plentiful from prunings.
Layering top soil
Shrubs and climbers can be layered now as well. A technique that works with many varieties and is often successful with the more difficult plants. A fairly young shoot is brought down to ground level and a part of the stem buried about an inch or two deep with a small mound of soil on top, it may be necessary to peg particularly whippy shoots with a wire hoop. Then that’s it, it will take longer to root than in other methods, but scores in that there’s little need to look after the cutting as the parent plant makes sure that it’s kept alive. Best left for a about year before detaching and planting or potting up separately.
Basic care that’s often overlooked
Keep watering containers regularly. I think it’s so sad when they are neglected and what began as a vibrant collection of flowers dies slowly over a few weeks for lack or regular attention. I’ve already spotted a few that are on their way out on my usual dog-walking route. Contrary to popular belief containers are not a low-maintenance option, far from it.
If you don’t need to water them daily, they should be checked daily as a hot day, particularly if there’s a drying wind can suck all of the water out of a container. When planting up any containers, then always go for the largest you can afford so they don’t dry out so quickly. Water, feed and dead-head regularly for the best show.
Keep dead-heading perennials and shrubs such as roses. This keeps them producing more flowers rather than putting their energy’s into seed and fruit production. A daily round of the garden in the evening is ideal if you can manage it, or as often as possible otherwise if not.
Water autumn and spring planted trees and shrubs during hot dry spells. If you “baby” trees and shrubs through their first summer, them you’re usually fine from then on. Give them an occasional thorough soaking though rather than a daily drizzle as little and often teaches them to grow shallow superficial roots rather than encouraging long deep roots that help them fend for themselves.
Look for “suckers” on roses or grafted trees. These are shoots of the wild-type rootstock that the ornamental foliage is grafted onto and will emerge below the graft union which should be fairly obvious as a knobbly irregular region at the bottom of the stem or trunk. If left, then the rootstock being more vigorous (hence its use as rootstock) will take over the ornamental part of the plant.
Keep pruning spring flowering shrubs as they fade, they can be pruned back to get a good display next year. Forsythia, Ribes (flowering currants), Kerria japonica, Chaenomeles (Japanese quince) and early flowering Spireas should all be pruned regularly to keep them vigorous and flowering well. They’ll have all finished flowering by now and any formative pruning or restraining of over-vigorous shoots is best done as soon as possible.
Ideally each year you should cut out one in three or four of the oldest branches down to ground level. In this way, the plant always has plenty of growth left and no branch is allowed to get old.
If you have a neglected plant, then they can withstand being cut pretty much right down to the ground, drastic renovation is best carried out over at least two years though. Leaving some of the more upright and further back shoots intact so as to keep the plant going rather than dependent on reserves in the roots when recovering. I cut back a large old Forsythia about a month ago to stems that are about 3-4″ diameter and between 2 and 4 feet tall and it’s producing new growth like the clappers. My old lilacs I cut back as well are doing something similar, though a little more slowly.Last modified: July 21, 2021