Sunday, 9 July 2017

SUMMER COLOUR



SUMMER COLOUR

Dublin Bay in June
The recent heat wave enjoyed (or endured) in the south of the UK, may not have quite reached us up north, but this year our Scottish climate has still been outstanding for warmth, sunshine and dry weather. This followed a mild winter and a very pleasant spring so it is no surprise that our gardens have been a riot of colour month after month. I thought colour had peaked with a massive show from the tulips, but that was followed by the show of dazzling azaleas, then the bearded iris, and now the summer roses climbing up my walls continue the show. Every time we walk around the garden there is another plant having its moment in the spotlight. Two weeks ago I wrote about all this colour in the garden, only to find that a fortnight later the colour has not diminished but there is a whole new group of plants seeking attention.
Just where do you begin and just hope it continues through summer and into the autumn.
At the moment it is the climbing roses that catch the eye as well as my two shrub roses Ispahan and Rosa mundi.
Rosa Mundi
 Over the years I have grown numerous bush and shrub roses only to dig them out after a few years due to the ravishes of mildew, rust and blackspot. I am now down to about twenty which all have reasonably strong foliage able to withstand rose diseases. My red climbing rose Dublin Bay grown on a south wall is spectacular and every year never fails to impress, though I am fussy with the winter pruning even tackling those shoots beyond the top of my twelve foot ladder.
Another very tall shrub having its moment is my Philadelphus virginal. Catching those long arching sprays of pure white flowers against a deep blue sky make a brilliant picture and the scent is unforgettable.
Delosperma and Senecio
Coming down in scale to my dry border I have a few shrubs well adapted to a south facing bank with good soil but with a four foot retaining wall to hold it back it has always suffered from lack of moisture. A selection of those plants adapted to maritime conditions seems to work well. At this moment my large Senecio greyii is a mass of yellow flowers and growing alongside it clambering over the wall is a Delosperma cooperi with purple flowers. A perfect match and adding to the display is my pink Erigeron ground cover and taller evergreen shrub Cistus purpureus with
deep pink flowers. This group was never planned, but over the years I found a plant to fill a gap to suit the dry conditions and just so happen they all decide to flower at the same time. Sometimes you just get lucky. Another piece of luck was the visit to RHS gardens at Wisley last year when Anna picked up a packet of Sweet William seed which we had never grown before but Anna recalled them from childhood days and wanted to try them out. We didn’t have a special place for them so they went into every spare piece of soil in rose borders, herbaceous borders and our allotment flower border. They have been fantastic and added colour to other plants all around them.
Peonia Doreen
Over on the herbaceous border the latest star performer has been Peonia Doreen, one of Anna’s prize purchases from Gardening Scotland a few years ago. Every year it gets bigger with more flowers and now really catches the eye. Then again our massive group of deep blue delphiniums continue to perform every year, but need serious staking due to their size and strength.
Tubs and hanging baskets are growing well and are quite colourful, but this is not their time yet as they still have to come into full flower probably from end of July onwards. However the pink and red geraniums have been outstanding. I kept pinching off all the flowers from winter till the end of spring to build up strong growth. This has paid off as now they just can’t wait to get their flowers up into the sunshine. Petunias alongside them are also enjoying the warmth putting on plenty colour.

Wee jobs to do this week
Salad catch crops

Harvest vegetable crops as they ripen such as turnip, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, peas and early salad potatoes. This releases land for another quick growing crop of salads, beetroot, autumn and winter cabbages and cauliflower. There might also be time for another pea crop using a dwarf early variety such as Feltham First, Meteor, Kelvedon Wonder, or sugar snap peas.

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

SUMMER FRUITS



SUMMER FRUITS

We are now beginning to reap the benefits from this warm summer, as the first strawberries ripened up at the end of May. My main crop Elsanta has come to the end of its useful life so will be replaced in the autumn. Colossus my new strawberry with huge fruit is living up to its name, but then the first berries from Symphony and Florence were also huge. Large fruit seems to be in fashion as my perpetual strawberry Albion which I rely on to fruit well into autumn also has massive berries. Just a pity they are so hard and lack sweetness. If they don’t improve they are destined for the compost heap to be replaced with some other autumn fruiting variety. Now that fruit picking has started it is a good time to review the crops and make notes for future action.
Picking fresh rhubarb
Raspberries are now starting to colour up so if you are troubled with the raspberry maggot now is the time for the first insecticide spray, then give another spray a week later. Both summer fruiting Glen Fyne and Glen Dee are heavy with berries ready to turn red. Looks like a good year for raspberries. Autumn fruiting Polka, Autumn Bliss as well as Autumn Treasure are all growing strongly so an autumn crop of berries looks assured.
Blackcurrant Ben Conan and Big Ben both have many branches weighed down with berries and should start to colour up soon. Most of the tops of vigorous branches were plagued by greenfly as growth has been soft with the warm wet weather, but rather than spray I just cut back the shoots to healthy leaves. This got rid of the pests and let more sunshine in to sweeten up the fruit.
Gooseberries also suffered a severe attack of sawfly maggots when I wasn’t looking, so they needed a spray which quickly wiped out the pests and allowed the bushes to grow fresh leaves. This is another crop that is just loaded with berries waiting to ripen up.
Fig Brown Turkey
Rhubarb may officially not be a fruit, but it is used as a dessert in stews, compote and is brilliant mixed with saskatoons for jam, as they add some acidity. The Saskatoon crop may be a bit lighter than last year as the winter was so mild that shoot ripening to initiate fruit buds was a bit lacking.
However I should get bigger berries and harvesting at the end of July is on target. It was interesting to see that the Saskatoon crop grown down south at Pershore Juneberries commenced in mid June.  They needed a mechanical harvester to pick the berries.
Great to see success with the first commercial Saskatoon plantation in the UK.
Bramble Helen has finished flowering and now we just wait for this early variety to ripen up for picking in August. However the new bramble Reuben is flowering on the shoots grown last year. This primocane type flowers and fruits on canes grown in the same year, so last years canes should have been removed after fruiting, but with flowers appearing in November they had no chance. New shoots growing this year are three feet tall and looks like they will flower this month. Can’t wait to see if Reuben will fruit this year and live up to its terrific catalogue description.
Thinning apples
Apples are ready for thinning but I will wait till after the June drop before the final thinning.
Cherries are turning colour but the tree needs netting otherwise the blackbird will take the lot.
My Peach Avalon Pride lost a third of its leaves to peach leaf curl, so the diseased foliage had to be removed. The tree was none too happy so it dropped my twelve potential peaches and has left me with just one. I give it one more year to acclimatise to Scotland or it gets the chop.
Grapes and figs are having a great year with much needed warmth and sunshine so good to see the fruit swelling up and we should soon get our first fig.
Peas and beans

Wee jobs to do this week

Peas can grow very fast in this warm damp summer climate so make sure they are all well supported. Even the dwarf varieties can grow two feet tall and are better for something to cling on to. I use both shrub prunings if tall enough and weldmesh wire held on posts driven into the ground.
Plastic pea and bean netting is quite cheap and very easy to use but make sure it is held up with a strong framework of posts and wires.

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