Finally, after a cool and soggy July, summer is finally showing its true colours again, here in Oxfordshire, as we swing into late-summer. With that in mind, I caught up with our senior horticulturists for the lowdown on what jobs they’ll be tackling through the end of August and into September. Here’s their notes from the gardens:
The persistent rain of July and sunshine and showers of August have left gardens warm but hydrated, making it a great time to daub beds, borders and containers with a dose of late-season colour.
We’ll be looking for gaps in planting where we can add plants for interest to take gardens through into autumn. Japanese anemones, Asters and Agastache will all flower through to October with sunshine, plus Agastache aromatic foliage lends an extra element of sensory delight. Heleniums and echinacea are two dramatic daisy-like plants, if you crave a pop of vibrant colour.
For existing plants already blooming, we’ll be continuing to deadhead in order to prolong the flowering season as much as possible, as this encourages fresh blooms. We’re also cutting back the spent flowers and stems on lavenders and other similar woody shrubs to shape them and help to promote a second flush of flowers.
Certain flowerheads are worth leaving put, as they make sparkling little silvery crowns when dusted with frost. Sedums are great for winter interest in this way. You may also want to harvest seeds from any plants that have gone over and dry them out to plant into plug trays for spring.
Divide any congested perennials to space them out, allowing them room to grow.
Time to train climbers
It’s at this time of year that our team has climbing plants high on their ‘to-do’ list. We’re primed to train climbers for next year’s structure. For example, if you want your wisteria to climb neatly around your house, then now is a good time to find the ‘whips’ (whip, new shoots) and train them (tie them into a good support system) so as they turn woody, they provide framework and direction for next year’s growth.
Whilst we’re filling gaps with late-summer colour, we’re also thinking ahead and planting for winter interest to keep the garden looking attractive, over what can be a sparse season for form and colour. Some shrubs are star-players for this, like Viburnum bodnantense. Its clusters of tiny pink, blush or white blossoms will give a garden a lift from November through to March, given the right conditions, and it will fill the garden with its sweet, deeply perfumed, scent.
Down near ground level Hellebores offer rich, mostly evergreen foliage, topped by pretty, gently pendent blooms in a range of heathery, dusty colours of pink, white, primrose, chocolate and red (even light green).
Bulb season stars!
Finally, at the end of another busy week, it’s time for our horticulturists to put their feet up with a cup of tea and a stack of spring bulb catalogues to pick out the very best bulbs to order for the gardens under their care. Bulb planting season is just around the corner and they’ll need planting now for a display to delight the eyes and awaken a sense of fresh new life after winter’s cloak is lifted.
Want a sneak peek at our planting design team’s top pick of bulbs for spring 2024? Have a quick flip through their notes from the garden.