Green and gorgeous
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Jackie Hunt has worked as gardener and estate manager at the award-winning Turn End gardens in Haddenham, Bucks, since 2010. Previously she was a gardener for the National Trust and ran her own garden design and maintenance business. She also has an Masters in furniture design. Nothing to do with gardening I know but I also find that mightily impressive!
1. Prune wisteria
For the summer prune (generally July or August), cut back the long, whippy green shoots that have grown this year. Cut to just above the fifth or sixth leaf on these stems. This channels energy into forming flower buds rather than leafy growth. You may like to keep a few of the strongest new shoots to extend the framework of branches. Tie them into position.
You’ll need to prune the wisteria again in January or February, and cut back the same shoots to two or three buds. This will ensure that the flowers won’t be obscured by leaves. Keep the plant well watered over the summer and early autumn – this is when next year’s flower buds are forming. Our wisteria at Turn End (above) flowered incredibly this year due to last year’s wet weather.
2. Water, water
Traditionally, August is the hottest month of the year and the fine weather seems to be continuing! Terracotta pots in particular dry out quickly so watering is massively important. If you’re away, ask a friendly neighbour to water for you, group pots together to keep humidity levels higher and place in a shadier spot. Also keep newly planted specimens well watered, particularly large shrubs and trees that need to take up lots of water from the soil. Remember regular watering is very important for fruit and veg – irregular watering can actually cause blossom end rot in tomatoes, splitting of root vegetables and flower abortion in runner beans!
3. Propagate your favourite plants
Late summer to mid autumn is the time to take ‘semi-ripe cuttings’. This means the tip of the cutting is soft while the base should be hard. This is particularly suitable for evergreen shrubs and climbers such as ivy, Solanum, Ceanothus, Choisya, Cistus, Hebe, as well as herbs such as bay, hyssop, lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Select a healthy shoot without flowers, that has grown this year, ideally one growing more horizontally with short gaps between the leaves. Using a clean blade, trim cuttings to 10-15 long, cutting just below a leaf node. Remove the lowest leaves, leaving about four leaves at the tip remaining. Dip the base in fresh hormone rooting powder (available from garden centres) and place five to six cuttings around the edge of a pre-prepared pot of free-draining cutting compost. Water and label, and place in a propagator or secure a clear plastic bag around the pot in a warm but not overly sunny place.
4. Fruit tree pruning
Pruning helps reduce leaf cover, to allow light and air to the fruit and channel energy into forming buds for next year. This method is suitable for apples and pears, and should be done mid July to early August. The technical term, if you care for such things, is the Modified Lorette System of pruning! Basically, cut main stems back to just above the third leaf above the basal cluster of leaves. On lateral (side) shoots, prune just above the first leaf above the basal cluster of leaves.
5. Deadheading and seed collection
The blistering sun has turned many of our flower heads to crisps! Keep deadheading repeat-flowering plants such as roses to encourage further blooms, and cut off seed heads if you don’t want them to seed around. We like to leave the attractive seed heads of poppies, allium and Nigella damascena (picture), they are like beautiful little sculptures. When flower heads are dry, collect seeds of your favourite plants to sow next year.