Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Wow factor in August

August is always a tricky time in the garden - that exuberant lush green has faded only to be replaced by browning lawns and geraniums past their best.  Well now's the time to rejuvenate.   Alchemilla mollis is probably the best example, by now the flowers will be brown and the leaves looking tatty.  Just cut the whole lot off at the base of the plant - you may already see some new growth and in a few weeks you will be rewarded with a second flush of flowers.

But there are still many plants that can take your breath away at this time of year - Here you can see the roses coming again with Agapanthus starting its summer display below.

One of our great treats at Belvoir though, is the blue hydrangea, which looks quite stunning at this time of year.  We have tried some of the more unusual varieties this spring - but they are being a little slow to perform, sadly I think it went too cold after they were planted  (I must be more patient!) - so next year it will be even more impressive

Hedge cutting time is upon us already and our first task is the box parterre.  This will be its second cut this year and you can see how well it has benefitted from two cuts by really filling out.  

Look at the beautiful black velvet petunia's we tried - they have done really well.  I love mixing annuals with perennials it gives much more substance to large pots.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Why do we struggle to grow 'Wild Flower Meadows'?

.... So as I was saying...

Why do we struggle to grow wild flower meadows?

Our walk in the National Parc de la Vanoise started in the bottom of a gully with steep craggy mountains on our left and a gradual sloping bank on our right.  We were about 3,000m high so already you have climate difference in the growing conditions compared to our lowland English countryside.

We were soon reaching for the water bottle as the sun had a fierce heat to it; another sharp contrast to home.  One of the first things you notice is the constant movement around you of butterflies and other insects, the whole area is a hive of activity. Nature has to work fast up here - with snow still hugging the mountain tops in August - the growing season is short.

The land under foot is a mixture of shale and rock (very little soil) and quite steep in places.  The grass grows only up to your mid calf and is thin and wiry, creating less competition for the wild flowers.  Finally you have summer storms, one of which we experienced the following day; 12 steps to the car and we were drenched!

So all in all it is not difficult to see why we struggle to grow wild flowers in parts of this country as our conditions are so different.  When executing a planting plan one of the first things I was taught, was to put the right plant in the right place according to where that plant originated from and grows in the wild.

Our soil at home is rich in comparison; the sun rarely reaches the heat we experienced, and if it does, it bakes the land hard and dry.  Our meadows can be rich in nitrogen so grassland, thistles and docks soon swamp any struggling wildflowers. So the lesson learnt is, if we want a wildflower garden we need to mimic their natural habitat! 

By the way, for those ornithologists reading this, I hope you spotted the Griffin Vulture!