with Charlie Wilkins
A MIDSUMMER SPECTACULAR
An important thing to know about scent in the open garden is that there are relatively few plants whose perfume will hang on the air in such a way as to make you sniff in inquiry as you walk past. Many things smell good when you push your nose into them, or crush them, or bring them into a warm room, but what I am experiencing this morning in this garden setting (I write in the open today) is only heavenly. Beside me now stands a large pot of Lilium regale.
Overwhelmed by their heavenly perfume and the sheer size of their trumpet flowers, today at least I vote them my most favourite flower. These (to my mind) are the most soothing of summer flowers and their perfume, in your plot, will uplift the gloomiest corner and bring joy to all who come across the planting.
A garden in midsummer should of course look delightful and small delicious! Flowers should captivate all the senses except taste, but even then, there are blooms which are truly edible. In any garden, big or small, the Regale lily will be found gratifyingly easy to grow. If space is at a premium (today’s gardens seem to grow smaller and smaller) they can be grown to perfection in pots or containers stood on deck, patio, or balcony. Few plants will flower as well as these during June and July! Use terra-cotta for preference, three bulbs to an eight-inch pot and cover them with at least four inches of commercial compost above the top of the bulbs. This is important for these eye-catching lilies are both basal and stem rooting, and object to shallow planting.
In long, extended dry periods make sure they get sufficient moisture, and occasionally add a drop of liquid food based on seaweed ingredients. Grown well, Regale lilies will flower for up to six weeks atop tall, sturdy stems of three to four feet. When neglected by way of moisture shortage, flowering will be decidedly shorter, and the trumpet size noticeably reduced.
During the months outlined, on those long, warm evenings the Regale lily will be found the most soothing of flowers, for its perfume uplifts the spirit and tempers the mental state. Their bouquet can promote the desire to secure more of these wondrous flowers and in this respect the species willingly delights! If you collect the ripened seed pods during late August and sow the contents (without delay) in trays or containers, by September one will have large enough seedlings which can be transplanted into individual pots. These will flower in their second summer and will honour you thereafter for a lifetime.
THE GARDEN IN JULY
As we continue our summer journey and enter July, we could be forgiven for naming it the most effervescent and ebullient month of the year. Growth is frothing and the sensation of newness still abounds in the hedgerows and countryside. As the rape bloom runs to seed the dog daisies and red poppies compete for the space vacated and they brighten our environment irrespective of the prevailing weather. In the garden, those miracles continue as a daily occurrence. The tree peonies still hold some resplendent flowers and I had the privilege for weeks past of not alone holding them in my hand but drinking in their perfume whilst marvelling at their fragility and very existence. Summer certainly brings a freedom from care that is unlike any other time of the year. The season is full of playfulness, wildflowers, light, and relaxation. Long may it continue!
YELLOW is the colour of hope, a blessing bestowed on many, but recognized by so few. Although it is the dominant hue during early spring not every yellow flower is appreciated. So, forgive me if I pontificate for a moment, but I really believe ‘Jamaica Primrose’ is still the best of all the Marguerites! (Argyranthemums) Its foliage is finely fashioned, light as a spider’s web with yellow daisy-like blooms perfectly proportioned throughout the bush and seen in great numbers when well grown. OK, so it is rather tender (it does well in the Glanmire area during winter if given a sheltered, sunny spot) and best brought inside during winter, but once it goes outside, it stays in bloom without stopping to late autumn. Cuttings root with vulgarity during any summer month and these are much easier to carry over the cold months.
FLAGS OF OPTIMISM; June may be the favoured month for viewing roses, but the bearded iris can oft-times steal the show-if only for a short interval. These are finishing as I write. With their showy looks and sparkling presence, they fly the flag for colour and impact. Claude Monet was so impressed by their sumptuousness that he planted them by the thousand at Giverney in France.
Individually of course iris flowers are as ephemeral as apple blossom, but selective planting of mixed early and late varieties can ensure blooms from mid-April to the end of summer. They need sun primarily or the lightest of dappled shade. In lime gardens and those which drain easily, these are a must, but do make sure that irrespective of where they’re positioned, that the top of their fleshy rhizomes are allowed show above the soil surface where they can bake in whatever sun is available. Once blooming finished, plants can be divided and replanted immediately. Do this now or whenever they finish their display. Cut the strappy leaves back to a small fan shape so that wind will not rock the plant divisions before they have rooted.
CUT BLOOMS. Put away the secateurs when picking Alstromerias! When these are needed for indoor table decoration pull the whole stalk from the ground rather than cutting the stem at the required length. This encourages the tubers to send up more growths, and these will be the ones to bloom towards the opening days of autumn. With the risk of becoming a bore over staking, do ensure that plant support for all herbaceous plants are adequate, for storms and high winds are a feature of summer which seem to be increasing.
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