Watch: A quiet afternoon at Chelsea Flower Show

Watch: A quiet afternoon at Chelsea Flower Show
Geranium Rozanne

AH yes, the rain has arrived, only for a brief spell though... hopefully! The ground was very dry and needed a good drink and we are certainly getting that over the last few days.

Newly planted trees and shrubs will be glad of the water, but the wet and windy weather is setting a few early summer flowering plants back somewhat.

At this time of year, particularly with the windy weather we are having, getting some stakes in place is important. The sooner they are in place the better as the plants can grow into the supports and create a more natural looking effect.

If staking is left too late, it can look very obvious, ruining the naturalised country cottage effect being aimed for with many herbaceous perennials.

Some good stakes to use are the half-moon metal plant supports (right) that are easy to put in place and are painted green so they are quite inconspicuous. These are available at www.thegardenshop.ie.

A visit to Mallow Garden Festival or Bloom should also see these available for sale.

Alternatively, bamboo canes and string can be used or hazel rods, which are easy to grow and harvest yourself annually or biennially.

For summer colour, you cannot beat herbaceous plants. Caring for and maintaining a herbaceous border is a lot of work, but why not include some herbaceous plants in amongst shrubs and roses, creating a mixed border effect? There will still be work required as herbaceous plants need dividing every 3-5 years to keep them flowering well, but it would not be as intensive.

Annuals provide very vivid summer colours but herbaceous perennials create the country cottage effect and, because some of them produce more height and bulk, getting up to 5 or 6 ft in height, they fill out space and create an enclosure, providing a fuller effect during the summer months.

Most perennials do best in full sun with a good free draining loam soil. They benefit from an annual mulch of garden or mushroom compost or seaweed.

Some of the best herbaceous plants are the older, traditional ones in my opinion. Hollyhock grows to over 6ft and produces an array of pastel-coloured blooms. Aruncus dioicus is a large plant, one for towards the back of the border, it reminds me of a large astilbe with its large tassely flowers getting to heights of over 6ft. Phlox paniculata is one of the real country cottage plants with its beautiful scented flowers in a range of pastel colours, it benefits from regular division.

Summer flowering bulbs can be a great addition to beds and borders and also look good in pots that could be strategically positioned in borders to fill gaps if needed. Lilies, alliums and gladiolas are amongst my favourites and there is still time to plant some for a show later this summer.

Oriental lilies are great for giving a big blast of colour and scent as well, they can be planted in pots and simply used to fill gaps as they occur in late summer or planted deeply into the ground — well-drained soil in a sunny aspect is best.

Alliums are beginning to show colour and provide good continuity from spring flowering bulbs, ‘Globemaster’ has large round blooms from mid-June, ‘Christophii’ and ‘Purple Sensation’ are also worthwhile cultivars.

Herbaceous geraniums give great value throughout summer and provide valuable groundcover which make weeds less prolific.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is one of the best for colour and repeat flowers throughout the summer months. A good white variety is ‘Summer Snow’ that seeds itself freely, creating mounds of frothy white flowers for the duration of the summer.

This geranium reminds me a bit of Gypsophlia or baby’s breath. Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ has deep purple flowers and a very dark centre, its flowering period is long and it has a rather untidy sprawling growth habit which makes it all the more attractive.

Leucanthemum ‘White Knight’ is a simple white daisy flower that reminds me of the ox-eye daisy that grows in hedgerows but has a fuller and larger flower. White flowers always provide a great contrast for other colours in the bed or border and can be luminous at dusk on summer’s evenings Angelica gigas is a great plant for late summer massive blooms of wine/red umbels and attractive seed heads. It provides much-needed structure in late summer and into the autumn in herbaceous beds and is quite the attraction for bees and butterflies.

It is quite large, growing to about 5ft, so allow some space at the back of a border.

Wherever you have a gap, rest assured there is a plant to fit, and even if you don’t have a gap, make room because Mallow Garden Festival and Bloom and provide an opportunity to purchase plants at their blooming best. Happy Gardening!

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