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The diary of a cottage gardener - August

And then it was August! How has that happened?

I hope you all enjoyed the July sunshine. The heat has proved a challenge over the last month. A lot of the flowers came out a couple of weeks early and proved to me the need for continuous succession sowing to be able to keep a good supply.

The flowers for a wildflower wedding stood up to the heat and produced a lovely show in time for the wedding. I did have anxious moments transporting them in 30-degree heat and was scared to open the trailer and look at them at the end of the journey but thankfully all was well.

The challenge of hotter summers: I have always relied on the perennials that I grow for cutting over annuals as the annuals require more water. I am having to seriously think about how I best grow for the changing conditions as we face the prospect of hotter summers. Increasing the stock of perennials that I know currently thrive in my shillit soil appears to be the way forward.

A case in point has been the Prairie garden. I started this area three years ago using surplus shillit from the garden. It has been planted with varieties of grasses such as Miscanthus, Stipa and Pheasant Tail together with drought tolerant perennials including Achillea, Echinops, Eryngium, Salvias and Veronicastrum. The garden has not been watered all summer and has thrived. I love the naturalistic planting that a prairie garden lends itself to. If you want to see a local outstanding example, be sure to visit Keith Wiley’s Wildside at Yelverton.

The dry conditions have reinforced the need to mulch and compost heavily at the beginning of the season. I use sheep wool to help to retain moisture in my no dig beds and in pots and this has certainly reduced the need to water as frequently. I will be setting up more water saving containers ready to collect rain over the winter to keep the garden hydrated next year.

What I am busy with this month

Collecting wildflower seed: I leave the seeds in a dish to dry and then store in paper bags ready for sowing later this month or in the Spring.

Cutting back and scarifying wildflower areas: The wildflower areas all get cut back and left for a week for the seeds to drop. All the debris then gets raked and composted. Finally, the areas are scarified to help reduce the grass growth and new seeds are either scattered in August or left until the Spring for sowing.

Ordering seeds and sowing next year’s early annuals: It is time to think about sowing early annuals such as Larkspur. I usually sow these in August and September ready for Spring flowering.

Ordering bulbs: My bulb list is finalised, and I will be ordering this month ready for lots of colour for the Spring.

Planning changes to the borders: I take videos of the borders throughout the summer to record what was flowering and to decide what needs moving or replacing. It helps me to remember where I need to plug any gaps and assess what worked and what needs changing.

Dividing perennials: I start to lift and divide some perennials. The ground will remain warm for a good while and it will help the moved and potted plants to get their roots established.

Cutting back perennials: Cutting back can often result in a second flush of flowers so be sure to cut back plants such as Delphiniums.

Enjoy August in your gardens. It is certainly a busy time in the garden!

Hilary x

The Devon Cottage Gardener


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