Jo's RHS medal-winning garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

This is from Jo Ward-Ellison – a gardener designer friend; I find her thoughts excellent and intend publishing them here each month …

The traditional holiday months, time to relax and enjoy your garden. Who knows what the weather will throw at us in July and August this year but on the assumption that there will be some warm, sunny and dry days it will mean that plants in pots, hanging baskets and other containers will need watering. They will also need feeding! This came as a surprise to many of my clients when I was working as a gardener. A good all rounder is a liquid fertiliser based on seaweed. Plants that produce lots of flowers during the summer months specifically need supplementing with potassium which conveniently is available in the form of liquid tomato food. Follow the dilution rates given and feed regularly – your plants in containers will look better for it.

Many gardeners often complain about the lack of colour in their gardens once May and June have passed and I suspect that one of the reasons for this is that many plants are purchased and planted in the spring and early summer when enthusiasm for getting the garden looking good is high and the garden centres have made attractive displays of seasonal flowering plants. There are lots of plants that provide interest in July and August and visiting other gardens can be very inspirational, a great source of ideas – and often an opportunity for tea and cakes. When visiting other gardens resist the temptation to focus on plants you already have. Instead, with a camera and notebook to hand, look at groups of plants that look good together – it might be contrasting or harmonising colours, shapes, heights or textures. Note where they are growing: the aspect, the soil, the amount of shelter. Would the group or an element of the group work in your garden? Then hone in on the plants and if not labelled, find out what they are – there is often someone to ask – even if it is another visitor! There are some lovely gardens in our area. The NGS yellow book is a good source of both public and private gardens to visit. One of my favourites is Hampton Court near Leominster which is good for both the kitchen and ornamental gardens. Plus children love the maze. Two, closer to home that I visited for the first time last summer are open again this year on 4th September – Brockhampton Cottage (10-2pm) and Grendon Court at Upton Bishop (2-5pm). Both were designed by Tom Stuart Smith and are definitely worth a visit.

Other jobs in the garden in July and August include:

• Unless you want to collect seed or leave seed heads for the birds then dead head perennial and annual plants to promote the production of more flowers and keep the plants looking colourful for longer.
• The end of the summer is the time to trim deciduous hedges such as beech. Hedge sides should be cut at a slight angle with the top narrower than the base as this gives the plants more protection against high winds and allows any snow to fall away. Hedges are very often cut with a flat top but one with a gently curved top is less vulnerable to snow damage; something that may be worth considering if the cold hard winters of the past 2 years continue.
• Prune stone fruits such as plums and cherries.
• Thin out fruit on apples and pears.
• Cut down old canes of summer raspberries as soon as they have finished fruiting and tie in the new.

Runner Bean Enorma

• In the vegetable garden continue succession sowing salad crops. Runner beans sown in situ until the end of July should give you pickings right into the autumn and seeds of autumn and winter salad leaves such as mizuna, pak choi and corn salad can also be sown which will extend the salad leaf season. The end of July is the time to sow spring cabbage in firm soil either in a seed bed or where they are to grow. Mulch with grass clippings to keep the moisture in. Main crop carrots can also be sown.

Finally, if you grow vegetables then the inevitable glut of courgettes will happen! Last year I tried several new recipes and courgette cake (a Nigella recipe I think) was a great success. It’s just like carrot cake – but different – on account of the green bits! And thank you to all those who braved the most awful rain on the day of the Goodrich Open Gardens. We appreciated every wet person who came through our gates and left even wetter!

Before moving to Herefordshire 3 years ago Jo Ward-Ellison ran her own Garden Design and Maintenance company. She is now creating a new garden in Goodrich and offers a Garden Design consultancy service.
JWE/June 2011

Courgette cake

  • Grease and line 2x21cm round cake tins or one loaf tin. Oven at 180C/gas 4.
  • If using, cover 60g raisins with warm water and leave to soak then drain before using.
  • Wipe 250g courgettes – no need to peel them – and grate – using the coarse side of the grater. Then turn into a sieve and leave to allow excess water to drain.
  • Put 2 large eggs, 125ml vegetable oil and 150g caster sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy.
  • Sieve in 225g SR flour, and ½ tsp each of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and beat until well combined.
  • Stir in the courgettes and, if using, the raisins (drained).
  • Pour mixture into tin(s) and cook for 30-40mins until slightly brown and firm to touch.
  • Leave to cool for 10 mins or so and then turn out onto a rack.

To finish: If you have 2 cakes you want to stick together then lemon curd is good to use. A creamy topping works well – low fat cream cheese mixed with some icing sugar (and maybe some lemon curd) – spread over the top and then sprinkle with some chopped pistachio nuts if you happen to have any!

for more about Jo see …

Garden and Planting Design