Gardening div? We’ve got tips for you
Love gardening but it's a jungle out there? Grab the secateurs and read our top summer tips
Turns out there are more benefits to gardening than simply making your pots look pretty – a new study that’s just landed on my desk finds that 50 percent of people reported improved happiness when they got busy with a trowel, with 44 percent noting that gardening helps reduce anxiety, according to research by AXA Insurance. What more encouragement do you need to pull on your suspiciously pristine Cath Kidston gloves and get out there?!
But, er… where to start? We hit up Simon Murfitt, the green-fingered guru, whose clients include Blur bassist turned Kingham farmer Alex James, who totally knows his onions (and definitely doesn’t get them mixed up with daffodil bulbs as yours truly once did, with disastrous results). We’re a time-pressed bunch on Muddy Stilettos, aren’t we, so here is Simon’s guide to summer gardening jobs, divvied up according to how much time you have spare to skip around the foliage…
If you have… 10 MINUTES
A quick snip and prune around your plants, deadheading and tidying, will give an instantly healthier look, plus produce more blooms from summer flowering plants.
Rather than a daily sprinkle, water your plants substantially every few days. In the summer, they prefer more sustained hydration, and they look better for it. (Although in a heat wave, they may need a good soak every day.)
… ONE HOUR
Check on any new trees, shrubs and herbaceous planting from the last year, water and feed to promote healthy growth.
Cut flowers from blousey roses and clematis, along with fine stems of astrantia, sweet peas and veronica with greenery. Tie loosely and display in a vase, jug or jam-jar.
… TWO HOURS
Plant a small edible garden: unearth unused containers, pots or boxes and grab some herbs from the local nursery or garden centre. It’s a quick, easy way to create a verdant oasis of herbs to jazz up your summer cooking. Go for chives, parsley, rocket, basil, thyme, rosemary and not forgetting mint for mojitos!
… HALF A DAY
Add plants for late-summer colour. Now is a good time to plug gaps in beds and borders with the dreamy spires of agastache, billowy phlox, salvias and verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’, which will take your garden through to autumn and beyond. And don’t forget the spectacular dahlia, with its fuchsia pink to muted mocha tones.
… A FULL DAY
July or August is a good time to summer-prune wisteria. Snip the new langourous, wispy green shoots of this year’s growth to leave five or six leaves on the main stems.
Prune trained apple and pear trees to stimulate fruiting – you’ll get pears from mid-July and apples later in August. Remove the 3Ds – anything dead, diseased and damaged.
Perk up an entrance by planting a new shrub – for example, walk out to the heady scent and flowers of philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ or sweet daphne.
Visit inspirational local gardens – I like Elton Hall, Anglesey Abbey, The Swiss Garden at Shuttleworth and Wimpole Hall . The British Red Cross Open Gardens 2017 still has some dates in store – Clare College Fellows’ Garden (Sun 13 Aug) and King’s College Fellows’ Garden (Sun 20 Aug). Let your ideas run away with you and start planning your garden for the coming year.