It’s the height of summer and the garden is running away with itself; armfuls of veg to be picked, hedges needing to be trimmed and lawns to be mowed. In his magnificent garden at Lewis Cottage, Richard Orton admits that he sometimes feels overwhelmed by it all. But the sheer bountifulness of it all easily pushes those feelings aside and allows him a little time to appreciate the little triumphs and successes of the year so far. 

“Right plant, right place” is a mantra quoted by many these days and for all the temptation to say that it’s an overused cliché, like most clichés it’s spot on. When, after years of disappointment, a plant suddenly thrives it will probably be due to being in the right spot at last and given the right conditions in which to grow. We all have plants that we would love to have in our garden but which are just not suitable. At the cottage it would be unthinkable not to have hollyhocks, but can we grow them? Well not very successfully until this year. Always full of rust (if they managed to reach maturity) we found a fig-leaved variety that was rustproof and does very well. Encouraged, we gave them another go this past year in a much better drained part of the garden and behold, we have some wonderful pink and rich dark purple blooms. 

Some wonderful dark purple hollyhocks.
Pink hollyhocks

The same rule applies to the veg garden too. For years we have always been successful with growing onions (180 this year) but have always struggled with potatoes, dutifully planting them year on year, trying new varieties, all without huge success, lucky if we dig enough for one meal. But this week, after Monty mentioned that he was digging up his potatoes, I decided to take a chance and, whilst we won’t be supplying the local supermarket anytime soon, it’s a huge improvement on previous years. All I need to do now is remember the variety!

180 onions this year!

Success with potatoes at last.

This month is one of my favourite times of the year because it will soon be the main seed collecting season. Armed with my canvas seed collecting bag (yes, I have a special bag!) stuffed full of brown paper bags and snippers, I will spend hours wandering the garden, snipping off dried seed stems from anything that I feel is worth growing for the nursery. I am a great believer in sowing when the seed is ready, so the recently refurbished polytunnels will soon start filling with empty seed trays of drying stems, then be filled with the freshly sifted seed. Most will be varieties of foxglove or hardy annuals such as Ammi majus/visnaga,Cerinthe and Gypsophilia. These will be grown on in the polytunnels until the spring when they will be potted up ready for the new season nursery sales.

Seed collecting kit

Talking of which, we had thought we wouldn’t be able to open at August Bank Holiday this year as we have done in the past. However, the stars have aligned and we’re pleased to say that the garden will be open on Saturday August 28 and Sunday 29.To celebrate this we will also be having a Grand Summer’s End Plant Sale with 25% off across the whole nursery, so come along and grab yourselves a bargain, a cup of tea and piece of cake! Who knows, you might just find that “right plant for the right place” you’ve been looking for. 

Gardening jobs for August

  • Mow meadows now to help scatter established wildflower seeds.
  • Water evergreen shrubs such as camellias and rhododendrons thoroughly this month to make sure that next year’s buds develop well.
  • Deadhead annual bedding plants and perennials to encourage them to flower into the autumn and stop them self-seeding.
  • Lift and dry onions, shallots and garlic once the foliage has flopped over and yellowed. Store them in onion bags to prevent mould developing.
  • Harvest French and runner beans little and often to prevent them from setting seed. Pick runner beans regularly to stop them becoming stringy.
  • If you have a glut of raspberries, blackberries or loganberries, freeze them on trays for a couple of hours and then bag them for use over winter.
  • Damp down your greenhouse on hot days to increase humidity and deter red spider mites.
  • Scoop floating weed and algae from ponds
  • Water plants thoroughly when needed, instead of small amounts every day. Thorough watering supports plants for up to 14 days, while merely wetting the surface wastes water and encourages weeds. 
  • Order your perennial plants online now for planting whilst the soil is warm 

Some Devon gardens open for the NGS in August 

7 August - Springfield House, Colyford

15  August – Little Ash Bungalow, Honiton

28 August – Sidmouth Gardens, Sidmouth

28/29  August – Lewis Cottage Garden

Aug 6, 2021

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