It’s been a bit of a higgledy piggledy month. Plants have not really known what time of year it is and have subsequently being behaving quite strangely.
Things are flowering early and in some cases not at all; blooms are short lived but foliage is luxuriant and plants are growing at a terrific rate.
It is not surprising really.
They started the month gasping with thirst and have ended it being thoroughly drenched.
Chief amongst the sufferers are roses and if ignored, disease will quickly set in.
Sodden blooms should be removed completely and any fallen petals cleared up from around the base of the plant.
Regular deadheading will promote repeat flowering.
A close eye should be kept on foliage and any sign of the dreaded mildew, rust and black spot should be dealt with promptly.
Those with an environmentally friendlier approach can now buy some very good treatments for fungal disease which, although not as effective as the harsher, less wildlife amenable chemicals, will help to keep disease in check.
There is, however, no substitute for prompt removal and safe disposal of all infected foliage which, if left on the ground, will only allow spores to escape and cause re-infection.
Of course, one of the factors which helps roses to continue flowering throughout the season is dry, calm weather with good sunshine.
This is in short supply at the moment and, although many of my plants are full of buds just waiting to burst, they are not going to come out until the weather improves.
This can mean that borders and beds are lacking somewhat in colour but this is easily remedied with some careful underplanting of low growing, non-invasive plants (roses on the whole do not enjoy competition) such as Geraniums, dwarf cottage garden Pinks and perennial Violas, all of which are available in a range of colours to suit your planting scheme and which will, if deadheaded regularly, provide a reliable display for some time to come.
Ramblers (which rarely repeat flower) and established Climbers (which can cope with a little competition) that are a bit bare of colour can be brightened up with the planting of Clematis.
The ones to look for are those in Group 3 – late season flowering plants including Clematis Viticella, late flowering Large Flowered and Herbaceous species and cultivars.
We have discussed Clematis before but I think it an area worth re-visiting.
Once established, these magnificent, colourful blooms provide a display sometimes lasting months and are relatively easy to care for.
Plants from this group are quite happy scrambling up through established planting and, as long as they are treated correctly, provide little risk to their companion.
Varieties include the stout and reliable Jackmanii (purple), Madame Julia Correvon (red) and Blue Moon (blue with cream stripes).
The recently introduced ‘Boulevard Clematis’ are ideal for containers and smaller gardens, being free-flowering but more compact in form.
Strictly speaking, they form part of the mid-season category but are better pruned as a late season.
Herbaceous Clematis tend to be more shrubby in form, many also being non-clinging so are ideal scrambling through smaller shrubs and even acting as ground cover.
They can be a little difficult to track down and to establish but are definitely worth a try.
Varieties include the dark purple ‘Harlow Carr’ and ‘Alionushka’ (which is, strictly speaking, semi-herbaceous and has mauve-pink flowers).
Do not discount the smaller flowered varieties; many are well worth the effort although they may be a little lost if not given somewhere of their own to live.
Varieties include ‘Savanah’ (dark pink) and the magnificent ‘Gravetye Beauty’ with masses of bright red flowers well in to autumn.
Clematis require rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
They should be planted deeply – much deeper than as in their pot – and tied in to their support to encourage them to go in the right direction.
Much has been made of their need to have their roots in shade and, if planted as a companion plant, this should not be a problem.
I do not find it a problem anyway but, if you wish to be sure, cover their roots with an old terracotta pot or some roof tiles.
Pruning of Group three Clematis is straightforward.
In early spring cut off all the previous seasons growth to about 40cms above soil level.
Tie in new growth regularly. Mulching in late spring will fuel the plant and help to prevent drying out, the chief cause of Clematis mildew.
You can, of course, let them get on with it, particularly if growing up through ramblers and trees and then they will flower higher up the plant where the blooms can be seen.
Fluffy seedheads follow many of the flowers and are relished by birds.
Plant of the month
Clematis Viticella ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’
A LATER flowering clematis with abundant, fully double flowers in purple-mauve.
Once established, it will flower reliably well in to early autumn.
It is an ideal Clematis for companion planting and is particularly useful when planted with a rambler rose as, once the rose has started to finish, the Clematis has started to flower.
The rose also offers adequate support to the rather heavy, flamboyant flowers.
Try with creamy-white Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’.
Clematis are widely available and are best bought as larger plants which establish more easily.
Smaller plants are significantly cheaper but may take a few years to flower.
Propagation is simple from softwood or semi-ripe cuttings.