Around the Garden with Busy Lizzie - June

Around the Garden
Around the Garden
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LAST year, I made a promise to myself – to try to enjoy my garden more.

A simple thing, one may think but sitting back and enjoying has not been possible due to the enormous amount of work that I have had to put in to get the garden back in to some sort of order. I can now announce the job is complete – or as complete as it ever will be, given that gardeners have a built-in need to plant, trend and nurture.

I am certainly reaping the benefits of all that toil – the garden is looking the best I have seen it look for quite some time and the plants are thriving. The new rose arches are almost invisible underneath their cloak of blooms and the areas that were formerly dark and dank are loving their new-found light.

The herbaceous perennials which form the mainstay of my plot have been totally rejuvenated by splitting and mulching and boy, am I pleased to have got the stakes in this year as the growth is so lush they would have toppled over without some support.

Anyway, enough of my self-congratulation and on to other things – related in a way to the general enjoyment of all things green. I was recently invited to visit a friend’s garden.

We should all make time to look at other people’s plots, not least because we may just learn something new, and in any case who can resist a nosey parker at somebody else’s garden. I normally expect to pay for the privilege.

This is not unusual given that most gardens which open for the public do so either as a business or in order to raise money for charity.

Now is the season for open gardens but you do not have to travel far to see some as local events are now under way. On the afternoon of 7 July, Ruswarp Open Gardens holds its annual event.

This is a relatively new and welcome addition to the calendar and is developing nicely. The gardens, although few in number, house some beautiful and unusual plants which are planted in a variety of settings.

Miss these and you will miss some of the loveliest gardens in Whitby.

Back to my friend’s garden (entry free) which simply took my breath away.

There was nothing hugely remarkable about it, except perhaps its setting (and I can give no details as this is a private plot) but the sheer beauty of the planting – all frothy apple blossom, deep blue Forget-Me-Nots and wavy grass – was just breathtaking. It appeared to be quite wild, but careful management and planting had brought out the very best in this garden and it was an absolute joy.

To be able to sit awhile and just look was a real tonic and I look forward to seeing it again in its summer guise.

Today, when walking about my own plot (at stupid o’ clock in good early morning light with a crashing dawn chorus, which all adds to the effect) I had the same feeling. Having sat and thought about it for a while, I remembered that this was exactly how I used to feel a few years back before it all became a bit too much work and no fun.

I have held on to that feeling and, if it ever goes, I will know that I am not gardening for the right reasons and resolve the matter instantly!

On a different subject entirely, many of you are reporting severe infestations of aphids, fungal disease and rot. This is entirely due to the freaky weather which we have experienced.

Plants were weakened by last years wet and windy weather, dried out over winter and early spring, drenched, frozen and blown about during their peak growing period and then fried by a merciless sun for a few days.

I think that I would have developed black spot myself if I had had to suffer that lot. What can we do – well, not a lot really. Young birds, now fledging, will see off most of the aphids but so will a gentle wipe with your fingers.

Removal and disposal of severely infected plant material will improve appearances and a careful balance of watering and feeding will strengthen the plant, but beware, overdoing it will merely produce sappy growth which is even more susceptible to attack. Do also remember to disinfect tools and gloves after dealing with diseased plant material.

I have just had to cut down a pear tree full of fruit because I unwittingly introduced infection with a pair of secateurs.

The stump is within my vegetable plot so I will have to look at it every time I go there until the cropping season is over when I will dig it up, which, I think, is justifiable penance for a very stupid act.

Beating Pests and Disease

Good – There is a good range of organic pesticides and fungicides on the market now.

They are reasonably effective but the point is that they do no harm to the environment at all. They tend to kill aphids but not their eggs so more regular attention is needed than with chemical sprays (which kill everything, good and bad).

Better – Companion planting – using strong, pungent aromas of plants to help deter pests is an age old method of confusing aphids. Tagetes, Calendula, Tansy, Chives, Poached Egg Plant, Nasturiums and their like all suffice and are attractive to Hoverflies, whose larvae feed on aphids. Inclusion of herbs in planting schemes also works very well with the added bonus of being able to eat them (the herbs, that is, not the aphids).

Best – Attracting beneficial life in to the garden is by far the best way of dealing with pests. A healthy garden full of insect, bird and amphibian life will have little in the way of aphids and, as these often carry disease from plant to plant, less disease.

A healthy eco-system can not be achieved overnight but a start can be made by banning chemicals, growing a range of plants to flower throughout the season and providing homes for your helpmates – a simple pile of sticks in a quiet corner will do for a start, or you can spend a fortune on a ready-made insect lodge – entirely up to you.

Defenders (01233 813121) and Green Gardener (01493 750061) have an excellent range of nature-friendly products.

Plant of the month

Cerastium tomentosum – Snow in summer

Cerastium tomentosum –

Snow in summer

AN old fashioned and seemingly out-of-favour perennial plant which deserves a place in everyone’s garden.

Mounds of evergreen silver foliage support clouds of bright white flowers throughout late spring and early summer.

Requires full sun and good drainage and is ideal for growing over walls or using as ground cover for that dry spot where nothing else will grow. Clip it back if it gets too rampant and it may oblige with a second flush.

Self seeds readily and roots easily where it touches the soil so easy to propagate. Widely available.