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June 2013

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Chaenomeles, camassia, fair maids of France and Spode blue


After a cold spring, our June garden is a joy. Late-flowering camellias have just finished flowering and have been pruned to keep their shape, while wall-trained varieties have their outward, unwanted, growth removed. The same job is being done on the fuchsia currant, Ribes speciosum, and pearly white Exchorda 'The Bride'.

I have renewed my love for chaenomeles, but these spring-flowering hardy shrubs need thinning out and removal of their tangled growth. I have planted Tropaeolum tricolor, which is less vigorous than Tropaeolum speciosum, with red flowers blotched with black, at the base of Chaenomeles speciosa 'Moerloosei', my favourite variety with soft shades of creamy pink.

Spring -flowering Clematis Montana, having just finished, needs a hard chop each year. When an old plant has become woody and full of old dead growth, it can be cut to the ground, and given a good feed of compost or manure, the plant will re-shoot from its base. Iris pseudacorus 'Variegata' is a showy herbaceous plant with long, spiky variegated leaves. I planted a dark red flowering astrantia next door for a strong colour contrast.

Camassias are also good reliable plants producing either blue or cream flowers. The great thing about these plants is they disappear soon after flowering, their gaps can be filled in with late-flowering plants, such as fuchsias, cannas or rudbeckias. I plant them through shrub roses, the stems of which keep the camassias upstanding. Always remove their old withered leaf growth after flowering.

Omphalodes are one of the best perennials, no staking, long flowering, no dead-heading and evergreen. Its blue forget-me-not-like flowers flower from early March till late June. I use it as an edging plant on a raised bed in full sun, equally it will be happy in semi-shade under deciduous shrubs.

I thoroughly enjoy topiary at this time of year, the strong shapes holding the explosion of herbaceous plants together. Yew and box do well here at Lakemount, trained into sculptural shapes and hedges. I avoid keeping box plants in pots as they dislike being dried out and get pot-bound quickly.

Bearded irises are in full flower. I hope for a few weeks of fine weather which will extend their flowering. I have planted them in a gravel area which is free-draining and sunny. To follow on seedlings of purple top verbena have appeared, and feather grass, Stipa tenuissima, and Sedum 'Vera Jameson' will create interest into autumn. I have planted all our large urns with red-leaved and flowered tuberous begonias, as I find them tolerant of all our summers.

My wife Rose's cottage garden within Lakemount is exploding with colour - the tulip season is over. Aquilegias are filling their gaps successfully and will be dead-headed after flowering. If mildew is a problem we will cut their foliage to the ground. Lupins staked earlier with link stakes are flowering beautifully. Double white fair maids of France, Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno', and Rheum 'Ace of Hearts' give a great contrast both in flower colour and foliage.

On the edge of a path Veronica gentianoides thrives with Spode china blue flowers. Divide it together with geums after flowering for young plants for next year. Thalictrums are easy and reliable, and Thalictrum aquilegifolium has dainty flowers and good foliage that remains attractive for months. Centaureas are a good cottage garden plant in a colour range from pale lilac to deep blue. These tend to flop over, as do alstroemerias - so lots of hazel branches stuck in around the plant will hold them up.


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