Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Jack Ogg
Gardening Correspondent
1:00 AM 26th August 2023

Rain, Rain Go Away…

August has been another month with varied weather. Some might argue that we’ve had a traditional English summer with a few warm days and some cooler rainy days. The issue is that we have been lulled into thinking an English summer is baking hot heatwaves and no rain.

Not all the plants at York Gate have hated the rain. The bananas and cannas have done pretty well with all the excess moisture. It has been perfect weather for the tree ferns; they seem to be happy with as much water as is thrown at them so have loved this summer.

Kate Holliday
Kate Holliday
Kate Holliday, one of our trainee gardeners, and some of our wonderful garden volunteers have started the time-consuming task of pruning the espalier-trained Pyracantha on the side of the house. We clip it by hand with snips and secateurs using some very tall ladders. We could cut it with hedge clippers, but the problem is that they cut leaves in half then the cut end turns brown, giving an overall brown hue. So, it is well worth the extra time it takes to keep it looking green and sharp.

As I mentioned last time, the rain has caused various issues in the garden and we have got to the point now where some of our potted succulents in the paved garden might have to come in early from their summer holiday outside. We have found that some of the cacti and slightly more tender succulents like the Pachypodium (spiny shrubs native to Southern Africa, on the Lebombo Mountains and other areas in KwaZulu-Natal) are just getting too wet!

Orbea variegata
Orbea variegata
We have a super free-draining compost mix for our succulent plants, but the rain hasn’t given them time to dry out between waterings. Entering the succulent house is currently met with mixed feelings. Two of my favourite residents have decided to flower; they are beautiful to look at and people have been in awe of the size and unusual colours, but the smell their flowers produce is like something out of a horror film. Anyone who knows me knows that I like unusual plant as much as the next gardener and don’t mind plants that have strange or unpleasant smelling flowers, but the Orbea variegata has taken it to a different level. It looks like a mini Rafflesia (Google this one if you don’t know it – you won’t be disappointed) and smells like rotten meat.

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea
Obviously worried that its smaller cousin was going to hog all the bluebottles in the area, Stapelia gigantea opened up some of its evil blooms. This one definitely lives up to the gigantea name with these almost hand-sized flowers and has an equally unpleasant smell.

As for your own garden, keep up the deadheading to prolong flowering on dahlias, roses etc. but you might want to consider leaving the spent seed heads on plants like Thalictrum for some winter interest (sorry for using the ‘W’ word).

It’s hedge cutting time. If you have beech, hawthorn, hornbeam or really any other broadleaf hedges, now is the time to cut them. The birds have flown the nest and the plants should have mostly stopped growing for the year.

If you have any wild meadow areas that haven’t been cut, then do it now before the dying leaves start decomposing and feeding your meadow soil. You want your meadow soil as poor as possible to keep the grasses from becoming too vigorous.

Keep an eye on your brassicas for cabbage white butterfly caterpillars. They can decimate a plant quite quickly if you take your eye off the ball.

If you haven’t already ordered your spring bulbs, you might want to think about having a look at some of the websites and catalogues so that you don’t miss out on some of the varieties you want.

Happy growing.

Do you have a few hours to spare each week?

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When you visit, you’re not just enjoying the scenery, you’re part of a lifeline. With the funds we raise through our gardens, those in need can bloom again.