August: let's get outside!
August is the summer month. Long, hot, lazy days, summer holidays, barbecues. It is often a month to try to enjoy a bit of a break and relax. Whether we have four weeks of sultry heat or a period of rather more unsettled conditions, hopefully we will all be able to spend a bit of time outside in our gardens.
This month's star plants
Regardless of the weather, many of the stars of the July garden will still be rewarding us this month. Notable favourites like the Geranium, Lavender, Penstemon (pictured above), and Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle), are now joined by a host of other attractions. Perovskia (Russian Sage) offers good height and colour, as does Verbena bonariensis, and Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum (Bronze fennel). Fennel is a great plant, with clouds of airy foliage, clusters of small yellow flowers, and a delicious aniseed scent. Yes, you can eat it if you like, but I grow it for its ornamental qualities as part of a mixed border display.
Elsewhere, Buddleja (Butterfly bush) is a great ‘crowd-pleaser’ and is much loved by a host of insects. Leycesteria formosa will also give pleasure to people and birds alike with its pendulous flowers and shiny dark purple fruits. Watch out for self-set seedlings, however, as it does like to spread itself rather enthusiastically.
This is also a great month for ornamental grasses, with many looking their best in August and September. Two, in particular, are well worth a try in every garden. Stipa gigantea has featured in many Chelsea Flower Show gardens in recent years, and justifiably so. It provides tall oat-like flower panicles, and lovely bronze foliage later in the season. Stipa tenuissima is a smaller but no less fabulous grass. It is definitely a real ‘must have’ in many of the planting plans I design for our customers. It ‘dances’ in the slightest breeze and provides welcome textural contrast if used alongside many of our favourite perennials. Plant it singularly or in clumps of 3 or 5 at the front of a border and it will never disappoint.
Finally, another star plant in the August garden is Hemoracallis (Day lily). As its common name suggest, the flowers on most Hemoracallis are rather short-lived, but they are readily followed by plentiful replacements, and they are such wonderfully graceful flowers that they add colour and interest to any garden. My favourite variety is Hemerocallis ‘Bess Vestal’, which has lovely bright maroon flowers with orange markings. Alternatively, try Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’ for fantastic deep-yellow flowers with orange ‘throats’. Beautiful.
This month's garden jobs
If the weather is as it should be in August, there are few day-to-day tasks to keep us occupied other than keeping up with the watering of our pots and edible crops. For anybody taking a summer holiday this month, I would normally suggest mowing and edging the lawn before we go if everything isn’t too parched. If it has been dry for a few weeks then we are better off leaving the mower in the shed and giving the lawn a break.
Prolonged warm and dry weather can make life difficult for plants in containers, pots and hanging baskets. Even if we have been particularly attentive with the watering, nutrient levels will often be very low, so it is definitely worth considering providing a feed for these plants. A general-purpose liquid feed is a useful regular ‘pick-me-up’ for most pots and hanging baskets at any time over the summer months, but a good feed before we go away on holiday will make a real difference and should really help to tide most plants through in our absence. We might consider, in addition, moving as many pots and baskets into areas of dappled shade to reduce their exposure to the strongest of direct sunshine.
Whatever the weather, enjoy all that the August garden has to offer.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.