August, in my garden, is tidy-up time. I have very few bedding plants in my garden so deadheading flowering plants to keep them flowering longer is not really a job I need to keep on top of. However, pruning is one I do. No problem there though as I really enjoy pruning except for one particular plant – or beast as I call it! We have a Leylandii hedge on two boundaries of my garden and this is the time that we need to get the hedge trimmers out.
What a shame it has been raining. However, during early Saturday evening, after the wind had died down, we were able to make and start and finished one length. Although I hate this job the results transform my garden giving a wonderful solid backdrop for my plants. So really once we start, and see the difference, it helps us get through the job. Sunday rained so now we are only half way through the job. The longest and messiest of the two lengths still remains but now I am keen to get out and complete the job. When it’s windy my eye is drawn to the new growth flapping about which I am sure you can imagine looking at the larger photo in the group below. The small photo, right bottom, shows our trimmed hedge and you can see how the outlines of the plants show up against it now – that hedge now just disappears into the background.
Other plants that I trim back at this time of the year include the ivies that grow up my pergola. I don’t follow gardening books for this prune – it’s my eye that determines this one. Although I like to see and encourage wildlife in my garden I still like to keep a certain level of tidiness – most people perhaps associate wildlife gardens as completely wild but I think you can mix the two.
I trim my ivy firstly as it is growing out into the walkway below and although I like walking through plants we also eat at a table under this pergola so we don’t want to eat with it in our hair. Slight exaggeration perhaps! I want to keep the ivies growing in solid pillars. However my pruning in this case also helps the wildlife – in particular the birds. The more I prune back the ivies the more it grows and branches out thickening the covering over my pergola thus giving a great place for birds to make nests. This year blackbirds, for the first time, began to build a nest there although they didn’t complete it looks like in the future we could see nests in it. I have three pillars on one side of my pergola and a trellis on the other side where I have also hung up roosting pockets for the birds to keep warm on cold winter nights.
My cirsium had a few flowers last December and I believe it was due to little pruning I did to tidy some messy broken stems last year some time. So I have tried a little experiment for this year. After all my flowers were fluffy seed heads, on the last day of July, I completely trimmed the whole plant completely to the ground. This pruning has now given more light to the other plants in this area. However, I will watch with interest now to see if I have it fully in flower in December!
My new verbena Bonariensis plant that was struggling to come back after planting is looking a sorry sight as you will see in the small photo, right top, above. The other two plants have picked up and beginning to flower but this one, sadly, I will have to prune back for it to survive! I may still get flowers from it this year.
My penstemon cuttings have been flowering really well but now is the time to keep regular checks on the flowering stems and to prune them when they are going over so other stems can come up with their flowers. This pruning will also bush out the plants as well as extending the time these plants are in flower.
Nepata, catmint, also benefit from a good haircut at this time of year! Although I will be honest and say that I am later that usual with this. I often watch out for fading in its violet-blue flowers and then cut back these stems for a second flush of flowers but at the same time leaving the plant with some long stems so the change over is a gradual one and the plants are not left with the hedgehog look. I will post photos on this when I do it to let you see what I mean. However this is another pruning that is well worth it. In a month or so when I look at the gardens, with fading colours of bedding plants, around me my garden will be bursting with the fresh colours of my revitalised plants. I particularly like to see late colour in my garden.
Finally, I must add, when I chose the title of this post it was not intended just for the plants. ‘That time of year!’ also refers to exam results! This morning, in Scotland, the exam results will arrive by post. As a parent I am writing this now anxiously waiting on the envelope that will determine my daughter’s career options. Scottish schools, in our region, will be back next week. English schools get their results later in the month on the 17th and 24th. I would like to wish all pupils all the very best – you will be our future!