Gardeners’ Blog – July 2016

We’re hoping for some better weather this month after the torrential downpours in June. At one point, when we were building the dwarf walls and paths for the new Alpine House, it looked as if we were building a swimming pool!

We are very excited about launching our Alpine House – it will be the new home for our cyclamen collection and alpine plants, and we are also hoping to hear this month that our cyclamen collection has been granted National Collection status.

As well as the regular routine maintenance, such as weeding and mowing, we will be checking borders and tubs carefully to ensure they are getting enough water.

Plants that are growing well need plenty of water – even when it has rained a lot – so it’s always a good idea to check hanging baskets because they lose a lot of water through evaporation in the wind. Because they are positioned close to a wall or fence, they are in a rain shadow, which means it is difficult for rain to reach the soil.

There’s plenty to keep the team occupied, of course, this month. The smaller section of the herbaceous border that was cleared last autumn is receiving regular sprays with weed killer to remove the build up of pernicious weeds in the ground.

And the new plants, all a range of blue, purple and white flowers, are in the nursery, being cut back and potted up as required, to produce healthy sizeable plants for planting out in the autumn.

You can easily tell if potted plants need repotting by looking at the underside of the pot: if roots are visible or plenty of roots can be seen, repot into a pot one size larger or a pot that is large enough to put your fingers in around the edge, this enables new compost to be pushed down the side between the plant and the pot. This also ensures you leave no air pockets without soil.

We’ll also be repotting pots of bulbs that have become congested in a gravel rich compost to ensure free draining. And, we will start to take cuttings of tender perennials to replace old plants in the gardens, because older plants can become woody and stop flowering so well.

You’ll notice that bedding plants will have put on a lot of growth and flowers, so it’s important to dead head them so that more flowers are produced instead of seed pods. Once seed pods are produced, the plant thinks its job is over and it stops flowering.

If you didn’t manage to cut back box and beech hedges last month, try to do so in July as this will provide a precise neat back drop to your flowers and shrubs.

And if you have a greenhouse, it’s a good idea to dampen down the floor with water to increase the humidity and discourage red spider mite, which can thrive in hot and dry conditions. Ensure that you keep feeding the plants weekly and deadheading them to encourage flowers during the summer.

Weeds flourish at this time of the year and reach flowering size in less time than it takes you to blink. Fortunately, our gardening team is assisted by our very keen and able volunteers: we would be knee deep in weeds without them.

And our thanks must also go to the students of Birmingham Metropolitan College for their most welcome help in planting out the bedding and weeding the herbaceous border.

We couldn’t do without our volunteers!

Meanwhile, the glasshouse team will be busy this month keeping the glasshouses tidy and the Butterfly House in tip-top condition in time for the summer holidays. They will also be putting out hundreds of new labels on the indoor plants so that all visitors can quickly identify their favourites!

Chris’s flower of the month for July is the month of the rose – and those growing at the gardens are looking amazing. Last year’s additions have increased in size tremendously and the amount of flower is staggering. Why not come and see how fantastic they look?

Wayne’s plant this month is the Heliconia rostrata, a highly exotic perennial from Peru and Argentina, which has huge paddle-like leaves and is similar to a banana plant. From these, striking pendant, zig-zag shaped, red and yellow flowers appear.

Heliconia must be grown in a tropical greenhouse or garden as they are huge plants and also need a minimum winter temperature of 15C. They also enjoy lots of water, fertiliser and a semi-shaded position. See ours flowering now in the Tropical House.

Enjoy your gardening!