The Green Scene – Midsummer Musings

Green Sceene ash-tree[1]

Every day may not be a good day, but there is something good in every day. So says the old adage. And there’s a lot of truth in it. Early mornings at this time of year are quite beautiful. I write this on a morning where the air is filled with a soft, velvety quality. The beauty of a Summer morning surrounds me.

I love this time of year. It feels like the floral pageant goes on and on. In a garden, life is endless. There is almost a glimpse of the eternal all around us. This is a great time of year to be outdoors among the sun, the trees, the flowers and even that frequent Irish visitor, the rain.

Soon the year will creep towards Autumn. It seems to be that the long days of Summer feel shorter every year. So let’s look around at the Summer pageant; parks and gardens are full of colour and scent – the beauty of the pansies, marigolds, geraniums and petunias combined with a mixture of textures such as grasses and wooded areas are delightful.

It is hard to believe that amidst all that beauty a million Ash trees will be destroyed this Summer to stop the spread of the deadly disease Chalara. Teagasc say that there have been 82 locations with confirmed findings of this disease in Ireland. Soon, over a million trees will be burned or buried to stop the spread of the fungus to our national trees. Our hurleys are made of Irish Ash. It is something we treasure. That is the bigger picture. And, it is important that we are aware of it, as it reminds us of the fragility of nature.

Meanwhile, in the garden, work continues. It’s a busy time of year. And whether you have a large space or a smaller area there’s lots to do. The best time to prune hydrangeas is after flowering. Prune rambling roses. Continue to dead head flowers on Summer bedding and roses to prolong the flowering season well into Autumn. Cut the grass at least once a week to keep the garden neat and tidy.

This is also a good time to trim laurel hedges. Prune lavender after flowering. There is still time to plant the lovely Madonna Lily during August. Do not plant it too deep – an inch or two is sufficient.

September is a good month to sow new lawns. Prepare the ground well and apply a good general fertiliser before sowing. Give your lawn seed a thorough watering and do keep it well watered to ensure quick and even germination. Water and feed container plants on a regular basis. Feed outdoor tomato plants and take out the growing point. Water carefully and remove some of the foliage to help trusses of fruit to ripen.

You can now divide the beautiful bearded iris and plant new ones. Summer-prune pears and apple trees. Prune plums, blackcurrants, loganberries. Plant main crops and leeks, sow radishes and turnips. Prepare the site for planting strawberry runners in September. Sow spring cabbage and onions and lettuce. Feed Brussels Sprouts and Winter greens, shallots and garlic.

As I work in my garden this Summer, I think back to a few weeks ago when I enjoyed a visit to Chelsea – host of the most famous flower show in the world. Held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea on its eleven acres, it attracts over 150,000 visitors every year. It aims to promote horticulture and in doing so exhibits gardening at its best.

This was its one-hundredth anniversary and as always it was a remarkable spectacle. And yet I expected more, something was missing on the main avenue. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it was a sense I had. Call it the green fingers in me, maybe I was looking for something different. Never the less, beautiful artistic flower gardens and a lot of detailed landscaping was the order of the day. The great marquee was as usual outstanding.

A spectacle of colour and flowers and nature at her best. Hardy geranium Rozanne was crowned R.H.S. Chelsea Plant of the Centenary. It is fast-growing, with violet blue flowers streaked with red. A very close second was Lupinus Russell Hybrids, another outstanding plant. So if you want to bring a bit of colour from the Chelsea Flower Show into your own green space this Summer it’s colours and flowers all the way.

As Clara Balfour says, “What a desolate place would a world without flowers be, it would be a feast without a welcome.” Enjoy your Summer feast, whatever takes your fancy.

Clockwise from left: Ash tree, Lupinus Russell Hybrids and Hardy Geranium Rozanne.

By James O’Doherty