THIS MONTH IN THE GARDEN (July 2013) with Derek Cox

For many years a large clump of Osteospermum jucundum grew in a border at the side of my raised terrace, but the constant wet of last year did not suit this South African finbos plant and most of the clump died. However I managed to rescue three small pieces, replanted these in fresh compost, and now they have formed a decent clump and are in full flower. The flowers open in a pale lavender-pink colour, but quickly fade to white. Here I must point out that Osteospermum flowers close up at night; also, there are a number of highly coloured and variegated forms, which are not hardy outdoors in the Midlands. Last year I discovered Cistus ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, which is a low growing, dense, evergreen shrub with gold variegated leaves. I planted this in my front garden in a well-drained scree and now it is in full bloom. The flowers are white and have petals as thin as tissue paper, but so far they seem to be immune from sun, wind and rain damage. During late May I received a plant of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Wim’s Red’, which has deep red young branches that are topped with cone-like spires of white flowers in early August, the flowers turning to a deep red during September. Most people will associate Hydrangeas with the mop-head, or lace-cap forms, which are common in many gardens and these, will all flower on their previous year’s growth. ‘Wim’s Red’ like all paniculata cultivars flower on their current years growth so all you need to do during March, is to prune them back to shape and the feed them to produce strong young growth and as a consequence much larger flower spikes. All Hydrangeas like a fertile, moist, but not waterlogged soil. After watering the soil around each plant, I then mulch with well-rotted garden compost. It is a waste of time mulching dry soils, as the mulch will then prevent rain getting to the roots, also worms, which pull the compost into the soil, do not work in dry soils. Last year I wrote about my Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ only coming into leaf by late May. This year it is even later, the first leaves starting to open by the second week in June, which goes to show just how far behind the season is this year. Having said this, the ‘Swift’ potatoes that I planted in my cold greenhouse during March in 50-liter black tree tubs were ready for harvesting by mid June. My runner beans ‘St George’ started their life in pots in my cold greenhouse; then they were planted up in 50-liter tubs, which now stand out in the garden almost six feet tall and are in flower. When growing vegetables in containers you must water at regular intervals, also feed them to produce a decent crop. This year I received seed of Lettuce ‘Little Gem Pearl’ and sowed these in my cold greenhouse during mid April. As soon as the lettuce has formed its first true leaf I pot them on into 9cm pots and when they have three leaves I plant them out twenty to a tomato grow bag. I began cutting the lettuce during late May and I am now planting some more into another grow bag to extend the harvesting into August. Each year Thompson and Morgan send me packets of seed to trial and this year one of trial packets is Lettuce EXP11, which turns out to be a deep-reddish-purple leaf form of ‘Little Gem’. I have found this to have a much stronger flavour than ‘Little Gem Pearl’, but should be ideal for slicing and adding to a salad bowl.