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

White is a colour that takes me back to my school days, when having witnessed a rainbow in the school playground, the teacher informed us, that if we were to mix equal proportions of the seven prismatic colours of the rainbow, the colour seen would be white. What triggered this memory is a group of Lupin ‘Polar Princess’, pictured above , which grow in a border only a short distance from my rear kitchen window. ‘Polar Princess’ produces 2 feet, 60cm tall spikes of pure white flowers during late June and July. As other brilliant red, pink, and orange colours fade into the evening dusk, they seem to illuminate the space in which they are grown. During mid July Cytisus battandieri produces a mass of candle-shaped cones of yellow, pineapple-scented flowers, giving it the common name of ‘Pineapple Broom’. Articles in many garden papers will often state that this broom is suitable for growing against a wall, but it loves the well drained sandy soil in my garden and has formed a small tree some fifteen feet high, until I pruned it last year it had a head twenty feet across! Two of my 55-year-old deciduous Berberis, which grew in the hedge at the rear of my garden have died, I removed these, and in their place have planted Pyracantha coccinea ‘Lalandii’, which being evergreen will to some extent help to screen the houses that are being built in the field at the rear. Incidentally, since they started to build the new housing estate, I have not seen the male and female pheasant, which for years have been feeding in my garden.

I am very fond of Dianthus, pictured below, which most people will know under their common name ‘Pinks’, last year I had twenty five varieties, but five did not survive last winter. There are numerous species and hybrid Dianthus, which vary from prostrate alpine forms to the larger carnations, in either single or double flowers. I have two 30-year-old alpine Dianthus that form dense, evergreen carpets and these, as with all of my Dianthus have a sweet perfume. Dianthus resent heavy, wet and acid soils, so many of mine grow in well-drained alpine screes, or in troughs and containers of well-drained soil. Dianthus are so easy to propagate by using small basal cuttings taken in June, July and early August. Before you start, fill small pots with half-multipurpose compost and half perlite, or sharp sand. Take the bottom half of the leaves off the cutting and then, using a small pencil as a dibber, insert the cuttings and Dianthus 4water to firm the compost around them. As with all cuttings, stand the pots out of full sunlight, even outdoors. If kept moist they will often root within six weeks.

Some years ago, five varieties of the then newly introduced ‘Princess Series’ Alstroemeria were given to me. Two of these died, and a further two have struggled to make a decent clump, but ‘Princess Alice’ has formed a broad carpet some two metres in width. ‘Princess Alice’ produces 2 feet, 60cm tall flower stems, each stem carries between five and seven pink flowers, each flower has a bright gold center with black pencil lines. Alstroemeria’s are superb cut flowers that will last for two weeks in a vase. Although there are now thirty one varieties of the ‘Princess Series’ in the RHS Plant Finder, ‘Princess Alice’ does not appear, I wonder if I received it under the wrong name? My runner bean ‘St George’ had beans ready for picking during mid July, this just goes to show how by bringing them on early in a greenhouse can help you to achieve a much earlier crop.