This Month in the Garden (August 2014) with Derek Cox

Last year, Thompson and Morgan – the renowned seed, young plants and vegetable company, sent me two young plug plants of Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ (left pic). Digitalis Illumination PinkI potted these into 9cm pots, and three weeks later, during May, planted them out in my garden. During that year they struggled to make decent plants, but as they are perennials I fed them during last April and now they are in flower. You will probably know Digitalis better under its common name of Foxglove, which in most cases are annuals or biennials with tubular drooping flowers. ‘Illumination’ has outward facing pink flowers that are creamy-white on the inside, and being perennial they will flower from June until October.

During the spring Thompson and Morgan send me packets of new seed varieties to trial, and this year one of the most outstanding is Antirrhinum ‘Purple Twist’ (right pic). You will know Antirrhinums under their common name of Snapdragons, and for many years, I have had a superb deep red Snapdragon self seed in the borders of my garden. ‘Purple Twist’ is unique in that it has purple-red flowers striped with white. ‘Purple Twist’ produces a number of side shoots, and each of these carries numerous flowers. I now wonder, will the variegated Snapdragon self seed as freely as my red one, and if it does, will the seedlings revert to purple-red?Antirrhinum Purple Twist. cropped

During June, I wrote about the red hollyhock that grew in my brother’s garden at Queniborough. I saved the seed from Ron’s hollyhock and grew many seedlings. After planting two groups of the seedlings in my borders, I found these suffered with hollyhock rust, but I persisted with these and using Bayer Systhane Fungus Fighter, I sprayed them at two weekly intervals during June. The plants seemed to put on a new lease of life and grew rapidly to 6 feet (1.8m) in height; the foliage is much larger and completely free of rust. The flowers are typical of Alcea rosea (hollyhock) being a bright pink, so it would appear that ‘Ron’s Red’ is a one off plant that will not come true from seed.

For the last four years I have grown the runner bean ‘St George’, and it as been so successful that I was picking runner beans by late June. This year I received a packet of runner bean seed named ‘Firestorm’, which according to its write-up is the first ever red, self fertile runner bean, so now I am growing it alongside ‘St George’ to see how they compare . Both varieties have the Royal Horticultural Societies Award of Garden Merit.

For the first time in many years, I have decided to grow sweet peas, and the one I have chosen is ‘Robert Uvedale’, which has rose pink, highly fragrant flowers. This variety has the name of the schoolteacher who introduced the sweet pea to England during 1699. I have now planted my sweet peas in a rich, moist soil and I am training them out on a South facing trellis. Like all climbing plants, sweet peas need tying out to make them grow where you want them, if left to their own devices they will become tangled together.

In my front garden, where my snowdrops grow, I thought a splash of colour would please my wife, so I planted a number of yellow and bronze marigolds to form a bold display. Now, the slugs and snails have not only eaten most of the foliage, but also the flower stems. As a last resort, I have sprinkled slug pellets beneath the shrubs close by in an effort to control them.