This Month in the Garden (July 2017) with Derek Cox

During June and July it is a joy to walk down the drive at the side of my front garden, as the fragrance from four clumps of red, pink and picotee Dianthus (pinks) fills the air.
There is also three variegated low growing shrubs in the border at the side and these add colour throughout the year, of these, Cistus ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, is covered with single white flowers, which when first planted, I thought the flowers would not go with its gold variegated foliage, but I was mistaken as they look glorious. Many years ago, to give height to this border, I planted a half standard Euonymus fortunei ‘Sunshine’ and this now forms a gold variegated lollipop some five feet (1.4m) tall with a three feet (90cm) diameter head.
During the winter I purchased a number of Viola’s as I consider these will flower better then winter pansies during the cold weather. They did give a moderate show of colour during the winter, but were at their best during late May, June and early July. When I purchased these, half were yellow and half a deep purple. During late May the yellow ones stopped flowering and this left me with just the deep purple ones which needed livening up. I went along to Church View Nurseries in Barkby and came across ‘Surfinia Variegated Purple’. What is remarkable about this is its bright gold variegated foliage that really compliments the light purple flowers. So on Bob Armstrong’s advice I purchased three and these are now planted to liven up the dark Viola’s.
I did mention in last month’s article how the dry spring had affected the flowering of many of my Rhododendrons. However, I have Rhododendron Nakahari growing in my rockery and this Japanese mountainside dwarf shrub only grows six inches (9cm) in height by 18 inches (45cm) in diameter. This amazing dwarf evergreen produces its orange-red, upwards facing flowers during June and often into early July. This dwarf species has been used to produce a number of very good low growing hybrids including ‘Susannah Hill’ with rich pink flowers, also ‘Alexander’, pictured below, which in 40 years has formed a 6 feet ((1.8m) diameter, but only 18 inch (45cm) evergreen carpet with orange upward facing flowers during June and early July. I would point out that both the above hybrids are often listed as evergreen Azalea’s. 
During late May I received a parcel from Thompson and Morgan which contained two plants of their newly introduced Hibiscus ‘Petit Orange’ see picture bottom right. This is a superb conservatory, or even house plant that can be stood out in the garden from June until September. It is compact, has dark green foliage and brilliant orange flowers with a dark reddish-brown eye. This will flower continuously from late May until October and as it flowers on its new wood it can be pruned hard back during March. This looks a great improvement on the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis that exists in my conservatory, being more compact and flowering more freely. Hibiscus ‘Petit Orange’ is a hybrid from a semi-tropical plant and will need treating as such; it is frost tender, will need watering during the growing season and feeding with tomato fertiliser at monthly intervals from April to August. 
During the first week in March I planted the new ‘Jazzy’ potato in 50 litre tree tubs in my cold greenhouse and this early start allowed me to lift twenty small new potatoes during the first week in June. Vi steamed these for fifteen minutes and they are delicious. ‘Jazzy; is also suitable to use in salads. I shall have to wait until we get to the last of my three tubs to see if I can get 35 tubers for each one that I planted.
This year I have used bottomless pots instead of grow bags in which to plant my tomatoes, but when using bottomless pots you will need to have an area of soil in the greenhouse and work plenty of compost and slow release fertiliser into the soil before you push the bottomless pots onto it to keep them steady. This year I have grown tomato ‘Aperitif’ that is similar to ‘Sweet Million’ and they are now flowering and setting fruit.