This Month in the Garden (August 2020) with Derek Cox

Clematis have provided us with climbers, which with different species provide me with flowers for almost 12 months of the year.

During June and July Clematis ‘Special Occasions’ was massed with large lilac-pink flowers, see picture below. This variety, like many of those which flower in early summer will provide a second crop of smaller flower during August and September.

I grow ‘Special Occasions’ in a 20 litre plant pot trained up a four feet (1.2m) tall metal obelisk. The pot with its obelisk is then stood into a square precast stone container against the North East wall of my garage. This, like all container grown plants is kept watered often daily during dry periods. I also feed my container plants every two weeks with tomato fertilizer from late May until late September as this helps to produce flowers and fruit instead of rapid growth.

Here I would warn you that many climbing plants, although looking good in flower on a nursery can be very vigorous climbers and unless you have space in which to grow them they will need constant attention to keep them in bounds.

Jasminum officinalis ‘Fiona Sunrise’ is a very attractive climber with clusters of white flowers during mid summer and yellow foliage. I planted this against my six feet (1.8m) tall South facing fence and for a couple of years it looked great. Then, as it got established it started to grow six feet (1.8m) in all directions also it would drop the occasional branch on the floor and creep beneath other plants for almost 10 feet (3m), rooting as it went in search of something else to climb up.

Also, some years ago I decided to try growing Kiwi fruit, which I then knew as Chinese gooseberries, so I purchased ‘Atlas’ which is a male form and Hayward a female form. For a couple of years they grew on my South facing fence, but suddenly the female died. Now ‘Atlas’ seems to think he is the only plant on the fence, even when pruned hard back during March it will produce up to 10 feet (3m) of growth so that by September it would bury my 15 feet (4.5m) tall Irish yew that grows close by.

The three trough like containers which front my raised terrace have been emptied of their old compost and refilled with half and half multipurpose compost and John Innes Number 3 compost. Now I have created a red and gold theme by planting them with red geraniums (or should I say Pelargonium’s?) and double golden low growing French marigolds and this has giveAn the front of my terrace a very welcoming appearance.

About 10 feet (3m) in front of my conservatory is a 12 inch (30cm) high raised bed in which for many years I have grown dwarf Rhododendrons. Over the years the soil in the bed had sunk almost three inches (75mm) below the top of the wall so Caroline my lady gardener lifted the plants out of the bed then dug a number of bags of ericaceous compost into the soil beneath, then replanted the dwarf Rhodo’s and other ericaceous plants and the finished job is a great improvement. 

What a surprise I had recently to find numerous Antirrhinums (snap dragons) growing in the raised bed and now they are in full flower in various colours. I would never have thought that snap dragons would grow in acid soil. I must mention a couple of container grown plants that now sit on the raised wall.

One is Abelia x grandiflora ‘Lady Peach’, pictured above, which is not only an outstanding dense evergreen shrub, but also has yellow and peach-orange foliage, also from August until October it will produce small trumpet shaped white fragrant flowers.

The other plant is Cordyline australis ‘Pink Passion’ whose upright sword shaped leaves have not only a dark purple stripe down the centre but also a bright pink edge. This will in years grow into a small tree with a tight rosette of leaves on the top. In its native New Zealand this is referred to as the cabbage palm.

Both containers will go into my cold greenhouse during the winter months and come out the following May.