21 July 2013 - 8:04pm

Keep your borders colourful through the summer

Have any of you bought any multi- purpose compost lately? Are you detecting a change? I’ve got some from 3 different sources over the last few months (Wilkos, Moores and B & Q) and it has all been different from last year’s, not so free draining. It is also an odd texture – feeling as if it’s been shredded and shoved straight in a bag rather than properly composted. It will be interesting to see how our plants fare in it – let me know how yours get on. So far I’m not overly impressed and have been adding a lot of grit to it to get the texture right for the plants to thrive. How is your garden looking? What have you got in flower? Late summer can be a challenge unless you plan ahead a bit. Depending on the weather you can also get fed up with constant watering. Even if it rains a fair bit your pots and hanging baskets will need a water as the rain tends to bounce off densely planted pots. Don’t forget to give them a feed as well: they will soon run out of nutrients especially if, like me, you plant closely. To keep plants flowering and fruiting tomato feed is good. I ordered some plug plants again this year including snapdragons and tobacco plants. Both have started out well, I potted them on when they arrived in April and planted out in June. As long as I can keep our four legged pal and the rabbits off them they should flower until the frosts so are good value for money. They will need the dead flowers picking off and a little, regular feed to keep them going, but it’s worth it. Rather than planting out bedding plants in rows in a separate part of the garden, I use them in little drifts to fill gaps under spring flowering shrubs and among perennials. They look more natural and will sometimes self-seed, adding to the cottagey effect. This year I found some Cleome in a small nursery in Leicestershire. It’s a tall-ish plant with fragrant leaves with pink, white or purple flowers. The flower is spidery and really pretty, it mixes well with most other plants and adds a bit of height and shape. One of my favourite herbs is lemon verbena. I’ve got one in a pot in a sunny spot and it has grown quite big. It is rather tender so is a bit iffy planted outside here, but down south it more reliably comes through the winter. I pop it in the greenhouse when frosts threaten and cut it right back around April to keep it fresh and green. It makes the best tea ever, a gorgeous, fragrant lemony taste: you only need a couple of sprigs in a pot. Mint and fennel tea is my second favourite, great after dinner to help digestion - best in a proportion of 3 sprigs of mint to one of fennel. Now is a good time to take cuttings – I’m going to take some from my rather elderly and woody penstemons. Take a non-flowering shoot if you can, around 10cm long, and cut just below a leaf, strip the bottom leaves off and pop several into a pot of free draining compost. Keep them permanently well watered and after a few weeks, you will see little white-ish roots poking out of the bottom of the pot. Put them into separate pots and keep them frost free over winter. Plant them out next spring and enjoy your lovely new plants for free! Photos left to right: Penstemon, tobacco plants and dayllilies. All taken in July at 'Charnwood'.