Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
And… relax. Leaves, once verdant, settle down to rich green. The fresh, frothy lusciousness of May and June has gone, and the hot summer months have checked in. In July, the main task in the garden is to eat as many meals outside as possible. We move our houseplants outside (into the shade first to ‘harden off’), giving the roots a good soak in the pot, re-potting where appropriate and showering the dust off the leaves.
We continue to sow seeds, direct into the soil for late summer produce, herbs and extra early annuals for next year. The soil is warm, so plants establish quickly.
Taking cuttings is a task most gardeners don’t do, out of fear, but it is hands down the most popular activity on our ‘grow your own cut flowers’ classes. Plants for free! And so easy; they require no sacrament or alchemy. Essentially one cuts off a piece of the plant, sticks it in soil, watches it grow roots, then plants it out. Success is most likely if you pick the right time of year for each type of cutting: soft wood, semi ripe, hard wood or root.
Right now, take cuttings of shrubs that have just flowered like philadelphus, shrub roses and viburnum opulus. Snip off a stem about 15cm long, put in a plastic bag to retain moisture, and get into soil as soon as possible. Cut just below a leaf node, at an angle and poke at least 2.5cm into the soil at the edge or corner of the pot. Cover with that plastic bag and put somewhere sunny. You know the plant has ‘taken’ and rooted on the appearance of new leaves.
No matter how much work one did in the spring, the garden is running away. I love working on the plots or in my own garden, but there is no fun in the feeling of fighting a losing battle. So, consider the essential work. Do you need to cut the grass as often? It looks lusher longer. Never have bare soil; throw annual seeds around to fill the patches with poppies, borage and cornflowers.
This reduces water evaporation and space for weeds to grow. The one job to do if you are strapped for time but want the garden to look its best is to trim the edges. The garden will look smart and the lawn and beds framed, without even weeding borders or cutting the grass.
My favourite cut flowers are those I can enjoy both in a jug in the kitchen and pinch off for decoration of cakes, salads and drinks. It’s a massive multitasking pleasure. I cut tendrils of nasturtiums, snapping off spicy leaves and colourful flowers and pickling seeds, as well as roses, courgette flowers, cornflowers and borage, plus all the abundant botanical herbs (my favourites are mint, dill and basil) for sundowners in the hammock. Floating a few petals in a drink at the end of a long, hot day is a simple but real luxury.
Look out for tickets going live for the ‘Dine among the flowers’ event on the weekend of 16-18 August.