Now is the time to turn away from the bright colourful attention seekers of our garden – I’m talking about flowers – and to give serious consideration to the supporting chorus, without which those divas would be nothing. My subject is the humble hedge.
Hedges can be beautiful, calming, neat, sculptural, wild, tangled, plain green, multicoloured. They can be the frame to set off planting. They can be a whole garden in themselves, forming a green room for meditation with nothing to distract the eye. They can be a haven for birds and insects. And of course the necessary boundary defence against the elements and farm animals or burglars.
A word on cutting hedges: please think about nesting birds. From August to January it should be safe to apply noisy machines to hedges and not destroy occupied nests. Outside these months, by all means cut back branches straying across paths, but tread softly. When you cut, make sure the top of the hedge is narrower and the bottom is fatter. This means light gets right down to the base and keeps it growing thickly. Otherwise you get the ‘barelegs’ effect with growth dying back around the stems.
Keep those secateurs sharp and clean between use on different plants.
Pruning: Wisterias can be kept under control without losing next year’s flowers. Cut back this year’s growth to within two buds of older wood.
Cut back rambling roses by taking out the some of the oldest branches right down to the ground and tie in the new long shoots, taking back any long side shoots.
Cut back lavender after the flowers have faded.
Prune apples and pears and cherries, shortening this year’s growth to three shoots above last year’s growth. If you find the pruning fruit trees a bit of a mystery, videos, available on the internet, can be very helpful.
Other jobs that don’t involve cutting, clearing up and filling the green bin:
Keep up the watering and feeding of pots and containers. It is better even in very hot weather to give them a thorough soaking every two to three days, than a little sprinkling every day. There is a hosepipe ban starting in the North-West of England on 5th August. So for us it means heaving heavy watering cans. It would be a good time to install rain water butts.
Clear any dead growth resulting from the drought. Many plants will react by dying back. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are dead, only time will tell. Give them another two months.
Beasties to look out for: Rosemary beetle, very pretty and very destructive. Crush on sight.