Notes from the early summer garden

By summer the garden has revealed what has, and has not, come through the winter. The late spring strugglers have either romped away or given up the ghost. Where they have died I’m now filling gaps either with new little treasures or with more of the same.


I’ve come to realise how few big campanulas there are available to gardeners. Some years ago I grew Campanula ‘Burghaltii’, which I really like, but it died on me. Trying to find it again has proved rather difficult. Last week we visited Avondale Nursery near Coventry where I had hoped to get it, but still no luck. It can’t be that easy or reliable to grow so I’m trying Campanula ‘Crystal’, which is apparently of the same parentage.


astrantia major 'Rubra'

Astrantia major ‘Rubra’

At Avondale they are growing lots of new astrantias selected by Gill Richardson, who I was told is a local farmer’s wife. These are certainly impressive in size and colour variation. Strangely enough a few weeks ago I bought in our local garden centre a nice big plant of Astrantia ‘Gill Richardson’ and despite it being yet another red I’ve put it in a spot near Actaea simplex ‘Black Negligee’. I am growing quite a few red astrantias at the moment in an attempt to decide if they are different or better than each other. These include Astrantia ‘Claret’, major ‘Rubra’, ‘Hadspens Blood, ‘Ruby Star’, ‘Ruby Weddng’ & ‘Venice’.


Salvia x sylvestris ‘Ostfriesland’

I was having panic attacks when the salvia did not seem to be growing earlier this year. Salvia x sylvestris ‘Ostfriesland’ just seemed too small, and I was about to rename it Salvia x sylvestris ‘Blauhugel’ (a smaller, bright blue version) when I realised that many of the Salvias were doing the same thing – growing very slowly. They must not have like the cold spring.

Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’ verses Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

I have a passion for Geums, and grow many varieties including the brightly coloured orange ones which I plant close to blue things like veronicas. Last year I planted Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ near to Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’, which has lovely rich orange flowers. I was told Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ flowers for ages, so I am going to me keeping an eye on it. I must say the colour is appealing, a sort of two-toned  mixture of tangerine and melon. One thing I have noted is that when the stems of both collapse (as many plants have done this year) there is a good clump of foliage at the base of ‘Prinses Juliana’ whereas ‘TT’ has none.

Geum ‘Prinses Juliana’ with Veronica austriaca ‘Shirley Blue’

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’








Cutting back

Centaurea montana ‘Purple Heart’

Some of the spring flowering types of Centaurea montana have now become really floppy. This is an acceptable fault considering how much they give to a border during May and June. So I am going to cut this right back to encourage new leaves to grow from the crown of the plant, and new flower stems to emerge. Centaurea Montana ‘Parham’ has already grown new leaves in the middle and later flowering varieties such as plants Centaurea dealbata ‘Steenbergii’ and ‘J. C. Coutts’ don’t suffer from these faults.

I also cut back plants when they get so tall they hide the plants behind them. This has occurred in one bed where over the years Geranium psilostemon. Lovely but large, its been okay where it is until I’m unable to see the sanguisorba and knautia behind it. So out come the secateurs, and off come the leaves. They will grow up again, and if I still don’t like it where it is it out it will come in the autumn.

Collecting Seed

The Aquilegias are just about over, although there are still a few flowers. I’m going to collect much of the seed for sowing later otherwise they will litter the garden next spring with new plants. A few seedlings will be fine, but I don’t want a forest. One plant I have so enjoyed this spring is Chaerophyllum hirstum ‘Roseum’. This is a sort of pink Chervil with lovely dusky pink umbels of small flowers. If you rabbits are prone to your garden delights this is one they might attack (so far they’ve not discovered ours). This has now set seed, but even though I let the seed drop it doesn’t often produce young plants. So I’m going to collect the seeds for sowing now in my greenhouse to see if it germinates more freely.



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