Plant­ing and main­te­nance

Landscape (UK) - - The Garden in July and August -

There’s an art to cre­at­ing a colour-themed flower bor­der in which many dif­fer­ent plants peak at the same time, blend­ing to­gether har­mo­niously. Suc­cess hinges on choos­ing plant va­ri­eties that suit the sit­u­a­tion in terms of soil type, as­pect and po­si­tion. Achiev­ing ‘right plant, right place’ en­sures healthy plants that bloom plen­ti­fully, and are less prone to dis­ease. Soil health is es­pe­cially im­por­tant when so many plants are packed into a small area. “The White Gar­den’s soil had be­come very poor, so last year we re­moved ev­ery plant, and dou­ble dug the beds. We also added loads of or­ganic mat­ter and grit,” says Troy. A sub­stan­tial herba­ceous bor­der re­quires a high level of main­te­nance. It needs plant­ing, stak­ing, wa­ter­ing, dead-head­ing, prun­ing, plant di­vid­ing, mulching and weed­ing. This de­creases with ma­tu­rity as plants merge to­gether, cov­er­ing the soil and smoth­er­ing all but the most stub­born weeds. Reg­u­lar hoe­ing starts in spring in the White Gar­den, re­duc­ing as the ground cover plants take over. “Ev­ery week, we spend a day cut­ting back and stak­ing,” says Troy. “We keep to a min­i­mum, pre­fer­ring to part­ner plants that sup­port each other. If a plant group needs bulk­ing up, it is lifted and di­vided in early Septem­ber and planted in the nurs­ery. They will be planted out in spring.” Roses are fed in early spring and July to keep them in pris­tine con­di­tion. The gar­den­ers at Siss­inghurst use a home­made mix­ture of sul­phate of potash with the min­eral kieserite, in a 2:1 ra­tio. Old roses are prone to blackspot and rust, and need spray­ing fort­nightly. “We mix sea­weed feed, soapy so­lu­tion and fungi­cide, ap­ply­ing with a leaf blower that con­tains the spray,” he adds.

Fill­ing the gaps

An­nu­als are use­ful for fill­ing any holes that ap­pear. Cos­mos is in­valu­able, with the va­ri­ety ‘Pu­rity’ bear­ing large open flow­ers in purest white, above del­i­cate fo­liage. Taller snap­drag­ons such as an­tir­rhinum ‘Snowflake’, are an­other sta­ple. Fox­gloves are grown as bi­en­ni­als at Siss­inghurst. Sown in the sum­mer, they are planted out in au­tumn ready to flower next year. Through­out the gar­den are white peren­nial vi­o­las. These are the older va­ri­ety Vi­ola cor­nuta Alba Group which Troy finds more ro­bust and re­silient than newer va­ri­eties. In packed bor­ders, this vi­ola not only cre­ates a pretty edg­ing plant, but also flow­ers twice with a first flush in early sum­mer. “Af­ter flow­er­ing we cut it down to ground level, prop­a­gat­ing from the cut­tings, while the plant flow­ers for a sec­ond time in Au­gust,” ex­plains Troy.

Place for shrubs

Flow­er­ing shrubs pad out plant­ing but need to be kept in trim and not al­lowed to out­grow their al­lot­ted space. These in­clude philadel­phus, hi­bis­cus and var­i­ous hy­drangeas. There are del­i­cate and sparsely flow­ered lace­caps and va­ri­eties such as ‘Annabelle’ with very large, spher­i­cal heads. Vita planted sev­eral cis­tus, com­mon gum cis­tus, ‘Blanche’ and rock rose, which, over a long pe­riod, pro­duce pris­tine white flow­ers that die gracefully.

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