The garden in July
Kari-Astri Davies is entranced by an array of striking flowers adding colour and interest to her beds
The garden is generally left to look after itself for a while in July. Weeds are hidden under abundant foliage; the hoe remains hung up in the shed. Only watering, an occasional bit of deadheading and a weekly mow will be done: lazy days. I am rather taken with the tawny bed at the moment. This part of the north-facing border has seen a number of changes and adjustments in planting over the last couple of years. As it has grown upwards, the hornbeam hedge is casting shade, which means some of the sun-lovers planted initially are now struggling. The bronze fennel preferred it when the border was sunnier, but is hanging on. Six were planted in two clumps. Four remain, giving fuzzy height in the middle of the bed. The old-gold umbel heads are beginning to show. Variable self-sown seedlings from purple-leaved biennial angelica, A. sylvestris ‘Vicar’s Mead’, were planted out this year. The pale-pink flowered, purple-strutted heads, at chest height, are just coming into full flower. This was one of the only beds without dahlias. However, it needed something to anchor the planting from July into the autumn. I have added elegant, single-flowered dahlia ‘Magenta Star’. Dark foliage shows off the scarlet flowers of Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Maltese Cross’ and Lobelia cardinalis. Its lilac flowers add mid-level interest. What really stops me in my tracks in this bed at the moment though is Asiatic lily ‘Red Velvet’, its luscious, satiny upturned flowers on tall stems, standing proud. This lily may have been around since 1964, but it is new to me. One website says it drives hummingbirds wild. That would be a sight to see. Lily beetles like it too.
I had never given dierama, angel’s fishing rods, much thought for my garden until I saw a huge pink-flowered one slap bang in the middle of someone’s front lawn in Bath. These, generally evergreen, plants form mounds of flat-bladed, grass-like leaves. The elegant belled flowers, on arching stems, give a wonderful, if fleeting, display. Last year at this time, I was totally wowed at the Wildside Nursery in Devon. There were large drifts of dierama in white and shades of pink and purple bobbing and shimmying in the wind: a glorious show. The RHS lists the most common, D. pulcherrimum, as hardy between -5°C to -10°C: H4. I’ve had the top growth of mine die back in winter and shoot again from the roots. The advice is to grow them in sun, in soil which stays moist but not waterlogged, particularly over winter. ‘Guinevere’, with off-white bells, is planted in a couple of places in the garden. There is also an unnamed pink, grown from seed with thicker bladed leaves. Chiltern Seeds and Plant World offers a choice of species and cultivar seeds which will flower approximately 3 years from sowing.
“The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem For that sweet odour which doth in it live” William shakespeare, ‘Sonnet 54’
Dahlias have had a renaissance, but what about the Shasta daisy? These, mostly white, daises are the result of crosses between European native leucanthemums and a Japanese species, made by US nurseryman Luther Burbank. Named after a mountain near his home, his mixed Leucanthemum x superbum were introduced to the market in 1901. They are, I suppose, a bit ‘love them or loathe them’, as garden writer Christopher Lloyd observed. The blank, staring white of the flowers and deep green foliage can seem overpowering. There is also a distinctive, slightly musty smell to the flowers, which range from crisp singles to more complex doubled forms. Peak flowering is July to August. In the sunny southfacing border, I have the large, single pale-yellow flowered ‘Sonnenschein’. Its stems tend to flop about, though. The irresistibly named ‘Droitwich Beauty’, with large, white, ragged-petalled, semi-double daisy flowers and yellow central boss, holds itself up better. Christopher Lloyd noted that some Shasta daisies flower themselves to death, not making enough non-flowering growth to get through winter. Unfortunately, ‘Snehurka’, at the front of the border, which had small white pom-pom flowers on shorter upright stems, toppling only after torrential rain, did just that.
“The Summer looks out from her brazen tower, Through the flashing bars of July” Francis Thompson, ‘A Corymbus for Autumn’
Left to right: Tea awaits on a prettily dressed table in a shady corner; tiny, flat golden heads of fragrant bronze fennel; dahlia ‘Magenta Star’ reveals its beauty; mowing among the daisies.
Left to right: A scarlet lily-loving beetle, Lilioceris lilii; the dangling pink heads of angel’s fishing rod; Shasta daisy ‘Sonnenschein’ has cream petalled flowers erupting in vigorous clumps.