Keep the flowers coming!


Lee Bestall
1st August 2023

While many may see the encroachment of September to mean summer is fizzling out, many garden plants reach their peak as autumn arrives. Many tender bedding plants, be they annual or perennial, will keep flowering all the way until the first frosts if you keep them dead-headed. This means snipping off the faded flower heads, to prevent the plant setting seed, which causes the plant to reduce or stop flowering altogether. It also tidies up the plants and gives you a chance to keep an eye on them, to see if they need any attention. 

Dahlias, pelargoniums (often mistakenly called tender geraniums), begonia and petunia are all fantastic groups of plants that just keep pumping out the colour until they drop. Choose open-flowered varieties that show their centre easily, which are better for pollinating insects. The very blousy frilly types of flowers, known as doubles, are not open for pollinators to feed on their nectar.

Unless we’re seeing true drought conditions, established perennial plants growing in open soil do not generally need extra watering through the summer to keep them healthy. If they do, they’re perhaps not suited to where they’re being grown. Long-term, the wrong plant in the wrong place will always need extra attention and generally wither away at some point, despite our well-meaning efforts to keep them alive.


Anything planted in the last 12 months, will generally need extra water to help it grow and establish well through its first full summer. So these may be potted shrubs, trees and herbaceous perennials you planted late last summer or autumn, when the soil was still nice and warm for good root growth. Or it could be bare root or dormant trees, fruit bushes or even bare-root herbaceous plants planted in winter, such as asparagus. Or anything you’ve planted or grown from seed this spring. All of these plants will be growing their root system out into their spot this summer, unlike the long-established plants in the garden who already have an extensive root system to draw water from deeper soil. 


If it’s been raining, it’s easy to think the new plants will have had the drink they need, but a lot of that rain never makes it deep into the soil where the plant roots are. With the sun beating down on it, the upper layer of soil can be a lot warmer than the air itself, so on a sunny day with a cool breeze, water hitting the soil surface evaporates quickly. If you've got nice dense exuberant planting, much of that rain is captured on the leaves themselves where it evaporates. Unless you’ve had a good 4 to 6 hours of proper heavy cats and dogs type rain, chucking it down, rain alone should not be depended on if you’re trying to get good healthy plants properly established in their first year. 


So this month, get the watering right and your precious plants will fend for themselves for years to come. Get the dead-heading right, and the garden will be full of flowers until the frosts.



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Lee Bestall

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