Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Think again

AUGUST brings another chapter in the garden.

Many plants run to seed during August, and you may be tempted to cut back and tidy those plants whose flowers are over.

But think again. Even dying plants can give the garden character while seeding and your garden could yield a rich harvest of home-saved seed. Collecting seed can be great fun especially for the young budding horticulturist. Keep an eye on those plants that mature and shed their seed quickly. Seed from some species including poppies, columbines and foxgloves can be shaken straight from the capsule, while others such as hardy geraniums, are safer if the whole stem is removed and replaced upside down in a paper bag. Store collected seed in old envelopes or clean paper bags, labelling each variety immediately after collection. As for sowing the fresher the better.

Most hardy perennials will germinate very quickly if sown immediately after collection, either in a cold frame or in the open ground. Don't forget to exchange seeds with your friends and relatives. Rapidly growing hedges like privet need several cuts per year, while others such as yew, laurel, holly and other conifers will be happy with a single cut.

Beech, thorn and hornbeam get by with a single cut but will look much tidier if cut the second time, one in late June and the second in September. The ideal shape for a hedge is tapering, an inverted wedge just a little wider at the bottom than at the top. This allows enough light and air to develop a thick healthy covering of foliage. Never allow the hedge to grow out of control. Always keep it at a manageable height and spread. Take cuttings now of your favourite garden shrubs. These can be cheaply and easily propagated in a cold frame or cool glasshouse. Select your cuttings - these should be at a semi-ripe stage. Apply a hormone rooting powder to the prepared cuttings and stick them in soil that has been enriched with leaf mould, compost and grit to allow for good drainage.

Avoid disturbing them until they have rooted.

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