At this time of the year, the garden seems to take on a mind of its own and plants grow at an alarming rate. Shrubs that looked so prim and proper in the spring now have long straggly shoots at all angles giving them a dishevelled look. Perennials too have burgeoned in the borders with Cranesbills climbing through other plants and Phlox straining to keep their heads in the sun whilst their neighbours jostle with them for space and light.
The Privet hedge at the back of the garden was drastically reduced two autumns ago so that the stumps and bare branches stood dormant for what seemed an age until bright green shoots were seen in the following spring. It has grown back into a sleek green backdrop kept in bounds by the hedge trimmer regularly run over the new growth before it gets a chance to become a leaning, light sucking, woody mess as before.
Many of the plants in our garden have been there for years and with careful pruning, an annual spring feed and plenty of homemade compost spread as mulch the garden is relatively easy to keep looking good with our limited spare time.
Many perennials are relatively ‘low maintenance’ until their rootstocks become congested and they need to be dug up and divided into pieces after flowering. Hardy Geraniums (Border Cranesbills) can go on for years with no attention save a feed and mulch each spring. The straggly growth can be removed to the base after flowering, leaves and all and the plants will quickly spring back to life with many producing more flowers.
Evergreen shrubs too are usually no trouble. The Mexican Orange Blossom below the kitchen window was a picture this spring – full of scented clusters of white flowers for weeks. Careful pruning to remove the faded flower heads keeps this in shape and there is another flowering in early autumn much to the delight of the bees.
We have several Hebes in our sunny front garden and one, H. ‘Wiri Charm’ has been in flower for weeks. The spikes of deep magenta flowers are covering the mound-like growth and look great against the weed suppressing gravel. A light prune back to new growth once the flowers have faded may bring more blooms in the autumn and will keep the plant in shape. Larger varieties are growing on the edge of the garden and make excellent windbreaks. If they are badly damaged by cold winter winds, snow or frost, we wait until new growth shoots from the middle of the plants and prune back to this in late spring. By the end of the summer, the plants are always full of flowers and have tidy mounds of leaves once again. Along with many other evergreens, Hebes benefit from a good cut back in late spring every few years to keep them in shape and encourage vigorous new growth.
For evergreen texture and its lovely silver-grey leaves Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ is one of my favourite shrubs and this too can be hard pruned to shape in the same way as the Hebes. Left to its own devices this plant can become a sprawling mound so benefits from a good prune every few years.
The list of low maintenance plants goes on and on but I am particularly pleased with my latest additions of Rock Roses (Helianthemum) which will add a lower layer of planting to the front garden with their cheerful flowers so loved by bees and sprawling, ground covering habits. With a quick tidy from the shears once the flowers have faded, they should be happy for many years to come.