The Gardening Coach: July

PUBLISHED: 13:32 30 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:30 14 July 2015

Topiary - a national obsession

Topiary - a national obsession


Judy Shardlow celebrates topiary

It’s fair to say that we have a bit of an obsession with topiary in this country. Box balls, spirals, animals, huge sculpted shapes – the more weird and wonderful, the better. But the plant behind these wonderful creations, Buxus sempervirens, has been having a bit of a setback recently.

Box blight, a troublesome villain for green and pleasant topiary hedges, is caused by two fungi, which cause leaves to go brown, resulting in bald dead patches in the plant. Fungi are most active during hot humid conditions and spores spread most easily on wet summer days.

Many experts believe that good plant health is key to preventing fungal attack. In practice this means that when planting it’s essential that box plants go into good soil, with plenty of organic matter, a top dressing of bonemeal and good ‘establishment watering’. Never trim box plants during damp summer weather, when fungal spores are in the air, and take a light touch generally with pruning. Excessive pruning causes stress to the plant, as does drought, and poor ventilation. Ultimately, a healthy, strong plant is much better able to resist infection than one which is already struggling with poor growing conditions.

July gardening tips

Pick courgettes Baby courgettes are tastier than ‘marrows’ so keep picking them while they’re still quite small.

Tackle pond algae Barley straw extract is a natural solution for tackling pond algae, which works well but needs regular repeat treatments.

Strategic watering Established plants and trees will be able to manage through hot spells so focus your energy on any plants added to your garden in spring, particularly trees, which can take three years to establish successfully.

Prune fruit trees Summer pruning of fruit trees ensures that light and food reach the developing fruit. Prune long bendy new shoots back to about 1-2cm from old (brown) wood. Remove the smallest fruits from developing clusters to ensure remaining fruit is large and healthy.

Think about bulbs In the bulb world the early bird catches the worm, so order now and your bulbs will be delivered in September ready to plant.

Judy Shardlow is an RHS award-winning garden coach and designer

01438 833858

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