Clumber Gardener: How to get the best out of your summer garden

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

The real value for money plants in small gardens are those which earn their keep by providing interest over more than one season.

For reliable displays in summer containers, fuchsias and pelargoniums are worth considering.

Both have varieties with attractive foliage, as well as gorgeous blooms, so they look good even before flowering is underway.

Fuchsia varieties derived from the species Fuchsia triphylla have deep red stems and attractive red veining, especially on the undersides of their leaves.

Two of the best are Thalia and Gartenmeister Bonstedt.

There is also a variegated form, Firecracker, Golden Marinka, Autumnale and Tom West.

Fuchsias will tolerate shade, so are a good choice if you have a shady, cheerless spot which needs brightening with summer colour.

By contrast, pelargoniums need full sun.

There are striking foliage varieties such as Frank Headley and Mrs Pollock – an old favourite from Victorian times.

For that welcome bonus, try some of the scented leaved pelargoniums.

These can be considered ‘scratch and sniff’ plants, as you’ll need to gently rub the foliage with finger and thumb to release the scents in their leaves.

Lady Plymouth and Variegatum are both good examples of this.

Once planted, summer container plants will need regular watering, daily in hot, dry weather.

Feed them weekly and dead head faded flowers to keep the display going.

Come September you’ll need to keep any eye on the weather forecast.

These fuchsias and pelargoniums are all tender, so if you want to over-winter them, they’ll need bringing under protection when the first hard frosts are forecast.

June is a busy time in the garden.

Plant out half hardy bedding plants and tender vegetables such as sweet corn and runner beans.

Sow vegetables, both hardy kinds such as lettuces, peas and turnips and, early in the month, tender varieties like dwarf French and kidney beans and runner beans.

Early in the month finish planting out dahlia tubers, leaving about three centimetres between the top of the tuber and soil level, and plant gladiolus corms about 10-12 centimetres deep.

Prune flowering currants and forsythias, taking out shoots which have flowered.

As temperatures rise, make sure greenhouse plants don’t suffer by opening ventilators fully on hot, days and shading the glass.

This can be done with a proprietary white wash or by using shade netting.

The latter is better, as it can be easily removed if the weather turns dull and cloudy.