Behind the scenes in the Walled Kitchen Garden

Chris Margrave Head Gardener

We caught up with our Head Gardener Chris Margrave to find out what's happening in the Walled Kitchen Garden this month and what you need to be doing in your gardens for the season ahead.

June 2018 edition

Best Value Plants for Summer Container Displays

The real value for money plants in small gardens are those which earn their keep by providing interest over more than one season, through their flowers, foliage and fruit.  If the flowers are scented, or the foliage is aromatic, even better.   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’.   Both produce vivid orange-red flowers.  There is also a variegated form, ‘Firecracker’, which has red, cream and green leaves.  This needs a sheltered spot if it is to succeed outside for the summer.

Entrance to the Walled Kitchen Garden at Clumber Park
Walled Kitchen Garden at Clumber Park
Entrance to the Walled Kitchen Garden at Clumber Park

Other fuchsia stalwarts include ‘Golden Marinka’, which has red flowers, yellow and red variegated leaves, and a trailing habit of growth, ‘Autumnale’, also trailing, with pink and purple flowers and golden foliage which turns bright coppery red, and ‘Tom West’, upright growth, cream, green and pink foliage and red and purple flowers.  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’ which combines cream variegated leaves with salmon pink flowers and ‘Mrs Pollock’, an old  favourite from Victorian times with tricolour leaves in green, gold and red and bright red flowers.

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’ has cream variegated leaves with a rose scent and pale lavender flowers.  Pelargonium crispum ‘Variegatum’ also has creamy-white variegated foliage, but with a lemon scent, and pale pink flowers.

Once planted, summer container plants will need regular watering, daily in hot, dry weather.   Feed them weekly and dead head, that is remove their 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.  The containers can then be planted with spring flowering bulbs or evergreens.

Jobs for the Month

This is a busy time in the garden.  Planting, sowing, watering, shading, feeding and harvesting are typical tasks.

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 1.5ins/3cm between the top of the tuber and soil level, and plant gladiolus corms about 4-5ins/10-12cm 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, sunny days and by 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.