The August Garden

Endless Summer Colour

Alstroemeria, or the Peruvian Lily, is one of the best performing flowering plants in the border during summer. Ok, so the foliage may be a little on the untidy side, but for weeks -nay, months- established plants flower their proverbial socks off. And, with new selections arriving on the market in the past few years, there is an Alstroemeria for every garden, from tall plants for the back of the border, to compact growers suitable for small gardens and pots.

Each flower stem is long, rising well above the foliage, topped with a group of flowers which, on close inspection, are rather exotic looking, some with spots, others with stripes, for instance. Now rather ubiquitous as a supermarket flower, Alstroemeria should not be overlooked as it’s a true stalwart of the flower garden.

Alstroemeria grow from tubers, which look rather like a cluster of long, pale fingers. Although not overly hardy in theory, once established they should return each year, gradually and gracefully increasing in size to make decent clumps.

One of the most popular of the modern varieties is A. ‘Indian Summer’. It’s flowers, vibrant coppery orange and yellow with brown speckles, are held around a metre above unusual deep bronze-toned foliage. It’s flowers for an incredibly long period, sometimes from early June to November. I have teamed it with Rosa ‘Boscastle’, which brings out its copper tones, low growing Heuchera ‘Indian Summer Cranberry’, and chartreuse green euphorbias – the colour combination is quite gorgeous.

If pot culture is more suitable for your garden, try the new range of A.’Inca’ hybrids such as ‘Inca. These have been specifically for patio pots and offer winter hardiness with compact growth, a long flowering season and a wide range of striking colours.

Alstroemeria flower best in full sunshine, in a sheltered spot. Before planting, improve the soil with a general fertiliser and some organic matter. (Use a soil-based compost for pot grown specimens and feed regularly with a tomato feed). To improve hardiness plant deeply, up to 20cm deep.

As you will know if you have bought them as cut flowers, Alstroemeria flowers last extremely well in a vase. If you fancy picking your blooms, pull the stems as you would rhubarb – yank out the stem low down. This induces further flowering.

According to the Victorian language of flowers, receiving a bouquet of Alstroemeria meant that you were beloved.


Jobs in the August Garden

Bedding plants in containers and hanging baskets will need plenty of water and tomato food during august to continue flowering well. Straggly plants can be trimmed back to encourage new growth.

If you are going away for longer than 24 hours, ask a friend to water any plants in the greenhouse – high temperatures will soon dry out pots and grow bags. Leave doors and windows of the greenhouse open for ventilation.

Raise the height of mower blades if the weather is dry – longer grass can cope better with stress and will bounce back from drought more easily.

Trim Lavender after flowering to keep growth neat.

Camellias form flower buds for the spring now, so keep them well watered. Camellias in pots can be fed with an ericaceous food.

Think about what spring flowering bulbs you would like in your garden – fresh stocks will be in garden centres during August – and buy early for the best choice.

Pick vegetables such as beans and courgettes regularly to keep supplies coming. Root vegetables don’t need watering so save water supplies for these types of vegetables that are constantly cropping, using a little tomato food to boost harvests.

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