Category Archives: Expert advice

5 Plants to Deadhead During the Summer Months for More Blooms

Deadheaded dahlias in a wooden trug - © GAP Photos/Jason Ingram

Deadheaded dahlias in a wooden trug – © GAP Photos/Jason Ingram

The summer seems to be flying by, and with all the flowers, fruits and vegetables arriving in abundance, it can be tempting to simply harvest the crops, smell the flowers, sit back and take it all in. However, with just a little continued pruning and deadheading, you can keep the blooms coming, as so many summer-flowering shrubs and perennials will keep flowering up until the first frosts. Here are five flowering plants that are worth deadheading and cutting back over the summer for later blooms in the early autumn.

Dahlia

Woman deadheading dahlias - © GAP Photos/Robert Mabic

Woman deadheading dahlias – © GAP Photos/Robert Mabic

Dahlias are the quintessential autumnal plant – with many flowering well into September and even October, as long as the first frosts keep away. It is very important to deadhead dahlias regularly, as they will continue to produce many flowers from summer to autumn, as long as this method is kept up. Deadheading stops the plant from putting unnecessary energy into producing seeds and seedpods, therefore discouraging the plant to shut up shop for the year. Removing spent blooms before this happens will redirect the plant’s energy into further growth and bud formation before the weather turns.

Helenium – Sneezeweed

Woman deadheading Helenium in late Summer - © GAP Photos/Sharon Pearson

Woman deadheading Helenium in late Summer – © GAP Photos/Sharon Pearson

Heleniums tend to be mid-to late summer bloomers, and keep going into the autumn. For the vibrant colours they produce as summer gives way to the fiery tones of autumn, it is worth removing faded flowers, so the plant keeps going as long as possible. Keep in mind though that the seed heads look particularly ornamental when caught in a frost, so refrain from deadheading from mid-September onwards.

Geranium – Cranesbill

Deadheading spent Geranium flowers - © GAP Photos

Deadheading spent Geranium flowers – © GAP Photos

This can apply to the hardy perennial geraniums in your border or to the tender bedding pelargoniums generally used in summer containers. Both types benefit from regular deadheading to keep producing more blooms.

Penstemon – Beardtongue

Deadheading a perennial - Penstemon - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Deadheading a perennial – Penstemon – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

A long-season bloomer, Penstemons produce long spikes of flowers and look quite similar to foxgloves. However, unlike foxgloves, they will keep flowering all summer and well into autumn. It is worth giving penstemons a gentle tidy up as they start to fade, removing spent blooms. However, refrain from cutting them back until fresh growth appears next spring, as often it is the old faded stems that protect the plants during our wet, cold winters.

Rosa – Rose

Woman deadheading roses. Seating area alongside bed of Rosa 'Scharlachglut' and R. multiflora - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Woman deadheading roses. Seating area alongside bed of Rosa ‘Scharlachglut’ and R. multiflora – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Before you deadhead a rose in late summer, check that it isn’t a variety that will produce ornamental hips in the autumn. If it is, then don’t deadhead, as you will remove the potential rosehip fruits in the process. There are many roses that do not go onto produce hips though, and if yours is one of them, you might as well try and encourage your rose shrub to produce a few more romantic blooms before the autumn sets in properly, so get deadheading!

Drying Onions

Home grown maincrop Onions ripening in wooden trays, UK, August - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Home grown maincrop Onions ripening in wooden trays, UK, August – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

If you have grown onions this year, you may be happily pulling them up about now and hopefully celebrating rather lamenting their size. When onions are ready for harvest, their stems and leaves flop to one side as below:

Allium cepa - Onions ready to harvest with fallen foliage - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Allium cepa – Onions ready to harvest with fallen foliage – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

However, just like garlic, there is an important step between harvest and storage, and that involves curing. Onions should be left to cure so that their outer layers of skin dry and they can be stored successfully. This can take a couple of weeks after harvest. Keep the leaves on the bulbs to dry post-harvest, as chopping them off now runs the risk of introducing bacteria to the onions, which might spoil your crop!

Freshly harvested onions laid out to dry - © GAP Photos/Robert Mabic

Freshly harvested onions laid out to dry – © GAP Photos/Robert Mabic

There are different ways to store onions while they cure. If you are guaranteed dry weather, you can leave them on the ground where you have pulled them. This is the easy option, but you run the risk of them being eaten by animals, or them rotting on one side if they get damp.

Maincrop onions lifted and drying on wire frames - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Maincrop onions lifted and drying on wire frames – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Onions are best dried in a cool, but not cold, dry area, with sufficient air circulation. You could store them outside if the weather is fine, out of direct sunlight, on makeshift racks of trellis or wire frames. This keeps them off the ground and the air flow moving. Alternatively, suspend a pole horizontally and hang bunches of onions from it. These options are cheap and relatively quick to prepare, and will not take up much space.

Drying onions in bunches on rail - © GAP Photos/Michael Howes

Drying onions in bunches on rail – © GAP Photos/Michael Howes

If you cannot guarantee that your crop will not get wet if left to cure outside, it is best to bring them undercover. Layer them over raised benches in a greenhouse or shed, or covered frame. These can prove a surprising efficient drying tool, as you can hang the onions upside down through the cracks in work benches and pallets. If you have old fashioned crates that stack on top of each other, these will also work well for drying multiple onions at a time.

Allium cepa 'Red Baron' - Harvested onions drying in a wooden rack in polytunnel - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Allium cepa ‘Red Baron’ – Harvested onions drying in a wooden rack in polytunnel – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Alternatively, if you are good with your hands, you might consider braiding the onions together in a bunch and hanging against a wall. This is a very attractive way of drying your onions, and once the curing is complete, you can easily harvest them from the braid as and when you need them.

Allium cepa 'Red Baron' - Plait of organic onions drying on shed door - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Allium cepa ‘Red Baron’ – Plait of organic onions drying on shed door – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Happy curing!

Plants to Sow Now For Colour Next Year

Sowing hardy annuals in drills in a border outside - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Sowing hardy annuals in drills in a border outside – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Many people associate sowing seeds with the spring. However, there are certain plants that fare better when sown later in the summer and into early autumn, giving you stronger plants the following year, that will flower ahead of those started in spring. These tend to be hardy perennials and annuals which overwinter happily outside, although they may need a little protection from extreme weather.

As August and September are still light and the soil temperature is warm, seeds will germinate easily. By the end of September and beginning of October, as temperatures ease, seedlings can concentrate on growing and establishing root systems without having to battle against the strong sun levels. It is best to direct-sow seeds at this time of year; however, you can also get them started in pots, just don’t forget to keep them watered. Below we have listed some examples of seeds to sow now in preparation for ealier flowers next year.

Ammi majus – bullwort

Ammi majus 'Queen of Africa' and Verbena bonariensis - © GAP Photos/Christa Brand

Ammi majus ‘Queen of Africa’ and Verbena bonariensis – © GAP Photos/Christa Brand

You would be forgiven for mistaking this annual for Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), as it shares the same lacy umbels of delicate white flowers. Just like Cow Parsley, it gives a wild style to a border and the flowers can be used in arrangements.

Papaver somniferum – Opium Poppy

Papaver somniferum in June - Opium poppy - © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Papaver somniferum in June – Opium poppy – © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Most poppies do not take kindly to being disturbed, and so are best when sown in situ. Alternatively, sow them in biodegradable pots so you do not disturb their root systems when you plant them out. Poppies are great plants for low-maintenance gardens as they tend to self-seed freely around the garden, usually in little nooks and crannies. They attract pollinators and the seedpods which develop as the flower dies away, are also very ornamental.

Nigella damascena -Love -in-the-Mist

Nigella damascena - © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Nigella damascena – © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

This seemingly delicate annual is actually more robust than it looks and is available in various shades of blue, pink, white and purple. It can be direct sown, or grown in a pot and transferred to the ground. Both the flowers and seed pods are highly ornamental, so are worth harvesting for floral arrangements. However, if you would rather not re-sow, leave the seedpods to open and scatter their seeds, giving this plant a chance to self-sow and naturalise.

Delphinium – Larkspur

Delphinium 'Guardian Lavender' - © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Delphinium ‘Guardian Lavender’ – © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Delphiniums are very popular plants; their upright spikes of soft flowers add vertical colour towards the back of the border, and pollinators love them. They are hardy, so can be started in the late summer for more established plants the following spring. However, it is worth noting that young delphinium leaves are irresistible to slugs, so consider protecting young delphiniums with cloches or copper rings, or grow in pots in a protected area and then plant out in the spring.

Cerinthe major – Honeywort

Cerinthe major - © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Cerinthe major – © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

This is quite an unusual annual, with its silvery-green foliage and contrasting nodding, purple flowers. Attractive to pollinators, so great for a sunny border or near fruit and vegetable gardens. It also self-seeds quite easily.

Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum – Annual Sage

Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum - Annual Blue clary - © GAP Photos/Richard Bloom

Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum – Annual Blue clary – © GAP Photos/Richard Bloom

The sumptuous purple flower bracts of this annual really make it stand out in a border, which will give you colour from the early summer all the way into the autumn.

Scabiosa atropurpurea – Sweet scabious

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight' - Scabious - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’ – Scabious – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

With dark sultry flowers, this annual, or short-lived perennial will add some depth to your border. They have a sweet scent and will flower all summer long and into the autumn. They are an excellent choice for attracting pollinators into your garden.

Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica - Californian Poppies - June - Surrey - © GAP Photos/Tim Gainey

Eschscholzia californica – Californian Poppies – June – Surrey – © GAP Photos/Tim Gainey

This vibrant orange poppy will light up a border in the summer, especially in masse. They are particularly useful for areas with poor soil and cope well in coastal areas too. Although they are an annual, they self-seed and naturalise happily if the conditions are right.