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Gardening Summer 2008
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney
A watering system for your garden

As spring moves into summer, now is the time to enjoy the results of all the spring activity in the garden. There are still some things to do though, to keep it looking good. It's a good idea to keep on top of weeding and also to regularly deadhead flowers which are fading to encourage new flowering. By now dead leaves and stems from spring bulbs will be ready to be removed and should just pull away.
It is now safe to move my pelargoniums which have been over wintering in the conservatory outside, and also to move outside pots with arrangements of tender annuals. Annual displays also need regularly deadheading and growing tips pinched out to encourage a bushier growth. Deadheading encourages the plant to put all its energy into producing new flowers rather than into producing seed. Pots need daily watering and to help with this I have invested in an irrigation system which can turn on and off automatically by a timer fitted to the tap. I have found this system invaluable, as it directs the water directly where it is needed and can be adjusted to the varying needs of different plants. It is also very useful whilst away on holiday as it continues working and avoids the need of persuading someone to come and water whilst I am away. Unfortunately this system cannot be used when there is a hosepipe ban.
I do not regularly water the garden, over the years I have discovered the plants that can survive periods of draught, finding out mainly by trial and error those which will survive best. The only exception to this is anything which is newly planted which will require watering in its first year. If there is a very prolonged period of dry weather it is best to give the garden a really good drenching just once or twice a week as this will encourage plants to develop deeper roots rather than just superficial ones. I have two water buts and empty these first before using tap water to water plants that are not fed by the irrigation system.
Bearded irises are amongst my favourite plants and I have several clumps of these. To encourage flowering these clumps need lifting and dividing every three years or so, not my favourite job. The best time to do this is in July which is usually when the ground is at its driest and hardest. However, last year I saw a different method for this demonstrated on GardenerÕs World, which involved just slicing through any congested rhizomes cleanly and sharply with a spade and removing any rhizomes which are past their best. This looked much easier and less hard work so I will give it a try this year.
I have several Philadelphus shrubs and these benefit from pruning as soon as flowering has finished to encourage flowering next year. I also have a Buddleia Alternifolia which I have been training into a weeping tree rather than a bush. This is very pretty for a while in June, but not once the flowers have died, so I regularly remove the branches that have flowered and at the same time continue to encourage it to form a tree.
With the approach of midsummer and long and hopefully warm evenings, I really enjoy taking a stroll round the garden as the light fades to smell the heady perfumes of my Philadelphus, jasmine and lilies Š if I am lucky there have been no barbeques nearby to mask the perfumes and I can enjoy them to their full.
Next year I am looking forward to improving my vegetable crop. I learnt a lot this year and hopefully will make fewer mistakes. There is always something new to learn about the garden, this is what brings me the most enjoyment, now eating the results adds to the pleasure.