Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baked Clay Is Not the Right Place to Bring Up Baby

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baked Clay Is Not the Right Place to Bring Up Baby

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

RIGHT now, your best weapon to beat the summer garden blues is a pair of sharp secateurs, not only to cut out the deadweight, but to rejuvenate. Cut back roses that have bloomed, along with foliage ruined by rust or blackspot and you may be rewarded with a second flush.

Groundcover perennials such as geraniums, catmint and alchemilla that look like they have breathed their last will not only perk up after a radical shearing but could well flower once more; encourage them with a dose of dilute liquid seaweed.

When lavender, santolina, helichrysum and other Mediterranean plants have bloomed, don't just cut off the faded flower stems -- a fiddly job -- but get creative, and snip the grey or silvery foliage into rounded, sculptural cushions that give them a whole new urban edge. Check out what's looking good at the garden centre and prepare to pot, because baked clay is not a good environment for bringing up baby.

Forget the current fad for native plants -- at this time of year, big and bold, not small and dainty, are the statement plants that will revive, at a stroke, flagging borders and lacklustre patios. Look to the exotics for real impact: scarlet cannas with dot-and-dash foliage, sky blue agapanthus, citrus-shaded lilies, red banana Ensete Maurelii with huge paddle leaves that gleam like stained glass in the late, low sun. Use them to fill gaps in the border, keeping them in their unobtrusive, blend-intothe-background black plastic pots. You can them simply lift them out when summer's at an end and store them over winter.

Where a plant is planned for the front line, re-pot it in terracotta or a glamorous glazed pot, so it looks intentional. Several uniformly glazed pots, randomly spaced along the front of a border and planted with eye-catching dahlias in jewel-bright shades, will brighten the landscape immeasurably.

If you can bag one, it's worth spending on a brugmansia dripping with trumpet flowers that you can plonk centre stage on the patio to divert the eye from less attractive views. It will also provide fabulous evening perfume for alfresco dining.

The contrasting colours and textures of sempervivums -- find them in the alpines section of the garden centre -- make marvellous rosette mosaics in wide, low, terracotta bowls that are ideal for lining garden steps or decorating the terrace table. …

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