By Douglas Boatman

You can sit down by the fireside with a pad and coloured pencils

Or stand with brush and easel, or some other drawing utensils

Either way the purpose is to ease a worried mind

To make the stress a little less and leave your cares behind

I should admire such artistic flair, but please don’t think me pompous

If I just nip out to the garden with my trowel and planting compost.

July – the ‘doldrum’ month, the month of the drone. The drone of the slurry cart working three fields away, the drone of bees on the Lavender, the drone of the Honda lawnmower next door, the continuous drone of Brexit.

In the garden the spring display of colour is over. Rhodo’s (including the deciduous ones) have finished blooming. Pieris have now turned from vibrant red to insipid green. So how do we keep the colour interest?

Well, for a start, herbaceous Geraniums won’t let you down. Try the true blue variety Geranium x magnificum. Continuous flowering on upright foliage. Forms a nice clump which doesn’t straggle everywhere. If you want more of a ground-cover effect maybe opt for G Wargrave Pink, Spessart or Rozanne – they spread like wildfire.

The Geranium species that is purpose-made for the rockery or container is Geranium sanguineum. Vision Light Pink is a lovely pastel shade whereas Max Frei is a bold mauve. They only grow about four inches high and make a neat mat of wind resistant colour.

Continuing on the herbaceous theme, another splash of interest could be created with Astrantia. There are several cultivars of this robust plant, most of which used to be in wishy-washy hues of pink and white.

However, plant breeders have now come out with a more vibrant selection. One of these is A Ruby Wedding – a rich shade of dark red. Generally a trouble-free plant does well in full sun or light shade. Also with a title like Ruby Wedding it makes an attractive alternative to a rose bush as an anniversary gift.

I recently found stock of an evergreen shrub which I have admired for a while. Olearia Henry Travers. Originally found (by Henry I presume) in the lands of the South Pacific, this grey leafed ‘Daisy Bush’ does well in the milder parts and coastal regions of Scotland.

What makes it so attractive, and sought after, is the unique character of a pink flower with silvery green foliage. This charming plant is in full flower from June to August and make a real statement in a sunny garden. The reference books often suggest O Henry Travers as an ideal species for a seaside hedge, but I think it is much too special for that – if you need a robust, vigorous hedge to combat coastal weather then opt for Escallonia macrantha or Griselinia littoralis. They are perfectly suitable (and more readily available).

I went through a period of ill health last year which meant that my beloved veg’ plot remained fallow for the whole season.

Fortunately my health, and enthusiasm, has recovered and things are going well. After managing to give the whole plot a liberal lashing with rotten dung I did a soil test, corrected acidity and nutrients, and set to with my rotovator to prepare the ground. My rotovator is one of these totty wee things which chews its way along.

Alas the combination of stubborn Ayrshire clay, soggy cow dung, and a dodgy throttle meant that I ended up with arms like Popeye and a right dose of sairbackitis. I’ve maybe gone a bit OTT with the veg’ this year, growing about thirty different items from Aubergine to Zucchini.

I’m guilty of watching too many cookery programmes – Celeriac and Kohl Rabi are growing well (recipe suggestions please). Having sown out 3 x 20 metre drills of carrot Autumn King I’ll either need to go into rabbit farming or look forward to a tremendous boost to my eyesight.

The weather in May was a bit of an ordeal. Nasty wee nip of frost in the third week and cooler than normal temperatures generally. It looks like we’re not going to have the extended heatwave that we had last year.

A blessing in some respects but a pity from the hanging basket / patio planter point of view. Lack of heat overnight (here anyway) has slowed growth. If, and when, conditions improve – they surely will – the containers will need a top-up with liquid feed to boost them on after the initial nutrition in the compost has fizzled out. Use a purpose made basket plant fertiliser – too much nitrogen will give a mass of greenery and poor floral display.

One or two horticultural ‘stooshies’ to report. Firstly, there have been complaints about Chelsea Flower Show losing its floral appeal and becoming more of an exhibition of expensive landscape design. No surprises there then! As with everything else (Brexit included) opinions have become more polarised. Which leads me on to the second gurn in the garden. Beechgrove has been shunted from BBC 2 onto the more diminutive channel of BBC Scotland and (recently retired) Jim McColl is not happy – for two reasons. Primarily, it was a successful show when presented nationally on BBC1 and BBC2 so why slash the viewer's options?

Secondly, and to my mind more seriously, they have cut out half of the season by only airing the programme from the end of July. I think gardeners appreciated that they could compare the progress of their own produce from seed to harvest against that of Jim and his team and learn useful tips along the way. The lack of continuity that has now been implemented by the BBC is going to be sorely missed.

A shame. Some of the content of Beechgrove can be accessed online and through social media but this is not the same as sitting down on a Thursday night and watching the programme.

Ah well – back to the hoeing!

Happy gardening

General points

  • Don’t let greenfly grow fat on your roses. A good skoosh with something like RoseClear Ultra should sort them out – and also give some control of mildew and rust.
  • Nip out sideshoots of tomatoes to keep main stem heading in the right direction. Damp down the greenhouse on hot days to assist fruit set.
  • Caterpillars are a real spoiler on cabbage and cauliflower. Difficult to spray so consider covering plants with light fleece to keep the pesky white butterflies from laying eggs.
  • If you need to prune any of the spring-flowering shrubs do it soon to allow flower buds to develop for next year. Give them a bit of granular feed to encourage them.
  • Check out Scotland’s Garden Scheme website for gardens open near you. Well worth visiting – often truly inspirational!