Roddy Llewellyn's gardening advice
PUBLISHED: 15:06 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:40 20 February 2013
Heaven in a trug
You read about the psychological advantages of having your own vegetable plot and how it lifts the spirit but it is not until you actually have one yourself that you realise that this is absolutely true. I will never forget how free and relaxed I felt whenever I escaped to my allotment when I lived in London. Every time I saunter down to my vegetable garden, I feel the same as I do every time I look at our dog Lulu. I smile.
In August my parsnips and leeks, both sown outside in late April, promise food for the winter table. My indefatigable perpetual spinach seldom fails to please but if I do not have enough of it I add even tastier beetroot leaves to it in the steamer.
There are salads galore, potatoes by the bucket load (Lady Kristal, King Edward and pink fur apple), pak choi, carrots, Swiss chard, wild rocket and red onions. I have dotted herbs about; the most used being French tarragon which makes me dream about the next roast chicken and is also a wonderful additive to any egg dish. A favourite photograph in any vegetable book is the one of a trug groaning with a multi-coloured variety of home produce. I find myself carrying one such basket on my way back to the house several times a week. Could heaven ever be better than this?
I think one of the most remarkable, fully hardy ornamental trees is the ubiquitously planted Robinia pseudoacacia Frisia commonly referred to as the golden false acacia.Whereas practically all trees that grow in this country tend to start looking tired by the end of summer, this beauty retains its fresh golden foliage well into autumn. That is why you see it in so many gardens and despite the fact that it has become commonplace, it could never be described as common by plant snobs. If you are thinking of filling an empty gap with a tree, this reliable and rewarding deciduous tree is the one to plant this autumn. This raises the subject of plant snobbery. It is a difficult subject because taste creeps in. I think it is all to do with planting the right plant in the right place. That, coupled with the fact that about 90 per cent of plants grown in gardens in this country originally come from other parts of Europe or indeed other continents. The natural habitat of Robinia pseudoacacia Frisia happens to be the USA where they are normally found growing in woodland or in thickets, yet they seem to work in the British garden.
The pampas grass however, a plant that hails from parts of the world such as New Zealand and South America, gives out different signals. I have to admit to having one particular plant hate, Aucuba japonica, because I find it so ugly. But then, subjective opinions are neither here nor there. Every garden owner must plant what they like and that is all there is to it.
Nearly all plants in the garden have flowered early after that blazing, hot April. I have noticed how little growth there has been this year on trees particularly as they were unable to put on that initial thrust when they most needed the water to do so.
Young trees and shrubs still need a good water from time to time to help them establish their root systems. Now that we are in August many gardens have started to look more tired than ever, especially spring and early summer-flowering herbaceous perennials. This is a perfect time, therefore, to dig them up and divide them if they have become over-congested, a chore made all the easier as the soil remains on the dry side.
If you want an interesting splash of blue in your border you can do no better than plant a herbaceous clematis (Clematis integrifolia). This is an utterly delightful plant that thrusts upwards by slowly emerging from a series of cupped leaves that part to reveal, eventually, mid-blue bell-shaped flowers that last most of the summer.