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EXPERTS TIPS FOR AUGUST
By Pat Hubbard

Abutilon Megapotanicum

Lavatera Bredon Springs

August is often a time when people take family holidays, and the garden can mostly be allowed to look after itself. If you have hanging baskets and patio planters however, these will need the services of a friendly neighbour or relation to come in once a day to water.

The later-summer flowering shrubs and perennials are in full swing now and Buddleia and Lavatera attract bees and butterflies to the border, as does Perovskia Blue Spire, commonly known as Russian sage. Two or three of these plants together make a beautiful airy haze of small blue flowers, and soft silvery-grey aromatic foliage in the middle of a border.

Caryopteris Heavenly Blue is aptly named, its flowers are indeed a heavenly shade of blue. Penstemons, with their spikes of tubular flowers, come in a vast array of colours, from white through to deep purple and nearly all the pinks and mauves in between. They will carry on flowering until the frost if dead flower heads are regularly removed. All of these plants will perform best if they are cut almost to the ground in spring, as they all flower on new growth.

Hibiscus is a large shrub, which looks almost tropical when in flower, but there are many varieties that are very hardy. Late summer is also the time for hydrangeas to bloom, some of the mop-head varieties have very large blooms, but my favourites are the more delicate lace-caps. It is worth noting when you buy hydrangeas, that the blue varieties will only flower blue if you have acid soil, otherwise they will flower pink. The more acid the soil, the more blue they will be. White flowers will always be white, no matter what type of soil you have. It is possible to buy 'blueing powder' to lower the pH of your soil and make it more acid, but it seldom lasts very long. It is better to work with the type of soil you have, and go for the varieties that suit it, look around in other gardens nearby and see which colours are flourishing.

As a complete contrast to these flowery shrubs, some more structured plants within the border add another interest. The tall stately stems of the ornamental grass Miscanthus sinensis, which are rather bamboo-like, and the airy flower heads of Stipa Gigantica and the more upright Calamagrostis Karl Foerster add a different texture and gentle movement in the summer breeze as you relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

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