May: Your Garden

First of all, I hope you all enjoyed a lovely Easter.

April turned out fine for the weather this year, which was pleasantly surprising. My plants love it! Unfortunately so do the darned critters that like to nibble on them. Pests in the garden are on a full offensive now, so keep an eye out for green and black fly on your roses, and beetles on your lilies.

Nature is a wonderful thing most, but not all of the time. I am presently at war with the destroyer of my beautiful lilies, the red lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii). Bayer bug killer deals with these pests but I prefer picking them off by hand and providing my Koi with a tasty snack.


Now then, some of you may remember back in your young and carefree days of junior education there was such a thing as a sunflower competition. I remember it like it was yesterday. I badgered my mum for the money to buy the seeds to grow one of these giants. I needed to win this, this was in the bag. I remember staring at my scrawny sunflower daily, willing it to grow quickly, and feeling the disappointment of it not growing as fast as Jack’s beanstalk. But mum told me be patient, a skill that’s hard to grasp when you’re a child, but of course mum is always right (well, mostly). If mum reads this I am in trouble.

Anyway, the sunflower did grow and turned out quite nicely in fact. Did I win? No! It was super cool and exciting though, the anticipation and the banter between me and my school friends about who had the tallest plant or biggest flower head went on throughout the summer. The sunflower was my baby, my first real truly grown-by-myself plant. Why not get the kids some seeds and let them grow their first giant flower?

Most sunflowers are remarkably tough and easy to grow as long as the soil is not waterlogged. Most are also heat and drought-tolerant. They make excellent cut flowers and many are attractive to bees and birds.

There are beautiful red sunflowers as well. I have grown these and they are stunning. Not as tall but equally as worthy of a pot.

The info you may require is as follows:

Botanical name: Helianthus
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Soil type: Sandy, Loamy
Soil pH: Neutral?, Alkaline/Basic?
Flower color: Yellow or red
Bloom time: Summer

Sunflowers say “summer” like no other plant. It’s easiest to sow seeds directly into the soil after the danger of spring frost is past. Ideally, the soil temperature has reached 55 to 60 °F. Plant the large seeds no more than 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in well-dug, loose soil after it has thoroughly warmed, from mid-April to late May. Water plants deeply but infrequently to encourage deep rooting. Feed plants only sparingly; over fertilization can cause stems to break in the fall. Tall species require support. Bamboo stakes are a good choice for any plant that has a strong, single stem and only needs support for a short period of time. After the plants have grown they make excellent bird feeders. Save dry heads and set them out in winter.

Vincent van Gogh loved them so much he painted them, and in 1987 an anonymous buyer paid over $39 million for van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Kansas is known as “The Sunflower State”, with thousands of acres devoted to their production. Follow their example and plant some of these true summer flowers.

I meant to talk about water in the garden this month as well. This has been part of what I have been up to with clients, but for this you’ll have to wait until June!

daveDave, from Garden Design Services has been madly keen on gardening for as long as he can remember. He decided to start a business in landscaping at the request of friends and family who quite simply said “I was mad not too” “The garden is a most valuable space, and I feel it is quite important to have a space that you can thoroughly relax in and enjoy”. If you need help in enjoying your garden then give Dave a call on 01322 559 660 or 07780 461 148.

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