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COLOUR SUPPLEMENT; IN THE GARDEN; Give your garden a late summer burst of vivid hues to see off the season in a blaze of glory.


Late August and early September is when gardens receive a welcome boost of colour. Think of it as an Indian summer full of Indian hues - reds, oranges and purples are in their prime.

Last Sunday I visited a garden which demonstrated a masterclass in their use, a garden that embraces colours which have sometimes in the past been seen as problematic. So how do you come to terms with late summer neons and scarlets as they reveal their luxurious beauty?

June Blake has been gardening in a hillside plot in County Wicklow for the last 15 years which is protected by a sheltering belt of mature trees. The land isn't inherently productive and was originally used for sheep farming.

June set about building raised beds and developed a planting medium which would sustain hungry feeders, layering multicourse sandwiches of soil and manure with strata of hay.

And then she began to plant using her distinctive strong contemporary design sensibility.

The garden is a lovely size - walking around it doesn't overwhelm, rather it envelopes you with its vibrancy and sends you back on its circuit two or three times, all the while drinking in more of its genius.

Dahlias abound everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. June mostly grows them from seed in spring and by now they are over a metre tall and in delightful shades of pink, often two-toned with yellow.

My favourite was Dahlia 'Karma Choc' with dark stems and delicious maroon red velvety petals - this is a tuberous dahlia, part of a series bred specifically for long life in vases, so great for cut flower fans.

A blaze of orange was created with magnificent tiger lilies which, despite their height, weren't staked and just gently drooped. These jostled happily with Crocosmia 'Zanzibar' and a lovely orange cosmos called 'Tango'.

Cosmos also make excellent cut flowers and these will be top of my most-wanted list for seeds next spring.

Bees were flocking to the daisy heads of red and orange heleniums, and pink echinaceas, some even reaching the dizzying heights of the Silphium, a very tall yellow daisy that hails from the North American prairies - perfect for the rear of a border. Astrantia 'Gill Richardson' with its lovely deep claret blossoms was on its second flush, June having chopped it back ruthlessly after its first flowering.

The red shaggy flowers of Monardas mixed happily with alstroemerias in vivid yellows and oranges, with strands of pink scented phlox and clouds of mauve thalictrum hovering above, all forming a dazzling feast for the eyes.

Linking many areas of planting was the hardy geranium Anne Thompson. Hardy geraniums are one of the most useful garden plants for ground cover and they're long flowering - this one has vivid magenta pink blossoms and chartreuse green leaves and tends to scramble through other plants.

There are also quieter areas of planting which form a cool contrast - white goosenecked loosestrife and the late flowering umbellifer Selinum are planted amongst verbena bonariensis.

June likes to garden without chemical interference. Unfortunately, farmyard manure can be contaminated with weedkillers which linger in the soil and she has noticed some plant distortion because of this. Lack of good manure has led to June switching to an alternative method to enrich her soil.

She sprinkles soil conditioner which negates the need for constant digging and increases the nutrients and trace elements available to the plants by unlocking them.

Working in harmony with nature is producing wonderful results and a truly inspirational garden.

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Bees flock to orange and red heleniums, and pink echinaceas






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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 25, 2018
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