Gardening at Lúnasa
August is a time when most of the hard work has been done in the flower garden. Bedding plants will continue to brighten our borders, hanging baskets and window boxes, and they will keep on flowering if given enough love and attention.
There are a few flowers and shrubs which are at their best now too. My favourite is the Japanese Anemone; reminiscent of children’s drawings, it is beautiful in its simplicity. This flower can grow to four or five feet in height, in white or shades of pink, and will bring a touch of gaiety to the late summer/autumn border. Beware though, as it will spread like wildfire.
Likewise, Yellow Loosestrife can go on the rampage, and Marguerites, those large white daisies, can run riot at this time of year, overwhelming everything in their path if allowed. Annuals like Lavatera and Cosmos reach maturity around the borders too.
Late summer colour
Sometimes the garden can begin to lose its colour as many of the perennials and shrubs finish up now. If you find yourself in need of more autumn colour, I would suggest that you visit garden centres to see what is flowering. Even if you can’t afford to buy at the moment, take a note of what to aim for next year.
Another trick is to visit other gardens to see what your fellow gardeners have in bloom. Even better, if these gardeners are also your friends and relatives, then you may happily ask for slips of shrubs and perennials to grow on for yourself. Most gardeners are very generous I find, and take it as a compliment that you admire their plants so much that you want one of your own.
This time of year is a good time to take cuttings of perennials and shrubs, and even roses. One should remove most of the leaves, or alternatively, cut half of each leaf off. This is to prevent the cutting from losing too much moisture. It is usually best to cut the stem diagonally, just below where a leaf was growing.
Dip each cutting into a little hormone rooting powder, and then either make a hole with a pencil or push straight into a pot. I find square pots are good as the corners offer a little support.
Most importantly, I am always sure to take an uneven number of cuttings, as I was reliably told years ago, that the fairies will take them otherwise.
A plastic bag may be placed over each pot to keep moisture in, and then a great deal of patience is required. Even allowing for fairies, by next year, you may easily have doubled your plant stocks.
Lúnasa is also time for the harvest. But it is not only vegetables and fruit that can be harvested; seeds can be gathered now also. Aquilegias, carnations, poppies, calendulas and so on, all provide an ample supply of seeds, meaning free plants for next year. Some may be sprinkled directly onto the flower bed, to allow them to take their chances, while some can be diligently placed in envelopes, labelled by species, colour and year, to grow on in the spring.
Remembered that some seeds will not come true to the parent plant, perhaps adding an element of surprise to the process. These seeds can then become currency in gardening circles, providing an easy way to share and gain some new treasures.
So, tasks for late summer are to set about improving year-round colour in the garden, and to collect seeds and take cuttings for next year. Let’s just hope the fairies are feeling flahulach, and won’t steal too many from us.
Margaret Sheehan is a member of Ballinrobe Garden Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in Tacú Resource Centre, Ballinrobe. The club will hold its first meeting after its summer break on Tuesday, September 4.