July is the time of high summer and the borders are in full swing. Most of our late summer plantings are in the ground and watching them develop is a joy. But already we need to start looking ahead to next season. If we can get some seeds in now, then they can be grown on through the end of summer in our cold frames, hopefully resulting in some really good plants for next year.
Lupins are a plant which we have enjoyed working with over the years and now is a really good time to get them started. Although they are perennial, their second and third years tend to be the best and after that, they can become a bit tired and ugly. Because of this we start new ones each year so that they can be replaced in the borders on a regular cycle. If we get some seeds going well now, they should be strong plants in 3l pots by the autumn and ready to plant out at the same time as our tulips. Their foliage is lovely, making beautiful combinations with spring bulbs. But in June, when there can sometimes be a bit of a gap in the gardens flowering, these beautiful spikes of colour are priceless.
Russell lupins tend to be the best candidates for this treatment, as reliable hardy plants. They were developed by Mr. Russell in Yorkshire who spent decades hybridising L. polyphyllus until the late 1930s when he had developed a range he was proud of. ‘Noble Maiden’ is an excellent white one, which works so well around and under our white wisteria, making a stalagmite and stalactite effect. Another combination, which worked well this season, was the creamy yellow lupin ‘Chandelier’ alongside the pinky red of ‘My Castle’. Although this may sound a little garish it was a real success around the pinks and reds of Rosa mutabilis and something to develop.
Lots of other plants can be treated in this way such as fox gloves and Aquilegia but I am especially excited about a species carnation we are currently sowing called Dianthus carthusianorum. We tried a few seeds a couple of years ago, which my colleague Stuart were given, and the handful of plants that resulted were stunning. They start flowering in June with charming magenta blooms and continue all the way through to September. It makes a lovely translucent tussock which reaches about 30 cm and doesn’t need staking. Such a lovely discovery has to be expanded upon and so I have high hopes for the seeds we are getting in this month.