Summer stars

Lonicera Belgica.
Lonicera Belgica.

Three stars of the summer garden have started their annual charm offensive and they are simply irresistible.

Even if you tried looking the other way as you approached them, the fragrances are so intense upon entering their air space that they have to be followed to the source.

Honeysuckle Begica.

Honeysuckle Begica.

Roses, honeysuckle and sweet peas are in a class of their own.

Local bridleways that were recently white with May blossom, have suddenly transformed into a display of white and pink rosa canina, aka dog-rose.

Nature’s timing on the flowering of these and the cultivated varieties in our gardens, is just about spot on this year.

The third week in June generally heralds the first and best display of summer.

Maintaining it for as long as possible is number one priority so the removal of spent flowers (dead-heading) has begun and will continue throughout summer.

This simple process, either twisting and lifting the spent bloom by hand to remove it, or snipping it free with secateurs at the nearest leaf joint, delays the formation of hips thus encouraging more buds.

One of the reasons wild woodbine or honeysuckle persists in local roadside hedges is because it is regularly pruned.

The short top-back-and-sides treatment arrives in autumn when a tractor-driven cutting device trims the hawthorn.

When the cultivated varieties in our gardens are left unpruned, the stems become brittle with age and die.

There are several rambling over garden hedges down the lane which, on a calm summer evening, are simply heavenly to walk past. They belong to the lonicera family and a favourite to look out for is L. periclymenum Belgica which is in full bloom now. Honeysuckle will tolerate semi-shade and ramble all over the place if allowed, but is at its best when given some form of support to climb against. It is easily raised from soft or hardwood cuttings.

Friend Jim has grown sweet peas to perfection for years and it is a pleasure to see his exhibits at the summer shows, but oh the work he puts in to reach that standard! There is the ground preparation, supporting framework, raising, planting, netting, training and timing of blooms for particular shows.

This represents hours of work and it can all be in vain if the weather fails to cooperate or pollen beetles arrive.

No wonder most of us go for the easier option of planting against some form of climbing support and let them get on with growing naturally. This way may result in shorter stems and smaller blooms, but we’ve just picked nine flowers for a first vase of the season and they are gorgeous. What a ‘good morning’ welcome they offer as we walk into the room. The perennial sweet pea is something else. The flowers cannot match the cultivated annual types for fragrance or size, but simply give the plants a framework to climb up and they’ll do the rest.