There is an old saying “If the Oak be before the Ash we will have a splash, but if the Ash be before the Oak we will have a soak”. Rarely accurate and not based on any science that we know of, it is nevertheless something that us weather nerds look at every year. It is a close run thing this year but I am satisfied that the Oak has it and so that means we are going to have a ‘splash’ of summer rain, or not as the case may be! Although the season is now very late, some estimates put it at up to four weeks, growth is steady and so far (late May) we have been free of the late frosts. This has been a superb spring for flowers lasting for weeks longer than usual
– not much late frost, not much heavy rain and not much in the way of damaging winds.
Amongst the excellent displays has been the early flowering Clematis Montana available in white, pink or deep rose (Montana ‘Rubens’). Looking at the local displays I couldn’t help notice a reluctance to prune it properly, after flowering, to stop it becoming too large, and heavy. This plant can grow to such a size, and weight, that it can bring down fence panels! So be warned and wait until the last flowers fade and then prune it firmly back into shape. If it has become too big for its space it is possible to prune it hard although that can reduce next year’s flower. The prunings are ideal for our community composting team to shred and add to our award winning ‘Black Gold’ compost made entirely from local waste brought to the site in Approach Road. So bag it up take it to the site any Saturday morning from 10.00-12.00.
My plant for the month is the Fuchsia, one of my very favourite species. It is easy to propagate from cuttings and it ranges from hardy forms (Mrs Popple) all the way to tender species (Fucshia boliviana) that must be kept in a frost- free environment, preferably a heated conservatory. In between there are endless colour combinations for containers, the flower border and hanging baskets - you can even train them as a standard plant. It is true that they need to be started early in baskets and this may require some protection from late frosts but once they start flowering they will not stop until the frost gets them. There are a few ‘rules’: remove dead flower heads and any seed, trim back stems that become woody (summer prune), give a liquid feed little and often, and most of all do not let them dry out and become stressed as this will stop the production of flowering wood.
They will keep over winter in dry compost and a frost-free spot. At dusk on a warm summer’s evening you might notice a very large moth-like insect hovering as it seeks out the nectar from the flowers – this is in fact likely to be one of our native Humming Bird Hawk Moths. Many is the time I have tried to take a photograph and only managed to capture a bit of a wing - yes they hover but then move on quickly!