Remember those discarded wellington boots that you planted up with annuals in May? Is your witty vignette of polythene and petunias looking a little sad? Do you have a concrete snail with a trail of nasturtiums growing out of its posterior? Shame on you. If you have good taste, you may have pots of plants performing on your patio. If you don’t trust to good fortune alone, you will have been giving them the occasional splash of liquid fertilizer. If they are still alive, you will certainly have been watering them with monotonous regularity, despite torrential rain and the occasional clap of thunder.
Being a gardener means planning for the future, even if things are going quite well. If you haven’t been adding nourishment, now is the time to ransack the shed for something suitable. If, like me, you save every bottle of gunk ever purchased (I paid good money for that, it’ll come in handy one day) you will have some dozen jars of stuff from which time, damp and possibly slugs have eaten the labels. If you can’t tell whether the contents are Miracle Grow or Weedol, best not to spritz it all over your prized display. I use different feeds, whichever is first placed on the shelf including tomato food, Baby Bio, seaweed extract for the acid lovers and the aforementioned miracle formula. I don’t keep tubs of festering nettles or comfrey to make my own but then I’m fastidious and something of a slacker. One of my customers used to give her hanging baskets the occasional bottle of Guinness. She never offered me so much as a glass of water when I was working, so on sunny days the temptation to lie beneath the dripping dangling display with my mouth open was overwhelming.
Most plants will benefit from a haircut if they are getting leggy. Stems that are becoming unproductive can be shortened by a third to encourage new blooms. Deadhead like a demon to prolong the show as long as possible. When the spectacle starts to dwindle, you can see the wisdom of choosing a few chunky funky tubs to give added interest.
Aesculus hippocastanum bonsai (horse chestnut) & hanging basket
Although I love the dollop of brightness of tender transients, I don’t rely on them entirely. I keep trees, shrubs and perennials in containers, for moving about the garden in order to conceal sudden batches of baldness. Now is a good time to evict any weeds and top dress with compost. If you can move the plant without a crane or team of navvies, trim roots which are escaping through drainage holes or due to its size, decide that it would be happier in a border. If it is dead, bite the bullet and put it on the compost heap. If it was a gift, practice your excuses or buy another of appropriate size. Lying is never a sin, if done to save someone’s feelings. If your plastic meercat with grass hair was given to you, perhaps you should question whether the donor actually likes you. If you smashed the article into a puree rather than allow it to sully your garden, you should consider resorting to the truth. You don’t want to tell them a hard luck story and risk them buying you a replacement.