06 Jul 2022

Gardening with Jo: Get your dose of Vitamin G with May garden maintenance

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening with Jo: Get your dose of Vitamin G with May garden maintenance

Magnolia Susan

The luxury of it. For the first time this year I got to write my column in the sunshine in the garden, cappuccino in front of me, after a morning in the garden. It was the hubby’s birthday today and what did he want? His very own lawnmower.

Obviously we have lots of lawnmowers but they are never there when you need them, they’re always out on projects or there is no fuel for them or they need repairing. So he wanted his own, but he wanted a roller mower so he could create stripes in his lawn. This morning we got up and Ian mowed his lawn and I set to on the garden beds.

I planted some late bulbs that I had meaning to for a few weeks, and some dahlias for pots. I picked up some beautiful yellow shades of dahlia for some pots I have coming up the driveway, and some lovely pink ones for pots at my back door. I pulled weeds in the beds, something that is key to do at this time of year. Keeping on top of them is key. If you lose the battle now you will loose the war so little and often is the key.

I picked up on a term that I heard and am going to make it my own as the sentiment was not lost on me; getting your dose of Vitamin G. Twenty to thirty minutes of gardening is like a pick me up. With fresh air, exercise and a beautiful garden at the end of it, what is not to feel happy about? It’s a take on our upcoming Bloom garden, responding to the events of the last few years and taking the time out. Our garden is aptly named Hit Pause, so take time out and get your weekly dose of Vitamin G.

So what’s happening in the gardens right now? If yours is like mine - and from the fact that you’re here I’d say some of you have lovely gardens - then everything is looking rosy.

My rhododendrons are in full bloom. I have a Cunningham’s White and a smaller, more compact Doc. My wisteria is in full delicious flower and the scent is out of this world. It creeps along the side of the house and up and over the window. The euphorbia is a bountiful bed of lime green and the nepeta looks like it will burst into lilac flower over the next couple of days. My ceanothus, which is a treasured plant as it reminds me of my mum’s garden, is a riot of blue balls, and the peonies are ready to explode into flower.

My cherry trees are still holding onto the last of the now-faded blossom and the magnolia flowers are still hanging in there too. So weeding was paramount to do this week and with Bloom on the horizon I might not get chance for a few weeks. I hand weed mostly, with a hoe lifting under the roots before they get established. I pulled them by hand from my pots and around my lavender which is starting to create a wonderful carpet under the olive trees, which also have lots of fabulous new growth.

Prairie planting

I cleaned down the pots after the winter and added mulch after I’d added a liquid feed. Liquid is better at this time of year and I use a pure organic seaweed on them. One of my long planters of lavender from my back door had died - I think I cut it back a little too late and I lost them all - so I replanted it with dahlias for this summer. Some are a lovely pink to deep dark almost black, and they will create a wonderful haze of colour outside my kitchen window.

It was time for a little cutting back of some of the herbaceous perennials. My lupins, nepeta and salvia all got cut back so that they flower for a longer period. I tend to cut half of the plants back by one-third so I still have some flowers now, and do more in four to five weeks time when I will cut back the ones that have just flowered and can hopefully keep them flowering for a much longer period.

I also cut back the verbena by three-quarters so that they can start to put their energy into this year's growth. Everything got a feed including the lawn and himself did all the edging in the garden.

I gave my hydrangeas a good feed and mulch as they are now starting to put on some foliage. Please note that they aren’t flowering yet and some of the varieties aren’t growing that much yet either. The ones I planted earlier this year up my driveway aren’t doing that much at all just yet and that is exactly as it should be. Honestly, I feel like shouting from the rooftops when I get messages at this time of year (and earlier) saying that the plants we supplied look miserable and aren’t flowering - they shouldn’t be! We supplied hydrangeas to a landscaper some weeks ago now, a variety that is exceptionally slow and notoriously late flowering but are so worth the wait. Hydrangea Merveille Sanguine, as it is known, has the most fabulous purple tinged leaves below deep mauve flowers - but expect to wait five to six years for it to establish properly and your patience will be rewarded. This landscaper rejected the delivery on the basis that the plants weren’t flowering – yes, in April!


The last thing I did in the garden was to plant more grasses. I have an area in the garden in front of the garage where I wanted to create more of a prairie feel. We have some grasses there already but I wanted to create a bed that I could photograph for our website and to show our clients the plants that work best so I set about adding the plants I needed. I planted in swathes several plants that included festuca glauca, pink muhly grass, verbascum, pervoskia liatris and gaura lindheimeri.

On the area in front I planted three simple grey pots with good sized agaves to seamlessly take the planting through. I love this new planting and can’t wait to see it establish more.

So after all that work, I sat down to write this - on my garden furniture that I washed down a couple of weeks ago. I am lucky that as designer of my outdoor furniture range, I get to have a couple of sets in my own garden and the teak is so beautiful. It is tactile and has silvered beautifully over the couple of years. I kept the colours simple but added splashes of colour with throw cushions in shades of orange and deep green.

Caragh Nurseries' furniture range

So now I’m coming to the end of my column for this week and after the hard work I think I deserve something a little more special - just in time as my daughter walks across with a glass of rosé. Cheers

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