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July is high season in the garden - time to slow down and enjoy the blooms

Time to slow down and take it easy...

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Diarmuid Gavin pictured in his garden at his home at Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
27/5/20

Diarmuid Gavin pictured in his garden at his home at Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 27/5/20

Achillea

Achillea

Lavender

Lavender

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Diarmuid Gavin pictured in his garden at his home at Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 27/5/20

What a strange year it’s been, not only with Covid-19 but also our weather. A brilliant, sunny spring led into an early summer drought, and now we have downpours. In turbulent times, the thing to cling to is nature and gardening, always there and dependable. July is high season in the garden so we should all take the time to slow down and enjoy our plots in full bloom. Unlike the first, fast flush of May and June, July is not so fleeting, and there is so much variety — from roses and shrubs to annuals, herbaceous and exotics — to appreciate.

So, what is looking especially good this month? If I were to pick something with interesting foliage, it’d be Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’, the rice paper tree. It’s a woody shrub, nearly the size of a small tree, with huge lobed leaves that can be as large as 2ft in diameter. Later there will be white flowers but you really grow this to achieve an instant tropical effect. Although exotic-looking, it’s hardy, hailing from the mountains of Taiwan, but I’d add some protection in very harsh winters. I’ve just moved my Tetrapanax from an obscure spot in the garden, where it was being crowded by a melee of herbaceous geranium, to a more prominent position near a new sunken area, and I can’t wait to appreciate it as it develops.

Another interesting specimen doing its thing this month is Sonchus arboreus, the tree dandelion. This odd-looking plant looks like Roald Dahl got his hands on a dandelion, or a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The foliage is wonderful and topped with clusters of yellow flowers. I’ve been watching a specimen Sonchus in Helen Dillon’s new Dublin garden for months now, and this week it was in full, delightful blossom.