July Thoughts


What a pleasure it is to take a stroll at Sissinghurst immediately after rain. It is Saturday morning and last night a big storm came thundering through, cooling the air and providing a welcome drink for the many plants. A faint warm mist hangs over the garden today and everything is rendered through a silvery haze of faded muslin.

Cutting the Meadow

The mowing regime of the Orchard at Sissinghurst is timed to accommodate the seeding of our yellow rattle that we sowed last year. The late July cutting of the grass, using scythes for the first time in a generation, also allows the narcissi bulbs to die back naturally, gives time for various wildlife to vacate, and allows for the intricate tapestry of grass and wildflowers to be enjoyed by visitors without noisy mowers and strimmers roaring through the orchard. Once cut, we are hoping to graze the Orchard with our farm sheep until mid-December when they are moved out so as not to disturb or ingest the emerging narcissi foliage.

The Orchard in summer

The Orchard in summer

 Lifting and dividing Irises

Bearded iris need dividing every third year – they’ll reward you with much better flowers. Dig them up and sort out plump pieces of root and then cut the leaves down to a fan shape, about 10cm in height. Dig the soil over and add a light dressing of organic matter, before replanting adding a sprinkling of dolomitic lime. We always stake the irises using one green pea stick and a tie per stem as wet and windy weather can damage the blooms.

Lift and divide congested irises to ensure a good display next year.

Lift and divide congested irises to ensure a good display next year.

Places to Sit

We have recently commissioned and placed a new seat within the Cottage Garden. When considering a seat in the garden, take time to select an appropriate design (we took our cue from a design of an already existing seat within the garden) also consider the scale and the positioning. Remember a seat is the place where you are inviting visitors to linger, to look, to be impressed and to be beckoned forward from. A seat with good prospect, but also with good refuge is the best.

Deadheading Roses

Dead heading is not so important with roses that flower only the once (for these it is the timing of the pruning that is important) however for repeat flowering roses, like ‘Meg’and ‘Blossom Time’ in the Top Courtyard, regular dead heading is vital to maintain the production of flowering shoots. Following some experimentation we now dead head to below the first set of leaves, always using clean, sharp secateurs. We find that once a week is sufficient, but this may need to be adjusted following wet or windy weather.

The Rose Garden in July

The Rose Garden in July

Just a point on spraying roses; we start spraying early in the season at two week intervals, only stopping whilst the rose is in flower and continuing until September. We use the fungicide Systhane, the soapy solution Savona and a feed within the same knapsack.

Now’s the time to…

  • Many people imagine that the planting season ended with spring and won’t return till autumn, but this is not the case. The warm conditions of summer can be excellent for establishing many plants, given sufficient water is available.
  • Many of the early flowering plants will be exhibiting ripening seed pods, so rather than leave them all to the birds, now is the time to collect a few into brown paper bags, which can be labelled and either sown fresh, or cleaned and stored for a later sowing.
  • Think about next year’s spring flowering bulbs. Not only is last spring not too distant a memory for you to recall where you thought a patch of Tulips or Narcissi would improve the scene, but also various bulb catalogues will shortly be arriving through the letter box to tempt you.
  • Summer pruning of early flowering shrubs, such as Philadelphus, Lupinus, Ligustrum and Spireas can be tackled now. Though this can wait till winter, you should be busier in the garden in winter and so take the opportunity to do it now, it is also sometimes easier to prune when the leaves are on and you can see the shape of the bush.

Troy Smith – Head Gardener


7 thoughts on “July Thoughts

  1. Troy by reading this blog it is clear you have brought fresh eyes and new energy to the garden. It is wonderful to read they are being vigorously well tended. I love that you used a scythe in the orchard. It is a very satisfying tool to use, and yes quiet too.. Thanks to everyone for all your care and dedication to the garden.


  2. A timely reminder to divide my irises but what is the dolomitic lime for and where would a humble home gardener get some from?


    • Irises prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil so dolomitic lime can be used to correct an acidic soil. It’s best to check your soil first so that you know whether this treatment is required. The RHS have a good page on their website about liming. I’m not sure where we bought ours from but I think any good garden supplier should stock it. Helen


  3. Great post – I love how you explain the reasons behind the tasks you’re doing. So much better than a slavish list to follow and allows readers to gauge whether the advice suits their situation as well.


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