Good Gardening with Mark Curtis: July 2018

01/07/18 News
As we pass by the Summer Solstice and temperatures rise, keeping cool whilst relaxing and enjoying the garden is all important. A small pond with a water feature will give those gentle brook-like murmurings. 
Both Froglife and the RSPB have recently noted the decline in ampihians due to the loss of their habitat, so a small pond, no matter how small, with attract wildlife to the garden. Even living in the centre of a town, it won't long before frogs find your small pond and make an enjoyable distraction from garden chores in the heat of the day. 
A bog area to the side of the pond will give extra cover and coolness for them and is easy to construct by using a sheet of pond liner or plastic buried in a dip and slightly pierced with a fork. Put a little shingle in the bottom and then backfill with soil, adding some humic compost to retain water. 
There are some lovely plants with dramatic shapes, the first to mind of course comes the Gunnera, though it’s too large for small areas. Actea ‘Brunnette’ is more reasonable, growing to 3-4 feet with purple foliage and spires of white flowers in autumn. Smaller still is Astilbe ‘Fanal' at 2 feet, with striking fluffy spires of purple flowers in summer. For big yellows spires of flower in full sun, you can't beat Ligularia przewalskii, having an attractive palmate leaf and dark stems to the flower. It reaches a towering 6 feet, but it’s worth it. 
If ferns are more your thing, Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich fern) is a must. It can make 3-6 feet in sun or full shade, but doesn't like prolonged hot spells. It will spread, so give it room, as does Osmunda regalis (Royal fern). Named after the Saxon god Osmund – or Thor, in Norse legend, it prefers an acidic moist soil. 
If these damp places attract the odd snail, consider the benefits of ‘Snail Gel', which apparently keeps Chilean snail farmers youthful. The M.D. of the product says ‘It sounds like something you wouldn't put on your face, but you would be surprised!' 
Mark Curtis
Plant Manager, Tates of Sussex

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