In the garden this week
Buy clematis when it’s flowering to be sure you get the variety you want. This purple-flowering Clematis viticella (Étoile Violette) is in bloom at the moment. Photograph: Richard Johnston
If you have a polytunnel, now is the time to start sowing seed for autumn and overwintering crops of vegetables such as beetroot. Photograph: Richard Johnston
Use some edible flowers, herbs and fruit to make your very own delicious homemade ice-lollies. Strawberries, mint, blackberries, borage flowers, marigold petals are all delicious options. Moulds are readily available from most supermarkets. For a range of tasty recipes, check out Ice Kitchen; 50 Lolly Recipes, Sensations on a Stick by Cesar and Nadia Rosen. (Quadrille)
The frothy, lime-green flowers of lady’s mantle, or Alchemilla mollis, are now beginning to fade. To prevent the plant from self-seeding all over your garden, use a sharp garden shears to cut these away as soon as they start to discolour. Don’t worry about accidentally cutting back the plant’s scallop-shaped leaves; it will quickly grow a fresh crop.
There’s still plenty of time to sow seed for salad crops as well as radishes, Florence fennel and turnips for growing outdoors. If you have a polytunnel, now is the time to start thinking about sowing seed for autumn and overwintering crops of vegetables including dwarf French beans, Swiss chard, spring cabbage, kale, beetroot and broccoli.
Keep harvesting cucumbers and courgettes, as otherwise the plants will stop producing new fruits, concentrating their energies instead on the ripening seeds. Both courgettes and cucumbers are thirsty, hungry plants that will benefit from a mulch of compost around the roots, which helps preserve moisture and nutrients in the soil.
Have you ever been disappointed to discover that a clematis you bought in good faith as a particular named variety turned out to be incorrectly labelled? I know I have, which is why it’s a good idea to buy these climbing plants when they’re in flower, when you can be sure of what you’re getting. Among those now in bloom, look for the purple-flowering Clematis viticella Étoile Violette, an easygoing, long-flowering variety suitable for growing up a tree or shrub, or in combination with climbing roses.