I have said, probably numerous times, before, that by August the successful gardener should be in the enviable position of being able to sit back, hopefully in the sun and enjoy his or her work with nothing much to be done than a little routine maintenance. With luck, there will be few weeds to be seen in beds and borders and everything should be well mulched and moist , keeping the soil cool.

However, to some extent that is probably a fantasy entertained by many of us; it is true to say, though that a good gardener should have time to look at and enjoy the garden and not simply create a monster that takes up all of your time and becomes a constant chore.

At this late stage in the season it is not a bad idea to give some consideration to how things might be done differently to allow a little more leisure time. I have already mentioned mulching; this can be done with bark or compost or even grass cuttings, as long as they are not put on too thickly so that they heat up . Freshly cut grass can also use up nitrogen during the rooting process and rob your plants of this nutrient.

On a previous occasion, discussing plants that give a good show late in summer, I mentioned Hydrangeas; this year many of the traditional varieties are not doing so because the wood on which they would have flowered was killed off by the very low winter temperatures we experienced at the back end of last year; many varieties are simply growing back from ground level, but at least, as long as we don’t have a similar winter again, they should flower on this new growth next year.

There are certain new varieties or groups of varieties that flower on new wood (one is the “All Summer Long” series) and these are worth seeking out; also the Hydrangea paniculata varieties such as “Vanille Fraise” can be pruned back at the end of winter and will flower on new growth.

Hydrangea arborescens (the commonest variety is “Annabelle”, not named after a lady, but a place in Texas I believe) can also be pruned in this way but may then produce such large flowerheads that they flop down under their own weight.
If you want to grow Hydrangeas in containers, bear in mind that if you want to change the flower colour to blue (not all pink varieties do this) you will need to grow them in Ericaceous compost and add blueing powder (Aluminium sulphate).

I frequently see shrubs which have relatively few flowers when they should have a lot and this is often caused by late pruning in the previous season; most shrubs that flower in early summer make the new growth on which they will flower in the next season, after the end of flowering; if you prune them or worse, cut them with a hedge trimmer, in August, you will cut off this new wood and they will produce only a few flowers on the bits you missed. They should be pruned immediately after flowering and only the branches on which they have just flowered should be cut out, even if this does not give them the neat, rounded appearance that some people wish to impose on them!

Many summer flowering bulbs are still in flower in August, e.g. Gladioli. including the beautifully scentedGladiolus callianthus, (formerly known as Acidanthera murielae) and many lilies; Nerines, which like a warm sunny spot, should be coming into flower now. Their foliage which grows earlier in the year, looks untidy when they flower and they should ideally grow through a low growing plant that disguises this, without preventing the bulbs which grow on the surface and like to be warm, from getting plenty of sun.

You can get started on planting daffodils and other narcissi now, they should be in garden centres or a wider selection is available from catalogues. They will start developing new roots now although their foliage may not appear until after Christmas. You can also plant those pot-flowering varieties such as “Paper-White” now for flowering indoors in mid-winter.

In the vegetable garden, you can plant spring cabbage and over-wintered onion seeds in mid-August, or the latter can be left and grown from “sets” put out in October. Perpetual Spinach can also be sown for winter use.
On fruit trees, wasps are often a problem at this time of year and can be caught in (bottle) traps hung in the trees and baited with beer or syrup if necessary.

Soon will be the season of local flower shows. If you have more than one near you and they do not clash you can maybe hawk your prize marrows and onions from one to the other and round off your gardening year with two or more prizes!