Flower Power: The air is full of scents as summer solstice arrives

News Desk (02 July, 2020)

In ancient times midsummer was steeped in mystery and magic

37588Tilia - Lime

May was a dry month with plenty of sun and higher than usual temperatures; June started with cooler conditions and it has remained changeable with thundery showers – more typical weather for this time of year, writes Jackie Power…

The air is full of summer scents from the flowering shrubs and trees; Jasmine will be here for a while, also the perfumed hybrid tea roses now joined by Lavender‘s aromatic flowers – which the bees adore. Linden or the Lime tree (Tilia) is full of little flowers but they pack a powerful nectar-sweet perfume most noticeable during warm evenings. Lime flowers are a popular herbal tea (from health food shops) traditionally used to soothe sore throat and fever; but it is also used to calm anxiety, and soothe digestion. (Do not self diagnose or medicate; seek the advice of a health care professional if feeling unwell).

Summer solstice falls on 20th June – the longest day of the year. In ancient times midsummer was steeped in mystery and magic; celebrations were based on the Celtic Festival of Fire; we know this from the mysterious stone circles constructed to capture the alignment of the rising sun on the longest day (Stonehenge being the most famous example).

One of the solstice plants is Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort); golden flowers appear in June – and according to folklore the plant was used to protect houses from evil spirits. St John’s wort was traditionally harvested around June 24th – the feast day of St John the Baptist. This perennial shrub with its glossy dark green leaves tolerates most conditions and provides ground cover. Alas, it has no perfume, but the cheerful blooms plus the plant’s healing and folklore tradition make up for this omission.

It is time to prepare hanging baskets; fill with a mix of herbs such as Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Nasturtiums, scented geraniums, strawberry plants; or the usual summer annuals – trailing Lobelia, Geraniums and Fuchsias.

Weeds grow quickly at this time of year and need to be cleared regularly and before setting seed. Slugs and snails seem particularly numerous and are always clever at hiding away; lack of rain keeps their movements to a minimum. But after watering and rainfall they will come out to munch everything. Aphids (greenfly) are also active – deal with them quickly as they weaken plants. Use environmentally friendly measures to deal with all pests; see the Organic Gardening Catalogue.  Ordinary chemical pesticides kill beneficial insects like bees, ladybirds and lacewings (the latter two eat greenfly).

Rainfall so far this month has been low – regular watering is needed – especially for window boxes and pots.

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