Best of the bunch - heuchera

Heuchera. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
Heuchera. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Once grown for their stems of dainty flowers in pink or white which are a magnet for bees, heucheras have now become the must-have hardy perennial for their impressive foliage.

Thanks to a deluge of new cultivars, you can now get heucheras with leaf colours ranging from deep purple metallic hues to acid green. Most grow up to 60cm and will sit happily at the front of borders, while small divisions can be used as foliage interest in containers. The purple types look effective with silver foliage plants.

Heucheras like a well-drained but fertile soil in a sunny or lightly shaded spot. Divide them every three years or they’ll become woody. Interesting varieties include H. ‘Lime marmalade’, which has acid green leaves, and H. ‘Palace purple’, which bears sprays of salmon pink flowers above shiny burgundy leaves and looks great in drifts with other foliage plants.

Good Enough to East - courgettes

It’s almost time to put those courgettes you’ve been keeping under cover in their final positions in the garden, once all danger of frost has passed. They take up a lot of space, but if you can find room in a border or patio tub you should have a constant supply of tender courgettes throughout summer.

Prepare your planting hole, adding plenty of organic matter and leave a low mound, planting the plant into the top of the mound, to direct excess rain away from the base of the plant and help to prevent stem rot. Water the plant thoroughly. If you’re planting in a border allow at least 1m between each plant and row. Keep the area well-weeded.

If you’re planting in a container, make sure it’s big enough to hold 30 litres of compost. Once flowering starts in July and August, give the plant a good soak weekly and feed plants regularly with a dilute tomato feed.

Pick fruits regularly to encourage cropping. Good varieties include ‘Defender and ‘Sunburst’, which has bright yellow flattened and scalloped fruits.

What to do this week

Tie in new shoots of autumn-fruiting raspberries as they continue to grow.

Sow alpine strawberries in a seedbed.

Take cuttings from fuchsias to provide a batch of young plants which should flower in autumn.

If dry conditions prevail, allow some grass clippings to remain over the lawn, which will provide a mulch to retain some moisture.

Plant out hardened off annuals when all danger of frost is over.

Continue to sow French and runner beans and erect supports for climbing beans.

Start to cut lawns with naturalised bulbs, making the first cut high.

Harden off aubergines, courgettes, peppers, pumpkins and tomatoes grown from seed before planting outside.

Water the vegetable patch regularly in dry weather.

Sow swede, beetroot, maincrop carrots, peas, radish, calabrese and cabbage.

Damp down the greenhouse regularly.