1 August 2023

Head Gardeners’ tips
August 2023

Matthew Lee - Head Gardener, Northern Ireland

Before we get started, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Matthew, the newly appointed Head Gardener of Horatio's Garden Northern Ireland.

I can’t tell you all how excited I am to join the team and to nurture and develop the seventh Horatio’s Garden.

Before we get started, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Matthew, the newly appointed Head Gardener of Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland, and I can’t tell you all how excited I am to join the team and to nurture and develop the seventh Horatio’s Garden.

I am a reasonable newbie to the professional world of horticulture, having decided to change career four years ago after 18 years working for the NHS. The spark was ignited when I volunteered in the grounds of Montalto Estate and was encouraged to sign up for the Foundation Degree in Horticulture at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise’s (CAFRE) Greenmount Campus.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride since starting as Lead Horticulturist at Carrickfergus Urban Farm and Garden Centre, a social enterprise for adults with learning disabilities, autism, and acquired brain injury. Here, I gained a wealth of experience in all aspects of the horticultural sector.

I was then sent the link for the role of Head Gardener at Horatio’s Garden Northern Ireland by a friend, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. If someone had asked me to describe my dream job, this is exactly what I would have written. Not only does this role require, and invest in, high levels of horticulture, it is gardening with the most extraordinary purpose. Creating more than just a beautiful garden, it is creating a sanctuary that brings to the forefront the undeniable benefits of the healing power of green spaces, with patients at the heart of every design feature and plant grown.

I was sold instantly, applied, and here I am, living the dream (cliché I know, but it’s true).

As the nights get darker, growth begins to slow and the garden centres start thinking about Christmas, it’s easy for the August garden to start looking tired and a little less lush and inviting.

Don’t give up! Although the end may be in sight as autumn feels just around the corner, with a few simple tips, you can keep the garden alive and awash with colour for another few months yet.


The basics

These are just a few simple jobs that will make a world of difference to the appearance of your garden and encourage you to keep going.


  • Cut the grass – Slightly increase the height of your mower, leaving a bit more height and lushness to the lawn, but most importantly, work on the edges. Tidying up the edges of the lawn and paths can perk up the garden dramatically. Also start feeding the roots, not the shoots, by using a feed higher in phosphate, to strengthen the lawn as it heads into winter.
  • Deadhead – I try to make this a regular 5-10 minute job rather than a daunting, longer task. Carry a cup of tea in one hand and your garden snips in the other and just potter for a few minutes in the morning or after work. I like using floristry snips that hold on to the bit you cut off, meaning the job can be done with one hand.
  • Water and feed – Although I generally slow down on feeding this time of year, in order to start toughening plants up for the winter, it is a good idea to keep feeding annuals in pots, hanging baskets and window boxes weekly. Also keep an eye on watering, as although it may be raining, some plants still may not be getting enough water. This could be because the foliage is now so big and dense it acts like an umbrella and diverts the rain away from the pot, or it could be sitting in a rain shadow. A rain shadow is an area usually close to a wall, hedge, tree, or fence, where depending on the direction of the rain, it can remain significantly dry, even in heavy downpours.
  • Trim hedges – With all the rain we’ve had lately, hedges have put on some serious growth and can be looking a bit straggly. As with the lawn, tidying these up, even just around the edges, can make a huge difference. Do be vigilant though in checking for any nesting birds and ensure they are empty before you begin.
  • Remove and tidy up the borders – Even if you are creating a wildlife garden, where it is important to leave plant debris and dying stems as habitat, you can still benefit from a quick tidy up. By now some herbaceous perennials will have started to collapse under their own weight. Give them a bit of support by tying them up in bunches, or chop them back, tie up the stems into small bunches and hide them in amongst the borders as wildlife habitats. Also, some plants die well, leaving a beautiful structure of seed heads or stems, others die with dramatic ignorance for aesthetics, becoming quite the eye sore. If it’s not sparking joy, it’s time to go.


I could go on with more specific jobs for the month ahead, such as cutting back lavender, cutting back wildflower meadows, or pruning cherries and plums, but instead I’m going to remind you to stop. Sit in the garden and take note of all the things you love about it, all the things that have worked and all your accomplishments. You garden to feel good, so don’t dwell on the other stuff. The garden has had months of your attention, it’s your turn now.

My favourite August plants


  • Japanese anemones
  • Hydrangea
  • Dahlia
  • Echinacea
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Thalictrum delavayi
  • Salvias
  • Cosmos
  • Thunbergia
  • Cobaea scandens

Share this:

Keep in touch

Sign-up to hear the latest news and activities from Horatio’s Garden

By completing this form, you confirm that you are aged 18 years or over and that you are happy to receive emails from Horatio’s Garden in accordance with our Privacy Policy. We will never share your details with anyone else without your express permission.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping