I am sure we all feel this is a hellish year for the garden and the gardener. Never has my lawn looked so like a savannah, prairie or steppe. I guess yours is the same. Perhaps more saddening are the plants in the borders. Summer bedding plants are only surviving if they are in tubs or pots where they can be watered. Many of the herbaceous perennials are half dead and shrubs and young trees are wilting and shedding leaves prematurely. How sad.
On the other hand, if your garden serves as a social area with terrace, deck or seating for summer hospitality this year is perfect (so far). Lots of people are using their gardens more and later into the evening because the weather is so fabulously Mediterranean. Perfect for enjoying a glass of cold white wine, cool lager and outdoor cooking. That is what the garden is for (well, in this weather, anyway!)
What to do? Two thoughts: (i) learn about your soil and plants and (ii) target whatever water you have in an economical manner and to the plants where the water will make a big difference. Gardening is all about watching and learning. I have been surprised to see how sad the well-established birch and hosta look yet how healthy our roses and cornus look. I know, of course, that the water holding capacity of all soil is improved by adding organic matter but I defy anyone on our light soil to outwit the long, hot, dry spell however much mulch they have added over the years.
But, from the ‘reasons to be cheerful' department, this is a perfect year for tomatoes, aubergine and sweet corn. And those lucky enough to have a fig or peach can look forward to an abundance of sweet desserts. So, those with productive gardens will be busy harvesting and enjoying the fruits of their labour and freezing, bottling and jamming the surplus to carry over to the winter months.
The flower gardener can enjoy the heady scents of high summer. I love the hot smell of parched soil in the evening of a scorcher. Trumpet lilies like ‘African Queen' exude perfume perhaps too heady to be too close. Honeysuckle scents the air, which is possibly more pleasant. Returning to the Mediterranean theme, the gentle smell of lavender, sage and rosemary remind me of summer holidays.
But after all this enthusiasm for our hot dry summer I cannot wait for autumn rain to quench my parched garden. Sorry.
Happy Gardening, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Saturday 2 September. Autumn Flower Show at 2.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Sadly, autumn approaches, but this is our biggest show of the year and the hall will be brimming with Chrysanthemums, Dahlias, vegetables and fruit. The handicraft and food classes are always impressive, the photography classes attract lots of entries and the children's classes are always fun. Do join in or at least come and view out efforts. If you need ideas and enthusing contact Michael Pocock 248213 or Giles Derry 248716.
Tuesday 12 September. 7.30pm in the Village Hall. The history of roses, pruning and care. Andrew Mikolaiski will show and tell us about getting the best from these classic English garden flowers. Guests and non-members are always welcome.