Posted on 11.11.2022 |
Added in Sheila May's Blog

Drought this summer – winners and losers in our garden (1)
 
I shall start with a current star plant that began flowering in September and was still going strong til the end of October –  ‘Album' – growing under the Weigela and coping well with drought and heat in the summer:-

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 Although I am heading this up “Drought” we had one of those horticultural years where, to use a non-drought analogy, we met a perfect storm.  We had the weather extremes of a very wet winter, not too cold; and then a dry spring (not too hot, but dry) followed by an increasingly hot May/June and heatwave conditions in July and August as well as the drought which continued for us here until into September; but we were presented at the beginning of 2022 with both himself, and my Mum (225 miles away) both being referred via cancer pathways to try and sort out different conditions.  This meant that from the end of January we were on tenterhooks (and the horns of a dilemma – I am going to get as many mixed metaphors in here as I can!)  We could not plan/know when one, or other of them would need to be taken for consultant appointments; scans; tests; repeat, never mind operations, nursing etc.  Based on timescales and next steps given to each of them at their first meetings with the consultant we expected a certain timeframe/set of scans/tests/meets for results, and in both cases, what happened was COMPLETELY different, so what to do?  When should I sow the vegetable seeds, so they were vaguely ready at the right time for planting out, versus when we might be away and they might die in the propagator?  Should I even try and sow my Hardy Plant seed list seeds that I had received in January?   We had created several new parts of the garden which needed bedding in, and were about to buy plants as well as sow the HPS seed to make plants for new areas to be created this year.  I felt we should write off this year in terms of new horticulture, and just consolidate what we had – no HPS seed sowing as there would be no new beds/garden to put them in, no new expensive plants sitting in pots waiting for new parts of the garden to be created.  I was persuaded that I should try and grow all the vegetables from seed as usual, and my husband was adamant that I should germinate all the HPS seed as well, and we would deal with the consequenses.   (Though he did agree to hold off on the buying of plants).  
I will deal with the vegetable growing this year in heat and drought separately when I look back over the year and forward to plans for 2023 in a different article.  I shall also look at what I grew from the HPS seeds in a separate article.  Here I am going to look at how our “pretty” garden fared this year with the double whammy of drought and lack of my focussed attention.  And even in this situation, there were definitely winners as well as losers.

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 One set of clear winners this year were the roses.  We had a good, very early rose flowering year – here you may be able to see that very unusually the Rosa ‘Lavender Lassie' is flowering at the same time as not just the white Rosa ‘Frühlingsduft' but also whilst the Rosa ‘Canary Bird' still had some yellow flowers on AND the pink and red Rosa ‘Grootendorst' were in flower below it.   Normally the R. ‘Lavender Lassie' and Rosa ‘Frühlingsduft' are in flower after the other two had finished, but this year these flowered earlier than usual, and we had a great display.  Helped by the fact that one of the few jobs I did manage to get to between everything else was pruning the roses in February at the usual time and then deadheading them after flowering, we had a second flush of R. Lavender Lassie', and repeats on many others during September, here the red rambler ‘Hereford' as an example:-

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ramblerherefordsecondflush 19

 This has also meant a great rose hip year too with lots of colourful hips.  One example is the on the Mediterranean courtyard which flowered well, but went over quickly and by 18 August we have a lovely sight of cinnamon coloured hips, with the Golden Rod already in flower (again, a plant that went to seed very quickly but did not seem to be affected by the drought otherwise):-

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 The Rosa glauca hips have gone from strength to strength this autumn, going a lovely red colour and staying plump and intact through September and October:-

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 Whilst talking of winners, and staying with the same botanical family – we have all had a great apple and pear crop down here – though our early ripeners were cropped and enjoyed by our neighbours.  As we did not do any thinning of the fruit, and there was obviously no water at the right time, the fruit are smaller than usual – but abundant and extremely tasty.  
Whereas, the Grapes (Vitis Vinifera Black Hamburg) that looked great on 18 August fared badly:-

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 Because the vine was not only not watered, but definitely more crucially was not pruned, nor the leaves removed, it developed a severe case of mildew on the leaves, and the grapes went hard/split/developed botrytis:-

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 The loser here was himself who loves his grapes.  He sought advice from the RHS and has removed grapes/foliage/pruned severely and disposed of the plant material carefully so as to not spread the spores of botrytis.  An example of where it really does matter that you keep an eye on a plant, and prune/thin foliage, and watch for signs of disease, something we do automatically normally, but as this year shows it really is invaluable.   
Looking within the rose garden on 18 August, we found many dessicated hardy Geranium clumps – the flower spikes burned to a crisp, the leaves withering away – this is Geranium x oxonianum f. thurstonianum:-

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 Looking across the rose garden you saw a sea of dead G. endressii flower spikes amid struggling ground elder and bind weed:-

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 But even in this scene of devastation and neglect – if you look a bit closer there are winners (and I DON'T mean bindweed!):-

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 The is in flower, the Cardoon () to its right is about to flower (quickly going over, but making big fluffy seedheads the gold finches are tucking into as I write), and the pink flower you see is an unnamed Hybrid T rose in second flower.  I know you expect me to show you very happy geraniums currently flowering their socks off in the garden now.  And indeed, without any attention from me at all, I CAN show you that the leaves have recovered to green mounds, here on 30 September, but not one geranium has flowered again.  Not even Geranium x oxonianum f. thurstonianum which usually flowers nonstop. 

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 As if to completely turn the idea of neglect as a bad thing on its head is how successful our cannas have been this year.  They are Canna ‘Black Knight', and they lived in their old pots in the shed all winter – and all survived without any additional coverings, showing how mild the winter was.  For once, I brought them out at the right time (ie when the night temperatures were not too cold), and split them, and repotted them in a rich fertilizer and multipurpose mix.  They then sat on my propagating patio waiting for the moment to be deployed, (which never happened!) and were very luckily watered by our fantastic neighbours if we were away.  They had no other feed, and look what happened – here on 18 August in full flower too:-

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 This has got to be the biggest and best they have grown – they loved the heat, and set lots of seed from those orange flowers.   The collarette Dahlia you can see at their base had the same treatment, but whilst it made leaf growth, very few flowers.  It obviously needs the tomato feed to make it flower.  As I grow the cannas for the foliage anyway, I will see if I can replicate this next year…..the growing conditions, not the neglect and reliance on the neighbours!
 This is becoming a long and unwieldy article, so I shall stop here with one more photo and observation and continue with other winners and losers in the drought next month.  Here is what looks like some winners – the Variagated Ivy and the Virginia Creeper () doing their colourful thing on the fence on the last day of September:-

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 However, whilst they ARE winners, you should not be able to see the bare stems of the red hybrid T rose on the left, there should be a subsp. Wulfenii round its skirts (which has died) and between that and where I was standing to take the photo a large orange-flowered Cape Fuschia () which was flat to the path and leafless at this point – the stems/branches had some sap in them when I cut them to about 15 cm from the ground  – and I checked them on 23 October, and can report that there are new green leaves on the Cape Fuchsia, so it looks like its recovered, phew.
 Sheila May

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