Welcome to one of the strangest summers on or off the record. Here are some tips to get through the rest of this season with garden as unscathed as possible.
The garden this week. It’s winding up to have its late summer flush of blooms.And it needs a good haircut which will be happening in the next few weeks.
Alas we are in the middle of what may be the new normal: Summers so dry the plants are gasping; and so hot they are frying in the ground. It has been a rough time this year putting in gardens only to find that no matter how careful people are, they might be overwatering or they might be under watering.
There is only one way to tell and that’s to stick a long-handled spoon or trowel into the soil to see how deep the water has percolated. It has to make it to below the root systems of your biggest plants (trees and shrubs). If it’s dry two knuckles down, you must water immediately.
You can often tell if you are overwatering when the leaves curl up and turn brown. But this is not always the most reliable test. * Make sure the plant is watered from the base. When we plant anything in clients’ gardens, we stand and water every single new plant gently at the base. It takes time but it means getting to know the plants intimately. Count to 60 and observe your surroundings in a nicely Zenish manner. * Foliage can get all choked up with construction dust and all the other crap in our air these days. Give plants a refreshing shower early in the day. Make sure they dry out before the sun hits them and could possibly create a burn (remember grade school experiments??) * Containers need attention almost every day. *Vegetables and fruit shouldn’t dry out between watering. * Be careful with the water you do use. Don’t leave hoses sprinkling way in the midday heat. Total waste of time and water. * Don’t ignore what damage winds can do. Warm winds on hot days can dry plants out so quickly it’s hard to keep up with the damage they can do. We seem to get these scary winds in late afternoon and just when the plants have put up with temps in the 30C plus. As always be the patient observer who can also add a bit of moisture to the soil.
This is a piece I did for the CBC on pruning. Have a look at it and keep the tips mentioned here in mind for the future.
I never go out into my garden without secateurs. But in the last while we have been plagued with stinging red ants. I’ve developed such an allergy to their nasty little bites that I swell up revoltingly when they managed to crawl past socks and plastic wrap around my legs. I had a really terrific bug terminating company come in and place bait everywhere they could see ant hills in the garden. This has helped immeasurably. And all the neighbours are doing the same so we may be able to skip the possibility of a total fumigation. I’d consider it because last year they were so terrifying I could barely work in the garden. I love being back to moving comfortably in my bit of Eden this year.
This is my favourite hellebore sitting pretty with Hakonochloa macra ‘All Gold’ and Saruma henryi in the background right; and Sciadopitys or Japanese umbrella pine on the left.
This is a great plant and it’s been a good year with lots of spring water in spite of the temperatures. The plant will seed everywhere slowly and with elegance. But do keep that in mind. I have it next to a walkway and everyone who shovels throws snow and ice on top of it and, still, it starts blooming in February and just carries on.
I am pretty crazy about most hellebores and love the idea of adding one or two each year to my own small collection: H. ‘Pink Frost’; H. ‘Ivory Prince’. H. ‘Wedding Bells’ and H. ‘Royal Heritage’. This has been a great year for them: lots of rain in spring and enough dry days to make them get to astonishing sizes.
Hydrangeas have been phenomenal as well. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Fire and Ice’ a wonderful 200 cm plant which starts out with white blooms that slowly turn to dark pink into the autumn. I forgot to cut it back in spring but this did not seem to retard its glorious growth this summer even though they bloom on new wood.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Fire and Ice’. A superb lace-cap hydrangea that seems to need little or not work whatsoever.
No matter what plants you are thinking of adding to garden this autumn, make sure they can hold their own in difficult situations whether it’s drought or too much water. This might be the time to concentrate on great woody plants (shrubs and trees) and I’ll make some suggestions in my next newsletter in a few weeks.
Stop and listen to the garden, it will always have something fresh to reveal.