I dont care what the weathermen say

“More and more I am coming to the conclusion that rain is a far more important consideration to gardens than sun, and that one of the lesser advantages that a gardener gains in life is his thorough enjoyment of a rainy day”   Margaret Waterfield (Garden writer and artist)

As I said in my last post I think this has been one of the hardest gardening seasons since I have moved here 8 years ago.  However, always one to look for positives in life I have realised that I have probably thought more about my garden and how I garden than ever before and I think this is due to not being able to get on with projects but also consideration on how I need to do things differently if we are to have this sort of weather in the future.

Strangely, I thought I had always been good at the ‘right plant, right place’ approach to gardening but I realised last month when considering my front garden, which I have a love/hate relationship with, that I have been a bit hit and miss.  For example, the soil in my front garden is quite heavy clay and when the conditions are dry it can turn into rock.  At the front of the garden there is a large birch tree and a laurel hedge and these will obviously soak up any moisture there may be.  Therefore, it is no surprise that the three Cornus I planted to give winter interest and contrast to the white birch tree trunk aren’t doing very well and are just sitting there.  They are in full sun in rock hard soil so they need to move somewhere where they get the moisture they crave but also a little shade.  I am moving sedums and bearded irises into the front garden so you can see how wrong I had got it.  I was completely distracted with the design side of getting winter interest right and forgot the plants’ needs.

In the back garden plants haven’t performed as well as in the past, in fact the Dahlias just haven’t done anything at all.  I appreciate a lot of this is due to the lack of rain we have had all year but I also think that if I gardened better I could help  my plants cope with these conditions better.  As part of the big plans I have for the autumn and winter I am editing all the borders, moving or removing anything that I don’t like, that is in the wrong environment or doesn’t work with the scheme.  Then I am going to dig in lots of organic matter.  Finally in the spring I am hoping we will have some rain, unlike this year, and I am going to invest in mulch which I haven’t done before.

I’m not a huge believer in climate change in regards to human impact but I do believe strongly that the earth goes through cycles and if you look back through history you can see similar patterns of changes in weather.  I don’t know whether it is because since taking up gardening seriously I have noticed the weather more or whether the changes are more dramatic in recent years but we have definitely experienced more extremes of weather in recent years.  However, saying that I find myself smiling when I read the scare mongers saying that this heralds the end of the English Cottage Garden etc and we will all have dustbowls. You only have to read gardening blogs from around the world to see what is possible in climates far more extreme than ours.

So for me I see it as a challenge and not something to get stressed about.   If we employ good horticultural practice, work with the conditions we have and use the right plants then surely no matter what the weather decides to do we can have beautiful gardens.

18 Comments on “I dont care what the weathermen say

  1. It is difficult to remember in tandem what plants will do well – particularly as in your trying front garden situation. To put aside design considerations of plant association, seasonal interest and be stripped back to what will endure is a hard. I have also found that the wierdest times of the year can be the right moment to move things around in remorseless hard clay.

  2. Completely agree with what you say.I had planted up a sunny border, but half under a tree.Decided not to water during the months of dry weather in spring and most plants did very poorly indeed due to tree competition. Once the rain came, some plants perked up a little, but this is just the wrong place for these plants, so I’m digging them all out, keeping and planting elsewhere the ones that I love, Tulbaghia in this case, and creating a pond in this area this autumn. Seems to take years to get it right. Thanks for your post. Has really got me thinking about re-organising my (small) beds too and possibly taking out some trees!

  3. I agree completely – it is one of the hardest lessons for a gardener. I too am rethinking beds even now after many years but then that is one of gardening’s attractions for me, there is always something else to learn and appreciate including rainy days.

  4. I’m not sure that I agree with the quote as a balance of warmth and water is needed but I’m certainly in accord with what you’ve written. The winter months are a really good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t and rethink the garden for the following year. I learn more every year and try to put this into practise. Like you, I’m a first time mulcher. I started mulching (with rotted manure) in late spring this year and will do the same over winter.

  5. England with less rain and more sun, would allow for a mediterranean garden. But we who live in a mediterranean climate, where summer temperatures nudge 40C – are not so sanguine about gardening, with less rain and temperatures just a few degrees hotter. Empty dams. Grateful for our grey water system which gets us thru summer, and that now in winter the garden is defiantly green!

    Your header is bluebells? My English cousin told me climate change threatens bluebells. We garden on.

  6. I have some plants in my garden that shouldn’t thrive but do and have the opposite problem of a high water table. Spring was dry, but with some judicious watering (I’m on a water meter) managed to get everything through fairly unscathed. More sun here is Wales please!!

  7. This has been a tough year and maybe the worst since I lived here. I notice it most in the vegetables. Tomatoes and cucumber especially. Tougher skins and drier insides. Corn and watermelons were not as sweet. And all of them planted in the right conditions, farmers fields that had irrigation. Climate change or not, there is a difference. I am already wondering about what next year will bring and what changes I may have to make to further accommodate the plants.

  8. I garden on sandy soil and only ever water herbaceous when newly planted. I also go for a combination of mulching and ground cover plants. It is in the veg garden that I have really noticed the unusual weather. Many veg have bolted in spite of drip hoses and fruit trees have got mildew in spite of a weekly bucket of water. My plan is to try to keep improving the soil structure and water more in dry periods. Challenging times!

  9. All the comments above are valid, climate change might bring more tropical weather to central Italy so humidity might make me want to move-again!! Right plant, right place is vital for me otherwise the plants DIE; The UK weather, even though it seems difficult is actually a much more forgiving climate to so many plants, but I think that means that gardeners are less aware of the true needs plants. We all learn every time the weather does something different. I have Sedum and Breaded Iris in my very free draining soil and they thrive; I really don’t think they will grow well for you in clay, which may be water logged in winter even if it is dry now. You could try Chaenomeles japonica for late winter flowers and autumn fruits and Hemerocalis are very tollerant of many conditions including clay. I can send you a fuller list of plants that would be suitable if it would be helpful. Sorry this is so long, but you wrote about such an important issue for all gardeners all over the world. Christina

    • Hi Christina – surprisingly bearded iris and sedum do very well in my soil. I think it is because I am on a slope so the soil is quite well drained and only gets boggy in one area which I treat differently.

    • Hemerocallis dont do well in my garden and to be honest I’m not a big fan of them

  10. I do agree – and I second the impression that it’s been a funny old year. But at least real seasons – a cold winter and (at least as far as I’m concerned) not too bad a summer. My garden, on the other hand, is confused. I’ve only just taken out the mangetout, for instance – a job normally done at the end of June, as they die off. The rose hedges decided it was autumn in mid-July, but I’m consoling myself that everything goes around, and that there has to be a reason why the Welsh for July (Gorffennaf) translates as summer’s end…

    Challenge, yes. Good horticultural practice? Well, I can try… Adaptability, though – I can do that.

    • my mangetout only just made it to June as got attacked by Pea Moth, no idea how to avoid that next year. Witch Hazel has already turned and lost its leaves.
      At least it is interesting and makes us think.

  11. Great post! Lack of research and forethought has caused me a lot of extra work. Plants are pretty good teachers, if we are willing to learn. But extreme weather can impact even well adapted, native plants. I have grown to be philosophical and to not grieve when things go wrong in the garden. We have to be resilient, as nature is.

  12. I love your opening shot. I strongly suspect that my rather haphazard creation of borders will mean lots of rearranging of plants in the future too, though I am trying to be aware of each plant’s needs as I place it. It is hard when creating a border from nothing though to know where to start! Especially when faced with pots of plants yearning to take sanctuary in the ground. I simply cross my fingers that some of my choices will work, and the rest will survive moving later :-).

  13. Your comments about the cornus in the front garden struck a real chord with me, I have done the same, pushed the envelope in terms of “right plant right place” to get an effect I wanted. I find your willingness to critique your own gardening refreshing and helpful. Having spent some time digging in lots of extra compost and grit to some areas in my garden and seen the way the plants flourish in comparison to the areas that have received less attention, I am more than ever convinced that at least half the “secret” to a flourishing garden lies in looking after the soil. I’m sure your mulch will reward you, and I think your renewed enthusiasm for your garden and the plans you have mean it will be exciting to watch it develop next year, whatever the weather. And I am glad I am not alone in experiencing a poor dahlia year…

  14. Like you, I have ever really bothered with mulch in the past, but it is top of my to do list this year. My garden faces south and everything is baked from morning to late afternoon. This certainly informed my plant choices when I finally started filling the beds this summer. But four years in which I really did very little in the garden (waiting to get it terraced) was very helpful too, as I could see what thrived and what failed. I love editing my borders – what sounds great in your post is the fact that you have all the plants, you just need to move them around. I always think it’s a bit like rearranging a room. Usually when I finish I wonder how on earth I could have had it any other way.

    Also wanted to say how much I enjoyed your end of the month review. I think I might try to join in too next month. It’s a really useful and inspiring exercise.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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