The Berry Cottage Gardener

The Berry cottage gardener

for gardens pretty and productive

SARAH’S GARDEN JOURNAL

Lessons Learned From A Long Hot Summer

"A garden is a series of losses, set against a few triumphs, like life itself" - May Sarton

At the end of another scorching summer which seemed to go on forever,  I’ve been taking some time to wander around my garden and assess which plants have thrived and which have struggled.  Hotter drier weather is on our radar,  so it makes sense to plan for the future to minimise water usage,  and also save a little heartbreak trying to care for plants which really aren’t suited to this changing climate.

The Survivors

*Established Hedges

Hedging plants form the bones of my garden,  and they have sailed through this summer unscathed.  Viburnum Odoratissum – a large screening hedge,  Murraya – a medium partitioning hedge and English Box – a defining hedge,  have all remained evergreen and healthy with minimal supplementary watering or care.  Establishing strong hedging is so important in maintaining a semblance of order and vitality in a garden all year round.  If you’re prepared to put in the time with pruning when required, they will reward you ten-fold!

*Roses

Roses may look delicate however they have proved deceptively tough over the warmer months.  Roses do benefit from weekly watering and regular feeding,  however they continued to flower prolifically despite the heat.  My strongest performer this year,  and one of my favourite colours,  was the dusty purple “Thank You Rose”.

*Buddleja

Buddleja is a beautiful plant which sports various colours from white,  pink to almost black-purple.  These bushes have flowered continuously over summer and required very minimal attention.  As an added bonus,  they are a wonderful way to attract beneficial insects into your garden.

*Catmint

One of the stars of my perenial border is the pretty low growing catmint.  This produced mauve flowers from Spring til Autumn and has provided constant colour and freshness over the warm months

The Strugglers

*The Kitchen Garden

Signs of heat stress in the kitchen garden include plants bolting to seed,  wilting,  poor growth and lack of productivity.  While I will always remain passionate about my vegetable patch,  this summer has really reinforced its need for constant care and attention if a productive garden is what you are hoping for.  Of all the areas of the garden to divert precious water,  this is it.  I have recently laid a series of soaker hoses under mulch along the beds which I’m hoping will prove far more efficient than overhead watering.

*Violets

I adore violets, so much so I named my cottage after them.  I have used them extensively as ground cover throughout my garden,  however even I must admit they have just not performed well in certain open sunny areas.  Wilting yellowing violet leaves is simply not a pretty picture,  so the non-performers have been relocated to more suitable environs ie shaded,  moist areas of the garden.  I’m keeping this hot location simple with cottage mulch,  a large pond,  a fire pit and a beautiful new tree,  a Forest Pansy,  which will provide some much needed shade to the courtyard area.

*Japanese Windflowers

I love the colour and texture of Japanese Windflowers and the pop of pink and white they provide in Autumn.  This Summer however,  some plants have burnt badly in my garden.  They are shade lovers,  and while I have underplanted them,  the Floribunda Crabapple under which they sit is still immature and casting little shadow.  Hopefully in a couple of years,  life will be easier for them!

I love the quote from May Sarton at the top of this page. Life is all about ups and downs,  successes and failures,  and we can learn a lot about resilience and adaptation from nature and our gardens.  As the temperatures rise, I just hope we all learn to care for the earth a little better …