Summer

Eucryphia flowering along the garden border at Hill Top

As a gardener, the one thing you really notice is the weather and so far 2018 has been memorable for having lots of it!

The cold, snowy winter gave way to a cold, windy spring and then suddenly summer arrived with hot, dry weather being the norm week after week. Anyone who’s visited the Lake District will know that the reason it’s so green and we have all these lakes is that it rains…..quite a lot, but for a period of four weeks this summer we had literally not a drop.

Normally during hot dry spells I spend a lot of time telling people not to panic about watering their gardens. Plants can cope quite well with periods of drought and watering them only serves to encourage the roots to grow into the top inch or so of the soil (the only bit that really gets wet unless you leave a sprinkler on all night). For three weeks I restricted myself to watering newly-planted seedlings (mainly in the vegetable garden) with watering cans first thing in the morning. This had the desired effect of keeping my beans and courgettes alive and the undesired effect of giving me a bad back and slightly longer arms!

A flowering courgette in Hill Top's vegetable patch
A flowering courgette
A flowering courgette in Hill Top's vegetable patch

On the fourth week however, things got really bad. The azaleas opposite the house started to wilt, the leaves on my Enkianthus were looking distinctly crinkly and there were gaping cracks in the rhubarb patch. I panicked and broke out the hose pipe! 

A few days later there was a heavy shower which saw normally (reasonably) sane staff at Hill Top dancing in the puddles outside the house. Since then we’ve had a few drizzly mornings and a few full-on downpours and the hose pipe has been once again consigned to the back of the shed.

One real bonus of the hot, dry weather is that the slugs and snails which normally plague the garden have been almost totally absent. This has meant that my cabbages, lettuces, carrots and runner beans have been largely unmolested for the first time in many years.

After a slow start the vegetables are starting to crop now; I had my first courgettes of the year yesterday, (thinly sliced and fried with bacon and avocado) and the runner beans are just ready for picking too. The leeks which I left to flower are creating a lot of interest (who knew the humble leek could be so beautiful?) and my ‘slightly too fancy for a Lake District farmhouse garden but I love them anyway’ globe artichokes are looking magnificent.

Who knew leeks had such a pretty flower?
Leeks flowering in the vegetable patch at Hill Top
Who knew leeks had such a pretty flower?

In the flower borders the hot weather wasn’t so welcome. Plants like Astrantia that need moist soil wilted under the hot sun, recovered slightly overnight but then wilted quickly again the next day, their normally abundant flowers have been sparse to say the least. The roses which cover the long trellis seem to have gone over more quickly too and the white jasmine on the house wall has really struggled. But some plants have enjoyed it, the everlasting flowers or Helichrysum which are normally the number one target for slugs are doing really well and the Eucryphia glutinosa which I sneakily left the hose on for a few hours is just coming into spectacular bloom.

Eucryphia flowering along the garden border
Eucryphia flowering along the garden border at Hill Top
Eucryphia flowering along the garden border

So hopefully the good weather will continue for the rest of the summer, or at least until after my two-week holiday in the Outer Hebrides and I’ll see you all for my next blog, imaginatively titled ‘Autumn’!

Bye for now,
Gardener Pete.