What a scorcher ...

The paths around Stoneywell after a hot summer

It has been a long, hot summer! Read all about how the heatwave has affected the Stoneywell garden and what this has meant for the garden team, in the latest blog by our gardener, Joe.

Finally, we have had some rain and low and behold, the arid desert of Charnwood became ... a kind of slushy arid desert, that I will say, if you looked closely showed a few signs of recovery.  I guess when it rained it was always likely to be heavy though on worn ground we’re not out the woods with the challenges we’ve faced in the last two months or so but boy has the rain been welcome!

A colleague used the term “survival mode” when it came to the garden at the moment and it’s a pretty accurate term when you consider the job list over the last 4 weeks in particular.  Included amongst the list is a few tasks that we’ve never had to do before and missing is plenty of tasks we would have been doing in an ideal world!  In large part I’m sure I won’t be referring to anything that you’re not facing in your gardens.  We’ve certainly been looking to our most prized plants and prioritising those for precious water. 

Stoneywell watering can and paths
Stoneywell watering can and paths
Stoneywell watering can and paths

Certain rhododendrons in particular have shown signs of distress in the last few weeks with their shallow roots, though it’s our precious grass perhaps that has been my biggest concern.  Whilst I can cope with our tennis court looking more suitable for beach volley ball, dry paths are another matter given the pressure put on them and the hard work we’ve put into them in the last twelve months but all is not lost.  For me, the paths offer as much to the setting as our rhododendron collection and to stand by just with fingers crossed for rain didn’t feel too right.  So forget the flowers we’ve watered the grass!  No great science to that one but on top of a good soaking we’ve also expanded the idea of top dressing paths with locally and very cheaply sourced of granite chipping.  Hopefully it gives the young green shoots a chance to get going while the stones relieve some pressure from footfall.  It’s certainly been seen to work elsewhere especially around the pumphouse.

Stoneywell paths around the garden
Stoneywell paths around the garden
Stoneywell paths around the garden

I like to think our efforts have kept the garden ticking along and surviving in survival mode, but perhaps the most dramatic effect to occur on the garden is a little beyond our control and that’s the browning of the bilberry on the heath.  It’s no coincidence I’m sure that the crispest of the leaves are on plants facing a double threat from the sun above and the warming bedrock below, we’ve never faced anything on this scale but I’m hopeful for a full recovery as the stems still look nice and green.  It just goes to show though how well they normally cope on the thinnest of soils.  Fingers crossed it’s more of a coping mechanism.  Nice that we’ve got an extended autumn display this year though.

On the plus side in these conditions, keen gardeners again will know, that as well as an improved tan, another positive to the hot dry summer has been how slow the weeds have grown which is a good job considering our minds and effort have been on other things somewhat but also growth of much of our shrubs has been a little stunted.  So if we haven’t made it round every spring flowering shrub by now, perhaps this is the year we’ll get away with it!