Gardener's ramblings: August 2019

Anna Tolfree, Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree Senior Gardener
Four ladies smile and talk as they look through the summer garden at National Trust Stowe.
Published : 13 Aug 2019

After a scorching July, the effect of climate change on the garden and becoming eco-conscious is high on the agenda for this month's blog by Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree.

I’m currently taking shelter indoors whilst I write this. Not as you might think due to rain but rather more worryingly heat. It’s currently 30°Celsius outside and the temperature is still rising. As gardeners, there isn't a lot we can do when it’s like this other than take refuge in shady areas to do any small jobs we need to do in the garden. Watering can only be done very early in the morning or late in the evening – only water newly planted specimens or vegetables as most established planting and lawns can cope. My worry is that this is happening more and more regularly and as gardeners we need to be prepared for changing what we potentially grow in our gardens.

Now's the time you'll see our teams out in the garden watering as part of their summer routine
A man working for the National Trust stand with a hosepipe watering
Now's the time you'll see our teams out in the garden watering as part of their summer routine

Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen to our climate, but latest thoughts are that here in the UK the weather patterns in general are going to become more extreme and this could mean hotter and drier summers. Potentially some of the plants we grow currently won’t be able to cope with the drier, hotter weather. But we shouldn’t necessarily be disheartened by this. This could be a new planting opportunity and design for your garden and mean that you can grow more exotic plant species than you could before.

I’d like to point out that this does not mean as gardeners that we shouldn’t be vigilant in looking after the environment. We all have a part to play in trying to reverse the effect we’re having on our world. There will be some of course saying “Why should I do anything, nobody else does?” or “It won’t make a difference if I carry on as I am.” – but they are wrong.  

It needs everyone to make a real difference. The horticultural industry needs to change for the better and it won’t until consumers stop buying either peat related products or plants in non-recyclable plastic pots to name but a few things we should be doing. Until we stop buying these items there is no incentive for companies to research alternatives as it’s too costly for them when people carry on buying the existing non-eco-friendly products. I’m not saying it isn’t hard, it is! 

Visit the plant centre at Stowe and say "Yes" to going peat free for your garden
A lady with blonde hair wearing a black top and denim shirt holds a plant outdoors
Visit the plant centre at Stowe and say "Yes" to going peat free for your garden

At Stowe I re-use as many plastic plant pots as possible and the ones I don’t use I take to a recycling depot, so they can be recycled rather than going to landfill. As for peat free plants I source as many as I can from a national list given to me by the National Trust and if I can’t get them peat free I don’t get them. I harvest rain water from my greenhouse at our yard and we’re hoping to start harvesting rainwater from the building in our yard to run our irrigation system and toilets. Nobody is perfect, but I think it is important for everyone to do what they can however small they think it is, as it will make a difference.

We’re busy watering areas that were planted last autumn and winter as they don’t have a big enough root system yet to be able to cope in such warm and dry weather so we give them a good soak once a week. A good soak once a week rather than a small dose of water every day is better for the plant as it builds a stronger root system. We’re also cutting our long grass areas as all our wildflowers have finished flowering. Whatever you plan to do this month in your garden keep cool and above all enjoy sitting in it, as everything should be peaking and looking glorious.

Happy Gardening.

Peat-free flowers at Morden Hall Park Garden Centre

Going peat-free 

How important is it for gardeners to go peat-free and protect our precious peatlands around the world?

Marine litter on a beach

Phasing out single use plastics 

We're committed to creating safe and healthy places for nature and wildlife to thrive. To help us safeguard nature for the future, we're phasing out single use plastics at our places. Find out how we're kicking the plastic habit.