Conditions have been very different to last year. This year there was a late frost that hit some plants, especially hydrangeas that were just starting to show their new leaves. Then we had a long dry period, finishing up with an unusually hot spell. Plants that like moist conditions – which is what the garden normally has – fillipendula rubra, and desfontania spinosa have struggled. Because of the slow start to the year many plants were three weeks to a month late in flowering, and then went over quickly because of the heat. Roses have enjoyed the conditions although their flowers didn’t last long, and Iris ensata that normally do very well were over very quickly. But I have been able to catch up on work that couldn’t be done last year, and make good inroads into the weeds.
Interestingly the hornbeam hedging has coped well with the dry conditions. It is better than beech in the wet, so it was a surprise to find it is also better in the dry. The remaining bits of beech are now going to come out and be replaced with hornbeam.
Last year vegetables did so badly that I was quite put off this year. Even tough things like perpetual spinach and beetroot just didn’t grow, probably because apart from the enormous amounts of rain, light levels were so low. This year it has been lack of rain that has been the problem. The sweet corn is ridiculously short but is starting to form cobs. Peas are coming on well, and broad beans have been good if small. The asparagus seemed to be particularly delicious this year. The Jerusalem artichokes wilted in the heat but soon recovered.
This past year the weather has been dreadful. Although this is always a high rainfall area this year has been exceptional. Springs have come to the surface in the garden, and the heavy soil
drains poorly so the constant rain has left the garden extremely wet. This has set back plans and left some plants struggling. I am ending the year by planting a small area of shrubs focusing on
spring flowering shrubs, and under-planting with wild primroses, snowdrops and ferns.
As I plant I am trying to dig as deeply as possible and improve drainage. The group contains a number of corylopsis – pauciflora, glabrescens and willmottiae, fothergilla major, and weigela middendorffiana. Some other new additions that I am looking forward to see growing include euonymus cornuta quinquecornuta – what a lovely name! This euonymus has fruit that look like jester’s hats with five points. It is a super looking shrub in the autumn, differing a little from other euonymus by having narrow leaves reminiscent of bamboo. I saw it in the Plantsman’s Walk at Scamspton Walled Garden in Yorkshire, and thought it wonderful. I now have got hold of one and have planted it on a raised area created from the composted vast weed heaps I build up every year.
After such a dismal year in the garden, it is great to see the tips of snowdrops pushing through the ground. The last of the nerines are in flower in the greenhouse, along with pelargonium ardens, and a few flowers on the Regal pelargoniums. There is almost always something in flower amongst my double primroses. At the moment, the polyanthus-flowering Strong Beer, a rich purple, is flowering next to Corporal Baxter, a rich crimson; a glorious combination of colours. Another half dozen varieties at least still have flowers on even at this late stage in the year.