Summer Dormancy – My Thoughts

I haven’t posted in a while; I started the following post for GBFD 22nd July but didn’t manage to finish it.  What has been wrong?  The HEAT, I can’t think, the garden is no pleasure when walking around only reveals another plant that looks dead.  Some will recover, I’m sure but others….?  Maybe some new planting opportunities?  But what will I plant?  This year is officially now as hot as 2003 (that was the year that in England temperatures reached 40° Celsius for the first time).  Here in Italy June was the 3rd hottest and 4th driest for 200 years – no wonder my plants and I are suffering.  I don’t want to irrigate more for environmental reasons and because I don’t know how much water it is possible for the well to sustain if I remove so much each night.  It is our only source of water.  It is precious.  It is expensive – the well is 100m deep and the pump to lift from such a depth is large and expensive to run.

I will post about the harvest in a day or two but until then I leave you with what I began to write last month.

Until I came to live in Italy I had no idea that plants could be dormant in the hottest months of summer in much the same way that they are in winter.  Many plants that would flower all summer in more temperate climates take a rest for a couple of months and then begin to flower again in September; sometimes it is like a second spring when the first rains of autumn arrive.

But it isn’t only the flowers than take a rest; foliage too takes measures to conserve water in various ways.

Many leaves just look plain shrivelled and these are certainly the plants that with more water available would be happier healthier plants.  But even the plants that are adapted for drought conditions often don’t look as beautiful as in the slightly cooler months.  Cistus is one of these; a native Mediterranean plant that prefers free draining soil and grows wild along the coastal regions of Sardinia coping with strong winds and salt spray.  This year the Cistus in the garden flowered for a much longer period than usual, possibly due to the extra mild weather we had in March; now the leaves seem to have curled inwards on themselves to stop moisture loss, giving the plants the air of having dropped half their leaves.

Silver leaved plants shimmer, reflecting the hard rays of the sun away from themselves and dazzle the eye.  But this year even some of my silver leaved plants are suffering from the extreme heat.

23 thoughts on “Summer Dormancy – My Thoughts

  1. Ciao Christina, your garden sounds exactly like mine. I am too embarassed to post photos and just hope that we get some rain. No signs for the rest of August though, I fear, and we continue to be battered by the hot dry winds which make it all even worse. I am having to water plants that I never normally do and worry what will be left standing at the end of it all. Hang on in there!

  2. You have been greatly missed and I thought about you often wondering how you were. Christina it is a deep pain we feel when out gardens turn dormant like they do here in winter and yours with the summer heat. But to have them suffer and watch it in such extreme summer conditions I think is worse. I did not know that pain until this year. The garden is our solace and our place to rest but when we see it shrivel and know we can do nothing, when it is too hot to enjoy it we suffer.

    Our weather this year has been like this here too. You have put into words what I could only whine about. I am not sure what September will hold. Most of my plants will not recover for this year, but maybe there will be a few surprises. Fall will come and the garden will slowly die back for winter.

    You have also endured some extremes this year in the garden with all the snow and now this record heat. I wish for you a cooler, lovelier fall with a garden springing back into life where you can find peace and enjoyment.

  3. It seems that everybody’s weather is in extremes this year unfortunately. I do sympathise with having such heat, I would hate to see my garden dying before my eyes, I really do hope your plants will sprout again when your cooler weather arrives.

  4. I thought you may be seeking out the cool and shade. It’s strange isn’t it how most of us here in the UK are after some warmth and you’ve got too much. Last night on a quick foray to the allotment just before it got dark it felt distinctly autumnal, a real nip in the air and yet I don’t feel like we’ve had any summer to speak of yet. Temperatures above 30c are generally too much for me so it must be hard when it it’s like that and hotter day after day.

    Apparently the processes in plants start to slow down when temperatures get very hot and above 40c stop altogether so it’s no surprise that your plants have decided to have a siesta. Fingers crossed everything survives. WW

  5. It is so sad reading about your garden. Your observations though are so keen and match my more limited experience with extreme heat and drought in summer. Hope rains come soon and you and your garden bounce back quickly.

  6. It is hard to bear when the night remains brutally hot. I expect you to turn this around when the weather is kinder. Your gardening skills will find a way forward, perhaps not your first choice, but you may be surprised into preferring the second choice once it is sorted out.
    PS there is a Californian mediterranean plant that actually bears different leaves for summer and for winter.

  7. I dont envy you the heat at all, give me cool English rain anyday. Hopefully the heat will abate soon in the meantime happy planning and scheming

  8. Fascinating, but not an easy climate to garden at all, any semblance of control on the landscape is evaporated by your heat. It makes me appreciate the wet weather and lush vegetation we still have here, though there is some recompense with your exotic crops: ‘homegrown’ olive oil!

    I hope the summer dormancy is soon broken, for you and your garden, and you can both flourish again.

  9. Christina I feel for you, the wind on dry soil was bad enough here but I don’t have the heat with the heat too! the first time I encountered the difference in hotter climates was when I visited my aunt in California in July ’92, my cousins had offen said they do not see ‘fall colour’ on trees, I couldn’t understand this as they have trees but that July I saw the trees were loosing their leaves which were crisp and brown, I realised they shed them due to heat and lack of moisture/rain,
    relying on well water puts water use in a completely different context, I sometimes think when people abuse the water availible to them it is because the water is too easily avalible to them,
    plants can be tough, some of my willows are finally putting on some growth after being sapped by winds so many times last year and this I had thought them dead (some are but not all), hang in there there are better times ahead, Frances

    • Thanks Frances, yes, you’re so right in saying that heat combined with lack of water is a completely different thing than either singularly plus wind and you have the recipe for disaster. We don’t have good autumn colour here but that’s due to there not being a sudden enough change in temperature, what colour we do get arrives in December. Christina

  10. Ouch. You certainly have decided on a challenging spot for your beautiful garden, Christina. I understand only too well now your bounty of posts back in June. Hoping you get some rain soon. Dave

  11. Sometimes I look at blogs from other areas with milder summers and just sigh. I can appreciate what you say about summer dormancy. We had a brutal hot, dry June, and though we have had more rain since, the high temps continue. I always look forward to September and the following months when both gardens and gardeners in my area perk up!

  12. I had no idea plants went dormant in high heat conditions. I’m another who doesn’t enjoy summer heat, so I don’t envy you what you are struggling with at all, I doubt I would be venturing outside much other than in early morning and late evening, and it must be so upsetting watching your lovely garden shrivel and bake. I respect the fact that you are so careful of your water supply, but I hope you get rain soon, persistent and gentle so that it can seap into the soil and start the process of reviving everything. It all makes your success in the veg garden so much more impressive.

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