Another month has passed and it’s time again to join Helen the Patient Gardener for the end of month view; thanks for hosting again Helen
On Sunday last we had a little rain, enough to wet the ground. Night-time temperatures have dropped a little; being able to sleep at night has made me feel a little better.
If the cooler nights continue, but already last night was warmer than Sunday night, the plants will benefit from some dew. Lower temperatures are also promised for next week (I have everything crossed!).
The August issue of my Italian gardening magazine communicates that there hasn’t been a June and July together this hot and this dry since records began (and now there is a scorching August to add into the statistics); local friends, who are assiduous at keeping records of max. and min. temperatures and measuring rainfall, tell me that there has been no measurable rain since May 28th! Again this morning we had a 15 minute shower – not enough to do much good but, for me psychologically good as it brings a promise that we will get some proper rain soon.
The extreme conditions are making me reassess my thoughts on what drought really is. I’m sure this sounds silly – a drought is a drought is a drought. But actually it isn’t just about there being no rain; we rarely get any rain here from July through to the end of August. What has made the difference this year is the higher temperatures, just a few degrees higher every day and less obviously higher night time temperatures, giving plants less time to recover. Then there have been even more strong winds this year; this morning’s shower wet the ground but then the wind grew stronger and everything was dry again within half an hour (at the most). As I write the wind is blowing continuously, I can hear it in the chimney; I’m listening to the leaves of the wisteria rustling. This desiccation by the wind is not to be underestimated.
I’m looking with reawakened interest at the plants that are really thriving, not just surviving; I will use more of them as structural plants so that when this hot summer is repeated in the future there will be more plants that I don’t have to worry about. I mentioned some in my post about foliage; the good ones are rosemary, Ceanothus, Teucrium, Myrtle and Euphorbia, although a couple of plants have died but they were probably a bit old.
Cistus and Pholmis sufruticosa are alive but their foliage has curled to protect itself so that don’t look wonderful.
Then there were the surprises – plants I would have bet good money that they would be OK; Festuca glauca is a plant I’ve always considered very, drought tolerant but several have died and there is such a build-up of dead thatch on others that they either need replacing or digging up and dividing, discarding the dead stems and hoping that they will reform into their usual round shape.
There is a very obvious truth behind all the above. If I want a garden full of flowers in July and August all I have to do is use masses of water! I don’t want, or indeed feel it is right, to irrigate the whole garden so I must rethink some areas so that I am not forced to go around with a hose early morning or late at night trying to keep plants alive. Where the irrigation is, the plants survive on the amount I give them, they won’t flower in a very hot year like this one has proved to be but they will persist to flower another year and I think I have to be content with that.
Sorry some of the images are a little fuzzy; the wind was blowing!
Yesterday the sky was overcast in the way I remember August days in England; the air felt thundery, rain had been forecast but I wasn’t very hopeful.
At around 5pm I could see black clouds on the horizon and hear the constant drum of thunder, I even saw some small flashes of lightning; I could see the dark shadow of rain actually falling between me and the horizon. Would it rain here? With my whole body I was willing it to rain – I almost imagined myself running outside and being soaked by large drops of water, f it running down my face, drenching my hair.
I can hear my English readers laughing, I know you’ve all had a wet, cold summer and I must sound like some crazed woman who should be taken quietly by the hand and put somewhere safe. But to continue, a breeze picked up, the breeze felt cool – wonderful; IT MUST RAIN! And, well, it did rain, a bit, maybe 15 minutes of good gentle rain that the ground sucked in, and my poor plants almost seemed to drink in, and then the sun came out again and it was warm and humid all over again and I felt let down, as if I’d been teased by this small taste of what could be if it rained for a day, 2 days, a week!
OK, so today is back to being hot! Humid and hot, my skin is prickling, today feels worse than before but the garden has had a little drink and there is the promise that summer is nearly over. The 15th August is a holiday in Italy, the Assumption of the Madonna, a bit like August Bank Holiday in the UK.
There are some flowers in the garden, although apart from some Perovskia on the bank, some Hibiscus and a surprise, all the other flowers are where I irrigate.
The triangular rose bed is looking full of bloom, there is a reason for this; the irrigation pipe has broken several times so the bed has been soaked and the plants respond by blooming.
Half the line of Rosa mutabilis are flowering, the other half are not. All are getting some water but the ones that are flourishing are also getting a small amount of run-off from the vegetable beds; just a little amount of water makes so much difference.
This year has been the hottest since we moved to Italy, nine years ago at the end of this month. For gardening it has been challenging and I sincerely hope that it will be another 9 years before it is quite so hot again. By next month I will know which plants have survived their test and which I will need to replace with something more drought tolerant.
Two of the Hibiscus were grown from cuttings taken by a friend and I would like more; I’ve noticed she has a white one with a purple blotch, now must be a good moment to take some cuttings of that.
I mentioned a surprise earlier; as I was walking around the garden this morning taking photographs my eye was caught by a plant covered in flowers, more flowers than leaves it seemed. I’m certain that 2 days ago it wasn’t flowering; it is almost as if the rain has prompted it into life. The bees love it, I’m happy because I know that it is a little tender and I had thought the freezing temperatures might have killed it this past winter. What is it? A Westringier!
Click on the image below to see all the flowers blooming in my Hesperides garden today.