It must be over 20 years since we had any washing strung up in the garden, although I can assure you it was not dirty linen we were airing in public today. With an always-on gas Aga in the kitchen and a washing pole out of sight and much further down the garden, it didn’t take long for us to get into the habit of drying our clothes (whatever the weather) above the Aga. However, the always-on Aga was surprisingly not on this morning, and despite being restarted several times it quickly extinguished its own flame and clearly requires the attention of our friendly Aga service engineer. With an overnight wash needing to be dried, necessity became the mother of invention and the Golfer strung up a couple of lines between the pergola and the rose arbour. I had forgotten that there could be something strangely pleasing about seeing clean clothes wafting in the breeze like this – but not the fresh-air fragrance they will be infused with once they are brought in.
I have struggled to keep on top of picking sweet peas this summer, and knew the recent heat could be the last straw for them. Despite regular deadheading, there always seemed to be another batch ready to be removed as soon as my back was turned. I was surprised, however, to find they were ready for cutting down almost a fortnight earlier last year, when it was probably equally dry, but certainly not as hot. It didn’t take long to cut them off their supports today and dismantle the structure, but I shall their colourful and fragrant presence. Perhaps I should make a late sowing as well next year so I have more young plants ready to be planted in their place?
Round the other side of the greenhouse, in the cutting beds, I am pleased to finally have some zinnia blooms, the only plants from my original sowings. As you can see from the picture, the plants from the very late second sowing made at the beginning of June are not far behind, with many in bud. The demise of the first batch seems likely to have been weather-related, and although it has not happened before it may still be worth retiming the first sowing, which is usually the end of March – and there is definitely some sort of a lesson to be learned from the incident.
Next to the zinnias are four different varieties of cosmos, not that you would notice! Daydream has been flowering well since the end of June but the others, all in the Double Click series, have done very poorly so far. Cranberries is just starting to flower, Snow Puff is finally thinking about it and the Rose BonBon seedlings are barely 6″ tall. They were all sown around their usual time in March, and their tardiness could also be weather related.
The same is true of the dahlias, normally all flowering well by the end of June but still some way off their flowering peak. Admittedly, I did pinch some of them out to keep their height in check, but I think the dryness of the year and cooler May and June, along with the recent extreme heat, have definitely played their art too. There is plenty of life in them yet, as is the case with the zinnias and cosmos, so perhaps we can look forward to an especially floriferous August and September.
Up to this week, the garden had been coping fairly well with the warmth and dryness of recent weeks; however, the extreme heat experienced by the UK on Monday and Tuesday and in other European countries and parts of the USA had an immediate impact on a number of plants. I mostly stayed inside for the two days (exercise clases in an air conditoned sports hall were wonderfully refreshing!) so, when I braved a proper inspection of the garden on a cooler Wednesday, the crispness of foliage on those afflicted was very apparent. With temperatures reaching 42°C they had been well and truly air fried, and I just hope the plants themselves will survive, especially as small trees like my pink pussy willow Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’ (being comforted by Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’) and my very special witch hazel Hamamelis ‘Strawberries and Cream’ are amongst those that have been fried.
It was such a relief when temperatures dropped to something rather more comfortable, and the lightest of showers on Thursday and Friday seemed to refresh the whole garden, despite barely wetting the surface. It is certainly not an experience I would like to repeat, and I would like to think the recent widespread extremes will be a wake up call for nations to take climate change more seriously.
No doubt other Six on Saturday contributors will have further temperature tales to tell, so please visit our host Jon the Propagator’s blog to check them out