Red-hot summer

This summer the weather has pushed plants to their limits, with unusually high rainfall followed by a long dry spell

Stipa gigantea in the Dry GardenTake a leaf out of my book, never trust the weather. This summer has seen the highest amount of rainfall in June since 1997 (144mm / 5½in), followed by one of the lowest on record in July (22mm / ¾in). To date August has been a parched 7mm (¼in).

Of course we should never trust the forecast, but as we do like to talk about the weather, it comes as no surprise that we are often asked: ‘what does this mean for our plants?’ I always find it difficult to answer. Perhaps because the UK climate is so varied, particularly here in dry Essex where yearly totals of rain fall average around 700mm (27½in).

Observations

So what have I noticed that has been different? I would certainly say that across the country on my travels I have visibly seen a number of trees by the road side suffering with what looks like water-stress. Not wishing to be dramatic, but I imagine that if this lack of rain continues it might mean a difficult autumn with the trees defoliating early. A number of our Tilia and Populus have shown similar characteristics here at Hyde Hall.

Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’ with KniphofiaOn the flip side, if you have been able to keep plants watered during this dry spell, (ideally during the night-time) then this year has been a summer sensation. The asters, Rudbeckia, dahlias, Eryngium, Diascia have been flowering spectacularly, as have the grasses Calamagrostis x actutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ and Stipa gigantea in our Clover Hill, courtyard and Hilltop Garden.

Spikes of sunshine

Kniphofia ‘Early Buttercup’Even areas we do not water, such as our famed Dry Garden, has benefitted from the June wet followed by baking sun, and looked really lush and full through-out the summer. But for me if there has been one plant that has truly sparkled, with frequent comments from visitors, it has been the Kniphofia. In particular our specimen of Kniphofia ‘Early Buttercup’ in the Hilltop Borders.

As a native of Africa, Kniphofia love this weather and will always do well in full sun, but as they grow high up in the mountains they also flourish with plenty of water. Thus the recent weather has made it ideal for this plant to perform. The striking vivid yellow of 'Early Buttercup' creates an exciting display, especially with the added backdrop of a blue sky. I hope you agree.

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