Testing Times for Hardy Planters
After a brief respite from the heat and a reminder of what it was like to hear rain falling and see puddles in the road, temperatures look set to rise again. This year has certainly shown some unusual weather variations, with several late falls of snow, bitterly cold winds with the 'Beast from the East', then rain with the garden too waterlogged to work on and finally a heatwave bringing desert-like conditions to our green and pleasant land. Certainly a challenge to this nation of gardeners, but which of our hardy perennials have proved the most garden-worthy, performing well in these conditions?
Some plants seemed to appreciate the cold, wet start and the early summer flowering was spectacular, but short-lived in the prolonged heat. Many plants came into bloom early and then shrivelled, leaving the garden brown and tired. Most of us are tired too with carrying endless cans of water to revive flagging treasures and keep plants in pots and greenhouses alive.
Which plants have done well for you this year and what advice is there for future years when we are told we may see more unpredictable and extreme conditions? Usually I struggle with cutting back plants that are going over, knowing that it will rejuvenate the plant but reluctant to lose those last flowers - no question about it this year, but "Off with their Heads". Adding enough organic matter into the soil is something I know helps most perennials to perform better, and so as I cut cut back I'm mulching. And that well-worn mantra of 'right plant in the right place' is never truer than when facing adverse conditions.
Writing a garden diary and taking photographs to record the highlights of the seasons is such a worthwhile activity and the HPS website hosts a number of blogs and has the space to publish more. Recent contributors to the Plant of the Month blog, Andrew Luke and Miranda Janatka are taking a break - I'm sure you will join me in thanking them for their excellent articles. If you would like share your experiences and observations then please send a short, illustrated piece to firstname.lastname@example.org