• People in Helmsley Walled Garden

August 2018 – Plants for hot weather

RudbeckiasWhat a year this has been so far. Winter seemed as if it was never going to end and it rained so much I thought we would be living in a sea of mud forever. Fast forward to the end of July and as I write the ground is parched and we are desperate for rain.

We’ve got all the annuals and dahlias in the ground now and some of the dahlias are flowering already, scarily early but hardly surprising. We are seeing a lot of unripe apples dropping from the trees. Unbelievably there was no frost when they were in blossom so a bumper crop was the result. Now of course they can’t sustain that many apples so they’re dropping like flies.

All of which is a long way of saying it is a challenging year for gardeners. But we are gardeners and so used to the challenges the weather throws at us. Watering is not necessarily the answer although it may be for some things, especially if they start to look sad and crispy.

I found myself looking at the borders to see what was not showing any sign of strain and I got one or two surprises. I was very pleased to see that Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is flowering it’s heart out in a burst of colour at the foot of the Hot Border. I was also impressed by the Rudbeckias.

There is a rudbeckia for all seasons, annual, biennials and hardy perennials and they come in a range of great colours. From the gold of the hardy perennial Rudbeckia  fulgida var. sullivantii Goldsturm to the claret glow of the annual Rudbeckia hirta  ‘Cherry Brandy’ rudbeckias come in shades of orange, bronze and lemon. It’s been really exciting to see the hardy perennials in particular shrug off the hot weather. However,  they are well established. I’d be wanting to water anything  I’d put in new this year until it was established.

Of course there are also all the wonderful drought tolerant plants such as Lavender angustifolia: all the salvias, especially hardy perennial Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ with its rich deep blue flowers that will always manage drought conditions.

But there is also Lychnis coronaria (Rose campion) and Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s-ear). Basically any plant that has a greyish felt-like leaf will do well in conditions such as we are experiencing. The thick layer of hairs on the leaf which gives it its felty-feel helps to conserve water, stopping the plant from losing too much water through transpiration.

 All these plants benefit from being in the ground rather than a pot. They have questing roots, searching for water in their native Mediterranean habitat so they don’t like to be constrained. They can get too wet in a pot which they hate. Same with sage and rosemary.

We need not fear the hot weather. There’s plenty to keep our gardens in flower and full of colour. Mind you I’m still hoping for gentle overnight rain from say 11pm till 4pm every night for the next month. Gardeners eh, never satisfied!

Tricia Harris August 2018