June – What the weather brings…

T S Eliot famously wrote that April was the cruellest month, but he never saw this May. It has been a challenging month, officially the wettest May since records began.

It is also unseasonably cold and whilst everyone who gardens knows the part weather plays through the seasons, current low day time temperatures mean that we are way behind with what I would think of as the normal markers of the year.

I’m writing this at the very end of May when I would expect to see the Iris Border and the Laburnum Arch in full flower. Instead the irises are only just beginning to unfurl and the laburnum has barely a leaf open, never mind a flower bud.

Of course it will warm up, everything will catch up and by July all this will be as a faint memory. But I can’t recall the laburnum flowering this late in the eleven years I’ve been here.

I remember when I had my first garden, avidly reading all the gardening books I could lay my hands on, religiously following the timetables laid out in them for seed sowing, pruning and the like for fear of making a mistake.

Now we all know that for instance, you don’t prune plum trees in winter unless you have a burning desire to allow the spores of silver leaf fungus to have free rein. But allowing for the obvious caveats, I follow the advice of the late great Christopher Lloyd. He said the best time to do a gardening chore was when you had the time to do it properly.

Anyone who has tried to do a big pruning job in a hurry and lived to regret it will know what I mean. That big limb taken out because you got confused over which branch you were taking out between standing on the ground and climbing the ladder that now leaves a gaping hole in the shape of the tree will forever remind you.

Timings for jobs in most gardening books seem based on a southerly climate so I always add on two to three weeks to be on the safe side. But this year has shown that, in the end experience is the best calendar. In lieu of that handy weather crystal ball and who has one of those to hand? no one could have foretold how wet winter would be generally; how bitter February would be (remember February’s freezing winds?) and how wet and cold May would be. As I write I am still looking at beautiful displays of late tulips and pheasant eye narcissi.

As someone once said, sometimes you’ve got to take a risk. So this week coming I will be planting out the dahlias. They are hefty tubers, even after I have halved them. I got to that chore later than I would’ve liked (creating the new website took precedence this spring) but I needed to do it as I was risking my back if they got any larger. I think now, they will survive anything the weather has to throw at them with no more than a burnt leaf or two.

I’m looking forward to seeing the dipping pond surrounded by rich deep purples and bronze-orange flower heads again. I’ll be planting ‘Carolina Moon’ around the trees in the Clematis Garden and I’ll be happy knowing I’m slowly increasing our stocks to ensure that whatever the weather there are always dahlias in the garden to make a splash in September and October. Happy days.



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