summer is ending

Well it's getting near to the end of summer although I don't suppose we have seen the end of over 30 degree heat and minimum rainfall periods. Nevertheless, the last few days have been mild and rainy, and many plants are smiling, some with relief at the kinder conditions, some with pride that they have survived the struggle. Others have breezed through - they love drought and heat. Some of these breezers are Australian natives, some aren't. Many toughies come from California or the Canary Islands.

So this is how plants in my garden have coped with the summer of 2007-8 without water other than rainfall:

1. Those which have survived with ease :
These include all the grey leaved plants. Although I love grey, I do need some contrasting colours. For me a certain amount of green is vital for achieving a pleasant, peaceful feel. The vast majority of plants in the garden have survived the summer easily.

2. The battlers which got through:
I am so proud of these plants. They include a small buddleia riskily planted during a very hot spell. It was a bit risky but I fell in love with the pale orange flowers, and had a spot for it. Now it's established, I think it will cope with anything.

Some plants often have droopy leaves when it's very hot, but they still manage to keep their tight little buds lower down. This is the case with wallflowers and sages.

3. The battlers which failed the survival test:
Ending up alive is unfortunately not sufficient. Plants in this category may have survived but if they look a mess, they will not remain in the same place. They may be moved to another spot, i.e. given a reprieve, or else they will be reincarnated via the compost heap. This of course enables me to nurture the earth they were growing in, and provides a gap and an opportunity.

The oatgrass is going. It's not its fault, it is only doing what oatgrass does, but it is not beautiful any more to my eyes. And I don't have another spot for it, so to compost it will go!

What have I learned from all this?

First - never ever prune in summer - leave everything possible to provide even minimal protection from the sun. I used to be able to get away with pruning / tidying / shaping whenever I had time, but this is no longer possible. The harsher weather conditions demand a certain amount of restraint.

Secondly, leave seedheads even when they're completely dried out - this provides a little shade. So throughout summer there were lots of dried poppies, forget-me-nots and love-in -the- mists, which flowered in spring. Some people thought this made the garden look untidy but I love the look of the seedheads. And already there are tiny seedlings, not yet identifiable except that I know they are not weeds.

Sometimes thirsty plants can be comforted by raking the soil, so it's soft and porous and / or adding organic matter. This can relieve stress.

Sometimes one speciman thrives, and another a little way away, dies. Could be due to individual differences, or different environmental differences, e.g. one is shaded, one is not.

Whatever - only the fittest survive.