about this blog
I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
plants wilt too if they're hot
Friends often ask me to look at their gardens to see if I can help. I have noticed that sometimes their worries are the result of unrealistic expectations.
T: What’s with this banksia rose, it’s dying!
Catmint: It’s not dying, it’s quite happy. It’s only been in for a year - you can’t expect it to cover the wall straight away.
G: I can’t grow anything here! Everything dies.
Catmint: Some things have died because they are not suited to our hot dry climate. But look at the things that are thriving – for example a grapevine, roses and plecthranthus. There are lots of plants that can be happy here.
In the case of T, he is way too impatient. In the case of G she needs to choose from the range of plants that are suited to the microclimate in her garden.
In hot dry weather plants can suffer from being in the direct sun. They may get burnt foliage but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily die. They just won't look great for a while. The foliage usually grows back in the autumn. This happened to a camellia last summer. Of course for hot spots it is preferable to get plants that are happy sunbakers, like for example, cistus or catmint or santolina.
Another response to hot dry conditions is that the upper leaves shrivel. This is a good survival strategy for a plant. You can tell it will be OK if it has healthy looking buds further down the stem. These plants are not going to get watered in my garden but they may obtain relief by being cut back. This relieves pressure on the plant because the roots have less foliage to support. But if you do this you have to be careful because if you cut back too much the plant will die.
Sometimes it seems as if the plants have died. There was no erigeron left after last summer, but under the soil the buds were waiting for the cooler weather and it grew back.
What is the aim of maintaining a garden in a hot summer?
Maybe you can maintain the illusion of a cool English climate by using copious amounts of water. Or maybe you can just grow cacti or succulents and they will be happy in the dry heat. Except when it rains hard of course - then they won't look so great.
In my experience a real living evolving garden cannot look lovely all the year round. You can't get perfection all the time. If you could eliminate risk and unpredictability and have continual beauty, then I think gardening would become very boring.
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