Garden Blog - Blog Post

While the Cat’s Away


I’ve recently returned from a week’s holiday. It was the week where the UK went from 5°C to 25°C in the space of a few days. It remained very hot all week and given I booked the holiday last summer, I did time the weather particularly well if I say so myself. More on the holiday in another post. I left the garden in a reasonably caught-up state, having done all those little five minute jobs that add up to half a lifetime. Just before leaving I noted the Amelanchier was just on the verge of opening, the last of the Camellias was just colouring and the early fruit trees were just coming into blossom. I leave the garden for seven days and a riot breaks loose.

A long winter and cold spring full of rain had saturated the garden, couple this with several days of full-on summer sunshine in mid-April as temperatures soared above 20°C for a week and the shock to the system is evidenced everywhere.

Taken just before going on holiday

In just a single week the Amelanchier budded, flowered and set. I completely missed its flowering. Those wonderful white starry flowers, all gone. Now Amelanchier doesn’t flower for very long but just a single week must be a new speed record. I’m really annoyed I missed it as I look forward to it flowering every year. Now I’m going to have to wait another whole twelve months to see it again.

Seven days later and the show’s all over

Don’t talk to me about waiting for the deep purple-red berries that are produced in autumn, the birds will strip them all off; they’ll be gone before they’ve even had time to fully ripen. It never mentions that on the label. If you look back at the first picture, there is a large ornamental cherry in the background that has yet to open. The buds were still buds when we set off on holiday but a week later and the tree is fully out.

The ornamental cherry rudely awakened

This is an ageing tree and flowers late, yet the week of hot weather has fired it into action more than three weeks before it is due to flower. The pink cherry usually flowers long after the pink Camellia beneath it (just towards the bottom left) and the two are not seen flowering together, until this year. The roasting weather over the week had both good and bad results. On one hand it’s brought the garden forward massively and kick-started the growth of many plants, slapping them out of dormancy. On the other hand, the flowering has been compressed and in some cases very short-lived. Plants are flowering together that are not meant to and it has also caused some damage to other plants.

Sun burn in mid-April

After many months of dull, grey, miserable light, evergreen leaves become sensitive and need a gentle introduction (via a Spring season) to being in full sun again. It’s like hardening off plants, but for light. There was no such gentle introduction for these phormiums, that were blasted by searing hot sunshine over the holiday week. It has caused the leaves to scorch and turn brown. This is sunburn on a plant and I will simply have to wait for it to grow out. The brown will not re-green so these phormiums won’t win any beauty contests for a while.

For Fruit Avenue, the blossom that was just opening when we left appears to have already been and gone and now we have blossom on the later-flowering set of fruit trees. I’m worried that – just as for the Amelanchier – the blossom season was short and the fruit trees were not pollinated fully. We’ll just have to wait for the fruit (if any) to start setting and see what we have.

Non-ornamental cherry blossom. We’ll have to see how much of this sets to fruit

Elsewhere on Fruit Avenue, the gooseberries have already flowered and set seed, the blackberry and wineberry are making a bid for world domination and for the first time since they were planted, the row of red and black currants look as though they will flower. The beech hedge has started to turn green several weeks early and the Banksiae Lutea rose has hidden a section of the house behind n imposing wall of fresh green.

All this wild exuberant growth, kick started from the week of hot weather has suddenly come up against a return of the cold, wet weather that Spring 2018 will long be known for. I keep telling myself that it’s April showers but I didn’t realise they started in September and continued through May, I’d say that’s scope creep. One pest that is taking all this cold and wet yo-yoing of the seasons in its stride are the snails, from whom I could learn a lesson. They’ve already had a go at the hostas before they’re even fully out. One snail in particular shown an artistic ability at munching portraits. See a face, anyone you know?

Already lost the battle against lacy hostas

While I’m annoyed that I have holes in my hostas so early in the season, I can’t help but smile at the creative cheek of the snails. What I learned from this canvas is that despite all the prep work, maintenance, jobs and tending, there are some things – like the weather, the pests and the whim of flowering plants – that are outside of my control but it is my decision on whether I become stressed and upset over it, or simply take it in stride and perhaps sit under the cherry and laugh at the antics of the garden as it develops a character and personality all of its very own.

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author & gardener

Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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lynngator 28/04/2018 - 8:41 pm

Sunil, I do hope you enjoyed your holiday even though there were some disappointments when you returned. I still can’t get over how hot it was for part of our trip to the UK last June/July. Pricey hotels aren’t much fun with no air con! Here in the mountains we’ve had a very strange winter/spring with a possible freeze again tomorrow evening. Referee! I waited and waited for my tulips to bloom and finally a few showed up. Then I watched the woodchuck snack on every single one. Oh well, I guess everybody has to eat!

Sunil 29/04/2018 - 10:42 am

Hello Lynn, the holiday was amazing and it was a much needed break. The weather couldn’t have been better as it was hot and sunny where we went too. There’s rarely a need for air conditioning in a UK summer. It’s easier to open the windows at the front and back of the house and have a through-draft, but I guess you can’t do that in a hotel. It seems the seasons are messed up everywhere. I’m sick of waiting for decent weather to arrive, it always seems to be only a week away.

Susan Maclean 29/04/2018 - 8:32 am

Well, at least you had a good holiday! Like everyone, we don’t know whether the gardens are coming or going, and neither do they…..I am digging out buttercups that are bigger than anything planted near them – but where do they come from? I have no buttercups at that end of the garden. There were none last year. That bloomin’ seed came from somewhere! At least I caught them before they flowered, so no new seeds. My Amelanchier didn’t flower well this year. No idea whether the weather affected it (don’t think so) as all the leaves look good. Just that only three branches had flowers. On the other hand…… (thank you, god of gardening) A new iris last year which had three flowers has doubled in size and there are a lot of fat buds in there! So looking forward to that, even if it does not last long. Here’s to more garden tales from you.

Sunil 29/04/2018 - 10:46 am

Thanks Mrs Mac, we inherited creeping buttercup and it’s all I can do to confine them to the grass and keep them out of the borders. It’s odd that you’ve had Amelanchier troubles too. From what I can see of the setting berries, ours flowered well, it just did it very, very quickly. I might have to use the slow-mode on the camera to capture it next year! My next main area of worry is watching out for sawfly, snail armies, Clematis wilt and the march of weeds from the remaining wild parts of the garden!

Alistair Cruickshank 29/04/2018 - 5:30 pm

A short break and not only did you miss the good weather it also caused a bit of bother in the garden. Ah well, loads to look forward to. In spite of it being none ornamental. The white cherry blossom looks rather good. I planted a couple of multi stem Amelanchiers last April and they are smothered with buds just ready to open, sounds like I need to take care and not leave the photo taking too late.

Sunil 30/04/2018 - 6:02 pm

Hello Alistair, we had the good weather with us on holiday so we didn’t miss it! I’m hoping the edible cherry blossom will turn into fruit this year (will be the first time). For your Amelanchiers, you many want to camp out in from of them with your camera if they flower and finish any where as quickly as mine did!

gardeninacity 01/05/2018 - 2:33 am

Yes, I truly hate it when I go away for a trip and miss the seasonal flowering of a favorite plant. I would also rather have a slow spring to a quick and compressed one. However, these are the perils of gardening.

Sunil 01/05/2018 - 8:20 pm

Hello Jason, it seems to be a different scenario every year. I’d also like to have a longer growing season with as sensible start and civilised finish instead of the stop-go we’re being inflicted with at the moment.


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