An Unpleasant Heat Pauses Planting Progress

No matter how well watered pot plants are, they will wilt when the temperature rockets past 45°C.

Over the last couple of days, the UK has been sweltering with record-breaking temperatures of 38-40°C. Our area was no exception. To make things worse, the patio always gets much hotter than forecasted temperatures in summer because it’s an expanse of concrete in a sun-trap, with a hedge and fence on the short sides and the house wall along its length. It basks in the sunshine and happily cooks anything not sufficiently established, watered or shaded. You can feel it radiating warmth long after the day has cooled down.

The patio baking in the hot sun

The heat of the patio is a double-edged sword because it extends the growing season – being the warmest part of the garden and the last to get frost – but it is more extreme in the summer. Typically on a sunny day when it is warm and pleasant in the garden, it tends to be unpleasantly hot on the patio. It’s one of the main reasons we made the Landing Pad at the bottom of the garden, we can comfortably sit there instead.

Shading vulnerable seedlings

I set a thermometer outside on the patio during the current heatwave and it shot past the end of the scale (45°C) and I had to take it back inside for fear of it bursting.

I’ve spent the last several days working to mitigate the worst of the heatwave and so all the pot plants were thoroughly soaked, those that were light enough were actually submerged in trugs of water to completely saturate them. We put the parasol up over the seedlings on the staging to shade them from the sun and also filled those trays with water. The trays are black and the seedling pots are only small, it’s entirely possible for the trays to heat up so much that they literally cook the young roots as though they were on a planche (a flat griddle).

Crocosmia Lucifer (how appropriate) in flower

The new plants in Fruit Avenue (version 2) had a good water too to help tide them over (I wouldn’t normally bother but didn’t want to risk loosing any). The rest of the garden was left to fend for itself. There might have been some establishing Azaleas in the Willow Border that were wilting and given a watering to help them through, but not much else beyond that.

Fruit Avenue v2 plants (still awaiting some)

I can’t help thinking this heatwave preparation is going to be needed more often in the future as we experience hotter and drier summers.

Enough of the future though, right now, the patio pot display has made it through but is looking much more flower-sparse than it was a week ago. The seedlings are fine and some are ready to plant out and the plants in the new border have also made it through.

The Main Border from a convenient bench

We’re at the point in the year when the garden has gone chaotically overboard with exuberant growth and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the main border, where almost everything has collapsed and most things are now flowering sideways. I can’t decide if it’s a brilliant, naturalistic, free-form effect, or a miserable failure. I tried to chose plants that don’t require staking (because I hate staking plants) but perhaps it was the rich border soil that caused them to grow beyond their means and now I have a “sideways border”. The wood chip path in the border has disappeared, the grass path around it has closed in, barred – among other things – by a sunflower growing sideways that needs to be lifted out of the way in order to pass.

I’m trying not to get too depressed about it and distracting myself with the upcoming planting I need to do in order to fill in the remaining (though somewhat large) gaps in the borders by September, ready for opening next year. There are also a few others smaller areas that I’m looking at for possible re-planting or tweaking opportunities.

Front of the main border

I’m also making a note of what annuals germinate well (Zinnias, Bidens, Gypsophila and so on) for the patio display next year. I will be sowing extra as no doubt, there will be some gaps to fill next year too.

At the moment though, I’m just waiting for this unpleasant heat to abate before getting back in the garden and resuming plans and preparations for opening in 2023. Oddly enough I don’t feel particularly stressed about it, perhaps the loose, lolling, care-free look of the garden at the moment is rubbing off on me.

Or perhaps the task ahead is just so overwhelming, there’s no point in getting upset about it. I think it’s the former for this one.

6 Comments


  1. Sunil, I have thought about you and your garden as I watched weather news from the UK. Maine is one of the coldest places in the US (something I’m not always grateful for in winter), so although we’ve been having a heat wave here, too, it hasn’t been as severe as yours (more in the range of 30-35C). We’ve been having more summer droughts with climate change, so I know those tricky decisions about who gets water in the garden and who doesn’t. I’ve been judiciously hand-watering containers, some new transplants, and a few plants that I find already wilted first thing in the morning. The rest are on their own.
    We normally have hotter summers than you (not this year, though!) and one adaptation I have made to summer heat is that I suspend planting activities between the end of June and the last week of August. I often prepare the ground for new plantings during that period, but I wait to put things in the ground until the worst of the summer heat is behind us.
    I agree that there is no point in getting stressed about the weather. Sometimes I use it as an excuse to just sit back, put up my feet, sip iced tea, and read a novel!

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Jean, the pot plants on the patio and the seedlings on the staging are the most vulnerable because the concrete and black trays heat up so much. Our mounded borders mean plants don’t drown in winter water logging, but need to have deep roots too, as it now barely rains over the summer (having said that, it’s rained three days in a row after the heatwave). I’m with you on the planting times – spring and early autumn – for the best chances of success. The best gardens are going to be the ones that can adapt their planting to the changing conditions – and just when I thought I was “nearly finished”.

      Reply

  2. The worlds in the shitter, my friend. Pour me a drink and let’s dance. It’s more fun than crying. I think your garden came through the scorcher splendidly and looks glorious.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Tammy, I love how you always know the best approach to take. The garden does seem fine after the two stupid-hot days, with only the acers showing scorched leaves (it was the hot, drying winds), but then acers are always complaining about something or other aren’t they? There’ll be a new set of leaves next year anyway so it’s not as though I’m going to loose sleep over it. I now have to contend with foxes picking plums from the fruit trees (I kid you not, nobody explained this as something I’d need to do when I started this whole shebang).

      Reply

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