Rain, rain, go away: What the wet weather means for our gardens
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The parched lawns of a few months ago seem a world away from the current soggy conditions outdoors. What do these changing weather conditions mean for our gardens?
It hardly seems any time at all since I was sitting here and writing about how desperate the lawn was looking. The lack of rain throughout the summer months had left the garden looking somewhat forlorn, but now we have the opposite situation! Looking out of the window in front of my desk, I can see the lawn looking lush and thick again, and as the rain falls softly outside, the world around me starts to feel a sense of renewal.
For so many people across the world, and even as close at hand as Wales, the rain is signalling something much more sinister. The destruction and devastation that it has caused is vast, and it will take people months, and years to rebuild their homes, their gardens, and in some cases there will be possessions destroyed that can never be replaced.
Luckily for most people, we don’t have to deal with very wet conditions in our gardens very often, but for some, you may have a small section which is always seemingly wet, due to poor drainage or a high water table.
If this is the case, you will probably have found that there are lots of plants that you can’t get to grow in those conditions - and that there are some plants which will thrive.
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There aren’t many, if any, plants which will survive in an area which is permanently waterlogged, but there are some which will cope better with wet soil conditions than others.
The following are a few of those which the RHS list as being suitable for wet soils: Cornus Alba, Hydrangea Macrophylla, Astilbe, Hosta and Iris Ensata.
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After the drought that we experienced this summer, and the drier summers that we have been experiencing for a while now, it is no surprise that people are starting to attempt to try more Mediterranean plants in British gardens.
Plants which 10 years ago would have been considered far too exotic to thrive in the UK climate are becoming far more popular in British garden centres, and whereas at one stage it would have been seen to be very brave to attempt to keep an olive tree alive here, or to hope to grow your own lemon to accompany your evening gin and tonic - nowadays it is very common to see either plant in people’s gardens or conservatories.
However, this change in trend in planting will of course be affected by periods of particularly wet weather, which Mediterranean plants will not necessarily be accustomed to dealing with.
We will have to watch and monitor the changing climates for a while yet, before we know whether our hotter summers will be coupled with wetter or colder winters, and before we really start to change our planting patterns.
Things to do in the garden this month:
If you can bear to get yourself out in the rain to garden, or if (fingers crossed), we get some nice crisp autumnal days in the next few weeks, make the most of it and get outside. There are plenty of things which still need doing!
* Although you will have most likely already been out planting bulbs for the spring, there is still time to get some in if you haven’t already. You won’t regret the time spent now, when the late winter days are really brightened up by the bulbs coming through!
* If you want a real treat in the spring, and you’ve got space, it’s a good time to plant a magnolia tree
* If you are wanting to make floral decorations or wreaths for Christmas, and you are lucky enough to have holly in your garden, now is a good time to cut it. If it has berries on it, you will likely find that, by December, the birds will have got hungry and eaten them all! So cut some holly now - stand it in some water, and keep it somewhere that the birds won’t be able to get to it.
* If you have access to manure, now is the time to start spreading it over your vegetable garden. This should give it time to break down and really get the nutrients into your soil over the winter months. It can be a very smelly job - but well worth it when you’re picking your veg next year!
* If you have a compost bin that has rotted down, now is a good time to clear it out so that it’s ready for use and the bins are empty for next year.
* Plant up pots with hyacinth bulbs or paperwhite narcissi
* If you are doing some clearing down in the garden and building a bonfire for Fireworks night, make sure you check it well before lighting it. It’s the perfect place for hedgehogs and other small creatures to hibernate, or seek shelter.
* If you thought I’d got through the whole of an October column without mentioning pumpkins... well, very nearly! The wonderful pop-up sunflower farm just off junction 9 of the M1 is opening at various times over the next few weeks for picking your own pumpkin - go and check out this wonderful local enterprise: www.thepopupfarm.co.uk