It is true that most of us who garden spend a fair amount of time discussing the weather; too hot; too dry; too windy; too wet; too wet; too wet. Well this summer we’ve certainly had a lot to discuss, with the incredibly wet and cool start in May and June to the tremendous heat of August – never a dull moment. Our gardens are so quickly affected by the changing weather conditions especially when it is holiday time and we are not on hand to adapt our habits day-by-day or week-by-week. In my experience it is always best to err on the side of caution and this is a perfect example of why. Early this summer I left half a dozen newly purchased perennial geraniums amongst a group of larger pots hoping they would be happy (and sheltered) enough during my week-long absence – I came home to crisp leaves and parched soil. I was so sad I immediately moved them to a more shady spot, drenched them with water and have been nursing them back to their original state ever since. Note to self, always pay a teenager to water even for a short trip.
The hydrangeas this summer have been just spectacular and although they need quite a lot of water, if they are in the correct position in the garden they will have given you quite the show. There has been a renaissance of the hydrangea in recent years with more and more varieties becoming easily available, this year I found a very pretty new (to me) variety called Hydrangea arborescens “Incredible Pink”. As the name suggests it is pink but not the bright showy pink of my childhood. Each petal is delicately edged in pink giving an overall dusty pink colour (see photo above) – just gorgeous, now all I have to do is find a reasonably shady spot for it in my garden, no easy feat.
The results in my vegetable garden have been quite interesting this year. The seed potatoes I took great care in chitting and planting up have gone astray and may have ended up in Australia because they are nowhere to be found where they were planted. On the other hand those I deemed too inferior to plant and added to my compost have put on leaf and are now showing quite the crop. I’m afraid they will be too green to eat but it just shows you when the conditions are correct plants will grow.
The tomato glut is well and truly on its way and should be enjoyed for as soon as there is a dip in the overnight temperature all will be lost. To get the most out of your crop tie up the fruit laden branches to keep them off the soil; remove the uppermost growth so as to divert the energy to the existing fruit, it is too late now to encourage new fruit; finally, to allow for greatest sun exposure and therefore ripening, trim away any leafy branches covering the fruit. Such bliss to grow your own tomatoes – there is nothing quite like the flavour.
I’ve started thinking about the autumn and am getting ready to plant some kale. Seeds germinate very quickly and can be sown directly outside now or in small pots to be transplanted in a few weeks. Kale plants are rather large with a circumference of at least 30cms which means it may not be prudent to plant out too many. In this case I use the seedlings I won’t be planting as micro greens for salads and sandwiches – they give quite a kick. Perhaps you have also noticed the number of kale plants, especially the black variety Kale Nero di Toscana, which has been incorporated into many public plantings in villages such as Founex and Divonne. Something to keep in mind for your floral beds for next year, it gives texture, colour, height and great form and is delicious!
Before I forget, do check your box wood plants. The pesky box wood caterpillar, la pyrale du buis, is still present in this area (active until October) and chewing furiously on the small leaves of your shrubs and hedges. Brown patches, cocoons of webbing, skeletal leaves and of course the black and green caterpillars are all signs of an infestation. For more details see this RHS page.
In case you were concerned, the perennial geraniums have returned to their original glory and are ready and waiting to be planted, but that is another days work.