Hot & dry, wet & chilly

It’s been quite the growing season, the long summer days have been hot and dry. The rain, when it arrived, fell in torrents, beating down the fragile flowers but never came often enough to help avoid a drought. The august temperatures in Switzerland were the fourth highest since records began in 1864 (recently 2003 and 2015 were hotter). Fighting the heat reminds me to plant what will thrive in exposed, hot, dry conditions and to give up on the thirsty, delicate summer blooms that really do not work in my garden. The great English gardener Beth Chatto is famous for stating “right plant right place”. It is a mantra that I need to repeat to myself regularly at the end of every summer.

In the cutting garden there have been many successes and quite a few failures. The cosmos “Purity” are skyscraper tall and flowering beautifully, they really should be staked – a note for me for next year. Zinnias, in large pots, have also done really well, loving the hot sunny weather. Next year I’ll plant more and move them to the cutting garden. The dahlias have been out of this world fantastic. They really can’t be beat for fabulous colour – they should also be staked. I knew that but didn’t bother this year as I knew I’d be close by all summer however, I underestimated the force of the wind during storms. I have two raised beds brimming with dahlias all doing well and flowering well since the end of June. I had one extra tuber which I potted up and placed on the hot terrace to see how well it would do, it flowered for the first time this weekend! It is a lovely dark red but I’m glad the rest of them are in the ground.

The roses which did so well early on suffered greatly from the heat. Next year I’ll need to improve the soil and mulch it early to help retain the moisture and perhaps pull an irrigation pipe to that sunny bed as I’ll not be moving them. The sweet peas also suffered terribly. I think a day or two of neglect on my part during a particularly hot period encouraged them to set seed and give up the ghost. Thank heavens for Bristol, a pale blue in the most sheltered spot which continues to flower and bring me joy.

Things in the vegetable patch have also been all over the place too. An early, very sudden and devastating infestation of flea beetle (my first) left my large crop of rocket decimated, so on the compost it went. The salads that it replaced did much better and produced well all summer. For the first time this year I tried to grow courgettes in my compost bins, they usually take up so much space in the raised beds I thought I’d let them ramble away. Unfortunately the only thing rambling down there is a volunteer melon plant, which will not have appreciated our recent chilly temperatures. I decided to move the tomatoes and chilli peppers into big pots on the south facing side of the house, the hottest and sunniest part of the garden, knowing that I’d be home to check on them daily. Thankfully they are doing brilliantly. The tiny red tomatoes are so delicious to eat and so much easier to control in a pot. It is clearly the best place for them but it is unlikely that I will repeat this next year in the hope that I will not be home everyday to coddle them.

I’ve got my notebook out and am making lists of cutting flower varieties that I want to grow for next year. Keeping a notebook is something that I started a few years ago and it really does help keep me from being distracted by the gorgeous plants at the garden centres – if its not on the list I try really hard to not buy it.

I’ve had so much more time in the garden this summer its given me the opportunity to see where I need to put in more work. I’ve decided to dig up my strawberries and grow a green manure over the winter to replenish the soil. I’ll take a break for a year and then reintroduce them in another raised bed. The heat has made it clear that mulching is a task that I need to take more seriously, mulch, mulch, mulch and then mulch some more. It makes such a difference to the moisture retention of the soil I need to move it up my to do list.

It always seems odd to be thinking of bulbs when days in September can still be so hot but now is the time to be thinking of next spring. Imagine how lovely it will be to have pots of cheerful daffodils when the days are short and the skies grey. I’ll be adding them to my list. Now is also a really good time to pop onions sets into the ground. They over winter really well, even through the snow and produce a very satisfying crop in the late spring.

If your to do list is longer than your arm and you’d rather not deal with it just yet perhaps you need the distraction of some other gardening. Here are a few ideas for you:

Pumpkin fever at La Grange aux Courges With October comes thoughts of steaming bowls of pumpkin soup and hours of pumpkin carving. While lots of local farms and markets have a good variety of pumpkins thanks to the team at The Lausanne Guide I’ve discovered a farm with 110 varieties above Lausanne in Goumoens-la-ville, 40 minutes from Nyon. Open seven days a week, 09:00-20:00, there is a huge choice and they even engrave pumpkins to order, although too late for engraving this year something to consider for autumn next year. In the meantime go find a pumpkin.

Quai des Dahlias, Morges until end October – the lakefront in Morges is teaming with over 2250 dahlias of 100 varieties again this autumn, considering the planting was delayed by six weeks this is great news. The distribution of tubers will take place on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 November, a pdf list of varieties available is on the website along with an order form on the last page, you can order up to five tubers of up to five varieties for Chf 5 each tuber. If you live in the area and would like to join the team of volunteer dahlia lovers who maintain the flowers every Wednesday morning, drop a note to the Association Morges Fleur du Léman I am happy to report that the tulip festival will celebrate 50+ years in style in 2021 to make up for the cancelled celebrations of 2020.

Journée des plantes d’Aiguebelette, 10-11 October – located 10 kms from Chambéry this wonderful two day event is filled with plant growers and producers from all over France. Mixed with a selection of horticultural events, workshops and discussion there is lots to see and do.

Christmas market, Schilliger, 10 October – although the annual evening launch of this well know Christmas Market has been cancelled the market will open as planned. Lots of lovely horticultural gifts to add to your list.

Fete de la Courge, Schilliger, 17 October – If you’ve been here as long as I have you may certainly remember the Schilliger Pumpkin Festival. Every year local amateur growers brought their largest pumpkin to Gland to be weighed and entered into competition. To celebrate its 75th anniversary Schilliger decided to reinstate this event. They distributed Atlantic Giant pumpkin seedlings to 500 customers at the end of May. Growers may drop off their fully developed pumpkins from 10-16 October with the grand weighing in on 17 October. Expect to see some beauties.

Château de Vullierens, weekends from 13:00-18:00 until 25 October – the season may be coming to a close but the gardens of this Château above Morges continue to delight. With 80 sculptures placed throughout the gardens and activities for the younger members of the family it makes for a lovely day out. This is the only RHS affiliated garden in Switzerland and as such RHS members have free entry with their membership card.

Union Maraîchère de Genève – If your vegetable growing has come to an end there is still a way of getting fresh, seasonal, local vegetables in Geneva. The UMG is a cooperative of vegetable growers in the canton of Geneva, their 31 members are responsible for 80% of the 30,000 tons of vegetables in the canton and combine the largest producers of tomatoes in the entire country. Their Côte Jardin label can be found in many Geneva shops. Check out their Perly headquarters and shop where you choose one of three basket sizes and fill it up with seasonal vegetables. Perhaps you live in Perly and have seen their wonderful salad truck too, only on Wednesdays from 11:30-14:00.

Rémy Jaggi, Trélex – Saturday 7 & Sunday 8 November – my favourite local florist and nursery is planning on running their always beautiful advent display of floral holiday ideas. The talented team of florists create beautiful arrangements which can be ordered for pick-up or delivery in time for the holidays.

Miss Daisy – The team at Miss Daisy have relaunched their flower arranging courses limiting the number of participants to six. If you’d rather pick up a ready made bouquet instead you can join their weekly service. Sign-up for flowers by Monday morning and collect your bouquet on Thursday or Friday at their workshop in Céligny.

Heure du Thé, Chéserex – I am delighted to collaborate with Marie-Claude this season and will be running two workshops on seasonal pots and containers on Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 October. Marie-Claude will also run a number of other seasonal workshops this autumn along with a Christmas open house weekend from 12-14 November. Please drop me a note if you’d like to sign-up.

La Noyére, set in a beautifully restored 17th century manor house in Mont-sur-Rolle Anne-Catherine and her team have been delighting clients with cooking and floral workshops since 2014. Continuing this autumn with smaller groups the list of workshops is very inviting.

Crazy for citrus Many of you may know the name Niels Rodin as the local guru of all things citrus. His production is located in the greenhouses of Nature en Scène in Arnex sur Nyon but until now his fruit has only been available for purchase by professional in the gastronomy business. I’m happy to report that non professionals can now order his fruit by email to for pickup on Saturdays at Nature en Scène. See his FaceBook page for the varieties currently available.

Nyon potagers The ville de Nyon has decided to bring all the public vegetable gardening spaces under one roof for applications and waiting lists. There are also launching two new gardening areas this year ready for action in 2012. If you are a resident of Nyon and interested in an allotment, check out their website for further information and apply soon as I’m sure they will be very popular.

The Swiss Gardening School website is currently being revamped and will return with Saturday morning master classes for the winter. Keep an eye on the FaceBook page for the launch.

In the meantime, wishing you well and happy gardening.

5 thoughts on “Hot & dry, wet & chilly

  1. So pleased I’m still on your mailing list as I thoroughly enjoyed reading your friendly, informative and entertaining blog. Even if it gives me garden envy!

  2. thank you so much for the wonderful, inspiring and encouraging account of your gardening year and the calendar and helpful reminder of lovely events and visits to come.

    1. Thanks for your lovely note Eileen – it is always nice to hear that it is being read. Hope to see you soon.Tara

  3. Thanks Tara – always love to read your blogs. (Oh how I wish I had half your luck in my garden!)

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