At the end of an eventful growing season, Susie White recaps what went well…
What a year it’s been for weather! We had the worst snow for 50 years, followed by three months with no rain, then a wet and windy late summer. So how did the garden cope with these extreme conditions?
During the drought we watered the vegetable garden, but the flower garden had to manage without. Vital to its success was its mulch. We laid down woodchip before plants grew and it held in the moisture; they survived all those weeks without watering. When I added plugs of annuals, I scraped away the mulch, planted and re-covered the soil.
It’s been a great year for annuals. In wet years I find cosmos can make too much leaf and flower late. This year it did well from early on, prolonged by regular deadheading.
Calendulas ‘Snow Princess’ and ‘Golden King’ brightened the veg garden and brought in pollinating insects. The top annual for bees was Echium ‘Blue Bedder’ which flowered for months on end.
My annual border looked amazing with ‘Blue Bedder’ at the front, African marigolds at mid-height, then taller zinnias and a rich purple-black gladiolus called ‘Espresso’. The zinnias were ‘Molotov Mix’ from Suttons in jazzy sweetshop colours
– just look at the range of colours I’ve floated in a blue bowl, above.
My absolute favourite has been an African marigold, Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’. Its fiery-red flowers have gold edging and yellow backs to the petals. Lasting at least four months in the border, it also does well as a cut flower and, grown around tomatoes, it protects against aphids.
I filled pots near the front door with lavender, pansies, agapanthus and nasturtiums. In a pair of large pots I tried a new dwarf sunflower called ‘SunBelievable™ Brown Eyed Girl’ from Thompson and Morgan. Winning third place in this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year competition, this bright yellow sunflower flowered amazingly and stood up to the wind. It’s definitely one I will grow next year.
The weather affected the veg garden in unpredictable ways. We had a mega crop of strawberries from plants that were never watered, surprising for fruits containing a lot of juice. Leafy vegetables didn’t do well, with the drought making plants such as spinach, lettuce, coriander and dill run to seed. After a couple of weeks, the broad beans weren’t worth eating because they were dry and mealy-tasting but French beans and runner beans cropped heavily.
We gave the courgettes lots of water as they are thirsty. They rewarded us with a bumper crop – so many that we had to be inventive with recipes and give lots away. Same with cucumbers, grown in the greenhouse. Garlic, onions and shallots loved the heat and are now safely stored.
There have been winners and losers in this strange year, and I have enjoyed every moment of sharing my garden with you. I hope to see you all again next year!
Calendula ‘Snow Princess’
Echium ‘Blue Bedder’
‘Sunbelievable Brown Eyed Girl’
David with a trug of veg