Although the lawns have been baked to a straw-yellow in places, the borders themselves are holding up surprisingly well. Localised spot-watering has helped keep some of the taller plants from keeling over, whilst the roses in particular are thriving in the dry conditions.
In general the main effect of the hot weather has been to accelerate the flowering season, so that many blooms have come and gone when we would really have liked them to stay a little longer. Gardening is never an exact science of course and each year brings its own challenges!
Strimming the flowery mead around the lawn on the fountain terrace has been our most recent task, now that the heads of the spent wildflowers have dried and distributed their seeds. Our new volunteers got stuck in to the task of raking off the strimmed debris, carting it off to the compost heaps. After all that good honest toil the mead looks nicely refreshed, re-asserting the visual punctuation of the topiary beech and hornbeam trees that are dotted throughout the border.
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Head gardener Lindsay and myself have also begun to review the knot garden, which has been in situ now for around seven years, meaning that the edging of teucrium (wall germander) - a very successful plant for this role - and the intersecting lines of rosemary and lavender have reached the point where they are becoming a little woody and developing a rather unruly growth habit. The knot garden really needs clear lines to give its inherent structure, so many of these plants will need renewal soon. Teucrium is particularly easy to take cuttings from; so with a little planning a whole army of new plants can be nurtured ready to take over.
Many people are nostalgically comparing this summer to that of 1976 and it certainly is beginning to feel like it. In my eight years at the Hall I certainly don’t remember such an extended dry period and yet it seems only a short time since we were under snow at the start of the year, followed by an extremely wet spring.
What autumn has in store for us e can only guess!