We were going on holiday on Sunday. I spent Saturday watering the garden and shifting all the plants to the part of the garden that gets the least shade. We hadn’t had (and still haven’t at the time of writing) any rain since May bank holiday, 6 weeks. It has been a dry summer so far. I hide smaller pots among the bigger ones in the hope they will be protected and lose less moisture. We’re going away for a week and I’m panicking. My brother-in-law stays for the weekend and promises to water on Sunday and again on Monday morning before he leaves.
On holiday, I am distracted thinking about the garden I have made in the last year. The garden that has helped me settle in Oxforshire after years up north. I spend the entire week checking the weather app, it’s sunny and hot back at home. Crap. I have become one of those people who checks the weather every day as well as the forecast for the next week or two. I nod and smile at people who comment on how lucky we are to have to have such a lovely hot summer while inside I hope it rains this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow.
It rains in Cornwall and we are thrilled. We like to walk in the rain and we visit Lizard Point and Glendurgan Garden. It left like we were walking among dinosaurs. We visit St Michael’s Mount and I insist on going to the tin coast. I am spellbound. On Thursday it is hot and sunny again, and we are going to the Eden Project. Dom and I agree to make the most of the day, even if we are uncomfortable. We walk around the Slopes of Earthly Treasures, spend more time than is necessary in Global Gardens aka the allotments from around the world.
We stagger through he Rainforest Biome and have no shame in standing in front of the waterfall to cool off (we do this again later, in front of a sprinkler – no regrets). The Rainforest Biome is amazing, but it is too hot and humid for us, so we stop for an ice cream and transfer to the Mediterranean Biome. It is dry heat, except it’s the exact same temperature it is outside.
I wander around the plants, welcoming the familiarity from having grown up in Spain. I smell the jacaranda before I see it. Dom asks me to write the name down so we can add it to the list a it “withstands temperatuers of -7C. I then proceed to look around and realise it’s a sensory garden, but I don’t remember anything else apart from a pelargonium. I rub the leaves and my digits come away coated with liquid scent. Roses. A string of Spanish expletives follows. I smell again. Roses. I need this plant, please, you don’t understand.
I pull myself away from Attar of Roses and continue walking around. They have some plants from Australia. I don’t recognise any, but take some snaps and send them to mum. Dad asks for more photos, he’s become nostalgic for the best years of his life in a country he holds very dear in his heart.
On our way out I peruse the plants on sale. There is no Attar of Roses, but only one pelargonium ‘Cola Bottles’ and I’m reluctant to put it down should someone spot it. So I walk around with the plant under my arm and I pick out a Kangaroo Paw, for the life my parents (and I, albeit briefly) had there. “Don’t pick that one, i’ts ugly.” My ear tunes into this conversation. An ugly plant? I keep browsing in the direction of the plant being judged. It’s a succulent, and it’s beautiful. I pick up my Faucaria Tuberculosa (Teebee from now on) and pay.
Attar of Roses
It’s Saturday, and we’re going home. We decide to stop at Avebury to stretch our legs and have a snack, walk among the rocks. We visit the National Trust property, “just the garden, thank you” and pop into the shop. I choose a penstemon I think will complement the garden. Then I pick up what I identify as a pelargonium. Attar of Roses. No. I must be mistaken. Check again. Attar of Roses. I almost have a meltdown in the shop.
We arrive on our drive and I cover my eyes. “How does it look?” Silence. “Oh God.” “No, no -says Dom. I think most of it is still alive.” I peek through my fingers and gasp. The potatoes look dead. I look at the rest. The pulmonaria is very floppy, deflated like a balloon. The primroses as well. The jasmine looks okay, and the sedum has held up. They need water.
We unlock the front door and I shoot to the garden. My heart sinks. “Okay, it’s not as bad as I had feared”, Dom had followed me outside and puts his arms around me. I need to save this. The next hour is spent carrying buckets of water out the front and filling the long black trays with water so the pots can sit in them. I then water the back garden and decide to change the layout a little. It’s West-facing, which means it gets the sun for most of the day. I will have a pelargonium display, I resolve. And I’ll move the coldframe to the shade.
Slowly but surely I move everything that looks alive into position and water everything else. While I work I see new butterflies and bees, but they can’t find any food, everything has shrivelled up. I feel awful and keep pottering until it is dark and I use the kitchen light to navigate.
There is hope
On Sunday I wake up and check the front, the plants have perked up! Even the potato plants look somewhat healthier, I should probably lift the earlies soon. I look at the back garden. It looks better. The sunflowers and echinacea are not drooping anymore. Neither is the angelica. I have breakfast and go back out. I start to deadhead and cut back the geranium. Out of the three I planted together, one has taken over – it will need repotting in the autumn. I deadhead the polemonium and collect the seed. I also deadhead the valerian, which seems to have grown fresh leaves. The nepeta and clary sage have shrivelled up and gone to seed, but once I start cutting back I can see new shoots appearing and I get excited. I see new growth in shrivelled pineapple mint, and new side shoots forming in spent borage.
Hours are spent outside, and a solitary wasp reminds me to keep hydrated as she visits the bird bath repeatedly. I wonder where she’s building her next; I check the shed, just in case. The snap peas have overgrown, I’ll deal with them later; I might let some go to seed. I mulch pots with grit so the soil doesn’t dry out as quickly. There are no casualties in the cold frame. I deadhead the sweet peas and notice the bug hotel has 2 more sealed holes, the leaf cutter bee has been busy. The butterflies and bees are staying now, they can find nectar in the remaining flowers.