Down to Earth: Keep calm and carry on gardening
Don’t let the heat of summer send you into a plant-buying panic, says Cambridge garden designer Robert Barker
You can never predict the weather, but you can assume that July is going to be mainly sunny and hot. You can also assume that in the month of July fans will sell out almost everywhere, parks will be full of people stripped down to their birthday suits, their will be a lot of moaning about how hot it is (especially from me, I was built for the shade) and you can bet that the popular topic in horticulture will be how can we deal with drought.
Every year without fail, we have a few hot weeks and then the media springs into action advising which are the best drought tolerant plants to put in our gardens. Inevitably this is followed within a few months by articles on how to deal with water logging when the August, September and October showers arrive.
The key to avoiding the hype is to put the time into researching what the conditions are like in your own garden and then planting the right plants in the right places, so that whatever the weather throws at your garden it will thrive during the highs and endure during the lows.
Frequently I have to explain the ‘right plant, right place’ philosophy to new clients, as so often we get requests for certain plants that just won’t survive within their gardens. I once had a client that wanted to ignore the bespoke planting design we had created and instead replace it with a list of plants that she had selected herself. Once reading the list I had to politely point out that all of the plants within her list were actually house plants and would die almost instantly at the first sign of frost. Our reputation has been built on designed gardens that stay alive and thrive - but the main point is that we really don’t want our clients to waste their money on plants that will ultimately die.
In these modern times it seems to me so much time is wasted comparing what we have to what others have. Social media is the breeding ground for this destructive mindset. The wonderful thing about plants is that they don’t care how many likes a photo of them gets or how many retweets; if it isn’t in the right place then it will let you know very quickly.
Looking up and accepting the living beauty that is around us for what it is might not solve all our problems, but it might help us find solace during these complicated times.
* See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.
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