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Down to Earth: Reset your garden for summer’s heat

Instead of resenting summer’s hear, we need to reset both our minds and our gardens and make the most of it, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Drought resistant plants bring interest during summer's heat
Drought resistant plants bring interest during summer's heat

Endurance, that is the word that always comes to mind when I turned over the June page of the calendar to expose a brand new July. I know this is a tad extreme but nevertheless I couldn’t help but focus on the word ‘endurance’.

There are a number of reasons why I couldn’t shake my negative July attitude, but the main contributing factor is the high summer heat. Anything over 25 degrees and I start to turn into an old English cliché and can’t help but moan and keep thinking about the saying “Where there is shade, you will find me”.

I am sure that my physical issues with the July heat are connected to the mental issues that I have when I look out into the garden. Even the best-cared-for gardens really have to dig in and endure July. Lush green lawns become either patchy or completely turn into the colour and texture of straw, turgid plants in full borders start to look like characters from old films where the main characters crawl across the desert, with old tissues over their heads, bleating “Water, I need water”. . . And then, if conditions are particularly bad, the dreaded words ‘hose pipe ban’ leave most of us, and our gardens, searching for life support.

I am not sure what triggered it, but this year I knew I couldn’t go on living like this. Maybe it was the long winter that we had or maybe it is the fact that my children are growing at an alarming rate and one day soon won’t want to enjoy playing in the garden, but I don’t want to be the Eeyore ruining everyone’s summer party anymore.

Yes the gardens struggle in July, but there are ways we can ease this like mulching in early spring to retain moisture, do our best to keep borders well watered with leaky pipe irrigation early in the day (or late at night), selecting drought tolerant plants in sunny borders and trying to store as much water as possible with rain butts (that come in all shapes and sizes).

And then there are the positives that come with July in our gardens. It is one of the few months where the garden can be a true extension of the house and can be used in many ways. Eating outside in the evenings, barbeques with friends, paddling pools, water pistol battles and enjoying two of the best-combined words in the English language ‘ice cream’!

Soon the season will pass and before we know it will be winter again, when we will have something else to moan about.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more

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