There are lots of things that you shouldn’t be doing until it gets considerably cooler. Many shrubs have been damaged by the burning sun, but resist cutting them back for the moment or you could expose any new growths to the sun and lose that too. Put off planting out anything new until the temperature drops considerably, even if the planting place is sheltered. You really need to give the plants the best conditions to survive. Annuals only last for a couple of weeks anyway, and this year herbaceous perennials (those that come up every year) were short lived too. All this makes me wonder that if we have less and less winter rain and more of the high temperatures that we have seen last year and this, it may mean the end of these lovely additions to the garden that we look forward to each year.
Towards the end of the month spring bulbs should be appearing in the garden centres. Buy them now by all means, before the favourites sell out, but wait until the ground is moist enough to plant them or they won’t make roots to sustain them in the months ahead. Choose them with care, even if it means taking every packet off the hook or shelf and turning it over to check that the bulbs are firm and not showing any signs of mould. Sternbergia are the earliest flowerers, but like yellow crocus the birds love these pretty bulbs too and peck at the flowers. So be warned! One year I tried snowdrops, which I love, but apart from the first year when they flowered reasonably well, they did not reproduce. Two new potted Amaryllis, bought last year, had wonderful flower heads, but again were very short-lived. I have been watering and feeding them all through the summer, but have stopped now to let the leaves die down. In about a couple of month’s time, watering can be started again, when they should delight us with their huge blooms at Christmas and into the New Year.
It’s interesting to reflect that tulip bulbs started out life in this area of the Mediterranean and were taken to Holland as early as the 16th century. Nowadays, these bulbs are exported mainly from Holland The Dutch grow fields of them but not for their flowers, which are removed from the plant and used to decorate flower floats, or even end up as compost! Each bulb can yield at least two or even three bulblets each season, which is what the grower is looking for. Daffodils were natives of Spain and Portugal; the humble but heavenly-perfumed freesias were originally from South Africa and as far away as North Africa and even China, as were ornithogalums (Star of Bethlehem). I love the early flowering ‘Paperwhites’, Narcissus papyrus, which started life in parts of Greece and as far as Portugal and along the northern coast of Africa. How amazing that we are able to enjoy so many of these international flowers!