Baked Lettuce for Dinner

Samuel Johnson really must have had gardeners in mind when he spoke of his fellow countrymen: “It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.”

We speak of little else these days but the hot weather. In our defence it is uncommonly hot with temperatures hitting record highs in many parts of the country. It is a difficult time for gardens and gardeners and most certainly for the plants in our gardens and some have been scorched and dried and unlikely to revive this year and one can only hope they may return next year.

The view is bright and pleasant but note how the grass close to the hornbeams on the left has dried out so dramatically.
And a close look at the ground in parts of the garden show just how dry is has become.

Those plants which are natural wet/damp ground growers are, obviously, going to suffer in present-day conditions – primulas, astilbes and the likes – but the effect is, perhaps, most dramatic seen on large-foliage plants – rodgersias, podophyllums, veratrums etc. Shrubs and trees suffered also with the foliage of many wilting on the branch while others have dropped the leaves entirely. Join me on my walk of woe:

Veratrums grow in moist, even wet, locations and this weather doesn’t suit them at all – nor the pheasant, I believe, who trotted along when she saw me and then called in her lanky, teenage chicks to enjoy the snack provided.

And, more signs of plants under stress around the garden:

‘Tis an ill wind, as the saying goes, and an ill heatwave which doesn’t have good for somebody. The barley in the fields around us ripened well in this weather and the harvesters, a procession of huge machinery, arrived this morning and made quick work of it.

It is not all disaster and some parts of the garden are looking well and some plants continue to put on a good display:

I have noticed over the last few years that the mophead hydrangeas, Hydrangea macrophylla, are less able for the high temperatures than cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata and I expect we will remove some of the older mophead plants from the garden here and plant more of the paniculata varieties:

Noel Coward wrote of the mad dogs and Englishmen and might well have included gardeners for we started on a job and refused to allow the weather to stop us. A tall Thuja ‘Smaragd’, planted about thirty years ago, was crowding in on top of the arbour above and the Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ on the left as well as the Amelanchier lamarckii and the Parrotia persica to the right had all spread out their branches and had shaded this area far too much and also kept the area very dry as it kept the rain off the ground beneath. Hopefully, it will give the plants beneath a better chance in future years.

The sharp-eyed will have noticed that the seat of the arbour is in a state of disarray. I was working away on the Thuja when one of our sons called me on the ‘phone. I sat on the seat to chat with him only to have it collapse under me. This photograph doesn’t give the most accurate picture as the inside of the arbour was filled with clematis and, to be honest, we very, very rarely sit there. The Head Gardener came along after my mishap and cleared it out so that I could make the repairs with more ease. Mary reckons we bought the arbour in 1999 – Johnstown Garden Centre when it was in its old location – so it has given good service and will be as good as new in a few days. There is a massive heap of prunings filling a bay in the compost bin area which needs to be shredded first! It all makes work for the working man to do!

Oh, I nearly forgot the lettuce:

I don’t think there’s much chance of recovery in the lettuce bed! I hope your gardens have escaped such scorching!
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8 thoughts on “Baked Lettuce for Dinner

  1. It must be somewhat disheartening to have a garden which is normally lush and green suffering so — it looks a bit more like my Virginia garden than the Irish Eden yours usually is. And yet, I can still say I wished mine looked as good as yours does even now. July and August, and sometimes early September are typically scorching, and often quite dry here, and even though many plants are used to that, they do not look at their best. I suspect you are quite right about the hydrangeas, paniculatas do fairly well here, but even they do not always achieve that nice late-season glow of color they are capable of — if it’s too dry, they brown off — but they do come back the next year. Best of luck with the recovery.

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    1. Rain is forecast for early next week and possible thunder showers tomorrow so that will bring some relief. We don’t water the garden only potted plants and newly planted ones. We have a private well and need to take care it doesn’t run dry at the end of the summer. This weather is not our regular summer fare and we might not see it as hot for years.

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  2. I’m glad the arbour can be repaired. Canna ‘Cleopatra’ is rather stunning with it’s yellow and red flowers and the parts of your garden that are coping okay are putting on a very fine show indeed. I’m really hoping the alleged thunderstorms forecast for Monday or Tuesday here materialise, but I’m not getting my hopes up based on past predictions.

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  3. It’s the same up here So I have done this week is water. Added to that I p used a !muscle at the back of my leg which is causing probl ems. Supposed to rain on Monday

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  4. Oh gosh! Those lettuce look terrible! It is interesting to read what plants are surviving the heat and which are not. The mop head versus the H paniculata for instance. I’m not successful at growing the mop head, and consequently decided I couldn’t grow the paniculata variety. After reading your post I thing I might just give the Vannilla Friese a try! I’m hoping that the scorching heat will be broken soon.

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