Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Putting this Hot and Dry Summer to Bed

There's a fine line between a chronicle and whining.  I must have abandoned more posts than I wrote this summer - my writing drought mirroring the weather.  Yes, I know I am a mere amateur in the professional world of hot and dry experienced by my southern gardener friends, but this year it has been fierce.  The only good thing about the summer was the lack of maintenance the garden needed:  the lawn was dormant; the weeds stunted; no need for dead-heading the annuals - those seeds that germinated and became plants, never bloomed.  The only exception was the pots that needed to be watered often and for greater periods of time.

Fortunately the winds and weather patterns have shifted over North America - there are cooler temperatures and weekly water in the forecast.  I thought it might be a great idea to give you a little taste of the summer and, like a less-than-perfect meal, put it behind me and get on with all the garden maintenance I need to do now that life has returned to the garden.

Rather than my own garden, let's take a look at the happenings at my mother ship, the Royal Botanical Gardens.  On August 8th, when the temperature finally dipped below 32C (90F) - Kevin and I headed over to the Cherry Hill Trail.  The trail, that is often wet in spots was cracked and dry.  Look at these water lilies - normally these pads would be floating on the water.  On this day they simply stood naked above the muck.  (Several weeks later, they had all collapsed into a black mess.)

Although, I suppose it might have been a little easier fishing for some of the birds.

And there were more places to sun for the turtles.

While it wasn't as obvious that the water was low here....

Take a look at this:

To compare, here's a photograph I took exactly a year ago.  Obviously this area dries out somewhat in August, but this is really extreme.

What is doing well is the new Rock Garden.  There are big masses of low maintenance plants meant to withstand hot and dry - perfect for this year.  The mass plantings designed by Janet Rosenberg are doing what they're supposed to be doing - thriving.

The water features all had to be re-built as well - this was the first time I saw some of the fancy tropical water lilies blooming.

Best of all, every time I visited this summer, the parking lot seemed fuller - just had to capture these folks and their pretty daughters using the hibiscus as temporary hair ornamentation:

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an event put together by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council and the Royal Botanical Gardens.   The OIPC are the folks who put together the terrific Grow Me Instead Guides with Landscape Ontario.

It was an event primarily for landscape professionals/growers to learn more and exchange ideas about invasive plants for the horticulture industry.

The Royal Botanical Garden because of the size of its collection and acres of undeveloped land can be the canary in the coal mine when it comes new invasive species.  There are various factors including the change in weather and loss of species (what moves in when the Ash trees leave?).  So off we set to the edge of the Magnolia collection to see first-hand a potential new invasive.  We were given a presentation and shown thickets of Magnolia kobus establishing themselves both by seed and by underground roots.

Here was a fun discovery, our guide Jon Peter from the RBG showing a native Apios strangling an invasive....

Aren't these cool flowers - great scent too.

After our hike around Cootes Paradise we all sat down for lunch.  Can you say lunch-bag-let-down?  I suspect they've seen the size of my hips - my lunch:  one fork, one straw, one peach (fabulous this year), one bag of apple chips and one granola bar.  Dear Anne Marie Van Nest shared her peach with me.

Proof positive it has been the year for plants that like it hot and dry - a parking-lot display garden outside the RBG.

I'll be going outside shortly to start to work on my garden (and hopefully plant some red and white tulips in honour of Canada's 150th birthday!).  I will make my notes and take some pictures.  I need to see what's done well, and what's been a bust.  Nothing better than having my own laboratory right outside my door.

I'll leave you with one last look of a typical summer evening this year in downtown Oakville.  I'll keep this photo in mind when the snow begins to fly.


Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Thanks for the tour of the beautiful RBG! It was hot like that here in S. Wisconsin, too, except that we had enough rain--in fact, we've had an unusually wet August and September. So, the humidity was crazy and the mosquitoes were killer. Still, I'll take that over a drought, anytime. Our drought in 2012 taught me how horrible that can be. I hope your autumn and winter will bring the moisture (but not too much) that your garden needs to recover from a tough summer.

Jennifer said...

It has been a really tough summer, hasn't it? Your picture of the boggy area at the RBG, both last year and this summer, really illustrate the point. With the lack of rain, it has felt a little like being in a northern dessert this summer. My garden has come through, but only because I watered regularly. Even so, there were losses. The only great thing was the complete lack of mosquitoes. That was a great pleasure!
According to the Farmer's Almanac this winter is to be severe. You may want to keep that summery picture of downtown Oakville handy through the worst of it.

Barbarapc said...

Beth, You're most welcome. No doubt that's why your Blue Mist Flower was doing so well (just looked up the botanical name to double-check and found they've changed the classification - good grief, no longer Eupatorium coelestinum, but Conoclinium coelestinum!) See the cloud patterns from my window this a.m. - looks like the rain fairy will be dancing through our area very soon.
Jennifer - it's been a beast. While no 'skeeters, on the w/e we had an oddball stinging/biting sort of fly thing - looked like a small pollinator, acted like a mosquito. Left as quickly as it arrived. The Farmer's Almanac, the Weather Network, all predict a winter of shovelling and shivering - I'm waiting with baited breath to see what David Phillips says. The moment I hear it from him, I'm going straight to the LCBO to stock up on my favourite scotch, shutting the curtains and putting a fire on.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Hello Barb girl !
This year has been something else ... I am thankful for our new sprinkler system EVERY DAY that we have been through with no rain and so hot .. the weather is so unpredictable it makes my mood changes look like child's play ? hahaha
Seriously though ... the shift in heat and rain fall made people pay attention I can only hope.
These are great pictures to illustrate such a difference .. fingers crossed we will be on the right track next year and it won't be so harsh.
We keep hearing how severe the winter is going to be ... I won't deny the thought of snow filling up the ground water reserves might just be a good thing (I will deny it if you complain about it though ? LOL)
Take care and enjoy the Indian ? summer !
Joy : )

Kathy said...

It sounds like you were drier and hotter than here and are now wetter, if not cooler. Excellent photos from the RBG. Those poor water lilies, high and dry!