Climate of fear

Lavender for bumblebees
Lavender for bumblebees
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If this spring has been an example of global warming, then roll on the next ice age because it will be hard pressed to produce as much snow as some parts of Yorkshire have seen in the last few months.

So perhaps it’s time to cultivate plants which can survive Arctic blasts and bounce back to life after spending weeks under several feet of snow. The list of broken and damaged shrubs in my garden runs to two pages.

But despite the rotten winter, the ever-optimistic British are looking forward to the promise of hot, dry summers, and many people are making their own lists – of plants capable of surviving the heatwaves to come. That means seeing what does and what doesn’t like periods of hot, dry weather.

If you can stand losing a few moisture-lovers, then throw them on the compost heap. If you can’t bear to part with them, treat them as special cases and be prepared to work overtime providing for their needs.

Whatever the case, get the soil ready to take the heat. Incorporate plenty of organic matter like old compost, well-rotted manure and leafmould, then water everything well. Then apply a thick mulch to keep down weeds – and to keep in the moisture.

Stop cutting the lawn so regularly, and do it in the evening when there is less evaporation. The same applies if you have to water – do it as the sun is setting and that way all that precious moisture will go to the plants and not into the atmosphere.

Those special plants you just have to grow, whatever the cost and whatever the weather, can be watered by digging a small tunnel down to their roots and placing a bottomless plastic bottle in it. Leave the top of the bottle showing above the soil surface and simply pour water into it. All that precious liquid will then go to where it’s needed most.

Finally, experiment with drought-loving plants. Those with silver foliage or thick, fleshy or shiny leaves have usually adapted to dry situations. Some, like lavender, are quite hardy enough to grow in northern gardens, whatever the winter.

Alternatively, wait and see what happens. The way things are going, climate change for Britain will see more savage winters rather than Mediterranean summers.