Back from the depths of despair

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Jamus

  • Jr. Member
Back from the depths of despair
« on: February 20, 2014, 12:34:40 AM »
Well almost. We've just experienced probably the worst summer in recorded history for gardens (and for people) and I'm happy to say that the season has broken with cooling, soaking rain drenching, soothing and in some cases flooding our poor parched state.

This summer we've had 13 days over 40°C with many coming in succession and we've seen damage to plants which is frankly shocking and worrying. I promise to post some pictures this weekend in this thread to demonstrate just how extreme things have been.

Read more about our unfortunate weather here - http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/updates/summer-heatwave-2013.shtml


The good news is that I've lost almost nothing from my garden and although things look absolutely terrible, a good cut back and they will be born again next spring. I consider this summer a valuable learning experience and a few points I've taken from the experience for myself are as follows;

Plant trees on the Western boundary of the property. 12 hours of this new intensity of Australian sun is too much for ANY plant, even those which historically tolerate extremes of heat and dry. Expert advice to plant things in "full sun" are laughable in the context of these conditions.

A shade house is going to be essential kit rather than a luxury and I need to spend the money for a decent sized and solidly constructed structure.

Install more drip irrigation. Watering by hand is very arduous when the weather is extreme and other life commitments detract from available time causing much stress (mine and the gardens)!

Rainwater tanks have been purchased and need to be installed, including a small electric pump for running hoses and sprinklers. The quality of our mains water decreases as the season progresses (salt being the major issue) not to mention to cost. Rainwater is far superior to the tap variety.

Plant selection. The experience of this summer will definitely sway me away from some of those borderline plant choices which are so tempting in the enthusiasm of the gentler seasons.



Long hot summers, mild wet winters. Rainfall approx. 600mm pa.
Summer maximums over 40 degrees, winter minimums occasionally below freezing.
Gardening on neutral clay loam and sandy loam.

Alice

  • Hero Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2014, 04:28:35 PM »
Speaking as a someone who gardens on the drier fringes of the mediterranean climate, I sympathise wholeheartedly, Jamus.
With very few exceptions, I don't think we can really wean plants off water. And we also chase every drop we can get our hands on.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

Jamus

  • Jr. Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2014, 10:31:42 PM »

Thanks Alice. Is your annual rainfall stated in your signature right? 350mm?  *shock* that must be challenging to say the least.

To give you an idea of what we've just experienced, our large, mature Acer negundo had about 70% of its leaves burnt to a crisp and they all fell off! The result of which was that we lost afternoon shade to half the garden. I've never seen a mature tree do this before. Box elder have a reputation for being tough in our climate.
Long hot summers, mild wet winters. Rainfall approx. 600mm pa.
Summer maximums over 40 degrees, winter minimums occasionally below freezing.
Gardening on neutral clay loam and sandy loam.

Alice

  • Hero Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2014, 12:55:12 AM »
Correct, Jamus. Annual rainfall 350mm. Sometimes not even that. Also strong winds which have a very drying effect, worse than the heat of the sun.
At least, if you've just had lots of rain, things will start waking up.
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

Jamus

  • Jr. Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2014, 01:46:50 AM »

Wow, we get ~600mm a year and we feel hard done by.

Yes things are waking up with the recent rains, especially the weeds!
Long hot summers, mild wet winters. Rainfall approx. 600mm pa.
Summer maximums over 40 degrees, winter minimums occasionally below freezing.
Gardening on neutral clay loam and sandy loam.

Trevor Australis

  • Sr. Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2014, 12:19:56 AM »
Yes Jamus, It was a massive shock to come home from 2 weeks in Thailand to find huge damage from those awfully hot days that followed one after the other for almost 2 weeks. And, of course, there had already been two other bouts of heatwaves which had already knocked many things around badly. With a bit of clipping and snipping damaged and scorched plants have come back after that glorious rain but there was other, more serious damage we hadn't counted on. Three well established exotic trees dropped huge branches unexpectedly - a silver-leaved weeping pear dropped almost half of its structure, Cercis FOREST PANSY dropped about one third of its canopy, and Azara microphylla simply fell apart leaving one trunk where there had been three. The loss of shade has had a serious impact on the drought tolerant hardy plants that are underneath.

This was shocking enough but not the end of the story. My big greenhouse, the one with haworthias, dwf aloes, Adeniums, Rhipsalis, Tillandsias, bromeliads, euphorbias etc was a disaster zone. The whole top-shelf of plants were bleached white and have died and/ or rotted as a result of being cooked! This despite a double layer of cream shade cloth over the roof. It was lack of sufficient circulation of fresh air that caused the catastrophe I think. At least the Lithops seem to have come through unscathed.

So it wasn't just the shade that caused the problem, or the extreme heat, but circulation of fresh air played a role too.

I am still learning.

t
M Land. Arch., B. Sp. Ed. Teacher, traveller and usually climate compatible.

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Alisdair

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Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2014, 08:09:36 AM »
Trevor, Huge sympathy for you! Some of us have had the privilege of visiting your treasure-house of a garden, and with our memories can vividly imagine that carnage. Dreadful.
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

Jamus

  • Jr. Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2014, 11:44:15 PM »

Trevor, my condolences on the damage from the heatwave. I know the feeling well. It has been a terrible season but as usual I'm encouraged by what's happening now that we've had some rain. I noticed this morning my Amorphophallus conjac is back! I thought I'd lost it when I bandicooted and couldn't find the tuber! That was a nice surprise. I hope you have many such surprises in your garden too.
Long hot summers, mild wet winters. Rainfall approx. 600mm pa.
Summer maximums over 40 degrees, winter minimums occasionally below freezing.
Gardening on neutral clay loam and sandy loam.

Trevor Australis

  • Sr. Member
Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2014, 10:47:40 PM »
You are right, of course. I was too quick to fall into gloom and doom. I watered the greenhouse heavily several days in a row, cut back all the dead leaves and threw out all the truly dead things and fertilised lightly. Bulb seedlings, in particular, have moved away strongly: Rhodophiala, Boophane, Brunvvigia, Scadoxus, Haemanthus - all bulbs I made moves to 'get into' several years ago. It was my plan to grow many more genera and sp. of plants more likely to survive climate variability. Winter growing bulbs seemed one way to go and it is beginning to look like it was a good thing to have done. I've also got some seedlings, not enough, of various sp of grass aloes. These are 'new' sp from the areas where bushfires form part of the eco-cycle. They resemble somewhat diminutive red-hot pokers and they act like perennials as the foliage dies down almost completely. The leaves being burned by wild-fires are a vital part of the plants survival mechanism. So far the two flowering size plants I have respond well to being cut down like normal perennials instead of me trying to fire them at the appropriate season.

As the end of Summer approaches I am reminded that the seed harvest in the Cape Province isn't far off and will be followed by seedlists from nurseries there which have collection licenses and which also sell seed from bulbs grown as a crop. It is always a very positive feeling to peruse the lists and make orders. The best thing about these seeds is that most of them are recalcitrant ie. the large semi-succulent seeds sprout a sm root, and even a seed leaf, before they ripen fully and fall to earth - or are harvested. This means that by the time I get them they are ready to plant individually and grow almost immediately. Fool-proof seeds! Just what I need.
M Land. Arch., B. Sp. Ed. Teacher, traveller and usually climate compatible.

Umbrian

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Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2014, 08:06:57 AM »
Glad to hear you have regained your spirits Trevor somewhat after what must have been a heart rending shock on your return from Thailand. It is difficult to imagine the kind of devastation you found especially with regards to the large trees that will take so long to replace. With the diversity of a garden however, one can always find something that is succeeding and giving you encouragement which is why so many of us are hooked I suppose. :)
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

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Alevin

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    • La Mortella
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Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2014, 03:22:54 PM »
Actually, I always shade the greenhouses with black or very dark green shade cloth. I loose light of course - but the difference in terms of temperature is incredible!
Alessandra - Garden Director- Giardini La Mortella, Ischia, zone 9-10

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Alisdair

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Re: Back from the depths of despair
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2014, 09:44:21 AM »
This started some discussion of different sorts of shade netting, which I've split off and which you can find by clicking here.
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society