LOOKING BACK ON A GREAT YEAR
The success of garden plants is not really under our control. The weather determines whether they will be successful or not. After the disastrous 2012 cold wet year we were not really expecting a great year as we now feel climate change might just mean warmer rain but a lot more of it.
This year started off very late. Winter lasted a long time, and then spring was three to four weeks late and not all that exciting.
However summer did eventually arrive, temperatures climbed, the rain stopped and never really returned for the whole summer. People and plants responded with great delight. Garden and allotment got planted up, weeds got wiped out, the hose appeared and was used frequently, and when all the work was completed the sun lounger appeared after lying unused for over a year. As we relaxed on the patio enjoying the warm of our Scottish heatwave, the scent of climbing rose Gertrude Jekyll wafted over the scene. Flower beds have never been better with geraniums, marigolds and tuberous begonias all flowering in profusion.
Fruits in abundance
Strawberries were the first to respond to the dry sunny weather. Huge crops of sweet berries were picked over a long season with a range of different varieties and no losses due to botrytis.
Currants, gooseberries, raspberries, brambles and saskatoons all produced prolific crops. This created a major problem, as you can only eat so much fresh fruit. The freezer soon got packed to full capacity with fruit and vegetables. We were chomping our way through fruit, vegetables, salads and soups daily, and we had not even started harvesting the plums yet.
My only answer was to find more demijohns and start converting the spare fruit into wine, so now I have over thirty gallons of top quality fruit wine which should be ready for tasting after a couple of years. However some may not last all that long if early samplings show good results.
Apples and plums were unbelievable, giving us massive crops, but pears and my outdoor peach tree did not give one fruit. Shoots produced in 2012 did not get any warmth in summer or autumn to ripen up the wood so no fruit buds formed. Hopefully they will fruit prolifically in 2014.
Just like the fruit crops most vegetables responded to the brilliant summer. I used clubroot resistant varieties of cabbage, cauliflower and Swedes which proved to be a very worthwhile decision. Beetroot was so successful that I have still three rows in the ground but earthed up for frost protection into winter. Onions were a failure this year as white rot took hold the previous wet year and has now infected the crop this year. Summer salads are easy, but my autumn salads are all in full crop in December with plenty fresh leaves available for salads and stir frying.
Tomatoes under glass had a bad start with the delayed spring, but eventually made up and gave ripe sweet fruit till autumn. Grapes were also excellent, though warm weather in autumn was in short supply so ripening was very slow. Outdoor grape Brant gave a very heavy crop which was turned into more wine.
It was a brilliant year for the roses as well as the summer bedding plants, gladioli, chrysanthemums, and even the spring bedding gave a great display, though a few weeks late. However my half hardy fuchsias did not like the heat wave and sulked till late summer as cooler days arrived then they had their day, just as I was about to turf them out. Outdoor fuchsia Mrs Popple had no problem with the hot summer and was covered in flowers for months right up till the end of November.
Each year seems to be totally different from the previous year so who knows what 2014 will be like.
However as the weather deliberately defies logic it is just as likely to give us an even warmer and sunnier 2014, just as it did in 1975 and 1976. With that pleasant thought in mind I will sign off this fantastic year and raising my glass, filled with vintage Saskatoon wine to the next brilliant year.
Plant of the week
Poinsettia will always add a festive touch and a bright splash of colour as the large coloured bracts are very showy. It is possible to retain the plants for a few years, but it is hardly worthwhile as they are not expensive, and they are very demanding in their growing requirements, especially the twelve week period of short days to induce bract production.
Keep the plant warm and water sparingly and never leave it sitting in water. It is a tropical plant so give it plenty of sunshine on a windowsill.