It is desperately dry. At least the days aren't so hot now, and it must rain sometime, but the garden is parched. As we took our recent visitors on a brief tour after lunch I knew that there wouldn't be lots to show them. The end of August is always a tough time, let alone when the weeks of high summer have been hot and dry as they were this year. They admired the pink flowers of Clematis 'Alionushka', which is still putting on a valiant display on its new obelisk, and agreed that the conservatory was looking more floral than in previous years, and I explained my ambition to cut swathes into the rose beds.
I was not expecting that when we got to the lower lawn the lacecap hydrangeas would have collapsed. Leaves hanging dull and wrinkled, flowers drooping forlornly. I exclaimed that I must water them the following day, and tried to distract the visitors with the sight of the little hanging yellow pendants of Dicentra scandens, and the promise that there really was an entire Magnolia stellata under that cascade of foliage.
Yesterday I got the hose down to the bottom of the garden, no mean feat since the wooden steps that provide the most direct route from the tap have been three quarters overgrown by 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' and are half rotten. The Systems Administrator has agreed to my pleas to replace the broken steps once I've pruned the rose, which I will do this autumn. It seemed a pity to risk being left with stems of broken and dead rose stuck in the tree over the summer, and there's always the possibility of nesting birds, but they must have finished by now. Unfortunately by late yesterday afternoon there were too many pots needing watering for me to do them by hand, and the hose had to go back through the rose and up the steps, which was a quantum more difficult than getting it down had been.
This morning I dragged the hose out to the back once again and resumed watering where I left off. The hydrangeas were very glad of a drink, and so were the collapsing hellebores. The first Cyclamen coum have just started to flower in rather a cowed way, and might be livened up by a good soaking. The one surviving Leucothe under the river birches has got an awful lot of brown leaves and doesn't look more than half alive. The Fothergilla is dead. It hadn't been looking well all year. Life under the birches was definitely too dry for it. Thus the garden simplifies itself. Even a Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Golden Ring' was looking badly stressed with brown and crisped leaves, and berberis are pretty tough, car park plants par excellence. It's a shame the leaves have spoiled now, given that good autumn colour is theoretically one of the attractions of deciduous berberis.
I tidied away the shrivelled remnants of primrose leaves, odd weeds and grass from the beds, while moving the spray head of the hose every few minutes. So many things need watering. The Gillenia trifoliata looks parched, the azaleas pathetic, some of the evergreen ferns have gone prematurely brown. Kirengeshoma palmata is threatening to give up before it starts. I have given up on the idea of trying to cut the worst sticking out branches of the eleagnus hedge before we go away. Watering and weeding is the order of the day now, until it rains properly.