Well, it’s March now, 2023 marches on, and technically Autumn is upon us. Autumn usually follows Summer, but in this case it appears to be tacked onto the veeeeeery long Spring. I know other parts of the country have experienced some Summer, but bar a few small collections of sunny days with a bit of Summer heat, we have made it to March unscathed by burning sun or even steamy humidity. Temperatures have remained pleasant, I’ve only turned on my brand spanking new ac unit 3 times! Even the biggest heat wuss in the world has mostly got by without having to hide in the house from 9-5 everyday…
Instead we’ve just had a tad of rain. I’m thinking something in the region of three quarters of a metre this summer, quite possibly a metre. I’ve lost count of the events, but I know we had around 350 in Hale, which was the biggest fall for us. We really dodged the bullet with Gabrielle, only 115 mils of rain and a few blown over trees. We get them anytime. Most of the other farms my husband manages around Auckland and the Waikato fared worse, but nothing like the poor folks in so many other North Island locations.
Main result is a mixture of crazy growth alongside a lot of untimely deaths. What dies when it rains this much in Summer? Answer is pretty much all grey foliaged plants, for a start. Grey foliage often equates to drought tolerantness (yes Word, I know that’s not a word) which equates to dying when one is waterlogged all summer.
My main rose/perennial borders are relatively low lying and tend to pool water in Winter after heavy rain…or possibly all Spring/Summer. This has led to the demise of many shrubby perennials. Most of the lavender have been dumped, along with the majority of the modern daisies. A small aside about said modern hybrids…In large, they keep none of the attributes their originators, the Marguerite daisies flaunt. They are drought intolerant, frost intolerant (that was a surprise in the unseasonal October frost we had in ’22), hard prune intolerant and what do you know, flood intolerant. They have fallen in droves in the last 14 months, whilst the 4 old cultivars I grow (2 different white, 1 double pink and 1 double yellow) carry on whatever the weather. However, there are exceptions…these miniaturised, hybridised daisies have been around for about 25 years now, and over the years of buying and growing every new one I came upon in a garden centre, I have a few that have totally stood the test of time. Some that had passed all the endurance tests up till this summer, have unfortunately fallen at the last hurdle…the Noah floods of ’22/’23. However, there are still a few left and these get the giant tick of approval from me and will be the ones I continue making cuttings of and sharing around. Many of the “latest” might as well be potted colour!
That was a long rant….on with the show. So whilst some of the Autumn stalwarts have fallen, others are saying whilst they are built to withstand the dry heat of Autumn, give them a metre of rain and they will flourish! The asters are Number One on this list in my garden this Autumn. They are magnificent! So too the Dahlias and nearly all the Salvias. Excepting those with grey leaves…they are either dead or struggling.
I now have a new list of “double tick plants”. These are those who survive drought and flood. It’s not a long list, but guess who’s at the top? Roses of course. They are certainly the toughest of the tough and survive whatever the crazy weather throws at them….I have to say a lot of my old fashioneds in the top of the border are in danger of disappearing in the sea of Asters and Salvias, but I’m sure in a month or so when I cut back the offenders they’ll be just fine underneath. The lack of humidity this Summer has probably saved the disease prone of this genus, as there was little enough spraying opportunities.
We are currently experiencing true Autumn weather…lovely sunny days, interspersed of course with a few sprinkles of rain, just to keep the crazed growth going. I have never, in my nearly 40 years of farming, ever known grass growth like we are currently dealing with! Moving cows and horses is pretty much about giving them a change of scenery rather than feeding them. And the lawns just keep on growing! Lawn mowing has been a twice weekly occurrence this season, no break since September! So the upsides are many…no garden watering necessary and the Nursery has been comparatively easy this Summer. Losing a lot of plants to the sog is a bummer, but lucky for me I am usually making cuttings of things to on sell, so oftentimes I haven’t lost the plant at all. We also have found a plethora of plants in the bargain bins at the local Garden Centres as clearly there have been many holiday weekends which have not lent themselves to pottering in the garden. Sorry guys, your loss is our gain! That’s probably enough waffle for now, so I’ll love you and leave you.