Derek – Thursday 2nd August

It’s 31ºC in the garden, a clear blue sky with not a single cloud. For an hour, four of us collect water to fill the barrels. We have enough for a few days and will water tonight at 7.30, when the day is cooling. There have been three rainy days in the last week, but the pond reveals how little effect it has had. There’s no noticeable change in level. Average monthly rainfall for London is 25 ml. This week we’ve had less than 10, so there’s a lot to make up, and in this heat it is a losing game. The pond will not fill until the winter months, when water is no longer evaporating and the drought is a memory.

Even the buddleia is languid. This is a tough plant, that can take a lot of ill treatment but sustained heat dries the soil to some depth, and its long roots are having trouble finding moisture. The weather suits cacti and succulents. Their fleshy casing have evolved to retain water, while typical British wild flowers and garden plants suffer in prolonged heat. There’s nothing flowering in the wild flower beds apart from a couple of small Californian poppies.

I see a water boatman in the pond; the first I have seen for some time. We consider removing some of the algae (the filamentous green weed) but decide to leave it. It gives off oxygen and provides shade for the various larvae at the bottom of the pond.

We have been tying back the hollyhocks. Some are two metres tall and a few still in flower. The globe thistles are losing their blue as they dry out. Nearby golden rod is close to flowering. It is a late blooming plant, one that is on schedule, whereas most of the others and have shot through their flowering cycles in our baking summer. The coreopsis are still in flower; each week I wonder how much longer they will last. In pots, near the front gate, there’s monbretia with its dangly red earrings.

There are blackberries behind the container, a month early, and, at the front poking over the fence, Russian vine, also known as mile-a-minute plant as it grows so quickly. I see a few white butterflies, hoverflies too. They get their water from plants, so our regular watering is not just of use to the flora but also the mini-beasts that feed off them. And up the food chain; one failure on the ladder and there are casualties on the rungs above.

We’ve put up the shades over the tables and the gazebo cover back on. We had removed the cover as it threatened to tear in the wind, but there’s little wind today and with the present heat we need all the shade the garden can provide.

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