Weather has not been such a hot topic for ages with the drought of June and July making us rather nervous as we watched the skies for any sign of rain. The trials of winter and early spring have become a distant memory although the fact that the River Lavant continues to flow through the Gardens has surprised us all as it would be dry by now in an 'ordinary' year. However, a recent recording of 36mm at West Dean over a three-day period has made the gardeners smile again, especially those who haul hoses around daily to keep the show on the road. We'll be grizzling about cloudy weather and rain in no time at all - just you wait!
If you can keep watering the plants over summer, then displays of rudbeckias and zinnias thrive in this endless sunny weather, as you'll see in our Cutting Garden. At West Dean volunteers in teams regularly descend on the Cutting Garden plants to snip off finished blooms thus keeping the plants flowering. However some crops, like cornflowers, come to an almighty full stop, so have to be removed.
In the Kitchen Garden we are several generations in on lettuce production and with several other crops like fennel and dwarf beans. We have gherkins, cucumber, courgettes and fennel coming out of our ears and the kitchens of the College and Restaurant benefit as much as we can harvest. The pumpkins are growing like triffids too so we're expecting a more than decent crop at the end of the season.
Under glass the potted chillies bravely fight on but even they are relieved to have a cooler root run after blistering heat for weeks on end. To keep them going we've been harvesting more than usual so as not to exhaust the plant. They're really looking the business now just in time for our annual West Dean Chilli Fiesta, so for all you chilli-heads why not purchase your tickets online at www.chillifiesta.co.uk. If you can't make it in 2018 then after this year's event you will be able to buy 2019 tickets with a 20% discount off 2018 prices! Well worth getting in early, but do it soon, this super offer ends 22 August 2018, 5pm.
Elsewhere in the garden the scenery is rather like a summer in the Antipodes making me feel quite at home. The Spring Garden, though, still provides a haven of relaxation and contrast with the beds along the banks of the River Lavant providing Garden lot of interest. Take your time to wander around it to take it all in.
Up in the Arboretum the annual haircut will soon be completed making the change from wildflower abundance to a tailored finish which shows off the trees and shrubs a treat. You can navigate your way through the Arboretum in a daily aerobic walk from the Gardens, then down again to the Gardens Shop - just think of it as a glorious outdoor gym and ever so good for you!
You can't avoid seeing the scaffolding going up on West Dean College now as preparations are made for re-roofing the building. As a consequence the border along the front of the College will more or less be sacrificed while the works takes place and when the work is finished, it will be time for a border revamp and new beginnings.