Shower Proof Posted on June 15, 2016

A busy evening after an Ascot downpour (the Queen Anne Cup, I believe: I stayed at home) emptying brimming saucers and relocating snails. Where do they live, waiting for Ascot week? There were fifteen in one corner enjoying the shelter of the agapanthus. Total score for the evening: twenty seven. And why do they climb? I’ve found senior snails climbing down from ten feet or so on a wall. Do they want a better view?

The slugs have meanwhile climbed a newly-planted Clematis wilsonii (a treasure from Hergest Croft) and munched its top shoots before disappearing – presumably to destroy the little Eccremocarpus scaber I planted to keep it company. How this unobtrusive climber came to be called ‘Glory Flower’ I can’t imagine. Its little red and yellow bells on the flimsiest rigging deserve ‘charming’, but certainly don’t compare with Morning Glory. The strain I have (or had) has modest pale creamy-yellow flowers, all the more welcome for unexpected cameo appearances among more socially confident blooms.

I tend to think Chilean plants should be rainproof, but E. scaber likes it dry. So does the marvellous Abutilon vitifolium (American name: Flowering Maple!). Its tissue-weight petals, rather on the hollyhock model, in either lavender or pure white, look as though a shower would destroy them, yet I have seen them in rain forest growing with luxuriant Eucryphia and Weinmannia as dense as redwoods.

A wet Ascot makes a good growing season. Just-planted specimens can grow on without check; established ones, even big trees whose hydrology you would think had settled into a pattern a century ago, can react with a surge of lusty shoots the very next day. You think a tree or shrub (or indeed a perennial) has done its spring thing. Then another downpour and away it goes again, the new wood barely able to support the new new wood.

You can see the effect of rain on growth rates, but what about temperature? It has gone down to below 10 degrees C, ‘growing temperature’, several nights recently – and not got much above all day. Clearly the average temperature is enough to keep things going, but I’m sure when there were two days of sunshine I saw them put on a spurt. I’d love to understand the sensitive mechanism that tells cells what to do.

There’ll be a lot of hacking back to do to keep the paths open this summer.

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