For meteorological statistics, the months of March, April and May represent spring and this year, just 21.1mm of rain fell in these three months. This is just 19% of a 2005-2010 Cambridge average of 106.51mm for the same period. The May rainfall total of 16.4mm was boosted by the 8.7mm that fell slow and steady last Monday, the wettest day this year since January 17th, much to the delight of the Garden staff. The steady soaking should help alleviate growing conditions in the short term although it won’t take long to evaporate away with the return of sun and breeze.
The dry spring has intensified the workload in some areas of the Garden, such as the annual displays on the Systematic Beds and especially with regard to establishing new plantings around the newly-completed Sainsbury Laboratory and reinstating the landscape up to Station Road. With a touch of understatement, Sally Petitt, Head of Horticulture describes the conditions as ‘tricky’ highlighting the time spent maintaining and setting up hoses and sprinklers, fed from the borehole, in order to give the new plantings a chance to get going. She goes on, ‘We strongly resist supplementary watering of the majority of established plantings. This encourages plants to develop deep root runs, safeguarding the plants from drought stress, and established plantings generally are looking reasonably fine, although some rapidly lost their spring freshness and flower, especially bulbs, have gone over exceptionally quickly.’
Acting Director and Curator, Tim Upson, agrees, adding that ‘many flowering trees and shrubs are very early this year, some by as much as three to four weeks. So plants you might expect to see in flower in mid to late July, like the Indian Bean Trees, are already beginning to come out now.’
On the upside, while irrigating is taking additional time, the grass lawns and weeds aren't growing as rapidly as in wetter springs, so less time is required for mowing and weeding. And the dry spring is a timely prompt to consider tips, techniques and plant selection for a water wise garden - for ideas and inspiration, the Dry Garden is a great place to start - follow the link left.