The best plants from 2022
This year’s growing season has been a hard one here in the UK. In my Yorkshire garden spring was cold. There was a covering of snow on the last day of March and it was generally chilly right up the middle of June. It made seed sowing tricky – my first batches of direct sown seeds didn’t germinate as the ground just wasn’t warm enough. The upside though was the blue tits weren’t tempted to nest too early in our nest box this year, unlike the previous springs where a mild spell followed by cold weather has meant the nests have failed. The tulips lasted well too, with a display that bloomed for nearly two months.
Spring was also unusually dry – April showers, which are so important to plants bursting into life and are crucial for germinating seeds, no longer seem to be a feature of a British spring. The lack of rain continued into summer, a summer which was to be one of the driest on record. But it was the extreme heat that was most notable: 40.2C was recorded at Heathrow, officially the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, and unofficially a thermometer on my south-facing patio hit 45C.
It’s been interesting to observe which plants in my garden have coped with all of this and which haven’t done so well. Finding plants that not just cope but thrive with both winter downpours and summer drought is a difficult one, but it is possible. Looking out on my garden now in autumn there are a number of perennials and shrubs that are still looking good. So here are my top plant performers from this year.
Chrysanthemums tend to be associated with autumn, but this hardy cultivar started to flower in July and is another perennial that is still blooming in late October. Its peachy-pink flowers make lovely long-lasting cut flowers too.
Both ‘Walker’s Low’ and a new introduction that’s more compact called ‘Blue Elf’ have both been fabulous; they both started to flower in June and they’re still going strong in late October.
Geranium ‘Azure Rush’
When people recommend geraniums they invariably suggest ‘Rozanne’, a cultivar renowned for its long flowering period, but I find it has a tendency to sprawl and needs cutting back in midsummer. While it quickly puts on more growth and blooms again, there’s another geranium that in my opinion is much better. ‘Azure Rush’ is not only more compact, I’ve found it doesn’t need a midsummer trim and it will flower for six months. It also seemed unbothered by the drought and heat.
There’s a lot of talk about dahlias needing lots of water but the dahlias in my borders received no supplementary water this summer and they’ve flowered from late June and are still blooming now in late October. My dahlias were grown from seed a couple of years ago, so I don’t know if this has made them more robust plants or not. I also leave them in the ground over winter rather than lifting them. Fortunately the winters so far have been mild enough for them to survive. The seeds were a gift from a fellow gardener, but there are a couple of seed companies that sell dahlia seeds and it’s possible to collect the seed from dahlias grown from tubers – you won’t get the same plant as the parent but that’s part of the fun.
Hydrangeas need lots of moisture – the name comes from the Greek expression for water – and this summer the hydrangeas in gardens in my village did not look happy or healthy. The mophead hydrangeas seemed to suffer the most, but interestingly the paniculata-type Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, growing in full sun in my garden, didn’t suffer any ill-effects.
Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’
This hardy salvia has been quite incredible, producing slender spires covered in pretty pink, bee-friendly flowers all summer long, and it’s still flowering now just a few days away from the start of November.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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