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Everyone loves summer, don't they? It's a season giving long, warm days with sunshine and plenty of opportunities for sitting and dining outdoors. But what if summer is a time of sneezing, itching and torment? You might spend your leisure hours seeking respite from relentless sunshine because you crave to be cool. Your plants could be wilting and perhaps your colour seems to be fading away to burnt umber.
Your garden is in your own hands. There are ways of coping with the seasons, both hot and cold.
It's all about planning ahead.
If you want to make the most of your garden during summer you are best to plan a year ahead. There are some quick adjustments that will bring temporary relief, but a longer-term refuge deserves time during the planning stage.
For instance, if you are craving never-ending colour, make sure you dead-head constantly, as soon as flowers have faded. The blue Salvias and Veronicas, for example, will keep flowering all season if you cut off spent flower heads.
Expect the unexpected
If there's one thing you can predict here in the UK, it's the unpredictability of the climate. Today might be hot enough to make you head for the shade with an iced glass of water. Tomorrow could be windy and rainy and you'll be battling with stakes and supports while all around you disintegrates into chaos. You just need to accept that this is the UK - but you can develop strategies to improve the way you deal with things.
How to do it
If it's too hot for you some days, find simple ways to make it better. Shade sails are one of the easiest ways to create cool havens in a garden. They simply fix to tall posts; trees or rings bolted to the side of the house. There are sail shades that create dappled shade and others that are waterproof and they also protect from UV light.
There are also roll-out awnings that can be fitted above windows and doors of a property. If this sounds like too much trouble, garden umbrellas give instant relief. Select somewhere in the garden that catches any slight breeze and retreat under the umbrella when the sun is high.
Longer term shade can be created by erecting a pergola or planting appropriate trees and shrubs. Some of the weeping forms of tree such as ornamental cherries, grafted onto a standard stem, can eventually create a charming, shady area beneath which will be perfect for a seat.
Always consider the angle of the sun if you are planting to create shade. You'll need to ensure the shade is cast on your own garden and not your neighbour's. A tree or some tall bamboo planted on the eastern side will cast shade to the west during the morning. But by the time the hottest part of the day arrives, the cool shade will only be found on the northern side of the tree.
Allergies in the summer garden
It is said that hay fever and similar allergies might affect up to 30 million people within the next 20 years. Pollution, pollen, climate change and modern-day living is thought to be responsible. Hay fever in middle aged people is increasing every year. People are suddenly developing a reaction to grass, tree and weed pollen and according to charity Allergy UK, the rise in numbers of new sufferers is explosive.
An immune response to a trigger is all about protecting the body against things that are considered to be foreign proteins. People can develop a reaction unexpectedly, after years of being tolerant. The allergen might not have changed but the body's ability to tolerate it is the difference.
immune system. Scientists suspect that our cleaner environment might be part of the problem as we are no longer exposed to so many microbes, bacteria and viruses which enable us to develop a strong
Pollution has increased as summers become warmer and there are higher concentrations of ozone, nitrous oxides and other pollutants. The pollen count is also on the increase. You therefore need to find your own triggers and do your best to avoid them. For example, if you mow your lawn regularly it will prevent the grass sward releasing pollen (from mid-May through to July) and you can choose not to plant high-pollen perennials in your garden so that you can keep the triggers at arm's length.
Whatever you own particular problem or weakness, you will be able to find something to help.
If moving around the garden is one of your problems, there are several ways to help:
- Consider adding ramps to enable you to access different areas.
- Also raised beds which will save you from needing to bend right down.
- The provision of many different seating areas will help you to rest if your mobility isn't perfect.
- Break the garden down into smaller areas so that you don't need to maintain a huge area.
- You can consider allowing part of the garden to revert to nature so that you don't need to do anything to it.
- Ask for help. If you have a large garden you could consider lending it to a friend or neighbour so that they can enjoy the benefits and maintain it for you in return.