August 2017 began firmly continuing the theme of this summer in West Wales, so far. Whilst much of Southern Europe faced temperatures in the mid forties, with forest fires an issue for some, the first four days here were grey, wet, windy and cool. As we now know from the Met Office, this was once again because the Jet Stream has been firmly pushed South across the middle of the UK and so a series of depressions carrying moist air have been dragged over Western and Northern areas, and any period of sunny dry weather has been fleetingly brief.
Taking photographs under grey skies, or in the rain, becomes trying after a while, and frankly a lack of strong sunlight doesn’t just impact on plant growth, long term summer grey skies do affect my mood too!
Add in a lot of physical work building our hay/sheep shed MK 2, and creating a new level path through the meadow copse, which involved Fiona mattocking out many 15 year old ash tree stumps, and this month might look a little thin on news or appealing images. We were at least relieved to have got enough hay for our sheep from much earlier in the year. Those who are locked into environmental management schemes which precluded any cutting before mid July would have found it impossible to make any proper hay, as I write this on August 21st. Here, aftermath growth is lush in these conditions already.
We’re increasingly worried about the general state of health of several groups of trees and shrubs locally. As well as extensive ash die-back disease, Chalara fraxineus, the landscape this late summer is littered with dozens of mature larch, Phytophthora ramorum, which are obviously dying. Some hazels are suffering, many of our Hamamelis a related genera) haven’t recovered from the late frost, and 2 have died – I fear many more might not return next spring since there are very few new leaves, and several trees like our oaks have been losing leaves since mid August. Indeed the weather feels much like late September, not mid August so perhaps it’s not surprising the plants don’t know where they are, and many fungal diseases which thrive on constant humidity and moist leaf surfaces are thriving in this part of the world.
Thanks goodness that the garden has a diverse plant mix – bulbs should thrive whatever, and so far Hydrangeas seem to delight in these conditions with many having their best ever year. Amazingly we still had a Welsh fifteen moment on August 4th, when I counted over 15 butterflies on the Buddleja in the terrace garden, but the Sedum spectabile ‘Herbstfreude/Autumn Joy’ flowers, have still to open by the third week of August – as late as I can remember. Finally on August 22nd, we had warmer temperatures, but once again humidity levels were very high, there were spots of rain, and very little sunshine, though I was able to climb longevity hill at 7.00 am in wellies and night shirt for some spectacular misty views more typical of late September.The waxcaps clearly think it’s autumn too, with many slug eaten examples obvious amongst dewy grass on the walk up.I suspect that by the month’s end it will end up being the gloomiest August for ages, so any days with a little warm sunlight were particularly appreciated. By the end of the month, the rainfall wasn’t really excessive at 151.65 mm, but there were few days with no rain, and the PV inverter reading shows just how poor the light levels were – little more than an average March, although of course the days are much longer.