Among the positive things I heard from fellow gardeners about this hot summer was how much a friend’s tortoise has loved it.

Never before, in her 60 plus years in our normally cool climate, had Tess the tortoise been so sociable and lively, or so apt to eat any greenery within reach in her garden in Ospringe Road, NW5. Other causes for rejoicing included wonderful roses and, after a slow start, a goodish turn-out of bees and butterflies. But for many plants, the heat combined with dry winds have been testing. Even trees you might expect to endure well have suffered, although this is particularly true of those already challenged by diseases.

At the end of several of my neighbours’ gardens sycamore seedlings have grown unchecked for decades and now form a handsome row. These trees took the summer heat in their stride and now their keys are ripening, ready to come helicoptering down and grow into another multitude of seedlings. This enthusiasm for reproduction is what gives sycamores a bad name, but really, isn’t it time to be more appreciative of a tough beautiful tree that can stand heat, wind and most soils and situations?

It was the mention of mature trees that made the gardens of Frogmore, Windsor, so attractive in the National Garden Scheme (NGS)’s publicity for its opening in late August. As the photo shows, things were dry but still looking good. The Head Gardener says that they have little capacity for irrigation but he is hoping that the drought will help the subject climb up the management agenda.

As well as some wonderful holm oaks, redwoods, cedars etc, the garden is full of quirky buildings, from mausoleums to Queen Victoria’s Tea House. These would, admittedly, look quirkier still with water butts attached, but it might just be a start….

Returning to our patch, there were two gardeners’ delights on September 3 in Highgate – the Plant Heritage (PH) Sale, then Highgate Horticultural Society’s Autumn Show. There are more to come (see below). At the PH Fair it was a pleasure to talk to a nurseryman I had not seen there before, Ray Bates of Rotherview Nursery, Hastings, who specialises in alpine plants. I’ve planted three of them, in the faint hope the squirrels will not immediately dig them up again. At the Flower Show there was a strikingly good-looking bunch of black grapes, grown by Ian Cameron in his greenhouse at Highgate Allotments, which may be worth a detour for a future column.

Ham & High: Alpine plants from Rotherview Nursery’s stall at the Plant Heritage Fair, HighgateAlpine plants from Rotherview Nursery’s stall at the Plant Heritage Fair, Highgate (Image: Ruth Pavey)


Muswell Hill Flower Show, September 17, 3.00pm, North Bank, Pages Lane N10.

The Heath and Hampstead Society’s Springett Lecture “Protecting the Veteran Tree Ecology of Hampstead Heath”, September 29. 8.00pm Rosslyn Hill Chapel, 3 Pilgrim’s Place, NW3. Non-members should book through Eventbrite.

Open for the NGS, 11.00 – 3.00, September 17, Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre, N22 5JD, a fascinating place.

Plant as many spring bulbs as possible – it’s always worth the effort, even having to net them against squirrels.