Responding to rain

Sunday, 01 December 2013

Hydrangeas and other flowers from the garden of Susie Martin in Sydney

In the month of November, our garden received more than 200 mm of rain - after more than three months with basically none. My garden - and those all round Sydney - are responding superbly to the inundation we had. No matter how much we water our gardens, rainwater is so much better for plant growth than tap water - possibly due to being far more oxygenated as well as containing a different composition of other elements and minerals? Plants (including the weeds!) are growing like mad, those which were near death have been resurrected, and the garden is filling in very rapidly: almost before my very eyes.

Zephyranthes minuta

Some plants always seem to flower almost immediately after rain - the most notable example in my garden being the so-called rain lilies, Zephyranthes and their cousins the Habranthus species and cultivars. Almost the next day after the first heavy rainfall, I had a crop of dainty pink Zephyranthes minuta (syn. Z. grandiflora) that appeared from almost nowhere, as their foliage had died down during the very hot weather in October; I had feared they were dead. Pink forms of Zephyranthes candida followed, along with the pale primrose-yellow flowers of Zephyranthes citrina. More flowerings of these bulbs will occur whenever we get more rain through summer.

Murraya paniculata

Another plant that seems to have responded incredibly to the rain is Murraya paniculata. Everywhere in our neighbourhood, these ubiquitous shrubs are in full bloom, bringing a wonderful fragrance to the air. Their normal flowering is in spring and again in late summer and autumn, so this crop of flowers seems to be rain induced, a not uncommon phenomenon with this shrub.

Other plants were already flowering quite well before we had the rain but they have flourished much better since - all the Hydrangea shrubs, for example, everywhere seem to be exquisite this year with the extra moisture in the soil. The cooler weather last months has also meant that the flower-heads have not been as scorched by the sun as badly as in previous years.

Lush growth of Japanese windflower leaves in the past month

The foliage on many of my plants seems to have doubled in size since the rain, including Japanese windflowers and Canna plants, which currently look fabulous; along with my rhubarb, which has enormous leaves and stout stems, begging to be cooked. A Ligularia japonicum that I bought from the Collectors' Plant Fair in April has produced huge, glossy leaves like dinner plates, providing good foliage contrast in a border with mainly smaller foliage.

It is not only the plants that are responding positively to the rain. My own gardening enthusiasm, which was at rather a low ebb a month or so ago, has been regenerated, and my mind is full of fresh plans for the garden!