Sandy’s Garden ... Flaming June

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Last year, as regular readers may recall, we decided to abandon the perennial struggle with our ‘natural’ grass.

Our front grass was never anything like a lawn and to call the grass at the back of the house a ‘drying green’ did a disservice to the adjective ‘green’ … and have a specialist contractor remove the lot, replacing it with artificial grass. Gone the moss; gone the assorted weeds; gone the need to spend depressing hours trying to make it look more presentable, a task rather easier than making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; all gone, replaced with an attractive, weed-free, dead-patch-free area of lush, green ‘turf.’ Alleluia!

This year, we have reaped an unexpected benefit. As our neighbours’ areas of grass … none of us, to be entirely honest, ever had anything which could truly justify the epithet ‘lawn’ … have grown pale, turning from rather blotchy green to somewhat anaemic khaki and then gently assuming a jaundiced yellow, despite the efforts of the more industrious to keep them watered … ours has maintained its vibrant grass-green hue, a delight to behold in an increasingly sere landscape. And this without any effort on our part! No watering needed; no worrying about the longer-term damage of stressful drought; and no searching the shelves of garden centres for bottles or packets of grass tonic.

How pleasant to return home after a fortnight in almost-unbroken Mediterranean sunshine to this blessed condition; and how wonderful to continue to enjoy Mediterranean weather, with guaranteed sunshine for all of … or much of … every single day, the pullovers, jackets, anoraks, raincoats and waterproof shoes left languishing in wardrobes. Ah, bliss … well, bliss if you discount the need to water pot plants very regularly, and that task is made pleasurable by the beautiful, brilliantly-coloured blooms produced by constantly-cosy plants. So was June a weather record-breaker, as my (admittedly failing) memory fails to recollect anything similar during my lifetime?

And the answer is – not quite. Meteorological Office statistics tell me that the average UK maximum daytime temperature in June 1976 was 19.9ºC, exactly the same as this year’s average; and these same statistical tables assure me that the average maximum daytime temperature in June 1940 was 20.6°C; so last month was the joint second-hottest June in the UK since Met Office records began 118 years ago. Actually, the Scottish statistics reveal that June was the warmest ever recorded in both Northern Ireland and Wales and the 4th warmest in Scotland and England, our two sister-nations’ all-time record figures raising the UK average daily temperatures. Still, an average of 18.1ºC … a good 2.5 degrees higher than a typical June … is jolly good for the east of Scotland; and when one tosses in the fact that there were seven hours of sunshine for every five we’d expect and only 80% of our average June rainfall, that makes it worthy of the title ‘flaming June.’

And yet … niggling doubts nag away in the back of my mind. Surely we have enjoyed more than an average of seven hours of sunshine every day recently? And surely we are approaching drought conditions, rather than just rather dryer than usual weather? I think the answer to these doubts must be found in the fact that I was out of the country for the first half of the month, coming home from the Mediterranean to a bakingly-hot and totally-dry first week in July; so I have enjoyed five weeks of daily maximum temperatures in the 20s and low 30s and have experienced just one shower of rain. So, yes, in the second half of June and the first week in July I suspect meteorological records have been broken here in Scotland.