Sunday, 2 September 2007

Worst summer ever - official

This summer appears to have been the wettest since rainfall records began in 1914, according to provisional data from the UK's Met Office.

Britain had 358.5mm of rain, just beating the 1956 record of 358.4mm.

The main reason for the high rainfall has been the unusually southerly position of the jet stream, a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere.

Following earlier floods in central and southern England, five areas of the country are still on flood alert.

The record rainfall was driven by conditions in England, where the downpour surpassed all other recorded years by a substantial margin.

Summer of disappointment

"These figures confirm what most people have already been thinking - this summer has been very wet and very disappointing for most," said the Met Office's head of forecasting.

While it has been wet, the summer has been distinctly average in terms of temperature. June, July and August saw a mean temperature of 14.1C, almost exactly the average for summers since the 1970s.

The jet stream, a ribbon of very strong winds about 10km up in the atmosphere which brings weather systems to the UK, has been much further south and stronger than usual this summer. This has brought depressions across many parts of the country.

How are Cannas surviving?

So, way out of their natural area, how are Canna surviving in this turbulent, dysfunctional climate? Surprisingly well, as it happens.

Not only did our Cannas suffer too much water, and no oxygen at root level with the swamped soil, but they also had very little light. Cannas rely on light to power their leaves, the world's best starch producing engines, into producing starch that will be accumulated down at root level to produce the famous Canna rhizomes. Without light the engines merely ticked over occasionally when the conditions allowed.

Many other plants have just given up on 2006, however Cannas have stuck in there and now there has been a few weeks of sunshine and warm temperatures they are producing good quality foliage and bursting into flower, albeit a month late! Of course, it is heartbreaking to see Cannas only half the size that they should be, but the majority have now reached a decent size, albeit very few are their normal size. All the mature Cannas have flowered now, which is also pleasing.

However, the Cannas that have suffered most are this years seedlings. I would estimate that no more than 2-3% have flowered yet. Many are in the process of producing flower spikes, but will not open for several weeks. Others are still growing foliage and will not flower this first year. That means that very few can be disposed of this Autumn as not being special enough to grow-on, which in turn means major storage problems over the winter, as we have over 400 seedlings growing this year.

Anyway, we are just grateful for what we have and we will have to use our ingenuity to overcome the winter storage problems. So what has the photograph at the top got to do with the summer weather? Nothing really, other than this is an old cultivar that we collected this year from a collector in Italy, and we really like the photograph!

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