Now that the summer onslaught is upon us, it’s time to do those last-minute tasks that will allow you to effectively put the garden to bed and to reschedule essential garden visits to the margins of dusk and dawn as daytime gardening becomes increasingly uncomfortable.Certain plants may already have started to register the increased temperatures and strength of solar radiation. The stylish umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolia) is usually a good indicator of increased temperatures and the need for more regular irrigation. Given that this plant normally grows in tropical swamps and thrives best when its roots are wet,If you have Cyperus growing in a container, you should consider moving it into a more shady position.

Two other plants that display signs of stress associated with the sun and heat are the Sago palm (Cycas revoluta) and cardboard plant (Zamia furfuracea), both of which bleach alarmingly when exposed to intense, direct sunlight for long periods. Interestingly, although these plants belong to different botanic families (Cycadaceae and Zamiaceae, respectively), both are cycads, a type of plant that dominated the plant world in prehistory. Some of the earliest cycad fossils are almost 280 million years old.

When used as an understorey planting below trees and taller shrubs, cycads will require little extra care. However, if you have them growing as specimen plants in full sun you can always take them indoors, where they will make excellent houseplants for the summer.

Generally, cycads are hardy in nature but susceptible to over-watering and will die quickly if their stems and roots begin to rot, something that can be a problem during summertime, when irrigation systems are running daily. Therefore, it is important to make sure that plants with similar irrigation requirements are located next to one another. When it comes to irrigation, Cyperus, Zamia and Cycas do not make good immediate bedfellows – although I have seen them planted closely together on several occasions because they are so visually striking, often with disastrous results.

If tender plants can’t be moved, consider covering them with a shade cloth to protect them from the summer sun. Meshes and nets are readily available from garden centres and hardware stores. I cannot help but think, however, that having to do this in the garden represents some failure in the original planting scheme.  However, when temperatures soar even desert plants can need extra care, and even cacti can get sunburned.

One of the most widely used and available cacti here is Echinocactus grusonii, more commonly known as the Mexican barrel cactus. Highly attractive, particularly when planted en masse as an architectural ground cover, the species is widely perceived, like all cacti, to be virtually indestructible.

The temperature differential also produces invaluable moisture that forms dew each morning, thus providing plants with essential irrigation that enables them to survive throughout the day. In the

While cooked barrel cactus is unusual and extreme, it does point to the importance of good plant research and suitable species selection. More than anything, making the right decisions at the early design and planning stage of your garden and putting the right plant in the right place will always be the best and easiest ways to combat the effects of the unforgiving summer sun.

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