So the Met Office have confirmed that last month was the hottest June on record – and are predicting that after a ‘temperate two weeks, the end of July and beginning of August could be even hotter than last year, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees again’.
Interestingly, whereas the promise of hot summers used to ‘lift the mood’ of the nation, reports show that more and more people are now dreading these ‘unprecedented’ temperatures – and they’re not all gardeners and farmers.
Bearing climate change in mind, there have actually been hotter Junes before the Met Office records began, and they were ‘quite common’ up to the middle of the 19th century. Whilst the Met Office only keeps a detailed national and regional temperature database extending back to 1884, before that scientists relied on a regional database known as the Central England Temperature series, or CET.
Based on that method, last months average CET was around 17.2°C but June 1846 holds the record on the CET table with an average temperature of 18.2°C. June of 1676 averaged 18.0°C.
But of course, whilst it is fascinating to go back and compare weather patterns, the big question is, ‘What is to come?’
Well, of the months with the highest June average temperature–1676, 1762, 1798, 1822, 1826, 1846 and 1976–only the summers of 1826 and 1976 remained ‘remarkably hot’. So, if the historical record is anything to go by, we may have already seen the hottest weeks of summer 2023. But of course, Mother Nature is charge, so anything could happen.
Last week my weather app forecast temperatures for this week of 8 degrees. Whilst my brother and I wondered what weather phenomenon was going to deliver the cold blast, the news reported that the ‘fake-forecast’ was down to a technical glitch. But let’s face it, I’m sure many of us wouldn’t have been that surprised by February temperatures in July!
Whilst researching all this hot-weather-history, I also learnt something else. I always thought that ‘Flaming June’ refereed to the month traditionally being hot, but that’s not the case. The phrase has a much more tenuous link with the weather.
Flaming June is the title of Sir Frederic Leighton’s painting of a woman in a vibrant orange dress sleeping under a canopy in the summer heat. Painted in 1895, Leighton left the interpretation open–the woman has flame-red hair, so June could have been her name, or maybe the scene took place during June, or perhaps she is the personification of the month.
Either way, I found last month’s heat ‘flamin challenging’ and am hoping for more moderate summer weather.
I have been busy cutting back a lot of ‘spent’ herbaceous plants recently, to encourage a second flush of blooms later in the summer. It can take a bit of courage to do, as some of the plants – like the wild geraniums–are often still blooming, albeit a bit half-heartedly after the heat. However some, like Lupins and Oriental Poppies, have completely finished flowering and will often flower again if cut back hard now. If you’re not sure which plants can be cut back like this, do check to avoid losing late blooms or having big gaps in the border.
Also please go ‘softly’ whilst working in the garden now as many little garden birds have second (and later, third) broods. Just by taking the time to sit and watch for awhile, I noticed a tiny little wren had build her second nest of the year amongst the Lupins. I have four wrens nesting again in the garden as well as two black birds. One wren is nesting in the jasmine just above the patio door and after a short while of us both being unsure what to do, she has realised I am no threat. One of the blackbirds is using an original nest, which has been cleverly built next to the raspberries. It never gets old watching the male pick the raspberries from his doorstep and take them back for his brood. Location, location, location.