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The Impact of the Changing Weather on Gardens and Plants

February 23, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 179

The weather has always been a topic of conversation in Britain, its part of our national psyche. Nothing prepares us for the extremes of weather occasionally thrown at us, be it torrential rain, draught, heat or snow and the deep freeze. This winter is no exception, extremely mild until the beginning of February when the cold really hit with a huge weather front coming in from Siberia with all the chill factor related to that cold region.

Where our gardens are concerned, the mild winter has bluffed our camellias into flowering early, my first came out into bloom in early November and it usually waits until late March. Several are well in flower and are now shrouded in fleece in an attempt to keep the frosts from damaging the buds, the open and semi-open flowers are devastated. These are not the only plants that will be suffering. My Lavendula pinnata, a tender lavender that I first spotted in Cyprus, started re-flowering in December and was covered in blue spikes in January, this is a shrub that loves hot Mediterranean sunshine! Admittedly I do live in the outskirts of London so the micro climate is warmer than the rest of the country, but this is unusual. Whether it comes through is another matter as it will have to take its chances outside as I do not have a glasshouse.

The deep freeze is not the only time of year that causes mayhem in the garden. A very warm spring like last year when May was the best "summer" month brings plants on too fast and out of season. It makes life very difficult for landscape and garden designers as the flowering seasons are now so haywire that our carefully planned planting schemes can look quite bizarre when bright autumn tones start encroaching on a cool early summer palette. Clients also find in difficult to take in that we are laying turf right up to Christmas Eve in mild weather! Yet another will be ringing to cancel an appointment with their designer as they are snowed in. Actually I love to see the wonderful forms created by the snow on the plants and trees and it is helpful to see a white-out garden to assess the structure within the garden. Strong architectural features are seen with great clarity.

What is not so pleasant for a garden designer at the start of the build, is working in a garden at a minus temperature with a high wind chill factor. Frozen fingers and toes can lead to a hastily done job, anything to get out of the cold. Yellow markers used in marking out new borders and features, freeze in their cans, and stakes will not be driven into the frozen ground. But needs must. Bare root hedging plants are about to be delivered, so the trenches should be prepared and ready to accept the plants as soon as the weather warms up sufficiently. New borders can be dug over, composts incorporated ready for the schemes to be planted up in spring. The frost will help break up the soil to make a good friable loam.

The expected cold snap with snow has arrived, the snow in London only lasted for 24 hours but the cold continues but I was delighted to see that the snowdrops, primroses and hellebores look none the worse from the below freezing conditions and are all in flower. The daffodils are bravely poking their heads above ground and many are in full bloom. I've yet to see the damage to the lavender and camellia buds as they are still shrouded in their fleece and as the cold spell is forecast to continue a while, I'm not risking opening them up. I am optimistic that the damage will be minimal!

Sally Court is co-director of CGD Landscape Design, garden designers based in London. The company philosophy combines the functional with the artistic to create inspired and sustainable gardens and landscapes. We embrace local characteristics and conditions to develop landscape design solutions which are sympathetic and can be surprising in their simplicity.

Source: EzineArticles
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