Of winter losses, and spring hopes
A key theme I've picked up from clients and chatting to customers at Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants is of loss over the winter - scores of pittisporum, hebes, penstemon and salvias have died - along with cordylines and phormiums freezing and rotting to their core.
A sad Cordyline in a client's garden; they were worried that "they" had killed it. Nope - just a casualty of our changing climate.
There's been so many stories of plants that have meant a lot to people that will grow no more. Garden enthusiasts, designers and landscapers are racing to the nurseries to replenish what's been lost.
Is your garden behind?
People are also mentioning that there garden is "behind". I reckon here we are a good 2 - 3 weeks behind what I would expect to see in a normal year.
And that's the point - we have been accustomed to a particular rhythm of warming winters, and spring racing in a blink of an eye we tumble into early summer plants. This week I've been hailed on, sought shelter from biblical thunderstorms, put emergency suncream on, waded through mud and felt like every season was racing through my bones.
Plants don't read labels
But plants don't read the books. They don't read labels. They respond to the nature cues around them; the amount of daylight, the warmth, the moisture in the soil. All those micro-cues have been distilled down to what we crudely translate on a label as "flowers in late spring". The Met Office have stated that there is evidence that the frequency of some types of extremes have changed – particularly warm temperature extremes and heavy rainfall events. And these types of extreme weather events are increasing and linked to climate change.
Expect the unexpected
So we can expect the unexpected - as we always think we know, but now we really know it. And maybe that frees us to be more in tune with our gardens and our gardening, and appreciate what each season gives us that bit more.
So the upside is the strong performance of spring plants. It's been a spectacular year for spring bulbs and blossom. The heat of last summer and the damp soil of this spring seems to have suited these species well.
This wisteria I pruned for a client had it's best ever year - the hot summer last year, combined with plentiful rain this spring, has suited blossoming trees.
Gardening in an era of climate change is all about adaption, and mitigation. And maybe there's an opportunity here to adapt our gardening styles - and not pile all our plant hopes in the summer season but to think more holistically about plants for round the year.
Talk to me about how you can adapt and mitigate your garden and gardening style to our changing climate. There's lots we can do, individually, and collectively, that can make a big difference without costing the earth.