Effects of the winter

Posted: 14 Feb 2010

I don't think any of us could have predicted just how cold this winter would be.

On the heels of a cold winter during 2008/09 I think we all hoped that would have proved a blip and the trend towards 'milder' winters would return. This year has tested that and I think across Europe and parts of the USA this winter season has and is continuing to be very hard.

I guess it shows the value of protecting in autumn the plants that are more borderline, something I must confess I have become rather complacent about as previous winters have been benign relatively speaking. Perhaps it is time to go back to treating winter with respect as I used to do?

The bad weather continues to show little sign of moving away and indeed even this week Rome had a falling of snow and our friends in the Eastern USA were inundated with heavy snow falls. This on top of cold that has already reached down into Florida and held much of Central Europe in an icy grip.

Already plant damage is showing and sadly I am sure that as we finally and hopefully that will be soon!, move into spring more damage will become evident. Often spear damage to palms shows weeks after the cold has passed but I know many members have reported already spear pull on many treasured plants. Perhaps if that is noticed now applying some fungicide into the cleaned out central space may rescue the palm and with warmer weather to come it will re-grow. For now though I would not unwrap any winter protection as winter doesn't seem to have ended with us yet!

The months ahead too will no doubt see us re-thinking our gardens and taking an unplanned opportunity to re-tune what we grow and give a chance to try new things. The age old debate will rage about whether a damaged plant in a prime spot is worth trying to bring back to health or do you face up to removing it and trying something new? Down to personal choice amongst many other factors, cost, effort and of course our own attachments to plants we have nurtured for years comes into play!

I have already seen many of the borderline plants I grow amongst my palms badly damaged with some succulents and bromeliads already badly suffering and turning to mush! As always I am hopeful that there will be surprises when better weather returns and plants that I thought would not make it show they are tougher than I imagined and make a come back!

Our forum members too have posted pictures of plants both damaged and not so damaged so it will be good to collect observations over the next few months and improve our knowledge of how exotics have fared. They have for sure been tested this season!

I really hope that winter will finally surrender its grip. I notice now the days are getting longer. All around the signs are there, many bulbs are pretty advanced here and a few days of sunshine I am positive will see the crocus open to embrace the spring sun. I have had reports too that the developing flower pouches are started to be seen amongst the trunk fibres of Trachycarpus fortunei as they start their development to emerge and open in May.

Do send in reports on the forum of how your garden has fared, we can all learn from one another.

Kind regards


Phoenix canariensis in a Southampton garden
Phoenix canariensis in a Southampton garden

Washngtonia in a London Garden.. an amazing plant!
Washngtonia in a London Garden.. an amazing plant!

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