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Global warming, or what? 29 Apr 2024 A weird spring - or is it?

I know only too well that climate and weather are not the same thing, but, nonetheless, no-one needs telling that lately the latter has seemed rather peculiar, even for Britain.

After the 2022-23 winter, with several nights below -10 Celsius, most of this winter was very mild, bar a few nights before Christmas (I don’t recall a frost in my garden near the village centre since then), but, my Lord, did it rain! Everything became sodden, and those who have more clay in their soil than me have probably had standing water from time to time. There is still water lying in some fields near Eynsham, which I’m sure is unusual, to say the least.

AND it’s cold (for April)! My max/min thermometer recorded just two degrees a couple of nights’ ago, and, even with the sun out occasionally, temperatures are struggling into the teens. Plants have sprouted because of the longer days, only to get chilled or blown about mercilessly by “storm A-Z” (some of the names they get given are really odd …).

However, is this really so unprecedented? The last days of April are traditionally the “Blackthorn Winter”, cold weather being associated with that lovely tree’s blooming (although milder weather a few weeks ago brought it on early), and I shall certainly not be casting a clout till [the] may be out – hawthorn will be flowering soon enough. I also remember a couple of recent years when it was hardly any warmer at the end of May, so let's hope that doesn't happen again.

For gardeners, changeable weather in spring is often a cause of anxiety. My lovely Magnolia “Leonard Messel” escaped late frosts for once, and the general mildness of the winter, combined with last summer’s sun, has caused at least one June-flowering rose to bloom weeks early, but all the blossom on my crab apple was blown to smithereens in a week! Such cold winds can be very dangerous to evergreen shrubs in particular, so do check that things like miniature conifers are not in danger of drying out.

Vegetable growers are not happy, that I do know, but anyone that’s already been able to sow seed potatoes, late or early, should be very grateful: many commercial growers are predicting dire shortages because of waterlogged fields, and we “look forward” to rocketing prices in the shops (or is it all a con, I wonder?).

All one can do is be patient, and not fall prey to the siren voices of garden centres by buying and planting out summer bedding as early as they would like you to: I would advise waiting at least another week before potting up pelargoniums, busy lizzies, and the like into their seasonal containers. For now, put out any such plants you have already bought in a sheltered place during the day, to “harden them off”, but before dark remember to bring them into the shelter of your garden shed or even a north-facing windowsill in your house, in case of near zero temperatures at night. It's a bother, but worth it: one of my Japanese azaleas has already suffered from almost getting frozen, but my dahlias, cocooned in fleece, bubble wrap, and the darkness of my garage, have just started to shoot, so hope really does spring eternal.


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