The effects of an early spring on South West gardens
2015 to 2016 was an unusual autumn and winter in the horticultural world in terms of high temperatures and rainfall.
The English Riviera
I’m very privileged to manage two of the National Trust’s horticultural jewels in terms of plant collections. Both Greenway and Coleton Fishacre on the English Riviera in South Devon have exceptionally warm and sheltered mesoclimates, possibly the warmest in the country, meaning that when plants flower here it is usually a good bench mark to what other gardens further up the country will be doing a few weeks later.
" The amount of plants in flower has increased dramatically this year."
An increase in blooms
One of the gauges or sense-checks we use at Greenway to measure how early the season is going to be, is a huge Magnolia campbellii, planted by Agatha Christie’s husband Max in 1938. In 2015 it flowered on Valentine’s Day, yet in 2016 it started flowering in early January and was practically over by Valentine's Day.
The other popular late winter shrub that we have flowering in abundance at Greenway is camellia. With over 300 varieties it is a welcome early splash of colour in the garden. As a general rule of thumb we are generally about 6 weeks earlier than usual.
Closer to the ground the snowdrops strangely have appeared bang on time, whereas crocus are slightly earlier than usual. We also have an abundance of primroses flowering early which love this warm damp winter.
At both Greenway and Coleton Fishacre we had daffodils flowering in November 2015. The daffodil variety 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' started flowering at Coleton Fishacre the first week of November, when we usually expect them to flower in February.
Although having more flowers may initially sound exciting, there could be detrimental knock on effects and only time will tell with an uncertain climatic future.
How this could affect gardeners
Gardeners too are having to adapt to these mild conditions. You could almost re-write the traditional monthly jobs list with weeding taking place 12 months of the year as they continue to thrive. And I never imagined that we would be deadheading daffodils in December.