Skip to content
Press release

Mild and wet weather results in early arrival of blossom in pockets of England and Wales

The Magnolia campbellii at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, in full bloom
The Magnolia campbellii at Bodnant Garden, Conwy, in full bloom | © National Trust Images/Clare Williams

With February likely to be confirmed as the warmest on record, the unseasonably mild temperatures over the winter and wet weather of recent weeks have caused various flowering trees and blossom to emerge four weeks earlier than usual, according to gardeners at the National Trust.

As the conservation charity gears up for its annual blossom campaign – where it encourages people everywhere to share the joy of blossom – pockets of blooming trees and shrubs are already starting to emerge in Trust gardens across the south-west and south-east of England and Wales, indicating the start of what could be a very drawn-out and hopefully long spring flowering period.

One of the earliest to bloom is the renowned white magnolia tree - campbellii ‘Alba’ – at Glendurgan in Cornwall. Towering above the historic maze, this 60-foot magnolia is flanked by two other spectacular varieties – the dark pink Magnolia campbellii subsp mollicomata – and cream coloured evergreen Magnolia doltsopa.

Last year, the magnolias reached their peak flowering in late March, whereas this year, they started emerging and reached optimum flowering four weeks early.

Elsewhere in the garden, camelias and rhododendrons are also blooming forming a spectacular mosaic of colour for visitors to enjoy.

At Trellisick, also in Cornwall, the Cornish red rhododendrons are in full bloom after starting to flower early in November last year. And, at Trengwainton Garden, the first of its 39 varieties of gigantic magnolias is laden with blooms, far earlier than usual.

The most spectacular of these, the towering 103-year-old Magnolia campbellii in the walled garden – an English Champion tree due to the width of its canopy – has just reached its peak and is now beginning to drop its petals, resulting in one of this year’s first ‘magnolia blizzard’ spectacles.

John Lanyon, National Trust Garden Manager for Trelissick, Glendurgan, Trerice and Bosloe in Cornwall said: “Due to Cornwall’s unique microclimate, we haven’t been hit as badly by the heavy rainfall that has been persistent across many areas of the country since the autumn.

“It has been so mild that some of the varieties of rhododendrons that we care for have been blooming since late November, and not properly ‘shutting’ down.

“Throughout the winter, the bare trees monitor day length and temperature through their bark, helping to keep the flowers safe until the conditions are right for them to flower. But we have been very surprised to see some of our notable magnolias already at their peak, particularly those at Glendurgan which are four weeks ahead of their typical blooming schedule.

“This is the earliest I’ve ever known them to bloom, a sure sign of our changing climate.”

Elsewhere in the south-west, at Coleton Fishacre in south Devon, azaleas are also flowering early and some agapanthuses have continued to flower throughout the winter due to the milder conditions. At Knightshayes near Tiverton, both the magnolia and quince are already reaching their peak.

In Wales, Bodnant Garden’s renowned collection of magnolia is also blooming several weeks ahead of last year, and species whose blossom is normally staggered have emerged at the same time.

Together with the garden’s rhododendrons, such as the special Bodnant hybrid variety ‘Welkin’, which are also flowering early, this has created a wealth of colour in the garden that is very unusual for this time of the year. Similar sights can be seen at Llanerchaeron in Ceredigion and Dyffryn Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener at Dyffryn said: “Across our garden, the warm and wet weather has really turned up the dial, with our Magnolia Campbellii already showing their best spring ‘dress’ and our Magnolia denudata, liliflora and soulangeana are both out three weeks ahead of the norm. Similarly, the apricots with their soft pink blossom are already out, and even the apple trees in our orchard are starting to bud up, which is exceptionally early.

“On the plus side, this early emergence of blossom means there is plenty of food for our white-tailed bumblebees, of which we have seen quite a few flying around already, coaxed out of their hibernation by the promise of spring.

“We are very conscious however, that any late frosts could be disastrous by damaging the blooms they rely on for food – so we have actively been planting a wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees to ensure all of our insects can rely on a rich succession of flowers coming into bloom, as we adapt our gardens to a changing climate.”

In the south-east early blooms include peach and almond blossoms in the kitchen garden at Ham House and at Nymans in west-Sussex the magnolia campbellii are currently flowering, whereas the magnolia stellata, a variety which usually flowers later, is just about to pop.

Andy Jasper, Director of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust said: “Some of the early flowering we’re witnessing in our gardens is absolutely spectacular – and certainly brings welcome cheer – but these blooms are also a very visual sign of how our seasons are shifting, and the consequences of a rapidly changing climate, especially over the last decade.

“This year’s weather patterns are a stark contrast to last year, where we had the driest February in thirty years and repeated cold snaps into March.

“The blooms we are seeing now are partly a direct impact of those weather patterns – together with increased daylight hours which triggers the chemical reactions causing buds to bloom. That dry start to last year followed by the prolonged period of largely wet and mild weather for many areas of the country, has meant our trees and plants haven’t really stopped growing or had a particularly long period of shut down.

“As long as we don’t now experience any prolonged sharp dip in temperatures, we should be able to look forward to a very drawn-out blossom season with ripples of blossom spreading across the country, from the south-west and Wales through to Northern Ireland, north-east England and Scotland, followed by a bumper year for fruit harvests.

“With these changing weather patterns, it is becoming ever more important for our talented gardeners to plant for the unprecedented conditions we are experiencing. This means helping the nature in our gardens adapt to the changes while ensuring that our visitors continue to delight in well thought out planting schemes throughout the year.”

Blossom more typical for this time of year is also starting to put on a show with clouds of billowing white blackthorn blossom gracing hedgerows across parts of England and Wales.

The Trust’s blossom campaign is part of the charity’s long-term efforts to return blossoming trees to landscapes; and to create a UK equivalent of Japan’s ‘hanami’, the popular traditional custom where people of all generations celebrate the transient beauty of blossom.