Though this article is officially NOT about the weather 1) I'm British 2) Its been the winter, so a great many of the seasonal gardening jobs I would do/expect to do during the winter and spring in the garden are governed by the weather. On our chalk hillside we had a wet late autumn followed by two prolonged extreme cold weather events separated by an extreme wet/flooding event which did for quite a few plants both in the ground as well as in pots. I lost all three plants of , two in pots, one in the ground, whilst the plant I had divided off from one of these and given to my mother survived the winter in a pot in her more sheltered seaside garden. I realise that this is a plant I rarely take a closeup of, as it is always a background plant helping others to look good – here from 2020 in its special blue pot helping enhance a deep purple heuchera (Heuchera ‘Grape Timeless'):-


All the lavender I had grown on from cuttings in pots up by the house died, as did two cotoneasters. Whilst I am talking about the grey-leafed shrubs/subshrubs, the Olearia x scilloniensis in the front garden has also died back. I THINK there are one of two stems with greenish leaves near the base, so I will have a go at cutting out the dead parts – but given that it is the size of two dustbins across, and we are talking one or two tiny green shoots here and there, my husband is of the “chuck it out” frame of mind. To show you how big it had got, here it is mid-prune last October:-


I know you might expect that these types of plants would not cope with the extreme wet we have had, particularly coupled with long periods of frozen roots they also had to deal with -but would you also expect all our winter kales to die too? Having told you that they survived the heat of the summer under the watering ministrations of our great neighbours, by the time we got to “proper” harvest season – ie the winter, they had turned into leafless stumps of mush. This has never happened before, even when we had two weeks of subzero temperatures one winter, the kales survived. It must be the combination of the cold/wet/cold and for such long periods that caused it. Even the some of the leeks had turned mushy! So I can quite see why there has been a cabbage shortage due to the extreme weather growers have experienced this winter.
On the plus side Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) was in blossom from March to April here:-


And the survived, as did the hyachinths you can see behind it at the end of March:-


The sudden wet towards the end of the year made a problem apparent that had remained hidden from the summer. The extreme 40 degree heat we had had buckled the roofing on my potting shed, something we only noticed when the rain came into the shed, rather than down the guttering! :-


Trying to fix this in windy and inclement weather with new large sheet panels was rather hairy, but extra joists were fitted inside to “future proof” the roof against the next 40 degree summer (!), whilst I carried on with the native hedge down the side of the orchard – something I had started in December, but had only got part way before the big freeze/flood etc, so here I am half way down on 11 January:-

hedge pruning

You can see the deer fence behind is still in evidence – not all of the hedge is tall enough yet for the deer to be deterred from jumping over it in the winter….
At least the need to move everything in the potting shed to be able to replace the roof meant himself had an excuse to “tidy everything up for you” – whilst I was delighted he was evicting all the spiders, I have still to find some vital pieces of kit (small sticks to poke out plug plants from their modules etc) that were “tidied up”:-


When I said we had flooding – here's the river Avon flooding across the watermeadows in the valley below us on 15 January – it had been in flood since just after Christmas, but this was nearly the most extreme:-

flooding 15jan

Jumping back a week or so, I managed to get out once the ground defrosted at the beginning of January to try out one of my Christmas presents – a long handled bulb planter. I had managed to score a couple of bags of half price Narcissus in the Boxing Day sales and so on 4 January I optimistically tried to plant them out. I am amazed to report that by 29 March many of these were sprouting leaves! I had assumed they would be very late, and not flower this year after such a late planting. But by 15 April the one that was supposed to flower in March – Narcissus ‘Fortune' was in flower, and Narcissus ‘Cornish Gold' which was supposed to flower Jan – March was putting up green leaves:-


I had hankered after one of these long handled bulb planters for a couple of years, and I can confirm it is MUCH easier to try and plant nearly 200 bulbs in between tree roots with one of these, though I can also say that having light chalky soil you don't actually get a “plug” of soil that maintains its integrity that comes out of the ground, just a mound of soil you have to laboriously scoop up and put back in. Looking at the photo of the flooding in the valley at the same time though, shows how well the hillside drains.
Another winter task we undertook, was to create a new climbing frame in between the down posts at the end of the pergola for the to climb up. As it is a non-twining climber, the more frequent heavy winds we have been having the past few years have caused it to break through its twine regularly, and I felt a trellis would help it. Here is the trellis just created, and the Jasminum officinale part tied in on 16 January:-

jasmine tied in

So having complained a lot about the weather, I did manage to do the annual pond clean up on Valentine's Day (as you do!) as it suddenly turned milder, and I felt sure the amphibians would be wanting to use it imminently. Do you want to see the regular annual before and after shots?



The after shot is one month after, on one of the few sunny days in March showing the water has cleared – but also the duckweed has spread again:-


As well as knowing what I did in the garden on Valentine's Day, I can tell you what I did in the garden on Mothering Sunday – emptied and washed the greenhouse! As expected, all the pelargoniums and marguerites that had been stored in the unheated greenhouse under fleece over winter had died. Whilst some survived each of the past two years in the much milder winters we had, this time none made it. However, some of the lavender (not all) that I had kept inside the greenhouse rather than outside DID survive, as did the tray of , which I have potted on and put back in the greenhouse, together with the tray of White Jacob's ladder, and trays of which I am hoping to plant straight outside in April (if we can dig up some more hospital bed space.) We had two panes of glass in the roof crack/break – possibly due to the extreme weather (or a bird/cat jumping onto it from the garage roof….So before we could bring the hotbed in to set up replacement panes had to be bought and installed:-

Frustratingly, as soon as the hotbed was in place we had strong winds and rain for days delaying any seed sowing til April. I am sure everything will catch up, but once we get to the spring equinox you want to get on with the gardening in the long daylight hours
As we are running very long with this round up, I shall continue with spring jobs, sowing and growing, and a review of how the HPS seedlings in the ground outside have fared over winter too next time.

Sheila May