In February I spent a few days with my family in the far west of Cornwall. Spring was most definitely in the air, the hedges were greening-up nicely, birds were singing enthusiastically, and the sun was warm. Yes, there was rain on and off, but very much in the fashion of April (sic) showers. We even had a hailstorm during one of our walks on the SW Coast Path between Mousehole and Lamorna. But still, it felt decidedly vernal – and we all commented, as we drove home, how the landscape shaded from green back to wintery brown as we drew closer to Wiltshire. Not long now, we innocently thought, before the Penwith green catches us up…
How wrong we were. Since then we’ve had two dollops of snow, the heaviest in getting on for a decade, along with some really cold nights and bitter easterly winds. ‘February Gold’ Narcissi, which were well on their way when I got back from Cornwall, suffered two squashings by the snow – and not only recovered well, but are still going strong in early April. Other spring flowers, however, are well behind, and who can blame them?
It’s been incessantly wet as well. Long days of drizzle at least, and often heavy rain, coupled with overcast skies and chilly temperatures, have all made it feel like we were still in late winter. The occasional burst of sunshine quickly reminds you that the sun is getting stronger now we’re past the equinox, but they’ve been few and brief. The soil is still cold and clammy, certainly far too chilly yet for any seed-sowing outdoors.
The greenhouse is backed-up with seedlings sown with February enthusiasm, but which are not ready to brave the cold frame quite yet.
There is blossom – Blackthorn in the native hedge is out, as is my Fuji Cherry (Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’), and the ever-reliable Forsythia – but it is later than usual (or so it seems). No sign yet, though, of Magnolia stellata either. But even getting into the garden seems an effort when the light and the weather are so poor. And with every passing dreary day the list of jobs still to be done can appear daunting, if not overwhelming.
Easter weekend is traditionally the busiest gardening weekend of the year, and one which can be crucial for those dependent on the ‘garden shopper’ . I hope that the wet and cold weather of this Easter will not be too damaging to the fortunes of nurseries and other gardening businesses, who find life hard at the best and sunniest of times.