This year the weather has been a serious topic of conversation. When is it not in this Island of ours? It is either too wet. Too dry. Too hot or too cold. And cold is what I want to talk about.
Since the New Year it has been very cold. Some might say unseasonably cold. We’ve had snow falls and bitter winds. Heavy frosts and ice on the car. Icicles hanging from the bike shed. A continual threat of further bad weather.
The hellebores nose dived into the soil as the temperatures plummeted. As a gardener it has been quite trying. I worried that the new plants put into the ground in the autumn would not survive the constant onslaught of freezing ground and bitter cold. In the new year I can’t wait to get going planting seeds. Veg seeds for the allotment and, in recent years, flower seeds to add to the garden. I have been overly tempted by the beautiful pictures of flowers from the catalogue of Chiltern Seeds. For weeks I have been waiting for it to be warm enough to get sowing. Earlier in the month I snapped. I just couldn’t wait any longer and as a result the kitchen has become a surrogate glass house.
There has been much muttering in gardening circles that this is all wrong. Surely it should be getting warm by now. And if you are under thirty it probably is all wrong. Late winter and early spring in the last 10-20 years has been generally warm. Last year daffodils were flowering at the end of January and tulips in March. This to me seemed entirely wrong. But you see I am older than thirty and can remember a time when winter was winter and spring didn’t start until April.
But then is this a true statement or am I mis-remembering.
There were the classic cold winters of 1947 and 1963. Snow apparently lay on the ground for months on end. In 1978 and 79 the temperature didn’t get above 6 degrees well into April. 1986 was cold when the temperatures plummeted in February to -2 degrees and didn’t creep above 10 degrees until May. 1968/69 had cold winters and springs. If you want to look at this data in more detail you can have a look at this nifty graphic of historical temperature data. Looking at the data, the average temperatures in the first four months of the year have been considerably warmer since 1998 than before that date. So my memory is not playing me tricks. Late winter and early spring was colder when I was younger.
In my former life as an actor I remember when I was on tour with Annie in 1983 asking an actor friend of mine when the leaves were going to appear on the trees. It was April and the winter had seemed interminable. He prosaically said ‘when they do’. I remember being frustrated by the answer but he was correct. The sun started to shine in May and the leaves burst forth. I think that this year will be the same.
So as the veg seeds plopped through the letter box this morning I knew the kitchen was going to have be the green house for a bit longer. All will be well as seasoned allotmenteers will tell you. Everything will catch up when the weather warms and the sun shines in May.
This year has been a reversion to the norm. Or certainly what seems like it should be the norm. I like my daffs in March and tulips in May. The spring flowers are really having their season this year. The leaves may take a little longer to break bud but they will be a welcome sight when they do.
Oh, and by the way, it’s been known to snow in May before now and I know this because it was on my sister’s birthday on May 24th.
You have been warned.