Yikes, just when we thought we’d got away with it, the weather went all Winter Olympics on us.
So how far were you prepared to go to protect those borderline shrubs which you were just congratulating yourself on having nursed through the worst of the winter? In my case it was quite far; I have a penchant for subtropical plants and this week had to activate the ‘Emergency Procedures Plan’.
I did this alphabetically in order of a plant’s nationality, so the Chileans came first and into the glasshouse come pots of Crinodendron hookerianum (Chilean lantern tree, curious deep red waxy bells and tough leathery leaves) and Embothrium coccineum (Chilean flame tree). Then, having grown it in a pot for a number of years but finally risked planting it out (albeit in a sheltered spot next to the boiler outlet pipe), my precious specimen of Luma apiculata (Chilean myrtle) had a length of fleece wrapped around it followed by a short prayer.
Next it’s the Madeirans with the monster Geranium maderense holding court in the corner of glasshouse whilst outdoors Geranium palmatum got a blanket of bracken pegged over it and Euphorbia mellifera received a stern talking to, reminding it that it’s already been allocated the priority spot under the eaves of the garage.
Finally it was Mediterraneans, always a bit wimpish in my experience, so pots of speciality rosemaries and lavenders were dragged under cover and the olive tree wrapped in fleece – it would probably survive without, but might have dropped all its leaves in protest, which is never a good look come spring.
No need to worry about the hellebores though, they may be on the ropes now, but they have their own antifreeze and will rise from the ashes once the beast has passed, and if you want a real tonic just look at the variety that Louise has it her own garden in Great Plants this Month.
One thing I have noticed though about my sub tropical beauties though, is that I bought most of them in Scotland, mostly from the excellent Loch Fyne Tree Shop where apparently they sail through winter outdoors, bathed in the protective westerlies of the Gulf Stream, so how come Caroline is always bleating on about how hard done she is to be gardening north of the border when clearly she could be achieving a lot more?
Sometimes I do wonder if Laura has lost the plot bigtime. She must be exhausted after this bitterly cold week. Surely the whole point about gardening in these hallowed isles is the enormous range of plants we can grow without resorting to lugging great pots in and out and round about!
And yes, I do sometimes lose one or two in the winter and probably will again, but usually this is much more to do with continuous wet than cold. And if I was enslaved to an alphabetical list of floral exotica (that sounds rather like a page in the Ann Summer catalogue, doesn’t it!) as Laura is, then no doubt I would be wrapping them in the finest pashminas with a little furry hot water bottle.
This might be the point to mention that I used to have a very gorgeous Isoplexis canariensis that Laura gave me some years ago – greatly admired by garden visitors. It is known as the Canary Island foxglove, a 5ft evergreen shrub with beautiful orange/rust flowers in summer. You know what’s coming – I killed it, by not giving it the diva treatment. Oh well.
We’d love to know what you do to protect your plants and if you have any really good tips, but in the meantime, here’s what I do. All my pots of pelargoniums and aeoniums overwinter in the porch or cold-frame. Errr, that’s it. A bitterly cold wind in late spring last year wrought havoc with Olearia macrodonta last spring in Normandy, but short of a helicopter ride from England to cover them up, we were a bit stuck. So I am taking my pleasure in the plucky little aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) (hardy to something very minus) and the bright flowers of Helleborus argutifolius, a native of Corsica and Sardinia, but as tough and loyal as the elastic on your Siberian long-Johns. I bet even Caroline could grow THEM outside…….
No not on the seaward side I can’t – that’s only for the desensitised phormiums and polar bears. We’re not talking the Gulf Stream here but the brutal North Sea, so I was prepared to see Laura’s ‘yikes’ and raise her a ‘bl**dy hell’. If Amazon Prime ran out of horticultural fleece last week – I’ll put my hand up – I was part of their problem. Baby it was cold out there and my plants are.. well…. my babies. My Euphorbia mellifera was swaddled like a great big Baby Jesus while my Lobelia tupa doubled as an Egyptian mummy although I’m almost sure it’s already dead (why isn’t there an app for this?).
I don’t feel badly for Laura – she’s pushing boundaries with her range of exotica and Elaine, well she just doesn’t try (although I did actually learn things from her last gardening tips column so quite looking forward to her new one next weekend), but spare a thought for me last Sunday. Thoroughly spooked by the Met Office my pots of agapanthus were dragged into the greenhouse which meant there was no longer room for my tubs of overwintering dahlia tubers which had to come into the ‘cool room’ (and got all mixed up in the process) thus my zaluzianskya seedlings were displaced and had to be moved into the warm room where my toddler tomatoes had to be transferred to the top of the filing cabinet by which time I, myself, had to be moved to the members’ bar at the golf club.
You see when the BBC say it will be minus 10/minus 15 and feel considerably colder but ‘we shouldn’t panic’, I feel like Theresa May hearing she has the full support of her backbenchers – extremely nervous.