Garden Views -12-December 2017

The first day of December dawned bright, and cold, before a return of grey, damp and oppressive weather. Early Cyclamen coum and the first snowdrops coped well with the cold weather which then took hold. Rosa ‘Bonica’, as is often the case, kept blooming well into December and added a splash of colour.

However on the 8 th, a day of hail showers preluded a Met Office warning of possible heavy snow, and a plunge in temperatures, which in due course materialised giving us the heaviest snowfall in 24 hours, of about 11 inches, that we’ve experienced in some time, if not ever…

The lack of wind meant that plants were heavily burdened, and we had several limbs break off larger trees.

Much to our surprise a warming overnight on the 12th, combined with heavy rain, quickly melted much of the snow, freeing us from temporary entrapment.

Whilst there was a lot of physical work clearing the yard and top section of our track, the glorious views, and complete serenity made such a temporary change of scene delightful. We were thrilled to receive a publisher’s copy of “Dreamscapes” by photographer Claire Takacs, which features our garden along with 70 others chosen from those she’s photographed over the last 12 years around the globe.

Barely 10 miles away in the Twyi valley no snow at all had fallen. Such are the variations in micro-climate in the hilly uplands. Our tame robins have delighted in presenting photo opportunities throughout the month, often greeting me at the front door as I emerge first thing, camera in hand, boots, nightshirt and beanie my usual attire… 

The picture below is particularly interesting, the robin alighting some distance away on my Camcorder, just after I’d set it up for a dawn time lapse sequence. It stayed there patiently, and eventually I realised that the camera shutter was closed….an indicator that the battery was flat!

They really enjoy snaffling crumbs at elevenses…And have even made it inside on occasion…

The weather stayed mild, grey and wet leading up to Christmas. By now most of the ground is saturated, and doing anything more than pruning and cutting back is impossible. As always the Cyclamen coum are a huge delight, on these shortest of days…

By Christmas day we’d had 35 different snowdrop flowers already open, which in spite of the cold snap in mid December was well ahead of where we usually are at this time of the year. Given that January to March is really our snowdrop season, this was a very pleasant boost…We even had our first daffodils in bloom by Christmas Eve – as always the precocious Narcissus ‘Rjinveld’s Early Sensation’. Since in several years we’ve struggled to have any daffodils out by St. David’s Day, this is again a dramatic change. We even managed to see our first Crocus (C. sieberi ‘Firefly’) during December (30th) for the first time ever.Heavy rain on Christmas day gave way to a lovely sunrise and morning on Boxing Day, though wet snow fell after dusk – so not a white Christmas in the end. Then nearly 2 inches of accumulated hail, after thunder storms, produced another white outlook in the garden.

By the end of the month 45 different snowdrops had already “opened” a flower, way ahead of where we’d normally be at this time of the year, in spite of quite a few very cold spells during the month. Presumably flower emergence was kicked off earlier in the autumn by the unusual weather conditions?

The total rainfall for the month at 222.5 mm was, typically, one of the highest of the year. The PV inverter output for the month was also typically very low at just 40.79 KWH.

But the most striking feature of the year’s weather was certainly the lack of light – the lowest annual PV output we’ve ever recorded at 3,033 KWH, almost 10% below average levels, and one of the highest number of days on which at least some rain fell. From July to the end of December we had just 33 days with no rain, and only one spell with 5 dry days in a row, otherwise just ones or twos. Total annual rainfall was 1938.93 mm, with 1095.13 mm falling in the last half, compared to “just” 843.80 from January to June.

So a very good year for fungi, mosses and liverworts, but poor for many plants’ health.

Though our Daphne bholua clearly thought it was ideal, and was flowering really well from early December.