Garden Views-02-February 2018

Early February once again carried on the theme of the previous month, with occasional glimpses of sunshine, followed by quite a lot of cold, grey and damp weather. The garden is a joy at such times for lifting the spirits. Rarely for us, we managed to get away for several days early in the month to look at some gardens and snowdrops around the Cotswolds so missed a few sunnier days back home.

Interestingly we saw very few Cyclamen coum in all the gardens we visited, and almost no early Crocus, so it was a delight to get back to see how all ours are doing this year, even if the cold temperatures and grey skies meant that the Crocus have hardly ever managed to open yet. So attempts to hand pollinate have had to be grabbed whenever the sun, or even just warmth, arrives around midday! As I find more and more Crocus variants appearing in our garden, particularly early on when no bumblebees have yet emerged, I increasingly think that with my tiny artist’s paintbrush, the few hours I spend crouched over, tickling flowers, (mainly C. coum and Crocus) is some of the most productive time I have in the garden...

It’s a time of the year when things change very quickly in the garden, and any sunlight, given that many parts of the garden have a woodland feel, are visually transformed by changing patterns of bright light and dark shadows…

The 7 or 8 maturing and spreading clumps of Daphne bholua “Jaqueline Postill” continued to fill the garden with fabulous scent in February, and on our travels we managed to pick up 3 novel seedling forms from the excellent Pan Global nursery, which we hope in future might allow me to get some berries forming and try to  propagate a novel Gelli variety – D. bholua really seems to love our conditions!

At last the retyred matrix garden, where a lot of our named snowdrops are planted, is looking sufficiently reasonable on a photo for me to include a few images here. Garden visitors seem to appreciate this way of highlighting snowdrop variations, and indeed having now seen how other snowdrop gardens do this, we reckon in just another few years it will become quite a unique display area for them.

However none of these images convey just how bitterly cold it has been on many days with added wind chill. The consequence is that having started really early, this year we expect snowdrops to last well into the middle of March unless the weather suddenly flips and at present the four week forecasts show no indication of this happening.

Our NGS snowdrop opening weekend worked really well, although we did have to turn one car away which pitched up unannounced – very sorry- but we do have to limit numbers because of parking and garden path wear and tear issues. However it was a relief to sit down on Sunday evening, and a shame that the weather wasn’t quite as nice for all our visitors as when I took the pictures below around Saturday lunchtime…

By February 23 rd a complete change in the weather occurred – unbroken sunshine, bitterly cold Easterly winds and hard frosts. This was initially most welcome, but is always very challenging for our garden since it is largely unprotected from winds from this quarter.

Our lower ponds froze completely, but not before the frogs had managed to spawn on February 23 rd…

 

Once again foxes and an otter were night time visitors – herons and mallards daytime/dusk.

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Whenever the sun shone through later February, the bulbs were glorious…

Massive starling flocks always build through February, but this year they headed North at dusk to a roost many miles nearer the coast – perhaps they sensed that the winter was going to be a very long and cold one.

Two significant ice spikes/volcanoes were photographed this month, and for the first time I was able to watch an ice volcano actually forming in real time, 6 drops per minute, at dawn…

The rainfall total for the month of 103 mm was fairly modest, or low, even by our standards (149 mm in 2017) and helped by wonderful sunshine from the 23 rd to the month’s end, our PV output was very good too, after a poor start to the month. Only 111 KWH in 2017 but over 202 KWH  this year…This confirms the Met Office view which places February as significantly drier and sunnier than average for Wales as a whole. Click here for more. It’s always worth reminding oneself of this after what seems to have been a very long winter!

But the last few days of the month were disastrously cold, with progressively colder night time frosts and huge wind chill, from gale force easterlies which freeze dried many plants leading into the coldest ever spring day recorded for the UK for March 1st.

Minus 12 degrees C at 8.30 am on Feb 28 th behind the house (above).  Within just 5 days these colourful spring bulb displays had been completely flattened. Only to even more amazingly bounce back – see next month!

Our stream began to freeze over, dead robins were found, ice patterns formed in the greenhouse, and at the end of the last official month of winter, things were very much locked down in its icy grip. Only the Tomcot flowers in the greenhouse brought hope!