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Blog posts tagged with 'weather'

I don't care what the weatherman says

Us Brits love the weather. We use it as a form of ritual, the acceptable small talk at dinner parties when the food is a tad unpalatable. In my opinion, this year has been an interesting one, never quite warming up before descending into the current gloom once again. As we are now fully into the late Autumn conveyor belt of storms and rain, can I be bold and offer you a small glimpse of my memories in the art of bad weather forecasting?

Once, whilst living in deepest darkest Norfolk, I returned home from planting 3,000 trees to a warm fire, a hearty meal and the television weather report. As I sat there, getting the life back into my toes (this was the days before I had bought Town and Country boot warmers), the meteorologist announced the evening would be fine and fair. As I had spent the entire day toiling in heavy rain I was somewhat surprised by the news. To be honest she looked abashed by the statement and as I lived not twenty miles from the studio I can confirm the weather was anything but fine and fair. One cannot blame the poor girl of course, she was just doing what the computer told her - you see the modern super computer cannot lie.  The moral here is I suppose, ignoring your own experience and instead relying on what others insist is true prediction, leads you on a merry farce. As a result of that one incident (I like to think my complaint was key), the BBC has created a new website, just so that we, the humble invisibles can report our own findings. So, with that in mind would you like to be part of history? You can be. Go to 'BBC Weather Watchers' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/weatherwatchers. An interactive website of some merit  it relies not only on a computer, but  on crowd-sourced information, making the weather reports that much more accurate. Wonderful. Now you and I can take photos, write reports and generally cause merry havoc at the BBC without leaving the fire-side armchair. What is more if you really want to get truly involved, then Town and Country has the ultimate collection of weather watching equipment. All you have to do is go to the products page on this very website. Click on the 'Clocks and Weather Stations' link and you can be your very own Francis Beaufort. Buy your Royal Meteorological Society Weather Watchers Logbook  from Amazon, perhaps download a radar app to your phone and hey presto, you'll really be making a huge difference to the recording of what is a national addiction. By the way, for the BBC record, it rained the next day too.

Be weather wise!
 
If we are lucky, we have warmth in the day, but the nights can still be cold. As our ancestors recognised, it is a month that can easily turn back into winter. If I look at the past few weeks, the day temps have been up in the high teens, but the nights have been down almost to zero on some occasions. If you recognise that this is quite a large margin of difference, then you will realise just how remarkable plants are. Then you have the rain, hail and frosts to contend with too.
 
All this proves that the soil is still not very warm - hence the old custom of putting your bare elbow or perhaps your bare bottom on the soil, to see if it is ready for some of the more delicate plants. Some plants like Cymbidium orchids need a few cold days to help them flower, but a frost is definitely a no-no.
 
I am quite often frustrated by the weather news on the TV or internet as it is massively generalized to cover several hundred square miles - although I must admit they have got better in recent years. Once, in the middle of the last decade, whilst living in Norfolk, the weather girl reported it was going to be a lovely dry night, yet outside my window some 20 miles from her studio, the rain was hammering down. Did I see a hint of embarrassment on the poor girls face? In those days, my obsessive temperament noted they had only got it accurate on 15 days in the entire year. Which is better than a soothsayer I suppose.
 
But of course for you at home, there are ways of telling if the air and soil is warm enough and what the weather may bring for yourself. Buy a weather station. With a glance you can tell if the air has been chilled to uncomfortable levels overnight whilst you were tucked up in bed with Gardeners World. You can also have an inkling of what the weather is threatening to do with a barometer as your guide. If you are like me and become lost in the green world, a clock will help you realise supper was 2 hrs ago and perhaps the kids need feeding at some point.
 

 

In truth the UK has a fantastic array of weather and micro-climates from the abhorrently wet, to the surprisingly dry. Do yourself and your plants a favour and get a bit scientific.
Blackthorn Winter
 
Well, we are at the end of the blackthorn winter. If you are not sure what the blackthorn winter is, I shall endeavour to educate. In old country lore, there is a plant called the blackthorn, or if you prefer scientifically it is the Prunus spinosa. Anyway, it is said, when in flower, there is always a second winter. If you are unsure of what you are looking for, it is the bush with the horrendous thorns, the beautiful white cherry-like blossom and the incredibly tart fruit known as a sloe.  So now you know.

 

I must say, before the cold weather set in, I was enjoying the display of Magnolia flower. Many of you may be interested to know it is the very first example of an insect attracting flower, so thus it is the oldest flower design discovered in the fossil record.

 

In the garden, you may just about get away with still planting bare-rooted shrubs such as roses and raspberries, provided you give them a copious amount of food and a healthy watering.

 

Now is the time to prune some of the winter flowering plants such as Jasminum nudiflorum, Viburnum x bodnantense, Viburnum farreri and Viburnum Fragrans which should be at the end of their flowering. This early clip will allow them to grow new shoots for next year’s display, without the plant growing beyond the size you want.  This is quite an important tip for all those gardeners who want to know proper husbandry. Don’t just prune in summer or autumn randomly – try to prune the right plant at the right time, to improve the life of the plant and to improve flowering.

 

Another key plant that is in flower now is the Camellia.  All that flowering is going to leave it a little short on food, so now is the time to give it a good boost with azalea food. This will not only help it for this year, but also next. Remember, prune a Camellia just after it has flowered to give it a chance to grow next year’s buds.
TOWN & COUNTRY WELLIES RATED ALONGSIDE HUNTER AND LE CHAMEAU
Sales of wellies have soared in the last few months and if, like many, you are bewildered by the choice and the price tags on display - ranging from £10 for a basic boot to upwards of £300 for a designer brand, we have some good news for you.  You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a decent quality, good looking pair that will see you through the wet weather. 
 
In a recent tried and tested review undertaken by the Daily Mail, Town & Country’s Premium Wellington – at just £45.99 – were rated on a par with Hunter (£95) and Le Chameau (£340) – with all three scoring an impressive 7/10. 

 

Town & Country’s high quality, British designed boots are hand crafted from natural rubber and designed with style and comfort in mind.  They have a contoured leg and side-fastening buckle to give an extra snug fit, and a soft lining which makes for the ultimate in comfort.  A high grip tread pattern will ensure feet remain firmly on the ground.  They are available in three colours - dark green in sizes 4-11(37-45); navy in sizes 3-12 (36-46) and raspberry in sizes 3-8 (36-42).  The full range of Town & Country footwear can be seen at www.townandco.com
Can I speak honestly?
With all this wet weather we have had I have never been so glad to have a sturdy and trustworthy pair of wellies. If you are after the very basic but practical or like to have a little more comfort, Town and Country have yet to let me down. I can’t remember another winter where I have virtually stayed in my boots and they have certainly come in handy!
 
 
 
A major chore this year has been to clean out all the drainage gullies on the large gardens and estates I look after so my feet were in contact with water for most of December and January. Thankfully, I remained warm and dry throughout.
 
To be honest and I am sure you know by now, there isn’t anywhere left for the rainwater to go, as the rivers are full and the ground is full (and hopefully the reservoirs too.) So what to do in the garden?
 
The best course of action now is to stay clear of the lawn altogether. If it was spiked in January as suggested, all you can do now is watch and wait. There is nothing else for it.
 
As for other jobs, we are in an interesting position. Apple trees need pruning in order to stop becoming biennial with fruiting. However, the level of stress they are under at the moment, I hesitate to do anything which may add disease to the mix as fungus loves this kind of weather.  A fork amongst the roots with some dry compost and sand may help aerate and alleviate issues. The same can be done with all your shrubs.
 

 

I would suggest a little known law is quite important to remember now. Any large tree or shrubs that are within ten feet of public access or your garden boundary is now, more than ever in need of inspection as it is your responsibility to make sure it is safe. The wind and rain will have seriously weakened root systems. Given that you are responsible for the safety of others near your tree, this I would suggest is of utmost importance as you may not like the surprise of a hefty insurance bill if something were to happen. A general walk-by inspection is required every year to look for any damage or danger, but once every five years it is suggested  a professional undertakes a survey.
 
What a start to the New Year!

I doubt many would want to be out and about in the current weather, but spare a moment to think on your plants. You may think that they will be loving all this rain, but understanding that a plant needs air as well as water, you a chance to stop the rot, before you have to expensive replacements. If you garden is well and truly sodden, now is the time to get out there and address some immediate issues.



The lawn is still growing, given the mild air currents, but it will be sitting wet – something it hates. If your garden is on anything but sand, its roots will be struggling to breath and you will need to slit or aerate the lawn. First sweep away all the debris that has collected. Then, grab a fork. Starting at a corner where you will not have to walk over it twice, insert the fork at a 45 degree angle and lift the turf slightly. It needn’t be by much, just enough to allow an air pocket. Remove the fork and repeat. The best method is to create a zig-zag of forked columns or rows across the lawn. Once you have done this, a light dressing of compost would be welcome. Try not to walk on the lawn for a week or so, to let it settle.

Alternatively, you could just use the special shoes or aerating machinery that is available, but given the amount of water that has fallen, and given snow is approaching, I am not sure this will suffice.

If there are any areas in your garden, where shrubs sit wet, try to fork the roots to give them air. Some trees even – such as the Southern Beech (Nothofagus spp.) – will rot quite quickly if in wet soil leaving you with a dead plant and an expensive headache to replace.

Coping with a wet summer

Geranium spp.

  So, the English summer has sprung upon us like a damp octopus. Slimy, vaguely warm, uncomfortable and perhaps slightly menacing. If your garden is not now the village pond, then you are lucky indeed. I bet you're glad you bought those lovely T&C wellies now eh? Notwithstanding, I search for the positives – everywhere you must admit is beautifully verdant.

Astrantia spp.
 

 

Buddleja davidii.


The plants and trees- the very soul of our gardens- are undeniably happy, displaying their colours with gusto. And yet we cannot seem to ignore the problems. The slugs and snails have run amok, destroying vast swathes of my veg patch in their merciless quest for sustenance - slug pellets or beer traps being rapidly diminished by the sheer weight of water. As for the weeds, oh the weeds, even the panel of the illustrious BBC Gardeners Question Time have raised their hands to heaven. “You can't spray, you can't hoe, so what can you do?” As Adam Ant possibly sang all those years ago.

But there is hope yet for us hardy garden folk. If you have a lawn and are fearful of cutting it, as those books advise against; well, fear not, for as Vita Sackville-West was so fond of saying: Rebel!

Set your mower on the highest cut and cut away. If you have a hover mower this is a bit more complicated but not impossible. If the lawn is impossibly long. Strim it first. Remember electrics and water don't mix so try for a dry spell. After you have cut, spike the lawn, using a sharp border fork, sprinkling compost as you do. Not only will the lawn remain healthy, but you are adding to the nutrients and drainage potential! In the borders, add a good mulch of mushroom compost or if you have Azaleas and their ilk, try ericaceous compost and seaweed. With all the activity of the worms and the constant rain, leaching of nutrients has undoubtedly occurred, so mulch away! If all else fails just sit by the window and watch the swallows and martins scoot impossibly close to the ground in search of their supper. Wonderful. There, feel better? Now, where's that recipe for pan-fried octopus with chilli, coriander and garlic...
 
-- Guy Deakins
The Dry Garden

Water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. What’s a gardener to do? We want our patch to look beautiful yet we can’t rely on our hosepipe. It’s a dilemma. But if we think of it in terms of a challenge, a puzzle to be solved, the whole concept of gardening with minimal water can be a delight...honest.


A sunny patch with poor soil is the perfect place to start gardening with plants that don’t mind dry, sun-baked earth. Mediterranean plants are the ones to seek out. They include lavenders, rosemary and curry plants.

First enrich the soil with organic matter so that plants can hold on to moisture during dry spells. Well rotted compost or bagged planting mixture from a garden centre are best. You could also use spent mushroom compost. You’ll need around one bucket per square metre. Once this is dug in you can start planting. Don’t forget to include a few upright plants such as towering verbascum for contrast and interest.

Once planted, water everything thoroughly. Then cover the soil surface with a 2 inch / 5cm thick layer of small gravel. This acts as a mulch, sealing in moisture and suppressing weeds. It also acts as a canvas, showing the plants off to their best advantage. During the first year the plants will be establishing so you will need to water them when the weather is dry. After that they should be pretty self sufficient. It is possible to have a beautiful garden and save water. It just takes a little imagination.

My guru for gardening in dry conditions is Beth Chatto. Her books ‘The Dry Garden’, and ‘Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden’ are full of helpful information. They’re available at garden centres and good bookshops.

Plants which thrive in hot, dry conditions
· Allium
· Cistus - Rock Rose
· Curry Plant
· Euphorbia
· Helianthemum - Sun Rose
· Lavender
· Phlomis
· Rosemary
· Salvia Argentea
· Santolina
· Sedum
· Senecio
· Thyme
· Teucrium
· Verbascum

-- Rob Amey