A Chill Wind


Goodness it’s cold. I appreciate my Canadian followers will think I am making a fuss about nothing, and those in Australia will protest that their excessive heat is far more intolerable, but I am not accustomed to prolonged cold, or heat for that matter. Mild suits me fine. Tepid and cool are acceptable alternatives. Warm is good when I can get it, but in England we don’t like to set our expectations too high.

After two months of procrastination I set up my new greenhouse heater this weekend. Just in the nick of time. It was supplied with the wrong gas regulator, either that or I purchased the wrong gas cylinder. Whoever was to blame, and it was probably me, I needed to get a different regulator, or a new gas cylinder, a chore which was delayed until after the festive season. Typical winter weather in the south has the capacity to trick foolish gardeners into taking risks. It starts mild until Christmas with a few frosty moments here and there. Then in January, with the shops full of daffodils and Easter eggs, magazines brimming with images of snowdrops and seed catalogues clogging our letterboxes, we forget to listen for the fat lady singing. Her final aria has not begun. The mornings get lighter and hellebores start to bloom; then, bam, February arrives, bringing with it snow, hail, icy gales and frost. I barely slept a wink at the weekend as a northerly wind pummelled the house, lobbing hail the size of bullets at my window and causing Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ to thrash the glass like a cat o’ nine tails. I considered moving my bedroom into the basement until it stopped, but living by sea one can never truly escape the weather.



Once I focussed on the task of commissioning the heater it was not as onerous as I had anticipated. I had images of blowing up the greenhouse and landing myself in hospital, so I followed the instruction to the letter, tested the joints for leaks with soapy water, and stood well back after lighting. Easy-peasy. Within minutes it was warmer in the greenhouse than it was indoors, and the following morning I could already see how much perkier my plants were looking. Even on the lowest setting the heater appears to be running 24/7, so it will be interesting to see how long the propane lasts. I can now plant seeds, take cuttings and bring plants out of hibernation earlier than I could have done when it was completely unheated. Of course I’d like a new greenhouse, one that looks pretty and that I can stand up in, but that’s not on the cards any time soon. In the meantime I sate my desire by windowshopping at Chelsea and Hampton Court.

The cold weather is going to continue for at least another week, and snow is forecast in Broadstairs tonight. Over the years I’ve learned that February is not a month to be trifled with. Bide your time; use it to tidy up, explore new ideas, read, dream and plan ahead, but don’t be tricked into thinking spring is here. TFG.