Cold Front


Hold the front page, the Beast from the East is not quite done with us yet. On Saturday we’re due to plunge back into the minuses, then on Sunday strong winds and heavy snow showers are returning to Kent; yet another unwelcome gift from our pals in Russia, where the weather is as frosty as our relationship. Those plants I managed to rescue from the first icy blast remain stashed in the garage and greenhouse, so I don’t anticipate any further damage. However, my weekend ambitions, which involve demolishing a shed, lifting paving slabs, jet-washing the terrace and working on the garage with my dad, might be curtailed. The saddest part will be not taking delivery of my new, much-anticipated potting bench.

Having recovered what I could in the front garden on Saturday, I gave the Gin and Tonic garden some much needed attention on Sunday. From inside out it looks shabby, with far too much cheap, broken, algae-covered fencing in view for my liking. I’d like to rip it all down and replace it with smart, painted panels, but that’s out of scope for now. I may do a little section at a time. The appearance of the greenhouse also displeases me, as do the plastic water butts in my neighbour’s garden. I am in one of those mood when nothing is quite right! There’s nothing a healthy Clematis montana won’t cover in a season or two.

Facing South West, The Gin and Tonic garden was barely touched by either cold or wind. A handful of bedding geraniums took a hit, and Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ was lightly toasted at the tips, but essentially everything else is alive and well. Geranium palmatum, which is much hardier than Geranium maderense, is popping up everywhere. The central rosettes are a bright apple-green, whilst the outer leaves have developed a reddish-brown tinge which is symptomatic of stress caused by cold. The same red flush is evident in the vast mass of Trachelospermum jasminoides which scrambles over the garage roof. Reddening of evergreen plants in winter is a common phenomenon and is usually reversed when temperatures rise and light levels improve. The exact cause is not fully understood, but it’s not so much of a danger sign as it is in softer plants.

The wet weather has killed off some of the alpines I thought would flourish in the tiny gravel garden I created last summer, so I’ve replanted with a couple of Thymus pulegioides ‘Bertram Anderson’ and five clumps of lavender-blue Anemone blanda. The colour scheme in this compact courtyard is loosely gold and purple, so these choices will work perfectly well and revel in the spring sunshine. I am not sure how they’ll feel about being snowed on so soon after planting. Over Easter I am planning to extend the bed by a couple of slabs and will continue planting thymes along the front edge, so that they will overflow onto the patio to be crushed lightly underfoot.

Another job for this weekend is to move my pots into position to create a bulb theatre. Although it’s already mid March, the daffodils have only just started to get going and the first tulips are weeks away. Perhaps plants are better at predicting a cold front than we are. TFG.