Cold Front

Reading time 5 minutes

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.

Categories: Bulbs, Flowers, Foliage, Musings, Our Coastal Garden, Perennials, Plants, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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34 comments On "Cold Front"

      1. Thanks, Dan. Just found out that we are coming to Broadstairs next weekend, 23-25. I don’t suppose you are around for a half hour visit on the Saturday?No worries if too busy or unavailable.

  1. “I am in one of those moods when nothing is quite right!” and that’s probably why you are one of the stars in the National Garden Scheme, feeling like this now means that by the summer everything will be totally amazing, look entirely effortless and beautiful and give the completely false, but very happy impression, that gardening is a wheeze!

    1. You overestimate me Andrew! Although I shall of course put my best foot forward for the NGS. I am very excited that there are so many new gardens opening around us too. Encourages us all to raise our games! Have a great weekend. Dan.

  2. You’ve still got lots of colour from foliage. I can’t wait for the tulips though. Your bulb theatre sounds fab.

    1. True, I do have plenty of green. More important in the winter than ever I think. Hopefully the bulb theatre will be a riot again this year. The performance will be late, that’s for sure! Have a good weekend Ali.

  3. Ohhhh u r a grumble b.m…. not like u at all!!! Hope ur dad can hel,u get everything shipshape… we are in for a weekend of ridiculous heat and massive fire danger…like u I go…’great’…just what I need….you are a superstar gardener and will have it all in pristine shape pronto!! Enjoy the weekend. 😊😊😊

    1. I don’t know about that Helen. I think the scale of my garden is well matched to the size of my talent! I probably am a little grumpy as I have a mild case of tonsilitis so feel exhausted at the moment. I will be better after a holiday, which I get shortly after Easter in Cornwall.

      I hope the fires stay well away from you. Perhaps spend the weekend by the pool with a cold Chardy? X

  4. Is that a very healthy olive tree I see in your Gin and Tonic garden? Obviously the cold didn’t affect it! I think you garden looks very good and as though it hasn’t missed a beat during all the terrible weather. It’s going to be 36 degrees C here on Sunday, so I’ll be getting the hoses out again!

    1. Correct. Olive trees are generally considered hardy in the south, provided they don’t get waterlogged. Mine seemed unmoved by the snow and cold.

      I could do with a quick blast at 36ºC if you fancy a weekend guest? 😉

  5. My goodness, your weekend sounds labour intensive. Wonderful to have a dad to support your efforts! To my eyes, your garden looks gorgeous already! May your beautiful plants be spared the effects a cold blast can bring. The colours, textures, design, care of your garden(s) are stunning!

    1. Thank you Jann. I like to keep busy, within reason. My dad hasn’t been able to visit for ages so I’ve been looking forward to his visit for a while. However we all need to stay safe as our roads are not great here when it snows.

  6. I love the idea of a Gin and Tonic Garden! Shall have to create one of my own I think. Just had a recce around my patch to see what survived the first battle: the Geranium maderense doesn’t look completely dead so maybe I can cover it for the next blast, but the osteospermum and some fuchsias are looking very brown. I think I shall just take the hit and then in April remove all that has not survived and go buy some new plants. I see you have quite a few pots. I was trying to eliminate pots due to the burden of repotting and the weight, but at least you can bring tender plants indoors more easily. I have to say that your plot is looking very good. I do so hope the weekend doesn’t wreak more havoc.

    1. Yes, I have an awful lot of pots. They are high maintenance when you have so many, especially in summer. However, I’m very restricted when it comes to open ground to plant in, combined with which I possess very little willpower when it comes to planting selectively.

      At least osteospermums and fuchsias are relatively easy to replace, but you may be surprised and find they come back. Good luck with the geranium. Dan

  7. Hello Dan
    I am happily viewing the photos of your garden, so lovely despite recent weather. It looks positively tropical and lush to me as I sit looking out at 12ft high snow banks along my road! Your writing and photos are an inspiration and a joy. Thank you for sharing. I am presently drawing up plans for a new border when the snow departs in May…a gardener’s hope springs eternal!

    1. It does indeed, and just as well! 12ft high snowbanks must take a long while to thaw? What will you plant in your new border Pauline? Planning it must be fun?

      We are due no more than a sprinkling of snow this weekend … I hope. I’ve been very selective with my camera angles so that you can only see the green bits and not the brown ones!

  8. Thank you Dan. If this is what your plants look like today, then I cannot wait to see pictures of it in May ! This awful weather in the UK just means we gardeners will be extra busy in April, sowing, pricking out & ofcourse buying more plants ! What is that lovely large leaved glossy plant I spy outside your window.

  9. I love your gravel garden. My trachelospermum has bright red leaves this winter, it looks lovely. Talking about red leaves which bergenia is that? It’s gorgeous? Is that a correa against the wall? How does that survive the Beastly Beast from the East?

    1. The Bergenia is ‘Overture’, purchased at Great Dixter last spring. Cracking colour. The Correa is ‘Marian’s Marvel’. She seems unmoved by the cold, although she needs a jolly good trim after flowering. She is in a very sheltered spot so does not suffer the same windchill as the other plants. Roll on spring, we need some warmth! Dan

  10. I love the tiny little cyclamen type Daffodil in the gravel garden. What variety is it?

      1. Thank You. I will have to do some research on this little treasure.

  11. Is that a Southern magnolia beginning to be espaliered on the chimney? They must be very tolerant of the cold. I have heard that they live in Oklahoma.

      1. What a trip! I think of them as Southern California trees. They are popular in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and all over the region, as well as here. They are from Florida to Texas and South Carolina. I would not expect to see them in London.

      2. Many stately homes and university colleges have them growing against their walls, where they can achieve a splendid size. Standards are much rarer here, probably because they need a little shelter to prosper.

      3. I think that if they needed shelter, I would grow something else. There happen to be some espaliered at Saint John’s in town, but whoever espaliered them years ago is not maintaining them anymore. (They had been there for decades.) Sadly, they get hedged by gardeners, and look horrid. The Bay View Hotel in Aptos has a huge specimen out front. It is not very tall, but has a massive trunk, and a broad canopy. They are quite messy.

  12. Thanks, Dan, but we won’t get there til late Friday. Another time. If you happen to walk by The Garden Flat ( corner of Chandos Square and Victoria Parade) let me know what you think might work in the containers there on little to no maintenance. I have already killed a Mahonia Soft Caress and the Acanthus looked pretty miserable too. I am thinking of putting in some Carex.

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