Tuesday 16 July 2019

Big chill puts brakes on plants' fast start - but will not kill them off

Kari Oslie from California points her camera at Coronilla glauca at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, last week. Photo: David Conachy
Kari Oslie from California points her camera at Coronilla glauca at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, last week. Photo: David Conachy

Alan O'Keeffe

Cold weather will arrest growth of plants that thrived in the mild first weeks of 2019 but it will not kill them off.

Flowers blooming prematurely and grass shooting up nationwide marked an unusually mild start to January.

While the colder weather finally arrived late last week, the extraordinary 15 days at the beginning of January caused quite a stir in the gardens of Ireland. Gardeners donned hats and gloves for extra-early pruning, tidying, and grass-mowing as the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin received large numbers of calls seeking advice.

"All around bulbs are blooming. And the flowers are a kaleidoscope of colour," said Brendan Gilsenan, foreman gardener at the Botanic Gardens beside the River Tolka.

"It's been unbelievably spring-like and even the birds are singing far earlier than usual," he said.

"If things turn very cold, it will put growth back but it won't kill it off," he said.

In glorious sunshine last Wednesday, Brendan showed the Sunday Independent the remarkable growth spurred on by the unusual weather.

"The pansies should be sitting dormant this time of year but they're blooming," he said.

The scent of wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), a gorgeous shrub, was exquisite and a bonus to be enjoyed so early this year.

Even the daffodils (notably Narcissus 'February Gold') were beginning to bloom in the mild January air.

"All over Ireland, gardens were showing unusually strong growth," he said.

Although temperatures have dropped in recent days, the strong growth in the first couple of weeks of January has seldom been equalled, he said.

Readings taken at the National Botanic Gardens in the first 15 days of this year showed an average temperature of 10.5°C and average rainfall of only 2.8mm.

Sunday Independent

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