Home Environment and health Winter 2017/18: gardening casualties

Winter 2017/18: gardening casualties

Barley straw bale floating in the pond
Barley straw bale floating in the pond

Dead bodies mount up in worst winter for years

As Monty Don said in his Gardeners’ World column earlier this year, it’s wise to take a Buddhist approach to gardening – and accept the rough with the smooth.

So it has proved. It has done my back no good digging up plant corpses, nor my brain adding up the cost of the worst winter for many a year.

Only in the last week have I been able to get out and fully assess the damage wrought not only by the Beast from the East but its many siblings.

This winter has been so LONG – first lying snow on November 30, (hopefully) the last on April 4.

Snow, frost and unrelenting wet

And it’s not just the snow (although arguably no worse than when I was a kid – we’re not used to it now) – the unrelenting wet has been a major problem here.

Gateshead’s in one of the driest parts of the country, believe it or not, in the rain shadow of the Pennines, so what gardeners on the other side are clearing up I hate to imagine.

Obviously, it’s been extremely cold by recent standards, although we were always told to fear Easterlies in the winter when I was a child (living near the North Sea, it’s something you don’t forget in a hurry).

It’s gone down to -7°C on a few days, unheard of here – my garden is close enough to the sea and in a built-up area to benefit from their warming effects, on the west-facing side of the first ridge of hills from the coastal plain.

Echiums give up the ghost

It’s this that did for most of my Echiums. Even though they survived the first onslaught, repeated frosts, snow and wet killed them eventually. They just gave up.

Here’s the list of the dead (obviously borderline hardy/winter wet haters mostly):

  • Several Echium pininana (although a few survived)
  • Echium Red Rocket (one survivor)
  • Echium fastuosum
  • Echium fastuosum Blue Dwarf
  • Echium wildpretii (three survivors)
  • Variegated Yucca
  • Lavender
  • Assorted sempervivums
  • Standard pine (although that was on its way out due to cat damage)

If there’s one lesson from this, climate change doesn’t necessarily mean warmer weather – it means more unpredictable and extreme weather. Best to just accept the things you can’t change… and take the opportunity to replant and renew.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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