Effects of climate change are blooming obvious

By Richard Wright

Published on Friday, January 13, 2012 - 11:13


Effects of climate change are blooming obvious

Mavis Bishop with a camilia that is blooming in January!

GARDENINGIT DIDN’T take a professor, whose speciality is Living with Environmental Change, to tell Mavis Bishop, or anyone else on the Island, climate change is having an effect on plants.

An early spring is busting out all over with reports of unseasonable flowering of all manner of plants, many of which will be in for a shock when, as it surely will, Jack Frost finally arrives.

It was useful of Prof Andrew Watkinson to detail on Radio 4 the roller-coaster weather we have had and the confusion it causes through temperature and light level change, which have long been known to affect both germination as well as blossoming and fruiting.

Take the Himalayan blue poppy, for instance. You have to put it in the fridge for a few weeks to mimic a tough Himalayan winter, take it out and then it is germination time.

Consider also the meticulous cold store regime of plants to ensure they are in tip-top condition for Chelsea and Hampton Court.

But, translate temperature change and seasonal confusion across countries and it is hardly surprising people come forward with what at present are still considered oddities but which, if the trend continues, will undoubtedly become the new norm.

Prof Watkinson points to climate change altering behaviour. His phenological study highlights December 2010 as the coldest on modern record, followed by the driest spring in years.

April 2011 was the warmest since records began, as was November, while December was average but lacking killer frosts.

Hardly surprising, then, that plants did not know their stems from their rootstock.

It is no more apparent than in Windmill Close, Ryde.

In Mavis’s garden, and the garden down the road which she looks after, there is a veritable profusion of confusion.

A hollyhock flowering in January? I have never heard of that.

Mavis has fuchsias in bloom and a rose arch that looks lovely and, highly unusually, an Oriental poppy blooming now just past their best, having previously flowered in the summer.

"A white camellia, which always blooms in October, is out, as is the pink camellia williamsii and the red, which I bought from Woolworth’s a good few years ago. Those two would not normally be in flower until next month," said Mavis.

"It’s a real topsy-turvy start to the year."

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