Weather more like spring than winter

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Perhaps it’s been the unnaturally warm weather that started in November, or the fact that winter flowering shrubs have excelled alongside their summer counterparts, which have bloomed yet again, completely out of season.

Whatever the reason, we took the long walk from Howick Hall down to the sea with friends last week, and it felt more like springtime than winter.

It’s quite a while since the winter cherry, yellow jasmine and viburnums flowered so prolifically, and assorted shrubs grown for their bark and variegated leaves sparkled so in the border.

As for other plants blooming out of sync, top of the questions I’m being asked most frequently is ‘will this spoil their chances of flowering normally next year?’

In my experience the answer is no, so look upon it as a bonus. Treat the plant as you would normally at this time of year and leave the rest to nature.

Take the shrubs weigela, spiraea and escallonia, for example. All three bloomed in summer as usual and received their annual pruning afterwards, yet have come up with a few out-of-season flowers. We’ve enjoyed the spectacle without intervening and anticipate a strong contribution in the year ahead.

Any roses not yet pruned have been encouraged by the mild weather to bloom yet again. There is a case for reducing tall stems to avoid wind. Rock or arch them over and tie the ends to canes. Arching is rewarded with many more blooms along the stem next year.

Our roses are not pruned until February so the climbing New Dawn (pink) has given us some nice late flowers.

Whatever the weather, the annual pruning will take place in a few weeks’ time, and I’ll be very surprised if normal service is not resumed come July.

You could spend a lifetime trying to get things right in a garden and still fall short in some departments, but when it all comes together and spells success – wow! I wouldn’t swap this wonderfully rewarding, therapeutic interest for the world. Some expensive seeds might fail to germinate, or pest, disease or inclement weather might ruin star plants, but you just have to deal with whatever comes and get on with it.