Oct 11 – ‘There’s Something Strange Going On’

LETS face it normally autumn can feel a bit depressing. The nights are starting to draw in, the leaves are starting to turn yellow and our gardens are looking past their best. But forget all this autumnal angst this year there’s something strange going on.


In the last few weeks we’ve been noticing certain plants are flowering way out of season. For instance normally, you would expect horse chestnut trees to be in flower in April not October. But this is exactly what we noticed a few days ago whilst driving through Harlow. We were so surprised we had to stop the car and take a photo. Admittedly, the flowers weren’t as big and impressive as they normally are but it’s unheard of for them to flower six months early!

 This isn’t the only example. Chatting to listeners on our gardening phone-in Show on BBC Three Counties Radio, people are reporting forsythias, clematis, crab apples, cowslips and even lilacs all flowering at the moment. So what’s going on? Certainly, the weather has been a bit unusual in the last few months. First of all we had a hot, dry spring that was followed by a slightly cooler and damper summer and then a record breaking September with temperatures and sunshine levels at an unseasonal high. Undoubtedly, this has tricked some spring flowering plants into thinking that spring has arrived early. Although this is nice to see it does mean that they are extremely vulnerable to hard frosts and cold temperatures when the weather does turn. With the horse chestnuts it might mean that any new buds or tender new growth appearing now might get damaged which could result in bare or dead branches next year.

 That’s the thing about gardening, no one season is the same and plants will always surprise you, you just can’t predict nature.

 On the flip side this recent unseasonal weather has given us a great opportunity to get back out into the garden and get on with one or two jobs. October is a great time for transplanting and moving plants as well as turfing, planting bulbs and taking hard wood cuttings.

 It is also the start of the bare-root season. This means that you can buy shrubs and trees that have been dug-up straight from the farm or nursery and are supplied to you loose and not container grown. Consequently, bare-rooted plants are often stronger and hardier and are considerably cheaper to buy. You can get some great bargains on all sorts of things such as roses, fruit bushes and trees. If you are planning on planting a hedge then now is the time to start as you can get bare-rooted box, hawthorn and other native hedging plants for a fraction of the cost. There are many companies offering bare-root material either online or via mail order so why not give them a try, you don’t have to buy everything in a pot from the garden centre.