Arrival of spring delayed by long winter

Evergreen Nursery

Evergreen Nursery

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SPRING has not quite sprung yet according to green fingered gardeners in Kirkcaldy.

Bedding plant production is behind schedule and there have been unusual flowering combinations spotted in gardens in and around the town due to this year’s late seasonal changes.

Instructor David Ross at Evergreen Nursery

Instructor David Ross at Evergreen Nursery

Dave Ross, senior instructor at the Evergreen nursery project in Barnet Crescent, told The Press everything is running late this spring because the colder weather has lasted longer than normal.

Dave has been working at the Evergreen Training and Employment Service for the past 12 years. It is run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the volunteers, clients and staff grow a wide selection of bedding plants, shrubs and flowers which are on sale to the public. It also features a community garden and part of it has been developed into vegetable plots.

He said: “Our bedding plants are way behind because of the strange weather we have had. The lobelia plants should be further on than they are and some of them have gone brown because it’s been so cold.

“The ground has been frosty and this is why some bedding plants have not flourished as well as they should have done. It has been colder for longer this year and as a result it has slowed down the rate of growth for our plants. We have a propagating tunnel which keeps the plants warm but we have had to burn more gas to keep it warm over a longer period.”

Dave said that while there have been more daylight hours and milder weather, the temperature is still plummeting at night. He continued: “It has been windy as well which causes draughts and this also takes away heat. If the long winters continue like this we will have to look at again at which types of plants to grow. The more exotic bedding plants haven’t grown as well because of the cold so we may have to look at having hardier plants like marigolds and clarkia. Although other plants, like the heather, have had a good show this year when they didn’t last year.”

He added: “Nature has a way of evening itself out so while it has been a slow start everything should soon catch up as long as we get the weather.”

Anne Brown, secretary of Kirkcaldy Allotments Group (KAG), said: “I’ve been asking around allotmenteers and everyone’s saying the same thing.

“Last year we had seeds and some potatoes planted by the end of March and with a mild March they’d started to sprout. But this year the soil is too cold and everyone’s holding back on planting. Parsnip seeds were finally going in last week and they’re usually planted in late February. Early potatoes were also going in although the soil was probably still a bit cold - but we’re all getting impatient!

“We’re all desperate to get our homes back to normal since windowsills and conservatories are heaving with trays of seedlings. The daffodils in Ravenscraig Walled Garden (RWG) are still in full bloom and in a normal year they would have died two or three weeks ago.” She said bees have recently been introduced to RWG but since flowering is late, their food sources are limited so they’re being fed by the beekeepers. She added: “It’s most definitely a late spring!”

Jim Jermyn, horticultural consultant, Gardening Scotland, said the unusual spring weather has been a talking point for many people over recent weeks. He said: “But is it really unusual? I ran an Alpine plant nursery in Berwickshire for 20 years from the early 80’s and it was not unusual to experience such a weather pattern.

“The problem stems from our short memory of a series of mild winters (from the late 90s) and exceptionally early springs.

“This year, we still have a few snowdrops in flower and bluebells are barely emerging, this reminds me of the former years and gardeners must be patient and wait until the soil warms up and the fear of late frost has passed. “Last year my Victoria plum blossom had already been frosted at this stage and many alpine and herbaceous plants were ahead of schedule, this year the plums are not yet in flower.” He added: “Let’s be thankful there will be an extension of the seasons this year with wonderful magnolias and rhododendron blossom to look forward to!”