Sunday, February 05, 2012

Exotic Snow!

February is often one of the coldest months in the UK and after the mild winter so far this February has decided to remind us that we are a very northerly country. With cold winds and snow coming in from Siberia we have had a night of -7c, and over the last week some day time temperatures only just above freezing.

Fortunately the forecasters knew this was coming so any of the borderline hardy plants that were outside in pots were brought into warmer locations, and heaters set up in the greenhouses. We don't heat to high temperatures, just enough to keep pots from freezing and keep everything ticking along without problems.

Chris Chadwell on his recent expedition.
With the ground frozen on Saturday we had thought about working on the Filtration House, but instead decided we would have a day off (a well deserved day off I hope you will agree!), and went to visit a few local garden centres. Saturday was also the monthly meeting of our local Hardy Plant Society group, with a talk by Chris Chadwell about plant collecting in the Himalaya. So with cold weather outside, we were taken on a trip to some of the highest mountains in the world, perhaps a cold snap in the UK isn't so bad after all!

Delphinium brunonianum in the Himalaya (Photo: C Chadwell)
As well as the slideshow, Chris had brought along seed from his last expedition, so we now have a selection of fresh Himalayan seed to try, one would expect these plants to be suitably hardy here!

By Saturday evening the snow had arrived, and we awoke on Sunday to a garden full of the white stuff, roughly 4 inches for us.
View from the back bedroom window across to the New Garden and Filtration House.
Various exotics covered in snow.  Yucca recurvifolia in the foreground.

Fatsia japonica
The sun lounger is slightly less appealing when covered in a layer of snow!
Schefflera rhododendrifolia, the newly emerging 'hands' covered in snow. 

Knickers has seen snow before but seemed to love chasing after it in the garden again.
After being in two minds whether to continue to plasterboard the Filtration House this morning, we ended up heading off to Kew Gardens, and the Tropical Extravaganza in the Princess of Wales Glasshouse. Rather than add the orchid photos to this blog, I will sort though the photos and add a dedicated blog during the week.

View across Kew's lake towards the Palm House.
Warning, thin ice! A thin layer of ice had formed on the large lake outside the Palm House.
Despite the cold some plants are still looking fabulous,  here Helleborus argutifolius from Corsica is putting on a fine display.
The main reason for our trip, photos to follow in a separate blog.
The orchids were stunning, and a much needed blast of warmth and colour on a cold winters day. As we got home the snow was melting, so with luck most of it will be gone soon! 


Chris Chadwell
The Hardy Plant Society


  1. I enjoyed your day off. That was pretty fluffy snow. Fun if you are not used to it but a pain when it moves in to stay.

  2. Mark and Gaz, that is quite a versatile post! I enjoyed very much reading it. How special to be able to obtain seeds from a plant collector directly from the Himalaya. The Delphinium brunonianum looks so beautiful! Did you get seeds from this plant, too? Your garden looks very beautiful with the blanket of snow. It is so unusual to see exotic plants sugarcoated with snow, hope they don't get damaged, though. Can't wait for your posts about the tropical show in Kew Gardens. I am sure it will be a treat.

  3. I'm in agreement with you! When it's cold and snowy, get somewhere filled with tropicals and orchids!

  4. Ah Snow. Here we are in the last month of cold, luckily our February has been remarkably sunny. Still you never know when the weather will shift and nuke everything that has made it thus far. Your tropical garden covered in snow is a sight to be seen. Thanks for sharing, I hope everything makes it through!

  5. The snow on the chairs look like white cushions. :)

  6. So until now in the age of Intellectual Property Rights, collections are still going on. I just wish the important medicinal findings from collected plants, not necessarily by the collector but the successors or followers, will be declared as to source of origin. A lot of findings from plants of our country ensued from previous collections, and some advanced countries do not declare origin of patentable inventions, depriving the indigenous people or country of origin their rights. But i pity your tropicals in your garden, they might be suffering inwardly, if not yet visible outside.

  7. Loads more snow up in Luton than down here. A visit to Kew was definitely a good choice.

  8. I stopped heating the greenhouse a few years back. Not only was it prohibitively expensive but I had trouble keeping the place aired enough. But then we lost some plants through the cold. Sometimes feel I shouldn't be growing anything that can't survive without mollycoddling.
    Great use of your time on your day off. I hope you got some seed from that delphinium...

  9. Brr, I think Kew was a very good idea. Aberdeen weather can be just what a southerner would not expect Still haven't had any snow this year and the early morning frost has been lifting quickly. Banchory fifteen miles inland is carpeted in snow with nearby roads blocked. Knickers is having good fun.

  10. We thankfully escaped the snow here in Devon, just a few flakes before it turned to rain. Cold though: -8 and a couple of 'day freezes'. If I lived closer to Kew, I think I would also have migrated to the Princess of Wales Glasshouse!

  11. That’s true Nellie. I do like snow but it’s novelty wares off the longer it stays as it can be a hassle when you commute to work. Not to mention worrying about the plants!

    Thanks Christina, glad you liked this post which pretty much summed up our activities last weekend :) We didn’t get seeds of that particular Delphinium but will be contacting him later to get them separately. Despite the snow I’m hoping there will be very little damage to the plants, and that they are fine underneath all that white powder

    Indeed Tim! There wasn’t much we can do anyway so just took it easy and visited somewhere warm with lots of nice plants!

    Thanks Nat! Despite the snow fall being heavy it’s still not as bad as what we had previous winters. So hoping there’s not much damage to the plants.

    That’s a good way of putting it Bom! I quite like that chair looking like that!

    Andrea, plant collecting and preservation is a tricky, if not touchy subject indeed. Kew’s aim so far is the preservation of seeds/plants for future generations especially some of them are already endangered, or could disappear with the loss of habitat. We also get an episode of heavy snow every winter, with some harsher than others. Hopefully the snow this time won’t linger that long :)

    David, good choice indeed, Kew looked very pretty with a blanket of snow. It was melting fast though so it’s probably very slushy there now..

    Janet, it can be a tricky decision whether to heat the greenhouse and rack up high bills, or not heat and risk losing lots of plants. Heating is so expensive, I totally agree with that as we got that sting last winter. We’ve decided to tone down our heating and only use electric heater on one greenhouse, the other using paraffin which is a bit cheaper. No seeds of that Delphinium but should get one soon :)

    Alistair, parts up north and most of the west have escaped the heavy snow fall. Even Belfast was milder than ours a couple of days ago. We had a lovely time at Kew and I’m glad the snow is fast melting here now :)

    Ben, you guys are so lucky! I’d swap rain over snow anytime (but not the cold and minuses of course, lol!). Snow is fast melting here now, and I’m hoping that will be it for this winter. Snow is pretty but the longer it hangs around the faster its novely wares off…

  12. The snow is beautiful! And you got to see and hear a real plant hunter! I bet that was fascinating! I hope your Himalayan seeds do very well.

  13. Wow, so much snow! Knickers is really adorable, enjoying and posing in the snow, haha. I'm sorry about the extreme cold but I do enjoy your lovely snow pictures very much and I wanna sing, let it snow...let it snow...let it snow...

  14. Hi Holley, the talk was fascinating and it was interesting to hear about the project and some of the plants he found there. Sowing those seeds will keep us preoccupied for a bit, hopefully we'll get a good germination rate :)

    Thanks Autumn Belle! Knickers had a fantastic time playing in the snow, he loves it! Not too sure about more snow though, I think this recent episode is more than enough for this winter, lol! :)

  15. Beautiful, but maybe one snowfall per winter is enough? Our so-called "winter" here has been warm and dry, unfortunately. Funny my Helleborus argutifolius hasn't even started blooming yet.

  16. Hi Hoover!, one snow fall is more than enough. We have had a couple of light dustings, and this snow is mostly gone, although some is left. The early part of winter was very mild, which allowed us to keep working on the Pond Project, but the weather pattens have shifted and we are at the edge of the cold weather ocming across Europe from Russia.

    We dont have a Helleborus argutifolius, but having seen those ones at Kew, I must add one to our wanted list!

  17. Those exotic plants are not affected by the snow? Really beautiful pictures. Wow, didn't know Delphiniums grow in Himalaya.

  18. I wonder what turns in life led to Chris Chadwell's being in the Himalayas, collecting seeds! I have read tales of plant collectors of old, traveling to exotic places in search of new specimens. And it seems that such people still exist. Sigh. There is an adventurous streak in me that would love to do that! It's great that you got to hear him talk and are a recipient of some of his seed!

    I love all your snow photos! I'm afraid we are too far gone into spring for me to wish for snow now, but I know it could yet happen. And if it did, I would probably react the same way as Knickers!

  19. KL, still never fails to amaze me how adaptable some plants are, like this species of Delphiniums found in the himalayas.

    Debs, I have nothing but admiration for plants people who have that adventurous streak and pursue their dreams of travel and plant collecting :) I wish it was spring here already, at the moment it's still very wintry.

  20. Hah! Knew snow would look amazing on all your architectural plants. Agree about the sun longer though, brr... Lovely photo of snowy Kew across the frozen lake.


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