Six on Saturday – 3/3/2018

Snow is rare enough in Cornwall but temperatures of -4°C by day are pretty much unheard of. There will be a price exacted for growing plants that are at the border of hardiness, though what that price will be will not become clear for a while. Some things look dead and are, some look dead but recover, shooting from below ground perhaps. Some look fine but fail when they try to start into growth; some, like the Dahlias I didn’t lift, are a complete unknown.

For the plants in the ground very little can be done to give them protection. For glasshouses and polytunnels it is a case of how much heating gets provided. Given that a glasshouse will usually be a degree or two warmer than outside without heating, and not expecting anything worse than maybe -2 or -3, I have found a couple of electric tube heaters adequate up till now. Even with -5 and a stiff breeze, I think I will lose little or nothing in the two glasshouses and the back of house conservatory/lean-to glasshouse. The polytunnel is a different matter.

The beautiful winter scene on Friday morning before I went out and trampled some of it. I will reluctantly concede that snow can look very pretty and at this time of year a lot better than what it is covering up. I drove back from taking someone to Truro hospital Thursday afternoon in worsening snow; it took three times as long as normal and was touch and go in a couple of places. I hate the stuff.
This morning it’s raining and the snow is turning to slush. Hopefully it’ll soon be gone.

Agave montana. I bought this at Pan Global a few years ago and it’s done very well. It stays outside against the south facing house wall and gets very little water or feed, which toughens it up. I have no fears about its survival. The thing next to it is a species of Haworthia which might suffer a bit. There’s an equally tough Agave parryi out there too.

Schefflera taiwaniana heads a long list of plants that I will be anxious about until at least June. At least it’s about as deeply dormant as it ever gets, which I hope will help. I seem to recall that it had a flower spike coming back in the autumn; there’s no sign of it now.

I’m probably going to have more room for my tomatoes this year. Some years ago, in my former life, we upgraded our camellia sales display by lifting the plants off the ground onto benches. When a few plants started to go down in late winter we realised that all their roots had been frozen and killed. The backup stock, standing on the ground in the tunnel next door, was fine, saved by being pot thick and a bit of residual heat from the ground. If camellia roots freeze, they die. I don’t expect many of these to survive. I tried to cover the 9cm plants but the wind had other ideas.
I took the cover off this morning, all looks fine beneath it, just like the ones that weren’t covered. It tells me nothing. I shall look at the roots in a few weeks time, that will likely tell a different story.


I did manage to squeeze a few plants, mostly less hardy varieties, into the conservatory. This is one of them, Camellia ‘Ariel’s Song’, which is a hybrid between two borderline hardy species, tsaii and fraterna. It has loads of small, very fragrant flowers. I have grown it successfully outdoors in Cornwall but even here it is marginal. Lovely leaf too, especially new growth. I’m going to sneak in a focus stacked picture of ‘Flower Girl’ too, for no better reason than it being alive.

The OH started on this when we were in Australia. She saw one somewhere and thought “I can do that”. I think both knitting and crocheting are involved but what do I know. I will concede that they are not “happening in my garden right now” but this is a week for taking liberties if ever there was one.


In theory, from now on it can only get better.
I’m rather expecting tales of woe from other six on Saturday contributors. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Links from The Propagator as ever.


29 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 3/3/2018

  1. Like you I am wondering what will survive. I too didn’t lift my dahlias – never have done. But I only grow a few as I am not yet fully convinced that I like them! I hope you camelias survive and grace the post of a future six.

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  2. I did see on the news that you had snow down in Cornwall and can remember the damage the cold weather caused last time it occurred and I hope your plants survive ok Jim, good luck with them all fella,


  3. Really enjoyed your Six and hope that the weather is kinder to your plants than you think. I am hoping for a quick thaw too, but in Oxfordshire think the snow is going to hang on longer, though the sun is out. Your OH is very clever and I love those creations. Definitely cheered me up.


  4. I don’t remember a winter period like this before. We’ve had worse snow (1980-something?) but not a period of over three days with max temp of zero and often -5. I will offer up a prayer or two to the Great Gardener on behalf of your camellias.I hope that a lot of your fears prove unfounded. Thanks to a heating fail (still plenty of gas but the heater just went out) at just the wrong time, I’ve lost most of my maternity ward plants but the more established ones look ok.

    At first glance, I didn’t realise those cacti were knitted/crocheted. I need to visit Specsavers, admittedly, but I had to focus carefully before I believed your explanation.


    1. Knitted pot cosies for the Camellias next, methinks. As you say, it’s been exceptionally harsh, I fear for places like Tregrehan, they have a lot more to lose than me.


  5. HI Jim, I’ve had the roots of camellias in pots survive -9c on bigger plants, and the 1 – 3 lt have been hardy to -5c ish. You may find it is not so bad. We have not been very cold in this last week, -4c, but we had more than 30cm of snow, and it is still snowing lightly.


    1. I have some bigger plants but most of mine are 1L or 9cm. There was one intact bloom under the leaf canopy of the 1L so just maybe the pots didn’t freeze solid. I’d rather be pessimistic and be pleasantly surprised than the opposite.


  6. I lost an agave 3 years ago, not because of the frost but because of the thaw that gave the soil too wet and the roots had rotten … It was near the wall of the house like yours. I also 2° less than outside in my unheated greenhouse but with -7°C I had to move all the fragile plants inside .. Now, the calm seems back. How long.??? ( still a doubtful month…)


  7. Well we started off ok this week with some work on the allotment, but the snow stopped anything happening at the end of the week. Those knitted / crocheted cacti do look like the perfect ‘snow day’ activity though!


    1. That’s perhaps the best thing about snow; those fleeting, never to be repeated images where the white smoothness of the snow contrasts so starkly with a shape or colour that you seem to be seeing it properly for the first time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For all the inconvenience it brings, there is something magical about snow, especially when it’s a unique experience and not something that occurs every winter, all winter. Everything looks different in the snow.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It probably makes me a bad person to say so but if I lose some of the Camellias i will see it as nature making a decision I should probably have made myself. The plan was to sell them but they’re mostly not good enough. It’d be a bigger problem for me if they all survive.


      1. I know the feeling! I’m going to be living in a camellia and rhododendron jungle.


  8. You packed a lot into your Six – beautiful snowscapes, worrisome looking schefflera, actual camellia blossoms, & then the cacti. I love your camellias since the first time I saw them, but after looking at James Wong’s grafted tomato plants . . . well, a little bit of both would be the perfect solution for you. Indeed, let nature decide.


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