Winter Review

Well it was another winter that had the records tumbling, this time it was for the coldest December on record. Now, at the end of February I’m getting the sense that milder weather is approaching which is surely confirmed by the energy companies telling us about their great upcoming deals on cheap gas.

But getting back on topic I’m sure many of you are starting to survey the garden for any ill-effects from the dark cold months of winter.

This season’s big losers already seems to be Cordyline australis, Agave americana and Phoenix canariensis, basically the type of plant that doesn’t enjoy half the Himalayas sitting on top of them.

These three tend to survive through most UK winters but the last three winters in particular have really been harsh, and have taken their toll.

As with a lot of plants it quite difficult to determine if the plant is beyond repair until Spring comes. By mid-Spring you should really begin seeing signs of recovery and regeneration, until then in most cases it can be quite difficult to tell either way.

An early test that can be tried to most structural plants including the three above is the ‘Spike Pull’ it is by no means definitive but it usually gives a fair indication to a plants survival chances.

To ‘Spike Pull’ carefully grip the central growing point of the plant, (the part where the new leaves are forming) and give it a gentle tug. If the spike pulls out, the diagnosis is not encouraging, if it doesn’t budge, then there is life in the old dog yet.

Looking onwards to next winter, if indeed it is another severe one, it really is worth the effort to give a little help to the more susceptible plants. In the case of the Phoenix palm simply tying the fronds together can mean the difference between life and death, as with the cordyline, (although you maybe doing the tying via a step ladder).

Even the chances of the Agave americana can be greatly improved by putting a bucket over the top of it to keep most of the winter wet off it. Along those lines make sure when planting any Agave to make sure the planting area is as well drained as possible.

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