For the past week the garden has been suspended in frozen animation by the Beast from the East Siberian weather system.    Somewhere under the inches of snow and ice are the green shoots of spring that had just begun to peep through the soil, and hopefully they will have survived the extreme subzero temperatures.  It’s a timely reminder to us all that the true Head Gardener on all our plots is Mother Nature.


As gardeners we take control of nature.  We remove the wild flowers that self-seed amongst the plants that we have carefully placed or sown.  We alter the soil type by adding compost and mulches.  We grow plants that wouldn’t normally have grown in our climate.  When the weather is dry, we water.  When it is frosty, we cloche and fleece.  We force crops along early in heated greenhouses.  Over time we get to know our gardens; what grows well and what doesn’t like the site.  All the time we consider ourselves to be in charge of our chosen plot and, on the whole, we are.  But every so often, Mother Nature likes to remind us of who is really in control and she has done it quite a bit lately!

Like many gardeners I find myself wondering how many of my precious plants will have made it through the big freeze.  In the Kitchen Garden, there may be set backs and we may find we have had some casualties when we lift off the snow-covered cloches and fleece.  No drama here.  They can be sown again and we may just miss out on some early croppings; broad beans and spinach being two such examples.  In the wider ornamental gardens, I worry for more tender plants such as tetrapanex, japanese bananas and tree dahlias.  All of these we have successfully overwintered for some years, albeit with the help of fleece jackets in some cases.  But the temperatures over the past week have been significantly below freezing – more so than we are used to.  We won’t know that full effects of this unusual weather for a good few weeks and months yet.


So it seems that the outlook is as bleak as the weather……or is it? We gardeners are a positive bunch. Back in January Storm Fionn took down one of our beautiful Scots Pine trees and a few of its neighbours. It was a dark day. A few days later the tree surgeons arrived and removed the fallen trees and we went to survey the changed landscape with heavy hearts. Our first impression was one of light and how much of it was now flooding into a space that was once shaded by enormous trees. Within minutes we were excitedly discussing what could be planted in the newly created piece of garden. Despair had led to opportunity and the same will no doubt happen if we have lost any plants in the recent cold and snow.

As gardeners we design and plant our spaces and tend them to they look just as we want them to. But Mother Nature is also a gardener and designer and the touch she adds, although sometimes not always welcome, can define our gardens and improve them in ways we would never have considered. The trick is to work with her and to view the opportunities she provides us with optimistically. Mother Nature is most definitely Head of Horticulture and we are but her under-gardeners.