The countdown begins to summer bedding plants

Four weeks ago, defying the icy weather, I predicted the arrival of the first daffodils in the next few days, and arrive they did, but not in great numbers. Only the rashest daffs showed any colour and most have waited until this week to put on their spring display.

Sunday, 21st April 2013, 3:31 pm

Without doubt, spring is very late this year, perhaps up to four weeks later than expected. On the back of a cold and persistent winter, recent weeks have seen hard frosts and snow which often drifted in icy winds from the east.

With the arrival British Summer Time, we expect lengthening days to provide us with ample opportunity for gardening, which usually starts with mowing the lawn. Not so this year. The whirr of lawnmowers has been conspicuous by its absence, as cold and dry conditions mean the grass has not grown.

Few fields show signs of fresh growth, and what is there is being remorselessly munched by hungry sheep. Indeed, with the cold weather, the fields have been empty. Sheep have only reappeared in the last 10 days, with lambs big enough to get into mischief .

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As a gardener it has been frustrating as tidying up fallen leaves has been challenging as hurricanes race across the patio. Pots have been frozen, and so has the garden pond, while the ground has been covered in snow or iron hard. March passed with very little done and April has so far gone the same way ... but not for much longer!

Day-length is significant in promoting growth, restricting the chance for overnight frost, but temperature itself is key. It has been routine for forecasters to stand in front of a chart shaded blue, predicting a penetrating frost as temperatures tumble, to -5°c, stopping growth in its tracks. This week, however, night time temperatures are staying above freezing. Ground frost, which forms between zero and 4°c is less of a problem. This will be the week when, hopefully, we say goodbye to winter. Spring will arrive in earnest.

We can expect dramatic growth if mild weather holds. I already have a flowering currant (Ribes) in stunted flower. The yellow of forsythia will not be far behind. At last my pansies are showing colour and tulips are racing out of the earth. The clematis are growing at an amazing pace and the roses are throwing out young shoots.

I expect dramatic changes as life returns to our gardens. Most of all I expect the grass to grow. Spring will be sprung. It is too early for summer bedding but I know customers will start asking for begonias and hanging baskets. Let us enjoy spring first before we race into summer.

There is, however, a minor down side. Despite the snow we had, the last few weeks have been remarkably dry with very little rain, almost a drought. If the weather systems shift to bring milder air from the Atlantic, we can expect rain. A bit would be welcome, especially if it falls overnight, but being a Burnley lad I’m always twitchy about wanting rain as, once it starts, it sometimes doesn’t know when to stop. Nevertheless a little would be nice to get stuff growing.