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Confusion creates colour

Unpredictable seasons cause ‘confused’ plants to flower at the wrong time, creating short-lived spectacle
Confusion creates colour

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is reporting exceptional displays at gardens across the UK, as plants that generally flower in distinct seasons are currently in bloom at the same time.

However, this crescendo of colour is likely to last just a couple of weeks, making the festive period the perfect time to get outdoors and experience this rare, short-lived spectacle with loved ones.

Displays of colour

Staff at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate and RHS Wisley (main image) in Surrey have noted the unusual appearance of both summer and Christmas roses (Hellebore) flowering simultaneously, while autumn-flowering plants such as nerines (which typically flower in September) and winter-flowering mahonia are also in bloom.

Meanwhile at RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, curator Marcus Chilton-Jones says the atypical flowering of plants in the Paradise Garden, including Rhaphiolepis x delacourii ‘Coates Crimson’ (Indian hawthorn) and Knautia macedonica (Scabious), has resulted in a remarkably impressive display of colour for this time of year.

Leaf cover also appears to be more dense than usual, with curator Matthew Pottage highlighting large oaks at RHS Wisley which are still in full gold leaf, and liquidambars at each of the five RHS gardens continue to be ablaze with colour.

‘After a good growing season like the one we experienced this summer, plants are flush with resources and as a result sometimes chance an extra flower or two later in the year. Similarly, without a prolonged cold period leaves are able to cling on for longer. However, they will only do this if the weather stays mild, so the notable lack of autumn frost has been critical to this year’s unusual display.

‘The changing climate will undoubtedly continue to disrupt the traditional British growing season in the coming years, and we can expect to see plants flowering later and for longer periods more regularly. However, given the precise conditions required to cause the simultaneous appearance of summer and winter-flowering plants, this year’s spectacle may be a one-off phenomenon.’

RHS chief horticulturist

A berry merry Christmas

The mild autumn also appears to have impacted wildlife at the RHS gardens, with no sign yet of migratory birds.

The absence of birds searching for food means bushes are still bedecked with berries, bringing further bursts of colour to the gardens and the possibility of a spectacular influx of birds in the coming weeks.

With food sources scarce in a cold snap, the bounty of fruit could be stripped within days. Garden visitors should enjoy it while they can.

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