The weather is a topic we British never tire of talking about. This is because it is forever changing and unpredictable. The temperature can rise or fall by as much as ten degrees centigrade in just a few hours at any time of the day; we can have warm days in winter and cold days in summer and a rain cloud is usually just about to appear over the horizon. Our lives are all affected by the weather to a lesser or greater extent. The North Atlantic Drift around our shores protects us from the bitter cold winters that other countries this far north have to endure. We are a maritime nation.
I live in north Suffolk at a latitude of about 52.5 degrees north which is further north than Winnipeg and at about the same latitude as Berlin, Warsaw and Irkutsk. We are buffeted by the strong, wet, warm Westerlies from the Atlantic but also get winds straight from the Arctic or from Siberia and, if the weather forecast is correct for this weekend, we also get nice warm winds from the south-east; from the Mediterranean. Lovely!
Yesterday began with a frost. The temperature had gone down to minus 2 degrees centigrade overnight but at dawn the sky was starting to cloud over and the frost soon disappeared. We then had a day of ‘April’ weather – lots of showers of hail, sleet and rain – and also some sunshine. Not a good day for gardening! I spent most of it with my mother taking her shopping and then to church with her for Stations of the Cross and then a Mass.
March and April can be so beautiful but the gardener must be forever vigilant and protect vulnerable plants from frost, ice and also the strengthening sun. I looked at my diaries for last winter the other day and made a note of the amount of snow we had had. The first lot of snow was on the 5th of December 2012 and temperatures didn’t get much above freezing for some days after that. A thaw on 14th December. Snow again on 13th January 2013 and snow showers continuing most days without a thaw until 26th January. A thaw on 27th January. Snow again on 2nd February and snow showers most days until a thaw on 14th February. Snow flurries from 21st to 24th February and then heavy snow from 9th to 13th March which took ages to disappear. A day of snow on 4th April. And this winter not one flake of snow here at all! Yet! The thaws and consequent ice are the real problems I find during a cold winter. This is what kills the plants and damages roads and buildings.
R and I are weather watchers and we have such a wonderful view of the wide East Anglian sky from the back of our house. I took a couple of photos of the edge of a cold front going over last Friday. The thick grey cloud overhead with a sharp edge to it to the west and clear blue sky beyond approaching on a stiff south-westerly breeze.
The following day was Saturday and a good gardening day. I had weeded round our rhubarb plant during last week, which, by the way is now ready for pulling, and I had tidied the blackberry canes next to it as well. The blackberry wanted to grow where the rhubarb is and I had a bit of a fight with it, removing unwanted canes and cutting down others. It is now nice and tidy with most of the new canes tied up and well away from the rhubarb. I also had to dig up some cowslip plants from where they wanted to grow in the lawn and put them where R and I want them to grow, on the edge of the ditch at the front of the house. R finds it difficult to mow round the flowers when they are in the lawn and even though I think they look lovely there it will make R’s job quicker and easier now they are elsewhere. We have a few different coloured cowslips in our garden and some new plants which are neither primroses nor cowslips. The bees do a good job of fertilizing all our flowers and the resultant mongrel plants are very interesting and varied. Next to the rhubarb on the opposite side to the blackberry I found a wonderful collection of different types of primula. I have dug these up and put them in a seed bed area to see how they develop.
I then spent a little time looking at and photographing the clouds. Caravans and convoys of clouds travelling across the sky. To use a well-worn simile they really are like fleets of sailing ships on the ocean. R likes to look at clouds and see pictures and objects in them: I see islands and mountain ranges in the sky.
Later that afternoon the sky darkened and even though we stayed dry there were rain clouds all around us.