Sandy’s Garden

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson
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Shiver me Tagetes!

What a wonderful incentive the sun gives to many a gardener. Just let it shine and the doors of the garden centre beckon, assuming that you can see the entrance doors beyond the fleet of trolleys laden with bedding plants. And what a wonderful world of floral colour tempts the customer’s jaded eyes. Every pack of bedding plants boasts several examples already in flower to show how glorious they will be, beaming at the neighbours and at visitors from the proud householders’s garden. What a wonderful incentive the sun gives to many a gardener!

But wait! Here is the weather forecast for the very day these words were written. “The Borders, the Lothians including Perth and Stirling areas, Fife, Angus including Dundee: It will be a largely bright day with spells of sunshine and scattered showers. The showers will be most frequent in the afternoon. Feeling chilly. Light, North-easterly winds. Maximum temperature 7° to 10°C (45° to 50°F). Tonight, clear spells. Minimum temperature -1° to 2°C (30° to 36°F).”

Yes, tucked away in front of the first numeral in the entry for minimum temperature is an insidious ‘-’ the dreaded minus sign. In nine words, ‘the forecasters are warning that there may be frost.’ How many of the gardeners loading pack after pack of bedding plants into the boots of the cars this afternoon have even glanced at the forecast? How many have noticed the inevitable sign near the bedding plants in the garden centre, ‘Protect from frost’? And how many will, in about a week’s time, be explaining to their friends, their work-colleagues, their relatives, “I just don’t have green fingers. I paid a small fortune for plants and worked late into the evening to get them all in at the weekend … and the most of them seem to be dead.”

And this scenario credits the forecasters with getting the minimum temperature correct. Yesterday evening … as I write these words … my garden got a good touch of frost, although the weather forecasters had not predicted below-freezing temperatures; cold, yes: but actually frosty, no. But this waste of money on perfectly good bedding plants, this waste of effort and this blast of horticultural disappointment is so unnecessary! Heed the warning signs in the garden centres and pay attention to the weather forecasts and save yourself time, effort and hard cash. Don’t rush to plant out bedding plants in central Scotland if the sun shines in early May, for there will probably still be frosty nights to come. Ask the garden centre staff where their bedding plants come from, for you can expect locally-grown young plants to be better equipped for the rigours of our local micro-climate than plants grown in the Home Counties will be. Don’t touch them with barge-pole if they are too wet or too dry or look a bit sad at the garden centre. Half-dead plants are a very poor bargain, even if they are offered at half-price … and, though you will find half-dead bedding plants on display, you’ll not find many of them at a reduced price! Better still, buy your bedding plants locally.

And that thought brings us round to the commercial. Your local horticultural society almost certainly holds a plants sale. My society … Polmont Horticultural Society … will be having a sale of locally-grown bedding plants in Brightons Church Hall on Friday, May 18, between 9.00 am and 8.00 pm or until most of the plants have been sold, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute. They will be good plants; they’ll be in tip-top condition; and they’ll be at genuine value-for-money prices … the prices have stayed the same since 2008! And, as a bonus, the frost may well be a thing of the past by then. Put that date in your diary now!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society