RHS Chelsea 2023 - Update No.3

RHS Chelsea 2023 - Update No.3

RHS Chelsea 2023 - Update No.3

January 18th

The unusual winter weather has made life very challenging for the past two months. Three weeks of prolonged freezing conditions in December, followed by continual rain in the first half of January, and now another spell of icy weather including snow. This is not good for the soul, for motivation, and first and foremost not great for the plants that we are growing for Chelsea 2023.

THE COLD temperatures in December can be seen as both beneficial and detrimental depending on the species. For most hardy perennials, a cold snap finally sends the plant into dormancy, and they die down to the ground, and calls to an end the half-hearted growth that often happens when the winter temperatures are mild, but the low light levels lead to pale and limp foliage. Once died back the plants sit tight until the temperatures and light levels rise in February and good growth can resume.

For evergreens that would carry on growing throughout the winter albeit slowly, the cold pretty much stops growth in its tracks, but can burn the foliage and be very damaging.

 The most vulnerable plants are those less than hardy ones, for which a prolonged spell at zero degrees or below can be catastrophic. We grow the most cold sensitive of plants in our warmest but unheated polytunnel, which normally can stay about 4 degrees warmer than outside, and is generally frost free.

However, we hit -10 on two consecutive nights in December and the temperature in the tunnel dipped right down to -6. The most tender plants were covered in horticultural fleece which generally gives a bit of a temperature lift, but even plants under fleece were subject to -4 degrees. It is a bit too early to know for sure which plants are still ok and which will have died and will need replacing.

THE WET weather in the first half of January, has also been quite a challenge. Even in tunnels there is so much ground water in the soil that the plants take it up through the pot and become saturated. Whilst most plants can cope reasonably well with the this, those particularly at risk are plants from arid and Mediterranean areas that are used to a dry winter, even if it is cold, namely thymes, succulents, rosemary, and many other herbs. We overwinter these plants in our driest tunnels but even here we have lost some plants to waterlogging.

All the above paints a bleak picture, but having said that, most plants are incredibly resilient and come through unscathed. Furthermore, our highly skilled growers, are expert in managing growing environments to coax every plant through the most difficulty of weather conditions.

Hopefully we have seen the worst of the winter weather now, but with another six weeks until the end of February who knows what weather may come along to challenge us as we prepare for Chelsea 2023.

 Keep checking in for our next update soon!

Posted by Liam Murphy
20th January 2023

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