Gardening: What happens when the seasons fall out of time...
PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:00 22 January 2016
It is the 16th of January. I keep hearing the promise of snow, and I've been over to my mum and dad's house to pick up the sledges just in case.
Frost is laying heavy on the ground outside, but something is wrong. Most mornings this week I have gone to work without a coat on, been wearing shoes without socks. It’s been unseasonably warm, and although it’s nice to not have to defrost the car every morning, it’s having a massive impact on the garden. About a week ago I looked out of the window and shouted to my boyfriend: “Look, look!” I think he thought i’d finally gone mad - but in the right hand border of my garden there was a definite splash of yellow. A lone daffodil was in bloom.
At this time of year I’m normally becoming impatient for snowdrops. The sign of spring that I long for so badly throughout the winter months. The first snowdrop spotted is always a real treat, a sign that the garden is awakening from her cold slumber, and that the spring won’t be far behind.
I haven’t yet seen any snowdrops this season. I’m quite upset that I’ve missed this yearly ritual, and I hope that I see some today when I go walking in Ashridge Forest.
The reality is, that with the weather as warm as it has been, the flowers must be totally confused. Not only have we not had the sharp frosts that we would normally have had, the daytime temperatures have been much warmer too.
My normal yearning for the spring to come has been replaced with a confusion. You would think that if I loved to see the spring coming, I would be pleased that it had happened sooner rather than having to wait for it - but not so.
For many gardeners, the changing of the seasons in their right time is all part of the tradition of gardening, and when this is disrupted, it is not only disappointing, it can be quite unsettling. When you have worked to a routine for many years - ordering bulbs, planting bulbs; often in a set order for when each different plant will bloom; any change in the routine of things can totally mess up the plan.
This morning, after breakfast, I walked out into the garden - the lawn is just starting to thaw, and as I look beyond the tiny bejewelled blades of grass, I try to spot a snowdrop. I find two. They are not flowering though - they are at the stage just before their full bloom - the white has only just forced through, and the beautiful droplet has not yet formed. In contrast, just a few feet away, there is a daffodil, in full bloom. The daffodils would normally be at least a month behind the snowdrops - probably a little more, and yet this year - they stand side by side.
There are obviously lots of really serious considerations as to why this winter has been so warm. For any gardener, or indeed anyone who is concerned about the environment; global warming is a real worry.
There are obvious implications for animals who would normally be hibernating at this time, and should they come out of hibernation early due to the temperate weather, they may well find that their normal diet will not be catered for. For farmers rearing crops, the changes will also affect the normal growing season, and may cause problems later in the year. These problems are immeasurable, and I could write on them for pages, but for now - i’m just thinking of the immediate concerns to gardeners.
The warmer weather will undoubtedly see a rise in garden pests. Whereas a cold snap in the winter may have seen off some of our regular garden enemies, the warmer weather will provide much better conditions for slugs and snails.
When we have our young plants ready to put out, an increase in these little nasties will certainly make a big impact on our gardening lives. Personally I am wondering what difference it will make aesthetically in the garden.
Although my garden has never, and will never, have a formal structure - my own style falling very largely into the cottage garden style - I do at least have some idea in my mind as to what the borders will look like as the year goes on, and they are planted to fall in line with that.
Throughout the growing season, as one thing goes over, it will be overtaken by something else, so that there are not long periods of time when there is any space or bare earth.
The months of February and March should have been punctuated with daffodils, and then tulips, and many painstakingly cold hours back in October should have made this so.
Instead the daffodils will have bloomed and gone over before February is here, and unless the temperatures drop considerably, the tulips won’t be far behind. I’m therefore imagining that I’m going to have weeks and weeks of empty borders. As with any kind of weather, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, I guess that’s all part of what it means to be a gardener...
*Since writing this you will have all witnessed the snowfall at the weekend! I watched as the flowers that had been previously standing so proud in my garden, bowed under the weight of the snow. Perhaps we will see a return to the temperatures we would expect at this time of year! It just goes to show, you never can predict the weather!!
Focus on: Bloom & Wild
Regular readers of the column will remember that some time ago I featured a brand new company called Bloom & Wild. They are an internet-based floristry company, who deliver flowers which are beautifully, and very cleverly packaged, to fit through your letterbox.
For me, this was a genius idea - it meant not more worrying that someone wouldn’t be in if I sent them flowers by courier, and no more trips to the post office to pick up boxes of dead flowers when sending them through other postal services. I remember being sceptical about what kind of flowers they could possibly fit into such a slim box, but having both sent, and received dozens of boxes of flowers through B&W now, I can safely say that there are hardly any blooms that they can’t safely deliver in perfect condition.
I caught up with Aron Gelbard - Co-founder, and CEO of Bloom & Wild to see how much the business has grown in the time since I last told you about them, and to consider just how big a part gifting flowers still plays for many of us.
Since we last caught up with you, the business has really grown - why do you think the idea of postal flowers has been such a success?
“We think it’s so important to create a truly joyful experience for both buyers and recipients of flower gifts. Making it possible to send flowers through the letterbox makes receiving flowers a great experience as there’s no need to wait at home for them, collect them from a sorting office, or arrange redelivery to find that the flowers have died. Similarly, knowing that the flowers will arrive as a surprise for the recipient takes out a lot of anxiety from the buyer’s experience - they don’t worry about whether the flowers will be an inconvenience for the recipient or whether they should ruin the surprise by asking them to wait at home.”
What makes Bloom & Wild different to other flower delivery companies?
“Fundamentally, we care a huge amount about every bouquet we send out and every customer and recipient. A big part of this is because we’re a young company with a small group of people who are trying to create something that our customers really love and trust. Every single person on our team is empowered to do what’s right for our customer, without the bureaucracy that often exists at larger companies. In practice, this means that we will always replace flowers if anything goes wrong, no questions asked. Similarly, we’ve made product design decisions based on caring about the customer experience, such as netting individual flower heads in ourboxes so that they arrive in great condition and last for longer.”
What do you think it is about sending/receiving flowers that is still so popular, with all of the others options for sending gifts/internet shopping?
“People have given each other flowers as gifts for 10,000 years - I think it’s a fundamental part of our human behaviours, and I don’t think it will go away. The fact that it’s now being modernised for the internet age is a win-win, people can express they care in a very traditional way but with the modernity and convenience of a few taps on their smartphone.”
I see you have started delivering same-day within a London area - have you found that people wanted a more immediate delivery option?
“Yes, we’re seeing an increasing enthusiasm for on-demand shopping, both in society generally and in the flower industry in particular. We’ve found this trend to be quite urban for now, so central London was the ideal place to trial our two-hour delivery service, Bloom & Wild Now. Uptake has been strong among last minute types and we’ve also seen a strong response from corporate clients for the service.”
Where do you see Bloom & Wild in a year’s time?
“We’re trying to create a boutique florist for the nation - a small company that genuinely looks after its customers but can serve the entire country with best in class quality, service and a convenient delivery experience. We’re still very early on in that journey but are excited about spreading the word and the Bloom & Wild experience to many more people in 2016.”
Do you find that there is one type of flower that people tend to buy more than any other?
“As cliched as it sounds, people love roses and lilies! And so, we find that The Sofia and The Lizzie are consistently our most popular bouquets. I think, with our delivery model in particular, people are always wowed by our ability to fit larger flower heads into our packaging!”
For me, watching a small UK based company grow into a real success in the flower industry has been hugely satisfying. I feel incredibly privileged to have witnessed both their growth, and the appreciation that people have for their product. There are many things that I think have set them apart from others, not least their individual method of delivery, but for me; the thing that makes them such a stand-out example to others, is their incredible customer service attitude. Any contact that I have ever had with their company has always been a genuine pleasure - not only do their staff really care about the flowers, they really care about the customers, and the experience that the customer receives along with their flowers. The last flowers I sent from Bloom and Wild were to my boyfriend’s mum - the week before Christmas, and they still looked as fresh as the day they were picked, last week! I can safely say that as flower companies go, this is one which I hope will be here to stay!
Find out more here.