This morning, I peeled back the curtains to reveal an unfamiliar sight. Outside, thick snowflakes were falling past my window; a white blanket covered the patio, our garden and beyond. This was a surprise because according to my camera roll (and past weather reports), on this day last year, the nation was basking in a temperate 20 degrees.
British weather hasn't exactly been predictable for the past 20 years. A fact that, this weekend, my 61-year-old father passionately asserted: "We used to have proper seasons," he said. "November to February was freezing but as soon as spring came around in April, it was warm and rainy. That's why we called it April showers." Both looked out of the window at sleet falling. "It's strange to me, all this," he said.
Luckily, there are ways to revive plants after a sudden snowfall or a cold snap. And the best part is that the jobs listed below by expert Toby Buckland can be completed in just ten minutes each. By lunchtime, there should be a break from snowfall and, weather permitting, it might be time to get out in the garden and do some repairs.
The best tips for reviving snow-damaged plants
By Toby Buckland
Very cold temperatures cause water inside plant cells to freeze. As the water expands cell walls are damaged and leaves look bruised and distorted. When soil freezes, roots are unable to take up water and plants die of drought.
Check plants for life by gently scraping away the bark from snow damaged plants. If there’s green sap underneath they’re alive but if they’re brown the cold has killed them.
Don’t rush to dig up plants that have jettisoned their leaves. Scorched evergreens, like bay, will bounce back by June/July while tender woody types such as Salvia ‘Hotlips’, Melianthus major and Tetrapanax ‘Rex’ often re-sprout from the base. When this happens, cut away frosted growth to a healthy new bud to prevent further dieback.
Branches splayed by the snow won’t regain their shape without help. Use soft twine to tie them back in place or, for larger shrubs, use bungee cords. These can be removed in summer when the wayward limbs have set back into position.
Cordylines, palms, yuccas and echium growing in the soil will recover if their trunks stay solid and the growing point intact. Trim any leaves that are bent or blackened to make way for the new. If the stems become spongy all but the echium can, fingers crossed, re-grow from the base.
Keep potted Mediterranean plants dry, such as French lavender, sage and rosemary, to prevent fungal infections caused by the cold spreading to their centres. If short of greenhouse space, position pots in the rain-shadow of a house wall. When new growth comes water more generously.
If small plants have caught a cold, trowel them out of the ground, pot up and keep in the greenhouse/cold-frame. They’ll recover more quickly if out of the damp soil.
Early sowings and newly planted seed potatoes may have survived beneath the protective quilt of powdery snow… but the cool weather means they won’t be much earlier than replacements planted now.
Protracted frosts kill pests but the jury is out as to whether we’ve had enough cold to curb their numbers. Keep an eye on your daffodils and if you spot nibbled petals slugs have made it through and vulnerable plant will need protection.
Feed bashed evergreen hedges with a balanced fertilizer - one with a balanced fertilizer such as fish, blood and bone – to boost recovery.
A late spring means it pays to wait before sowing. Victorian gardeners would check that conditions were warm enough by sitting their bare derriere on their veg beds. If the earth was comfortable for a bottom it would be for a beetroot. You could preserve your modesty and wait for the first flush of annual weeds. When they appear, seeds will be fine to sow.
Book tickets now
On Sunday April 18, join Sarah Raven and Arthur Parkinson online live for How to Create the Ultimate Edible Garden. Visit Gardening Made Easy at telegraph.co.uk/events.