Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spring has sprung... notably the bluebell and the dandelion ... and spring has sprung early ...

Fingers crossed - for the gardener and for wildlife:

Good news for Britain's gardeners – spring has sprung early
Monday 21 April 2014

Last year, gardeners were hit by a series of extreme and damaging weather events, as an unusually cold spring gave way to a hot, dry summer – only to be followed by the wettest winter in decades. By contrast, the weather in recent weeks has been ideal for wildlife: warm with a little rain and very little frost.

Ian Wright, a south-west garden adviser for the National Trust, predicted a “really great spring-flowering bonanza. Bluebells feel like they’re out slightly earlier than normal,” he said. “It’s also been a really good spring for rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias and they seem to be flowering for longer.” He added: “Vegetable gardeners are also finally able to start digging over and planting out their crops now that soil conditions are improving.”

It’s good news for the animals relying on our gardens too. “Butterflies, hoverflies, moths are all ahead of the game – which is good news if you’re a swallow and have just flown 6,000 miles. Bumblebees are looking really good, there are a lot of ladybirds around. Things are shaping up really nicely but I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Mr Oates said.

Adrian Thomas, a gardening expert with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, added: “Birds are nesting early, especially robins and blackbirds. If the weather continues in a benign way many birds may get a third or even a fourth brood this year.”

This being Britain, however, it could all change quickly. Mr Oates warned that if the jet stream jumps south of its usual course, as it did last March, the “wheels could come off”, reducing temperatures and increasing rainfall.

Good news for Britain's gardeners – spring has sprung early - Home News - UK - The Independent

Warm spring after mild winter proves a boon for wildlife across Britain 

Friday 18 April 2014
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Bluebells in bloom in Micheldever Wood, Hampshire. The Woodland Trust says native bluebells are flowering much earlier this year.

The mild winter and warm spring have meant that there is a wealth of wildlife on display for those staying in the UK, from bees and butterflies to blossom and buds.

Bluebells are flowering far earlier than in last year's cold spring, with peak displays expected in time for Easter, according to a survey by the Woodland Trust.

Top 10 wild foods to forage in spring
Roger Phillips, author of a new book on foraging, shares his top 10 springtime finds

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Found everywhere, dandelion leaves are great in salads - especially when blanched. The flower buds are also terrific, but I love the petals as a salad decoration most.

Top 10 wild foods to forage in spring - Telegraph

Blooming lovely: In defence of the dandelion

National Trust nature and wildlife specialist Matthew Oates is excited about this year’s booming crop of dandelions – a weed that actually has a huge amount to offer.

We are midway through the annual two-week dandelion peak and Mr Oates is enthusing about the range of benefits they bring. First there are the health benefits – the plant is a diuretic, good for gallstones and liver problems and rich in vitamins A, C and K, and calcium. The leaves can be made into tea, the roots into coffee, the petals into wine, and it is probably the best all-round nectar source in early spring, he says.

They have aromas that can ward off pests and, in turn, diseases, crab spiders hide under their petals and turn yellow in the process and various moth larvae feed on its leaves, Mr Oates says. Also they are beautiful and not as difficult to control as people think.

But Mr Oates is not a defender of the dandelion at all costs – an avid cricket player, he says there is no place for the weed on the green and accepts they can cause problems if not taken in hand around vegetable plants and flower beds. Anywhere else, though, they should be encouraged, he said, so long as they are dug out as they’re starting to seed.

Good news for Britain's gardeners – spring has sprung early - Home News - UK - The Independent

Plantwatch: The advance of spring

Friday 25 April 2014
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Spring blossom of the horse chestnut. Photograph: Tim Graham/Corbis

Bluebells are blooming, horse chestnut tree flowers are out and everything is looking lush – and it probably comes as no surprise that this spring has come early thanks to unusually mild weather.

To gauge how early spring has arrived needs a long history pf observations, though, and is something that amateurs in Britain have excelled at for a long time. For example, since 1947 Jean Combes in Surrey has been recording the dates when the leaf buds open on her local oak, ash, horse chestnut and lime trees. Her records show a huge advance in the leafing dates over the past 67 years, and especially since the 1990s when very early springs started to become very apparent. Leafing is now about 25 days earlier than in the 1950s, which mirrors a rise in temperatures over the same period – an advance of about six days for every 1C increase in spring temperature.

Of course, climate change sceptics can jump on some freak cold and late springtimes, such as last year, and argue that this proves that the climate isn't changing. But last spring was something of an odd-man-out and historical records that go back even further, over 250 years, show an unmistakeable pattern of springs coming earlier as temperatures have risen in recent times.

The Nature's Calendar survey at the Woodland Trust continues to record the dates of natural events in both spring and autumn and is asking for volunteers to send in observations to their website at www.naturescalendar.org.uk

Plantwatch: The advance of spring | Science | The Guardian

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