The Glorious Weekend in Pictures

Flora

The garden continues to come to life. The plum tree is also very close to flowering now, and some heavy thinning is probably going to be needed given the number of flowers. Last year the late cold snapped wiped out most of the first crop ever from this tree, so here’s hoping for this year.

Plum flower buds

The arctic kiwis have been leafing out for a week or two now. Like all kiwi species, their greatest problem is that they come from a more consistent climate than the UK can provide. Actinidia kolomikta can stand amazingly cold temperatures when dormant, growing as it does into Siberia, but once it starts growing the new growth is vulnerable to frost damage. We had the first frost in about a month on Friday night and some of the leaves are showing signs of damage, but the developing flower buds look OK.

Actinidia kolomikta leaves with developing flowers

Medlars leaf out early by fruit tree standards, and mine is now almost there. Still no sign of the flowers of course, since unlike most fruit trees they flower on new growth after leafing out, normally in May.

Medlar tree leafing out

Just as an experiment, I shoved all the cuttings I took from the medlar this winter into a pot. It’s supposed to be hard to start fruit trees from cuttings, which is why grafting is normally used even when people want vigorous trees. Own root trees are normally produces by grafting onto a throwaway rootstock and then buying the graft union so overtime the scion roots independently. So I was a bit surprised when a lot of the medlar cuttings started to leaf out after sitting in a pot for several months, although of course they might still die. Let’s see what happens…

Medlar prunings from the winter in a pot, just to see what happens

Fauna

The most amazing thing about the glorious weekend was the butterflies. I’ve never seen so many butterflies in March before. They’re quite hard to catch on camera, but I saw a couple of different species in our garden, and we saw three or four while walking in the countryside earlier today as well. Our two year old had great fun trying and failing to catch them. I assume that the butterflies out now are ones which successfully overwintered, and their numbers are due to the very mild winter and spring.

One of the first butterflies of the year

Bees are also out in numbers now, although they’re less fickle than butterflies so less of a surprise. Here’s one investigating flowers on one of the gooseberry bushes, some of which look like they’ve already set fruit.

Gooseberry flowers being pollinated by a bee

Outlook?

It’s looking increasingly likely that, for the world as whole, 2017 is going to be another hot year. The chance of 2017 being another el Niño year are growing. To quote from an article on the topic:

In the heart of hurricane season – August, September and October (ASO) – the chance for El Niño climbs to 67 percent, according to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s (IRI) model-based probabilistic forecast.

The ECMWF (European) computer model currently has about 70 percent of its ensemble members suggesting a moderate or strong El Niño will develop by September.

“Since 1870, we haven’t seen a second strong El Niño in such quick succession, so if 2017 turned out to be one, it would be unprecedented,” Ben Noll of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) told weather.com.

Digital Weather

My lovely wife recently gave me a gift of a new weather station. The remote sensor is pictured below, and as of this morning is securely strapped to the support for the grape vine.

I’ve wanted one for years, but had the unfortunate issue that someone else close to us gave me one that didn’t work very well as a gift and I didn’t want to offend them by replacing it. Enough time has passed now that the upgrade to one that can receive a signal from more than 2m away should pass without comment.

The accuracy of it is probably not as good as measurements made by professional organisations, but even so I’m thinking of starting a daily record and comparing it to the forecasts and (if available) actuals from the Met Office. A quantitative comparison of very local climate data with forecasts would be quite interesting, especially any bias or persistent error in the min and max temperatures.

Weather sensor – temperature, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall

Ahead of Schedule

Spring is definitely ahead of schedule this year. The winter was mild and recent hot weather has persuaded the fruit trees to make very early moves. All three of the pears are looking close to flowering, which normally wouldn’t happen until April, and the plum tree isn’t far behind.

That means a lead of at least 2 weeks… and possibly more like a month, since according to the National Fruit collection flowering for the variety below starts on average around the 25th of April. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t go horribly wrong.

Developing flowers on a Beurre Sterckmans pear, 15/3/17