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Daffodils in January: has the weather changed the way you garden?

In December 2016, there were countless reports of daffodils appearing days before Christmas. Have you noticed the seasons changing when it comes to gardening?

My daffs were certainly out when I left London to celebrate Christmas 2016, along with some snowdrops, which don’t usually make an appearance until later in January.

Then just a few months ago, I was surprised to see daffs out even earlier, in mid-November – albeit in Jersey, where the climate is much more clement. I also clocked leaves still on trees in December that surely should have been shed long before.

Meanwhile, higher-than-average rainfall last summer meant I had a bumper harvest of apples, but lack of sun led to many of my tomatoes failing to turn red.

The seasons are a-changing

So, what’s going on? Are the seasons really out of kilter? From a survey of 1,524 Which? members in August 2017, it certainly looks that way.

Half of those surveyed believe autumn and spring are warmer now, while three quarters think that winter was generally milder than a decade ago. Opinion was more divided about summer temperatures, but almost half thought it was wetter now than it was 10 years ago.

When it came to frost and snow, fewer people thought they’d had a frost from October to April than a decade ago, while over half said there was a lot less snow this year compared to 10 years ago.

Are winter daffodils here to stay?

Data from the Met Office largely backed up these findings, so we may be seeing more winter daffodils in future:

  • Eight of the ten warmest years in the UK since 1910 have occurred since 2002 and all top 10 years have been since 1990
  • Winter 2016-2017 was the third warmest winter since 1910 and spring 2017 was the second warmest in the same time scale
  • As for rainfall, seven of the ten wettest years in just over 100 years have been since 1998, with the wettest winter being 2014.

Meanwhile, there were 101 days of ground frost in the UK as a whole in 2016, compared to an average of 116 days between 1961-1990. Last year was also the first year on record not to have a snow fall of over 20cm anywhere in the UK.

How do warm winters affect gardens?

Warm winters aren’t ideal for gardens as many species need a period of cold as part of their lifecycle and plants growing out of season could mean they are competing more for light, water and nutrients.

On the plus side, fewer frosts may mean we can grow more tender plants. However, as frosts usually kill off pests and diseases, gardeners may find they have to fend off these more readily.

More rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing – especially if it’s collected for times of drought. But if you have a clay soil that’s prone to being waterlogged, you may have to improve it more often.

Have you noticed the weather getting warmer, colder, wetter or more changeable in the past decade? Has it affected how you garden or what you choose to grow? Have you seen any plants growing out of season this year?


The comments from “Which?” readers regarding spring flowers emerging earlier are ones with which I can concur. However, on a related issue I am convinced the nights get darker earlier in September, by about 20-30 minutes compared to a decade ago and two weeks after this Christmas it was obvious to me that the nights were noticeably if slightly longer. As a person who walks several hours a day at various times with friends they, too, agree with my observations.

I think that’s an illusion, caused by age or by meteorological factors. We, too, have had a similar experience, but the times of darkness are a direct result of our orbit and inclination, so they change only imperceptibly from year to year. If September was, say – more than usually overcast where you walk, then it would appear to be getting darker a lot earlier. If, however, you were to graph the precise times of sunset and sunrise you would find they’re unchanged from year to year.

This site provides an accurate and consistent database of day length and other seasonal aberrations.

I have always noted that the evenings get lighter quicker than the mornings do at this time of the year. During the month of January the sunset times recede by 48 minutes whereas the sunrise times only improve by 28 minutes. The days are continuously getting longer but the benefit is mainly in the evenings. I expect this is something to do with Earth’s inclination to the sun.

In 2010 we had quite a few frozen daffs in the garden. They’d come out, but then we had two weeks of -15C temps.