Gardening: Seeds of doubt?
Much has been made of the seeming change in climate in Britain this year. A lot of it, of course, has focussed on the south east corner of England.
That's where the Home Counties set, hit once again by water shortages, over-analyse every minute change and see disaster around the corner.
I don't think things are that bad just yet, but there's no doubt that our normal weather patterns have changed.
As a result the plant in our gardens have been acting a little strangely. There have been reports of red-hot pokers still blooming in London as late as last week, two months past their normal expiry date.
In another part of the city, camellias are already in bloom, two months ahead of schedule.
Marigolds in flower in Kent are another example, this time a full six months out of season.
And, in Cornwall vinca, normally a late spring plant, has been seen in bloom.
It can be explained away a little by the region's warmer climate.
Step on an early morning flight in Belfast and disembark in London an hour later any morning this week and notice the difference.
However, even this far north and west things have been different this year.
At the moment, I'm looking down on a gazinia plant still in bloom. It sems to have ignored the fact that it should have gone into hibernation weeks ago. Stuck in a tub on the back patio, a sheltered position I concede readily, is another example.
In yet another container, I can't bear to lift a fuchsia that still has as many flowers as in late summer.
And my next door neighbour already has forsythia in bloom, weeks ahead of its normal season.
Finally, even if you haven't noticed the flowers, think of the leaves on the trees.
The fall, as our American cousins love to call it, didn't happen on schedule this year, either.
Trees and shrubs that would normally have divested their leaves in October were still clinging on to them as late as last week.
The environmentalists, who have warned of subtle changes over the changes, may be proven right in the long term. Leaving aside the gale force winds of last weekend, the Ulster temperatures are still above the seasonal average.
What's to be made of it all, I hear you say. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer.
I'll continue to bed the garden down for the expected cold spell as usual.
Even if we experience the mildest December, January and February on record, thee's no excuse for getting caught out by a sudden cold snap. Your plants will never forgive you.