Phaseolus coccineus 'Painted Lady' flowers can help attract pollinators to your garden.

‘Weather hiccups’ hard on plants

What was with all the snow in February? Oh, wait...we have had snow in this month before...

Finally. Spring is coming. I am seeing some things happening in the garden…now that the snow is disappearing.

What was with all the snow in February? Oh, wait…we have had snow in this month before. Checking back through my photo files, I see we had February snowfalls in 2005, 2007 and 2011. I likely have recorded images dating back even earlier.

So this year’s dump was not an isolated event. Nor may it be the last for this year. Here in Black Creek, we have had isolated hailstorms on April 23, April 30 and May 1 in various years since 1998. Not as bad as Calgary’s July hailstorms but still depressing.

These weather hiccups play havoc with our plants. Can you remember back to how warm it was in January? According to the weather records I keep for our garden, the temperature high averaged a degree and a half warmer in January 2014 over January 2013. The temperature low averaged almost a full degree warmer too. I had plants starting to break bud…whole new leaves developing on others.

My Smyrnium olusatrum plants, (alexanders or black lovage as it is more commonly called) are one of the first to produce bright green leaves in late winter. This year, in January, they were close to a foot tall. Earliest they had ever popped out of the ground.

And then the cold snap hit on February 7. Wasn’t that a slap in the face by Old Man Winter? Froze the fresh green growth on my alexanders to the point the leaves shrivelled up and died. I could sympathize. Felt shrivelled myself despite the sunshine.

But the subsequent snowfall, while pretty, made me want to go back into my den and hibernate. Hopefully, that is what my alexanders plants have done and will eventually show themselves again when the temperatures swing upwards again. Would hate to have lost them as I like adding their young, celery-like leaves to salads and other dishes.

I also like this plant’s connection to the ancient Romans who used it medicinally as well as a food source. Doing my little bit to keep this plant going in perpetuity.

Speaking of which…and just to change the subject just a little…just read where another 20,000 seed species have been added to the Doomsday Vault.

Who knows what the Doomsday Vault is? Don’t feel badly if you don’t. John didn’t…although that shocked me a bit. How could he not? (A sign he tunes me out, perhaps?)

Properly called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, it is owned by the Norwegian Government and is located roughly 1300 km from the North Pole.

Buried over 100 metres into a sandstone mountain that is located outside of any possible earthquake activity and where the permafrost guarantees cold storage, this vault is capable of holding seed packets from 4.5 million plant species.

With the addition of these latest seeds, there are now over 800,000 plant species stored in the Vault. Most of these came from Japan…an attempt to save some of their unique plant species in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami. The damage done to the nuclear plant at Fukushima and its far-flung consequences was a wake up call.

The preservation of our plant species, particularly our food crops, is something we should all be thinking about. So…as you are planning this year’s garden, consider sowing some heirloom vegetables and flowers. (We need the flowers to attract the pollinators!)

Also consider participating in our very own Comox Valley Seed Bank. Be a curator of a seed variety and save its seeds for perpetuity. Contact me at for more information on this.

Seed saving isn’t just fun. It is a very worthwhile cause.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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