Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Cold weather delays spring blooms in Devon and Cornwall

Magnolia covered in snow
Snow, ice and very low temperatures have delayed traditional spring blooms

The cold winter has delayed the flowering of spring plants by up to a month, according to a count of blooms in National Trust gardens.

The chilly weather has bucked the trend seen in recent years of warmer, wetter winters which usually result in plants blooming earlier.

Experts predict the delay will lead to plants all flowering at once, heralding spring's arrival in a riot of colour.

The count has been conducted at Devon and Cornwall trust sites since 2006.

Spring blooms normally appear first in the south west of England but for the first time, other trust gardens across the UK have taken part in the annual count - bringing the total number of sites surveyed to 25.

'Fabulous' display

According to Mike Calnan, the National Trust's head of gardens and parks, garden plants are the "perfect weather barometers" and can be used to see how gardens are responding to changes in weather and climate.

In Devon and Cornwall, 1,115 varieties of plants were recorded in flower across 12 gardens - a third of the 3,335 counted in 2008 when the highest number was recorded.

Ian Wright, National Trust gardens adviser for Devon and Cornwall, said in the past decade warmer and wetter winters had seen spring arriving earlier and earlier but for the second year in a row, plants have been held back by up to four weeks.

Anglesey Abbey snowdrops are late but should be in full bloom soon

Last year's wet summer and warm autumn have put magnolias heavily in bud so while they will flower later than usual, the display will be "fabulous" when they do, the trust said.

Famous displays including the snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, have been delayed by several weeks in the wake of the coldest January for 23 years.

Anglesey Abbey's flower count found 217 different plants in bloom, including 180 of the 240 snowdrop varieties the garden contains.

Excluding Anglesey's huge snowdrop collection, the highest number of flowers recorded was at Killerton in Devon, where 172 varieties were in bloom, up from 85 last year.

Overall there was a 7.5% decrease in the numbers recorded in Devon and Cornwall compared with 2009.

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