So, it wasn’t just me who noticed. So far, 2016 has been the warmest year ever to hit New Zealand.
This news comes alongside more heavy rain, leading to surface flooding in some of our cities. Rain in New Zealand is hardly rare (especially in winter), but the rain this year seems fat and tropical, not so much the oppressive drizzle we’re used to. This is the rain of equatorial Polynesia, not the rain of a wind-swept little cluster of islands barely separated from Antarctica.
Despite a couple of cold nights earlier in June, we haven’t had a proper frost yet and it’s well past the winter solstice. My passionfruit vine is still flowering. So are my roses (and they should be bare and waiting to be pruned right about now). My tomato plants still have tomatoes on them… and they’re outdoors. The vibrant brugmansia tree I planted last year (a type of tree I tried to grow in Hamilton, only to see it go from 10cm to around 3m high in just six months, then meet a night of hard frost and collapse stone dead) is still expanding happily and rapidly in the corner of our yard. Nothing seems to have even noticed winter so far… and pretty soon winter will be gone.
In some ways, this is potentially helpful. I’ll probably be able to safely plant out my smaller and most tender tree seedlings in a couple weeks. If we haven’t built up a block of cold sea water around us by now, it will likely continue to be an unreasonable warm winter. The plants that like warmer weather should have all that extra time to put down roots and establish themselves before next winter. It could be quite a head start… so long as everything doesn’t drop dead from fungal infections.
And that’s the problem. Cold weather is actually good and necessary for many plants. I’ll be very lucky if the tulips I planted this season don’t rot in the ground. Pruning my plants in warm, humid weather can give them nasty diseases. And if we do get a decent run of frost or storms after everything has set blossom, we will get neither pollination nor fruit this year. Having spring before winter can cause some issues.
However, I’m lucky that my focus this year is just in establishing the new garden and not so much in producing a harvest. So what if we don’t get any peaches? Provided my peach tree is happy and healthy, I’ll take the loss. If the roses get a bit of black spot? Well, next year I won’t be living in this house and they won’t be my roses anyway. They’ll live. Probably.
I still have plenty of work to do in order to get the landscape ready for planting, but my large collection of waiting plants is growing ever larger by the day. And this is a good thing.