The autumn was very mild and warm, in fact at times
even going into December was very mild, but nevertheless I started
to make early preparations for protection because as mentioned above
I planned to do something that would not harm the plant in the process.
This time it consisted of being surrounded on three sides with double
walled clear polycarbonate plastic lashed together with household
wire for extra rigidity and something to throw a cover over.
So at the end of November the plant was ready to
he covered at a moment's notice, on one or two chillier nights I
had rested a polystyrene square on the structure (the type fridges
etc. come in), over cautious I know but now so simple to do. This
was just as well, for what happened next must have surprised everybody,
not least myself. The sudden change from very mild weather to bitterly
cold Siberian weather as the NE winds swept in, and some parts of
central Scotland suffered record lows of an unbelievable -29ūC!
Throughout the whole winter the Cycad was virtually a prisoner under
its cover of polystyrene and woolly blanket. On the rare occasions
that the cover was not rock hard or under several inches of snow
I would roll it back just to let some light and air to it and to
see if all was well. By this time I knew that a cycad showed its
displeasure almost immediately.
Although still cold I was relieved with the onset
of early spring and it still looked glossy dark green. According
to the. official local weather station at the Bidston observatory
the Wirral experienced -6ūC and many days the temperature failed
to rise above freezing point as the icy winds pegged temperatures
down. On my own max-min thermometer I recorded lower temperatures
than the official ones with several nights at -7.5ūC. Although these
figures are nothing like the inland and highland temperatures quoted
for Scotland, allied to their duration they prove my theory that
Cycas revoluta will take a lot more frost then first believed.
Certainly mine was protected from wind chill and
most importantly kept dry all winter, but considering the severity
of the weather and the fact that it had changed its warm environment
of the last 30 years or so for this, shows that it could be a very
adaptable plant, though it's still very early days yet and it would
not do to be complacent, however, time may prove Cycas revoluta
to he nearly as hardy as, say, a Chamaerops humilis in a very warm
sheltered position, though maybe needing extra frost protection
in the most severe conditions.
Anyway with the terrible winter over, followed by
an appalling spring, summer finally arrived and I found myself 'pot
watching' again The first real warm spell, the mini heatwave of
mid June, was enough to spring my Butia capitata into life hut no
sign of growth to the Cycad. Mildly disappointed I got on with other
things. Then in the next hot spell in July I became excited as I
was almost certain new growth was imminent, the furry little tan
crown in the centre that seemed to twist around to follow the course
of the sun throughout the year appeared to he opening out and starting
to swell, the older leaves were almost horizontal and then the definite
sign I had been waiting so long for, the tan coloured crown seemed
to pull back overnight to reveal the crowded tips of the new soft
green leaves. In the warm weather that followed I soon bed a four
inch spire in about one week.