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Ventnor Botanic Garden – the New Year’s Day Flower Count 2024

 As the last chimes resounded from Big Ben, I downed my last glass of egg nog mixed with port and readied myself for the annual New Year’s Day flower count at Ventnor Botanic Garden.

 The count this year, 173 different flowering taxa*, compares to the peak year in 2015 of 287. Many see flowers as three season friends, but a New Year’s Day visit to VBG would put you face to  face with 173 mood-lifting flowers.

 The mild winter to date (12oC at recording) would perhaps be expected to draw even more plants into flower; however, November’s quick chill and December’s light quality and quantity has been poor due to overcast conditions. Without the usual temperature drops associated with winter, a flowering requirement for many, spring blooms have remained tight in bud, so the flower count is largely late flowering plants rather than a mix of both early and late.

 Trends are hard to find in such a sample, but compared against the data set of many years of recording, the plants are telling the story of climate change. It is becoming increasingly difficult to exact a time of flowering for so many plants, Magnolia that could flower anywhere from Christmas Eve until April and Camellias named for their spring blooms now fully open before midwinter. Milder winters do not necessarily mean an increase in the numbers of flowers on any given day, but do  allow growth of plants susceptible to frost. Analysis of our data shows that a count of 350 is possible in a plant collection whose strongest flowering season should be May onwards.

 A walk around Ventnor Botanic Garden is a delight at this time of year with crisp fresh air and stunning plants coming into flower, hinting at spring and the flower fireworks to follow. On a rainy day The Hub in the front of the Tropical House is a great place to find out more about the Garden and the plants at VBG and the stories they tell. The micro climate enables us at VBG to showcase ‘Climate Change Live’ due to the evolving plant mix that has been created by warmer and at times chaotic weather patterns and as such we see the Garden as a ‘Botanic Garden for the 21st Century’- one that shows the future of British flora now.

 *different individual “sorts” or “types” of plants.




CHRIS KIDD, january 2024