Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 14:45

Gardeners at the Eden Project in Cornwall have been astonished to see that summer flowers are already blooming in the project’s outdoor gardens.

In the midst of what they say is the weirdest winter they have ever known, the horticulture team have reported on many signs of how nature is being confused by the changing climate.

In particular plants in the steeply-sloping Mediterranean outdoors area are bursting into colour months before they would be expected to be in bloom. 

Especially eye-catching is the rare and beautiful Canary Island Foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis) which normally flowers from late spring or early summer until the autumn but is already blooming in Eden’s outdoor gardens.

It is joined by the hooded yellow blooms of the Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) and the striking purple flowers of the Purple-Flowered Rock Rose (Cistus x purpureus), both of which would normally flower in summer.

Other early colour at Eden includes the diminutive deep pink flowers of the Fuchsia microphylla, the sunny yellow blooms of the Euryops “Jamaica Sunshine” and the distinctive blue flowers of the Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum).

Eden’s horticulture team have also noticed hawthorn flowers budding in hedgerows in the project’s outer estate and birds beginning their nesting activities earlier than expected.

Julie Kendall, Eden's lead outdoor horticulturist, said: “This is the most unusual early flowering activity we’ve seen in the 15 years since Eden opened.

“While we have become used to some spring flowers blooming slightly earlier than expected, to have so many plants flower this early is just staggering.”

Cornwall is renowned for its mild, muggy climate. Extremes of temperature are rarer than other parts of the UK and as a consequence the Duchy boasts a vast array of exotic plants.

Julie added: “Even though we’re in a mild part of the country and Eden’s outdoor gardens are sheltered, we are still very surprised by what we’re seeing.”

Other parts of the UK are also seeing effects of the mild weather. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) has reported that more than 600 species of wildflower were in bloom in early January, when only 20-30 would normally be flowering at that time.

According to the Met Office, last year (2015) was the warmest in recorded history and 2016 is predicted to surpass that.

10 signs that spring and summer are on their way to the Eden Project

  1. The Canary Island Foxglove (Isoplexis canariensis) is a rare evergreen shrub which puts on a beautiful display of golden apricot blooms. Eden’s examples in the Mediterranean outdoors area of the garden have been flowering throughout January when they would normally be expected to bloom from early summer.
  2. Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) usually flowers in the summer but has opened its distinct hooded bright yellow flowers in the Mediterranean outdoors area.
  3. Also in the outdoor Mediterranean area are the deep pink flowers of the Fuchsia microphylla, which the project’s horticulture team would normally expect to see flowering from May to July. The Fuchsia microphylla originated in Central America and has much smaller flowers than other Fuchsias, but makes up for this with its profusion of blooms.
  4. The bright yellow flowers of Euryops “Jamaica Sunshine” normally blooms in April through to October but is already putting on a display in the outdoor Mediterranean area. Despite their name, they originate from South Africa and the Middle East.
  5. The Purple-Flowered Rock Rose (Cistus x purpureus) usually flowers in the summer but is already blooming in the outdoor Mediterranean garden at Eden. Its purple flowers are unusual as they only last for a single day each.
  6. Grape Hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are a spring favourite at Eden but they are blooming months early. The distinctive small blue flowers are adding bold splash of colour to the pollination area near Eden’s giant bee sculpture.
  7. The Black Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera “Nigra”) near Eden’s Myth and Folklore area is showing the first signs of its beautiful pink blossom, a display that wouldn’t normally be expected until spring. The deep purple colouring of the leaves and branches make for a marked contrast with the flowers.
  8. Clematis “Crystal fountain” has opened its delicate purple flowers in the blue border area of Eden. Horticulturists would usually expect to see it bloom in the spring.
  9. In the outer estate of Eden – the area beyond the garden – the project’s horticulture team are noticing hawthorn in the hedgerows budding earlier than ever. Normally, they would expect to see the first signs of flowering in March.
  10. The outer estate team have also been noticing unusually early nesting activity by some species of bird. Rooks would normally start their nesting around the end of February but the team have noticed nesting behaviour since late January.