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Plants growing above the Arctic Circle


by Pippa Greenwood

Unlike most people I know, our family holiday was not spent bikini-clad on a beach, but duffle-coat clad around the Arctic Circle.


Pippa GreenwoodI've just got back from a fantastic summer holiday. It was a wonderful experience and it made me realise just how incredibly lucky UK gardeners like me are, especially those of us who live in the soft south.

Unlike most people I know, our family holiday was not spent bikini-clad on a beach, but duffle-coat clad around the Arctic Circle. It was great, even better when we returned to find that in two weeks we'd only missed one day of summery weather.

What made me smile during our trip were the observations I made of the changes in plants' growth the further north we travelled. A classic example was a laburnum we spotted that was only just coming into bloom.

It wasn't just laburnums. The hawthorn trees became less easy to recognise; their annual rate of growth was obviously so slow that the leafy branches looked rather like woolly pipe cleaners. But the bravest plant of all was the common rowan. The size of these wonderful trees decreased as we travelled north, but then above the Arctic Circle we saw two healthy looking specimens, planted on either side of a front door of a fortress.

They looked unusually lush, and the full story soon came to light - they were planted to illustrate the fact that trees can grow above the Arctic Circle. However, they stay so healthy looking because they're given an annual wrap-up to get them through the winter.

In a place otherwise devoid of trees it was great to see this pair of rowans, and the effort to wrap them up every year seemed well worthwhile. My family agreed though, that this was not something we could envisage us doing ourselves.

I suppose the time and effort put to wrapping up trees would at least partly be compensated for by the fact that fungal infections such as blackspot, mildew and rust wouldn't be a problem. Fantastic if you could grow roses so far north.

Still, beautiful as the scenery was, I'd not swap it for our variable and often excessively wet climate, with all its rewards of tasty, tender veg we've been enjoying since our return!



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