BRIAN KIDD: The fogs of March point to the frosts of May: were you counting?

It might be spring but we could still get frosts like this one shot on Butser Hill by reader Mark Edgehill
It might be spring but we could still get frosts like this one shot on Butser Hill by reader Mark Edgehill
Have your say

Thank you for your lovely letters which often give me inspiration for this column, whether it’s in the garden or at the allotment.

I’m pleased some of you have asked me about frosts and if there are there are any guidelines or folklore about when they will have passed for another year.

Lyn from Denvilles wrote wanting to know which plant will provide blooms all summer.

She loves flower arranging, her garden is quite small and she wonders which plant will provide flowers for cutting from July to the end of October.

Lyn and her friends arrange church flowers. Funds are short, but people getting married at the church need a bit of help.

Dahlias are the answer for Lyn. Tubers are at your garden centre in colourful packs with pictures on the front. Take your glasses to be sure the one you want will grow to the right height.

It’s too early to plant them outdoors, but buy tubers, check the height and plant them in pots of potting compost in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. In a couple of weeks shoots will appear and it’s easy to take cuttings from the shoots.

The plants can be planted out in the garden after May 21. This date is crucial.

If you live in Portsmouth there may not be a frost, but if you live ‘over the hill’, there could be frosts right up until May 21.

There is an old saying... count the number of fogs in March (we had two at Waterlooville) and this will give you the number of frosts in May.

Another old saying is: ‘When the hawthorn where you live has finished blooming, there won’t be another frost where you live.’

Not sure what hawthorn looks like? It’s also called the bread and cheese plant, is thorny and grows all over Portsdown Hill.

I mention this because Michael, from Cowplain, and Felicity, who lives on top of Portsdown Hill, asked me about frost dates.

There are decorative dahlias, cactus types and those with giant blooms. Pom pom varieties are popular for arranging, but my favourites are the water lily types – reds, yellows and pinks, which look wonderful.

Dahlias flower from the end of June until the first frost. They are lovely to decorate a church for weddings and baptisms. The plants flower their socks off and are the cheapest and best of cut flowers.

One last tip: choose yellows and whites in dark areas of the church, but add orange for a wonderful contrast.

In the brightest areas use reds, oranges and yellows. A glint of sunshine will brighten the arrangement and oddly enough the same applies in the garden.

In long, thin gardens plant yellows and whites at the bottom of the garden with reds and oranges nearest the house.

Have a go and you’ll see what I mean.


A very handy sprayer containing ready made-up Roundup weedkiller is useful for spraying weeds in cracks in pathways at this time of year. Roundup kills all plants, so take care it doesn’t drift on to cultivated plants.