- 31 August 2012
IT'S been a washout summer and now the trees are already acting as if it is late autumn. Dozens of ancient horse-chestnut trees at Kylemore Abbey, in Co Galway, have already turned brown, a sure sign that winter is on its way. Gardening staff at the abbey were so surprised by the change -- the earliest they have ever encountered -- that at first they feared the trees had contracted a disease.
However, a thorough inspection revealed it was simply nature reading the weather and deciding our fledgling summer had finally petered out. Anja Gohlke, head gardener at Kylemore Abbey, said they had never seen the trees change so early.
"Last year they turned early but that was in September, we've never seen it in August before. It's mainly the horse-chestnut that has been affected but we've also seen it in a few sycamore trees," she said. Anja believes that the change may become more common in future as the seasons continue to move forward and global warming takes its toll.
"It was very hot in April so it may be that the seasons have moved a bit forward. We need to change our idea of when we have our summer.
"There has been a dramatic change in the last two or three years and you can see it in the trees. Unfortunately, we lost a good few plants in the past few years due to the colder winters. The last time we lost plants like this was back in the 1950s so we may just be in a large cyclical process. But global warming is also a factor," she added.
The abbey is not the only place to see the signs of change. Changes are likely to become more commonplace in the future, according to Joseph Blair, horticulturist at 'GardenGuide' and director of Horticulture Network Ireland.
"Reports of this nature are becoming more common as the normal weather patterns of the seasons become ever more skewed. In this specific case there are other climatic aspects that can have an effect on the timing of autumn leaf colouring, which are excessive rainfall or if there has been a drought during the summer. I think we can safely rule out drought," he said.