A wet winter and cold, late spring have affected both flora and fauna - and gardens. How long will the summer last?
© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A Reed Bunting sits in reeds at Elmley Marshes. Many young birds are going hungry due to knock-on effect of late seasons.
One week past midsummer's day and nature still has not recovered from the misearable, wet winter and the cold, late spring, say wildlife experts and gardeners.

"Spring got seriously behind and was the latest since 1996; with bluebells still in bloom in early June and many butterflies very late to emerge," said National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates. "Summer is now running two to three weeks late."

The long spell of cold weather caused insects to struggle, with a knock-on effect on tree and flower pollination and a lack of food for birds like swallows and swifts which depend on airborne insect food. The result has been late flowering plants and possibly many young birds going hungry.

Snowdrops lasted into April, daffodils until May and wild roses and elder trees are now flowering but unusually late, said Oates. "Some aspects of spring failed altogether - with frogs and toads struggling to breed in ponds which remained frozen".

The cold winter has left seas particularly cold. "This means the plankton is very late and we are only just beginning to see basking sharks, six weeks later than usual," said Joan Edwards, head of the Wildlife Trusts' Living Seas in Plymouth. "We also see that some seabirds look particularly undernourished, possibly because of the cold seas."

Moth numbers have crashed in northern Ireland and other British regions, say entomologists. "Last year was bad but now it's diabolical. Moths which you would normally see in large numbers in traps at this time of year are there but only in ones and twos, which means that young birds, which survive on caterpillars, will not have been getting food," said Andrew Crory of Ulster Wildlife.

The unseasonal weather has also kept people from their gardens this year. May 2013 was sunnier than 2012, says the Horticultural Trades Association which represents most of Britain's plant growers and garden centres, but people have been reluctant until very recently to go out.

"It has had a real impact on the way people think about gardening. They [seem to] need a couple of weeks of good weather before they go into their gardens. Traditionally, the garden year used to start at Easter. Now the weather is more and more erratic, it seems we are becoming a nation of fair weather gardeners, reluctant to go out and dig or plant until the sun shines,", said a spokeswoman for the association .

However, it seems 2013 has been a good year for rookeries and some other birds, with record number of sandwich terns nesting at Blakeney on the north Norfolk coast.

Looking ahead, said Oates, people should expect plenty of holly berries at Christmas because they were pollinated in good June weather, late flowering apple varieties could prosper and large numbers of cabbage white butterflies are expected.

"Human health, tourism and recreation, farming and horticulture, beekeeping, cricket, childhood and especially our wildlife are all now crying out for a long hot summer," said Oates.