Sunday, 17 December 2017

 Some photographic reminders of the year that's gone. And at the same time they can herald the re-birth that will follow in the year to come...
 Beginning with this early bee on the Snowdrops. Posted 7th. February 2017.

 Narcissus Thalia translucent in the morning sun. Posted 28th. March.

 Wood Anemones, one of the flowers of the forest. Posted 12th. April.

 One of the greatest sights in all England: Snake's-Head Fritillary grows in thousands in the water meadows of Magdalen College, Oxford. Posted 17th. April.

 Summer Snowflakes -sometimes called Loddon Lilies- growing on the banks of the River Loddon in Berkshire. Posted 18th. April.

 The English Iris (except it originates in the Pyrenees!). Posted 20th. April.

 Sweet Rocket also known as Dame's Violet. Posted 22nd. May.

 The fronds of a fern unfurl. Posted 30th. May.

 Bumblebees love Purple Toadflax. Posted 4th. June.

 Field Scabious on the Hackney Marshes, London. Posted 11th. June.

 Field Scabious, Betony and Greater Knapweed growing in the Kingcombe Meadows, Dorset. Posted 13th. June.

 Meadow Cranesbill growing among grasses in the chalk hills overlooking the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire. Posted 26th. June.

 Rock Penstemon on the rim of the Crater Lake caldera, USA. Posted 5th. August.

 Sea Lavender on the salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast. Posted 15th. August.

 Sunlight illuminates the papery seed heads of Honesty. Posted 13th. September.

 The fruits of Autumn. What could be nicer than a handful of Blackberries or perhaps a Bramble and Apple Pie? Posted 7th. September.

Friday, 15 December 2017

 The Stinking Hellebores (Hellebore foetidus) were the first plants to flower in the garden this year and the subject of the first entry in this diary on January 21st.
 To my surprise they are also the last plant of the year to flower! H. foetidus flowers in late winter but I wasn't expecting them to flower again this side of Christmas. I thought it might be due to favourable conditions in this particular garden but I've noticed a large patch of them in full flower by the railway line just north of Stevenage.
 I purchased mine from a garden centre but they are a native wildflower in parts of the country. Their natural habitat is calcium rich chalky soil in woods and scrub. I have spotted them quite often by railway lines in and around London- I wonder if this is because the gravel used to lay track contains lime chippings?
 Even now in December I saw a bumblebee in the garden feasting on the lime-green flowers. As I mentioned in a recent entry (concerning Mahonia species) bumblebees are furry creatures that may well have originated in the Himilayas so they are able function in cool weather if need be.    

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

 Hertfordshire got more snow than London. I've walked over the brow of this hill many times yet the snow makes a familiar view feel so different.
 I'm one of those people who welcomes a long, cold winter (well, longish). Perhaps it's because my body copes better with very cold temperatures than very high ones.
 It's good for plants too. Most species that are native or naturalised in the UK not only tolerate cold temperatures but thrive on them. For example apple trees need a period of cold to set blossom and fruit well (the industry thinks of this in terms of 'chill requirement' and 'chill units' I believe). 
 Similarly the seeds of numerous plants need wintry conditions to germinate. Freezing and thawing breaks the dormancy of seeds in readiness for spring.
 Plunging temperatures do cull many creepy crawlies but that too is part of nature's checks and balances in a Northern climate. And again this is part of the life cycle for bugs Britannia. I would go so far as to say that I find a cold, damp winter reassuring though opinions do differ on that one...    

Sunday, 10 December 2017

 The many moods of a garden. This was the sight that greeted me as I stepped out the back door at 8am this morning.
 Actually I love the variation in seasons so bring it on- let it snow. Then again I might have a browse through some of the entries I posted over summer, remind myself what warm and sunny feels like...

Monday, 4 December 2017

 Here's a wee beastie that's being spotted in the UK more often in recent years; it will help to click on the photo to enlarge it. In the middle of the image this intriguing critter is hovering over the foliage and flowers of Red Valerian- hairy body, two antennae, a blur of fast flapping wings and a very long tongue (like a length of black thread) poking into the flower head
 This photograph was taken in the back garden a couple of summers ago but I was reminded of it by an article about the species on the BBC website recently. This visitor comes to our shores from Africa and Europe carried by the winds (and a lot of of flapping no doubt). Apparently this has long been the case but lately it's becoming more common and widespread. I would concur: I'd never seen any until the past few summers but the clump of Red Valerian attracts them in May/June.  
 When I first saw one I noted that it seemed to be a moth that hovered like a hummingbird. I did some research and guess what- it's called a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth!      

Thursday, 30 November 2017

 My recent entry about the 'holloways' of Dorset was illustrated with a photograph I took of one such sunken lane several years ago.
 I had another look at the batch of photos taken the same day in and around that dank lane. Since childhood I have always had a palpable sense of something primeval in these locales, a sense that nature is an enveloping force.
 In the case of the motor car in the last image that is literally the case...   

Saturday, 25 November 2017

 This is Mistletoe (Viscum album) growing on the trunk of the apple tree. NB It might be helpful to click on the photo to enlarge it to get a good look at it- we have entered the season of low raking sunlight and deep shadows.
 'Tis the season or fast approaching but Mistletoe has been associated with plant lore at least as long as its association with Christmas and probably further back than that.
 Strictly speaking it is a hemiparasite; it derives nutrition and water from the host tree but photosynthesis takes place as well. Then again this is probably not a point that people give much thought to when they're kissing under a few sprigs of it.