frost world

Digitalis parviflora seedhead

Today at 10:43AM the temperature is -2C but rising. The sun is beginning to clear corners of fields, green re-emerging from the glaze of white, drips patter down lightly as the frost melts. The Snow Queen is banished where the sun touches.

Currently two squirrels (grey), chaffinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and blackbirds are under the bird feeder, there is incessant to-ing and fro-ing from the feeder filled with sunflower seeds, primarily by Great Tits and some Blue Tits with an occasional intervention from robins. One squirrel is a great burier so I have a feeling there will be sunflowers emerging in random places when the time comes.

Ash trees

Old Ash TreeI’ve been considering Dan Pearson’s latest Dig Delve piece about the ancient pollarded Ash trees in his valley around Bath.

We have Ash but generally quite young. I’m thinking, (DP makes me think about such things), that our treescape is generally only 60-70 years old. Someone who has lived in the village a long time says it was all Elm around here on the flat wet clayland at one time. Now we have Oaks marching across the landscape, willow and the occasional Ash.

Some Ash trees produced a lot of keys in 2015, and I thought they may be on their way out, a final push to regenerate before expiring. However, one on the edge of the garden gamely put out a few leaves again last year – so we’ll see. I did wonder this morning whether the Ash in the picture above (the sun had already done its work and melted the frost), is the mother of the five or six we have growing in fairly close proximity to us. Ash is an aggressive coloniser, the young seedlings are quick to plunge roots downwards fast, not a plant that’s easy to weed out!

A presumably self-seeded Ash interloper by the stream in the garden is favoured by the Spotted Woodpecker, Collared Doves and various corvids as a lookout post and continues to wrest apart the concrete of a retaining wall as it matures. One of its partially exposed roots appears to be sending out a fine tracery of rootlets which colonise the bed I’m trying to make under it, choking out the other plants. The leaves go black and slimy once they’ve fallen – not a pretty leaf drop at all.

But to be fair, when in full leaf the Ash tree has an elegant demeanour.

Ash tree bud with frost

Frosty day

Otherwise plants are sparkling and twinkling, clothed in their dusting of frost. Or hunched and frozen waiting to be let loose from the iron grip of ice, the bergenia look particularly unhappy.

Primarily grass bed created in March 2016

This bed is right by the house and was planted with the intention of being for more or less year-round interest. Frost lifts it, on grey boring winter days it tends to look a bit glum. In March most of the grasses will be razed to make way for this year’s growth, so it will look spartan for a while. The once fuzzy tails of Pennisetum Fairytails and Shogun are becoming more and more threadbare as they weather, the plumes of Calamagrostis brachytricha in the foreground are still quite perky.

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The shortest day 2016

Cyclamen coum flowering in December

Cyclamen coum album

Typical run-up to Christmas weather, relatively warm, damp, often grey. Our village is living up to its squelchy name, particularly the green and the parish field.

Today shafts of midday sun cut through elder and hawthorn trunks along the by-way. The low light shimmered off gently clattering mature ivy leaves fanned by the light breeze; glanced along the sturdy mid green blades of Hart’s Tongue Ferns and highlighted the broken and yellowed fronds of the now sleeping Male Ferns. To me, some evergreens look stronger and healthier now than in high summer. Continue reading

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Molde warp


The earthmover has been working under the carpet of apple tree leaves and fallen apples. Around this apple tree the turf is totally rucked and rumpled by the handprint-like pink paddles of the mole. I presume flooding (the first of the 2016/2017 winter season) in the lower part of the garden earlier in the week has also concentrated activity. Continue reading

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Frost stops play

Frost got the dahlias

So typical of English weather, I could feel the frost nipping at my wellies as I tried to extract a sheep with its head stuck in the field fence in the dark on Wednesday night. Then 2 days later rain, everything soggy and miserable.

So that’s farewell to the dahlias for this year, Salvia Guanajuato which had so much going for it on Monday, and some fuchsias. Farewell forever to this year’s heliotropes, Solanum rantonetti and nasturtiums. Colquhounia frazzed, survival will depend on the severity of this winter. Banana nipped and will need digging up, chopping back and overwintering just frost free. Ricinus still standing but I’ve felled it today anyway to let more light in.

Bit sad to hack down the huge water-filled stems of Dahlia imperialis, not looking forward to digging that up, each summer it puts on more nuggets of tubers and the whole lump gets heavier every year.

Like others on Twitter today, I’m glad I anticipated the frost and picked the last of the dahlia flowers on Monday including Rip City, Chee, Karma Choc and Sam Hopkins.

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Last day of October

Salvia Guanajuato

Salvia Guanajuato with bee bum

After a foggy start this morning the sun is out, although there is a faint mistiness as I look across the field. It’s 16C mid afternoon. A huge streamer of spider’s web metres long gilded by the sun glides slowly westwards.  The tick and rattle of falling leaves is loud in the stillness, the ash and chestnut are nearly all done with shedding.

On the wing

An intermittent chack of jackdaws watching the chicken run for food and occasional burst of rook banter livens up the soundscape.  In amongst this the insistent calls of Long Tailed Tits and short bursts of Great Tit ratatat. Earlier the plaintive cry of a swirling Buzzard.

I’m waiting for the Fieldfares to turn up and feast on the fallen cooking apples (the fat Bramleys create a bit of aural drama as they clatter through the branches and thump to the ground). Continue reading

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It’s all over now


The final night flowerer attempting to open on a cold October evening, this is as far as Ipomea Bona Nox got, sadly it didn’t have the energy to fully open. It may look a lot like your common or garden pestilential convolvulvus at first glance but isn’t. It’s been in the greenhouse since May, slowly building up its buds but it’s too late in the year now. Perhaps we’ll have a better summer next year. Continue reading

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West Dean Gardens – hot house delights

West Dean Gardens GlasshouseI have been to West Dean Gardens in Sussex before but a long while ago and I didn’t remember the glasshouses or cutting garden particularly. This Monday the sun shone, the greenhouses stood to attention, neat and tidy, spic and span. There’s obviously care and pride at work here.

Glasshouses were filled with an abundance of tender bedding plants, the Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’ in particular absolutely humming with bees. Continue reading

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Not so gladdy


This rogue gladdy appeared in a batch of Mirella

I’ve developed a soft spot for gladioli over the years, both for exuberance and for their later summer flowering, but they can be somewhat trying for a mere amateur! The tawny bed is home to two primulinus hybrids bought years ago from Bob Brown, Hastings and Mrs M Rowley. Hastings, a sandy orange is increasing nicely, Mrs M Rowley is a rich claret but less floriferous. Being primulinus they are small flowered and therefore less vulnerable to wind and rain. They also fit better generally into a ‘soft’ herbaceous planting. Continue reading

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Veddw – a garden of light and shade

Veddw House Garden

Stones record the shifting of names for the place over the centuries.

Yesterday, on a sunny day with a fractious swirling wind we visited Veddw House Garden in Monmouthshire.  We had been meaning to for a while now. I might have been expecting formal herbaceous plantings in amongst the clipped hedge rooms, there weren’t any. I had to adjust my focus to better appreciate this garden.

Continue reading

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Let’s hear it for the humble nasturtium


Nasturtium (Tropeaolum majus) are fabulous fillers this time of year, still looking fresh until the Cabbage White caterpillars do their thing (big round of egg laying going on for the past couple of weeks), and then another flush of leaves and flowers in early autumn. Sadly the butterflies don’t distinguish between the common and my more unusual doubles, Darjeeling Gold and Margaret Long. Continue reading

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