Tuesday, 9 December 2008


A good two weeks of cold weather and, once again, the grass was white with frost today.

We have had a series of mild winters and it is really great to know that these are not things of the past. Our Christmas carol 'In the bleak midwinter' that talks of 'earth as hard as iron, water like a stone' seemed anachronistic until this current cold snap.

As a gardener, I look forward to the frost killing pests. I'm hoping that introduced and naturalised insects like the harlequin ladybird find this weather difficult. The harlequin ladybird has steadily marched through Britain and it is bad news for native ladybirds. Harlequins are said to eat native ladybird larvae and it is feared that they will displace our own ladybirds.

Another unwelcome visitor is blue tongue disease, afflicting cattle. This is caused by midges that are infected with the bluetongue virus. As with the harlequin ladybird, their spread has been speeded by mild winters.

And from a selfish point of view, I welcome the frosts because they improve the flavour of parsnips. It is said that the cold causes the sugars in the parsnips to be more pronounced, enhancing their flavour.

They will be a centrepiece of our Christmas feast whether we have a white Christmas or not!

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