Thursday, 31 January 2019


Heavy frost over yesterday's dusting of snow. Ponds frozen. Ground too hard to work. 

Apple trees are said to require a period of cold to stimulate blossom so this 'snap' is welcome.

The garden is busy with birds.

Bramblings have laid claim to the garden feeders. Peach, old gold and black. Dominant. But tiny siskin face them down.

I'm mesmerised and linger by the kitchen window for too long as more birds arrive. There must be a food shortage in northern Europe that has driven the bramblings to our more temperate island. The highest ever count of migrant bramblings was in 1951/2 when an estimated 70 million birds flocked in Switzerland.

Home-grown blackbirds stab at our stored cut apples thrown out for them. They carry leg rings from garden bird ringing in previous years, as do some of the blue tits which forage in the evergreen honeysuckle. Its' many flowers perhaps attract small insects?

A family of trilling long-tailed tits tumbles through the Woodland Garden where snowdrops and winter aconites are in frozen stasis. 

Frozen George's Pond
Our work in the Woodland Garden (although halted temporarily) has progressed well. We've harvested forty or so seedling hawthorns that will be donated to the farm. Paths have been weeded and chipped. Beds have also been weeded and will receive a mulch if time allows. An area of around sixty m2 now lies under black plastic awaiting redevelopment. The Head Gardener plans planting three more elegant Japanese maples in the Woodland Garden. The settee where she sits of an evening is mounded with plant catalogues and books. We can look forward to a stream of ambers, golds and reds running through the garden as the maple leaves enter the chill of autumn in years to come.

We began the pre-spring tidy of the Vegetable and Fruit Garden during our WWOOFer, Rosas's stay. Shallots, garlic, over wintering onions and broad beans are growing well. Leeks and beetroot are still being picked. Grazing rye planted to retain nutrients as a 'green manure' into bare soil has grown luxuriantly. It has now been covered by reused black plastic weighed down with bricks. By the time we plant our potatoes on Good Friday,  I'm hoping that the grass will have been incorporated into the soil by worms.

The nights are edging out. The clock is ticking towards spring. We leave the flower and seed heads on the plants in the Prairie Beds over winter to provide food and shelter for wildlife. But last year we disturbed the nest of a chiffchaff in one of the ornamental grasses because we were late. We don't want to make the same mistake this year.

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