Well, it’s finally happened, and earlier than last year:
My birds will need tiny little skates. I can just see them now, zooming along, colourful woolly scarves flying out behind them. Oh, sorry, I seem to have strayed into tacky Christmas card territory. Very seasonal. Ahem. I was delighted, though, when I was out taking the photographs, to notice that the wrens are back. They’ve been absent for a couple of years, or at least I’ve not seen them, but one is patrolling the hedge by the greenhouse and strutting his stuff in the eschallonia. Both things were scheduled for removal, so I’m glad I didn’t hack them back completely.
The frost has taken some of my plants by surprise, though the odd early – very early – primrose doesn’t seem phased by it:
The same, though, could not be said for the hardy geraniums. The poor wee things looked as though they’d been hit over the head with a mallet. A mallet which left beautiful effects, but a mallet none the less.
I’m a complete sucker for the effects of frost. I love the way it outlines and emphasises the form of leaves, the rosettes of even the most prosaic and problematic weed, and highlights fallen leaves against grass. My tiarellas, which have recently begun flowering, will probably be thinking better of it after this, mind.
So what else has been going on?
Inevitably, there’s been more fiddling about with wood. When the weather turns like this, it is most comforting to have a great big disorganised wood pile. At least I know that the games with chainsaws that have been such a feature of this year have given me some real benefits, quite apart from being able to rest easy knowing that the Western Red Cedar isn’t going to lift the house from its foundations, and that falling ash branches aren’t going to plunge the entire village into darkness. There are so many chippings to be dispersed around the garden, but they don’t really go that far and four rubble sacks will vanish in the twinkling of an eye. Well, that and the heaving of a wheelbarrow.
When I turn my back on this and look out over the meadow, everything seems rather bleak. The sky is bone grey, the wind is bitter, there are very few leaves left on any of the trees (but plenty on the Old Man’s Beard straggling into the apple trees from the wildy bit next door, which at least makes the damn thing easy to spot and rip out). However, closer inspection tells a different story – the birches have started to shed their old dry bark.
I love this stage – the new bark is so perfect, so silky, and the old bark is so very delicate. The two Manweb birches (Manweb removed a boundary tree near the wires years ago and gave me a replacement, then had one sad extra tree left when they delivered it and gave me that too) are beautiful. Owing to their origins, I haven’t a clue what they are. They are, however, clearly different. Above is the smaller one, the one actually intended for me and which looked a bit queasy for a while, but which is fine now, thanks. One of the Manweb guys described it as a ‘golden birch’ and I can see why, though its bark is a lot paler than that of the ‘known’ golden birches I have seen in other places.
And then there’s the thug, a normal silver birch. Oh, I do love silver birches. This wasn’t expected to survive originally, as it looked so feeble; it was the reject, the left-over tree languishing in the back of the Manweb trailer. I’d no great hopes for it, and I was clearly wrong. It’s huge. The bark isn’t as perfect as the other, partly as a result: lots of expansion. But it is just as beautiful. More subtle, really.
How pristine the new bark is. I keep having to pop out and give it a stroke!
Elsewhere the garden is a bit of a mess. The wet weather has meant that a lot of jobs have been left or abandoned half way through, and there’s some major work going on over the winter. Er, nothing monumental… just a lot of rearranging and trimming back and what my mother would have called ‘editing’ (uprooting and chucking out). That has started with the removal of an overgrown New Zealand hebe and a sprawling, madly suckering clethra from the bottom garden (I have another clethra anyway, and I doubt that it’s out completely), resulting in the bed they were once in looking more like the Western Front than an area of cultivation. Due to the vile weather it’s been left, so the weeds will be having a bundle of laughs. Hopefully the cold snap will kill them off. Temporarily.
Finally I’ve been much cheered by a reappearance:
This sprightly little neon-bright primrose always pops into life in one of the paths, flowers for months (looking, it has to be said, a bit moth-eaten for most of this time) and then fades away. It will vanish in about May, and spring up again in about October. Welcome back!
Thanks to Helen at The Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV meme…