My garden’s gone to sleep now, or so I think. And then I take a quick walk round, trying not to get blown over (the sea looks amazing), and find something promising, like the Leucojum vernum not just showing, but being about 10cm tall. Spring snowflake? Mine are winter snowflakes, generally. And there are also a couple of misguided crocuses – not autumn crocuses, the normal spring ones – which have come up in the meadow. I have a seasonally confused garden.
The one advantage of this time of year, though, is that you can really focus on the subtleties. And now is the time for bark to come into its own:
As here, with the bark of the old rowan tree echoing the granite of the house.
The rowan grows above one of the garden’s retaining walls and, despite its size and age, hasn’t done it any significant damage. I guess it’s living up to its reputation as a protector of the home but just in case it isn’t, someone has driven an iron horseshoe into the bottom of the wall, most likely at the time it was built or shortly after (probably before 1837 – the maps show the walls in existence then). Well, there’s no harm overdoing it when it comes to protective magic…
Birches are also protective, and I’ve got three of those (where were they when I fell over, eh?). Now they really are the queens of the bark world here. I’m in love with the two white birches, particularly the slender one. It is almost pure white,
and gleams in the half-light of an evening (the leaves are gone now, btw).
I am particularly attracted by the contrast between the white trunk and the places where branches, er, branch off:
I have another birch, the baby, whose trunk is the glowing russet colour. Unfortunately it was in a difficult frame of mind and wouldn’t let itself be photographed – it was moving too much in the wind, that is.
The big birch was also shifting about, so this was taken on a better day:
I tend to think of this tree as having less-startling bark than its companion, but I’m wrong; it’s just that it is bigger and the bark has been under more stress. Higher up, it’s fab. I clearly need a cherry-picker to get the best possible shots without cricking my neck even more.
This winter, we are going to take some of the lower branches off the birches. I was inspired by a garden I visited in the spring (and by P’s complains about nearly being garrotted; the mess would be dreadful if that were to happen, after all). While this will make all sorts of things easier, it will also mean an end to effects like this,
with the ground below the birches completely shaded. I am hoping, though, that the foxgloves comes back, and though I don’t normally interfere with the meadow, we will be shifting some baby foxgloves into it soon.
But it’s not just rowan and birch. The Western Red Cedar has glorious bark, and it makes good kindling too (I’m not ripping it brutally away, it comes from the one we took down in 2012).
and provides a good contrast with the smooth grey-green of the ash logs which form the bulk of my log pile; we’re constantly messing with the ashes which grow like giant weeds. The local cats really appreciate the cedar as a scratching post (who knows why cats do anything) and I really appreciate it for the shelter it gives the woodpile. And because it’s lovely, she added defensively…
But I keep coming back to the birches, and that’s not surprising. White isn’t always white:
Sometimes it’s pink. With orangey bits. And hints of purple.