Snow Blues

Calamagrostis overdam bent over uncer  the snow
Calamagrostis overdam bent over under the snow

I really don’t think we English are cut out for the snow, well  not in the 21st century.  Personally I don’t particularly like snow, certainly not after the first initial snowfall.  I wrote nearly a week ago of the first snowfall and exploring the unsullied snow on the local common in its pristine wintery finery.  Well that was nearly a week ago and I am weary of the monochrome landscape.  I really don’t think I would do very well if I lived in the northern states of the US whose bloggers seem to cope with weeks if not months of snow; the amount of which puts us to shame. I  feel a little  ashamed  of my pathetic response to snow especially after watching an old documentary of the Big Freeze in 1963 when they had freezing cold weather for three months and snowmen built at the start of the year were still standing in March. But I  suppose we are what our  environment makes us and in recent times we haven’t had to cope with too much cold weather – we have become soft.

On Wednesday, the snow had almost cleared to the point where I could  get my snow and ice adverse automatic back to the driveway instead of parking it up the road.  But no another batch of heavy snow was forecast overnight.  I  find it amazing how we British seem to deny the existence of snow until we are knee-deep in it.  It seems that we think if we keep saying ‘oh the weathermen are just being cautious’ the snow won’t materialise.  But it does and we are unfailingly caught out and chaos ensues and I suspect we are the laughing-stock of Northern Europe.

Melianthus major giving in to winter
Melianthus major giving in to winter

Being a snow phobic and leaving in a very hilly part of the country with a good 20 minute car drive cross-country to work I become obsessive about the weather forecast when snow is possible – the same happens when it rains a lot and floods threaten.  There I was on Wednesday at work cancelling a hair appointment the next day and sorting work to do at home should the snow indeed fall.  People laughed and told me it would just be some flakes.  I parked my car up the road from home – a good 12 minute walk  up hill but at least on a main road which I know will be gritted and which would give me an almost safe journey to work.

Yesterday morning we awoke to a landscape freshly covered in snow.  Another 2 – 3″ had fallen.  The previous  snow that was still covering the garden seemed to have grown overnight and all the traces of birds and animals had been wiped out again.  More snow was forecast during the day so  I decided to stay  put and work from home .  My son disappeared off to work over the other side of the hills and luckily arrived safely – he knows better than to give me the details of the difficulties he encounters on his country ungritted route.

Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’ hiding its charms
Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’ hiding its charms

I worked hard getting far more done than I would in the office, always the way when you are distanced from the phone. I spent an hour clearing the snow from the driveway and road outside our house so my son could get back  home and also exploring the garden to see how my plants were faring.  The Grevillea and Bay were keeling over again under the weight of another snow fall and had to be shaken free.  I  have given up trying to help the Fatsia whose leaves, even when shed of snow, just hang down limply.  Amongst all the white and grey there was one bright spark.  Glinting out from amongst the snow were the flowers of my Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’.  It had just  started to flower before the first snow and I find myself  wondering if it will flower for long after the snow has cleared.  I shook the snow off it so at least I could enjoy the warm sunshine yellow of its flowers from my living  room window.

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The snow stopped and the temperatures have reached a heady 1C, there is sign of a thaw.  We are told the temperatures will  improve by the weekend but that this will mean a quick thaw and possibly floods.  I do hope this  isn’t a sign of another wet year ahead of us.

 

Monthly photo – January 2013

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Today I am joining in with Katarina’s new monthly meme.  The idea is that you post a photograph that represents the current month to you on the 15th of the month.

January  to me is grey, damp, still.  I have a growing fascination in the bare skeletons of trees and their structure.  I have started to notice how different species have different shapes although I have to wait until spring and leaves to appear before I can start to identify which tree is which.  Learning more about recognising different species of trees particularly in winter is something I would really like to do.

If you  like to join in with Katarina’s meme pop over to her  blog

The turn of the seasons

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The sky hung heavy this morning with grey and cold looking clouds; I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had snowed although the temperatures weren’t quite low enough.

For me today has signalled the change of the seasons from Autumn to Winter.  This isn’t  because it is the start of December, no it is more of a feeling, a sense.  The warm autumnal tones have gone from the trees even the leaves lying on the ground have lost all colour.  Due to the excessive rain we have had there is a dampness and a sense of decay hanging over the garden.

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But venturing out with a mission to complete the bulb planting closer inspection soon showed that there was much of interest if you took time to look.  The Bidens is still flowering and I think it has a kind of faded shabby elegance about it. The Phlomis russeliana which I had been considering removing has finely earnt its place with wonderful seed heads and sumptuous leaves.

In my last post I christened one corner of the garden the ‘Confused Corner’ as I don’t know what to do with it.  Today I planted 100 bulbs I had been given in it.  It sounds a lot but they were soon lost in the border so the impact won’t be as in your face as I had hoped.  While I was cutting back the perennials to make space for the bulbs I found myself in a ponderous mood and re-named the corner border – the Corner of Indecision.  I then went quite Bunyanish and started renaming other parts of the garden in the spirit of A Pilgrims Progress. So I ended up with the Slope of Aspiration, the Patio  of Promise and the Border of Despair!

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I suspect the grey skies may have had an effect on my mood.

After a couple of hours of steady work all the bulbs were planted, the majority of the dead perennials were cut down and lots more of the leaves were collected and put in the leaf mould pile.  Cutting back the dead Helianthus has really highlighted the Calamagrostis overdam which is planted along the top of the slope.  The flower heads look particularly wonderful when the sun comes over the hills.

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So winter is here and we turn our back on the garden and towards the fire-place and preparations for Christmas.  But if you look really carefully the bulbs are beginning to put their heads above the surface and I feel the anticipation for Spring beginning.

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After the snow

We have been living in a seemingly permanent mist for the last two days ever since the temperatures rose and the snow started to melt.  I am presuming that this is because there is so much water vapour from the thawing snow.  I am getting desperate for the sun to break through or just to see the sky.

Today was the first day since early December when the garden hasn’t been frozen or covered in snow and it was quite startling this morning to open the curtains and see green.  It really made me see the garden with fresh eyes which was good as I have been reading lots of garden magazines the  last couple of weeks to offset my itch to garden.  I have been dreaming of Nepeta and Euphorbia plants edging borders in my sleep!

It is interesting to see how different plants have responded to the prolonged cold.  The Fatsia (above) which looked like a wrung out dishcloth only yesterday has already perked up although some of the leaves look a little damaged but time will tell. The grasses also seem quite resilient and look lovely in the mist.  There is already lots of new growth ready for next year which looks fresh and green and has cheered me up. Maybe if our winters are going to be more like this grasses will come into their own even more.

However, the Japanese Holly Fern is looking quite sad  for itself. The poor plant had only had a few days when it had managed to perk up before more cold hit it. Luckily whilst the stems have snapped there are new fronds pecking through the earth so next year it should  look fabulous.

What really interested me were leaves like the Acanthus leaves which look more like jelly in places and will obviously never recover.  There are quite a few plants like this, including some shrubs, where it appears that the leaves hadn’t had the chance to die properly before the cold hit.  The smaller leaves have frozen and dried out whilst the bigger fleshy leaves  are just mush.  I can’t say I’m that keen to clear this up but I suppose it will have to be  done soon.

Hopefully, we won’t have too much cold but with the snow on the East coast of the US there are some here who think it will only be a matter of time before it hits the UK!! I am desperate to get into the garden and down the allotment to do something positive and use up some energy. However, if we do have more ice and snow I will just have to approach it with a view to seeing how plants respond and what I can learn!!

Oh the weather outside is frightful….

 

……well actually it isn’t really here (about an inch of snow) but in other parts of the UK it is terrible.  My brother-in-law who lives about an hours drive south of us had a foot of snow overnight so it is unlikely that he and my niece will be coming up tomorrow for Christmas presents.  So many people are having to cancel their Christmas get togethers but I think it is more important to be safe than to risk driving in hazardous conditions.  I really don’t understand why people  insist on doing it unless you  have an essential job especially at the weekend – it just gives the emergency services more to deal with.

We are supposed to be going to the Gower  in Wales the middle of next week for Christmas.  My parents are meant to be travelling Wednesday and we are to join them on Christmas Eve.  We have decided that we will make an initial decision Tuesday night and if it means cancelling so be it.  We only live  10 mins drive from each other so it makes more sense to get together here than risk them being in Wales and us here.  In case you are wondering why we were planning to go to Wales it was to do something different to distract from my sister no longer being with us, I should have just left it to the weather!!

So here we are stuck at home.  I did a big shop yesterday allowing for none of our plans happening so we are Ok food wise.  I’ve cleaned the house, the Christmas decorations are up, presents wrapped etc.  I keep telling myself that I should take advantage of this enforced confinement to do some studying for my RHS course, or maybe research vegetables so I can plan my allotment or just read some of the ridiculous pile of gardening magazines I have  or some of the books I have been sent to review or even better balance my bank account (but that might be scary!).  Instead here I am faffing around on the internet!

In my defence, albeit a shaky one, I have been distracted by the birds and squirrels in the garden.  I went out this morning and cleared some of the snow and put out lots of bird food, bread and apples. The garden is very popular at the moment.  We have seen: Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinchs, Greenfinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Squirrels, Magpies, Pigeons, Blackcap.  The squirrels are making me laugh as they are chasing each other round the garden and their tails are sending the snow in all sort of directions.  I thought I would be helpful and put some bird food under the garden table but this has not proved to be popular at all, I can only assume it is too close to the house.  My son did manage to get some photos of a couple  of visitors though for your amusement.

Right enough of this procrastination, I am off to ice the Christmas Cake so I feel like I have really done something and then maybe I will start planning the allotment!

 

Malvern isn’t Narnia you know!..

….said one of my work colleagues last week.  This was during a heated debate in the office about another work colleague (not me) who had left early afternoon to travel home in Malvern due to the snow.  I work in Worcester no more than 10 miles from Malvern but sometimes we seem to be in different climates.  This is due to the Malvern Hills which form a backdrop to the town of Malvern.  Malvern, being on the side of the hills is higher than Worcester and consequently gets harsher weather and indeed more snow.  The trouble is trying to convince people who don’t live in Malvern that this is the case!!

However,  her comment made me laugh since in fact there are close links between Malvern and Narnia.  C S Lewis, the author off the Narnia books, went to school in Malvern and it is alleged that the gas lamp that the children use as a signpost to and from Narnia is based on the gas lamps which still exist along the Wells Road in Malvern.  In fact I have to say that when I drove home yesterday along the Wells Road in the fading light, under the large Chestnut trees all bedecked and bejewelled with hoar-frost and lit up by the same lights that it could easily have been Narnia.  I had my camera with  me today to take a photo for this post but typically the sun had been shining on that tiny bit of Malvern today and the frost had gone! I wonder if C S Lewis experienced similar weather and this planted the images of Narnia in his head for the future.

 

You can just see my office window tucked away
You can just see my office window tucked away

 

At work everything is covered in the hoar-frost  and people have been commenting on how beautiful  the trees look. (The pictures in this post were all taken at work just by office.  It isn’t as frosty as in Malvern but you get the idea.)

It’s true there is a special sort of magical feel about them and a sense of complete stillness. There are few birds about, presumably they are huddled up somewhere trying to keep warm and conserve energy.  There are few people and few cars – little noise.

I find the hoar-frost fascinating, I can’t remember it staying for so long.  It’s as if the Snow Queen has been past on her sledge and frozen everything in time.  I love the way the ice crystals clutch at the edge of leaves and stems changing the identity of plants completely.  The Mountain Ash in my garden now looks quite evil, as you can see in the header at the top of the page.  In other cases the frost makes leaves look as if some mad artist has been round the leaves with a marker pen emphasising the shape of the leaves

I was actually disappointed to see some of the frost had gone on my way home, I was beginning to love our magical frozen landscape.

Frozen Leaves – A Curiosity

Like the rest of the UK we have been experiencing extremely cold weather the last couple of days.  I don’t know what the temperature went down to last night as I don’t have an outside thermometer (but its going on the Christmas list) but the temperature hasn’t risen above -5 all day.  We have been lucky so far here in Worcestershire with only a dusting of snow yesterday, I am hoping it stays that way.

What has interested me is the way plants have responded to the extreme cold.  The top photo is of a Japanese Holly Fern.  The plant has been in situ for a couple of years and I noticed the other day how lush and healthy it was looking and how it had put on a real spurt of growth. However, this morning I was surprised at the appearance of the leaves.  They were much darker, almost black, and had lost their shine and rigidity, (the shine in the photo is from the camera flash).

Just by the Japanese Holly Fern is a young Sarcococca confusa, or Christmas Box, and this has reacted in exactly the same way.  Both the plants are in a fairly sheltered bed with a 4ft wall behind them and a large Rosemary bush on top of the wall providing some shelter.

Conversely, a Pelargonium that I had completely forgotten about seems to be a lot more resilient to the cold with just a frosting.  I would have expected the leaves to be limp at the least.

This has bemused me all day, the fern and box are perking up a little but not much and the Pelargonium is now safely in the greenhouse.  I am assuming that the reason the fern and box reacted as they have is due to the water in the leaves being frozen and I suppose that as there aren’t that many evergreens around in the garden there is little to compare them with.  But why the Pelargonium didn’t react in the same way I don’t know.  It was perched on top of a wall so maybe the  more open site helped it in some way that is beyond me.

Anyway, it has been interesting to observe and I think some of the studying I have recently been doing about leaf structure etc has probably raised my curiosity and made me more observant of how plants are behaving.  I am hopeful that once the weather warms up the plants will perk up as well.

 

Survivors of the snow

We have had a thaw the last two days a there are now only a few small areas left in the garden where the snow remains.  The sun was shining this morning so  I decided to have a waunder around the garden to see if  there were any casulties.  Back at the beginning  of December I invested in a 10ft long cloche or  mini poly tunnel which I put over all my seedlings from the last growing season.  I was a little tardy in  purchasing the cloche so when I  finally got it the plants had already been frosted. However having shaken off the snow today and peering inside most of the  plants seem to have held up well.  Which is a relief.

 

I was pleased to see my Fatsia had recovered and is looking lush and healthy.  A couple of days ago the  leaves were like old rags.

My Sarcocca hookeriana humilis (Christmas Box) has also emerged from under a blanket of snow complete with fat little slower buds.  I am really looking forward to these opening since I only bought the plant last year and that was after the flowers had finished so I will be interested to see if the scent lives up to its expectations.

One of my Camellias is also looking as thought it won’t be long before it puts on its show which I am really looking forward to.

Having looked a a depressive monochrome picture for at least two weeks it is a real relief to see the signs that Spring isn’t that far away.

Holding on tight

I think I have bored you enough with pictures of the Malverns in the snow so I thought you  might like to  see some of the icicles that have been fascinating us over the last few days.  The window above is my youngest son’s bedroom and he is very proud of his  icicles, particularly the one in the middle which has split  into a double icicle.

I like the one above as it is all wiggly and interesting to look at.

I have been meaning to empty out this window box for months but now its proving to be providing a whole new area of interest.

Sadly this morning most of the icicles have gone.  I know it is slightly warmer so can only assume that their contact with the house etc has thawed.  This is all that remains.

It has  been  abit like dicing with death duck in and out of the back door with the icicles hanging ominously overhead – one did crash down  when I was coming back in from the garage and really make me jump.

Now we just want the snow to go but there is more forecast  on Wednesday – what a drag