HAZEL CATKINS, SCURFY TWIGLET, PULMONARIA
POT'S GROWING ON? 20/1/23
Lots of birds shelter around our little farm, particularly in the garden, nestled into the hedges. Bravest of all is the familiar robin, Erithacus rubecula. Always first on the scene to see if we turn up some soil revealing tasty worms. They do this to all digging animals. One keeps following me into the polytunnel, bold as brass.
Caught off guard by a second snow fall on Tuesday, we’re currently snowed in. A nice feeling if it doesn’t last too long. It was quite light snow but with subzero temperatures the roads are too icy to get up, instead we explored our winter wonderland with a sunrise walk yesterday. I’m reminded how harsh our climate can be, this is the second week of daytime temperatures barely above freezing and the ground frozen solid. Here only the most robust plants survive.
We’re snowed in but making the most of it, luckily some of my garden design clients are within walking distance. I like to imagine I’ve stepped back in time, walking to meet people.
I was surprised to spot this patch of Pulmonaria flowering in the snow because I’d missed the flowers until highlighted by the white dust. Pulmonaria are fantastic spreading plants that flower for a large chunk of the year, starting really early. As you can see they are extremely hardy. This isn’t an unusual time for them to start flowering, making them great for winter flying bumblebees, though they do become more prolific as we head into spring. I’m afraid I don’t know the cultivar in the picture because it was growing in our garden when we arrived but there are a number of pink flowered types on the market. I’ve begun trialling different Pulmonaria to make recommendations in future.
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We’re still picking sprouts here, ‘Groninger’ above, sown 25th April 2022, is a fairly good cultivar but not the best. They’re looking battered and tatty on the plot at this point in winter but peel off some leaves and they’re as fresh as can be, and highly nutritious. I sliced them for Chris to add into an orzo with sauce made from a roasted homegrown squash ‘Marina di Chioggia’ for dinner last night. The squash had phenomenal flavour.
I spotted this little shroom in the grass, spreading into the aster planting this week and thought it was velvet shanks at this time of year. However, it’s in fact Tubaria furfuracea, a fungus with my favourite nickname in a longtime: Scurfy twiglet. It can grow at this point in the year when few other mushrooms are visible, it’s harmless and inedible. I wish I was called Scurfy Twiglet.
Did you know there is approximately 43 minutes more daylight today than on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year on 21st December 2022? Next time I email you, in a week’s time, it will be 21 minutes more, over an hour longer! Sunset is already noticeably later, hooray.
Snow drops are starting to show up here in their thousands again, I dotted some around the garden last year from a few clumps and I’m excited to see if they grow back OK. That’s the first step in them forming their own little clumps in years to come.
Wild hazel catkins are starting to appear, Coryllus avellana. It is monoecious, where it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Catkins are hundreds of miniscule male flowers that release pollen into the wind to be caught by the tiny female flower. Have a look for it, the female flower has tiny neon pink spidery styles to catch the pollen. This is how hazelnuts start out in life, ending, usually, in the tummy of a squirrel.
I don’t remember seeing icicles forming in the UK since I was a child with the freezing winters of the 1980s, hanging from the thatch of our little cottage high in the Chiltern hills. There’s something reassuring about seeing them again here. On our walk yesterday there was a bank usually covered in little streams, they had all turned to ice.