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Notes from the Garden

WINTER AT DENMAN - NOVEMBER 2016

 

By John Towler, Head Gardener

 

The cold nights and sunny days coupled with a lack of wind and rain has led to the most spectacular leaf colour for years. The chlorophyll that keeps the leaves green has broken down, revealing the less conspicuous pigments of reds and yellows. The yearly cycle is complete as the leaves fall and earthworms drag them down into the earth feeding both the trees and our spring flowering bulbs. We take some of the smaller leaves for our compost heaps and the larger leaves are mown over to give the earthworms a helping hand. Late into November, two of our deciduous conifers, the dawn redwood and swamp cypress will turn red and lose their needles, they are happy in the moist soil around the lake.

 

The loud rattle of the mistle thrush has become evident in recent weeks as it seeks to defend its food source of yew and holly berries from the influx of redwings, blackbirds and fieldfare, which have migrated from the harsh conditions already affecting northern and eastern Europe. The yew fruit is poisonous, but it is the seed and not the flesh which is harmful to humans. Although I have seen someone in the village eating the flesh, I cannot recommend it nor have any intention of trying it myself!

 

Ivy is now in flower and, although much maligned, it is a useful late season food source for bees, hoverfly and butterflies, later the berries will provide food for some bird species. Overwintering butterflies use ivy for hibernating in and it is a popular nesting site for robins, blackbirds and thrushes in the spring.


Walking along the Agnes Salter border in early winter, callicarpa ‘profusion’ is showing a fine display of bright purple berries and the scented viburnum and bodnantense dawn will have pink flowers in all but the harshest conditions for the next three months.

 

In and around the lake we have had some unusual sightings this autumn, amongst them the unwelcome signal crayfish, but perhaps more surprising, two sightings of trout by the wooden bridge. In the same area, a well camouflaged common snipe was flushed, usually only seen in the air; this small wader took off showing its characteristic zig-zag flight pattern.

 

 
POSTED: 25 November 2016. Author: Kate Bullas
 
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