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Jo's December 2021 News and Views

Hello Everyone

Well, here we are again at the end of another strange year living with Covid restrictions and facing the possibility of another lockdown. So what you need is a little diversion in the shape of some of the delights I have seen in the garden this month.

The weather at the beginning of the month was lovely. The blue sky and sunshine was just what I needed. The Liquidambar styraciflua near the pond was looking fabulous, photo 1. The Pond has matured since it's makeover in the Spring and looks perfect, photo 2.

Walking along the New River Lawn to the Tulip Terrace I stopped to enjoy the view of the Kitchen Garden from this elevated position. The light kept changing from one moment to the next making the same scene look very different, photos 3 and 4. In the top left hand corner of photo 4 you can see that the last few leaves were still clinging to the Liquidambar styraciflua there, photo 5.

In the bed in front of the Peach House is the collection of autumn snowdrops. They seem quite reluctant to flower this year. The second ones to flower were just showing in the week before Christmas, photo 6. There were more anemones flowering too, photo 7.

On the edge of the Asylum the Araucaria araucana, known as the Monkey Puzzle tree has a fine collection of cones all over it, photo 8. On the Hollow lawn beneath the Gingko Biloba there is a fine collection of Viburnum farreri, photo 9, named after the English plant collector Reginald Farrer. He was good friends with Mr Bowles and they often travelled together across Europe visiting the Alps on several occasions. (See Dear Member newsletter No 88, March 2020 for more details). In the border there is a Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn', the flowers are a wonderful selection of pink and white, photo 10.

On my visit to the garden in mid December the weather was awful but this didn't stop the garden looking lovely. The lawns especially seemed to zing in the poor light, photo 11. Just to the right of the Pond is the Winter Bed which is full of delights at this time of year, photo 12. From left to right there is a Viburnum farreri 'Album', a Crataegus monogyna known as common hawthorn, the red stems of the Cornus known as Dogwood, the bright yellow flowers of Mahonia x media 'Charity', the Betula pendula known as Silver Birch and the showy white stems of the Rubus. A beautiful collection of shrubs perfect for this time of year.

On my last visit before Christmas it was the Liquidambar styraciflua that was still stealing the show, photos 13 and 14. The three different trees in the garden have all behaved differently this year and I have enjoyed watching them evolve but I bet you are all glad I won't be mentioning them again until next October!

So what else was going on in the garden this month? For my fauna selection I was very lucky to spot some unusual visitors. First of all the Nuthatch, photo 15. This delightful little bird was on the Black Walnut tree on the Front Lawn. A very rare sighting for me was this handsome Great Spotted woodpecker on the Ash tree in the car park, photo 16. I have seen Green woodpeckers in the garden but not the Great Spotted woodpecker before. On all my visits to the garden this month I spotted a flock of Redwings making their way around the garden, photos 17, 18 and 19. Not the best quality photos but I put that down to the difficult light conditions.

Finally, I mentioned last month that there were not many small birds in the garden. Fortunately, Paul Roper, Head of Project and Funding Delivery, LVRPA and a keen birder gave me the following explanation.

"Basically last year was one of the worst breeding seasons for some years. Mostly weather related with the wet then the cold then the wet again. Lots of things failed or just did not even breed. Bird populations can take the odd year like that and they will bounce back so it is not a huge cause for concern at the moment. What small birds can't take is two or three years like that so they need a better Spring and Summer next year"...... So let's all keep our fingers crossed for them!

I hope you have enjoyed this wander around the garden and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Best Wishes



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