You may recall that we had logs piled up awaiting relocation to a higher part of the garden, following the tree surgeon’s visit to remove from the river a large fallen branch, snapped off in a gale from our weeping willow. Many wheelbarrow loads later we had moved the pile to higher ground to season. Very hard work as only a few could be transported each time. The logs were large and heavy and an uphill push to the safe area. The weather forecast warned of heavy rain to come so our task was urgent! The heavy rain fell and the spot where the logs had originally been piled up was the following day under water as the river duly rose. Our logs would have drifted off down river if we had not made the effort.
Salix alba ‘Britzensis’ lighting up the riverbank
A female Goosander diving duck has been residing here for several weeks now. She hunts by diving underwater and catching fish with her serrated bill. This Goosander has joined the large group of Mallard ducks in the garden and when not hunting sits with them on the back lawn.
This Christmas I grew Paperwhite narcissi in the way I used to grow them when we lived in Hong Kong. It was a tradition to have a bowl of hopefully flowering narcissi at Chinese New Year. They are a sign of wealth and good fortune if flowering at that time. The bulbs were just grown in gravel and water. In mid-December I partially filled a large glass vase with gravel then added water to the level of the gravel, laid the bulbs on top, with the bases of the bulbs just in the water. Very soon the roots appeared and then the shoots. We had a fabulous display for at least a couple of weeks, the tall stems being supported by hazel twigs pushed into the gravel and then festive white lights woven through for added sparkle. The perfume is superb too. I will definitely do this again next Christmas plus it reminds me of the many Chinese New Year celebrations we enjoyed in Hong Kong.
Snowdrops making an appearance
After such a grey and grim end to December and the dreariness of January to endure I decided to wander around the garden looking for some uplifting signs of spring. For a change the sun was shining! Beneath the walnut tree I spotted the first aconite flower unfurling from the soil and a clump of snowdrops in bud. Elsewhere bulbs were pushing through and brightly coloured flowers adorned some sheltered polyanthus in the vegetable garden.
On the Island a young mahonia ‘Charity’ shrub has produced its best show of flowers so far. Soft primrose, upright, yellow fingers of flowers which we have been enjoying for some weeks now. Also on the Island, on the millpool bank, salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’ appeared to be illuminated with tiny white lights where the white catkins were caught in the sunlight against the blue sky. Close to the house the viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is putting on a fabulous show of pink flowers festooning its bare branches with the added bonus of a delightful perfume. After my walk around the garden I did feel my spirits had been lifted and that spring was just around the corner. SB
The river continues to run at a high level with a few days of flooding following a spell of rain. Even relatively small amounts of rainfall propel the river level upwards. Pools of floodwater linger, reluctant to drain away, on the water meadows. The bomb crater, within the water meadow, now resembles a large pond. Debris, left high and dry following the flooding, is caught up in the sheep fence running across the meadow. Sadly this includes an assortment of discarded packaging, plastic bottles etc which have been, at some point, tossed into the river. This mound of debris has been of some assistance to walkers during times of flooding. We have seen them precariously balanced on the debris, hanging onto the barbed wire top strand of fencing for extra support, as they try to negotiate the deep flood water at a higher level. I must say we have had some entertainment observing the antics of walkers. Two men were seen with trousers rolled up, carrying their trainers and wading through the knee high flood water with bare feet. Not an enviable option given the temperature of the water! Two young women were in fits of giggles as the water spilled over into the tops of their wellington boots as they struggled across. Others have prodded fearfully into the depths with their walking poles and decided to turn back. Dogs have had great fun charging about, spray flying in their wake.
A few days have passed since I wrote the previous paragraph, a blast of very cold weather has arrived with snow, ice and very low overnight temperatures. The temperature last night was forecast to dip to minus ten degrees, the coldest night for ten years. Outside the snow that fell earlier this week still lingers in places. The view across the water meadows is akin to frozen tundra! Our terracotta pots now resemble giant cupcakes with a liberal topping of royal icing!
The bird table has been a hive of activity with a constant flurry of visitors. The robins and blackbirds appear to expend a vast amount of energy chasing each other away from the food supply. In addition to the usual offerings of bird seed, fat balls, insect suet squares (much preferred to the fat balls) and peanuts, I add mealworms and also handfuls of wheat during harsh weather. The wheat is for the pheasants and dare I say for the four pigeons who visit the feeding area. My father, a farmer, would be horrified to know that I feed pigeons!! There is quite a squabble between the pigeons and collared doves if they arrive at the same time. The collared doves usually win and drive the much larger pigeons away.
A beacon of golden yellow at this time is the Hamamelis (witch hazel) on the millpond bank. It is a large specimen and looks fabulous against a clear blue winter sky. We recently planted three young witch hazel’s on the island but due to all the recent flooding they have spent a while with their roots underwater. In flower at the moment but not sure what the long term repercussions of being so water-logged will be. It is relatively fleeting however.
Snow on a flowering bush
The intense cold has created some incredible ice sculpture around the garden. Beside the sluice gates spiral formation icicles encase overhanging branches. Further into the garden a truly magical natural wonder awaits where the spray from the weir has created a multitude of extraordinary icicles. The photos below illustrate some of them.
River Stour icicles
River Stour icicles