Monday, 7 January 2013

If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?

Tracks of Muntjac Deer Muntiacus muntjak
Well actually it can. It certainly seemed seemed quite a long way off this morning when I ventured out in grey, drizzly conditions. But I know what Shelley meant because here and there were hints of things to come.

I was heading east but once again, as on my recent visit to Parson's Spinney - in the opposite direction - I found I was following deer tracks. This time it was a Muntjac Deer - or indeed several. I have included a ten pence coin for scale (last time I used a 50 pence coin, but times are getting hard). A buzzard passed over, mewing peevishly, hoping perhaps to find a road-kill on the A361. It was not until I re-entered the village that there were any signs of spring. Winter Aconite was in bud and, given a spot of bright sunshine, the flowers should open up fully.

With few insects about at this time of the year many trees and shrubs rely on wind pollination. Catkins are therefore frequent and those on a Corkscrew Hazel, Corylus avellana 'Contorta' in Church Way were developing nicely although they'll need a few more weeks yet. Far more spectacular were the catkins on a Silk Tassel Bush, Garrya elliptica, in the garden of my friend Harry Ferminger. A male plant produces by far the best catkins and, although some garden writers dislike the plant it can, against a pale background, look stunning.

Silk Tassel Bush, Byfield
The shrub was first collected in North America by David Douglas (of Douglas Fir fame) and named after Nicholas Garry, of the Hudson Bay Company, who had been of great assistance to Douglas. Harry grows it as a free-standing shrub but when I grew it at my previous house, I trained it against a fence. It is given its own family, the Garryaceae, containing this single genus. (Some botanists place Aucuba in this family too, but there is little obvious resemblance between the two genera and Aucuba is more normally included in the Cornel Family, Cornaceae.)                                                                  
A dull day was reprieved by an attractive
sunset over Harry Ferminger's pond.


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