Thursday, 8 February 2018

Despite the cold

We have endured several days of bitter weather. It's not over yet and it could be another week or so before we see temperatures reach even ten degrees. I attempted a spot of gardening today, aiming to move some foxgloves into a more pleasing position but I gave up as the ground was frozen.
Despite all this there are things to gladden the eye. In my own garden Iris reticulata brighten up the scene. From the mountains of south-east Europe they have the genes to withstand the cold. They hate poorly-drained soil but the gritty loam I've given them seems suitable.
Iris reticulata in our front garden at Stefen Hill, Daventry
7 February, 2018
A visit to Byfield yesterday found a number of species in flower. Winter Aconites, Eranthis hyemalis, were putting on a good show but pride of place went to a lovely clump of crocuses in Beckett's Close. They weren't labelled but I'm confident the species is Crocus tommasinianus.
Crocus tommasinianus was putting on a lovely show in Byfield.
7 February, 2018
Walls along Church Street - and throughout the village - were topped with Silky Wall Feather-moss, Homalothecium sericeum. In the bright sunshine it really did have a silky sheen to it and its common name is very appropriate.
Silky Wall Feather-moss crowned walls in Church Street, Byfield.
7 February, 2018
One plant which always draws my attention is Caper Spurge, Euphorbia lathyris. Even at this bleak time of the year its architectural form is eye-catching, looking rather like a plant assembled by a child from a kit. Is it native to Britain? Probably not, and it is often regarded as a denizen. I found a plant outside Tim and Pom Boddington's house in Bell Lane, Byfield.
Caper Spurge in Bell Lane, Byfield. 7 February, 2018
For a botanist a denizen is a plant that behaves more or less like a native but is suspect either because of the habitat it occupies - e.g. man-made - or because of its natural distribution outside Britain. Caper Spurge is poisonous, as are all spurges, containing a violently purgative oil. An alternative name is Mole Weed; it is said to deter moles but I know of no hard evidence to back this claim.
True capers are the fruits of Capparis spinosa, an attractive perennial plant which I became familiar with when serving with the R.A.F. in Aden, where it was used as a bedding plant on traffic islands and the like. It is marginally hardy in Britain (but so, until recently, were olive plants). The fruits of Caper Spurge and the true caper are very similar in appearance.

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