Monday, 17 December 2018

Lean times

We are approaching the year's shortest day (21 December) and many insects and spiders seem to be lying low, or are even in a state of torpor. Plants also seem to have ceased putting on new growth but a little thought reminds us that this is far from the case: the shoots from several bulbs are beginning to push their way through the soil and there are even flowers to be seen.

Catkins, or aments to use an alternative name, are becoming quite conspicuous.
Hazel catkins near Worcester Way on Stefen Hill. 12 December, 2018

I have already mentioned hazel catkins in a hedgerow near Worcester Way but here in our garden we also have catkins on our Silk Tassel Bush, Garrya elliptica. Our plant is male; female specimens have much smaller and relatively inconspicuous catkins. The catkins on our specimen currently measure about 70 mm but still seem to be lengthening.

Garrya elliptica in our garden on Stefen Hill., Daventry. 17 December, 2018
This species come from western areas of the U.S.A. but there are about 17 other species, all shrubs, within the genus. It is currently placed in its own family, the Garryaceae, but botanists have at various times placed it in various families. It is a problem child.

Our Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo, continues to display flowers although the majority have now, task completed, begun to wither away. Will we be rewarded by its globular, inedible fruits? Oddly enough the Silk Tassel Bush and the Strawberry Tree are distantly related, both being members of the order Cornales.

Will we get fruit? Our Strawberry Tree remains in flower.
17 December, 2018
And that is about it, with only our specimen of Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, remaining resolutely in flower.

Lonicera sempervirens, still in flower (if not quite in focus!)
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 17 December, 2018
Like the Garrya it is a native of the U.S.A. but from eastern regions rather than the west. In our garden it receives a little protection from a wooden fence but is clearly a tough hombre.

Am I being mean in failing to mention Aubretia, Aubrieta deltoides? Certainly it keeps producing the odd flower or two but this member of the Cabbage Family is not currently eye-catching. In spring perhaps...

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