Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

Storms, Mice and Christmas Trees

4 January 2020

My Christmas tree is growing!

Many years ago, I decided that I could not justify cutting down a tree for Christmas despite the fact that I consider them an integral part of the season. I tried buying a tree in a pot, but soon realized that (a) if I used one each year and then planted it my garden would soon be overgrown with Christmas trees and (b) if I used the same tree every year I would soon be unable to transport it in and out of the house and would have to plant it in the garden which would soon be overgrown … My solution has been to cut a bare branch late in December and decorate it as if it was a traditional tree. This has worked very well. All of the decorations are easy to see and I now prefer it despite the fact that the effect is rather quirky. This year I removed a branch from a wind-battered hawthorn tree which needs radical pruning to prevent it from been blown over in the gales that assault it regularly. It has done its job well over the festive season and I set out to discard it today. As you can see from the photo it is now producing very healthy-looking leaves and I am faced with a dilemma. I am pretty sure that it will never develop roots but if any plant shows some sign of life and it appears to have any chance of surviving, I can’t bring myself to put it on the compost heap. For the moment all I can do is leave the branch where it is (I will remove the decorations) to see if the greenery is the result of the plant using up its last resources before it expires permanently. However, if it does start to grow, I suspect that it is going to require some careful nurturing if it is to go back into the garden. As I spend most of the time in the garden I have very little to spend on indoor plants and those that survive do so in spite of me rather than because of me. Wish the branch luck as it needs all that it can get.

5 January 2020

Transformations out doors

At first glance my garden looks like a montage in black and brown with just the occasional touch of green. However, there are some notable exceptions. These are the true and trusty plants that are robust enough to flower at this time of the year. The above camellia (Reticulata Inspiration) is one of those amazing plants that often starts flowering in November and on one occasion at least has continued to flower until May. At the moment the blossom filled shrub is a beacon on these cold and dark days. This year it has been joined by a few blossoms on my camellia (Williamsii ‘Anticipation’) although I think that this is an exception rather than the rule.

7 January 2020

This year I have developed a new way of dealing with the wet, dark days and the sodden ground which prevents me from working it and getting ready for spring planting. Each morning I do a round of the garden and try and find something new to cheer me up. As a result, I am now beginning to categorise my flowering plants and shrubs into four types. Those that should be flowering at this time of the year. Those that for some strange reason produce the odd flower or two out of season, those that are starting to flower out of season in earnest and against all the odds and a group of shrubs that never seem to stop flowering at any time of the year. The Viburnum tinus ‘Eva Price’ below is an example of the first group of shrubs.

This flowers for a long period from autumn to spring. I had hoped to use it to create some colourful winter hedges. Sadly, some of the plants are showing signs of disease and I am not sure if they will respond to my remedial work. In the meantime I enjoy their cheerful flowers in those plants that are doing well.

The Christmas rose is another constant every winter but is less obvious as it tends to do best here in shady protected places but there are a few beauties in the garden at the moment. The Hellebore below is my favourite and will flower for months.

The Skimmea Japonica ‘Rubella’ is another winter constant. My plants are young and therefore small at the moment but I hope they will become more dominant in years to come.

A few surprises

This Berberis Darwinii has just produced this one beautiful flower in the last week. It is one of the most robust plants in this area It makes an excellent windbreak in the garden so I have no concerns that it has arrived early. On the other hand, this tiny strawberry ‘Pink Panda’ has flowered in splendid isolation and is unlikely to have company for some months to come.

10 January 2020

Other indoor ‘gardening’ problems

In late Autumn and early winter, a major migration takes place here as the mice, voles and other small creatures move from the surrounding fields to the ‘safety’ provided by the rocks, tree roots and the many dry-stone walls around my garden. I think that the general idea is that they shelter there for the winter and move back to the fields once the warm weather arrives. Unfortunately, my dogs have different ideas. At the first sign of life in any of these locations frenzied digging becomes the norm and the garden is soon full of large, life threatening holes. This year the focus of attention has been at the back of the house with its steep bank, small trees and large rocks and there have been at least six major excavations in that location alone. Filling in the holes is a time-consuming problem as I usually have to find fresh soil from somewhere else – usually more than once. I have yet to see the dogs catch anything but the mice really have had only have one option available the light of their assaults i.e. migration into my house. So far this winter thirteen have made the journey. Instead of choosing and planting my bare root trees my time is taken up with hole filling, hole finding and mouse catching. I consider none of these to be traditional gardening tasks. The dogs also occasionally vary their routine and dig in some of the dense shrubbery that I am developing in parts of the garden. So not only am I spending a lot of time on useless tasks but I am taking my life into my hands when I go into the undergrowth. All of this may suggest that my dogs are badly trained. On the contrary, they will cease digging as soon as I ask. But being intelligent creatures, they simply move to a distant part of the garden and start afresh, returning to their favourite excavations when I am out of the way.

A major canine excavation taking place at the back of the house. Goodness knows what I will do with this once the dogs get bored and abandon it.

13 January 2020

Storm Brendan

St Brendan the navigator is a famous Irish voyager and the patron saint of mariners and travellers so I think that it is ironic that someone decided to name our latest ‘storm orange’ after him. Despite his many trips in the Atlantic Ocean I would imagine that he would have taken one look at the weather today , turned his currach upside down and used it for shelter. Lucifer would have been a more appropriate name for the storm that battered this little corner. However, with each storm I am honing my survival skills. As soon as the winds and rain reached a particular pitch this morning my dogs and I retreated to the living room, closed the curtains and set the volume on the TV to ‘very loud’. We spent the day watching nature and animal rescue programs (which the dogs particularly like) and the time passed quickly. I have to say the situation was helped by the fact that we had electricity and therefore water, noise and heat. Without these I don’t think that I would have been as sanguine.

15 January 2020

Update on Christmas tree : I don’t think that this needs any explanation.

5 responses to “Storms, Mice and Christmas Trees”

  1. Well the storm named in my honour, a bit inland from you, was a storm in a teacup in this parish – certainly not ‘orange’. Prior to Ophelia, which was most definitely red or red ++, was the night of the Big Wind in January 1839!

    • St Brendan would have prayed that God would deliver him from the turbulence. But the reality is more mundane. There were complaints for a long time that major storms which originated across the Atlantic were being named after women only. Someone came up with the idea that the names should alternate between male and female names. And so over time we will be going down through the alphabet and switching between the two sexes. We stayed indoors for the period but I must say I love the sound of a storm. As a writer I find they often provide inspiration for a work of the pen.

  2. Great update- glad to hear you are keeping busy – I can just visualise you scurrying around after mice in your garden, when you are not lounging about watching television that is! Keep writing….

  3. Just love going round your garden with you, you write so beautifully that I feel I am there. Camelia and Berberis have been noted, perhaps they will take to our garden then we will be even more connected! Not sure about Cecilia’s cat, could be a case of ‘let battle commence’ and garden devastation!

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