The Garden in Winter

by Robin Fuller January. 07, 2021 220 views
New Year's day sunrise reveals a heavy frost which contrasts with the rich colours of the trees and evergreen shrubs.

New Year's day sunrise reveals a heavy frost which contrasts with the rich colours of the trees and evergreen shrubs.

Even in the so-called dead of winter, there are signs of spring. The earliest of spring flowers are showing. Many of the birds which visit out garden are already paired up and seeking territories and nest sites. Robins are singing. Tawny owls are calling. Avian disputes over territory are routine. Resident mammals are making the best of what is on offer but look fit and healthy as the days lengthen.

In south-west England the maritime climate gives us mostly mild winters with few frosts. Just before Christmas I counted 47 plant species in flower. On milder days there were bumblebees, flies and even occasional butterflies using the nectar sources. With the new year, the first significant cold spell has arrived as continental northerly and easterly airstreams have hit.

Fallen Acer leaves picked out with a frosty margin.

Fallen Acer leaves picked out with a frosty margin.

Alder tree leaves only fell in December, prompted by the first frosts. They are the last deciduous leaves to fall but colour will return in February with the Alder's long green catkins, heavy with yellow pollen.

Alder tree leaves only fell in December, prompted by the first frosts. They are the last deciduous leaves to fall but colour will return in February with the Alder's long green catkins, heavy with yellow pollen.

Euphorbia characias, a hardy mediterranean species, here covered with frost but bearing flower buds which in March will burst with nectar-producing flowers vital to early bumblebees and flies.

Euphorbia characias, a hardy mediterranean species, here covered with frost but bearing flower buds which in March will burst with nectar-producing flowers vital to early bumblebees and flies.

Winter jasmine has borne flowers since early autumn and will do so well into spring. They look so delicate but add constant winter colour and are an excellent nectar source for winter-flying insects.

Winter jasmine has borne flowers since early autumn and will do so well into spring. They look so delicate but add constant winter colour and are an excellent nectar source for winter-flying insects.

Rosemary has flowered all winter and offers a consistent foodsource.

Rosemary has flowered all winter and offers a consistent foodsource.

Our Camellias always produce flowers around Christmas time giving winter insects a welcome source of nectar.

Our Camellias always produce flowers around Christmas time giving winter insects a welcome source of nectar.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' lives up to its name.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' lives up to its name.

Daphne bholua has flowers from January providing nectar for insects which are attracted by its beautiful perfume.

Daphne bholua has flowers from January providing nectar for insects which are attracted by its beautiful perfume.

Hamamelis or witch hazel is just starting to come out in early January - another nectar source for early insects.

Hamamelis or witch hazel is just starting to come out in early January - another nectar source for early insects.

Hellebores or Christmas roses are in flower from winter into spring.

Hellebores or Christmas roses are in flower from winter into spring.

Bumblebees and these Flesh flies - tasty morsels for insectivorous birds - were still visiting our Hellebores just before Christmas.

Bumblebees and these Flesh flies - tasty morsels for insectivorous birds - were still visiting our Hellebores just before Christmas.

Garden bird feeders attract a diversity of bird species and also mammals which glean fallen seeds from the sunflower feeders.

Goldfinches visit the feeder with sunflower hearts several times a day. This feeder is sprung to close the feeding ports if squirrels or heavier birds like magpies attempt to feed.

Goldfinches visit the feeder with sunflower hearts several times a day. This feeder is sprung to close the feeding ports if squirrels or heavier birds like magpies attempt to feed.

A male Bullfinch checks around him before dropping down to the sunflower feeder. Sparrowhawks pass through regularly to catch unwary birds.

A male Bullfinch checks around him before dropping down to the sunflower feeder. Sparrowhawks pass through regularly to catch unwary birds.

Blue tits are happy with dehusked sunflowers seeds or suet balls.

Blue tits are happy with dehusked sunflowers seeds or suet balls.

Long-tailed tits arrive in flocks of up to a dozen, constantly twittering to keep in touch and warn of danger as they alight in the shrubbery before moving to the feeder. One of them may remain in the shrubbery or perch on the frame of the feeder standing sentinel to warn of a Sparrowhawk.

Long-tailed tits arrive in flocks of up to a dozen, constantly twittering to keep in touch and warn of danger as they alight in the shrubbery before moving to the feeder. One of them may remain in the shrubbery or perch on the frame of the feeder standing sentinel to warn of a Sparrowhawk.

Long tailed tits always favour the suet ball feeder which provides high energy food for these tiny birds.

Long tailed tits always favour the suet ball feeder which provides high energy food for these tiny birds.

A Great tit sits in the shrubbery checking the coast is clear before the short flight to the feeder.

A Great tit sits in the shrubbery checking the coast is clear before the short flight to the feeder.

Dunnocks spend much of their time flitting through the shrubbery, darting out for fallen seeds and sometimes landing on the perches of a sunflower feeder.

Dunnocks spend much of their time flitting through the shrubbery, darting out for fallen seeds and sometimes landing on the perches of a sunflower feeder.

This Robin is a near permanent fixture in the feeder-shrubbery not just to take seeds from ground or feeders but also to chase off rival Robins which try to muscle in on his prime territory.

This Robin is a near permanent fixture in the feeder-shrubbery not just to take seeds from ground or feeders but also to chase off rival Robins which try to muscle in on his prime territory.

Blackbirds frequently glean from under the feeders but spend more time searching for worms in the flower beds.

Blackbirds frequently glean from under the feeders but spend more time searching for worms in the flower beds.

A Great spotted woodpecker is a rare but very welcome visitor to the suet ball feeder.

A Great spotted woodpecker is a rare but very welcome visitor to the suet ball feeder.

This Green woodpecker is a regular garden visitor maybe spending a half hour per visit probing for ants in the lawn.

This Green woodpecker is a regular garden visitor maybe spending a half hour per visit probing for ants in the lawn.

Grey squirrels spend large amounts of time under the feeders picking up dropped seeds, but resident foxes have recently reduced the number from three to just one individual.

Grey squirrels spend large amounts of time under the feeders picking up dropped seeds, but resident foxes have recently reduced the number from three to just one individual.

A fox, a vixen we think, visits the feeder site for fallen seeds but also to see if she can catch a bird or squirrel unawares.

A fox, a vixen we think, visits the feeder site for fallen seeds but also to see if she can catch a bird or squirrel unawares.

One morning in early winter two foxes, probably siblings from the local litter of 2020, were playing peek-a-boo through the white stemmed birch. I grabbed my old Canon SX60, which I keep upstairs for opportunist shots. I struggled, not very successfully, to focus on moving targets in lousy light through the branches of an obscuring shrub. It is only because it was such charming behaviour that I dare include the poor photo here.

Peek-a-boo.

Peek-a-boo.

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There are 5 comments , add yours!
Gethin Thomas 3 months, 1 week ago

Great set of pictures. We have only been down here for a year so I am not fully clued up on the best plants for all year colour but you have given me some good tips for winter plants.

3 months, 1 week ago Edited
Robin Fuller Replied to Gethin Thomas 3 months, 1 week ago

I suggest that you you go to the garden centre in winter when you can see what offers good winter foliage and flowers. Or check out winter gardens in local parks.

3 months, 1 week ago Edited
Gethin Thomas Replied to Robin Fuller 3 months, 1 week ago

Good idea.

3 months, 1 week ago Edited
Benny Law 3 months, 1 week ago

Wow, all that excitement just in your backyard! You're a lucky man. Very enjoyable and delightful post.

3 months, 1 week ago Edited
Robin Fuller Replied to Benny Law 3 months, 1 week ago

We are lucky but we garden for wildlife which is something many people could do. I recommend it.

3 months, 1 week ago Edited
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