What Sort of Winter Do You Call This?!

086                                                                                                                                          Well, here we are on 21 December, the first day of Winter and the shortest day of the year. Cathy is wrapping up the last few prezzies and I have been outside washing down the paths and tidying up. The weather has been unseasonably mild and I have actually been looking for jobs to do outside rather than sitting indoors. The weather pundits are predicting a long hard winter which will delay Spring and confuse the heck out of the garden again. But, already the bulbs think it is February! The weather guys might be right though because I have never seen the trees and shrubs so laden with fruit and berries, a sure sign of a hard winter to come…..or so the old wives tale goes.Sorbus hupehensis

The little Rowan tree, Sorbus hupehensis, is bent double under the weight of it’s luscious pinky white berries and the Blackbirds are perching precariously on the spindly young branches to get at them.

Sloes

The Blackthorn tree, Prunus spinosa, is covered in ribbons of juicy sloes, so heavy that the branches are likely to snap. Already, the road beneath is stained blue with the remains of squashed fruit and I am amazed the foragers and gin-makers have not discovered it.

Wormery

The wormery, which is normally asleep by now is still active and busily taking all our tea bags and veggie peelings to turn into next years ‘special’ addition to potting compost for the very best plants. It can’t last….something has to change soon to send the worms burying for cover deep in the lower trays.036

Even the fish still think it’s summer and expect to be fed twice a day! Get down and go to sleep I say! The pump is off and the food is packed away until next year!003

In fact everything is cleaned up, tidied up and packed away. The cold frame is empty and ready for a bit of essential maintenance to the lid, the cheap plastic ‘overflow’ greenhouse is full of pots and trays..all washed and cleaned. Where is the snow? I’m ready!Leaf composter

The compost bins are full to bursting with leaves and herbaceous shreddings and, apart from a few last minute weeding jobs, the autumn clean-up seem to be finished for a change.006

All the tulips are planted and the only thing remaining to go in the ground is a tray of Cyclamen hederifolium purchased, believe it or not, from our enterprising milkman who buys them in from Pershore College. Two pints of semi-skimmed and a tray of Cyclamen please!

I hope you all have a jolly good Christmas and a wonderful and productive New Year.

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The Pond

The pond has become a real source of pleasure to us and our friends. The sound of gently flowing water alongside the patio is restful and the fish and wildlife are a great time stealer and talking point. It adds another dimension to the garden and, although more difficult to get right than most people would think, there is nothing quite like it on a warm summers day. I love watching the Dragonflies and Damsel flies, the water boatmen and pond skaters.
This year the water lilies have covered the surface well keeping the algae and blanket weed down to a minimum, and the 3 water soldiers I put in last year have multiplied alarmingly; here must be 30 now and new ones appearing all the time. We also have a pretty vanilla scented Water Hawthorn with the impossible name of  Aponogeton distachyos, striped Acorus and Equisetum hyemale grasses, a Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, and a rather beautiful purple Japanese Iris.

It is commonly thought that Koi are both predatory and omnivorous, eating anything green and small fish and snails  as well. We have two Koi, 6 Shubunkins , 12 goldfish, 3 Orfe and 1 Golden Tench and although the Koi are voracious eaters, they only seem to eat the food we give them. They are also very tame, coming up and gliding through our hands if we gently tempt them with food sticks. Unfortunately, we don’t know the sex of our fish but for some reason, we think that the bigger golden Koi is male and the smaller white Koi is female. There is absolutely no logic to that other than size and appetite!

Earlier this year we spotted tiny black fish which have grown into large black and orange fish! At least we now know for sure we have some males and some females although at this stage it could just be the goldfish. We live in hope that the Koi breed as well provided our assumption is right and they are indeed a male and a female. The pond is certainly big enough at 5000 litres and 90cm deep to support more fish but we prefer to keep the oxygen levels up and the fish waste down!

Aponogeton distachyos – Water Hawthorn