January and February don’t usually find me in the garden, so it’s been fascinating to see plants stirring and stretching and, in some cases, in full bloom.
The Snowdrops are normally all but finished when I arrive back… just the pollinated seed heads as testament to flowering. So, an especial pleasure to have seen them at their best:
Standard Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). This clump which is happily increasing year on year was originally three or four bulbs from my mum and dad’s front garden.
These beautiful doubles (Galanthus flore pleno) are a less elegant plant from a distance as the flower head seems to be too heavy for its slender stem, so they look a little dumpy. But when you turn the flower over to look more closely…. what a beauty!
You really need to plant them up high so that you can get underneath to see them…
I’ve split the clumps now ‘in the green’ and spread them around to increase the beauty next year.
Iris reticulata flowered even before the Snowdrops… I’ve got these in pots. Another plant that needs/deserves to be seen at close quarters to really appreciate its beautiful markings and colours.
I don’t have as many Crocus as I’d like. I’ll be remedying that! But these large-flowered ‘Pickwick’ have been amazing.
Daffodils are flowering really well now; taking over when the Snowdrops tail off. I’ve planted a couple of hundred on the bank along the roadside. In Summer it’s very dry because of the Ash and Chestnut trees growing there, but in Spring, before the trees get going and with the Winter’s rain in the ground it really works for the Narcissi. I’ve planted mainly Tête-à-tête, but when they weren’t available I added in ‘Martinette’ which flowers later and also some wild daffodils that I collected from the Gorge and grew on in pots…
The other stars are the Narcissus ‘Jetfire’. Fantastic colour combination and such a cheerful, reliable presence every time I look out of the window.
Before these pictures become just a distant memory here’s a post about an amazing icy experience: freezing rain or ‘pluie verglaçante’.
Something I have perhaps seen in the Vosges mountains of Alsace many years ago, but would never have expected in Brittany.
Freezing rain is the name given to rain maintained at temperatures below freezing by the ambient air mass that causes freezing on contact with surfaces. Unlike a mixture of rain and snow, ice pellets, or sleet, freezing rain is made entirely of liquid droplets.
More simply, as the rain touched a surface, be it plant, plastic, metal or tarmac the whole became encased in a perfectly clear, beautiful layer of ice.
Apparently to form a snow crystal there needs to be a speck of something for the crystal/snowflake to form around, whereas freezing rain is absolutely ‘pure’ water…
On a beautiful, incredibly frosty morning with a pale pink sky that quickly turned powder blue and sun that shone from start to finish. There can have been no better day to have seen the Alignments and Megaliths of Carnac.
From October until the end of March the barriers are opened and you can wander willy nilly amongst the stones. Plus there are virtually no other people to spoil your photographs so you can try to make them as dramatic and moody as you like!
After so much mildness winter arrived a couple of weeks ago. A bit of a shock to the system as ‘Winter’ has meant wet, rather than super-cold for the past couple of years at least.
However, for the last week or so temperatures have been low. At first there was no accompanying sun which was starting to be a bit wearing, along with what seemed like a lot of rain… But this past week has seen low temperatures with sunshine. Beautiful sunrises, sunsets, hoar frosts and crisp dry days. Above all the quality of the light has been amazing. Clean and sparkling. A taste of ‘real’ Winter! Here are a few chilly but beautifully frosty pictures:
A little pot of frozen water… a little world within it!
Three visits, a week or so apart. Very different. The first in brilliant sunshine and unseasonably mild temperature. The second in greyness, drizzle and cold. The third, today, with mild weather returned but after quite a lot of rain.
The Gorge remains gorgeous.
Each time has given me a basketful of Tube Chanterelles.
Every time it’s given me feasts for my eyes and a feeling of ‘Wow. This place is special.’
Sometimes I feel I’m over-familiar with the route but, then something surprising will be thrown up that makes me see it afresh.
And despite me being no fan of wet, winter, rain and murk. Today – after a lot of the above, but nicely mild again, was another excellent visit.
Foaming water. Amazing lichens and mosses. Of course the mushrooms and an overwhelming ‘green-ness’ that the camera couldn’t capture.
November has been very mild so far. Whether it’s been rainy, windy, calm or sunny the accompanying air has been warm and soft.
Just one night of dipping temperatures at the end of October brought a slight frost which burnt the dahlias without blackening the stems or turning them to mush. So a few straggling flowers remain – but they look understandably tired now.
The freshness in the garden is provided by the blooms on Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Just outside the door the fragrance is subtle but delicious and the pale pink clusters are more numerous than last year. It’s an untidy looking shrub with not much interest outside it’s flowering season which is now.
I will try to prune it to give it a ‘better’ more compact shape but I’m not hopeful.
But now on to the ‘M’s of my title:
Maudez. So familiar but always good. Here, the ruined chapel and the path through the pines. Beautiful light. Fairly squelchy underfoot in places. Lots of gone over ‘Slippery Jack’ (Sullius bovinus) mushrooms, and a lovely harvest of Hedgehog fungus (Hydnum repandum.)
Mushrooms…. Not just the Hedgehog Fungus. I’ve had several pickings from a roadside patch of Snowy Waxcaps (Hygrocybe nivea).
This is a beautiful little tree. Five years old now? Not sure.
Its French colloquial name is ‘cul de chien’ or dog’s arse (the first photo will explain that!)
Best harvest ever. I’ve put them in a tray to ‘blet’ Basically that means you just leave them to get so ripe that they’re squidgy and almost rotting. That would put almost anyone off eating them. But they taste like baked apple without having to put them in the oven!
As the month reaches its end I find lots of positives.
Japanese Maples/Erables du Japan/Acer palmatum japonicum…
I wish I could say these are all growing in my garden, but I can’t! Most of the ones in my garden that I planted four years ago succumbed to some deadly lurgy, although I’ve still got three which are later to colour than the following.
These beauties are growing lustily in Michel’s garden. The last photo is a seedling from Michel. He’s also donated seeds… so, perhaps… one day….
A distinct lack of settled weather and sunshine, but that means I’m treasuring the short bursts of warmth and soaking up the rays when they manage to get through the clouds and damp.
A pleasing array of butterflies emerge every time the sun shines:
Red Admiral and Comma. Both typical, late season, butterflies. But in fewer numbers this autumn. I don’t know why?
Speckled Wood and Wall Brown. Both quite unremarkable at first glance, but such characterful, feisty – even pugnacious butterflies – I’ve got a soft spot for them both.
There’s not many birds that seem as stupid as a pheasant, unless it’s a Wood Pigeon! The pheasants whirr and clatter and squawk and seem to be unable to understand that they can escape from you by going sideways into a field (or even by flying away!) Instead they just keep running in front of me, getting ever more frantic!