I walked to and from town last week and on the return journey I was very surprised to see a Goldcrest in the bushes by the side of the road. It was probably a female as males have a more orange crest. This is the UK’s smallest bird and although not actually rare, in fact the native population is boosted in the winter months by birds from the continent, it is more often found in coniferous woodland than beside the busiest road in town. She was busy searching for small spiders and insects among the bare branches. This sighting really made my day and I wish I had managed to take better photos with my phone.
There wasn’t a huge variety of plants at the garden centre we visited last week (still a bit early) but I was struck by these Acacia. They were in large pots presumably ready to be planted but I suspect they would have survived only one of the last five winters even here in Southern England.
They also got me thinking about names. The English call these plants Mimosa despite the fact that this is a totally separate genus. We call Philadelphus (Mock Orange) by the name Syringa even though this is more correctly lilacs. We also muddle up heather and heath with most heathland round here more correctly heatherland and all the heather in local gardens more correctly heaths. I am sure there are many more examples.
I do like our capacity to invent evocative common names for native plants though. Possibly my favourite is Hieracium aurantiacum which I think is called Foxes And Cubs down South and the marvellous Grim The Collier up North. I must admit I also have a soft spot for the Animated Oat! (Avena sterilis).
My wife and I went for the long walk to our local garden centre on Tuesday of last week. The weather was sunny and so mild I never needed my hat (a big thing considering my paucity of hair!), wore flip flops instead of shoes and my coat was more of a hindrance than a necessity.
This week it has been bitterly cold with an extremely strong flesh searing East wind and snow – thankfully, unlike many parts of Southern England, it didn’t settle here. It is supposed to get milder over the weekend and then cold again next week! Ouch!!
As a happy reminder of last week’s pleasant day here are a handful of photographs I took (with my mobile phone and the flowers are a bit out of focus – sorry about that!).
I took this photo moments before the image of cornfield poppies in my previous post. It is called Windmill Hill. I have always assumed that the ring of trees on the mound at the top indicate the place where the actual windmill stood but I have never delved into the history of the place. It is patently long gone.
One of the botanical groups I used to belong to when living in Wiltshire organised several field trips to the site but sadly I never attended. The flora is apparently quite interesting.
For those familiar with my landscape paintings I have portrayed Windmill Hill a number of times (albeit in a modern art idiom) but always from the Collingbourne Road on the other side. I have also painted the hill on the opposite side of the valley (Sidbury Hill) which has an iron age hill fort on top. I have managed to attend field trips on this latter site (including a none too successful one listening to nightingales – or not listening to nightingales as it turned out!) plus worked there on many occasions clearing scrub. It is extremely evocative as you stand on the crest waiting for the bonfires to burn down and watching the dusk descend across the plain below.
Anyway that is enough of that; hopefully there will be a horticultural post next time!
This is an unusual sight theses days: a corn field full of poppies! I photographed this last month from the upper deck of a moving bus at Perham Down between Tidworth and Ludgershall in Wiltshire.
Apologies for not posting during the summer months (I had planned to). Pressure of work meant I had to prioritise my art and writing blogs as these relate to my career. I have been gardening – although not as much as I should have – and I will take some photographs and share some horticultural experiences shortly.
Also, the wildlife conservation season begins again soon.