Winter Delights

Now that the country is in lock-down again because of the Coronavirus, many people are walking more, and this is certainly true of my husband, Bryan and myself. We like walking anyway, and our idea of a good day out is often a lengthy walk, followed by a pub lunch. Sadly, that isn’t possible at the moment, and in trying to do our bit, we are only undertaking walks that do not involve driving to them. Fortunately for us, we live in a lovely village with plenty of options for different walks.

On our recent walks, even through the very cold weather that we had in early January, it was surprising how many flowers were already visible in the hedgerows. I thought it would be interesting to see how many I could find and so, armed with my mobile phone, I scrutinised the hedges as we walked.

The first flower I came across was this pretty blue periwinkle. It was growing along a bank near the primary school I attended many decades ago. These flowers seem to grow in profusion on the poorest of soil, and yet I struggle to get them to grow in my garden. I put this picture on Facebook and joked that I would write a blog about all the wild flowers I could find. Several people seemed to think this was a good idea so here we are.

Now you can argue that this is not a flower, and of course it isn’t. Nevertheless, it brightened up the hedgerow where it was growing. It is, of course, holly and still with berries on, although the birds have eaten most of them.

This is not a particularly good photo, but I’m sure most people will recognise these are catkins on a hazel tree. Catkins have been around for a few weeks now, and always appear early in the year. A couple of years ago I attended some floral art classes, and one of the arrangements we were asked to make used catkins, daffodils and tulips. I was very pleased with my attempt and placed it proudly on my fireplace. However, within hours I had the most terrible hayfever (which I do not normally suffer from), so be warned if you take them indoors, particularly if they are heavy with pollen.

Most people will recognise this little yellow flower as a celandine. It is sometimes confused with a buttercup, and it does come from the same family. It has dark green, heart shaped leaves, and bright yellow shiny petals. It is difficult to get rid of if it finds its way into your garden.

We’ve had a picture of some holly, so I thought I would include some ivy, though we have left Christmas behind now. This plant can be a real nuisance on buildings and fences, but I find it useful as cheap greenery in flower arrangements because it’s evergreen and always available. It lasts well, although the berries tend to drop after a few days. It’s also handy for putting in hanging baskets and tubs.

This is pussy willow, which also makes a lovely accompaniment for spring flowers, either in a vase or a floral display. This is in tight bud, but in time the catkins will open out and look attractive dusted with yellow pollen.

This is gorse or furze, a very prickly plant. It often grows on wasteland and is prone to catching fire in the summer when the leaves are very dry. It looks beautiful on the moors.

These are wild rose hips from the dog rose. They are more abundant in the Autumn, but still make a pleasant splash of colour in the hedgerows in early January. I remember when I was at primary school, several of the boys in the class found themselves in trouble when they split the berries in half and pushed them down the necks of the girls’ jumpers!

Here’s a flower that everyone will know. A golden daffodil. Wild daffodils are much smaller than the cultivated ones, but still lovely. They make a lovely inexpensive display and last for days. It looks like this one will be soon be surrounded by celandines, or buttercups.

I suspect this one does not qualify as a wild plant as it was in the hedge of a house. I think it’s called a snowberry – or at least that’s what I’ve always known it as. Makes a change from all the red berries.

Last, but not least, one of my favourites, the snowdrop. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, they always appear early in the year, and seem unaffected by frost.

For centuries they were known as “Fair Maids of February” or “Candlemass Bells” which I think are lovely names.

These were growing in a hedge, but I have several clumps in my garden. I’ve always found they don’t grow well from dry bulbs. It’s better to buy them later in the Spring, and plant them “in the green” when the flowers are dying off. Just plant them singly, and allow them to die back, and they will spread naturally.

I hope you have enjoyed my little round up of the flowers and berries nature has to offer in January. These are difficult times we are living in, but there is something heartening in seeing the first flowers of the year, bravely putting in an appearance.


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