Six on Saturday: frosted daffs, a blackbird and marcescence or the art of hanging on.

It’s just below freezing here in Frome, and for the first time in ages I popped out to get some garden snaps to share with the ‘Six on Saturday’ gang, as the frost hit the heuchera leaves in a rather lovely fashion.

A few tete-a-tete daffodils have put in an early appearance and got a bit frostbitten in the chill. But they are still a lovely little splash of colour.

There are a few pots on the back patio, which I can see from the kitchen window. This pretty pot from a local market had some gorgeous grasses that looked good right through the winter, but are very much finished now. Thankfully, the bulbs are emerging, I think these are more daffs, and they’re not far off flowering.

I’ve set up bird feeders by the windows, beacause it’s wonderful to watch the blackbirds while washing up…

I recently learned of marcescence – the fact that some leaves hold on to their leaves until spring, rather than drop them in autumn. Our tiny oak bonsai has clung on to its 9 little leaves all winter long. I feel a degree of empathy for its tenacity.

Apparently there could be a few advantages for the tree that keeps its leaves through the winter: the leaves can deter animals from browsing the tasty new buds, and the tree can drop its leaves in spring when it will most benefit from the mulch. Ain’t nature grand?

There is still a ridiculous amount to do in the garden. We’re still at the stage of repairing some fundamental things – like the retaining walls to manage the level changes, and getting the pathways and steps into good order before more exciting projects can get started. But that’s just fine, we have a wonderful garden to enjoy that’s full of wildlife, and has a few little corners that are quite enjoyable despite the work to be done all around!

So that, I think, is Six on Saturday, which I’ll share with the Propagator and garden bloggers all over the world in the ‘Six on Saturday’ ritual, of sharing garden highlights at the weekend. Take a look at the blog or search the hashtag on twitter to see more.

In other news, the ‘Wood For The Trees’ series that I’ve helped to make is really starting to gain an audience, and it’s been a professional highlight to be involved in putting this together. It’s presented by my boss, Tom Barnes, manager of Vastern Timber, and filmed & produced by my Shared Earth Learning co-op colleague, Charly Le Mar. It’s about Agroforestry. About 70% of UK land is farmland, and so it will be very hard to reach national tree planting targets unless we can incorporate forestry with agriculture. This film shows a farm in Frome that has created new woodland areas in less than 20 years, and looks at how treeplanting transformed the land.

It’s actually been good to be busy with work, although it’s cut down on my gardening and blogging time quite substantially. I’m doing a bit more stuff with Shared Earth Learning too, since I became voluntary director there last year I’ve been trying to help with business planning and funding applications more.

Overall, the consensus seems to be that Lockdown 3 is the worst lockdown so far, and although there’s some good news with the vaccine rollout, it looks like there won’t be a return to normality any time soon. I miss an awful lot of things from “the before times,” but mostly seeing friends and going out. I do enjoy the quiet as traffic and air traffic has reduced, and I like how the air seems cleaner. But I hear loads of people are determined to fly on holiday as soon as possible in “the after times” so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

For a little while, there was talk of how the global pandemic might lead to society changing its priorities. It looks like there’ll be more work from home and online shopping, perhaps a bit more community spirit. But I fear that once things do get back to normal, that extractive, polluting, short-term profit seeking will remain the day-to-day priority, the poor will get poorer as the rich get richer, more species will become extinct as more plastic and concrete are produced. I fear that more crap will be bought and litter will be dropped and pollution will get worse, and the icecaps will melt and in a few decades the land will be much less green and pleasant than it is now. I hope not.

I’m trying to act more thoughtfully, but I have been over reliant on supermarket deliveries and plastic packaging for almost a year now, and feel the need to start planning a different consumer strategy. But I think just clinging on will do for a bit longer. When the local market re-opens, I’ll be down there to get some locally grown vegetables in recyclable packaging. But at the moment the council staff have been diverted from running the market to managing the vaccination centre, and I’m staying home.

I hope you’re keeping well and warm, and looking forward to the joys of spring…

J x

4 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: frosted daffs, a blackbird and marcescence or the art of hanging on.

  1. I look forward to watching your video about agroforestry. As you say, human beings occupy so much of the available land that we have to learn to meet environmental goals on this land instead of relying exclusively on a few protected natural spaces.

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  2. Marcescence — what a great word! Works for all of us at the mo — the art of hanging on, a few of our leaves stubbornly clinging to our branches until we can sprout again … i identify with your bonsai oak … I watched the agroforestry video — i’ve a suspicion that quite a bit of agroforestry goes on in poor countries (or did until things like soya and palm oil took over and produced so much deforestation). Remembering a project i visited in Panama where they were mapping the community’s land to identify all the uses to which is was being put, or could be put — forestry, pasture, horticulture, maize & beans, rice, etc. But then, with borderline agriculture, micro-farmers make inroads into forests and cutting trees, often (but possibly not always) unsustainably. I think the idea of multiple land use is really encouraging.

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  3. Trees were some of the more important minor crops on our farms. We grew nursery stock. In the vineyards nearby, Italian cypress were added as nesting sites for the martins that chased off the other birds that might have otherwise eaten grapes. Sporadic mulberry trees grew around the orchards to distract birds from the more desirable fruit within.

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  4. Very thoughtful post – really enjoyed the film. What a wonderful thing to have been part of! I do hope that Brexit doesn’t lead to more food imports for Britain. Even in supermarkets in France I see quite an emphasis on locally produced food, paper packaging that can be recycled and at the beginning of year we had notice that every plastic container that food came in could now be recycled. I think there’s hope, but it takes pressure from people to make it happen …

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