January 2021 Week Three

Week three of the new year has been a pretty soggy affair. There was some flooding in Herefordshire, but not as severe as elsewhere, a dusting of snow and some frost and even some glimpses of sunshine. The squirrels are very pleased to have their own supply of nuts.squirrel on nut feeder

It must be pretty draughty for the birds and squirrels with the lack of leaves on the trees. The nekkid trees do look lissome in the blue light of dawn.Leafless trees in blue light

There are still a few winter berries to be found adding a splash of colour to the garden. Laurel berries are toxic to humans, but the birds don’t seem keen to eat them either.red berries against green laurel leaves

More popular, especially with the blackbirds, are the ivy berries.black ivy berries

Some unpruned rose hips.red rose hip

Some hips are bigger than others.orange rose hips

The lilac tree is starting to bud.Lilac tree bud

November Berries

Most of the berries around at this time of year are red. However, the ivy berries are green, turning purple. Poisonous to humans, they provide a great meal for a variety of birds including black birds and wood pigeons. Apparently they contain, gram for gram, as many calories as a Mars bar.Photo of ivy berries

Onto the red berries, most of which also provide winter nutrients for birds. The cotoneaster is putting on a colourful display with red leaves as well as red berries.

I think this might be a different sort of cotoneaster, the red berries are more obvious against the green leaves.Photo of red berries

A popular favourite around this time of year, the holly.Photo of holly berries

The birds have almost stripped the firethorn bush of its berries already.Photo of firethorn berries

For the bigger birds there are of course the rose hips.

November Garden Meander

I thought I would take a stroll around the garden first thing this morning to see what was going on in it at the start of November. After being thwarted by squirrels, wrens and a black cap, I managed to snap this blue tit as it darted onto the bird table for some seed.Photo of blue tit

If you want a dependable garden poser, the blackbirds are always obliging. Photo of blackbird

Mrs B. was having a scrat around for any insects lurking under the leaves.Photo of blackbird

Fungi are popping up everywhere.

As you might expect in autumn there are rose hips; different shapes, sizes and colours.

There are also rose flowers coming into bloom.

A Sniff of Autumn?

I must apologize (or are you relieved?) for being a little neglectful recently. Chaos has been reigning, more than usual, in the Ratz household and so I haven’t written any posts for a while, nor checked out my fellow bloggers as much as I should have done. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon.

Photo of blackbird

A Young Blackbird

Thanks to Hurricane Bertha, the UK was treated to the coldest August since 1993. The previous eight months had been warmer than average. Now we are in September and we have had quite a few mild and sunny days. I believe the blackbirds may have sneaked in a second brood.

A short bimble around the garden seems to indicate that Autumn is on the way.

The roses have given way to rose hips, you might like to revisit my post here.

The blackberries are also ripening nicely, along with the apples, they should make a nice crumble. I blathered about brambles in this post here.

Also the quince is ripening, if you wish to see the blossoms that produced this fruit, then take a look here


Well, this post will have to be like me, short and sweet. Take care gentle readers, until next time.

Roses are … all sorts of colours

The wet winter and warm sunny spring seem to have done wonders for the roses in the garden.photo yellow rose

These woody perennials come in many different shapes, sizes and colours and have been much cultivated by gardeners. The nasty sharp bits are apparently not thorns but prickles, as they are outgrowths; whereas thorns are modified stems.

The rose hips formed after the flowers die are rich in vitamin C. They are eaten by birds and the seeds distributed in their droppings. The vitamin C content has made rose hips popular in folk medicine and for making jams or brewing as a tea. The petals may also be eaten, usually as candied decorations. For you culinary enthusiasts there are some recipes on this blog here.photo of rose hips

The rose is a highly symbolic flower most often associated with love. It is also a recurrent symbol in Islamic Sufism and in Christianity. It has been the national flower of England since the reign of Henry VII. After the War of the Roses, Henry VII combined the red and white roses of the houses of York and Lancaster to form the Tudor Rose. For you history buffs there is more detail about the War of the Roses on this blog here.

Shakespeare, as we might expect, had a lot to say about roses, but we shall limit ourselves to the very pertinent point Juliet makes:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

It is the character not the name that is pleasing and poor Juliet does not understand why she cannot be with Romeo just because of his family name. Parental disapproval of a daughter’s love choices echoes throughout history. William Blake’s “The Sick Rose” uses the heavy symbolism of the rose to allow us a glimpse into his troubled views on love:photo of rose

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

photo of rose budsHeady stuff indeed! The rose often appears in poetry symbolizing the rough and the smooth aspects of love which may be budding, beautiful, fragrant or worm ridden, withering and thorny. It is, perhaps, the most iconic flower there is.

I shall leave you with a collection of photographs of the roses that have been gracing our garden, you will have to imagine the scents.

A November Garden Bimble

As the poet John Keats informs us, autumn is the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Very poetic I’m sure you will agree. I on the other hand just think it is too dark and chilly. I jest with you, of course I love autumn, the colours are just beautiful.photo of autumnal trees

So, what can we find by pootling around the garden in the early part of November? For one thing I am amazed that there are still so many leaves on the trees after the recent gales.

Like it’s owners, the garden has mostly gone to seed; the berries are bursting, the fungi is fun, the roses are hip and the leaves are feeding the worms.

Some confusion arises with the use of the word autumn, in the USA the term is fall. Fall is actually the original English term, from “fall of leaf”. During the 16th century this was shortened to fall. In the 18th century the term autumn, from the French word automne became trendy in England, but by then the English speaking USA was already well established and sticking with the word fall.

Dog Rose

At the end of June the blossoms of the Dog Rose were out. The flowers are seemingly popular with bumblebees.  This shrub is a wild climbing rose.photo of dog rose Some say that it is named due to its curative properties after being bitten by a mad dog. However it is more likely that it used to be called a Dag Rose because of its dagger-like thorns and has been wilfully mispronounced over the centuries.

Later in the year it will produce rose hips, a very useful source of food for birds. During World War II when Britain was struggling to import fresh fruit thanks to the Nazi submarine wolf packs, rose hips were gathered to make a syrup rich in vitamin C.  Apparently fairies eat them to make themselves invisible – this must be why you never see any fairies; obvious really. It is also known as Witch’s Briar: I don’t know exactly what witches did with them, just that it is something to do with, surprise surprise, love (beautiful flowers, painful thorns – very symbolic). So if there are any witches out there with more information the comments box is just itching to be used. Oh yes that reminds me; rose hip powder was also used to relieve itching. What a useful plant.