Astronomical Spring

It was astronomical spring, the vernal equinox, on 20th March 2018. For a brief period it did start to seem spring-like once the Beast from the East had left us, although being the UK obviously it rained. photo of cherry plum blossom and blue sky

The cherry plum buds blossomed.photo of pink cherry plum blossom

One of the local crows decided they were a tasty snack.Photo of crow eating cherry blossoms

The daffodils bounced back.Photo of yellow daffodils with rain drops

The primroses have mostly been eaten, I think by slugs, but I managed to snap one.Photo of yellow primrose with rain drops

The sunshine and the mahonia blossoms brought out the bees. There was a large buff-tailed queen bumblebee but she was too busy to pose for photos. The male hairy footed flower bee was more accommodating. Check out those hairy feet!Photo of hairy footed flower bee

I was very happy to see that he was joined by a female. She has black hairs and doesn’t have the fancy moustache. She also moves too fast for my camera!photo of female hairy footed flower bee

There was also a honey bee.Photo of honey bee on mahonia

And then with two days of winter left to go, the Mini Beast from the East arrived. Can you spot the two robins? One is sitting in the apple tree, the other is on the ground.Photo of apple tree in the snow

Extra sultana rations were provided for the blackbirds. The snow didn’t last long enough to bring the fieldfares back.

The poor hedgehog was too hungry to hibernate again and left some interesting tracks in the snow between the hoghouse and the feeding station. They walk low to the ground so their skirt of prickles ploughs the snow up either side of their footprints.

Meteorological Spring

Meteorological spring commenced 1st March (astronomical spring didn’t start until 20th March). Indeed at the beginning of March the garden had been showing signs of spring. The crocuses opened out to reveal prodigious amounts of pollen for any passing early bumblebee queens.Photo of crocus flower

After weeks of watching the snowdrops sullenly hanging their heads …Photo of snowdrops

… they did this, revealing their green stripey undergarments.

The quince was looking blousey and fabulous as usual.Photo of quince flowers

Even the cherry plum blossom was budding.Photo of cherry plum blossom buds

Then this happened: Dubbed the Beast from the East, a wintry blast of cold air from Siberia brought 27cm of snow to Hereford.Photo of ruler in snow

The snowdrops’ new found confidence was cruelly squished.Photo of snowdrops squashed by snow

The quince managed to keep looking sassy though.

The hedgehogs that had just woken from hibernation decided to go back to bed, which was just as well as they would have needed a mini digger to get into their feeding station.

The mouse managed to tunnel out.Photo of mouse hole in snow

The garden did have a bleak beauty to it though.

We worked around the clock to keep the water from freezing and to put out extra rations for the birds. Mostly blackbirds.

A couple of robins.

Blackcap.Black cap drinking

Chaffinch.

Long tailed tits.

Wren playing hide and seek as usual.wren in foliage

The snow brought a new visitor to the garden, a fieldfare, Turdus pilaris.  They belong to the thrush family and are usually found in social flocks in the countryside. They frequent hedgerows feeding on berries and insects. Most of the fieldfares seen in the UK migrate here from Scandinavia during the winter.fieldfare in the snow

Later around four fieldfares turned up, bullying the blackbirds for a share of the apples. As soon as the snow left, so did they.

Marching Towards Spring

Only one more week until astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s see what is blooming; the cherry plum blossom is still clinging to the trees.

The cream primroses have been joined by purple ones.

The lilac buds progress.Photo of lilac buds

The dwarf narcissi in pots are flowering.

However, the big daffodils in the garden are still thinking about it.Photo of daffodil buds

The yellow crocus has outlived its purple cousins. It has also avoided being eaten by sparrows, I have been informed that they have a penchant for yellow petals.Photo of yellow crocus

The forsythia gets ever more yellow.

The quince is going strong.Photo of bee house with quince and flower pots

Newcomers include grape hyacinths.Photo of grape hyacinth

Dog violets.

The flowering currant.

Red dead-nettle.Photo of red dead-nettle

For those of you who remember the pinnacle of my gardening prowess, the alpine trough, here it is.

Prickly Visitor

I encountered a prickly pal whilst patrolling the grounds. Photo of shy hedgehog

There are at least three regular hedgehog visitors (or maybe even residents). However, this one seemed smaller than the others, perhaps it is a visiting female. She was also more shy than the regulars, she started to “ball up”, making it look as though she was frowning. The regulars generally just scowl at me until I leave. Sadly hedgehogs are dramatically declining in the UK; here are some tips to help get your garden hedgehog friendly this spring at the Hedgehog Street Website.

First Day of Spring

Today was the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Time to get the lawn mower out!Photo of lawn mower

In the UK, most people like the lawns in their gardens to be neat, green and short. There is a lot of pressure to keep your garden tidy so as not to bring down the neighbourhood. I understand that there are some places in the USA where people can get into trouble with the authorities for not keeping their gardens tidy! Then there are the nature lovers, especially bee fans, who say we shouldn’t mow at all.

It is fair to say that Rambling Ratz and Granny Ratz are on opposite sides of the argument. However, Granny Ratz owns the lawns, so a compromise is reached. The lawns are mowed once a week at the height of grass growing season and once a fortnight otherwise. The cutters are set high, this means straggly long grass is cut, but the clover flowers (once blooming) are left untouched. I also mow as late into the evening as possible when most of the bees are heading home.  The one good thing about keeping the grass relatively short is that the blackbirds are able to hop through it to catch their meals.

Once the chores are done with, it is time to actually enjoy the garden on this spring day. The primroses just keep on going.Photo of primroses

Our solitary daffodil is still standing proud.Photo of daffodil

A plane’s vapour trail looks like a zip opening up in the sky.Photo of plane's vapour trail in sky

A bright golden sunset.

I saw two robins sitting side by side on a branch, but by the time I had fetched the camera that I had only just put away, there was but one.

Spring Tree Blossom

It is that time of the year when the grey British landscape suddenly turns into an oriental brush painting; a silk screen of delicate pink and white blossom shimmering against blue skies. It won’t last!photo of cherry plum blossom

Thursday 20th March 2014 marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. During an equinox the Earth’s tilt relative to the sun is zero and the length of day and night is approximately equal. This auspicious event is marked in various ways. For Christians, the date of Easter is set as the first Sunday after a full moon following the vernal equinox. Boatyard workers in Annapolis, Maryland hold a “Burning of the Socks” festival which speaks for itself, feet are not graced by socks until the autumn equinox. It is also marked by World Storytelling Day. photo of cherry plum blossom

As spring represents new life, pagans throughout the centuries have celebrated various gods and goddesses such as the Green Man, Aphrodite and Ostara who represent fertility. Ostara, sometimes known as Eostre, is an Anglo Saxon deity worshipped throughout Scandinavia, the Germanic countries and Britain, as you may have guessed it is where Easter gets its name from and explains the association with eggs. She is alluded to in writings by Bede and Jacob Grimm and now has an asteroid named after her.photo of cherry plum blossom

The garden is currently pinkified by the blossoms on two trees. Thanks to the efforts of my friends on Twitter I think they may be prunus cerasifera nigra, from the family rosaceae. They are also known as black leaved cherry plums. I was a little confused as to what they were as they never produce any fruit. They do however give a splendid display of pink blossoms and have beautiful copper coloured leaves which darken to purple. For the landscape architects out there here is a link to more information.photo of cherry plum blossom

Plums are related to cherries, peaches and almonds; they are thought to be one of the first fruits cultivated by humans. Being one of the first trees to produce blossom it is an important food source for bees and if you have one that produces fruit, then that would make the birds very happy. If you wish to deprive the birds of a feast I have tracked down some recipes for jam; here and here.photo of cherry plum blossom

The colour of the leaves, as with copper beeches, is caused by the presence of large amounts of pigmented anthocyanins which mask the green chlorophyll colour. In 1878 a French gardener with the unlikely name of Monsieur Pissard was impressed by the Shah of Persia’s (Iran) purple plums and introduced them to Europe.

I shall leave you with a haiku penned by the 17th century master of the art, Matsuo Basho:

Spring air —
Woven moon
And plum scent.