When out walking in woodlands sometimes the light surprises and plays around on the trunks of the trees. Light plays with the shadows it creates and paints onto the bark of smooth skinned Beech trees. It deepens fissures with shadows too.
Welcome to the final monthly look inside my Garden Journal 2016, when we see what I entered in it during the month of December. Then it will be time to close the 2017 Garden Journal for now, but we share all the journals with our garden visitors on our open days so they regularly get a fresh airing.
“December, the month with the shortest days, the sun getting up late and retiring early. On sunny days the light emphasises the texture and colour on the bark of our trees, which have stark networks of branches looking skeletal and see-through.”
“The colours and textures of our snake-bark maple, Acer rufinerve, become much more visible in the low sunlight of December. Every branch is different. The texture roughens the lower down we look.”
My entries for December continue to consider the trees of our garden, “During our 13 years developing our patch at Avocet, we have continued to increase our selection of small trees. Having just a quarter acre of garden to play with and paint our pictures with plants, we have to choose trees carefully. We have to be careful of the shadows cast and the size and spread of the canopies. I thought it would be fun to list all the trees that now grace our garden from those we planted 13 years ago to tiny seed-grown specimens still in their pots. So I shall take a journey around the garden and find and list of our trees.
In addition to selecting trees for their growth habit we look for more than one season of interest. We linked interesting foliage shapes with good autumn colour, and interesting bark colour with texture. Many of our trees also afforded us the add interest of berries in many colours for us to enjoy in the late summer/autumn and birds to devour in the winter.”
Turning over the page we discover a group of 6 photographs I took in November with the intention of taking the same shots from the same places in December to see how things change.
“In November I took these 6 shots of places that looked good around the Avocet Garden. I have now taken them again from the same location to show how things change in a month.”
I thought it would be fun to look at the bark of lots of our trees, both their colours and textures, so took close up photos of sections of the tree trunks.
I wrote, “We are enjoying the varied texture and colour of the bark on our trees. The sun is at its lowest in the sky this month which emphasises the interesting aspects of bark.”
Prunus serrula Betula albosinensis Septentronalis Three Salix
Salix trifolia “Blue Streak”, Salix erythroflexuosa, Salix alba “Brizensis” (our own selection we call “Wendy’s Orange”)
I can now share some close up shots of the bark detail of some of our trees.
Oullins Gage Liquidamber Damson
Strawberry Tree Morello Cherry Cornelian Cherry
Crataegus i. splendens Quince Vranja Prunus Sub. autumnalis
I then took a look back at my December entries of my first ever garden journal and found the words, “Let’s have our look back at my December entry in my first ever garden journal. I wrote, “Visited David Austin Roses nursery to buy roses for obelisks and arches. We did this but also bought nine shrubs for winter colour plus an Arum italicum “Marmoratum” and two willow trees.” All of these plants are still going strong and playing important roles in our garden borders, with the exception of an acer, Acer pennsylvanica Ethrocadum, which sadly succumbed to “an overly strong rootstock and unobservant gardeners!”
Two other plants from our original batch of plantings back at the beginnings of the Avocet patch are looking particularly good now and are strong performers.
Mahonia “Winter Sun”,
and Pittosporum “Garnettii”
Over the next page we find my look at winter structure, where I wrote “December is the month that reveals the importance of structure in the garden. Teextures, light and shade, view points, invitation, archways, pathways, box balls, cloud pruning, entries and exits.”
I then included a set of five photos illustrating, as I wrote, “structures revealed as leaves fall and plants die back.”
We have taken a close look at our Agapanthus collection on occasion over the last few months in my journal and promised a final look in December, so here is “the return visit to our Agapanthus collection” which I have linked with a page of photos of our collection of Libertias sharing my pics of their “berries and seeds” and their “sword-like foliage.”
December is the month guaranteed to surprise! End of year surprises! Winter months do have a tendacy to throw up their special surprises, those flowers that pop up out of season to cheer us up with their colour that sparkles in the greyness of the depth of the season.
Inside the back cover of my now completely full garden journal, I have glued my tree list that readers can pull out to study if they wish.
In the tree list I wandered around the garden from front to back recording all the hardwood plants classified as trees rather than shrubs, making allowances for our particular methods of pruning some shrubs into small trees. I recorded their seasons of interest and their main points of interest or reasons for growing them in our garden.
The Avocet Tree List gave us a bit of an extra December surprise for when we added up the tree list to see how many trees we have planted here in our beautiful patch of land which is our garden at Avocet. The count revealed that we have planted exactly 50 trees during the last 13 years. That is a lot of tree for a quarter acre but every one is so special to us, like a big expanded woody family.
So that is my 2016 Garden Journal. I hope you have enjoyed sharing it with me. Next year I shall create another Garden Journal the format of which is still being worked on. I shall share it with you again.
Back with the second post sharing my 2016 Garden Journal, we will look at what it holds for February.
On the first page for the month I mention the changing light values that occurs during February.
“This is the month when light values really start to improve. We also get longer days when the weather allows. This change in light coupled with slowly rising temperatures encourages birds to change their songs and calls. The Great Tit is the master of calls with its huge repertoire. Luckily they are very frequent visitors to our garden. They are great entertainers! Their song in February is a “see-sawing ditty with mechanical overtones.” (Collins Bird Guide)
I added my gouache painting of a pair of Great Tits.
On the opposite page I carried on talking about our continued development of our greenhouse.
“Having completed the construction of our new heated propagation bench last month we then sorted out our pots, trays, pans and cells ready for the new sowing and growing season. We ensured we have plenty of labels as well as sowing compost and horticultural grit. Jude finished putting up insulation bubble wrap.”
From greenhouse gardening to pond gardening, my next page features two photos of Jude the Undergardener in her waders playing in our wildlife pond.
“Mid to late February is the time each year when our Common Frogs come to sing, mate and then leave balls of spawn in our wildlife pond. Thus early this month Jude donned her chest waders and cleaned up the pond. She removed Duckweed, Blanket Weed and fallen leaves, then thinned out the water plants.
We tidied up the narrow border that edges the pond, pulling a few hardy weeds and taking up seedlings of our Cornus “Midwinter Fire”. It was heartening to discover how workable our soil was, this being the result of a decade of improving it with the addition of our own garden compost and the regular mulching deeply with organic matter.”
I continued onto the next page discussing the welcome appearance of sunshine in the February.
“Sunshine is not often in evidence this February but when it does make an appearance its effects are magical. It highlights the peeling bark of our trees and directs a spotlight on blossom and glossy foliage.”
As I turn the page I see that I have written about cold temperatures and on the opposite page and on the following double page spread I share the amazing number of plants in flower on one day in February.
“A sudden overnight plunge in temperature can have drastic looking effects on our early flowering plants. The flowering stem of this Bergenia can be standing to attention during the day but cold at night can make it droop, with the flowers almost touching the cold soil”.
“The following day when the sun has driven away any frost and added a degree or two to the temperature, the Bergenia flower slowly rises again and returns to its former pink glory.”
February flowers are celebrated over the next three pages. I hope you enjoy sharing this selection of plants that keep us cheerful and the garden colourful.
These pictures certainly illustrate how colourful and interesting the garden can still be in the depths of winter. From flowers I moved on to foliage, as on my next double page spread I celebrate Phormiums and how important they are to the winter garden.
“Form, texture and foliage colours are so important in the garden in winter, so we are lucky to have discovered and planted Phormiums as they give us all three. They move beautifully too, swaying in the slightest breeze.”
For some of our Phormium I took a shot of the whole plant and then one of the top surface of their leaves and finally the final surface. Their two surfaces are usually very different.
“I love plants that hide some facet of their beauty from us”.
In the final pages of my February entries in my Garden Journal I wrote about coloured stems and look back at my first garden journal to see what I had put for my February entry. I discovered that I was writing about grass and grasses.
“It is in the dull times of February that we appreciate the brightly coloured stems of our Cornus, Salix and Acers. Once their leaves drop the colours, yellows, oranges and reds begin to intensify. I then shared a watercolour painting of a selection of these stems from our garden alongside a trio of photos.”
“Looking back at my original Garden Journal, I notice that I had commented “14th February and the grass gets its first cut. As the North wind died out the strength of the winter sun meant a good day could be had doing general maintenance work.” This year our grassed areas are wet and slimy and definitely too slippery to get a mower on. But the grass has continued to grow slowly so it is in need of its first cut. Meanwhile our ornamental grasses continue to delight.”
So that is it for another month. Next time we make a visit to my Garden Journal we will be in March and maybe we shall be seeing signs of spring.