POT'S GROWING ON? 15/12/23
As we near the winter solstice on Friday 22 December, the shortest and darkest day of the year, I can feel my mind and body going into a shut down. I’m ready to reset for the new year and I can feel I need some kind of break before I do. 2023 has been full on, in lots of good ways, some challenging. Overall I feel I’ve taken on too much, saying yes to too many exciting things, as we all do. The wet summer didn’t help with making growing harder, with all the more pressure because the allotment is photographed every other month for Gardeners’ World Magazine. Out in the garden we’ve had a good blast of proper cold to start the season, with a couple of weeks of snow, frost and frozen ground.
I’ve had my eye on this purple jelly disc fungus, Ascocoryne sarcoides, growing on dead wood in the garden. It’s saprobic, which means it grows on decaying matter.
Pixie cup, one of my favourite lichens, could actually be one of a number of different species in a group called Cladonia. To tell them apart requires a bit more time studying their details using field guides, which I intend to do when I take some time off around the solstice.
This week I found this on the floor. A fallen piece of most likely oak moss lichen, Evernia prunastri, though it could be one of a number of other very similar looking lichens, such as shaggy strap lichen, Ramalina farinacea. They are all very sensitive to air pollution, proving we live in a good quality air zone. With the growth of renewable energy and electric cars, UK air quality will improve again.
Earlier in the year I was told that one newspaper article had questioned why I would write my book Wild about Weeds when wildflowers don’t flower as long as ornamental plants. Which is of course an incorrect claim, as Wild about Weeds explains in great detail! Many wildflowers flower for as long as any ornamental plant, sometimes even longer. Today I spotted ox eye daisies and achillea/yarrow still flowering even after the snow and ice; they’d started flowering in April or May.
I spent last weekend writing inside to avoid the torrential rain and by Monday my body was aching for some movement. I went on a walk through the woods and up to the moors where I was struck by the heavy run-off from the blanket bog above us. It’s channeled into the valley as fast as it can flow, right to where Hebden Bridge often floods. Something not quite right about that.
Our two new chickens are doing well, though one has learnt to fly up quite high and is using this skill to go on long walkabouts around the garden and meadows.
I love this time of year for the skeletal trees and misty moments. When everything is silhouetted. It’s easy to overlook these sorts of details in gardens, but I think it’s so important to create things to do, to get us outside in the winter months.
We’re getting lovely clear skies with lots of stars. The other night there were long streaks of cloud. Not quite the aurora but beautiful nonetheless.
This time last year my book A Greener Life: Discover the Joy of Mindful and Sustainable Gardening, was named The Times & Sunday Times Gardening Book of the Year. Right now it’s on sale for only £3.99 on Kindle!
I hope you are all able to wind down a bit on our way to the start of the new year on the winter solstice, and have some fun with friends too.