Garden Views-11-November 2019

November began grey, mild and damp with light drizzle, a familiar scene here at this time of the year. Several days saw even heavier rain, yet autumnal leaf colour changes so quickly that even wet grey days merit walks with the camera to try to capture the speed of change.

Having escaped any hard frosts earlier on in autumn, colours still looked fantastic, but everything was brought to an abrupt end with a hard frost on the night of Friday November 8th. Although rain had followed on by dawn, so there was no white icy coating on plants, the damage had already been done.A couple of days later and Dahlias, and Hydrangeas were losing all colours, and most tree leaves were off.

However with perfect timing the first snowdrops were popping up to take up the garden baton, and for once G. reginae-olgae “Cambridge”…was pipped by G. reginae-olgae “Tilebarn Jamie”. This was planted so long ago, I’d given up expecting it would ever flower. Apparently it was bought in 2013, and is planted in a tyre beneath Helianthus “Lemon Queen”, so has probably has had a bit of a battle, but that’s a long time to wait for a single insignificant flower, albeit a very early one! I notice on googling this snowdrop, that one site lists it as “rarely offered”. I wonder why?

Waxcap mushrooms and Earthtongues continued to appear both in the meadows and croquet lawn throughout the early part of the month, in what has been the best season I can recall for them.

The early wintry feel to the weather this November was compounded by the earliest significant snowfall which began in the early evening of the 13th. By morning we had an already melting, but over 2 inches deep, snow cover. 

Most of it melted within 24 hours, but gradually we spotted a significant amount of damage to trees and shrubs which with leaves still on, little wind and heavy wet snow suffered multiple snapped limbs.

The temperatures gradually rose again to give a milder feel towards the end of the month, but this was associated with a return to very grey gloomy days, and a return to rain on most days.

Without any Cyclamen coum or more snowdrops to enliven the scene, our spirits were raised with physical exercise – either bike rides in those fleeting drier interludes, or more often a return to ditching.

It’s now four years since we had a major session clearing all the ditches in our lower wet meadows, and the meadows here still look so much better than they were when we began our rush clearance back in 2013, but inevitably ditches gradually silt up.

In fact the upper body exercise of a session of ditch clearing seems a perfect complement to the lower limb work out of some hill climbing on the bikes.

Even as we headed towards December and finally allowed the sheep back into the upper hay meadow to aftermath graze, just before the snow fell, there were still more waxcaps appearing. In particular a colony of more than a hundred Hygrocybe coccinea (probably) on the middle section of the South facing slope where the top soil was scraped away just after we acquired the property to fill in a zigzag track across this field.

Just after the snow had melted, I had a short session adding extra insulation around and beneath the 2 surviving bee hives. This is how they looked after I’d finished.

With my minimal interventionist approach, and no honey removal or feeding of these 2 colonies, it’ll be interesting to see whether they survive the winter. I also came the closest I’ve come to being stung all year (though wasn’t) when a bee from the butter churn hive, exited from the hive onto the flight board, paused, took off, and immediately decided to buzz and chase me for twenty yards or so.This in spite of a temperature of just 5 degrees C and a modest Northerly wind on a grey day. There’s clearly an active population here still, though sometimes bees will apparently become more aggressive if the queen has died. if this is the case at this time of the year, the colony has no chance of surviving the winter. time will tell.

November finished with a couple of dry and sunny days and a return to slight frosts. The rainfall total for the whole month was once again the heaviest of the year at 248.6 mm, and light levels recorded by the PV confirm it was one of the gloomiest Novembers I’ve recorded here, though somewhat lighter than the very dim 2015, which only recorded 73.43 KWH. It’s always a relief to see the end of this month!