Garden Views-12-December 2020

What a start for December 2020! The most glorious of evolving sunrises, right up there with the best ever. And this after the full moon of November 30th was dipping behind the trees lining our upper hay meadow just before dawn began to break.  Much to my surprise the very first Daphne bholua “Jacqueline Postill” flower also opened on the first.

I continued to spend much time early in the month continuing with general defuzzing work, and also lifting, splitting and replanting large clumps of Lilium speciosum album in the copse. I’ve been unable to pollinate them – perhaps they’re sterile, or maybe they just flower too late in the year for seed pods to form in our climate. But having bought our initial stock many years ago, they now seem unobtainable. A fellow gardener told me the cultivar was virus infected, but they seem to perform really well here, and the bulbs were enormous and required great effort pulling them apart.

After the glorious start to the month, the weather turned grey, wet, and temperatures dropped sufficiently for us to get our first sleety snow on the third. Even before winter’s flowers really get going, a walk around the garden under grey skies looks as good as it ever has, at this time of the year, as the wonderful views out to the surrounding landscape become more obvious with all leaves no off.

Without much advance warning, a sudden drop in temperature overnight on Saturday 5th resulted in a wonderful frost covered scene, a lovely ice spike outside the back door, and an ice beard outside the front door.

There was a morning of activity the day before, as Fiona and I set to install a new sculpture of my poem Dream Leaper – written and produced in double quick time of less than a month from me spotting for the first time a salmon in our stream in early November. It’s already proving to be better than expected, with changing effects depending on the light conditions.

We were blessed with a couple more lovely sunrises, but most days had some rainfall as we headed into the middle of the month.

By the middle of the month, we had over a dozen snowdrop cultivars beginning to open, and I was delighted to see significant honeybee foraging from the colony closest to them on the morning of December 11th, in spite of a day with no sunshine, frequent showers, and often poor light. At least there was no wind and temperatures reached about 9 degrees C. For the first time ever in December, some of these bees visited snowdrop flowers – a good omen for snowdrop pollination this season, should we enjoy a few more days of benign bee flying conditions.

From December 8th until Christmas Eve, we had no dry 24 hour periods, with a total of 255 mm of rain falling, and very little bright light as the PV readout shows. Everywhere was saturated.

There was an occasional sharp frost, which produced both a lovely ice spike and ice beard, and on these mornings some gorgeous sunrises, as we always get at this time of the year. Though typically these usually herald when rain is about to arrive shortly afterwards.

A 5 minute break in the clouds around sunset on December 20th allowed us a fleeting glimpse of the very rare close planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, last visible just before dawn on March 4th 1226 ! (Jupiter’s 4 moons are even visible in the second photo).

After a dramatic bright orange red planet (Mars) on the skyline to the South before dawn on Christmas Eve,

at last we had a better day, which ended with us listening to the Festival of nine lessons and carols from King’s College Cambridge in The Hut, with a warming cuppa, if not sun streaming in, as the valley and hills to the east were bathed in golden light.

A lone seagull, pigeons and then goshawk made close fly-bys.

Christmas day was a little less dramatic, but still dawned dry, bright and dramatic.

At 3 pm, the Queen’s Christmas message was pitch perfect for the nation’s needs, this Covid 19 afflicted year. A record number (39) snowdrop cultivars had already “dropped”  first flowers by the 25th, and the Daphne bholua had hundreds of flowers already open – again ahead of most years, so an exceptionally mild, if very dull, December. 

By Boxing day, the weather was back to mild, grey and wet, as Storm Bella began to build in the afternoon.

The year ended with yet another dramatic sunrise on the 31st, over a foggy and frosted garden, before about 6 cms of snow fell, covering all the early flowers, and bringing this most challenging of years to a quiet and pristine close. The rainfall total for the month of 346 mm, is a fairly high December total for us, but brings the annual figure to 2257.4 mm. This is now a new record for our highest total to date, since I’ve been recording rainfall, and this in spite of the exceptionally dry and sunny months of April and May, which together saw only 73.7 mm of rain fall.

The monthly PV total of just 40.24 KWH shows just how typically gloomy the month was, in light terms.

Yet the annual generated total of 3500 KWH was the highest we’ve ever achieved in our 10 years of running the system, (in spite of the gradually reducing maximum wattage ever achieved) an inevitable consequence of the gradually aging system. The graph also confirms the year’s story of the fabulous spring, with a steady decline thereafter, apart from a brief respite in mid September – not at all the typical bell shaped curve one normally sees.

We therefore match the UK weather data for 2021, with both the wettest and sunniest year since we’ve monitored such things.