Arum italicum 'Pictum' leaf, December 2005

Above: Leaf of Arum italicum 'Pictum'.

Garden diary: November

1 December 2002

A late start today, after a much-needed lie-in. When I finally emerged it was almost midday, and garden birds appeared to be queuing up for the food they usually receive much earlier. I should emphasise, for anyone who's worried that this caused the birds any anxiety, that there are fallen apples all over the place for them to eat, nuts and thistle seed in feeders, and loads of stuff on the floor that's fallen out of the feeders. Still, some of them seem to wait for me to add to the general food supply with porridge oats and sunflower seeds scattered on the bird table.

The collared dove appeared in the branches of the apple tree, but flew away as soon as I went out there. I still sometimes miss "Colin", the tame dove, who used to eat from my hand. I guess I didn't realise that his behaviour was so unusual, until I realised that the other dove won't allow me to get within a couple of metres.

Once the food was out there, and I'd retreated back into the warmth, the garden filled up with sparrows, blackbirds, dunnocks, goldfinches, a robin and a pigeon. One pigeon is fine - I just hope he/she doesn't start bringing loads of mates along. A sad sight recently was a pigeon that was eating from the bird table and then just stayed there, looking a bit lethargic and generally unwell. It disappeared later, and I haven't seen it since.

I had to intervene once before in a similar situation, and take a sickly pigeon to be put out of its misery at the vets. (This wasn't an easy experience - pigeons are hardy and intelligent creatures and hang on to life even when they're in a real mess. For this they deserve more respect than they get.)

The garden hasn't changed much during the last few weeks. The ground is sodden from the rain, and everything seems to have shrunk back for the winter. A few plants hold their "architectural" shape, including the Crocosmia "Lucifer", whose browning sword-like leaves and intricate seedheads still stand above the other plants. As does the bronze fennel, its seedheads almost totally disintegrated now, but the stems that held them still a fragile branched shape next to the crocosmia.

The garden looks small now. At this time of the year it shrinks into itself. The walls of the garden become visible now there is less foliage to hide them. With the leaves gone from the trees, the houses around are visible. Still, at this point in the year, the garden's main purpose is to be a haven for the birds.

31 December 2002

Highlights of the gardening year? In gardening, they happen almost every day, of course. Every day there's something growing and developing out there, even on the days when it looks most dormant. Things I remember most about the garden in 2002 . . . Sitting in the garden reading on a hot summer's day, under the tree full of ripening Morello cherries. Starlings going for the Morello cherries and enthusiastically dropping bits of ripe squidgy cherry on my head . . . Finding two frogs in the mini-pond, later two frogs under a stone together, sheltering from the summer heat. Building a new pond. In autumn 2002, finding five frogs emerging from the pond at dusk . . . Frozen apples on the tree last winter, eaten by blackbirds and a visiting blackcap . . . Rosie, our newly-adopted cat, and Spike, our 13 year old cat, chasing each other around the garden . . . Goldfinches visiting most days, eating thistle seed from the feeder and calling loudly from the branches of the cherry tree . . . My Iris foetidissima flowering for the first time, quietly in Woodland Corner, and its berries that lit up the autumn garden . . . The first rose . . . The swifts in the sky above the garden, more important than ever this year, as they remind me of a very special person who is no longer with us and is very much missed in this house as the year draws to a close.

Back to December highlights and diaries


Sarcococca berries

Above: Berries of sarcococca, December 2005

Garden diary: January