David Beeson, mid-November 2021
With three frosts throwing their silvery whiteness over our garden many of the plants have closed down for the winter. Probably these types are more southerly in their origins, yet many blooms are still attracting the honey and bumblebees, as well as the remaining wasps.
While the light-absorbing pigments in chlorophyll work regardless of the temperature they need enzymes to move the grabbed energy into carbohydrates in the Calvin Cycle … and enzymes are temperature sensitive. As a result, photosynthesis shuts down to a lower level. Not off, just lower. Less food results in a lower metabolism and fewer flowers.
Soils retain their heat better than the air, so roots can remain active despite falling temperatures. However, below about 4 degree Celsius most soil water capture shuts down, but that is some way off yet.
So, our sturdier plants are throwing a splattering of flowers. And, together with the variegated and coloured leaves and stems the garden remains attractive.
We have two species of viburnum currently in flower: tinus and fragrans. Last year the dormice were eating these blooms, and their droppings turned white. The sweetness of the flowers’ scent suggests a good flow of nectar, and that could be why the flowers are consumed. It also suggests why our dormice remain active when it is said that their woodland cousins have moved into hibernation.
In the garden the meadows are now 90% cut, the remaining section being left for the short-tailed voles. Their neighbours, slow worms, have now moved into underground hibernation and have not been spotted for several weeks.
Deep black compost is being transferred onto selected flower beds to increase the humus level, and in spring it will break down to fertilize the plants. We use minimal chemical fertilizers, and would avoid it now as it will not be absorbed but merely washed into the water table.
Our patch of land feels strangely devoid of birds. The seed feeders are attracting a handful of goldfinches and tits, yet not in the numbers expected. Winter migrants, if around, are elsewhere and even the tawny owls are quiet. A species I’m pleased to not see is the pheasant. This introduced bird I consider an ecological pollutant. The ‘sporting’ (I.e., killing) estate adjacent has not released any locally, but have in other locations. I looked to see if I could demand the government stop local pheasant releases, yet this is only possible if Harewood is a SSSI. Surprisingly it is not, despite being an ancient deciduous woodland.
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