Feathered nomads: Robins will only stick around your garden in winter if there is food around - The birds will natural move on to greener pastures if no food source is handy Picture: Pixabay
THE cold and damp season of winter is not considered a great time for flowers. But if you take the time to head outside and look it is surprising at how many different species of flowers can be found in gardens, along the hedgerows and side roads.
On a cold but dry afternoon we took a slow walk to see how many different species we could find in flower. Flowers both in garden and the countryside were included and we started our search along the sheltered base of the conifer hedgerow. This yielded the leaves of primroses but there was no flowers so we could not include them.
We left the hedge to the singing robins and took the steps up to the local pub. Here we found heather in bloom and there was various shades of whites and pinks. On a mild February day you can sometimes be very lucky and find a newly emerged queen bumblebee foraging for pollen and nectar on the heather.
The pub garden has a lovely selection of shrubs and winter viburnum was in flower. This has clusters of small pinky white flowers that brighten up any winter days. It is very easy to propagate from cuttings and they make a lovely gift at any time of the year for your gardening friends.
In the gaps between the steps we found our first wildflowers. Groundsel is an ephemeral plant and this means that it can bloom during any month of the year. It is usually found on disturbed ground and especially on the vegetable patch. The fluffy white seeds (same family as the dandelion) are an important food for small birds.
Nearby we found common field speedwell whose bluish flowers are held on long stems. The leaves are opposite and hairy and when the stems touch the ground it roots to start a new plant.
We crossed the car park and were greeted by a beautiful purple aster. It was growing on a bed made on top of a gate pillar. Its flower is star shaped and the petals are quite angular.
Birds were also active and the song thrush has been busy singing for the; last few days. He was perched near the top of a tall tree and this meant that his song could be heard all along the valley. Just like we use architecture to enhance sound, for example in a church perhaps birds use natural features like the valley to give their song more resonance and strength. This is more attractive to females and other males are wary of its vitality.
We took the first side road as it was not too steep. We carefully edged our way under some live wire and into an area that had been dug from the hill by the farmer. This was been used to store his baled silage but there was also a few flowering plants like ragwort and sow thistle.
On the way back we tried to identify a hawkbits and these are very tricky to get down to a definite species. This one had a rosette of hairy leaves and the stems were little branched. The flowers were yellow and medium sized.
We popped into see the community polytunnel and make a plan around the coming season. The first job is to replenish the soil with some really well rotted manure.
In the outside bed borage and cosmos were still flowering and thrive on a little bit of neglect. Back in the village the yellow flowers of Mahonia were out along the edge of the woodland.
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