Derek – Friday 15th January 2021

The Garden is closed, and when it will open again is not in our power to say. I’d guess a few months yet, when most people have been vaccinated and the lockdown is relaxed. There’s no way round closure, it is just a pity as we do enjoy having visitors.

The days are cold and short, though slowly lengthening. By the end of the month, we will be much more aware that we are climbing out of the darkness and heading for the spring equinox in March. It has been very wet and all our barrels are full. But when it’s very wet, you don’t need water. Now we have a tap, courtesy of Gateway Housing Association, our neighbours, we feel like water millionaires. Whether we’ll keep the tap when the site is completed, we don’t know.

As they say, you can predict the past but not the future.

There are few flowers this time of year. I take a walk around the garden to see what we have. One or two marigolds are still in bloom, although somewhat bedraggled. There’s a Siberian wallflower which has been flowering for well over a year in the triangular bed near the pond. It’s good to see colour, but flowering this time of year is a waste of time. Someone needs to tell it: there are no insects to pollinate you, so no seed will set.

There’s a bergenia by the birch which has a bunch of pink florets. The bergenia is one of the few herbaceous plants that retains its leaves over the winter. Most die completely above ground, with just the roots alive to send up new shoots in spring.

There’s a single orange pelargonium under the pergola. The pergola gives it a little shelter from the worst of the weather, or I am sure frost would have culled it. There’s not a single helicopter on the sycamore. I am impressed by the parental efficiency. Off you go and seek your fortunes, I’ve had enough of the lot of you. In contrast, the ash has fairly similar looking seeds, in bunches called ash keys, but many remain on the tree throughout the winter. I am sure the ability to throw off all its seed, ready for spring growth, is one of the reasons the sycamore is so prolific.

The pond is cold and seemingly lifeless. Of course, it is not; everything is dormant. There are dragonfly and damselfly larvae in the mud of the pond. The water boatmen of last summer, before dying, have inserted eggs into the pond vegetation and they will hatch in the spring. We never know whether we will get frogs or not. If so, the spawn comes in March.

The garden is quiet these lockdown days. Next door, though, is all hammering with the building work on 114 flats, likely to go on for much of the year. Over the last two years, we have seen the hundreds of concrete lorries going into the site, with surely many more to come. This material, in its manufacture, contributes 8% of global CO2. Concrete can be made greener but the construction industry will only take real steps when the Government says it must. Will we get serious about climate change before we are overwhelmed?

There’s a bush, about seven feet high, about 30 yards along Earlham Grove. I call it the sparrow bush as it is always full of sparrows. The only exception is when it is pouring with rain. This time of year the bush has no leaves, but still they congregate. For company, I’d guess in these cold days, and to tell each other there’s nuts and fat balls just over that multi-coloured fence.

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