Diary 2017

December 31st

Winter is truly here now. On a cold day with temperatures around 3 Celsius, I counted only three plants in flower en route to the top of Helsby Hill but there would probably be a better count if the temperature was in double figures. Signs of Spring? The bluebells are about 2 cm high in the warmest parts of the garden, the weeds continue to appear and the grass is still growing albeit slowly.

For a long while in late Autumn and early December the weather was mild and people were recording as many as 160 flowering species in Winter Months hunts for The Wild Flower Society. Around December 10th the weather changed and arctic winds brought freezing weather and snow to many parts. Today it snowed again but the bright sunshine melted it all by mid day. The unlined garden pond which has long dried out because of a much lowered water table, has filled up to half way which is an excellent indication of how wet it has been in the mid to late autumn and early winter months.

July 16th

The weather continues to be warm but is sometimes wet sometimes very hot so weeds, grass, and hedges grow very fast. On July 15th I attended my first WFS meeting as a "customer" for several years which was a joint affair with the Bradford Botany group. It rained. However I saw and photographed flowers on Sedum villosum (Hairy Stonecrop) for the first time and at last took pictures of Actaea spicata (Baneberry) both rare northern plants.

May 30th

Recently the first very hot weather of the summer saw temperatures of about 25 Celsius and the usual difficulty in sleeping during hot nights. The garden azaleas were brilliant this year but the wild orchids in the rough garden appear to be decreasing in number. Took friends from the Frodsham Natural History Society to Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia where we found the usual suspects: Awlwort (Subularia aquatica) in flower underwater, Saxifraga stellaris (Starry Saxifrage), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage), Silene acaulis (Moss Campion), Minuartia verna (Spring Sandwort) and Sedum rosea (Roseroot) plus many others. Sadly the Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage) was not there this year. Perhaps it needs a harsh winter to germinate any seed but it might have been out competed by the incursion of grasses and ferns during a warming climate onto the rock where it once lived.

April 25th

Spring has properly arrived with Early Purple Orchids and Early Spider Orchids being reported in flower on the Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland face book page. This is only a recent set up on face book but already there are nearly 13,000 subscribers with some of the very best botanists contributing to identifications. An ordinary wild flower with a half decent photo will be identified within minutes very often.

At the back of our garden I note we have a little patch of Allium paradoxum (Few-flowered Garlic) which can be quite invasive, So this adds to our collection of difficult weeds which currently include, Hyacinthoides x massartiana (Hybrid Bluebell), Urtica dioica (Nettle), Elytrigia repens (Couch Grass). Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail), Calystegia sp (Bindweeds), Ranunculus repens (Creeping Buttercup), Cardamine hirsutum (Hairy Bittercress) and Aegopodium podagraria (Ground Elder).

January 15th

The warm weather of Autumn 2016 has given way to much colder snaps with the occasional persistent frost lasting more than one day. This was not at all unusual for previous decades but mild almost frost-free winters have become commoner. The usual winter plants can be seen such as Lamium hybridum and Lamium purpureum but this year with fewer hangers on from summer. Southern counties are reporting Snowdrop flowers and I have one report of buds from Darwen in north Lancashire. No sign at all in our garden.

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