The days are short as we tumble towards midwinter.
It's been warmer than average and an interesting autumn in that the combinational knock-on effect of an early spring cold snap and the scorching summer drought relinquished those plants that hadn't flowered earlier to flower then. It brought about an otherworldly season, a hybrid of summer and autumn.
Conversely, we have been held back with our traditional autumn planting period.
In Kent, we garden over free draining Tunbridge Wells greensand. The soil has been rock hard since May and our planned planting of 'Jaquemontii' Himalayan birches still sit patiently at the nursery awaiting our call after appropriately wet weather. They'll be in the ground soon enough!
As the last leaves come down, I enjoy the way the bare trees reveal our native and winter migrant birds. Jay's become abundant even though they've been there all the time, green and great spotted woodpeckers flash colour in the dullness of early winter and fieldfare and redwing arrive on cold north easterlies.
The thrushes are the first birds to my feeders at half-light.
The mistle thrush is an avian propagator significant at this time of the year. Much like the jay's picking up of acorns from the autumn mast and burying them and then forgetting their whereabouts hence 'sowing' oak trees, the mistle thrush 'sows' mistletoe seed within apple, poplar, lime, and hawthorn. They pluck berries from the plant and go to store the fruit in crevices of branches. As they wipe the berries against the bark to stick it into the crevices, they inadvertently release the seed from the drupe thus sowing the seed!
Mistletoe is parasitic to it's host. Once the seed has germinated the juvenile roots draw moisture and nutrients from the tree whereon it has found itself to be. Considering the size and vigour of its favoured host, it does no significant harm to the tree if kept in check by thinning or harvesting.
There are many ancient tales about the origins of couples kissing under the mistletoe. Mine is the story of the tears of Frigg, the Norse goddess (Link below).
For those among our community who wish to become more involved with the conservation and learning about our local environment, flora and fauna, please consider joining the Crowhurst Environmental Group. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mistle thrush photograph - (http://www.baffledmostly.co.uk/2015/12/?m=1)
Mistletoe legend - (http://mistletoe.org.uk/homewp/index.php/traditions/)
Frigg image - (https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/frigg-queen-asgard-beloved-norse-goddess-mother-009707)