The Orange Tip

Category: winter

Early Aconites


Along with some patches of snowdrops just coming into flower, the winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) are out up over the woodland glade. Although there aren’t a huge number of them, it’s a welcome site in an otherwise stark landscape up there. The buttercup family resemblance brings with it a sudden yearning for summer.


Sleepy Toad


While working in one of the borders this morning I came across a very sleepy young toad, overwintering under some plantain leaves. I moved him to a less disturbed area of the garden.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2012


Fungus Bench


One of the straighter, sun striving robinias came down in the heavy winds last month. Having had to simply trim it and lay to one side while I finished clearing the woodland area of the garden, I recently got to putting it to use.

I think it was actually more of a dual effort in terms of its demise; the combined forces of strong winds and nature’s craftiest killer, honey fungus. Noticed a clump of the toadstools present on a nearby stump and the unmistakable smell of mushrooms emitting from the tree base itself. I have mixed feelings about honey fungus, but contrary perhaps to many gardeners, most of them are positive. It’s true that once established, the fungus can be a nightmare, particularly in heavy shrub borders or smaller gardens in general. However the ‘disease’ acts out one of the most essential elements in life; death. Or to be more specific, decay. Without it the world would be a very, very different place. It wouldn’t really be here to be more accurate. So, clearly not going any deeper into the biology, trees need to come down in order to support new trees. All green needs to rot, to a certain extent, if new green is to come. Ultimately we ourselves need to rot, but I think the sentiment is best left there.

Honey fungus is certainly one of the most proficient progressors of this natural cycle, though it can be a tragedy in the shrubbery. I really struggle with the concept of attempting to chemically prevent the continuation of such an important natural process however, and in my book, the best thing to do is simply to isolate the problem as best as possible, and burn the remnants. Any uninfected by-product of the felling is for putting to a good use.

I decided to make a bench to go by the pond. It’s very rough cut, and all hacked to shape with the harsh blunt force of a hatchet, mallet and chisel, and below is the process in pictures.

Mid Winter

Black Locusts, Black Sky

Robinias make up the predominance of the trees in the woodland. Not a favourite of mine, nor a native, but a great source for wildlife. The blossom in late spring is a spectacle, like enormous beams of bright white, and its deeply fissured bark houses many insects, attracting nuthatches and woodpeckers. I often hear them calling in the canopy.


Hard frost this morning, walking to the shed passing frozen remnants in the pond reminding me that it still hasn’t been attended to. Great quiet that comes with the cold on a clear morning like this.

The Woodside Butterbur

Came across a long stream of butterbur running down the hill to the garden on a thin strip of woodland glade. It is Petesites, but not certain of the species. It’s early flowering too, particularly for this time of year, but a great sight along the roadside, straddling the equatorial divide. It almost acts as a lure, or a promise of things to be discovered and stumbled upon deeper in the woods. Butterbur is more than an enchantment too, herbally speaking. The plant has a long history as an all-round revitaliser, used to treat migraines, muscle pain and fever. Its scent is enticing at first, quickly becoming sickly, like that of a sweet shop.

Buckthorn on the Welsh Coast

Walking with family through the wind on the arbitrary post-Christmas (yet always enjoyed) march over the beach. An unexpected joy to see nothing but rolling sea-buckthorn, in full profusion of berry, and at it’s peak in soft winter colour. The shrub offers a huge amount in terms of coastal habitat formation and support; with its protective thorny network of low intertwining branches and extensive fruit larder.

Sea buckthorn has been widely planted around beeches due to the way in which its roots spread, enabling it to hold together the shifting dunes, much like alders and willows do with our river banks.

New Perches

With the shed finally cleared, cleaned and woodstove-installed, I have reached the settled feeling I’ve been after from the start. It took some time to establish the best channel and collect the appropriate piping, and after a day’s grind under an encouraging clear sky, I now have a fire with which to heat, cook and ‘contemplate’. Wasted little time in putting it to use too.

To celebrate, I thought it fitting to spread the air of belonging to my tireless comrades in residence and construct a perch under the log store for the chickens. Man needs a fire, chicken needs a perch.