In a Vase on Monday: Snow Day

Have you had snow?

Well, the snow plough managed to get through the woods this morning after we were snowed in all of yesterday –  all day Sunday it snowed heavily non-stop so we have about 40cm of fluffy white stuff with drifting too. Several trees and branches also came down across the road, which my Man of Many Talents is now dealing with. ☃️

Can you spot the herb bed in this view?

The colour of my flower for this week’s contribution to Cathy ‘s meme (Rambling in the Garden) is appropriate – snow white. The name is less fitting – ‘Alfresco’. I won’t be spending much time outdoors as, despite beautiful sunshine today, it is below freezing!

Hippeastrum Alfresco

Last week’s Amaryllis flower is now over but there are more to come!

Do visit Cathy to see what others are finding in the middle of winter to put in their vases.

Hope you are all getting some winter sunshine!

 

Mast Year 2018

I mentioned in a post recently that we have a lot of pollen this spring. (Understatement of the year!) Well, I have since learned that not only has everything flowered at once due to our warm April – the warmest on record since 1881 in Germany – but it is also a so-called mast year for birches, spruce and firs in our region.

A mast year is basically a year when certain types of tree in a whole region produce much more pollen and thus far more seeds than in a normal year. Birches do this regularly – every second year – while other trees such as oak or spruce only do this every 4-8 years.

Our silver birches, swaying in the wind

Trees generally use their energy for putting on growth in non-mast years. But in a mast year something triggers them to put all their strength into preserving themselves and to produce as much seed (and hence pollen in spring) as possible. This can apparently be seen in the rings when a tree is cut, with intermittent rings of very little growth. The trigger may be a warm spring, drought or other factors such as the North Atlantic oscillation. In other words, climate change affects tree ‘behaviour’. But what fascinates me is that, for example, practically every Spruce tree in the whole of Germany has started pumping out the pollen, whether in the far north, the Alps, the Black Forest or the Bavarian Forest. Clever. 😉

Spruce, only just showing signs of fresh green

Just looking across our valley at the hillsides around us recently it suddenly became clear to me that the Spruce, Firs, and probably many other conifers have joined the birch this year – the trees are gold and brown instead of green, with little fresh growth and millions of flowers and cones forming on their branches. Perhaps you can see what I mean from this photo taken yesterday where the conifers are all much darker than the fresh deciduous trees in full leaf…

In fact, when I walked around the garden and took a closer look I could see our Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Silver Fir, Austrian Pine and other conifers I cannot identify are all going mad this spring!

Douglas Fir, with fresh shoots just beginning to show

One article I read quoted a botanist suggesting the conifers are suffering from several dry years in a row, and this is a self-preservation measure should they die. A grim thought. While looking for more information on this phenomena I found myself engulfed in the technical jargon of meteorologists and botanists. But it was interesting to find out just why we are experiencing so much pollen this spring!

Have you ever heard of mast years or experienced the same where you live?

Book Review: ‘Lab Girl’ by Hope Jahren

I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.

Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.

I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.

Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!

😀

 

The Tuesday View: 26th September 2017

Autumn is my favourite time of year, and this September we are getting plenty of mild sunny days where the garden can be appreciated to the full. I have been focusing on this one view in my garden this year, and I am still noticing things I hadn’t seen before. It has been a wonderful exercise and will be a useful record for future reference.

The Acer is beginning to look really good, framing my Tuesday View on two sides: looking down, slightly to the left…

And looking across from the pathway that goes down behind the Acer…

Looking down to the right the Acer can be seen in the full, with the wonderful Helianthus still flowering like mad…

Aster ‘Lutetia’ is dead centre. Here it is a bit closer up with Hypericum behind it…

Looking back up from the lawn below you can see the Golden Rod on the left, now almost over…

These sedums have been smothered in butterflies when the sun has shone…

And the tall pink Aster ‘Alma Poetschke’ at the bottom of the rockery is just starting to open – nice and early this year…

I managed to catch some of the evening light in the Acer yesterday evening…

I can’t believe it will be October when I post my next view! What is looking good in your garden this September?

Have a good week, and Happy Gardening!

Tree Following: June 2015

I am following a tree this year – a Field Maple to be precise – along with Lucy at Loose and Leafy, and many others around the world. This month my tree is looking lush and leafy. 🙂

However, on closer examination there are very few seeds that have remained on the tree, most dropping at or just after flowering stage… and a lot of aphids earlier this month have made an ugly mess of many leaves too… Maybe it became susceptible due to stress caused by our very dry April?

FieldMapleJune2

But wait, what’s this? A strange orange and black bug…

FieldMapleJune4

And another one… chomping away!

FieldMapleJune3

I have identified them as the larva and pupa stages of the Asian Ladybird Harmonia axyridis, also known as the Harlequin Ladybird, the most invasive ladybird on earth!

It has the potential to threaten our native ones, eating both their food sources and their larvae. So I will be on the lookout for the adult now, to see if I can differentiate between it and our native ones. Not that I can do anything about it, but I’ll keep you posted anyway. A good website to help with identification of ladybirds, at least in western Europe, is the Ladybird Survey site, which has information on the Harlequin too. Here is a link to some Wikimedia photos of the adult Harlequin Ladybird.

Have you seen this ladybird? Do you see other ladybirds too, or did you in the past?

 Thanks go to Lucy for hosting this meme… I probably would not have learned that we have this ladybird in our garden if I hadn’t been watching my tree so closely!