Icy-white rimes leaves and grasses as the mercury drops below zero on the dawn of the winter solstice. But it’s a sunny, glorious day at odds with the weak moonlight-lemon of leaves – a fifth of the canopy – still hanging on somehow to neighbouring golden elms.
Slightly cooler still are the many interesting hoop petticoats (Narcissus bulbocodium varieties, this one intriguingly labelled `AGS [Alpine Garden Society] 1077 Galligaskins’; how could this flower from seed after 2 years? Is it a ring-in?)
The Alpine Garden Society is a great source of interesting seed and from my fellow members of the Victoria branch, great plants. Tomorrow I am giving them a small lecture titled French Gardens. Wish me well, s’il vous plait.
Meanwhile fast-growing Salvia `Icicle Pink’ has opened its rather icy-pink flower buds – so far, so good – into winter flowers (again, good) of soft candy pink, rather harsh and de trop (merde).
But back to the cold nights.
Minus Point Nine in the henhouse!
Of our 6 little hens, one Light Sussex (Debbie) has moulted and now looks almost sleek; her blondie sister (Harry) is now moulting appallingly and looks like a scarecrow: more scary than crow. Truly punk I guess. J may not approve but on these freezy nights I check on them stealthily, torch in hand, and sometimes rearrange matters. The pecking order is relatively immutable but the sleeping positions have every permutation and combination possible, disputed nightly. Tonight I’ve just plonked our poor scrappy girl next to her sister-white with lowly Freddy - living eiderdown - on her other side. Bunch up, girls! Dark mutterings (and that’s just in the henhouse) but take away the torch and they won’t dance about. Nearby, lower, is newest `Chicky’ (Nadia as a moniker wasn’t going to last, was it?) but while, at last, she is biggest, she sensibly recognizes the natural order of seniority in the house. For now.