Friday, 17 January 2014

Beat the winter blues with a walk ...

Harbinger of Spring ... Galanthus elwesii
January--that most maligned of months--is here and with it one of our most beloved bulbs pushes its stems up through the leaf litter and unfolds its white bells into what poet Louise Gluck (in her poem Snowdrops) calls "the raw wind of the new world." How lovely it is to see the first snowdrops almost open in Gibside's Ice House Wood yesterday. Their darling blooms seem to lift the spirit; their beauty sent forth in the depths of winter promises that life is stirring and that spring will soon be here.

Hellebores flowering along the Shrubbery Walk
Winter can linger a while longer though, if only to allow the hellebores room to display their welcoming flowers. A lover of damp and shade, this plant's fondness for skulking in dark corners helps to emphasise the glow of its pale greeny-white flowers.

Rhododendron Doricum Midwinter, the first to flower
True to her name, our first Rhododendron, Doricum Midwinter, is also in flower right now. You'll find her on the right-hand side of the Shrubbery Walk heading to the orangery.

Pernettya mucronata brings glitz to winter
Just past the orangery the berries of Pernettya mucronata, produced in the autumn, last long enough to bring a touch of glitz to the winter garden. They are joined by tiny white flowers in spring, and if you look closely you'll see some are already coming into bloom.
Ice House Wood in January
It's well worth wandering through Ice House Wood at this time of year. The sunlight filters through the leafless tree canopies and adds vigour to the greenery of mosses and lichens; there are bulbs pushing up through the ground in pockets; and it's here you'll find our steadily increasing snowdrop colonies.

Blackbirds scamper, blue tits play, and you might catch a nuthatch hugging a tree stump and looking for insects.
Nuthatch in Ice House Wood

Gibside's flora and fauna has life and colour enough to challenge the dullest days of January, so come along and shake off those winter blues with a walk in our woods.