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Sally Nex Sally Nex | 10:29 UK time, Saturday, 15 January 2011

Close-up of two Blue tits (Parus caeruleus) on a bird-feeder, a very common and charming visitor to gardens throughout Britain

Close-up of two Blue tits (Parus caeruleus) on a bird-feeder, a very common and charming visitor to gardens throughout Britain

In the news....

There’s been more than the usual flutter around the bird table this week as it emerged we may be doing more harm than good by feeding garden birds all year round. Researchers found feeding wild birds after the breeding season starts affects their behaviour and may skew natural breeding patterns. 

So, asks BBC Nature’s Jeremy Torrance, do we empty our bird feeders at the end of March – or follow the RSPB’s advice to feed birds year round? The jury, it seems, is still out, though the general consensus is ‘don’t stop yet’. While everyone’s working out what to do, you could always practice telling the difference between chaffinches and chiffchaffs with help from the Garden Birds collection on the BBC’s Wildlife Finder.

The government-sponsored Big Tree Plant, launched just before Christmas to bring more trees to towns and cities, is gathering quite a head of steam: nearly 2,000 trees in the ground, an eyewatering 165,000 or so to go. And under another urban greening initiative, Trees for Cities, an instant forest of 10,000 trees is springing up this week at Roding Valley Park in north-east London, thanks to an army of 400 or so volunteers. London Mayor Boris Johnson’s hands will be among the blistered.

Elsewhere on the web...

Ah yes I know all you can see out of the window is howling gales and horizontal rain. And that’s if you’re lucky and the white stuff hasn’t come back. But – you mark my words - spring is in the air.

Don’t believe me? Haven’t got that spring feeling yet? The latest visit to Carol Klein’s garden at Glebe Cottage in Devon should change your mind (Life in a Cottage Garden, Fridays at 8.30 on BBC Two). I’m still basking in the warmth of yesterday evening’s feast of snowdrops, celandines and seed-sowing (as is Sam Wollaston in the Guardian). If that doesn’t put you in the mood I don’t know what will.

If you need evidence, snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii, in this case) are already massed on the rock gardens at Kew: surely a candidate for this year’s first-snowdrop-of-the-year award. VP is enjoying the pinkest of pink hyacinths; while Stephanie – aka the Enduring Gardener - has perhaps the earliest-flowering rose ever. It’s the ever-resilient Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, in case you fancy some winter roses for yourself.

Out and about...
There’s nothing quite like stomping about in hobnail boots while whacking sticks and having a good sing-song to get the blood circulating, so if you’re in need a midwinter pick-me-up get yourself along to the annual Wassail at Ryton Gardens in Warwickshire. This ancient tradition sings away winter and, they say, encourages the trees to produce a bumper crop for autumn. Hobnail boots optional.

For something altogether more genteel, take a virtual stroll around some of our most spectacular gardens and parks without leaving the warmth of Kenwood House in London: their photographic exhibition of the parterres, potagers and parklands owned by English Heritage starts on Friday.

Or join the tropical butterflies emerging from their chrysalises in the glasshouses at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey. This spectacular annual event creates a living kaleidoscope of colour as the vivid wings of the butterflies flutter among Wisley’s sumptuously lush tropical plant collections. Plus, it’s really warm in there: the perfect escape from a dreary January day.


  • Comment number 1.

    Talking of trees, I noticed while out today that the Alders by the river are in flower. That is the yellow male catkins are out and producing pollen. It seems incredibly early. Has the long cold snap then sudden milder weather triggered this ?

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh, and I'm in Yorkshire so usually we lag behind most of England for signs of spring.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello Blueberry, yes there have been a few oddities - but it doesn't seem to be everywhere. Some people (Kew in London, above, is one) are reporting very early flowering: but my snowdrops which were supposed to be making an appearance by now are resolutely refusing to.

    I also have an alder but its catkins are tightly shut for now. So I think it kind of depends where you are - we're in what's supposed to be the warm southwest, but we're on a hill which means we've had it blisteringly cold this winter; perhaps you're in a particularly sheltered bit of Yorkshire?


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