We all know about autumn colour and the explosion of multiple greens in spring but in between these at the back end of winter where we sit now, other colours make themselves felt. I am not talking of the jewels of early spring like the first celandine turning its sunny face to the light, or even of early blossom and flowers in the garden: it is the tapestry of trees and shrubs in the landscape, woven from every tiny twig. The bare trees have stood all winter but they appear to colour up at this time of year - or perhaps it is just that they catch a brighter light or stand out more against the increasingly drab background.
In a shaft of morning sunlight a group of trees that might pass unnoticed on a rainy February day suddenly leap into relief (see picture) - the russet gleam of a stand of larches in the background, and in front of it highlighted against its darker depths the pale shining ash and a purple haze of fine birch twigs. Somewhere in there too is browner oak and setting it off the dark grey sky and the deep green of a pine.
The picture below shows the twigs of some of these trees. Grey-barked ash has distinctive black buds whereas the fat buds of oak have shining brown scales. Fine-twigged birch is tipped with swelling catkins and it may be these as much as the purplish twigs that give the tree such a blush of colour. The ruddy twigs of the larch plantation are already sporting the beautiful pink larch ‘roses’ or young female ‘flowers’ which when fertilised will develop into cones. As buds swell and sap rises it is a perfect time to learn how to recognise trees by their winter features.
Any well-planned ornamental garden should brighten up its winters with coloured-stemmed plants, such as willow or dogwood. Our efforts in this direction at Yewfield have been compromised severely by the deer that graze through the grounds in the early morning, so look upwards into the crown of the dawn redwood they cannot reach and enjoy!
You can also read the previous blog post here.