Monday, 21 January 2013

Winter stars, naked and otherwise

Garrya eliptica - Coast silk tassel
In the mid-winter (are we there yet?) there are a few stars of the garden, its when the shrubs and trees really come into their own. Its a time when if you're lucky enough to have snow without the chaos it can cause, these plants really do shine like stars. Now I can tell you a whole host of the ones that I love, but its really each to their own isn't it? We've all got different tastes. However, when I was off a-gallivanting at the weekend I spied, on the outskirts of Bridge of Allan, a beautiful Garrya eliptica (that's the coastal silk tassel bush to you and me) I think it hails from Linnew's neck of the woods in Oregon and down the Californian coast (when shes out of her locked room.... that is!). At this time of year its quite striking. Mr Flowers as always when I go 'ooh there's a {insert a made up latin plant name} thinks I really am making it up but I'm not honest injun. Well mostly I don't make them up........
 
The other real thing I like about this time of year is how all the trees really do take on a whole different role in the landscape and with the deciduous trees I love how their structure is clearly seen. Each species quite different in its own way. I think I read something this week - was it Helen at the Patient Gardener (?), about how identifying trees with bare naked stems can be a bit tricky. Well she's not wrong. Unfortunately or fortunately now I guess we had almost a whole term of 'bare stick plant identification' when I studied at RBGE - I kid you not, bare sticks - generally twenty of those deciduous delinquents, bare naked, all in a row looking all 'sticky' and nonchalant giving nothing away regarding their leaf form or flowers. Those were tough times and I've alot of respect for my class mates who managed to somehow drag us all through it all. Now THOSE were tough Mondays to get up for I can tell you.........!
Naked twigs - how many can you get your eye in to.........can you name most of them?
Gradually however, you begin to get your eye in and can tell an Ash (1st stick in the picture) (with its grannies chimney pots) from the pointy budded Beeches (7th top row), the sticky big buds of the Horse Chestnut (top row, 8th stick) or the zig zag of a Lime tree (2nd lower row), or the green budded Sycamore (7th lower row) starts to be something you notice. I'm glad to say these skills become quite natural, even for a clumsy clot like me. And, after a while, even at speed up the A9 or along a motorway you can pick out species one by one. Not of course that I'd recommend you start to do this while driving, but tree identification during winter has to be often an easier time to see the wood from the trees if you'll pardon the pun.
 
If you've never done it start with a favourite or a well known tree or shrub you like and just look at it - soon patterns and forms will come second nature to you and you'll be identifying trees at will before you know it. Tree books often have a handy ID key for bare naked sticks too - give it a bash. You know when you're really bored!
 
Whilst I was only on the mainland for but a mere 48 hours I managed to squeeze in a fair bit of bare naked tree spotting, much to Mr Flowers general amusement as of course he thinks I make it all up, aside from giant redwoods and aurucarias, which he tries to get before I do, just to show he's in the know.
 
Outside the hotel of the wedding was a beautiful winter jasmine in full flower (Jasminum nudifolium to you botany types), thankfully that little star is an easy one, fragrant yellow flowers on naked stems, its giving you a real helping hand and so beautiful. 
Fragrant winter Jasmine - Jasminum nudifolium
Ok so some may say these winter favourites are quite commonly seen, I guess they are but the beauty of their stature really shines out at this time of year and they sing like stars. I love it right now, its not a blue time of the year for me - life is beginning again, the days are getting longer (have you noticed), a new season to come and old favourites reveal themselves one by one. Whether naked and revealed like so many trees right now, of which Dancing Beastie has just done a lovely post here about how the trees turn into ghosts at this time of year, or those who stay more timidly resplendent like that Garrya. more tassels than naked.............
 
Not sure if I've seen a Garrya up here in Orkney, must keep a look out for one at this time of year its just gorgeous.
 

12 comments:

  1. I like the pretty little yellow flowers ... lol, sorry mine is rather a simple knowledge ... i just checked and they are Jasmine. :) I like what you said about a new season to come and life is beginning again. I enjoy different seasons. Each one has its good and bad but I like to anticipate the change.

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    1. I'm glad you like the Jasmine - you don't need to know a name to enjoy a flower! I like to anticipate the changes too - so nice that you do too!

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  2. I must say I'm impressed you can ID twigs like that. They don't come with little info printed on them do they, like bamboo knitting needles? You are right that Silk Tassel is in my US Pacific Northwest native plants book--I'll have to get to know it.

    But omigosh I am totally afraid to google 'bare naked sticks' because really it has potential for a wide spectrum of reference etc etc. Anyway, my dear Not Axe Murderess-- I just got caught up here and THAT story was a tremendous entertainment, so funny! Don't the gods just have a good time with us. I hope your injury is healing and the dogs get a proper seaside adventure soon!

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    1. I'm not that impressed I'm more scarred from the experience of having 6 weeks of nothing but bare sticks in a room with a tutor saying 'come on you can do this' - thankfully for me, the garden where I learnt these skills had labels on each tree to help those of more challenged in the memory department, a bit like those knitting needles, they did label them nicely. Unfortunately in 'real life' whenever I venture into those lands, the trees are not often labelled. Perhaps there's a market out there for a local tree labeller......?

      Don't google bare naked sticks - the internet is not very botanically minded.

      I do wish a good seaside adventure soon - silly knee, I'm thinking of having the other cloned. And I'm glad you weren't too put off by my axe carrying skills. Always essential airport accessories I feel.

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  3. Oh I forgot to ask: WEDDING? Anyone I know?

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    1. In fact Linnew - no one I knew - before I got there. Friends of Mr F's - he tends to keep himself busy when not up here in the land of the standing stones!

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  4. I don't think I could ever id trees by their naked branches - although to be honest, I do try to learn as many of the latin names and what they mean. I consider myself somewhat anal in that respect. I don't know why I do it I just do!!!!
    I love those Garryia....no where to put one though!!

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    1. I love Garrya in the winter, the names and their meaning is truly interesting isn't it........

      And I think you'll probably find the naked tree spotting easier than you think!

      Enjoy digging further into the latin....

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    1. Oh a bit like 'stick of the week' that might be fun!

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  6. Mmm, give me about a decade and maybe I will have started to be able to do the "identify by stick" thing... Of course, if I applied myself, it might only take 5 years, but I think I will leave the mad skills to you!

    I love this time of year too, the days are perceptably getting longer, I can be outside and able to see what I am doing (always a plus when pruning) until 4:30pm now, 5pm if I push it. When my compost arrives I will be even happier.

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    1. I'm sure Janet you know far more than you'll realise as you will truly know so many plants where they are naked or clothed! Form of a plant is so distinctive and once known isn't easily forgotten. I love this extended day length, if nothing else to watch the gales by!

      Nice to see you and I think we've both got decent mad skills!

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