a french garden

January walking

22 Comments

January sunrise

January sunrise

The sun rises late in January and the shorter daylight hours mean that walks are best taken in the early afternoon.  It is our best chance here to get some sun in what has been a rainy January.

Mistletoe in trees

Mistletoe in trees

Most of the trees around us are deciduous and in the winter once the leaves have gone you can see clearly how much mistletoe is carried by some of the trees.

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

There were several large clumps of mistletoe lying at the bottom of these trees and I was surprised by the girth of the branches.  The berries, although poisonous for humans, provide a good food source for berry-eating birds like thrushes.  The woods around here are not managed and many support a large proportion of mistletoe and are also used as supports by seemingly smothering runners of ivy.  A tough life for the trees but the ivy flowers provide a valuable source of food for the bees and other insects and again the birds eat the berries.

Ruscus aculeatus

Ruscus aculeatus

The Ruscus seems to be enjoying its increase share of the light now that the leaves have fallen.  The berries are staying plump in contrast to the Spindle tree berries which looked beautiful in the woods in December but are now dry and inconspicuous.

Bolbitius vitellinus

Bolbitius vitellinus

The relatively mild temperatures for January mean that the fungi are well represented.  I saw this chrome yellow toadstool on the roadside near our house.

Older Bolbitius vitellinus

Older Bolbitius vitellinus

There were a few more mature specimens close beside it.

Mucilago crustacea

Mucilago crustacea

This slime mould was also beside the road and taking advantage of the mild damp weather to consume a rotting stick.

Toadstool in maize field

Toadstool in maize field

This toadstool had pushed through the stubble left in a field that had grown maize last year. When the cold front arrived it was frozen solid.  I tried to make a spore print to identify it but when defrosted, it transformed into a pile of jelly .  So I have learnt something else – you can’t make spore prints with frozen toadstools.

Fungus on tree bark

Fungus on tree bark

I have to admit that I can manage to identify only a very small portion of the fungi that I see.  This one was appealing as it reminded of raw jewel stones as it was a mix of black with amethyst glints to it.

Dichomitus campestris?

Dichomitus campestris?

I found this one different and attractive also, but I am not sure if I have identified it correctly.

Group of yellow Calendula

Group of yellow Calendula

These were flowering by the roadside not particularly near any houses but I think they must be garden escapees that have managed to flourish on the verge.

Flower full of rain water

Flower full of rain water

This seems to sum up our January up until now.

Winter heliotrope, (Petasites fragrans)

Winter heliotrope, (Petasites fragrans)

When I saw these flowers I at first thought that these too were garden escapees.  When I knelt down to photograph them I was surprised that they were beautifully perfumed.  The perfume is described by UK Wildflowers as vanilla, I found it hard to describe but very pleasant.  Strangely, although they flower in the middle of winter they are frost sensitive perhaps because they originally came from North Africa.

Close up Winter heliotrope ( Petasites fragrans )

Close up Winter heliotrope ( Petasites fragrans )

It was tempting to try and introduce some into the wilder parts of the garden but they are extremely invasive and can smother anything in their path.  I have enough to cope with in the garden without bringing in flowers that could take over!

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

22 thoughts on “January walking

  1. I am fascinated by the shapes and colours of fungi but rarely get to see them in London. How does taking a spore print usually work?

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    • I just managed to get it to work with the help of the “Foraging Photographer”, another site. You remove the stalk and leave the cap overnight on a piece of paper with the gills facing down. I had been putting them on white paper and it was the ones with white spores so I could see nothing. Now I use yellow card. The spores can be any colour so it was just I’d tried the ones with white spores on white paper by chance. Obviously you don’t want to move them until you lift the cap off. My book always uses spore colour as an identification aid.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your walk, I’ve never taken spore prints of fungi. When we forraged mushrooms regularly in England we just picked the ones we knew to be good to eat and I just looked at the others and admired the variety of colours and forms. Christina

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    • I never cease to be amazed by the variety. With flowers they come up every year but sometimes I see fungi and then never see them for years as they are much more particular about weather conditions and do not necessarily appear every year.

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  3. What a great walk and it just show how much there is to see even at this time of the year. Diane

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  4. What a cute yellow fungus! and those amethyst ones are intriguing. You’ve reminded me I must go out and get some decent photos of Winter Heliotrope. BTW, Rose says it’s native to south-west Europe, and Polunin specifies Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. It’s introduced to GB and Ireland.

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  5. Lots of stuff even in January. I think the fungus on the tree is one known as Jew’s Ear a rather derogatory name but there. It is edible and I once collected a lot and cooked them and they were like eating rubber bands. Edible maybe but worth eating no. They often grow on dead or dying Elder branches.

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    • I’m not convinced, it’s not brown and it’s not on elder. The only thing I saw similar was Bulgaria inquinans. If it ever stops raining I’ll go back and have another look at it. Amelia

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  6. Flowers in January are wonderful – but scented ones too? How lucky you were to see these! Shame they are invasive!

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  7. Your calendula photo is the second one I have seen today. The first was in our newspaper, along with a recipe for calendula syrup. The syrup looked pretty.

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  8. Hi Amelia, this is the second post I’ve read recently re Winter Heliotrope – not something I’ve knowingly seen. Do you know http://nhgardensolutions.wordpress.com ? Allen is very knowledgeable about fungi – the two of you put my knowledge to shame. Dave

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    • It’s strange about the Winter Heliotrope, a bit like when you see a new word, you keep on seeing it everywhere. Thanks for the link I would like to learn more about fungi, I’ve no knowledge at all, but I’ve got a big book!

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  9. It’s interesting to see how much milder the weather is for you – we have very few fungi around now, and not many flowers (although I did see some daffodils peeking out of the snow in Guildford town centre!)

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  10. I think you are wise not to introduce the heliotrope into your garden. It dominates parts of my mother’s garden and is very resistant to her efforts at control,

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