Winter damage: privet

The first two weeks of March were very mild here, spurring some plants on to make early growth. Fresh growth on privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) was particularly noticeable. But then, the third week of March brought a week of frosts and freezing winds.

It was at the beginning of April that I started to notice wilt and blackening on privets. My first thought was that it must be cold damage.

Wilt and discolouration of new growth on privet, April 2017


But then I wondered whether it might be something worse. It seemed the more I looked, the more I found wilting shoots of privet. I found them on all ages of bushes – from last year’s cuttings to gnarly old hedge plants – and on plain and variegated plants. I found them at the bottom of bushes and at the top; on plants that were pot grown, and plants in the ground. You can see in the pictures that one shoot would be wilted whilst its neighbour seems to continue in rude health.

In the end, it is the fact that the problem is so widely spread, especially that it is in pot grown cuttings as well as plants in the ground, that makes me think it must be cold damage.

For now, until I am sure that winter has finally gone away, I am leaving the dead shoots on the plants and will trim them over when better weather finally arrives.



First toad of 2017

It’s been an unusually chilly winter here with lots of frosts. Today was feeling mild at around 10C and certainly damp – just the right conditions to entice this toad out from its winter resting place.

A common toad making its first foray of the year.

Sleeping butterflies

A sleeping comma butterfly
A butterfly sleeping away the winter

I stumbled upon this sleeping butterfly while cleaning out an old pigsty.  It looks quite the worse for wear – covered in dust and slightly caught up in old spider webs – but hopefully, having made it this far through the winter months, it will survive and soon fly away.

Several species of UK butterflies try to survive the winter in their adult form. Of those, the most common are the comma, the peacock, the small tortoiseshell and the brimstone.

To learn more about how butterflies overwinter have a look at this page from the Butterfly Conservation website.


The earliest darkness of the year

In this corner of north Wales, today is the day when the evenings stop getting shorter. Although it’s still nearly a fortnight until the winter solstice and the shortest overall day length the sun won’t set any earlier than it does today – about four o’clock this afternoon. It always feels like turning a corner and heading into a new year from now on, even though it will be another 10 days or so before the evenings actually start staying light later: for the next 10 days it will be a four o’clock sunset everyday. And until the New Year, the sunrise will be a little bit later everyday.

Winter sunset over the dunes at Penrhos beach
Winter sunset over the dunes at Penrhos beach, Anglesey

So far this winter, we have only had the slightest touch of frost and many tender plants are still growing strong in the garden. Some of the deciduous trees and shrubs are still hanging on to a few of their leaves. This hazel is confused: next to this year’s leaf the bud that should open next spring is starting to burst already.