Saturday, 6 December 2008

The garden in winter - Contorted hazel

Snow fell this week much earlier than the last few years, transforming the walled garden into a magical place, well, more magical than usual! All the topiary and hedges were outlined in white, changing the whole picture like a photographic negative. What really amused me were the footprints of pheasants on the snowy paths - parellel lines of three 'toes', so regular and going round in loop the loops in places that they reminded me of the patterns that used to be printed onto convicts clothes! What the pheasants do is not so amusing and every year they get bolder as the garden quietens without visitors - and it is when they start pecking and knocking over the plants for sale that I wish they weren't around!

There is so much shape in the garden, even with the herbaceous plants cut down, thanks to the underlying rythmns of paths, hedges, ponds, tree trunks, grasses and teasels. Every time I go near the latter, a little group of goldfinches flies out and settles in the eucalyptus until I go, when they can resume their search for seeds. The round pond looks very pretty with the concentric bricks around it edged in snow and next to it stands a good sized contorted hazel, Corylus avellana 'Contorta', which looks stunning at the moment. It is at its best in winter (in summer, the rather buckled leaves look a bit diseased) when you can really see its crazy squiggles.

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