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The mild (so far) winter has meant that we have not, as yet, lost any of our plants. We did lose a lovely willow tree during the St. Jude’s gale but that was before winter began. Last winter was so long and harsh that all our plants suffered and I lost a number of favourites including a Garrya – a tassel bush – which had been growing so beautifully. I intend to replace it some time but I will have to think very carefully where I should put it to protect it from the prevailing south-westerly wind and also from frost. My Mahonia and Viburnum bodnantense have been flowering continuously since November and I have enjoyed their lovely scent. Last winter they had only just come in to flower when the first of the hard frost and snow came and the flowers turned black. Also in flower are the Christmas Box and Winter Honeysuckle; the Witch-hazel, in a large tub by the front door, is beginning to come into flower too. Catkins are forming on the two hazel trees near the big pond. We never get any of the nuts as the squirrels are quicker than we are in picking them. Snowdrops and miniature iris will soon be in flower and the leaves of daffodils, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are coming up. I have crocus and snowdrops in tubs and when they have flowered I intend putting them with other bulbs already under the large crabapple at the front of the house.
The mild weather has also enabled a lot of insects to survive. As usual, a large group of ladybirds has gathered to hibernate in the corner of our bedroom window frame. I presume it is pheramones which draw them back there year after year. While emptying some kitchen waste into one of the compost bins a couple of days ago I was engulfed in a large cloud of whitefly. I have left the lid off the bin to encourage them to fly away, or the frost or birds to get them. Voles are also trying to set up home in the compost bins and my husband found a mouse or vole nest made in one of his gardening trainers in the garage. We always have a wreath hanging on our front door at Christmas and this Christmas was no exception. However, we found after a couple of days that we needed to move it away from the front door as bluebottles had decided to live in the wreath and whenever we opened the front door the house became full of flies. Today I had to bury two greenfinches. One beautiful male flew into our kitchen window and died immediately – I found the other bird, a female, under the ground feeder. I have no idea why or how she died. It was very frosty this morning and the day was so lovely with hazy sunshine. I had to go to Norwich hospital for the second time this week with my mother. Tuesday’s journey was made difficult by fog but the hoar frost had iced the trees and hedges and all looked magical. Today’s journey was made in sunshine and was only marred by the large amount of tractors pulling slurry tankers and muck spreaders we encountered. I am now listening to rain against the window.