18 April 2014

Blossom time.

We've had some lovely spring weather in the Lakes recently and there seems to be blossom everywhere you look. The damson trees in the Hill Top paddock are in full bloom as are their close cousins the sloes in the hedgerows. The wild cherry trees are flowering and the garden varieties aren't far behind.

Damson blossom

Elsewhere in the garden the Japanese Quince over the porch is looking spectacular and the white wisteria next to it is fattening up its buds ready for blooming in early May.

Japanese quince

Richard, our Woodland Ranger called in last week with two small plastic bags of what looked like Ogre snot but turned out to be slightly overripe mistletoe seeds! 
Mistletoe is what's known as hemiparasitic which means it relies on a host tree for water and nutrients but it is able to photosynthesise (create it's own carbohydrates from sunlight) using its green leaves and stem. It isn't often seen in Cumbria but seeing as Richard's Dad had given him some seeds from a plant he had successfully grown, we thought we'd give it a try. The favourite host plant of mistletoe is apple trees so a couple of the Hill Top apples (and a pear for a bit of variety) were chosen as 'victims'.

Woodland Ranger at work
The seeds are surrounded by a very sticky pulp which has evolved to stick to a birds beak (Mistle thrushes especially love mistletoe berries) and when wiped off on a branch, gives the mistletoe it's chance to germinate.
To make sure our seeds stuck to the bark we made a small nick with a knife blade (although I've since read that this might not be totally necessary) and smeared the 'snot' into the cut.
The seeds take a few years to establish but if it works, I'll be sure to mention it here.

In the vegetable garden things are about to get busy. I've planted onion sets and seed potatoes and the greenhouse at home is filling up with trays of seedlings ready for planting out when the soil warms up a bit more.
In the paddock the first crop of baby rabbits are appearing out of their burrows, and scampering back underground at the first sign of danger, as all good baby rabbits should. Their parents though are much more casual and can regularly be seen lying full length sleeping in the sun, apparently without a care in the world. 

For a musical link this time I could have included 'Mistletoe and Wine' by Cliff Richard or even 'Misletoe' by Justin Bieber but I wouldn't inflict that on my loyal readers so I've gone instead for this by the fabulous White Stripes.

Bye for now.

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener.