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So, how was 2013 in the end?

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 31 Dec 2013 at 09:31 AM

2013 was a mixed year here. It is said that the coldest March since 1962 stopped frogs breeding, owls and seabirds suffered from lack of food, with many dying, and mammals coming out of hibernation found little to sustain them. Spring plant growth seemed to pretty much stall, until many were a good five weeks behind on the previous year’s growth. Once the weather began to warm, fruit flowering got started and it was one the best blossom years I can ever remember. Apples, hawthorn, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha – in fact all the members of the huge rose family, Rosaceae, were covered in so many flowers that some appeared to have a layer of snow on them and this was followed by a bumper year for fruit.

 Blossom on apple 'James Grieve'


2013 was the year we discovered that common newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) had moved into the garden and, much to our delight, they bred in the tiny pond. We spent hours crouched at the edge of the water peering down at the young ones developing. The young, called efts, left the water in late summer and should be safely tucked away in the soil, the log pile or the compost heap.





In 2012, we lost the big cherry to old age and fungus. Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) had pecked out a nesting hole in the trunk that spring. Would they return? At least one set of parents came to introduce their young ones to the bird food we put out and we’re still seeing woodpeckers in the garden today.




Along with the late spring, some insects were late in producing, including aphids. Good for gardeners, but not so good for the birds and insects, such as ladybirds that eat them. It did at least mean that the aphids which were present got eaten up promptly, so there were few problems from them.

In July the weather warmed dramatically and, in comparison to the previous months, it now felt too hot. Even the wildlife felt it and squirrels took advantage of the shade cast by the big Magnolia tree to sprawl on branches and cool off in the breeze.




Once summer finally arrived, the garden burgeoned. Opening flowers and foliage shone and dazzled. Plants and insects raced to make up for lost time, with everything flowering at once and the air was filled with buzzing; the flowering stems of Lavender x intermedia ‘Grosso’ bounced gently up and down as the bumblebees went from one flowering spike to another. Sedum spectabile didn’t flop over for once, but stood tall, each domed head of flowers alive with crawling honeybees busily collecting nectar.





In the garden here, it was a good year for the common house sparrow (Passer domesticus). They have been here more often and in larger numbers than in previous years. In 2010, we saw three or four but they have increased each year and now the little flock is up to 30 cheeping, lively birds. They especially favour plants with stems that are inclined to make tangles; in this case the dense top growth of a Kilmarnok willow and a Cotoneaster sternianus. They love to hop about in the tousled growth and to spend time perching in the upright stems, before taking off en masse towards the willow at the other end of the garden where they will shout for a while before flocking back to the Cotoneaster.



 Pyracantha in full flower


The autumn produced so much wild food that the birds didn’t need to come looking for the food we put out, they stayed in the meadows and hedgerows and many are only now returning to gardens. Amongst them is a bird we have named Son of Blackbird. We cannot be certain, but we think this confident young bird may be the one we saw being fed by the previously incumbent male, who disappeared this summer. Son of Blackbird spends a lot of time foraging in the garden and courtyard and, even if he is bathing a few feet away, he seems wholly undisturbed by our presence.

So, after a bitterly cold start, it turned out to be a good year here for the garden, wildlife and humans. I hope your gardens were also rewarding and look forward to seeing what happens this year.


EvaInNL said:

What a lovely write up of the year gone past Miranda - hasn't it just flown by?!

on 31 Dec 2013 at 12:31 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

It's positively rushed by, Eva! Here's to 2014!

on 31 Dec 2013 at 01:32 PM

richardpeeej said:

I agree with Eva, a very interesting account of the year in your garden Miranda. Hope you have a lovely New Year and that 2014 is good to you and your garden...

on 31 Dec 2013 at 03:49 PM


Hi Miranda.

Well youv'e done it again.  A great article.  Especially with the pictures.  Actually I thought of you today.  In between the sound of the rain beating upon my windows.  I could hear the familiar 'craking, sounds of Field fares.  Oposite my flat, is a park/recreation park.  Close to rhe fence, there is a wonderful selection of Ilex [Hollies]  Thankfully the local gypsies or whatever, never turned up prior to the festive season and strip the heavily laden branches.  Scanning the trees with my bins'  Sadly I failed to spot a Fielfare, despite I could hear them.  What I did see waere loads of Redwings.  Thankfully these visitors usually do dine side by side.

Miranda, once again, a really fine blog.  Keep it up.  May I wish you and yours, a very happy New Year.  Please, as one horticulturist/Naturalist to another.  Stay Safe, and keep blogging.

Kindest regards.



on 02 Jan 2014 at 12:03 AM

pushkin said:

Another outstanding entry and a charming look back at last year.  As usual, the photographs are outstanding.  Thank you, Miranda.  Best wishes for health and peace in this year.

on 02 Jan 2014 at 03:46 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thank you all for such kind words - it's lovely, and so encouraging, to hear from others with a passion for wildlife and gardens.

Growmore, it's been an especially fine year for holly berries here. For all berries, actually - the birds should be enjoying them!  

on 03 Jan 2014 at 03:01 PM