December wildlife gardening……

A heavy frost at this time can transform the garden and our countryside.  Hoar frosts coat stems, seed heads and branches with a thick rime of crystals producing a photo opportunity not to be missed.  December is inevitably associated in our minds with Christmas, but the observant gardener celebrates another day this month – the winter solstice on the 21st.  It is a day in the gardening (and wildlife) calendar that is probably more significant than any other as it is around this time that song thrushes start to sing, bulbs begin push their new green leaves through the soil and there may even be the occasional great tit investigating the nest boxes in my garden.  It all means that spring (even if it is only in terms of activity and not weather!) is just around the corner.  No sooner have we accepted that winter is upon us than signs of spring appear.  Each new event this month is a reminder that the natural world changes as the days begin, even imperceptibly, to lengthen and we can look forward to the garden bursting into life again.  The hedgerows around my garden may be bare of leaves but they are full of small birds this month, searching for the insects that hibernate amongst the twigs.  Thrushes and blackbirds may be feeding on the holly and hawthorn berries, jays take the remaining acorns from the nearby oak trees and I will listen out for chak-chak’ call of fieldfares overhead – migrants from an even cooler climate than ours.  In the borders there may still be the odd flower on a hebe, lavatera or michaelmas daisy, clinging on in spite of the frosts, but next season’s flowers will also be appearing.  The native stinking hellebore often produces its green, maroon tipped flowers as early as December and they persist well into January and February.  With such a lack of flowers though, more colour in my garden is provided by the variety of mosses, fungi and lichens to be seen particularly on logs, beneath trees and in other shady damp places.  The range of colours amongst these small plants is surprising, from rich dark green to more yellow and orange hues.  In December I leave much of the garden to its own devises, my only thoughts being preparation for the new year ahead.  For me this month is about seed ordering, planning borders and creating new habitats for wildlife – armchair gardening at its best.

About wildlifegardening

Jenny Steel was a Plant Ecologist at Oxford University before becoming a writer. She has more than 20 years experience of writing about and teaching ecology, natural history and wildlife gardening. She is also a photographer, journalist and former plant nursery owner, and a lecturer and tutor in adult education. She has appeared on a variety of radio and television programmes including Gardener’s World with Alan Titchmarsh, and she presented a series of items on the BBC 2 gardening show, How Does Your Garden Grow. She has worked with and written for a variety of organisations including the Royal Horticultural Society, Natural England, Atropos, Ernest Charles, the Adult Residential Colleges Association (ARCA), Haiths, Usborne Books, Complete Gardens, Oxfordshire County Council, the charity Growing Native and several of the Wildlife Trusts. She is also the Garden Bird Guru for the wild bird food company JustAddBirds of which she was a co-founder. The Emmy Award winning film company Panache Productions are currently making a film about her wildlife garden in South Shropshire. She has written 10 books on wildlife gardening. Her website can be found at and her bird food company at
This entry was posted in British birds, British mammals, Garden Birds, Garden Wildlife, Gardening, Uncategorized, Wildlife Gardening, winter gardening and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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