Evergreen foliage has always been brought into the home for mid-winter decoration. Perhaps the most widely used is Holly as it is abundant and the deep green leaves and contrasting red berries make an impressive display. It is said that the prickles and berries represent the crown of thorns and blood of Christ, but in folklore they were also the reason that Holly was thought to offer a cure from dog bites and measles.
Mistletoe is abundant in Bushy Park and is often present in most homes as just one small sprig for kissing under. It is a semi-parasitic plant that somehow appears to magically grow on poplars, limes, thorns and fruit trees. In folklore Mistletoe was seen to have special powers associated with fertility. This has, over the years, developed into the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe during the festive season.
Christmas Trees for sale
Pines and Needles Christmas trees are on sale at the Diana car park in Bushy Park from 8.00am to 5.45pm until 21 December with local same evening delivery. All trees are UK grown.
Visit Birch glade on a bright day to admire the Silver Birch (Betula pendula) or 'Lady of the Woods' which are looking slender, elegant and attractive with their white bark shining in the low winter sunlight.
Canada Glade - The dogwoods (Cornus) by the Totem Pole show off their vivid red and golden stems which brighten up a winter's day. As they mature they will be more spectacular in the winter months. It is normal horticultural practice to cut the stems down just before buds burst in the spring.
Daffodils are starting to emerge through the grass for flowering in the early spring –the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks have planted some new daffodil bulbs in November. Leaf clearance is underway and will continue until the end of January.
We have now reached a fairly quiet time of the year; the last of our regular winter visitors should have reached the United Kingdom's shores by now and be enjoying the slightly milder conditions here.
With the slightly warming effect of the Gulf Stream, birds that have travelled from either Iceland or the USSR, such as the Redwing, are usually able to find plenty of food here. The normal plentiful supplies of berries, Hawthorn, Holly and in towns and cities Cotoneaster are normally eaten first. When this larder is bare they then hope that the ground is soft enough for them to feed on worms and other invertebrates in the soil or under leaves. The Redwing is a very attractive bird with its slate blue head and rump, chestnut back, black tail and golden chest with dark streaking.
Apart from these overseas visitors there is another member of the thrush family and one that has a small resident population. This is the Mistle Thrush, which has been found feeding on the Mistletoe berries.
It is also the time of year when the Little Egret, a bird whose breeding range has spread up from southern Europe, arrives in Bushy Park. Until the late 1970's it would have caused 100's of twitchers (very enthusiastic bird watchers) to come flocking to see it. We have had a bird return to winter in the park since 2010; it was accompanied by a second bird in 2013. Bird numbers will remain low until we have had to endure several days of sub-zero temperatures. Then hunger will cause birds particularly those that feed on the ground to look elsewhere. This is when typical farmland and even wetland birds will seek refuge in cities and gardens. If you want to help the birds at this time of year putting water out as well as food is really important.
Feeding the deer
Whilst the deer browse on trees and grass during the summer they really do rely on seeds such as acorns, chestnuts and conkers to build up fat reserves for the winter. The available food varies from year to year so to ensure the deer are always in optimum health they are given supplementary feed in the winter as well as hay (from Lime Avenue) which also ensures they receive all the essential vitamins and minerals. If we experience heavy snows and food is less available, the feed is increased to ensure their health and welfare. Depending on the weather, feeding starts middle of November and goes on until March.