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.
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 20 December with local same evening delivery. All trees are UK grown.
Mistletoe, which is abundant in Bushy Park, is 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.
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. A further planting has taken place with some of the stock propagated in our nursery in Bushy Park. 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. Leaf clearance is underway and will continue until the mid 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 and be enjoying the slightly milder conditions here.
With the slightly warming effect that the Gulf Stream offers, birds such as the Redwing that have travelled from either Iceland or Russia are usually able to find plenty of food. The normal plentiful supply 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.
Bushy Park normally has a few Redwings feeding in quiet corners and wooded areas, they are quite nervy and not very approachable, taking to the trees if frightened. If we have a sudden cold snap then these birds could be joined by a larger member of the thrush family the Fieldfare. This 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 and can you guess where it can be found feeding? That is right, 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 the 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. This bird can sometimes be found feeding on the stretch of the Longford River that exits the park at the western end of Lime Avenue or the channels in the Woodland Garden and recently by the steps in the river by the Brew House.
These areas also offer you the chance of seeing the park's Kingfishers; listen out for their piping call.
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 (harvested from the Brew House fields in the park) 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.