Christmas decoration - Holly and Mistletoe
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, while 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.
Daffodils are starting to emerge through the grass for flowering in the early spring - our thanks to the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks who planted 2000 new daffodil bulbs in November. Leaf clearance is underway and will continue until the end of January.
Canada Glade - The dogwoods (Cornus) by the Totem Pole show off their vivid red and golden stems which brighten up a winter's day. It is normal horticultural practice to cut the stems down just before buds burst in the spring.
We have now reached a fairly quiet time of the year; the last of our regular winter visitors should have reached the UK and be enjoying the slightly milder conditions than much of the continent.
Especially for birds like the Redwing. Some of them may have travelled south from Iceland, but most of our Redwings have come here from Scandinavia, along with the Fieldfare. Redwings will be feeding in the park in small numbers from the beginning of the month. Fieldfares wait until extreme weather, and after eating most of the berries in the countryside, come to the park.
Bushy Park also hosts another member of the thrush family and one that has a small resident population - the Mistle Thrush. They can be 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, Little Egrets would have caused 100's of twitchers (very enthusiastic bird watchers) to come flocking.
We have had a bird return to winter in Bushy 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 with the temperature staying well below freezing. 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.