October 25, 2010

This week in wildlife

Now is the time of the first frosts. This is one of the waymarks in the gardening calendar, the late-October date by which tender plants should be taken under cover, wrapped in fleece or sacking or, as an insurance policy, have cuttings taken from them in case they do not survive the hard winter months to come.
The first frost doesn't just affect garden plants, though. Annual weeds will start to wither, although they're far from beaten - they've all released their seeds by now, tens of thousands of them. Most plants, including trees and shrubs, will cease to grow and become dormant for the winter once the daily mean temperature is below about 6 degrees.
The sap falls in the stems; the leaves of deciduous species drop; some plants die back above ground altogether, life ebbing back to a stronghold in the roots, or in corms or bulbs deep underground.
Cold weather is pushing down from the frozen north. Birds flee before it to overwinter on this little island, and further south. But even here, even in the sheltered city, life retreats, falls back for the long months to come, and readies itself to muster again in spring.