Winter Heliotrope…. first or last of the year?

Nature and the seasons constantly move forward, one morphs into the next and this is the delight of our countryside. Now at the beginning of December we already have the catkins in waiting on the Hazel bushes, hard and green but it will not be long before the first of them extend and dangle in the wind releasing their golden yellow pollen.

However I am not sure about Winter Heliotrope, is it the beginning of the Spring flowers or is it the last of the Autumn cohort. In my book it is in the chapter of Winter flowers along with others like Snowdrops and Winter Aconites, but for many of us they are the first beginnings of Spring.  Most of us are desperate for the return of warm weather bright skies and more daylight, so even the Winter Heliotrope with its wonderful fragrance is something to clutch on to. Why I am not sure about it is partly because it is not native, it hails from North Africa and as such flowering in December or January is probably a good idea, so maybe its genetic make up has it hard wired into flowering at this time. The other problem I have with this plant is that it is that it is quite invasive. Where I live in West Gloucestershire it is spreading quite rapidly to the detriment of all other species.

There is a section of road which I drive along quite often on the way to Chepstow and thus the motorway system and when I first moved to this area about ten years ago there were just one or two patches of it. Now there are extensive sections of the road where it completely dominates the hedgerows, nothing else seems to be able to compete. It does get knocked back by a heavy frost but that is just the leaves and the rootstock in the ground seems to survive quite well and it soon produces new vigorous leaves.

The flowers in my book are arranged seasonally, and we have six seasons Early Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer, High Summer, Autumn and Winter.  The winter section contains 10 species and covers the months of December January and February. So even in the cold dark months of winter there are still flowers out there that can brighten a dull day and bring joy to your heart.

 

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