It's some time since I posted on this blog. I'd love to be able to offer a convincing excuse, but it's perhaps better to look on the positive side and say that it's a New Year - and a new decade - and that's as good a time as any to get back to noting some of the plants I come across on our five acres of rural Ireland - and in the surrounding countryside - and a few other thoughts that link in with them that interest or intrigue me.
My thought was to feature every day, as far as I could, a plant that I had photographed that day in flower. In this part of Ireland where snow is rare and winters are usually relatively mild that seemed a feasible idea. But I didn't count on this winter being such an exception. We are now three weeks into what will almost certainly prove to be the coldest spell in living memory. We've had frost every night over that period and it's getting worse - the temperature is expected to drop to -10C tonight which is pretty well unheard of around here.
Needless to say, the flora is seriously non-floral at the moment and I suspect it's going to stay that way for a while, but I shouldn't have been surprised to find one old favourite still bravely putting on a show - gorse (Ulex europaeus). There's an old country saying that "When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion", meaning that lovers never need worry because gorse is to be found flowering throughout the year.
And here's the proof - gorse flowering on January 1 in the depths of a severe cold spell. OK, it's not exactly at its best, but it's a splash of yellow in an otherwise green, brown and white landscape.
Gorse flowering on January 1
Gorse, also known as furze and whin, grows commonly in this area and was probably planted into hedgerows to contain livestock and provide a good windbreak. It's said it was also planted around dwellings so that washing could be laid out to dry without fear of it being blown away.
The few flowers today weren't offering much scent, but when gorse is in full bloom it produces a strong sweet coconut scent which some people like myself find very noticeable. Others apparently are hardly able to smell it. Presumably bees and the other insects that it relies on for pollination aren't quite so fickle.