Nature Calendar: January in the British Garden

NATURE observes no strict time-table, and to begin a Nature calendar on New Year’s Day is to set an artificial limit to the cycle of plant and animal life. Climate, above all, determines what will be seen in garden and field at any given time of the year. In a mild, wet season, plants may appear as much as a month earlier than usual, while in a cold, dry season they may be a month later. Similarly, observers in southern districts of the British Isles will usually be able to see these plants earlier than those in the north. The habits of animals, birds and insects are governed to a certain extent by the appearance of the plants on which they depend for food as well as by climate. This calendar is a general guide to Nature’s activities. It covers both wild and garden life, for apart from helping the Nature observer, a knowledge of Nature’s routine can be exploited to plan a garden in which interest can be sustained through all seasons.



January is often a windy month, with moderate rainfall, and snow when the temperature is low enough. The first part of the month is frequently milder than the latter part.


A surprising number of flowers can be seen during the bleak month of January. In the garden the lovely Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is in flower, as well as H. corsicus. The yellow Iris danfordiae appears in sheltered positions, while chionodoxas make a splash of brilliant blue as the snow melts. The yellow winter aconite and the snowdrop, both of which grow wild in many localities, make their early show of colour this month.

A few wild flowers bloom throughout the winter, including such weeds as chick-weed and dandelion.


There is still an abundance of winter jasmine, and the winter-flowering honey-suckles are also in bloom, although their branches are bare. Azaras flower against sheltered walls, and Erica darleyensis begins to bloom. The dangling catkins of the hazel are conspicuous, and may start to lose their pollen by the end of the month.


Many evergreens still have brilliant berries. The yellow-berried holly and the brightly polished red berries of skimmia look particularly fine. The ivy has hanging clusters of green fruit. Among the deciduous shrubs, the orange berries of

Hippophae rhanmoides persist, since they are unappetizing to birds. White snowberries hang on leafless twigs, and the related Symphoricarpos orbiculatus has clusters of coral-pink berries.


Many birds move in flocks from communal roosts to feeding grounds in fields and in woods. Among these are wood-pigeons, rooks, starlings and jackdaws; chaffinches and other finches; thrushes, tits, and the smallest British bird, the goldcrest. Pewits (lapwings) spend most of their time in the fields.

Flocks of ducks, especially mallard, teal and tufted duck, can be seen on lakes and reservoirs. Moorhens abound on most waters, and coot on the larger lakes. Gulls are seen on stretches of inland water and on deserted beaches. Here, too are plovers, curlews and other waders.

Some birds come into song early in the winter, and by January, except in the most severe weather, thrushes and sparrows can be heard, as well as the robin, wren, skylark, great tit and nuthatch. Before the month is out, the blackbird and chaffinch will join them.


January is not a month in which insects can be seen generally, though a few mild days will bring out some of the hibernating moths and butterflies for a brief period. The dancing flight of gnats will continue throughout the winter.


Despite the cold weather, the first lambs are often to be seen. Squirrels scamper through the woods, searching for the nuts that they have hidden, and the badger too sometimes emerges from its winter quarters to hunt for food. A tree stripped of its bark indicates the passing of hungry deer.

For the remainder of the Nature Calendar, see category.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Nature Calendar: January in the British Garden


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