Last year we had quite a mild December, and a good cold January, with the first daffodils blooming by the end of January – and then a brutally cold spring with plenty of snow and ice. What does this year have in store for us?
Friday night, (the 21st December) was the Winter Solstice. It occurred at exactly 10.23 pm, so the following morning (Saturday 22nd) was in fact the closest to the event. This marks the start of Astronomical Winter, which in many cases is the true winter, although in Ireland 1st December is usually considered the first day of winter by meteorologists.
Incredibly, yesterday I found daffodils were not only up, but some had flower buds! How long will it take for them to bloom? We’ll have to wait and see, but this December is certainly a little bit warm:
Incredibly, I also found Primroses in full bloom! It is extremely early for them, although they are often earlier bloomers than others:
When autumn arrives it starts at the top and works down: the leaves fall off the trees, the undergrowth loses its shelter and dies back and in some species it even retreats underground. The shelter of the leaves, and plants goes and the earth is largely exposed to the atmosphere, causing it to cool. In spring the opoosite situation arises. Spring starts from the ground and works up. As the light increases a race among the plants begins. The first undergrowth plants to begin growing are ivy and Dog Violets. The violets grow very low to the ground, but rely on insects to pollinate them, so have to start flowering very early, usually in February.
Soon after the violets appear the densely-growing leaves of Lesser Celandine appear, followed by a sea of luminous yellow flowers. Lesser Celandine is in the buttercup family. This plant flowers from now into the summer, and smothers the violets, although the usually continue growing alongside quite happily.
Lesser Celandine is a very important plant because it provides a lot of nectar for insects, and is one of their main food flowers before the shrubs and trees begin to flower. Dog Violets and Lesser Celandine are normally found in wooded areas or along hedgerows and thrive before the leaves appear in the canopies.
In more open land, such as meadows and fields, Primroses begin to flower. They are another extremely common wildflower species in Wicklow. They often flower beneath layers of snow, so are not good indicators of warm weather, but certainly are most numerous in the warmer weather of March.
However, for most people the quintessential symbol of spring is the daffodil. Although daffodils are found everywhere growing wild along roadsides in Wicklow, they are not a native species to Ireland. With the exception of crocuses and violets, the blooms of the Wicklow spring are predominantly yellow, like the spring sun.