24 DECEMBER 1948, Page 17


IT used to be said that spring had arrived when you could cover five daisy flowers with your foot. If that is a true test, spring was with us this December. Daisies (which Chaucer looked for in May) are one of the abnormalities of this season; and in a score of details December is more like the tenth month, which it is called, than the twelfth. Yet more remarkable than the plants which are in blossom are the shrubs that are over. With me two species of guelder have done flowering, though perhaps one or two relics may be found to add to the Christmas bouquet. The place of the guelders has been filled by a prunus. Quite a large, handsome, standard tree of P. Subhirtella began to delight our eyes a fortnight before Christmas, with a promise of reaching its best about Christmas Day. It is invaluable; and those who have the hardi- hood to cut it find that it lasts longer in a vase than almost any other flower. The most beautiful vaseful in previous Christmases has been a combination of the naked flowering jasmine and the Algerian iris. For all their difference they charmingly, in Henry James's phrase, "consent to a natural relation." Leaves are perhaps surer evidence of open weather than flowers. Many sorts of green leaves hang on—for example on nut, prunus and rose—and those bushes that, though deciduous, try hard to be evergreen, such as blackberry, privet and Japanese quince, show as little sign of surrendering to winter as the singing robins, wrens and thrushes.