Snow fleas? Pull the other one!

(If you don’t like tiny creepy crawlies, I suggest you go and look at a different post!)

On our walks in the woods recently we have once again noticed little black specks on the snow. Until now we thought it must be dirt from the machinery used for forestry or from old tractors driving through the woods, but this year it was extreme and so we took a closer look…

Here we saw that where tracks are (from tractor tyres, deer, our footprints, skis etc) there is more of this ‘dirt’. Could it be soot? Is our air so bad? Here, in the middle of nowhere, with no industry for miles…

When we got home my Man of Many Talents googled for ages, trying to find something about it, and when he showed me what he had found I was AMAZED! He went back to get more photos so we could check the facts!


Now I’m going to get even closer…

They are SNOW FLEAS! Now, maybe we are the only people in the world who have never heard of snow fleas before, so I hope I am not showing my ignorance, but aren’t they simply incredible? Here are several hundred or even thousands of them gathering in the hollows of tracks.

Now a little information that we found in German, summarized:

Snow fleas come out of the ground in February/March when the temperature is just above freezing. They are often thought to be soot, as they cover the snow quite thickly in places. But these ‘specks of dirt’ are all the same size (around 1 millimetre long). They can crawl and jump (about 10cm high). However, they aren’t actually fleas, but springtails, so Wikipedia says they are technically not insects.

They emerge at temperatures of about -3ยฐC, and live on fungi, pollen or algae which provide them with a special protein that functions as a kind of antifreeze. They prefer damp forests with evergreens. It is a real migration at this time of year, as they use the snow to move more easily and to search for food and for new ground where they can increase their population.

For scientific purposes my Man of Many Talents let some crawl across his hand, and we think they are actually smaller than 1 millimetre…

So, please let me know if you have ever encountered these fascinating little creatures and any extra information would be very welcome!


Interesting links:




Book Review: ‘Lab Girl’ by Hope Jahren

I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.

Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.

I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.

Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!



In a Vase on Monday: Once in a Blue Moon

This week we will not only see the second full moon within one calendar month, but also the third of four full moons for this season, making it a ‘blue moon’. This doesn’t happen very often – hence the saying ‘Once in a blue moon’.

Now, if only I had one of those lovely Chinese moon flask vases to use for my Monday vase as I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden once again… but this round one comes pretty close:

Now, what can I put in it?! Well, after searching the soggy garden I did manage to find something suitable…

Some lovely long hazel catkins, a hellebore from the patio pots and some hellebore leaves, grasses, and a few sprigs of St John’s Wort that hasn’t died back at all this winter. The sparkly white candle is left over from Christmas (I couldn’t bear to light it as it is so pretty) and is included here to symbolize the full moon. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also filled another small vase with a hellebore and some Heuchera – the tiny pottery vase was bought at the Christmas markets with snowdrops in mind, but the little green shoots of my snowdrops are only just showing…

If you are in the northern hemisphere, I wonder if you have got snowdrops yet?

Have a good week, wherever you are!

In a Vase on Monday: Yippee for Hippee…astrums!

No vase today I’m afraid. I think this picture may explain why…

But not to fear, I have a card up my sleeve and some Hippeastrums (Amaryllis) on my windowsills!

This is Jewel…

Jewel has produced one very tall stem and one very short, both flowering at the same time. I like its simplicity. Just white, no frills.

And this is Lady Jane…

I really like this one, not least because it has flowered at the perfect height of about 20cm, requiring no support whatsoever. And it is a lovely peachy orange colour with pretty markings.

Now go and visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this weekly meme which encourages us to find things from our gardens to plonk in a vase. (And forgive me for cheating a little this week! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

The Tuesday View: 7th November 2017

A few rays of sunshine were captured in my photos of the Tuesday View today – precious in November, and lighting up some of the lovely autumn yellows and golds…

The giant Miscanthus is already changing colour, but the dwarf one in front of it remains silvery almost all winter…

As you can see in the above photo I haven’t had the heart to trim this Perovskia yet, but the larger one on the other side of the rockery has been cut back to about 50 cm and will be trimmed hard again in spring.

You may also notice an extra Calamagrostis has appeared in front of the Achillea support; planted out from a pot I had as a summer container, I am not sure I like it there but will mull over it for another week before replanting. Another awaits, and our new hole digger will be put to the test… watch this space!

A major highlight right now is the Hypericum…

… along with the Zebra grass at the bottom of the slope – hard to see from this angle, but below the Acer…

I must try and find the original label as there are various ones that look very similar. I just love these crimped seedheads!

The last aster in flower is in the foreground here and there is still plenty of ground cover. The Hellebore leaves (on the right of the Acer) are looking very healthy, so let’s hope they remain so!

I think a round up of some of my favourite photos of the view will be in the pipeline next week or the week after, as I doubt there will be many changes now… unless it snows! ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you would like to join me in posting a view of one part of your garden every Tuesday, please leave a link in the comments below!

Happy gardening!


The Tuesday View: 24th October 2017

It’s been two weeks since my last Tuesday View, and the differences are noticeable… what happened to the leaves on the Acer?!

As you can see, it is looking very autumnal. Looking across from the pathway the view has now opened up as the acer has returned to a skeletal form and the Golden Rod has been partially removed.

I can now see the crisp upright Calamogrostis and Zebra grass as I walk down past the acer…

… at the bottom of the path, looking back up, the freshly trimmed box is also visible after cutting back the peony foliage which was lying flat and already decomposing.

The lovely Aster Alma Pรถtschke has gone over – its moment of glory was brief, but I did make the most of it this year and cut lots to bring indoors. The Perovskia is now a ghost of its former self, but with no flowers left to weigh it down it can at least stand to attention before it is pruned for winter.

The beautiful Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ will continue to look pretty for some time, and my Hypericum has surprised me with some amazing new growth and fresh flowers. There is one single Lychnis flower among the Teucrium too…

I am hoping the first frost will come late this year, and will then be followed by some mild sunny days to tidy up after it!

Finally, a couple of shots of the old Tuesday View from last year, dominated by the spiky red flowers of Persicaria Firetail…

I look forward to seeing your views too, and if you wish to share them please leave a comment below with a link. ๐Ÿ™‚