Michelob gifted the woods with a new plant – cytisus praecox. Otherwise known as ‘Broom’. It’s spring flowering, with long bracts of buttery yellow blossom. To me it looks almost like a softer paler yellow non-prickly gorse. Like all spring flowers, it’s recommended as a plant for pollinators, which makes the big guy’s heart sing, being that he’s so over-the-moon enamoured with bees and other buzzy bugs and flying beasts.
How did we miss it? It’s been ‘National Gardening Week’ since 27 April. Who knew?
Goddesses know we’re major pro-garden people, so I don’t want to sound churlish, but I think their PR and media office needs a bit of work, ’cause we’ve been nothing but ‘switched on’ to media news – to a compulsive, even possibly unhealthy degree. And in all of this I don’t recall any stories about this annual celebration in any of the domestic news channels – BBC, Sky News, Channel 4… Just saw it now on Monty’s Gardener’s World.. But one mention in a specialist show does not a publicity campaign make.
National Gardening Week suffers lexical confusion too, as it’s ‘National’ but also for all of the UK, despite calling the various devolved areas within the UK ‘Nations’ – as in Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland being separate and distinct ‘nations’ which are united within the wider ‘kingdom.’ Nations which increasingly pull and twist against a wider Westminster ‘grain’, not just vis-a-vis responses to Coronavirus in present days, but previously and continuously with response to Brexit, among other issues. Kudos to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for staying strong and doing what she thinks is right for her ‘region.’
National Gardening Week ends on Sunday 3 May.
The woodlanders were getting restless. It had been about six weeks since our little volunteer group had gone out to work on tidying the woods, and everything has exploded into abundant growth, so with a little nudging from the troops we collectively discussed and then decided to head out on a weekday morning, thus avoiding our usual weekend work sessions as these days the circus is far too busy with stir-crazy parents and young children zooming around on their bicycles and scooters. Too busy for safe gardening in these quiet corona-apocalypse days. It was fairly busy today too, with plenty of pedestrians walking through, but still quieter than the weekends, and we got an hour’s work in before the heavens opened.
Columbine in flower (1 May 2020). Photo by G.
Blue flowering columbine in back patch (April 2020)
A patch of particular beauty this year is the wild columbine growing at the back end of the meadow area. The horticultural name of these beauties is ‘aquilegia vulgaris‘, and they are also known as ‘granny’s bonnets.’
Columbine are loved by bees and other pollinators, and seem to have really taken a liking to their location. A smaller patch self-seeded along the path. This is the best year of bloom I’ve ever seen in the woods.
We also have a small clump of darker purple flowering columbine in the back patch (tucked in behind the towering form of our artichoke plants).
Life behind & beyond bars. (April 2020)
And so it is that April has come and gone. A whole month locked down and house-bound most of the time. But even life behind bars offers visions of the delights of spring.
One thing about this lockdown has been the ability to spend sustained time witnessing the birth of spring. Or not quite birth, but rather, along with the new, a powerful re-emergence – a swelling back into spectacular life of all things, in all of nature’s myriad forms. So many leaf forms, so various the shades of green, from acid bright lights on leaves as delicate as finely woven lace, to fuzzy fleshy dark spears such as the low-growing lungwort, already spent of their spring blossom of pale pink and blue bells. So many bees, some sleek and speedy, others furry, round-bodied and content to linger long and thoroughly amidst the early spring blossoms.
One vision in particular was to me a real surprise and treat – watching the back patch birds visit our little seed feeder. We’ve seen house sparrows and other songbirds arrive to the feeder with their young fledglings, and at one point an adult sparrow was at the feeder with a weak-flying newly-out-of-nester. The little baby bird was hanging onto the wire feeder with all its might and concentration and that’s all it could do. So the parent bird started picking out the tiniest millet seeds and then popping them into a bright yellow hungry open beak. I’d never have thought that you’d see that on a bird feeder, and somehow assumed that once the baby birds were up and flying from the nest that they would be self-sufficient, but it’s not quite so straightforward as all that, apparently.
Small red damselfly. (22 April 2020) Photo by G.
All around the world this weekend, a major citizen science project to document biodiversity will take place in over 200 cities.
It’s so easy! We already updated a link about seeing a rare red damselfly on our plot (spotted earlier this week).
Ok, it’s true… our damselfly record went to a different citizen science site, but there’s a major initiative going on this weekend – announced by the National History Museum in their email newsletter this morning.
22 April is Earth Day, and 2020 this marks fifty years of trying to draw attention to the beauty and biodiversity of mother earth. Fifty years of conservation efforts and trying to get human beings to value their environment, with more and more of the world’s beautiful creatures slipping into extinction and rarity. Are we listening yet?
Small red damselfly. (22 April 2020)
The great Malink and me spent Earth Day up at the plot and were rewarded upon arrival with the vision of the first damselfly of our summer – a tiny little red coloured beauty! The transparent delicacy of the wings are astonishing – a real mother nature miracle!
A quick review on the British Dragonfly Society’s website indicates this one – a small red damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) – might actually be endangered in the UK – but seemed happy enough to keep us company and even stayed still long enough for the big guy to take a great photo.
Gooseberry fruit forming (19 April 2020). Photo by G.
Signs of crops to come abound on the plot.
Gooseberry, now safely ensconced in their netted new bed, are swelling nicely, promising what may be our first ever crop of berries. Or at least the first crop that we will have a chance to taste – last year that privilege went to the birds!
This picture shows the swelling new berries, with the faded flowers still sitting at the base of the new fruit, which makes the visual point: flowers means fruit!
Also coming along are the logan berry bushes on the border at the back of the damask rose.
Signs of a return of the sea holly once again. It didn’t flower last summer which was a disappointment, but it did have a good show of flowers in that first summer in 2018.
The timing is pretty much the same as last year – around end of April. It’s the 20th today, and last year we posted about the resurfaced sea holly on 27 April 2019.
In truth, these plants require really good drainage and this one is planted in heavy, water-saturated clay. But they don’t like being transplanted due to having very long tap roots (being of the carrot family of plants). So it must stay where it is.
The big guy adores the sea holly – which in turn is loved by bees – and in mistaken gestures of love and care, admitted that he probably over-watered it last summer. We’ve vowed not to add to it any additional water this summer. On verra, as they say in gai Paris.
Anyway, we’re delighted to see the emergence of its tell-tale thistle-like leaves. So we pulled away any rotted leaves from the base of the plant and then sprinkled gardening grit around it’s base on Sunday. Go sea holly go! Here’s hoping for flowers for this year.
Flies doing the two-headed beast on the rose (19 April 2020)
After a slight rain on Saturday, life on the allotment exploded into life. The first signs of the broad beans I planted way back in March showed themselves, shyly but present nonetheless.
King Robin serenading us from the Fig tree (14 April 2020)
Not only is it noticeably cooler in the past two days (just over 10 degrees again today), it also rained lightly.
The rain wasn’t heavy or lashing down – more of a gentle shower – but it was fairly sustained so thankfully we will be spared the emergency watering of the back patch flower bed.
With the weather turning, and a few projects to think about at home, we stayed away from the allotment today as there’s no worry about the seed beds drying out. We will have to go to water the plants in the growing shed but one day’s rest should be fine for them.
The photo to the right shows the our little Robin – King Robin, if you don’t mind! Singing his little heart out. The leaves on the fig are just starting to emerge, and the fig fruit swelling noticeably day by day.