Derek – Friday 22nd May 2020

The old pergola has gone. But the roof has been flipped over, so with the retained wall and a new set of posts, we have a new pergola. We have lost space, a two metre passage to the road taken over by Gateway as access for its adjacent site. Our front gate has changed too. Half of the old one has gone to Gateway, but the other half has become a new gate. We have gone for a stable door type, which can fold down, making it child safe.

The snail mosaic has been moved by necessity to our fence near the cherry tree. In compensation for the inconvenience, Gateway said they will put in a water tap. We hope it comes soon as this month has been dry, and there’s no rain forecast.

The end of May, beginning of June, is iris time. Near our rose arch is an iris with brilliant purple flowers, close to the blue gentians. By the greenhouse is a blue and yellow iris. And in the pond we have pond irises, also known as flags. The latter are in common in the wild on the edges of streams and ponds. There’s a fine display at the edge of the Lost Pond in Epping Forest, near Loughton, which I recall from camping days with the Woodcraft Folk.

Irises can be propagated by seed, though a more reliable means of propagation for hybrids is using a piece of rhizome. A rhizome is a swollen horizontal stem. They trail, fat and sausage like, across the soil, half buried. Chop off 4 to 6 inches with a bit of leaf, plant, and you can hardly fail, as there is so much food in the rhizome. An iris grown this way will be a clone of the parent plant. We collect the seeds of our pond irises and mostly give them away. And they grow true.

Our water irises are popular for emerging dragonflies. The nymph, which has spent two to three years at the bottom of the pond, is at last ready for its final stage. It crawls up a water plant, irises in our pond, clear of the water. Attached to a leaf, the adult emerges from its skin in about an hour. This is often at first light, so difficult to witness. What we do see are the empty skins. When I first saw one three years ago, I thought it was a dragonfly nymph itself as there was so much detail in the discarded skin of the body, limbs and head. Only when I saw it still there hours later did I realise that it was just the husk.

Once the adult has emerged, it spends many hours drying out. The cuticle has to harden to form a new exoskeleton. At this point, the dragonfly is easy prey to birds. Once dried out, the adult can fly off. It has one goal and that is to mate. The adult will die in three to four weeks. This strikes me as a lopsided life: three years crawling on the bottom of the pond (eating our tadpoles) and just a month as an adult. The ones we commonly see are broad bodied chasers.

There’s a family of foxes living under our back stage. Four of them were witnessed in the week, coming out en famille in the evening. They went from the back of our garden to the front, where they get out. Our garden is a safe place for their lair, but there’s no food, so they must leave to forage. Urban foxes live on rats, mice and our leavings. There’s often bin waste scattered on the streets by foxes in their search for food.

Comments 2

  1. A tap! At last!! That will make a huge difference. I hope the beautiful snail survives the move, and I look forward to the video showing what the changes look like (no pressure, Derek!).
    As ever, thank you for doing this, it’s great. x

  2. The snail has survived, and been moved to the fence on Sprowston Road, near the cherry tree. Water is a promise, that could mean days or weeks. It’s important to us but not to Gateway. We hope to do a video this week and so you’ll be able to see what’s been done.

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