Derek – Friday 30th July 2021

Last Sunday Forest Gate had a month’s rain in a few hours. I checked this by measuring with a ruler the water collected in a tin bath that’s in the garden. You can’t put one freak weather event down to climate change, but climate change makes such events more frequent, with the outliers becoming more usual. Sunday’s rain hammered down like a monsoon in New Delhi. The streets emptied, puddles grew across the street, gutters rapidly filled. Newham University and Whipps Cross hospitals asked A&E patients to go elsewhere due to flooding of the departments. Pudding Mill Lane on the DLR was out of action for a while.

In the garden, the wildflower bed was hammered like a field of wheat after a deluge, the various plants bowed over. There will be some recovery, but the glory days are over. It was the focal point of the garden, but that’s weather for you. Many wildflowers are quick-growing with fragile stems, and heavy rainfall knocks them flat. It rained hard again on Wednesday, and that broke the gazebo we still had up.

Rain is a good thing generally, but we’d like it a little steadier, with less wind and torrents. Not that you get any choice in these matters. All one can be sure of is there will be more such events, along with weeks of drought. The message is clear enough: we must cut carbon, individually and collectively, and do what we can to mitigate extremes. Climate change is here and getting rough. 49.6º C in British Columbia a few weeks ago; that had Cassandra jumping up and down on the clifftops, waving her arms wildly.

The butternut squash and sunflowers in the square bed stood up well to Sunday’s deluge. But Wednesday’s onslaught was too much for the sunflowers. They weren’t badly damaged, and I have now staked them.

The butternut squash has its first blooms. A couple of the sunflowers have the first signs of flowers. The combination works well together; the squash is a low plant, while the tall sunflowers make their way through its leaves. I am less concerned about snails and slugs, although the spreading squash gives them an easy bridge into the bed.

The few remaining tadpoles have changed their behaviour. These are the ones condemned to perpetual youth. They will not become frogs, but remain big, plump tadpoles. Metamorphosis halted prematurely. I note they have become more timid. Any movement and they are away, into the depths, while the first tadpoles, back in March, were oblivious of me and my shadow. These big tadpoles have become carnivorous, giving the pond fleas a hard time.

Our newt is still around. Is it the same newt? One newt does look much like another. Besides which the newt shouldn’t still be in the pond so late in summer. It could be an example of delayed development. If so, the newt could overwinter in the pond, continue development in the spring, and leave next summer.

A weed garden won an RHS medal. About time too, though pity about the appellation ‘weed’. The winning garden had lots of ragwort, with its bright yellow small dandelion-type flowers. And why not? Teasels too. The message is simple: if you like it, keep it. You don’t have to follow fashion.

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