Derek – Sunday 21st May, 2023

Forest Gate Community Garden

Sunday, 21 May 2023

The bright yellow pond irises are out, catch ’em quick, some are already fading. There’s a pond in Epping Forest called the Lost Pond. I used to go there with Woodcraft Folk over half term while they were camping at Debden, end of May. Usually the irises were out, a large swathe of them, or just fading, the lake surrounded by trees in full leaf.

Other irises around the garden are out too, purple and white, the leafy blades poking out like sword blades from the rhizome, a fat horizontal stem. The flowers make me think of turkey heads, with the wattle beneath the throat.

A bug is attacking the buddleia. The affected leaves are crinkled with patchy white amidst the green. Some of them have black mites underneath, and I wonder whether they bring a virus.

This is going to be a good year for fruit, providing we get rain, or our standpipe goes in if there’s a drought. The grape vine on the small pergola has tiny grapes, and there are green cherries in the cherry tree close by. On the other side, our new plum has green fruit too. Around the garden are vestiges of apples, pears, and gooseberries. Quite a fruit salad.

Caught in a web, I see a couple of parachutes from dandelions. The clocks are around the garden, those puffballs of seed, just needing a slight wind to break them up and send the parachutes away. This is how a dandelion disperses its seeds, using the wind. As do the helicopters from the sycamore. We are finding last year’s crop growing all over the garden. The tree is currently in flower, with already some bunches of green parachutes. All the fruit we have, in nature would be dispersed by animals, including ourselves. They eat the fruit, and the seeds eventually pass out of them, and grow in the manure. The burrs of burdocks are dispersed by animals too, but by sticking to their fur. Cleavers also stick to fur and feathers, to be carried to a new site. Berries inedible to us may be eaten by birds, such as Holly and Ivy. The pond irises have seeds that float on water, carried on the current to a new bank. Many cultivars are sterile, and so have no seeds. They have to be grown from cuttings of roots, stems or buds.

There’s so much green growth in the garden. The giant scabious are massing, as are the acanthus and hollyhocks. Two yuccas have died, though. They are desert plants and have hated all this rain. Their thick stems have rotted. But the ferns love moist conditions and so are in prime condition.

No legs on the tadpoles yet. It’s been a little chilly and this has slowed growth, but I would have expected back legs by now. On some of the pond irises are the husks of damselflies, the shed skin of the adult. When I first saw them, I thought they were the adult, as there is so much detail. But no, just the shed skin. The clue is – no wings. In this final shedding of skin, the adult at last emerges fully winged. It cannot fly for several hours, as the new skin has to harden and the wings dry.

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