Derek – Thursday 18th April 2019

A sunny day in the garden, about 20 degrees. It’s quiet today, few people realise we are open Thursday afternoons. We’ll likely pick up when the schools go back after Easter.

The large flowering cherry is at peak blossom, pink petals are starting to fall. It is such a fragile blossom, a little breeze and the path is covered like confetti. The buddleia nearby is up to the roof of the play house. Although it’s been dry, this invasive plant is the last to suffer with its woody stems and deep roots. We are watering today, mostly the pots but spot watering where a plant is obviously suffering. Let’s hope we don’t have a long drought like last summer, which lasted two months, from the end of May to early August.

There’s lots of birdsong, all over. We fill the feeders. A bird flashes into the bird box by the sycamore, so quickly we can’t see what is is. Probably a blue tit, incubating its eggs. It is a favourite nesting box. I suspect because of the shelter offered by the tree. Last year, once the eggs had hatched, you could hear the nestlings squawking. It’s an urgent, painful sound for the parents, sending them off non-stop, scurrying for food to keep them quiet. An almost impossible task, they grow so quickly. In just a few months they are fledged and away.

There are no tadpoles in the pond. I look under stones, in the weed, and can see none at all. I have already fingered dragonfly larvae and birds as predators. But today, I posit a third, one we have quite a few of, the greater water boatman. They are often just under the surface, on their backs, held up by the air in hairs on limbs and body. The extended middle limbs are so like oars, that with their boatlike shape, hence the name. The lesser water boatmen are vegetarian, but the greater, that we have, are carnivores. They are extremely swift and defenceless tadpoles don ‘t stand a chance. Apparently, they will even go for fish quite a bit larger than themselves. So not simply elegant rowers in boaters and college scarves.

We have about half a dozen pond skaters, sliding about the pond. Last year, we had one or two early on and then no more for the summer. Maybe this year, they’ll stick around. Children really like them. They are so thin, as if made of sticks, but need to be slight to glide on the surface tension.

I find hemlock by the book shed. At the moment, it’s a low feathery green plant, quite attractive. I would leave it, if it weren’t for the danger to children. Hemlock is very poisonous, as it has been mistaken for parsley. A dangerous mistake as just a small amount can paralyse the heart and lungs, bringing about death. I rip it all out, and will make sure none takes hold. Last year, we mistook it for cow parsley for a while. It flowered before we stripped it out. The small plants I weeded out today are its offspring. Hopefully, the last.

Blue is a favoured colour. There’s borage in the wild flower bed, plenty of anchusa, forget-me-nots, and bluebells scattered around the garden.

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