Derek – Thursday 20th June 2019

It’s warm, 20ºC, with a fair bit of sunshine. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, and today close,at 16 hours 39 minutes of daylight. The sun rose at 04.42 and will set at 21.21. All of which means the year is half over, and from Saturday, the days grow shorter. But the world is more than numbers, short days, long days, there are things to see and learn in the garden.

I decide to look for snails. They have a bad press. Some people hate them for what they eat, which snails might regard as a bit rich from the species which is munching the whole planet. Except they don’t go in for philosophy. Snails eat, they reproduce, and not much else.

They’re hard to find too. I can see what they’ve been eating. They certainly like hollyhocks. There are holes in the leaves and traces of slime where they have been. They can climb to the very top of the plant, two metres or more. Mostly they do it at night, and hide during the day which is why I am having difficulty finding any.

I figure if they eat hollyhocks, I will find some near the base of the hollyhocks. And at last I find a few garden snails. Their zoological name is Helix aspersa. The helix on the shell is obvious, a beautiful spiral in dark and light brown. Aspersa means sprinkled which I would think applies to the splattered effect on the shell.

Snails belong to the phylum molluscs which includes cockles, scallops, mussels and the octopus. Their class within the molluscs is gastropods, a large class which includes the slugs and snails. Slugs are snails which have lost their shell.

Gastropod is made up of two Greek words. Gastro means stomach and pod means foot. They are so called because they have a single foot under their body, which is along the line of their stomach. They secrete slime and the foot pushes along the slime to move. They have a rough tongue which is responsible for the holes I see in the hollyhocks.

Snails are hermaphrodites having both male and female sex organs. Garden snails come together for mating, fertilize each other, and each can produce about 80 eggs which hatch in about two weeks.

That’s enough about snails, but do have a good look at the spirals on their shells. They are impressive.

Garden posts have been put in at the back. The next step will be to attach cross bars, top and bottom. To them we will affix the doors we have been collecting, and so have a novel fence. A timely arrival of wooden planks have been dropped off today by a friendly builder. We take the nails out and store some on top of the container, and others at the front near the bins. We’ll use some for the cross bars.

The buddleia is so tall, taller than last year, obviously loving all the rain we have been having. In the three weeks of this month we’ve had over one quarter of the year’s rainfall. Such a contrast to last year when June was totally dry.

Near the buddleia by the fence are pink sweet-peas, a chaotic scramble of a plant. By them are nigella, with wispy threads of leaves and blue flowers, going rapidly to seed.

There’s cherries on the small cherry tree, not ripe yet. None on the large one, which is a sterile flowering cherry, not grown for fruit. There’s lychnis here and there in the garden, healthy and in full flower, such a powerful red purple colour. So much to see and enjoy these long June days.

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