Derek Thursday 2nd May 2019

It’s chilly with a sharp wind, the sky grubby white as if rubbed with charcoal. Earlier in the day there was sunshine but it’s gone for the day. Not a day when we’ll get many visitors.

There’s a patch of vetch near the greenhouse. And quite a bit more of it in the wild flower bed. Not flowering yet. But the phacelia are. The bed is full of them. They have clusters of five petalled blue flowers with hairs going through the cluster. The advantage of an ongoing blog is that you recognise plants when they come again the next year. Last spring, phacelia was a month later, plants held back by the cold spell, the so called ‘Beast from the East’. Phacelia is thought to be a Victorian garden escape.

There’s pink campion, and a lot more Californian poppies in bloom in the wild flower bed. The bed will be our main feature for the next 6 weeks.
The weather has been dry the last couple of weeks, so we water the pots and individual plants in beds which are distressed. Last year, we were given several big clump of ferns which we divided and planted out. They died back to their roots over the winter, but are now growing anew. A few haven’t survived, but there are plenty doing well. Many are in pots which are very dry. We water too all the plants in the greenhouse as, sheltered from the weather, we are their only source of water.

Snails and pond skaters can be seen in the pond, but not a single tadpole. We only had one clump of spawn, which gave us a few hundred tadpoles, but they are such easy victims for predators. And one of them, the water boatman, has gone too. Birds perhaps, which are everywhere: mating, nesting and feeding chicks and eating, from our feeders and likely from our pond too.

At the bird feeder by the stage, I see variously sparrows, a coal tit and great tits. There’s birdsong all around. These are their days.

Near the side gate, in the shade of the large sycamore, there’s a small Skimmia japonica. Surprisingly, it still has its red berries this late in the year. They were formed last autumn, so we are getting our money’s worth.
I decide to look for lichens as they are an often overlooked organism. Lichens are part plant and part fungus. The plant is usually an algae or cyanobacteria. The latter are akin to some of the earliest lifeforms on Earth in the primordial oceans. Through their photosynthesis the atmosphere became oxygenated, allowing animals to develop.

I don’t expect to find many lichens as they are slow growing, and we are a recent garden with lots of footfall and continual disturbance. But I don’t find any at all. Not on the walls, or the cherry tree at the front. Our paths are too scuffed, and lichens won’t grow on metal. I have one last hope. Next week, I am going to get the ladder and look on the roof of the book shed.
Around 3.20 pm it begins to drizzle. Never a hard rain, but it keeps up. The garden certainly needs it. But it’s not the weather for visitors. There’s no one here but the two hosts. At four, we call it a day and close up.

The next day, I come back and look again for lichens. Certainly, none in the old cherry tree. But a close look at the sycamore by the side gate, and I see some specks. Yes, we just about have lichens. But don’t put up the bunting and invite the Lichen Society.

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