Derek – Thursday 6th June 2019

A pleasant, mostly sunny afternoon. We are sheltered from the wind. There was a misting of rain this morning, and a few millimetres on Tuesday, but it will take a lot more to make up for the past two dry months. Such slight falls don’t penetrate the soil, so saplings like the walnut and the apple trees are looking distinctly unhappy. The small cherry, by the children’s area, has languid leaves, though the large one with more extensive roots is still OK.

I arrive to a busy scene. A group of refugees are having an Eid picnic. Ramadan finished on Tuesday, a month of fasting, made more testing with long summer days and no food allowed till after sunset. So food midday is a welcome change.

The back fence is down. Taken down by our demolition squad. The garden looks so much longer. An illusion, this is not a land grab for the neighbour’s patch, but fence posts are to be put in at the weekend, onto which we will attach the doors we have been collecting. A novel type of fence.

We spend much of the afternoon breaking up the fencing. There are lots of nails and splinters in the old wood. We take the debris to the front, near the bins, to be taken down to the dump next week. On top of this activity, plants left over from the Chelsea Flower Show come. We make storage room for them, temporary we hope. With luck some will be sold on our plant stall as there’s little room in the garden for them. I note ferns, campanulas, fennel and several I can’t recognise.

Our garden is busy, but nothing is happening on the site next door. We received a letter saying Gateway would commence work on Monday. But it’s no surprise that there’s no activity. Demolition on Woodgrange was due to take place in November and there is no sign of a start. Gateway should be more reliable, as they are not speculative builders but a housing association.

Several sparrows flit across, busy feeding nestlings I suspect. The buddleia is at full height with tiny flowers beginning to unfurl. The butterfly bush reminds me I’ve seen no butterflies today, lots of bees though. There are red poppies here and there. They only flower for a day or so, but keep coming. There’s a clump of ox-eye daisies by the birch.

Phlomis is in bloom. A weird flower, difficult to describe: it has a series of yellow semi-circular discs on edge. I’d like to see a bee on it, just to see how it works. Or maybe have a close look with a magnifying glass.

A brightly coloured flower has two functions, one is to attract pollinators (bees or other insects) and the other, connected to the first, is production of seeds. A bee has no feeling for beauty. Her behaviour is purely practical; she comes for the nectar. Petal colour is a way of signalling that the flower is a source. The layout of the petals and sepals allow the bee to brush pollen off the stamens as she is dipping for the nectar, and to brush pollen from another flower *onto*the stigma (which leads to the ovary for pollination). The structure has to be strong enough for the bee to root around. The structure and purpose result in a flower that we see as beautiful, quite accidentally, as our feelings are irrelevant to the plant.

The pond irises are setting seed, while the monkey flowers at the edge of the pond are in bloom. The flowers are like yellow snapdragons. I wonder if they are related. There’s a single water lily. We only ever get them one at a time. The water boatmen are almost at adult size. They dive so swiftly if they catch any movement. The pond level is down eight inches from its early spring height.

About the garden, there are purple lychnis flowers, related to the campions. The purple gentians near the rose arch are still eagerly flowering, loving the sunshine, and not too bothered by the water shortage.

In the raised bed of herbs nearby, blue lavender is in flower, its perfume mixing with lemon balm and various mints.

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