Derek – Friday 21st May

It doesn’t feel like May. Not a day to shed a clout. We’ve had lots of rain, we could be heading for a record for the month. And temperatures stay in the chilly teens, feeling colder today with the strong wind. Yesterday, we had a visit from Kay Rowe nursery, all swaddled up and with parents and teachers. It’s becoming a regular visit, a green space only a few hundred yards from their nursery. And this time of year, there’s lots to see with flowers and new leaf, and of course the tadpoles, still legless and still very tadpole-like.

No matter how much spawn we have, the number of tadpoles always thins out. I am sure predation accounts for quite a bit of loss, but I suspect not all of it. Do some just die, like embryos that don’t make it to term? Some weakness in their system, a gene that just doesn’t switch on leaving them to starve and wilt like listless poets.

There are so many changes that have to be made for a tadpole to become a frog. Inevitably there will be failures. But it is so hard to know, as you cannot see their demise, with all the vegetation. I have not noted a dead tadpole in our pond, not that they would last long, eaten by water boatmen, damselfly larvae, and by other tadpoles. After a month or so, tadpoles develop teeth and eat pond animals as well as plants.

In the succulent bed near the container, the sedum spathulifolium are in flower, with clusters of small yellow florets. They have a long flowering period, and even when not, their rosette-like leaves, purple-bluish, sustain interest. It is a native of western North America, from British Columbia to southern California.

Nearby, we have a raised alpine bed in flower. This chilly weather is nothing to them as they grow in the Arctic or up in the mountains. A bit of cold this time of year is what they expect. Both saxifrage and thrift are flowering carpets which on the tundra would be making the most of the short flowering season to attract insects and set seed. Their extensive underground roots allow them to expand, or at least hold on, in the poorest of summers.

There’s a single peony near the silver birch: Paeonia officinalis. The brightest, flashiest red, like a courtesan at Versailles. Too rich for my taste, but bulging buds show there are more to come.

Snails love this wet weather. They are attacking the acanthus near the back stage and our hollyhocks which have barely got going. We leave them to it. We are not delicate gardeners, but wish to encourage wildlife as well as flowering plants.

Our wildflower bed is a slow starter because of the cold, though the rain has begun germination. Presently, the bed is just a scattering of seedlings a few centimetres high, dreaming of sunny days.

The Americana on the sleeper steps is currently potatoes, tomatoes, maize, and dwarf beans. All food plants that originated in the continent of America. There are more to come, but some are tender and need warmer days. We hope June will supply them.

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