The Wildlife Garden in Early April

The Wildlife Garden in Early April, 2020.

David Beeson

While the UK ‘lock down’ for coronavirus (Covid-19) continues the natural world carries on as usual. Yet, the year has felt wetter and windier than normal – but, that is what is predicted by Global Warming. Now, as April develop, the weather has changed and we are experiencing less rain and sunshine is bathing us, occasionally.

Our wild cherry in flower

The wild cherries are full of white flower and rich with the buzz of hundreds of hive bees plus an occasional bumble. The pollen and nectar flow should be good as neither rain nor frost has hit hard since the blossom commenced. In parallel the damsons have their creamy-white flowers clustering along the new branches.

The wild, hedge damsons are ancient. Recently they were trimmed and so, last year, threw up plenty of vigorous upwards growth. This is now trimmed with those most delightful flowers.

We await the apple and hawthorn’s exuberance – which should be with us within two weeks. The may’s buds are swelling daily.

At a lower level the blackthorn (sloe) is waning. It’s delicate flowers are turning a brown shade as they prepare to shed its petals to enhance the litter on the ground.

Meanwhile the aspens, beech, oak and walnuts remain in slumber. Although all their buds are showing some willingness to awaken.

Our flower borders raise the spirit. The herbaceous (non-woody) species are in a hurry to reach their potential and appear softly green and vibrant in their newly grown foliage. Many are flowering, and, though many are not natives, their nectar and pollen is as welcome as any wild plant’s. The snag is that they lack the insects that can consume their leaves. Plants protect themselves with toxins and UK native insects do not have the antidote to foreign poisons. (Is this why we left the EU? To rid ourselves of foreign plant types? Surely it wasn’t only to drive away all the EU NHS staff and the people who pick all the fruit and vegetables.)

The main lawn has been edge trimmed to give it a touch of neatness. The bulk has been uncut and the daisies are being appreciated by occasional butterflies and bee flies. Even here wild orchids are showing themselves. Twayblade and pyramidals are not quite ready to send up their flower shoots – that is still a coupe of weeks distant.

The wild pond is a problem, and your advice would be helpful here. It is artificial, having been dug 30 years ago. The aquatic vegetation is: water starwort, water lily, Canadian pond weed, an alga called Chara and some filamentous alga– probably Zygmaema. The water is currently 100% rainwater.

The frogs arrived and spawned in early February. I counted in excess of 50 spawn masses. The spawn was protected from mallards by netting and hatched well and then fed and clustered in the shallows.

As usual, the palmate newts then showed themselves and certainly have eaten some of the many thousands of miniature tadpoles. The newts are still around yet not one tadpole can be seen, even with close exploration. The tadpoles vanished again last year and none emerged as frog hoppers. Why? What is going wrong?

There are no toads locally. No mallards have visited the pond.

Is the Chara toxic? Is there a disease that kills month-old tadpoles? I can not believe that the newts have demolished everything.

Flower border around the Spring Meadow.

With the ‘say at home, or else’ instruction the flower borders are receiving plenty of attention – whether they want it or not! The excess Iris sibirica fought my fork like Vikings but, like them, ultimately failed to win the battle of Edington (around the 10th of May 878, if you want to know) against King Alfred. The plant’s problem is that they only flower for two weeks and then sulk for fifty.

The flower border I’m working on.

Some Geranium endressii will shortly be joining them on the compost heap. It appears demure now, flowers for a long period and them turns into a rampant thug that demands drastic action in august. So, it is being tolerated at the back of this five-plus metre border but not within two metres of the front. Likewise, the Spanish bluebells will be reduced in number with plants relocated to these spots from elsewhere.

Part of the Spring Meadow with an island border. The wild daffodils are now into seed production.
Summer Meadow.

The Summer Meadow is still mostly at ground level with cowslips giving the main colour. It will soon change as the herbage grows strongly and the hundreds of wild orchids flower.

A composting area.
Beneath one of our 100+ year old walnuts
Some free tulips delivered with Martagon Lilies last autumn.

Swallows have arrived. Red kites and buzzards patrol the air and the smaller birds peck around the flower borders and seem to find plenty of food.

A pair of long-tailed tits have found their desired nesting spot – luckily within sight of our breakfast location. So, that should soon be entertaining. And the bird song can be delightful.

The wildlife meadows are unpredictable. One is never quite certain what will grow where and what new treasures will be spotted. The flower borders have their uses too – with blackbirds and their friends exploring the nooks and crannies for tasty nutritious foods. There is a place for wild and tame in our garden.

John has been on his first butterfly transect and we have a good number fluttering here – although no orange tips or blues yet.

Do feedback if you feel the desire.

Woodland flora is now wide awake.

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