31 March 2012

Blossom in Three Dimensions

I've made a short YouTube movie for you - a bit arty and wistful (with an Einaudi soundtrack no less).

If you were to measure the volume of air that is enclosed by the garden's boundaries then most of it at the moment is filled with little white dots like a Cornelia Parker installation.

The delicate airiness of the spectacle is contained by mundane brick and panel fencing.  Nature is trying to burst out of the confines of suburbia.  You go girl!

Cornelia Parker 'Edge of England'
For the purposes of copyright infringement I'd like to point out the music is by Ludovico Einaudi from the album Una Mattina. You can purchase this CD from all good retailers.

30 March 2012

Good Bee News

 The cute little bees who nest in the ground have forgiven me my heavy handed weeding (see here).  I'm pleased to see they have come back and are now busy digging holes in my lawn. Although it has to be said they have moved their location a metre further from last year's decimated nesting site.

As per normal practice I’ve rooted around on Google and can fairly confidently declare these little ladies are, Tawny Mining Bees.  Their Latin name, Andrena Fulva, sounds to me like that of a devious  Roman woman in ‘I Claudius’, or ‘Rome’.

These are solitary bees that excavate quite long burrows.  Being small and furry it’s easy to think them a harmless little bee, but there is a scheming cruelty to them. Deep in the burrows they lay a single egg on a paralysed insect, which the baby bees feed on when they hatch.   Of course, it’s not the bees that are cruel but our prejudice that makes them appear so.  Once again, Nature is indifferent to the individual.

Here are some pictures of their nesting site, but, honestly, it’s very difficult to take an interesting picture of a hole in the ground.  Humour me. 

Round paving area where the fire goes

“Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares.”

29 March 2012

A Quiet Moment

No, not a water lily in a still Japanese pond, but a camellia fallen from a neighbour’s garden into my little one (where the frogspawn were rehoused).  

There is nevertheless a serene beauty.

Personally I can't stand camellias. They're like those girls at school who 'blossomed' early, and didn't they know it, gliding down the corridors all swishy blond hair and short skirts, trailing boys behind them. There is a time and place, and early Spring ain't it. 

26 March 2012

First Ever Snake's Head Fritillary

Sker-eeem! Snake's head fritillary! My first one. I planted these bulbs last year with fingers crossed; didn't really expect them to come up. AND they were from Tescos. 

These flowers are so delicate and strange. Just the kind of vibe I'd like for the garden

Yes, I suppose it does look like a snake's head.

25 March 2012

'Plant Rescue'

You know the programme ‘Pet Rescue’, where the RSPCA rescue pets from uncaring owners? Well, I think there should be an offshoot series, ‘Plant Rescue’.

I could weep over the poor neglected plants in my local Tesco. And no doubt the callousness involves supermarkets of all persuasions throughout the land.

This time of year Tesco sell daffodil and hyacinth bulbs for indoor display. They are cheap, from £1 to £3, and to be honest very good value. I buy a pot nearly every week. It’s wonderful having fresh flowers in the kitchen. The smell from the hyacinth can be aggressive but it’s good to have that bitter, ‘up the nose’ scent clearing away the musty centrally heated air of winter; like a gentle act of defiance.

The trouble is I can’t buy all the unwatered, squashed pots in the shop. I want to sweep them all into the trolly and run out into the car park to a waiting van, then speed through the streets to a caring garden centre where they will be thoroughly watered, and tenderly repotted into stylish terracotta pots. I can imagine ‘Country Living’ doing a feature on them:
  •   ‘Give a Narcissus a good home.’
  •   ‘A Hyacinth isn’t just for spring promotions.’ 

When I pick just the one I have to say sorry to the others for leaving them behind. I wonder if my ones suffer survivor guilt.

Those I do rehouse get watered and smiled at everyday and when they have finished flowering I stick then in the garden.

Daffodils, as we all know, are robust little characters. A bit of sunshine and they’re out shamelessly bobbing in the breeze, but hyacinths are more temperamental. If they reappear at all they’re never as full flowered as when they were first put in the ground.

But this year last year’s rescued Tesco hyacinths are making a valiant effort.

They are a joy.

24 March 2012

Your Brave Reporter Interviews An Angry Wasp

Negotiating a photo-opportunity with an angry wasp trapped in your bathroom is not the best way to start a Saturday morning. Think Naomi Campbell after a transatlantic flight.

But the needs of my readers come before any fears. Listen to the audio below and you’ll hear the full interview in which we swear at each other as I click the camera, and I reveal our loose floor boards. Stay to the end - it couldn't be scripted better.

In the hope she was an exotic visitor I Googled ‘wasp identification’ and found a fantastic site that I thoroughly recommend if you are interested in Vespidae: Eakringbirds.com, about nature in the Eakring and Sherwood Forests.

Being a bit geekish their tables of different wasps sent me into paroxysms of delight (see my earlier post re: wildflower spreadsheets). How beautiful they look.

I get the impression my queen is a Common Wasp, vespula vulgaris.

Given her language earlier this morning I’m not at all surprised!

22 March 2012

A Lone Bumble Bee

She was hovering over the ground of one of the flower borders. I guess she was looking for a nesting site. And while I was hoping she would choose my garden there was also the thought that she should move on for her own sake.  When I'm weeding I bumble around with a trowel not really knowing what I'm doing. Last year I destroyed the nests of those tiny bees that dig into sandy soil. Sad.

I recorded her flying, then we both agreed she should try somewhere else.

20 March 2012


At a quarter past 5 this morning Spring sprang, astronomically speaking. 

The slow clock-like movement of the Earth around the Sun has officially begun a new season. But here on the surface of the planet things are a little more complicated.  Birds have already picked their partners, and for days now plants have been struggling out of the ground. And yet they are still in danger of cold weather and frost putting a full stop to their ambitions. 

Life doesn’t travel through time on a clear linear path, or start and stop to a predictable date. It’s more wayward than that.  It likes to keep us guessing.

And so I found myself shivering in the garden despite the sunshine.  Picking up my coffee, journal, and nuts (hazelnuts – a healthier alternative to biscuits!), I shuffled indoors.  This year’s Vernal Equinox was best experienced behind the warmth of double-glazed windows.

Experimenting With A Tree Surgeon

Here is an experiment in modernity.

I didn't like the look of the Vimeo films I uploaded to my first post. The black borders are too intrusive to my mind. So here I am experimenting with SoundCloud, which is audio only. I imagine it is something to do with Google - it was very easy to set up and upload to Blogger. It still looks too chunky I think, but it's aesthetically an improvement.

The sound is of tree surgeons who have been working on tall poplars on another road. Hearing them reminds me of Autumn rather than Spring. Maybe they are merely pruning on a giant scale.

Tree surgeons: second only to firemen, eh girls? *wink*

19 March 2012

Planned Parenting

It seems the frogs this year have been quite exuberant.  It must have been a great party because they’ve left a huge amount of frogspawn.  

Unfortunately this new generation of frogs are disadvantaged right from conception.  Not only are there goldfish shouldering through the weeds trying to eat them, but this year there is the added menace of a curious cat.  She (or he) is new on the scene; a neighbour’s cat that spends a lot of time in this garden.  Earlier in the year it was the toilet facilities that attracted her, but now she is fascinated by the fish and frogs.  I thought cats hated water, but this one doesn’t mind poking her paw into the water, and I have seen her get her nose wet.  This means she has managed to pull out gobbets of frogspawn onto the side of the pond.  Poor little potential tadpoles.

So today I transferred some frogspawn to the other pond. Although it’s smaller in size there is no overhanging edge that the cat can peer over, and it’s deeper. I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing. I’m mixing spawn from different frog populations and maybe I’ve inadvertently introduced different bacteria or weeds into the small pond.  Time will tell I suppose, but hopefully some lives have been saved.

Just as an aside ... this morning I was in a post-Tesco slump, but as soon as I picked up the camera it disappeared.  Nature – creativity - rescue mission = elevated mood.