An update

Hello again! May I introduce you to our resident Great Spotted Woodpecker. He spends a lot of time in our garden and in the trees on the bank above our house. Take a good look at the picture and you can see that he is hanging onto the fat feeder with one claw! Yes, he only has one leg. He’s been hanging around since last autumn, so he made it through the winter and he’s a lovely sight to see. He seems to be able to feed himself well enough, in spite of his disability, but from watching how difficult it is for him to perch on a branch I doubt if he will be able to mate or rear offspring.

These are scary times. We have been staying at home and trying to get on with jobs. I have to admit I am bored. I would love to go out for a ride in the car, or visit a friend, or take a trip to another part of the country. But I know that this is going to have to wait till the Covid crisis is over.

At present all we can do is phone, text, email, and skype our friends while we tidy, sort, file, clean and garden. So gardening and and observing the plants and animals in the garden have become even more important than usual.

Let’s start with the pots in front of the shed. In autumn I planted up lots of bulbs. The daffs are in full bloom now, and they have two or three flowers on each stem. The tulips I planted below the daffs are almost ready to bloom, so we should have a good show by next week.

The acer that the Turners gave us is just budding now. Paul will be pleased to see that I have weeded out most of the ground elder!

Unfortunately, I also sprained my knee while doing the weeding here, so I’ve had a good excuse to avoid kneeling for the last few days!

Along the edge of the stream I have been doing a lot of clearing. I daren’t dig out the brambles as I’m afraid they are keeping the stream bank together, but by cutting them back I’ve exposed the shrubs and other plants which are growing there.

As the garden grows towards it’s flowering peak in May we can see the other acer is also putting out its leaves. These are a gorgeous deep red which will soon be complimenting the azaleas and rhodedendrons that surround them.

On the right of the above set of pictures you can see a new arrival. This suddenly appeared in the garden for the first time this year. From the oniony smell of the leaves and the bulbils on the flower stalk I decided it’s an allium, but I was a bit dismayed to find out it’s the invasive Allium paradoxum or “few-flowered leek”. Two clumps have appeared this spring in different parts of the garden. The good news is that you can keep it under control by eating it!

The early daffodils are starting to fade now and I’ve been deadheading them, but there are still plenty about and there are some lovely varieties.

Meanwhile in the mini meadow we now have cowslips and the red currants are blooming.

Gooseberries are blossoming and the apple flower buds are swelling, too. However, this plant with the lovely blue flowers is the dreaded green alkanet – attractive in small quantities, but unfortunately it won’t stay in one place!

Another flower is doing it’s thing at the bottom of the garden right now. This is Erythronium ‘pagoda’. It’s a relative of the dog-toothed violet here in the UK and of the Trout Lily in the US. Every year it seems to be getting bigger and stronger, and while it doesn’t last long it is truly beautiful while it’s out.

A letter to Paul

Dear Paul,

While we’re all isolated I thought I’d just write you a (public!) note and tell you that we miss you. Since others might be reading this, let me just say that we miss all our other friends, too, but are grateful to those who have taken the time and trouble to phone or email. We’re well and enjoying the peace and quiet; John in particular is quite happy to be tucked away in our little dell.

You’ll be pleased that we’ve taken note of your advice to mow more often and John has been out with the mower. Needless to say, after 2 years with no use it took a while to start, but start it did and he got it done!

Today, I decided to take a walk round the garden, as you and I do on Thursday mornings. I thought you might like to see how it’s progressing.

The Hellebores are now in full bloom. They look lovely. Click on any photo to see it in full screen

Here are some more from the woodland path

Mahonia in full bloom. Today I started in all around this to cut back brambles as thick as my wrist!

The marsh marigolds are spreading from the bog to the edge of the pond and this year the wood pigeons haven’t been ravaging the leaves!

Down the back of the house there are violets in the gravel, in a couple of places in the garden, the skimmia shrubs give off a lovely perfume while their tiny white flowers set off the red berries from last year and every now and then you can spot a large vinca flower peeping through the jungle!

The badgers are working hard next to the compost heap – the pile of soil dug out of the sett continues to grow apace. And it’s not just soil, is it? Look at the size of some of the rocks they’re shifting!

Talking about compost – I’ve started collecting some of the more noxious weeds in this dustbin. I’ll fill it with water and we can make our own fertilizer.

Since I took the pictures I’ve started a new scheme. Rather than work bed by bed, which is difficult because I keep seeing all the beds that haven’t been touched, I’m picking on one species of “weed” and trying to get it all up from all the beds. Obviously, I won’t be able to do that with the ground elder since it’s ubiquitous, but over the last couple of days I’ve managed to collect almost a dustbin full of green alkanet. I know I haven’t eradicated it, but it’s made all the beds look better for the moment.

My next purge species is brambles. Again, it’s impossible to get it all, but clearing it off the paths and out of the shrubs and flower beds makes for easier access and allows us to move around the garden more easily.

Moving on to our mini meadow there are lots of flowers in bloom or about to bloom. Clumps of daffodils, white snakes-head fritillaries and primroses are leading the way. The cowslips will be out next week and the common spotted orchids are starting to push up leaves.

As you can see, John’s heather bed is looking good. In the background is the fabulous honesty plant that grew into a giant after the great sewage flood. The seed pods are now falling apart, but underneath the old plant are millions of new seedlings. You didn’t need to put any of the seeds into pots for me, we’re going to have enough for the whole garden and then some!

The bergenias have been a picture through most of the winter and early spring, but the blossom is starting to fade now. But look how happy these little daffs are by the front door! And look closer at the window where you can see my Scrappies mannequin all dressed up and ready to go out!

So Paul, here come some success stories. The new bed in the back garden is looking lovely with daffs and hyacinths. There’s lots of other stuff coming on well, too. Although I don’t have a picture, the “red bush” that you moved (whose name I can never remember) is developing buds so I think it has survived the winter and Pam’s old Pieris is not only covered in white flowers, but also producing new red leaves.

And finally, I’ve cut back the flowers on the magnificent grass (which you can just see behind the artichokes) and put them in a chimney pot so we can continue to enjoy them for the next few weeks.

I guess that’s all for now. I hope you and yours are healthy and well and I look forward to seeing you again when the emergency is over.

cheers ….. Joan.