Futile search for glow worms

Eschscholzia Butter Bush
Eschscholzia Butter Bush

Well there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be any glow worms in the garden, or any reason why there would be.  They prefer chalk, we are near chalk,  and last year there were sightings along the canal a mile or so away at Seend and also on 6th July this year (UK Glow Worm sightings website). Last night I paced the weedy bits by the stream and poked into the nettley thickets as it grew dark, faithful cat plodding 10 paces behind – nothing. I did see a toad who was nearly stepped on,  once identified she rustled on her way in the dark. I heard the owls and odd plops in the stream.

Yesterday on my way to work just out of the village before Norney Bridge a little shape was dancing in the middle of the road, I slowed down, it zig-zagged back and forth in front of me then was off with a whisk of its black tipped tail, back into the hedgerow. A feisty Stoat. Which prompted me to look up some of the stories about the gangs of Stoats that can have the unaware traveller. So if you ever hear a mass chittering and a scrattling of tiny paws,  it’s the Stoats – run for your life. Fortean Times report

I had forgotten what summer could be like, hot, clammy and sunny – odd that. The flowers are blowing at an alarming rate, set seed, set seed is the clarion call. I’m inside until it cools down a bit. The windows are wide open and the heady scent of Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica Halliana) is wafting in on the warm air.

Courgette Lungo Bianco (pale green not quite white)
Courgette Lungo Bianco (pale green not quite white)

The tomatoes in one of the grow bag brands continue to sulk horribly. Outside in the old horse dung / turf bed the first courgettes are coming to fruition, Lungo Bianco from Seeds of Italy.

Today flower wise I am liking the Eschscholzia californica Butter Bush. Lower growing with more glaucous foliage than the Mission Bells I also grew from seed (which are flopping) and they’re a rich Jersey Cream colour (the picture at the top doesn’t really capture the colour).

I’m also liking the penstemons today,  Andenken an Frieidrich Hahn,  fine foliage and thin ruby bells, it’s not too overblown. The dahlias have also started into flower, the first was dwarf reddy purple Purpinca, a little cutie. The second was Tsuki Yorine Shisha (I think), I bought it last year from The National Dahlia Collection. The tubers were left over winter in an unheated greenhouse. It is a white cactus dahlia, the petal ends are split so it looks extra frilly and rather pleased with itself.

mullein-moth-caterpillarWho’s been eating my buddleja? A fine Mullein Moth caterpillar, so far it hasn’t caused much damage so I’ll leave it and any brethren alone for now. The butterflies at the moment are mainly brown one’s, I guess Meadow Browns, also a smattering of Tortoiseshells, Whites and a Skipper which moved way too fast to identify.

Have returned to this after an interruption, the chickens were ripping apart the woodbed AGAIN! They’re now confined to the back garden until I go out again – very bad chicky girls! (they actually produce a fine tilth with their rakings however the damage to plants somewhat outweighs this benefit).

Ode to a toad

A long time since the last post. The Bath garden is now the responsibility of a rental agency, I have moved on. Maybe one day the house and garden will have someone who cares again. Someone who has the time and / or cash to mend the crumbling lime mortared garden walls and finish off the rougher edges; start new projects but preferably not pave over it again;  take Rosa Gardenia back under control and tend the toads. The rule is never to go back to find out though, it’s not mine anymore.

A few weeks before I left, I saw the gold back door toad slowly making its way up the concrete path where the sheltering camellia pots used to be.  She was heading towards the steps up into the garden which toads can’t traverse, I decided to help her out.  Carefully picking her up, I noticed she had a gash down her side, all black and bubbly, was that the end of my toad? I bid her farewell and good luck as I set her down in the soft humus of the woodbed.

The Bath garden was my third of four gardens planted so far.

Key lessons

  • Coping with snails and slugs,  gradually refining down to plants that could survive.
  • Planting for shade
  • How critical to some plants longer periods of direct sunshine are (especially with the added gloomy weather of 2012)
  • Less is more, over time lots of shrubs had to come out as they started to mature

What will I miss? A summer morning before Bath was completely awake, the low hum of traffic, swifts overhead, the Genista aetnensis in full golden flower.

Sitting on a warm evening watching the light fall and seeing the occasional flitting bat.  Breathing in the scent of lilies and listening to the rustle of toads in the flower beds.

The excitement of spring waking the woodbed after nearly 6 months in total shade. Every day something unwinding, unfurling, pushing through, some awaited,  forgotten others re-discovered.



Hip hip hurrah!

Toad in a hole - May

It’s Chelsea again and Cleve West got best in show for a luvverly garden. Otherwise the heat has turned up albeit briefly. The scent on the journey home was cut grass and BBQs. At lunchtime I walked through a field of Oil Seed Rape  at over head height in full flower,  didn’t get the sweet scent, only cabbage and surprisingly little insect activity not as buzzy as I would have thought.

Also congrats to Avon Bulbs on their Gold medal. I bought 5 bulbs of their Cammassia Avon Stellar Hybrids and am awaiting the colour combos, so far a pale biscuit and I think a blue is next … Quite exciting.

Saw clumps of what might be wild Solomons Seal in a ditch in Hampshire last week and an Early Purple Orchid. Sadly an over zealous contractor has cut the grass on orchid corner this year for some strange reason. I am hoping that the Pyramidal Orchids weren’t up enough to be topped and may yet flower – why West Berkshire Council are you so suddenly assiduous about your verges?? Bah Humbug

Filthy February

Toad in a hole

This month has been generally grim. Two weekends ago it was cold and snowy, now it is merely grey, very grey! Cresting the hill between Pucklechurch and Abson last night, Lansdown was enveloped in low cloud. The roads are yukky with salt, diesel and mud.

Snowdrops looked yellow against the snow, they are so much better against green grass. Burglars trampled over a flowerbed in the front garden – luckily not so many bulbs were up, unluckily the burglars got in.

The cold snap has put paid to the top growth at least on many plants and I am glad I didn’t do too much tidying in January especially of the Kniphofias.

But there are more signs of spring – hoorah! It’s lighter in the morning and evening. Celandines are out and the Iris reticulata in pots having been ‘on hold’ with the cold weather all came out at once. The pair of Carrion Crows on the industrial estate seem to have firmed up their twiggy nest after the depredations of winter, and I suspect Rooks around the country have too!

Poor toad, this pot is not a permanent residence for the current backdoor toad but she appears there every so often hunkered down.