After The Rain Some Garden Magic

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Here on Wenlock Edge it seems as if we’ve gone from winter to summer with not much spring in between. These last ten days have been warm and sun-filled, a great a time for encouraging squash and French bean seeds to sprout and planting out sweet corn. Of course along with heat and sun come worries about watering newly planted crops: the water butts were growing perilously low, and then quite unexpectedly (because it wasn’t intelligibly forecast except by the Norwegian weather site YR Weather) came a couple of nights of gently soaking summer rain. The barley in the field over the fence shot up another six inches and the home borders turned into jungles. Out in the guerrilla garden the invading Queen Anne’s Lace was bowed down with raindrops. I can’t think when I have seen anything quite so pretty. Who needs diamonds.

Life in Colour: white/silver This month at Travel Words Jude asks for white and silver sightings.

Columbine Carnival

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With the May rains came the columbine invasion. It happens every spring, and you never know where they will pop up next, but this year they have excelled themselves and are everywhere: over the back fence in the guerrilla garden, in the front bed beside the main road, in the paving outside the kitchen door, along the top terrace. And in all shades. They are very promiscuous. I’ve also grown some species aquilegias from seed, and this year they are flowering for the first time. I’m now wondering if they will ‘co-mingle’ with the local wild bunch and produce even more lovely shapes and shades.

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Now meet the cultivated bunch: the first three grown from seed from an aquilegia specialist grower, and the last one a plant ‘rescued’ from an abandoned allotment plot. The yellow varieties seem to gently flower all through the summer.

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Cee’s Flower of the Day

Purple on the plot: bean flowers

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Aren’t they amazing! I was astonished this week when I saw the colour of this year’s field bean blossom. They’ve never turned out like this before.

The beans were sown back in October and the plants were around six inches (15cm) tall when winter struck. I was surprised how well they survived the recurring frosts.

Once they start flowering, they often put on a growth spur which means staking may soon be required. One year they grew nearly as tall as me. But in any event, by early summer each plant will produce a mass of small pods with miniature broad (fava) beans inside.

They are usually grown by farmers for animal feed. They also make good winter cover to protect the soil, dug in the following season as green manure. This is done before flowering. Which means NO BEANS. Which would be a shame. They are delicious (if you like broad beans) and make a very tasty version of humus. Also good for the Tex-Mex refried beans approach. But for now we can just admire the extraordinary flowers. I’m only sorry I can’t pass on their wonderful scent.

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Life in Colour: Purple

Six Word Saturday

“Apple of my eye”

IMG_3426Every gardener has their treasures season to season. The Evereste crab apple tree probably tops my favourites list because she covers all of them. Here she is, caught this week in the evening sun after a day of buffet and bluster, hail, wind and downpour. Already much of the blossom is ‘blown’, and whether any fruit has set, we’ll have to wait and see. The apples that come in the autumn are small and russet-blushed, an inch or two centimetres at most, but each one image perfect; doll’s house apples in other words. And after we have admired them for many weeks, the winter weather then softens them enough to make them a valuable food store for the blackbirds and pigeons. We watch them from the kitchen door.

A tree of many pleasures then. Here she is a couple of weeks ago, the blossom just opening:

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And this was last September (in the midst of an early autumn gale), the apples freshly formed:

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Evereste is also queen of that unruly quarter, the-garden-over-the-fence aka the guerrilla garden, caught here early one summer’s morning. Its content changes every year:

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And in winter there are many new scenes:

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And so yes, the apple of my eye:

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Lens-Artists: Gardens  Please visit Amy’s very lovely gardens. She is hosting this week’s theme.

Ant takes up aphid herding inside a Bramley apple flower

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Ants and aphids have a good deal, otherwise known as a symbiotic relationship. Ants protect the aphids in return for giving them a squeeze, or at least stroking them with their antennae, in this way encouraging the voracious plant-consuming pests to excrete their honeydew waste. And ants can’t get enough of it. So they herd and manage and protect their aphid herds, moving them from harm’s way, seeing off predators, in  particular ladybirds, whose eggs they will destroy.

In the next photos you can see the aphids have been ‘parked’ while the ant goes off to forage in the blossom and then patrol the ‘perimeter’.

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Fascinating what one finds on the way home from the allotment. The photos were taken one evening last week so not the best light conditions.

Lens-Artists: Focusing on the details  Patti asks us to look at the finer points.

I wasn’t whingeing…It really was the coldest April in 99 years

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No alliums out in our part of Shropshire yet, though there are frosted leaf tips and a few tightly closed buds just showing. Still, when they do come, they really can’t be beaten for early season purple, and purple is this month’s Life in Colour choice at Jude’s Travel Words blog (link below).

Jude and I have also been muttering about the weather in April. At one point we both wondered whether it was growing older than made us think it was colder. But no! Now we have the evidence. The UK Met Office report:

April 2021 had the lowest average minimum temperatures for April in the UK since 1922, as air frost and clear conditions combined for a frost-laden, chilly month, despite long hours of sunshine.

Early provisional figures from the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre indicate that April had the third lowest average UK minimum temperature for the month since records began in 1884, while Wales, Scotland and England all reported their figures in their top five lowest ever recorded. Average daily maximum temperatures were also below normal, but not by as much as the minimum temperatures.

It had already been reported that April had seen its highest level of air frost in 60 years, with an average of 13 days of air frost topping the previous record figure of 11 days in 1970 (records for air frost go back to 1960). This number of air frosts is more typical for December, January or February, whereas the average number of air frosts in April is five days. For gardeners and growers there were also a record high number of ground frosts with 22 days this month compared to an average of 12 days.

And so while we’re waiting for warmer days and nights and for the alliums to happen, here are some archive allium shots to be going on with:

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Life in Colour: Purple

Bright Moth

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I thought my photo of an Elephant hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor, deserved another viewing, being both unusually pink (as for Jude’s Life in Colour this week) and bright lipstick pink and so good for a Becky-bright-square. The moth itself  was a surprise arrival on the garden wall a couple of summers ago. In fact I think it was asleep when I found it. In real life it was about 6 centimetres across (2 and a half inches); a big moth, in other words. And in its caterpillar form it is even bigger, though at that stage it is mostly a dull sludgy colour with pink eye spots and a strange little horn on its tail end.

Hawk moths are nectar feeders and come equipped with especially long tongues to probe their favourite flowers. They are also speedy, precision fliers, so the colour scheme, gaudy when stationary,  blends well among drifts of rose-pink rosebay willow herb where, in high summer, they best like to feed. The caterpillar, on the other hand, has very different eating habits. If they find themselves in a domestic garden they will eat fuchsias. The best response is to pop them in a container and find them a wild patch of rosebay willow herb, Himalayan balsam or bedstraw.

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Life in Colour: pink