Helleborus orientalis

Above: Helleborus orientalis 'Harvington White'

Garden diary: February

31 March 2005

Spring arrives, and plants and garden creatures reflect the growing light and warmth. The neighbourhood is full of birds producing frantic little songs from the highest branches, or from their perch on the corner of a roof or TV aerial.

Nest box interest

There seems to be a larger number of blue tits this year, and they're all bombing about excitedly in the garden. I've got a nest box for blue tits that has been in place for a year or two, but has never been occupied. This month John, the central heating engineer, visited to carry out the annual gas appliance service. I know from our previous conversations that John has a nest box that is occupied each year by blue tits, and it's one of those with a built-in camera, so you can watch the nest box activity on your TV. (This sounds far more interesting in many ways than Celebrity Detox Live Plastic Surgery Challenge or Airing Cupboard Invaders Property Swap or Regurgitated TV from Hell, doesn't it?)

After the gas system service is out of the way, we discuss the far more interesting topic of whether the blue tits will nest in my garden, as they do in his. John suggests that the wall in Kitchen Corner might be a good place for a nest box, and as he's talking the blue tits obligingly start to investigate the area of wall he's talking about. I decide to get a couple more nest boxes, to increase the chances of having an occupied one.

Despite my providing a full nest box selection, as March progresses, they seem fixated on the older nest box around the corner by the shed, and are researching it carefully. A bird lands often on the hole to the nest box and looks about a lot, as if sussing out the area and its suitability. It doesn't seem sure though, and there's no sign of serious blue tit nesting activity. I'm reminded of various TV programmes about the property market, and following a certain House Doctor's advice, I wonder if I would have more chance of securing their residency if I painted the inside in a nice cream colour, constructed a mini fireplace as a focal point, and put a mirror above it.

New hellebore

A beautiful plant flowering just now is a white-flowered hellebore - Helleborus orientalis 'Harvington White'. This was a present last year, and though it looked like a healthy plant that would flower eventually, I didn't expect it to flower this spring. Yet it has produced a stem carrying several buds of handsome white flowers. The plant seems taller and of a floppier habit than the other hellebores I've grown, and the flowers seem to hang downwards more. It's in a pot, and I think it might be a good idea to stand the pot on some kind of tall support so that the flowers are more visible.

Frogs getting friendly

The frogs have been mating this month, and there are now no less than four lots of frogspawn in the pond. In previous years the mating seems to have been rather secretive, and the spawn - just one lot in previous years - appeared as a surprise.

This year there could be no mistaking that mating activity was taking place, as pairs of frogs squabbled and croaked through several days in mid-March. Two pairs of frogs were seen clinging together, while a fifth frog tried to cling on too, first attempting to climb onto one of the pairs, then the other. Inbetween he seemed to be trying to nudge himself between the two embracing frogs, trying to displace the male.

Frogs do, apparently, have a range of colours to their skin, depending on their environment. It was noticeable that the female frogs had a different colouring from the three males. The females were a lighter greenish-brown, while the males were rather greyish. Mud-coloured, indeed - or more specifically, the colour of the mud at the bottom of the pond. This perhaps suggests that this is where they spent the winter.

Frogs mating in the garden pond, March 2005

Busy busy - or trying to be

March is a busy gardening month, as the perennials begin to grow again, and so do the weeds. It's been difficult though to keep up with everything, as I've developed one of those repetitive strain injuries, known as RSI - specifically in this case 'carpal tunnel syndrome' - and so have had to try to avoid certain things that make it worse. This includes using a computer mouse, which has made it rather difficult to do work on this website. So apologies for the late updates.

Back to March highlights and diaries



Above: Narcissus

Garden diary: April