Camassia, May 2005

Above: Blue Camassia, May 2005

Garden diary: April

4 May 2002

Today I had the chance to be out in the garden for most of the day - much appreciated after spending most of April working at the computer, with little time to do anything much outside.

I had overcrowded seedlings of a half-hardy annual Rudbeckia - "Marmalade" - waiting to be separated into larger pots, having been grown indoors on a windowsill. A lack of compost, energy and time had delayed this task, but a sunny Saturday morning and a new bag of compost finally encouraged me.

After the detailed attention required to get the seedlings into their new growing quarters, a broader vision was needed. The garden hasn't exactly been neglected, but there hasn't been as much time to work on it recently. Today was the first day for a while that I truly appreciated it, because I spent several hours working on it.

The reason I would never tire of gardening on my own small piece of land is that it seems to adapt to whatever phase of life I'm in, and it does so in a forgiving, embracing kind of way, because at some point in the past I put in so much effort. Now it doesn't need that much effort. If I wanted to immerse myself in changing it all, it would adapt to that too. The garden takes in all of my effort, and responds to my attentions, but natural laws are greater than any of my work, and produce leaf and flower in spite of me.

As April turns to May I am amazed, as I am each year, by the green of growth, and the way the plants weave themselves together. Most amazing are the trees, which now blossom and fill with leaves that blot out all the urban sights - the brick and slate of neighbouring houses.

This week I have been mostly looking at . . .

Clematis montana - in flower now, and hanging in artful garlands from the house wall and the Rowan tree. The Clematis montana I thought I had cut back to prevent it travelling even further over the boundary wall (and, by the looks of it, up the pavement and across the other side of the road) must have some stems that somehow evaded my pruning, as it is carrying a fine display of flower. I think I must have "missed a bit".

Tulips - "Queen of the Night", "Apricot Beauty" and "Mariette" in particular.

Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' - After cutting back the Clematis montana (see above), its vigorous stems were tied to the trellis in the sunny corner, with as many as possible trained horizontally. This has, as I hoped, encouraged more shoots to form.

Mini-lawn - a grassed area of postage-stamp proportions, finally looking like something resembling turf, after being sown last year and the bare patches re-seeded this spring.

Buds on the roses - and the first bloom that has opened this week on the climbing rose "Mme Alfred Carriere". No buds on "Souvenir du Dr Jamain", but I am pleased to see it growing and forming new branches as a framework. This rose is a newcomer - long-coveted - and received as a birthday present last year.

Feathered and furry visitors

The garden is still full of birds, encouraged, I guess, by the feeders of sunflower seed and thistle seed. Usually I stop feeding in April, but this year for the first time the garden has been visited daily by greenfinches and goldfinches, eating seed from the feeders. I know opinions vary on when birds should be "articificially" fed - whether this should cover just the colder months, or continue all year. This year I have been so enchanted by colourful, noisy finches bobbing around amidst the apple blossom, I haven't had the heart to take their food away.

The fledgling blackbirds appeared from the nest about 10 days ago, as reported previously. I can report that after the initial upset of losing one of them to a cat attack on their first day, the remaining two fledglings were sighted a few days ago, high in the branches of the trees, and with effective tail feathers lengthening visibly by the day. The parents were still feeding them, and yet found time to start nesting again, it seems, a little further along in the ivy.

A particularly wonderful sight this week - two song thrushes in the apple tree branches. As I've mentioned before, I rarely see thrushes now, and in the five years we've been here I have seen a thrush in the garden only a few times. The last time, in March, the thrush was in the grip of a sparrowhawk - one of my less pleasant gardening moments. So seeing a pair of live song thrushes, unencumbered by birds of prey, was a fine thing.

A rather surprising furry visitor this week was a grey squirrel (a red one would have been even more surprising), which I spotted from the kitchen window, as it hung upside down from the apple tree branches and ate nuts from the mesh feeder intended for the birds. The less charitable among us may call them "rats with tails", just as many of us call pigeons "rats with wings". But this one-off visit gave me no cause for complaint.

10 May 2002

Most of this afternoon was taken up in caring for a blackbird fledgling that accidentally flew into our kitchen, then fell into the washing up water. (Yes, it was a strange incident.) I rescued it and watched over it while it dried off. Luckily, after much fretting on my part it did regain its rightful place in the tree branches, where I do hope it will now continue to grow its tail feathers and avoid further mishaps.

Back to May highlights and diaries


Clematis - The President, May 

Above: Clematis "The President", May 2002

Garden diary: June