07 June 2012

Beauty and the Beasts

Allium bulgaricum, photo by BvG
After a dose of the urban and historical niceties of Prague, it was back to the simpler environment of the garden this week. A gentler place at many levels, but not without its own tiny empires and "local rows". While much of what we praise and love about our gardens focuses on the beauty within them, those same gardens are home to all sorts of life - some welcome, some not so welcome, but all deserving of their place, even if that means disaster of a sort for the gardener herself. This week then, there's a look at some of the bugs and beasties that share the garden, but because I can't help myself and because B took some lovely photos, I started with some of the beauty: Allium bulgaricum, which I've loved in other people's gardens for ages and finally got around to popping in to my own last Autumn. Not expensive, easy to find, easy to grow, and beautiful. My kind of plant.

The beasts: well there are frogs of course and still some tadpoles in the larger pool, although it's had trouble adjusting to the influx of organic matter from the rotting spawn and the whole thing has had its own mini-eutrophication going on I think. It may be moving into recovery mode now, but only time will tell. Anyway, the mature frogs have taken refuge in the tiny pond, and some immature ones can be found in damp sheltered places such as rotting rhubarb leaves. Frogs really only need water for reproduction (and for hanging around in, I suppose), otherwise they'll hide in other damp places under vegetation or in compost heaps that aren't too warm, where they can find tasty morsels and hide from predators and mini schnauzers.

Adult frog in the tiny pond
Tiny frog shelters in old rhubarb leaves
And then there are the slugs, the snails, the aphids. I don't use chemical deterrents or pesticides, hoping that all will balance out, but it's hard sometimes - look at those damn aphids on some new rose shoots; look at that acrobatic slug, doing a slow-motion back flip to get to the tasty water hawthorn flowers... reminds me of a hapless tourist trying to kiss the blarney stone.

The dreaded aphids
Blarney slug
But with the invertebrates that we don't like come the good guys. Most years we have lots of hoverflies (and their larvae love aphids). Oh, I've just read that in parts of Kentucky, hoverflies are called 'steady bees', what a lovely name. And of course there are the real bees! Any time we can--and the weather has not been kind since that short burst of summer at the end of May--we sit out in the garden; that is what a garden is for after all. For us, sitting out often means means sitting near the Cotoneaster hoizontalis which brims and buzzes with bees of all sorts. The sound is gorgeous, and while I know that many 'proper' garden writers are a bit sniffy about C. horizontalis, I love having it for the bees in the early summer, for the berries in the winter (which the birds love) and for the fact that the blue tits, coal tits and wrens clearly find other bugs in there, as there's always someone flitting in and out of its branches. There are all sorts of worries about bee populations and Colony Collapse Disorder at the moment, but I'm happy to report that we seem to have lots of bees in our small suburban patch.

A hoverfly rests on an opium poppy
A bee takes a breather on a Welsh poppy
Part of the joy of having all these beasts in the garden is the opportunity for attentiveness: watching hoverflies do their mating dances in the spring/early summer sunlight (I can hover better than him, look how still I am, marvel at my prowess, choose me for a mate) or spying on bees methodically working their way through the complex florets of a Giant Scabious (Cephalaria) or buzzing furiously within the tissue-paper confines of a Welsh poppy.

Bee and Giant Scabious, Mark II from Erica cinerea on Vimeo.

There are larger animals in the garden too - neighbours' cats prowl their way through from time to time, and some of the local foxes too. And then there's this beastie:
I mentioned potential disasters at the start of this week's piece, and sadly, this week there has been a bit of a disaster in the garden... at least one of my Acers has been struck by a mysterious ailment - I checked with Liat Schurmann of Mount Venus Nursery, which has a collection of stunning Japanese maples, about what it might be. She thinks perhaps some sort of fungal disease (I had suspected as much, but hoped I was wrong) and says that a similar malady struck some of the maples in her German garden. Cut off the affected branches and hope for the best was her advice, so late last week the saw came out and my small but perfectly formed Acer palmatum dissectum was beheaded... And now it's a waiting game to see what happens. I just hope that the same fungus hasn't had a chance to spread its spores to the other maples in the garden, but I fear it might have, already there are some strange brown splotches on some of the leaves, that I'd been hoping might have been late frost damage or scorching, but now I'm not so sure. Watch this space...
Acer palmatum dissectum, in April, before its tonsure...
... and, this week, after
I can't end on that sort of a note though, so here's a glimpse of beauty as imagined and realised by others--we went to the Bloom festival last week and while none of the gardens really stood out and some were, well, a bit ho-hum really, there were a couple of things that caught my eye. One was this lovely plant association in the Green Room garden designed by Patricia Tyrrell and Deirdre Prince:
Cirsium rivulare atropurpureum, Digitalis 'Pam's Choice', Lychnis White Robin
That White Robin was one of the plants that showed up a few times this year (the foxgloves too) and the other plant du jour was Hazel. There were lovely Turkish Hazels in one of the gardens and multi-stemmed 'ordinary' hazels in the Machnamh garden by Deirdre Pender of Talamh Landscapes, which made lovely use of a sunken garden effect: garden as haven, a woman after my own heart. 
Multi-stemmed Hazel, Corylus avellana

No comments:

Post a Comment