Monday, 10 August 2009

Wandering in the garden, camera in hand ...

Our back garden is not large but there are distinct differences between the two sides. The left-hand side as I look out of our patio door enjoys sun for much of the day and we can be confident that daffodils and tulips and sun-loving plants will thrive and flower there. We grow herbs on that side as well - three different varieties of mint are rampant! The right-hand side gets less sun and we refer to it as our 'woodland' area which is rather too grand a name for it but it is where hellebores, lily-of-the-valley and aquilegia grow happily. Cutting down two large oak trees has meant that a lot more light is allowed in and this may alter its character. Wandering along this side the other day I noticed that the Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata) was flowering for a second time. It has done this before but not as profusely. The insects are enjoying the sweetly-scented flowers.
I watched a Greenbottle (Lucilia caesar) basking in the sun on a hydrangea leaf and another one on a blossom perhaps sipping nectar. Bees and hover-flies were also much in evidence.

As I looked more closely I saw spiders in a rather messy web. I couldn't tell which were predators and which were prey - it's unlikely they would be working together.

The crab-apples are heavy with fruit. Our weeping crab-apple, Malus x scheideckeri 'Red Jade' has red fruits and Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet' has yellow fruits (You'd never have guessed either of those from the names, now would you?)

Malus x scheideckeri 'Red Jade'
Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet'. This flowers slightly later than 'Red Jade' and the fruits are a little larger. They will turn golden-yellow in the next few weeks.

The first time I made crab-apple jelly I separated the fruits from the two trees but the resulting jellies were the same rich translucent red even though books and articles claim they will look different. The only trouble is that all those hundreds of tiny apples produce a very small amount of jelly - ah, but it is delicious!
I was about to go indoors when I noticed movement in the grass. Lo and behold - a tiny frog! We used to have hundreds of froglets every year - they would leap away from advancing feet, paws, lawnmowers. Crows would come and feast on the larger frogs in the pond - and still do - but the frog population has dropped markedly. I'm sure it's the fault of the sticklebacks I introduced three or four years ago. Their breeding programme is remarkably successful and I think they eat the frogspawn. Next Spring I shall try netting off part of the pond to preserve the spawn and see if froggy numbers increase. We're always told that frogs and fish cannot live in the same pond but before the sticklebacks joined the throng they lived harmoniously together.
Common frog (Rana temporaria) He was moving very quickly, desperate for cover - hardly surprising when so many frogs become snacks for sharp-eyed birds. Poor frog - he has no defences other than an ear-piercing shriek and I've never yet seen a bird startle at that and release its capture!

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