Green turns to golden
Flexible stems once blown effortlessly in a mild breeze now stand rigid, skeletal, resistant to disturbance.
While colour and life ebbs away, an army of spiders take over positions in every open space, strung across the most daring of precipice, alert to every promise of reward.
Leaves fall and seeds scatter
A hope of continuation in autumn's pleasant warmth.
This morning Ive been watching a wonderfully strange acrobatic display by a snail in my garden. Balancing on the edge of a hosta leaf, the snail was stretched upright for hours, twisting itself slowly from one side to the other. Its tentacles extending and contracting continually as if to search for something always out of its grasp.
Perched on the edge of the leaf it looked more like a diver about to jump from the high board, but the snail was actually attached to the hosta's woody stem by a thread of slimy mucus.
How and why it got itself into this position I have no idea but I shall do some investigation and report back in next months post.
What makes this display more remarkable is how it has been able to remain attached and in this position in the wind. It has been quite a blustery morning and the snail has been blown and buffeted about, sometimes losing its footing on the leaf edge but somehow still clinging on to its thread.
Ive witnessed strange snail and slug behaviour in the garden before but never anything quite as remarkable and beautiful as this. When I first started gardening slugs and snails were an absolute enemy and I battled continually to save my seedlings and juicy hosta leaves from their jaws.
Over the last couple of years Ive become a lot more relaxed with the slugs and snails in the garden and only use pellets sparingly to protect and allow seedlings to get established. After that, I'm happy to let nature take its course and the wildlife to munch away.
The sedum has started to bloom in the last couple of weeks and as the tiny pink petals emerge lots of bees have been attracted into the garden. On warmer days the flowers are a mass of buzzing sounds with so many types of bees busily working their way around each cluster of flowers.
Sadly my bees, the ones nesting in a cavity of my house, have gone. So its fantastic to see so many other bees coming back into the garden.
Ive been volunteering at my local community garden this summer. Its only a small plot of land between houses in the middle of St Mellons but around 10 or 12 people regularly volunteer, with the men doing the heavy lifting work and the women planting, weeding, harvesting (and giving the men their instructions).
Sadly for me I could only attend for a few weeks as I'm usually working when its open. But in that short time Ive met some wonderful people, learnt how to take cuttings from lavender and come home with handfuls of vegetables, from runner beans, yellow tomatoes and sweetcorn.
The tomato plant I have was a gift from the community garden when we first met at the local fete. Ive been watching for days as one the four fruits has begun to ripen. It wont be a huge harvest but I'm sure they will taste incredible once I do get to pick them.
The last few day lilies are in bloom today and by the end of the week they will all be gone. Their glorious trumpets will fall silent for another year. I've loved sitting in the garden as the evening draws in and the bats skit and scat around. In the darkness the orange/yellow lilies continue to glow when everything else fades into the gloom.
The last day lily of the year
Its been a good show this year with the first of the lilies to flower in early July. This is the time of year when everything starts to change with the autumn moving closer. While the poppies and hostas have also finished, the heuchera continue to attract bees to their tiny flowers and the sedum will soon burst into colour.
Over the last couple of weeks I've not seen any bee activity from the nest in my bathroom wall. I'm not sure when they would naturally leave the nest but it seems a bit early in the year. I suspect that they have struggled with the location. On only slightly windy days I've watched as each bee would make numerous attempts to get to the hole in the wall and perhaps that has exhausted them.
Its always good to reflect on the past and to see how life has progressed. I've lived here for almost nine years now and a lot has happened and changed in the Garden of Shaz. Just to see how much has changed I've added a photo showing the garden as it was in 2007 and how it looks today in 2015.
I am amazed at how blank the garden was to start with and so happy to see how much is going on in the garden today.
Garden of Shaz 2007 and 2015
And the garden is still changing. Ive been moving the lower growing plants on the left side forward to make room for taller bushes at the back. I'll make a start on the right side later in the year, bringing the hostas around the washing line to break the straight edges of the patio. Ultimately I want the garden to be a mixture of plants, flowers and vegetables and no grass. The left side is almost done with broad beans to go into the gap in the middle. Rhubarb and strawberries will go into the right side.
Its been a few years since I've grown vegetables but I've been inspired to start again (and grow fruit for the first time) by my friend Jo. I visited her allotment in Stevenage last week; the first time I had been on an allotment. It was incredible to see how much produce everyone on the site was growing and was especially impressed with Jo's plot as she has only had it for 18 months.
Jo on her allotment
I must admit I was also a little jealous of how big her garlic and onions where. My pot grown efforts had only ever been small and disappointing. The highlight of growing any vegetable or fruit is in the eating and after countless journeys to fetch and water the plot I was rewarded with freshly picked broad beans and strawberries to add to our picnic. I lovely way to spend a summer day.
This spring has brought a new visitor to the garden; bees. Earlier in the year I often noticed one or two bees flying around the kitchen door. I didn't think anything of it until a few weeks ago when the bees became more frequent. It was only then that I realised that the bees had made a home in a hole in the wall of my house.
The bees are tree bumble bees and having done a little research and spoken to a bee keeper friend they shouldn't pose any problem and will leave the nest in the autumn to establish a new colony.
Tree Bumble Bees
Once they are gone I shall seal the hole but I don't want to banish them completely. I'll put a bee box at the bottom of the garden and hope that a new colony finds it a nice home.
The frogs have not been so visible this year though. After two years of tadpoles being laid in the bird bath, there were none this spring. Its not all bad though as there are frogs in the garden still, living under the shed and the bits of wood left around the garden.
This morning I was greeted by the lovely sight of the first day lily of the year; a bright yellow jewel singing out to the summer. My day lilies always start to bloom at this time of the year but it is always wonderful to see the first one.
The garden has gone through a bit of a transformation this year and I have been a little concerned that some plants wont do so well. Thankfully, as the season progresses it looks like everything is doing fine.
Early this spring I began to move established plants forward to make space for taller, bushier new additions. The day lilies were part of that transformation. The clusters needed splitting but that meant I had a huge amount of plants (in a small garden). Some plants have been moved closer to the path to allow the leaves to spill over the edge. The rest had to go into pots and they are doing also doing really well. The pots have two advantages; they add a little more height and can be moved, meaning I can change the arrangement in minutes.
I have noticed a few malformed flower head on the day lilies though. I'm not sure why they would grow like this and there is always one or two each year.
Finally spring is here and on the weekend. It's warm and sunny and just the kind of Saturday morning I want to spend in the garden. Last weekend I dug up and split the day lilies but I had to squeeze them into pots that were not big enough. So today's task was to re-pot them into bigger pots they can grow into.
There is a slight problem though. My next door neighbours have a dog which is left in the garden when they go out. While they are away the dog barks at anything that makes a noise and that includes me. I've told them about it a number of times in the hope they will do something to change his behaviour but on today's evidence nothing has changed.
I won't say any more about it but I will share a few minutes of my gardening/barking experience with you in this film.
To get back to the gardening, my second task of the day was to start planting hedges along the new fence. Hedging is at the heart of the new look garden. I've realised that I've planted low growing plants at the back of the beds meaning I am limited for depth. I want to fill the whole left section with plants so I am bringing the low growers forward and planting taller hedging plants at the back.
Today I have bought 3 Ribes Aureum (golden currant) hedges, with their roots bundled in soil by plastic. The roots were soaked for a while but maybe I should have removed the soil too? Anyway, these 3 hedges have been planted closest to the house about 50 cm apart and this group will hopefully create a nice big, thick cluster.