No Newts -but Frogspawn a-plenty

I’d been so looking forward to seeing the newts again this February – their orange spotted bellies flashing through and lighting up the dark waters of my square pond again…for their mating season. But it wasn’t to be. Either they haven’t visited or I’ve completely missed them. Either way, quite sad about it. And a little bit mystified as to how I ever spotted them last year, in the dark!

There is some good news, however. The other pond, the wildlife pond I dug February 2020 (during last bit of furlough) has finally succeeded as the birthplace of a whole pile of frogspawn.

Wildlife Pond (frogspawn bottom right) Spring 2022

Some of that has failed already for some reason (perhaps too much green stuff) half way through development. A whole patch has come out of its bubbles, for want of the proper word. I can’t think it was the latest touch of frost, because they’d already survived sheets of ice over the pond previously, having arrived very early in February.

I don’t know what’s happened. But about half the batch is still growing, within their protective globes – looking almost tadpole form like, if quite small still. That point where they turn from dots into curls is amazing. Life!

As ever, still more to learn. And hugely grateful to the twitter nature community with specific accounts such as @Froglife informing and sharing the progress of these astonishing amphibians…and inviting the rest of us as ‘Citizens Scientists’ to contribute our ‘data’ – the facts on what’s happening on ‘our’ patch.

I wish I could say I very much see it as the frogs’ garden. But no – I haven’t been able to resist a bit of a tidy up and then there are so many other species, apart from me and the frogs, which it belongs to! The long scruffy COUCH grass which sheltered froglets all winter, has also hopefully been feeding caterpillars all winter too. A revelation to me! Haven’t managed to spot any munching away on the Couch grass by torchlight – as recommended by @savethebutterflies but that’s partly because the garden’s a bit overlooked and I don’t want to look completely bonkers. I already go out when there’s a full moon! What the heck – why worry. It’s magical then, with the stars overhead too.

Next New Moon, April 1st (no joke!) is when I’m going to plant my meadows in earnests. I say meadows – in total I have dug up just 2 metres square of turf, in two separate patches to plant BeeBombs which really do incorporate the perennials knapweed and yellow rattle as well as the annuals, just the mix I’d been looking for. I know from experience now that the perennials can take a year or two or three to establish. I have some Oxeye daisy plants that are 3 years old now.

Wonderfully, from Jemima’s Garden (a Scottish Granny’s garden company which despatch wildflower seeds in non plastic packets) sent a free gift packet of Phacelia – which I know from the Irish #WildGardener, on that wonderful tv programme, are beautiful blue flowers, otherwise known as I can’t remember, but very very pretty. And just annuals – which should hopefully billow up and bloom while the others get established…I’m looking forward to that!

Bare Patch soon to be Meadow – next to pots of Eleagnus and Viburnum which will both flower

Hopefully – now do have to protect seedlings from pigeons, cats (with twigs) and from the perennial slugs and snails – Now no longer designated pests by the RHS (YAY! As much right to be here as we do, I reckon – if not MORE SO!). Still a puzzle though, as to how to prevent them munching every green shoot in sight.

Some great advice I read was just grow slug resistant/repellent plants – hardy geraniums, lavenders etc with their tough perfumed leaves are never going to be bothered by slugs and snails….

Geranium in the rain

But I do like/love the idea of growing meadow plants – esp with the news from PlantLife of the desperate decline of these – something like 70% disappeared in the last 70 years. Meaning not only the loss of those meadow plants but also the habitat they provide for insects – and butterflies!

Have to admit to being a bit jealous/envious when I read that Worcestershire Butterfly @savebutterlies spotters have already seen Peacocks, Commas and all sorts. My garden still looks too cold! It is a bit shady. But the nettles are establishing well, so I’m hoping to attract the Commas and Red Admirals back, or even more secretly that they are hiding here somewhere to re-emerge with a bit of warmer sunshine.

Am also trying to attract Speckled Wood butterflies this year. With that in mind, have now got the Eleagnus Augustifolia from Ashridge Trees (peat free) in place and can’t wait for that, and the newish Plum and Amelanchier to flower! Not much to see as yet – but looking forward to that blossom. Meantime, have got some Early scented Honeysuckle and a perfumed Daphne in flower, as well as some lovely wallflowers grown from seed!

In the meantime, have spotted two large Queen Bumble Bees overhead, hopefully looking for nesting round here – what a privilege that would be, hosting a Bumble Bee colony! Wonderful videos from The Bee Guy @the_beeguy on twitter, about how they search about on the ground for a suitable site this time of year.

Bedraggled Pussy Willow

Just need some sunshine – my day off and it’s already started to rain. However, if it wasn’t, I’d be out there, planting a few more Spring flowers, not writing! And the birds are enjoying free range without me digging about.

QUESTION: Does everyone else’s birds fly off when they garden? Mine do! IT’s their secret garden and I go out and they all disappear! Apart from the Robin, new this year. Am so pleased the garden is welcoming more species than ever. A Wren that looked in the nest box. Goldfinches, Great Tits as well as Blue Tits, a pair of Blackbirds and the bush full of Sparrows, some darling Starlings even. I love their chat! They don’t fly off at least, but perch on the roof, squawking!

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