The Garden Diary 2010

May (part 1)

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3 May - After the latter half of April gave us a taste of June weather, May has started with a touch of late March, with temperatures in the low teens as the wind swung round to blow from the  north-east.

On the 1st it still came from the south-west, bringing lots of Swifts over us. It was dry, except for a few spot of rain when a dark cloud passed us by ( one of my sons lives barely half a mile away and received heavy rain from the same cloud). By yesterday the wind had turned and we had light rain for much of the morning and afternoon, although the clouds lifted quickly in the early evening and we had a few brief sunny spells.

Today it has been bright and sunny, with puffy, cumulous clouds still coming from the north, and the temperature creeping up to nearly 14C in the garden this afternoon.

As I've already mentioned in the nest box diary, we now have a  second granddaughter as of just after midnight on the 1st. Both she and her mum are healthy and we look forward to sharing our wild garden with her. Her sister, at just two years and two months is already an enthusiast. Last time she came, her first activity (with no prompting from anyone) was to go into her 'creep mode' and head for the end of the small pond to spot frogs. She even spotted one that was no more than a pair of eyes poking out form the duckweed. And then it was to the mini-aquarium to check on the tadpoles and snails.

On the subject of the aquarium, also interested are the Sparrows. Over the last few days we have been amused to see them land next to the tank and attempt to peck at the tadpoles.

Flower buds on the Rowan, 1 May



I took another look at the Rowan on Saturday (the 1st) and found some of the first flower buds. Hopefully there will be flowers and then berries this year after last year's failure.

Notice the red bud 'cover' still attached to the tips of some leaves.





Last night, when I went out into the garden at around 10pm to lock my shed, I was greeted by a familiar sound - an old engine struggling slowly up a steep incline (I was brought up surrounded by steam trains!) - actually a pair of hedgehogs engaged in courtship.

Hedgehogs engaged in courtship, 2 MayA couple of weeks ago one of my sons gave me an LED headlamp which includes a red light, and it proved very effective last night.

The hedgehogs completely ignored it, and it allowed my camera to focus, although I only took a couple of photographs in case the camera noise disturbed them.

When I retired back into the house the male was still going in circles around the smaller female. I have yet to see hedgehogs actually mating!



7 May - On a largely grey day, with that annoying north north-easterly breeze continuing to wipe away memories of the June-like weather we had last month, there isn't anything new to report from the garden as the Hawthorn (and other) flowers buds remain tightly closed, and insect activity is quite restricted.

Nothing to do with the garden, but n a day when the airwaves have been dominated by the political juggling act now going on in London after yesterday's General Election, I had to spend quite a while in our modern (and very badly designed, from a patient's point of view) 'Centre for Health' this morning, waiting for my turn to have blood taken for tests (annual MOT!).

While you wait, the Electronic information system welcomes you, tells you the current time (at least 7 minutes fast this morning), and most importantly lets you know what the current waiting time is before your number is called. Helpfully, it also warns that the numbers may not be called in order. Anyway, by the time my turn finally arrived the displayed waiting time had crept up to  1hour 84minutes - I've never come across this way of expressing time before! Interesting - perhaps it ensures that you don't wait more than two hours and so muck up some NHS target!


9 May - The greyness continues. However, while yesterday was largely wet, with the temperature remaining below 10C, today it was dry and nearly 12C! At the moment, average temperatures are some 5 to 6 degrees below what we should expect.

Despite the conditions, there are two new flowerings to report on.

Wild Garlic comes into flower, 9 May



First, several Wild Garlic (Ramsons) have come into flower today in the area below the Hawthorn.

The Triangular stemmed Garlics seem to be quite a bit slower in that same area, but it looks as though another one of these, situated by the workshop shed, could flower in the next day or so.


Hedge Parsley comes into flower, 9 May




Under the Rowan there are a couple of Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica) plants, and both of these now have their first flowers.



Looper caterpillar on Rosa Rugosa, 9 May



Finally, an insect -  a looper caterpillar on our Rosa rugosa plants in front of our house. It measures 13 mm in length.



The forecast is for some sunshine during this coming week, although it will remain cold. However, it also holds the prospect of a change in wind direction towards the end of the week, hopefully bringing an end to the north north-easterly winds that have been plaguing us.


12 May - Another day when a bright, sunny morning gave way to grey skies moving in for the north-east. Around dawn the temperature was no higher than 2C and only just reached double figures in the early afternoon. As evening arrives, there is a promise of brighter skies coming from the north.

The 'Blades' aerobatic team over us this morning, 12 May 2010


During the morning's brightness we were entertained by what sounded like a swarm of very loud bees when an aerobatics team spent a while circling over our bit of Aldershot.

They were in the colours of the Royal Air Force Association, and the registration numbers indicate that it was 'The Blades' aerobatic team.


Back down at ground level, the cold conditions are certainly having an effect. While the sunshine feels warm and encourages insects like the solitary bees out, as soon a a cloud obscures the sun the temperature drops quickly and activity comes to a stop.

The first Triangular-stemmed Garlic comes into flower, 12 May




At least the Triangular-stemmed Garlic plants have produced their first open bloom, just about.





Yesterday I was able to show my (eldest - at 2 and a bit) granddaughter her first Common Newt, a male in its dramatic breeding colours. She seemed to be most fascinated by its small feet and the way it swam in a small aquarium tank. No pictures I'm afraid, and afterwards she watched as I returned the newt to the big pond.


13 May - The frustrating weather continues, with a cold start (<2C before dawn), then an almost cloudless, warm morning before the clouds returned and it turned chilly again.

The first flower opens on the Hawthorn, 13 May


This afternoon I found a Hawthorn flower open. I have been checking the tree each day, and had expected spot the first flower on my neighbour's sunny side of the tree, but this bloom was well and truly in deep shade on our side.

If it is sunny tomorrow I would expect to see more buds bursting on the tree.


Back in the 1st I recorded the first inflorescence of flower buds visible on the Rowan. As of today these are still tightly closed, and from the ground I cannot see any others - I hope that is not the case.

A caterpillar hides between leaflets on the Rowan, 13 May

What I did notice on the tree was numerous pairs of leaflets that are over-lapping and stuck together, with nibbled areas next to them, something I haven't noticed previously on the Rowan.

Perhaps I'll pull a couple of leaves apart tomorrow to record what is hiding between them. In the meantime, using a torch behind the paired leaves reveals the outline of a small caterpillar.



On the bird front, the Goldfinches are particularly vocal at the moment - I wonder where they are nesting. We had a couple of Sparrowhawk visits today which upset not just our Sparrows but also the Starlings nesting across the road. They are obviously not having trouble finding food for their chicks at the moment. Just about every time I see them they seem to have something in their beaks.



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