The Garden Diary 2011

May (part 1) 

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2 May - A busy weekend that included a birthday party yesterday for Freya, our now 1 year old grand-daughter - as usual at these events a great time was had by all.

Perhaps the only downer of the day was the chilly afternoon. The dry weather of April continued, but so did the wind, now from between east north-east and east, and blowing at up to 23mph (at Farnborough). A high of 19C was pleasant in the early afternoon sunshine until the clouds rolled in. By 3pm the temperature had dropped several degrees and was 15C by 6pm, and feeling decidedly cold in the wind.

Today, the winds, still in the same direction, have been a touch stronger, not dropping below 21 mph and peaking at around 25mph. Despite blue skies all day, the maximum has been just 16C, dropping to 12C by dusk.

The combination of dry air and strong winds is evaporating water from the pond (and everywhere else) extremely quickly, and this afternoon the shallow end of the big pond was close to being left high and dry before I topped it up.

The party and other activities over the weekend have meant that I've not been paying much attention to the garden, apart from a quick check for 'new' flowers, and this time I have three to record.



First Wood Avens to flower in 2010, 1 May


 The first Wood Avens flower opened yesterday, and at least six more followed suite today.

I don't appear to have a flowering date for 2010, but in 2009 these flowers first appeared on 21 May.




First Bird's Foot Trefoil to flower in 2010, 2 May




Our Bird's Foot Trefoil has produced a trio of flowers today. Again, with no record for last year a look back to 2009 gives a first flowering on 22 May.




First Red Valarian to flower in 2010, 2 MayFinally, our Red Valarian is starting to open up its small but very conspicuous flowers.

This plant has had a bit of a struggle to get going over the last few years, which may be an excuse for not recording its flowering prior to 2010, but I think that last year it actually started flowering while we were on holiday in Cornwall.

It's a plant that thrives in that county and I think that at last it has settled here!





3 May - The sunshine continues, and so does the breeze, although it has moderated somewhat today as it has blown in from the east with speeds between 13 - 18mph, bringing with it our first returning Swift (see nest box diary).

The temperature today was just a degree down on yesterday at 15C.

I see that this April was the warmest on record, and one of the driest, especially here in the south-east, with less than 10% of the usual rainfall. The forecast is for rain by the end of the week.

No new flowerings to report on today, but some animal sightings instead -



First, a step ladder was needed to get near this ball of newly hatched spiders on the Jasmin jasminoides next to our front door where they were bathed in the morning sunshine.






I was at the front of the house to check the roses for ladybirds. Sadly, given the number of aphids present, I found just one, the Harlequin that I've already mentioned (26 April). A couple of bits of damage to the roses cannot be blamed on the aphids and I wanted to find the animal responsible for them.


It didn't take long - despite the creatures best efforts to look like a twig, its brown/grey colouring showed up clearly against the fresh, bright green of the Rose's stems and leaves.

The caterpillar (and a second, similar one found later) was moved to an other rose plant in our garden.




I spotted this much more conventional looking caterpillar on the leaf of a young Hazel tree next to the Ivy tree.

These two caterpillars will need further investigation before I can name them - but not tonight.





Similarly, I have yet to identify this caterpillar that I found on the Stinging Nettles that grow below the Hazel, and which I photographed some five days ago (and forgot about!).

I will be adding the large images tomorrow.

Click on images to see larger version


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