It is warm today. Close to 20 degrees Celsius. Tomorrow temperatures are going to drop again, to about 11, so it is from one extreme to another. We got a small amount of rain last week but it is still exceptionally dry for the west of Ireland.
I am not sure if it is the hot temperatures or the dry weather that has driven some of the frogs back to the pond. We saw four today – just chilling in the water.
2. Also in the pond, one large great diving beetle.
3. By the pond is also one of my favourite damp habitat flower – Ragged robin. There does not seem to be as much as last year, but it is just coming out.
4. Lavender is in flower – the bees don’t seem to have found it yet.
5. The bees are preferring the sage flowers in the greenhouse.
6. And finally for this weeks six, some Aquilegia flowers.
Regular readers will remember we had plenty of frogs in the pond earlier in the year and lots of spawn. The tadpoles are now developing into little frogs. My youngest spotted a couple moving from the pond to the hedgerow.
A frog in the hand
They are so tiny. The fact that any of these creatures can make it to a full -sized adult frog is truly amazing. How big the world must seem to them!
Over the last couple of years I have been trying to increase the number of flowers in the garden, specifically to help our pollinators but also for our own enjoyment. Flowers add so much – colour, scent and of course the fun of watching bees, butterflies and other insects.
My wildflower success this year has been ragged robin. I have always loved this flower and two years ago bought some wildflower seed as I wanted it around our pond. The seeds didn’t germinate very well but I gather seed last year from the couple of plants I did manage to grow and these germinated brilliantly. So I had enough plants to try some in the meadow too, where I thought it may be a bit dry but where they seem to be doing well despite the lack of rain. Buttercups seem to be doing particularly well this year and many fields around us are yellow with them.
Ragged robin in meadow
Green veined white on ragged robin
Meanwhile the bee and butterfly garden is proving attractive to bees but not so many butterflies yet! Some of the delphiniums have suffered slug damage so I may need to grow a few more.
Lupins with carder bee
Buff tailed bumble on sage
Other flowers include these lovely heritage roses which clamber though the hedge. They are heavy scented. And the blue irises by the pond always seem to do well here though I have tried to grow them elsewhere in the garden and they disappeared after one poor year of flowering.
Finally this flower is actually a vegetable – scorzonera. I tried growing last year as a veg but again had poor germination so thought I’d leave a few plants in the ground and see if I could get seed. They have rewarded me with lovely yellow flowers that smell of marshmallows. The flowers grow on tall stalk about 60-80cm high.
To say the garden pond is heaving with frogs is a bit of an understatement! I used binoculars to help me count them today from the kitchen window. I counted 38 and I don’t think I got them all as there were probably some hiding in corners that I couldn’t see. Trouble is, as soon as you get close to the pond they head underwater and the zoom on my lens is not working. Thankfully there was one brave one – who was bold enough to pose for a rear-end and front-end view! Frogs are great addition to any garden, providing a valuable pest control service. Who wouldn’t want them in their garden?
Earlier in the week, while transplanting a small tree, my husband found a little newt. In winter, newts will find frost-free corners of the garden to rest up in, only coming out in milder weather to forage for food. They will often use compost heaps to hide in so it’s a great reason to have a compost heap.
Now with spring on its way, they will be thinking of heading back to the pond to breed. We often see them swimming in the pond during the spring and summer (see previous post https://murtaghsmeadow.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/newts/). They look quite graceful in the water. On land they seem almost prehistoric.
In Ireland, we only have one species of newt (Smooth – Lissotriton vulgaris), but in the UK there are three – smooth, palmate and great crested. Newts will eat slugs and snails as well as earthworms. In water, they will eat tadpoles and water insects.
I love seeing these little amphibians in the garden. We’re still waiting for the frogs to return to the pond to spawn. It’s usually about now we start to see them, so it shouldn’t be long. If you find newts in your garden you can record your sightings at www.biology.ie
Autumn is coming early to the west of Ireland and while I hate to see the summer go it is a lovely time in the garden. So I took some photographs to share. The first photo shows the area we look out from our kitchen table. The recently clipped beech hedge makes it look neat and tidy. It’s the only area of planted flowers I have but I have a plan to expand this autumn – more of that in posts to follow.
Pond and flowers
So many things are looking great – if you ignore the weeds! And even the beans survived the gale we had the other day, though unfortunately the sunflower, that was under attack from the wasps, didn’t!
One problem with expanding the garden is that there are suddenly lots of jobs to do outside and therefore little time for blogging. The pond is slowly filling up with water – naturally from below and also from the rain. Yesterday we gathered some wild mint and bull rush from the drainage ditch just below the field and planted those in. Today we transplanted some reeds from one of the fields close to the river. And we have already seen some whirligig beetles on the surface.
New pond slowly filling with water
Along the fence line, behind the pond, we have created another mound and planted a hawthorn hedge. Plastic has been used to help control weeds as this has been proven to speed up the hedge growth. Two Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) have also been planted into the hedge. These are not true cherries, but belong to the family Cornaceae – the dogwoods. The fruits are good to eat, though it can take the tree some time before it starts producing fruits (in one book 20 years was quoted, so patience may be required).
On the other mound, 27 cobnuts have been planted. The majority are ‘Hall’s Giant’ because this variety is already doing well in our garden. It’s a hardy and vigorous variety. The other varieties planted are Nottingham (Pearson’s Prolific) and Lange Tidling Zeller. All our cobnuts have come from fruitandnut.ie.
Mounds with Cobnuts
I know it doesn’t look like much now but hopefully in a couple of years this will be a productive strip.
My parents have kindly given us the field below the house. And today, our neighbour and friend Willie arrived with his digger. The field is quite a wet area as the soil is peat. The plan is to create a number of mounds on top of which cobnuts, blueberries and a couple of apple trees will be planted. It is hoped that the mounds will allow free drainage around the trees.
Creating Soil Mounds
Another mound along the southern boundary will be planted as a natural hawthorn hedge. The extra area will also us to expand our poultry flock. We will be creating a pond area for the ducks. We’re hoping not to line the pond but will allow it to fill naturally (with additional water coming from the roof of the workshop). The plan is to plant reeds around the edge. The reeds grow naturally just a couple of fields away near a small river. There are also bull rushes in the nearby drain and we hope to incorporate these too. Hopefully you will see the progress over the next few weeks.