Today was the last day of C’s half term, and most of it was spent trying to complete the garden ‘bioblitz survey’. I soon discovered that this was going to be a bit more complicated than I had thought. I should know by now that most things in life are, when you are accompanied by a teething baby and a toddler shaped Tasmanian devil.
Our garden is a wild and messy jungle. Once upon a time, when F’s grandparents lived here it was a rather different affair. Tidy borders and meticulously pruned shrubs were the order of the day.Everything grew in its allotted place, and wild flowers were considered the enemy. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint) the house and garden then spent 12 years without a human occupant, and both became a bit forgotten. Now it is in my incapable hands. As I am really not a gardener (I have managed to kill cacti…)I haven’t done much to it. I really do prefer it the way it is at the moment, with Nature allowed free rein. No ‘rewilding’ necessary here!
I started the list with the trees – not too many and something I was confident in identifying. The hedgerow that borders the garden has several mature specimens. There are 2 ash , a sycamore, hawthorn and oak. In the garden itself we have an immature oak tree, which has become part of the ‘bird banqueting hall’. We also have a lazy magnolia. Father in Law threatened to chop it down 3 years ago, but I spied a single flower so it had a reprieve. It has never produced a petal since!
Next I went for a poke about in the log pile with C. Levering up a large sycamore stump sent woodlice and centipedes scuttling for cover. There were worms wriggling through the leaf litter, and two millipedes locked in an embrace. We also uncovered some leatherjackets and another larva of some sort. It was fascinating to watch: its head end looked a bit ‘Alien-esque’ with hooks protruding around what I presumed were mouthparts. It was surprisingly mobile, despite its stubby appendages, and soon wriggled free. C was mesmerised by the yellow and grey garden slugs we found, sliming and sliding under the bark at the base of the pile. A solitary black slug sat hunched under another log, with some wriggling nematodes as housemates.
We moved on to the rock pile- formed from the debris of the chicken shed. We found a couple of garden snails, one yellow and one brown lipped snail.
By this time the sun was beating down on the garden, so we moved to the shade of the patio. Here we watched the ‘customers’ at our newly opened bee café. The favourite plant at the moment is the Centaurea, ‘Amethyst on Snow’.
After a while I went to inspect ‘the meadow ‘. Red admiral, speckled woods and the odd orange tipped butterfly danced over the patch. Damselflies, both red and blue, flitted past Various species of fly hummed about , occasionally alighting on the grass stems. I came across what I think is a lacewing resting on top of the log pile, and several moths skittered amongst the nettles.
By now C decided that she’d had enough, and headed inside to watch some CBeebies. JoJo had drifted off for a nap so I was free to indulge in some bird watching. Soon enough I spotted a great tit hanging off the feeders under the sycamore. Chaffinches bounced in the hawthorn, and a wren warbled from its perch on the oak. The jackdaws were feeding their brood, with one lookout at the top of the sycamore. A pair of collared doves raided the bird table, and a blackbird came to perch on the garden gate. Our new friendly little robin came to watch proceedings, perching on the corner of the house. Last of all, a shy dunnock hop hopped along the chicken shed, picking at bits of seed.
After a while, JoJo woke and it was time to adjourn for lunch. The flowers and plants would have to wait for today, as we had a long list of mundane chores to tackle.
Although we didn’t finish, the ‘bioblitz’ made me realise how little I really knew about my own back garden. It made me mindful of how I take the space for granted, and how much life is living alongside me.