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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Emerging green and veg patch update

I just knew there would be a total explosion of swelling leaf buds and fresh young leaves unfurling just as soon as we had some warm weather. Oh the joy of working outside in a T-shirt (albeit with a cool breeze) and we even didn't light the woodburner at all yesterday! As with every year, some trees in the warmer parts of the garden are ahead of those in the frost pockets, even though they are the same species. But that's nice. Who wants it all to happen at once? It's such a joyful time I like to see it spread out over a few weeks.

One of the most obvious of these trees laden with leaf buds is the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). I have two, although the original owners of this house had planted a whole row of them, most of which had to be removed, as these are large trees often planted in parkland, and require a lot of space. I tend to look towards the future and the next owners of Chateau Moorhen when working out spacing for planting trees; others think only of now, which then leads to problems 10, 20 or 30 years down the line.

For the moment though these trees are still juveniles and probably will remain so during the time that we live here, although I am glad that they are mature enough now to flower, but flowers will come later after the leaves have opened.

I had to show the blue sky!
'Sticky buds' (the brown scales that protect the leaf bud during winter)
opening up and the emerging leaf bud is growing daily.

More advanced, this one is just starting to part
into the separate leaflets of this large palmate leaf

I hadn't meant for this to be an educational post about Horse Chestnuts but I've just been reading about sticky buds as I remember us calling them that from childhood. It seems to be a form of protection (known as scales) around many leaf buds on various trees during winter, but it is so much more noticeable on Horse Chestnuts because the leaves and buds are enormous. I expect as kids we would touch them and remark upon the stickiness, but that was a long time ago and I've forgotten!

OK, so onto other smaller leaves emerging. Young trees are generally getting their foliage before mature trees, and in the case of the Elm suckers (which are everywhere) leaves are already appearing, and the 'forest floor' areas of my little woodland will appear green well before the tall trees above get their leaves. For the moment the woodland area is filled with light which allows early wildflowers to bloom, but in a couple of months time will be a dark imposing place, apart from the few clearings that we have which allow sunlight, or dappled sunlight, to get through.

Elm leaves

A spindly Mirabelle Plum beside the pond.
It never has fruit but I like the early blossom and leaves.

Wild Spindleberry (Euonymus europaeus).
Unfortunately this kind doesn't have colourful leaves in autumn
and is very invasive (birds dropping seeds?), but as this grows
in my really wild 'don't even rip out the brambles' area,
I leave it be.

The wild Euphorbias (E. amygdaloides)
in the woodland are flowering now
and their fresh lime green colour with purple stems is so vibrant

Flowers and blossom I will feature in another post as for now I am rejoicing in the emerging leaves, but wanted to show this flowering evergreen tree. The Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is far more commonly known as a hedging plant, and as such never has a chance to flower. I much prefer it left to grow wild as a tree, because these flowers are beautiful and have a lovely scent. New plants can appear in other places as those flowers turn into large black berries which birds eat, so seed is distributed due to bird droppings, but that has never been much of a problem here and is far less of a nuisance than the Elder saplings which emerge absolutely everywhere, thanks to the birds!

Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) in bloom

So onto the veg patch. What are these flowers then, you may be asking? Well these are weeds :-) Four out of five of my cultivated plots are all ready to rock 'n' roll with new planting, but this last plot contains Purple Sprouting Broccoli and purple Curly Kale, which we are still harvesting, and has not been hoed for at least 6 months due to incessant rain. Now the weeds are flowering and are a source of nectar for the pollinators, and as I have no need for this plot until much later (it will be mostly tomatoes and courgettes here) then the weeds can stay for the moment. Anyway, they are pretty.

Speedwell, one of the many Veronica species, but I'm not sure which one.
This one is low growing.

Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) on left,
Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) on the right.
This is such a pretty 'weed' that I often leave it to grow in flower beds
then just weed it out when it is past its best!

Strawberry flowers all of a sudden!
These are 'escapees' from the veg patch and have
now ended up amongst cultivated
herbs and flowers!

The early PSB 'Rudolph' has been feeding us on and off for a couple of months, but doesn't have the real burst of growth like the later varieties such as 'Red Arrow' in the photos below. From now on we'll be having a feeding frenzy of PSB until we can no longer keep up and then the flowers will open up for the benefit of the honey bees, which adore Brassica flowers. I have lost a few PSB plants due to voles eating the roots in situ; my third no-name variety are really stunted as something munched on the roots back in the autumn, which may have been grubs.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli 'Red Arrow' and a little tinker who thinks I can't see her

Watching the birds? Behind her is my 'Wildflowers for Pollinators Meadow', Year 2.

The Wildflower strip has been left to see what the perennial and biennial plants turn out to be, and to see how attractive they are to pollinators. Anything perennial that I particularly like can be transplanted elsewhere at the end of the season, but I don't yet know what everything is. Unfortunately some plants have been lost due to voles eating their roots. You can just see a few flowers out already, featured below. I haven't seen any pollinating insects on them yet but quite frankly, who cares? They are early flowering and they are very pretty!

Yellow Wallflower (Erysimum). But is this the biennial or the perennial kind?

Orange Wallflower

As for this year's veggies, I have so far only sown parsnips and some lettuce seeds, and finally finished getting in my shallots and onion sets. Today is spud planting day but it's cloudy again and cooler, and the forecast whilst fairly sunny does show more average April temps (about 14/15C) than we had on Sunday and Monday, but I can live with that!

Finally, just because I can, here's a gratuitous pic of a couple of the ducks just chillin' and floating about on the pond (even though this pic was taken about a week ago in slightly drizzly weather!).

Doris at the back and Freckles at the front. Life is good when you are a pampered duck.

Whilst on the subject of birds, our Swallows are back properly now with plenty swooping over the garden. I was even standing in the veg patch this morning when a couple landed to take some soil for their nests. Of course I didn't I have a camera with me, because a few minutes later I saw some Long Tailed Tits collecting duck feathers to line their nest. If I had had a camera, none of this woud have happened in front of me, believe me. :-)


  1. It's lovely to see the landscape turn green again. Your bud pictures are lovely.........but Freckles and Doris steal the show!

    1. Hi Rosie (now I've clicked on your link and know who you are!)- thanks very much. I spoke too soon as I've just been out planting spuds in the drizzle. But there's a green haze about so I don't care anymore! :-) I try to snap the ducks on water whenever I can now, because on land they don't like it and either go into frantic preening mode or run away!