So rain, rain and more rain. The rivers are bursting their banks and flowing over the roads round here. Routes out of the village to the south are getting a bit risky. The footpaths, in places, are Somme-like and require well-fitted wellies or they are otherwise likely to come off (it has happened!). Yes, we definitely need stilts … which neatly brings me to our first March visitor who comes ready equipped with his own pair.
I was working in the vegetable plot when this chap flew over head. No big deal, until he circled back and landed on our neighbour’s roof.
He sidled over to the apex …
to take a good look at the buffet options. This is likely what he could see … yes, shiny bright goldfish swimming about our pond. (There are a couple of pipes in there to provide shelter. We do still lose fish to herons, but not terribly often.)
Unfortunately for him, as I edged round the greenhouse to get a picture, I disturbed him and he was off, looking for a quieter fishing spot. In fact, although I scared him, Grey Herons are pretty big birds, with a wingspan of roughly 6 foot, so he was probably bigger than me. He was not put off by a rather elegant ornamental bronze heron, that my sister gave me, posed next to the pond and funnily enough, I have just read that decoy herons are more likely to lure herons than frighten them away.
In spite of the waves of dreadful weather besetting March, wildlife has been getting on with spring activities and procreation. Ladybirds are starting on the next generation of aphid killers. Hurray!
The rosemary beetles are sadly multiplying too. Grrr!
Birds are building nests and chasing each other around. The local blackbirds have been particularly aggressive with each other. At the bottom of the garden the pheasants have been strutting their stuff. That means that I will have to be careful as I weed etc., since their nests can turn up all over the place. A couple of years ago I accidentally came across one in between the runner bean posts. I left it alone, but sadly I’d done enough that it was abandoned.
Pheasant shooting is prevalent around here and many of the small woods are maintained to provide cover for the birds and are kitted with raised metal drums to hold seed for them.
Another woodland bird that I am seeing about more is the nuthatch (although the picture below was taken at Wimpole Estate where these long, grain feeders are seemingly always busy with the birds).
Now that there are spring flowers opening and days when temperature reaches double digits, there is a steady showing of bumblebees in the garden.
Below is a red-tailed bumblebee on a species tulip, Tulipa turkestanica:
Queens and workers (smaller) are black with red tails, whereas the males have yellow facial hair and bands at the front and rear of the thorax.
The most commonly seen bumblebee about in March here is the buff-tailed bumblebee. The queens are huge and are, in fact, the only caste to actually have a truly buff-tail. Males tails are fairly white with a yellowy/buff ring at the front and workers are nearly identical to white-tailed bumblebees.
They are a favourite of mine.
It is lovely to see so many bees about again. Once the crocuses open, they are happily about all the time in the garden. I couldn’t resist including this picture. It almost looks like the bee is squirming over the anthers in delight.
Rabbits are becoming a huge nuisance in the garden. They are burrowing into the ditch along the bottom boundary and the hill we’ve made from project spoils. This is a photo of one very close to the patio. It is becoming a daily chore to fill in their massive excavations in the lawn. (Not sure how to deal with them yet.)
Also, did I mention that there is a lot of mud round here?
Are you spotting a lot more visitors now that spring has officially started?
I am once again linking up with Tina at mygardenersays to report the wildlife that visited our garden during the last month. Why don’t you click through to see what is stopping off in her Texas-native, wildlife-friendly garden (spoiler: that cute lizard is back).
I am linking up with Chloris for a review of my top ten plants for March. I admit that they are mostly stalwarts, but I couldn’t be without them and think it spring. March should mark the beginning of spring after all! Things are a bit slow this year though, with the snow and cold we’ve been having.
First up, and very fresh looking is:
Iris tuberosa (aka the Widow Iris, snake’s-head iris or, best, velvet flower-de-luce) comes up early in the year like a clump of sharply-pointed course grass. Around early March you must watch it closely if you want to see the flowers as they are easily overlooked, they are mostly green: a translucent olive colour, except for the black lips/falls. I’ve seen the falls described as deep purple, but with the velvet sheen in sunlight they look quite black to me.
Plants slowly spread to establish good sized clumps. They like sunny positions and well drained soil. Apparently, it has a delicate scent, but I confess to never having noticed.
For the last few years I’ve been buying amaryllis of (to my mind) a more exotic persuasion: interesting shapes like the spider group and colours (as dark as I can find). Sadly, I’ve been disappointed because when they finally opened the flowers have not been as advertised. This year I purchased H. ‘Bogota’ and H. ‘Sumatra’ (from Crocus in fact). The ‘Bogota’ opened shortly after Christmas was a fairly standard apple-blossom type, not as advertised (OK it was still pretty, but grrr.)
However, the ‘Sumatra’ has delighted me for the last month or so. Not only is the flower delightfully balletic, but a third flower spike is now shooting up and will open in a few of days, so there is more to enjoy.
I will definitely keep this one going for next year.
I can’t imagine ‘Spring’ without crocuses. If the weather is miserable, then they adopt their wonderful goblet shape, incidentally revealing the beautiful markings on the outside. They are made for shrugging off raindrops.
Crocus ‘Prins Claus’ and Crocus ‘Pickwick’
In sunshine, they stretch their petals out to reveal brilliant golden stamen and open cups which make easy landing pads for stumbling, newly-awakened insects.
Crocus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ and Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’
They are a tremendous nectar source for these early emerging pollinators and even a small patch vibrates with a swell of gentle buzzing as the honey bees start to fly again.
As a child, my Mum would take us kids on a bus every Easter to picnic in Cobham woods. The woods were coppiced regularly, promoting glade plants and I have happy memories of spreading blankets to eat our sandwiches on banks covered with primroses.
In the garden this year our primroses have been flowering since before Christmas, but March has seen an explosion in the number of blooms produced over all.
My efforts of transplanting seedlings from front to back garden are paying off as there are now mounds of primroses multiplying in the meadow too. Whatever the weather, the ground looks like it is covered in a carpet of sunshine.
I’ve been moving lots of self-seeded hellebores from the bark chipping path in the front garden to new permanent homes in the borders. These seedlings are showing up in various shades of pink, from parent clumps on either side of the path, white on one side and deep plum on the other. I love them, especially the plum colour, but they are all plain and single. I felt that it was time to diversify.
So last spring I bought two new ones (Helleborus × hybridus ‘Harvington pink speckled’ and ‘Harvington cream speckled’). Unfortunately, the pots fell over in the car on the way home and both ended up pretty battered. In fact, the pink was snapped off. I wasn’t sure that the damaged crowns would survive. Well happily, they have come back (if not bulked up) and I am optimistic for more flower spikes next year. This year I am on the look out for a double yellow. Imagine the variety in the self-seeds in the path in a few years time!
As March has progressed these have taken over from the crocuses in providing open cups of nectar and pollen for the early insects. Tulipa ‘Hearts Delight’ is a favourite, with its red-marked leaves and rosy tipped petals, but there is nothing funnier than watching the buff-tailed bumblebees land on Tulipa turkestanica, since they dwarf the flowers and tip the whole spike over.
Last year I experimented with Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’ and Muscari muscarimi (here) and they are coming up again, but aren’t out just yet. This year I am trying M. latifolium ‘Grape Ice’ and they are a big success. I particularly love their appearance when they are just about to open, clenched fists and sliding through colours look like samples on litmus paper. I imagine that they would look great in a posey with some Cerinthe major.
I visited Alan Shipp’s National collection of hyacinths last weekend and the scent was wonderful (future post), so hyacinth have to be in this month’s top picks. At home Hyacinth ‘Delft Blue’ remains a firm favourite, with it’s lovely two-tone bells: sky blue fading to purple. The fact that its blue shades are a particular bumblebee magnet adds to its charm. I would hate to be without them.
Anemone blanda in shades of white and blue are irresistible. I tend to buy corms of the blue, but come spring can’t resist pots of white.
A. coronaria are just start to flower now too.
This is the second year that I’ve planted a sack of wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) in our small meadow area. Initially I though that the muntjac had eaten them as they came up, but I am now seeing ” … a crowd, A host of golden daffodils“
Well maybe that is exaggerating a bit, but we’ve made a good start.
What is looking good in your garden?
OK, so it is Tuesday, but I did pick the flowers yesterday and I have just read that Cathy is celebrating 6 years blogging, so it seems a shame not to congratulate her on this happy meme (IaVoM). Well done Cathy and hope to enjoy many more vases with you!
It’s March and in between deluges, my front garden is looking really quite cheerful now, with ever increasing clumps of tete-a-tete daffs scattered about, particularly on the days when they manage to lift their cute little heads from the snow and frost. But what I really love at the moment are the contrasting blues beginning to extend the colour range with the likes of anemone blanda, pulmonaria and muscari.
So I’ve picked a few of these little gems to make a spring posey and I am hoping that the spring equinox today breaks winter’s hold or at least its run of repeat performances!
This morning I ate my breakfast in a cloud of delicious scent. It was just wonderful.