I thought today I would start a post called nature notes. Whether this is fortnightly, monthly or something else remains to be seen. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. It occured to me that nature was such an intrinsic part of our lives that it would be nice to make note of some of the things that go on about us in the garden or the broader natural world. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before as it seemed so obvious particularly as I have such a love of the wild world outside. It also gives the opportunity to record the seasons and learn about what’s beyond the door. Having been incapacitated this last month I’ve not been walking much further than round and round the garden and orchard. Even so there are plenty of goings on out there and here are a few of the things that caught my attention.
An obvious place to start is with plants and the wildlings that have burst forth in recent weeks to adorn the garden with baubles and luscious growth. The first to catch my eye is this fella, Alliaria petiolata, Garlic mustard or Jack by the hedge. What a whimsical name that is. I’ve seen it everywhere nestled as it’s folk name suggests under hedgerows and theres plenty in the garden too. It is a biennial herb found just about…well…anywhere, the leaves when crushed give off a strong garlic scent. Early European settlers bought the herb with them for use in cooking as garlic flavouring. Unfortunately in the US it is classed as an invasive species able to survive in the understory and reduce biodiversity. Back to this country and Garlic mustard can produce hundreds of seeds which can be scattered up to several meters from the parent plant. Whilst this may be a weed to some and you might not want it in your garden I love wild plants and I can always tell when winter has transitioned into spring when this plants familiar rosettes of leaves and white flowers put in an appearance.
The next plant to catch my eye is Lamium album, the white dead nettle of the family Lamiaceae. These have been flowering all throught winter in small patches. We recorded them for the New Year Plant for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. In recent weeks they have really shot up and there is a nice big patch of them across the road from our gate. It is a perennial plant which has a square stem. It grows on roadside verges and disturbed ground in grassland and woodland margins. It’s white flowers grow in whorls around the stem. A common name for this plant is White archangel.
Another plant I like which is flowering now is Glechoma hederacea or Ground-ivy, there is an abundance of it flowering in our grass. It has creeping stems which root at intervals and grows in woodlands, grasslands and on bare ground. It is tolerant of shady and exposed situations. It also belongs to the Lamiaceae family and it adds bright splashes of purplish colour with its flowers in the grass. It doesn’t mind being mowed and puts out new growth and flowers for me to enjoy. Unlike the dead nettle it has rounded leaves instead of ovate to triangular ones.
These are just some of the wild flowers popping up around the garden there are plenty more but I’ll save those for another time. Many birds are nesting around the garden and hedgrows and I was suprised to find a cheeky blackbird had built a nest in one of our potted grass plants, very low down, right next to the gate into the orchard. Not a great place to build as it was so low down but I was delighted to find five beautiful sky blue eggs one morning when I went to let the chickens out. So delicate, and full of the promise of new life, and sure enough after patient sitting in very cold conditions five tiny little nestlings emerged. Eyes closed, naked and helpless. I watched each day as I went about the garden these delicate little creatures grow stronger, feathers began to emerge, eyes began to open and even caught Mr Blackbird feeding them. Being in the place it was we gently closed the gate and the slightest movement made these tiny beaks open begging for food. As each day passed the nest seemed to get a little to small for all of them squished in there, then one morning I went out as usual and they were gone.
An empty nest.
I checked to see if they had fallen out, not a trace. Where had they gone? After staring at the space they used to be for a while and feeling a little sad and shocked I decided that something must have taken them in the night. Such a shame, they were doing so well but that is nature isn’t it. I watched Mr and Mrs Blackbird still in the garden at least Mrs was still alive and I hoped they could build a new nest, in a better place and have more success raising a second brood.
So there you are, some of the goings on and things growing in the garden and a first nature notes post, please feel free to leave a comment or any of your nature observations and as the seasons progress nature’s story will unfold.