Monday 11 April 2011

April Quickens My Heart

Pheasant At Barleycorn

In our garden calendar, April is the month, which calls forth our trumpeting Daffodils to herald the onset of Spring. For, though the months of January through to March have bestowed us with beautiful carpets of Snowdrops and sunny banks of Aconites, they are the Winter bulbs which precede the joy and beauty of Spring.

Siskins At A Feeder

Being in the heart of the countryside affords us many pleasures, some of which are occasional visits from colourful Pheasants with iridescent, ultramarine feathers. Having a large wood in the vicinity enables us to identify a wonderful variety of birds, which also frequent our feeders, forage around the garden, and drink and bathe in our ponds. This month saw the return of striking Siskins with their black crowns, green and black feathers and gold wing-bars.

Tractor And Plough

The combination of longer daylight and warmer temperatures make conditions right for the farmers to plough their fields. It's wonderful to observe the straw-coloured thatch of last year's crops being turned over by the ploughshares, and so a new farming year begins. Lambs bleating and gamboling beside their mothers, the warmth of the sun on our backs as we clear away the spent foliage of last year's perennials, the childhood joy of seeing rainbows after April showers...simple pleasures that bring us so much joy after the long, dark days of Winter.

Purple Hellebores

Hellebores are such elegant, stately plants, which spread well of their own accord, without needing to be cosseted. Over the years we have invested in white, pale green and pink varieties and each year they greet us like old friends. I love cutting away the old, leathery leaves to make way for the fresh lime-greens of their Spring foliage.

Pagoda Lilies

Pagoda Lilies bring a touch of the exotic to any garden. We have posies of these growing next to varieties of Trilliums. We planted them at the front of a large bed next to tall, majestic Camassias, though the latter do not bloom till next month, which helps to prolong the Spring garden. Considering that bulbs involve little effort in planting and tending, we can never have too many in our gardens. To this end, we try to plant new varieties every Autumn.

Mixed Daffodils
One section of our garden runs adjacent to a farmer's field. We share the stane-dyke wall, which acts as a border between us. Couch grass and nettles run the length of this wall on the farmer's side. Rather than try to cope with these invasive plants, I decided to plant lots of mixed daffodils and a variety of grasses interspersed with wild flowers...Pink Campion, Annual Poppies, Primroses, Aquilegia, Corncockle and Cornflower. Although we still get tall Couch Grass growing through, everything looks naturalised and saves me a headache.

Orange-Centred Daffodils

Because we have invested in planting bulbs every Autumn for the past 20 years, our Spring garden now boasts hundreds and hundreds of Daffodils. Each one is a cup of cheerfulness and a testimony to the happy years spent here at Barleycorn. I do love their nodding heads, the variety of colours and species and the heady scent of the star-shaped white Narcissus. The Queen Bees serenade me, buzzing in and around the heads from morn till night, getting their all-important sustenance after their Winter hibernation.

Double-Petalled Daffodils

Every which way I turn in our garden in Spring, I am greeted with bouquets of Daffodils; some white, others creamy-yellow, others still, orange...some with large trumpets, some multi-headed, like the tete-a-tete, some shaped like many varieties. I belong to the generation of children who learned to recite poems by heart at school. And each Spring when I gaze upon my host of Daffodils, I feel an affinity to Wordsworth's sentiments, 'And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the Daffodils'.

Ripples On The Pond

The play of light on the ponds offers constant fascination. This is the month when we have Frogspawn. In March 2010, we had six weeks of snow with temperatures so low the ponds were mainly frozen. This resulted in a downturn in our Frog population. This year there was no Frog Chorus to speak of...and, yet, we still have some spawn in both ponds. The front pond is shallower and, therefore, warmer, and so the Frogs always mate there first.

Spawn Beneath The Surface

However, we now have some spawn in the back pond too. As the local farmer has been draining the pond in his field again this month, I am so glad to offer habitats to the Frogs. We are hoping the spawn will have a better chance to develop this year and that, in time, our colony of Frogs will be replenished.

Spawn In The Front Pond

It is always wonderful to be able to watch Nature unfold before our eyes and ponds are a good way of affording this opportunity. Now that the spawn is here, the Newts will follow, and, along with them, the myriad of pondlife. The many oxygenators keep the still waters clean and healthy, and the many marginals and Lilies offer shelter. Later, in the Summer, we have two species of Dragonflies, as well as the smaller Damselfies which live and breed in our ponds.

After The Spawn

After the eggs have hatched, the jelly turns a greenish colour and the Tadpoles hide amongst it and live off it. Soon we might be lucky enough to see the Newts feast on the Taddies. They always look like dragons compared to the miniature size of the Tadpoles, and they suddenly pop up from under the jelly, like Crocodiles in a tropical river.

Hoverfly On A Dandelion

The gardeners will recognise that the hairy leaves in this picture belong to Oriental Poppies. Why on earth allow a Dandelion plant to grow up amongst them? I am trying to encourage wildlife in my garden. That is the raison d'etre for its existence in the first place. It's the wildlife which brings a garden to life. Queen Bumble Bees need sustenance after their long Winter hibernation...hence the reason for allowing the Dandelion head-room. In the video for this month, you will see the Hoverfly feeding on this Dandelion. In return, it will feed upon any aphids and nasty bugs, and, like the Bees, will help with the pollination of my garden.

In Front Of The Barn

This is the biggest log-pile I have in the garden. The top is made up of fallen twigs and small branches, which are tweaked out and specially chosen by our five pairs of resident Jackdaws for replenishing their nests in the chimneys of the Barn. We leave some of the moss we gather from around the garden, spent chaff from last year's plants and any other material suitable for nest-building. Then we watch as Robins, Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Thrushes fly in to choose their pick-and-mix from the pile. In return, they feast on bugs and pests and serenade me the whole year through.

Spring Garden At Barleycorn, April 2011 is the title of this month's video, and the music to accompany it is Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F, Opus 68 'Pastoral', Awakening of cheerful feelings in the countryside. I hope you all enjoy it.