Tuesday, 9 April 2013

glorious mud

Spring still doesn't feel fully sprung.  At least it is not raining, which is better than the forecast. Over the weekend the Met Office were predicting heavy rain all day on Tuesday for Colchester, and as recently as this morning they were still saying showers.  There was a light sprinkling of rain around ten this morning, and that was it, but the air feels slightly raw, without that balmy softness that would encourage plants to grow.

I'm still weeding and mulching the big sloping border in the back garden, though by way of a change and to celebrate having new wellington boots that don't leak I weeded the bog bed while I was at it. The Primula bulleyana that I planted last year have begun to make some leaves.  They are still only at the small rosette stage, but at least I can see that several of them are alive and doing something.  The Primula florindae are still invisible under the mud.  They might have made it through the winter, and merely be biding their time, which is possible as they flower later than most candelabra primula, or perhaps they have quietly rotted and died.  Time will tell.

There are small, wispy,  mauvish-green fronds that tell me that the Filipendula live on, but they have not started to grow yet.  The skunk cabbage has produced a tiny funnel of green leaves, that you would not see unless you were looking very closely.  Fortunately I saw it before I stepped on it. The Rheum by the deck has made some big, fat red buds, but has decided to leave it at that for now.  I have not waded through the mud to see what, if anything, the gunnera is up to.  The area where it was planted ended up wetter than I was expecting, as the water table continued to rise inexorably, and it may be that the crown has rotted.  Or it may be about to leap into glorious life.

Customers at work ask me for evergreens that will live in constantly wet situations, or even places that are intermittently very wet, and I struggle to think of anything.  For the past five or six months our bog bed has consisted of a small sea of mud, over which a layer of bright green slime gradually developed, the only vegetative interest provided by some tufts of weed grass that is apparently adapted to swamp conditions, some hopeful patches of lawn buttercup, some aquatic nettles (which don't look very well.  I don't think they've quite got bog life sussed yet) and rosettes of willowherb.

The yellow berried Viburnum opulus that I planted in the mud, while wondering whether the boss's label saying it would tolerate boggy soil could really be true, has got fat, round, pale pistachio green leaf buds on it, so that's alive and fairly well.  The next unknown is whether it will berry for me, or if it is too shady at the back of the bog bed.  Viburnum opulus berries are beautiful, almost translucent.  The surprise survivor among the shrubs that were there before the water table rose so dramatically to the surface is Itea viginica 'Henry's Garnet'.  The species hails from North America, and makes a lowish, suckering bush whose leaves colour to a good shade of red in the autumn, and hang on for a long time.  It is helping itself by partly perching on the root plate of a self-seeded pussy willow, but the parts that are growing in the bog seem to be doing quite well.  I have been impressed enough by it to start recommending it to customers who want a shrub for a damp and intermittently wet spot, but I don't think I've clinched a sale so far.

We had the night camera set up to try and catch whatever is eating plants, and in particular flowers, in the back garden.  I'm convinced it's muntjac, and want to know where they are coming in and how often, but all the camera caught this time round was some pheasants, and black and white Alsatian killer cat.  The SA thinks the batteries ran down.  The camera belongs to the Systems Administrator, who seems to need frequent reinforcement in the form of interesting night photos of something to retain enthusiasm for the night shot project.  I want to know what is eating my plants and how it gets in, so nights where we draw a blank and nothing comes into the garden still yield valuable information from my point of view.  However, a nil score tells me nothing if the reason for it is that the camera battery was flat.

A buzzard flew low out of the wood yesterday, straight towards the house.  We know that without the aid of a wildlife camera, because the SA saw it out of the bedroom window.

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