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My Garden Journal – April

Back to my garden journal where we can see what was interesting me in our garden at Avocet during the month of April. My journal for April begins “As March gave way to April the weather responded with the sun making regular appearances and for the first time this year daytime temperatures made double figures. The garden celebrates!”

It celebrated with bright colours of spring flowers such as Celendines, Pulmonarias and early chartreuse flower s and bracts of Euphorbias.

My quote from Jenny Joseph’s book “Led by the Nose – A Garden of Smells” speaks of the delicate scents of the garden and in the countryside that are so important in spring.

The flowers that had come out in the sheltered places on banks and in woods – violets and primroses kept fresh by the rain at the beginning of the month – had been too shy and careful to part with much of their scent. Now they opened to the sun, and woods and walks began to have a lighter sweeter air. The air began to be a mingling of fragrances.”

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As the water in the wildlife pond warmed up we thought we would have our first dip with our net to see what wildlife was in evidence beneath the surface. In the journal I wrote “What fun as we reverted to childhood!”We were surprised by just how many different creatures had already stirred into life. I chose to paint the nymphs of Dragonflies and Dameslflies and a Backswimmer. The Damselfly Nymph will hatch out into an Azure Damsel and the two Dragonfly Nymphs into a Hawker Dragonfly and a Darter Dragonfly. They were quite a challenge to paint in their subtle earthy hues.

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Continuing on the watery theme on the next page of my garden journal I wrote “Jude gets excited each time she catches a newt when she is on her regular pond maintenance forays. The first this year appeared in early April. Such excitement at Avocet!”  We were so pleased to find so many newts out and about and so active this early in the year. As well as enjoying seeing them using our pond we are even more pleased to know that they are helping us with out pest control out in the borders. They spend much of their time out of water and are partial to slugs. Welcome visitors indeed!

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Now these little critters were even more of a challenge to paint than the other pond creatures! Anyway here are the results.

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On my next page I wrote, “During Easter Weekend, usually associated with cold and rain, the sky turned the deepest, clearest blue. Temperatures suddenly doubled and the garden buzzed and hummed with the arrival of bees and hoverflies. The most popular of all plants is the flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.” 

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April is the busiest month of the year in the greenhouse. We raise vegetable plants for our allotment plot and annual plants for our garden, but a lot of space is taken up with Jude growing hardy perennials to sell on our open days.

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Towards the middle of the month the ponds were getting livelier with Water Boatmen, Pond Skaters and Water Beetles in evidence whenever the sun shone on the water. We set up our live moth trap for the first time this year to see what was about when darkness fell on the garden. Moths have such wonderful names, mostly given to them by English country clerics with far too much time on their hands. We found Small Brindled Beauties, Muslin Moths, Common Quakers and Early Greys.

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I next wrote “Goldfinches are searching the uppermost branches of our trees for the best nest site. We have at least one pair nest every year”. I then got out my watercolour paints and pens and attempted a painting of a Goldfinch.

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My final page in my journal entries for April featured two colourful beetles which we found in our garden in that month. “A tiny and very welcome visitor, a 14-Spot Ladybird came to our garden on our first Open Day of the year. A tiny but very unwelcome visitor to our garden also appeared on our first Open Day, a Lily Beetle. We welcome the 14-Spot as he eats aphids but we hate the Lily Beetle as it devours our lily leaves.”


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Three Welsh Gardens – Part Two – A Garden on Top of the World – Bryn Llidiart

Of course the garden we visited wasn’t really on top of the world, but it certainly felt that way as once more we made our way into the hills of Powys the other side of Welshpool, travelling along narrow single track lanes up steep hills and around sharp bend after sharp bend. It seemed to take ages to get nowhere and the journey did actually take twice as long as we had anticipated. We had to go in Jude’s little car as I had been in hospital the day before having a minor op on my hand so I couldn’t drive. We should have known better and Jude could have driven mine as its more powerful motor wouldn’t have minded the hills so much.

Once we got there however we knew we were in for a treat. Anyone brave enough to tackle the making of a garden in these harsh condition must be a very determined gardener indeed. As we neared our destination we turned up a very narrow lane where the hedges virtually touched the side of the car and we climbed steeply until the lane came to a halt. A gate in the stone wall was open on our right and a sign indicated that this was where we had to park up. On the left another track of rugged slate took us through fields grazed by sheep towards the garden.The gnarled old hedgerow Hawthorns were bowed over and twisted from years of being wind battered on this exposed hillside.

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After a steep knee-aching walk across fields we realised we were getting close as the close cropped sheep pastures were replaced by recently planted flower meadows with neatly cut gently winding paths.

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After walking the meadow edges we glimpsed the house ahead of us. From this distance it already looked tantalising.

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We found it to be a modernised and extended Welsh longhouse with its garden wrapped around it and just as well designed. Coffee and cake were enjoyed in an out building where plants from the garden were for sale. Only a few different plants but very well grown.

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As we started to explore the garden it immediately became obvious that an artist was at work here. The planting with carefully selected combinations of texture and colour and scattered artifacts had the feel and look of the artist’s hand and eye at work.

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Moving further from the house, closely mown paths enticed us through meadows of white daisies to a curving bench of slate encircling a fire pit and on further to a small but neat productive patch.

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Moving back around winding paths towards a pool in the lower part of the garden we found more borders and this metal sculptural bird feeding station. Beyond every border were distant views of hillsides.

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The pool and the stream garden running into it was a new venture and still in the early stages of development. We could see such possibility and vowed to return to see developments.

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Slate paths through raised beds let us discover further interesting plant combinations. We were impressed in particular by the different Astrantias.

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Gardens wrapped around the complex perimeter of the buildings and here more gentle plantings helped root the new building extensions into the land.

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As we left the garden behind and anticipated the beauty of the meadows we noticed a green roof under which we must have been seated while enjoying our coffee and cakes. Wandering the close cut grass paths through the meadows was a very gentle way to finish off our visit to this developing garden. We looked forward to returning in the future.

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Summer house revamp

After ten years our summer-house, our little quiet place of escape at the bottom of the garden, was beginning to look worse for wear. The back wall faces directly south so gets harsh sun on it in the summer months and as our garden is at the bottom of a hill temperature inversion in the winter means that the poor summer-house feels the full effect of  the cold frosty air as it rolls down the hill to hit our summer-house first. The first two pics show the summer-house as we began work, with the original interior on the left and the first stages of cladding the walls on the right.

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We decided to re-clad it inside and out and then repaint both the inside and outside. A job that ended up taking us a long time as we fitted it in between more interesting gardening tasks.
But at last we have finished! A big sigh of relief can be heard all over the garden!

So, first let us share with you what it looks like now.

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The summer-house is our little secret place where we hide at the bottom of the garden and ignore the telephone and doorbell, pretend that television and computers don’t exist and believe there is no lane passing our house.

It catches the evening sun in the last few hours before it sets, so is a great place to end the day. We sit and listen and we can appreciate a different view of our garden. We listen to the calls and songs of our garden birds and those passing over our heads. We can share the intimacy of their bathing as they come to freshen up in the shallow end of our wildlife pool. A square of decking sits in front of the summer-house and hangs over the pool.

Please share the view from our summer-house seat.

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To give you an idea of some of the special things we can see right now from our little house I have taken a few shots with a long zoom on my camera.

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As we enjoyed a coffee in the summer house today, a female blackbird came to bathe almost splashing our feet. She must have been enjoying a few moments off the nest, a few moments to herself. A house sparrow also came to bathe when the blackbird returned to the nest. On the nearby bird feeders a nuthatch noisily bashed away at the peanuts with its long powerful beak and took small bits back to its young in a hole in a nearby tree. It soon returned for more and we heard its beak tapping on the metal mesh of the feeder.

A blue tit couple are rearing young in a nest box fixed to the summer-house and we watched as they appeared with beaks full of wriggling caterpillars. We could hear the fledglings begging as they open their yellow wide gapes to beg for their share of the wrigglers.

In the pond itself life lives on the film of water and secretly below the surface. Pond skaters dominate the surface but they are frequently joined by sub-surface dwellers in need of a gulp of air, newts, water boatmen and water beetles. Below the surface we can watch tadpoles of frogs and toads feeding and fattening themselves up.

The pond is home to many of our pest controllers such as newts, toads and frogs who all breed here at our feet.

But as we look out and appreciate our garden and its life, one nosey bird looks in to see what we are up to. A robin comes close, perches on the nearby malus and watches us with head cocked to one side as if bemused.

As we rest in our little summer-house world the garden and its wildlife busily carry on close by.