Slightly Bemused: Savage Garden


Slightly’s garden (above).

Where the wild things are.

Slightly Bemused writes:

Don’t let the early morning mist fool you, nor the gentle sound of the dawn chorus as the birds wake to another day. This is not a scene of bucolic calm, of rural loveliness, of halcyon days. This is a scene of murder and mayhem, of infanticide and the daily shouts of bravado.

Since my tree came down a few months ago I made a deliberate decision to let about half the garden go wild, let whatever grew grow, and leave the stump as a refuge for the solitary bees. In so many ways I did not expect, this has worked better than I thought. The greens are deeper, and the garden full of birds and butterflies. I see this as a refuge for them in a line of houses with no laws and the tennis club replacing the fields of yore on the other side.

Across in front of my compost heap, now due for another spreading, in the later morning a raft of yellow buttercups that were not there last year will open, and the bees will flock. I used not have buttercups in the back, only the front as they migrated across the open lawns of the estate. But from the cut pilings of the grass a few seeds must have survived, and now spread out like a golden wave.

In the taller grass now growing about the fallen tree trunk and seemingly abandoned ivy stem dark purple flowers abound on slender stalks reaching for the sky. And nettles form a halo around the back, as if to protect their more verdant comrades. Much maligned for their stinginess, nettles are really good for the soil. Mine is boggy, and slightly acidic, and they lock much needed nutrients back in. Despite the stinging leaves, birds flock to them at seeding time, but I have yet to see them bloom.

The blackbirds in particular like to root around, their golden beaks flashing as they search for delights in the grass. They seem to prefer it longer, as they rarely venture in when I cut, so I will leave it for them for another while. I did see the unusual sight of one scrounging for food, then feeding a larger youngling following behind. It reminded me of parents out with a child at a market, and passing titbits back to their little ones as they roved.

In this area, I hope to plant heathers once I have evened the ground a bit. I thought about gorse, which would also provide cover for the little birds. As the song goes, give joy to the linnet and the bee. But where gorse can grow well, so too can heather, and I am told would better suit the land. maybe half and half. Gorse to the left of me, heather to the right, and on down the middle for the blackberry bush.

The docks, a constant companion and supposed remedy to the sting are, surprisingly, the ones on the noxious plants list and so it is they that need be tamed, not their prickly friends.

Along the fence I hope to plant nice climbers, but trying to choose perennials that will benefit is surprisingly hard. There are many fast growing lovelies that will scent the air, but they die down, and need to be planted anew in the spring. Better loved by the birds and the bees for their sweet nectar and pollen, they wither and pass each winter.

But this scene is disturbed by evidence of nature’s way, too. A few feathers are now all that are left of one of the wood pigeons that would visit, victim to one of the few raptors in this area. Rarely seen, this high flying predator sweeps over a large area, nesting, so far as I can tell, about half a mile away in some taller trees. My garden did not offer great scope for its swoops until the fence came down, allowing a better angle of attack. So now I see more evidence of its depredations. Most of the feathers are now gone, gathered most likely by other avian parents to line their nests for their own young.

A lone eggshell, obviously carried off from its nest and serving as breakfast, lay forlornly in the grass by the fence. Proof, at least, that life still goes on, as nature carries on.

‘My’ robin sometimes greets me as I work, looking for the insects I turn up, and rooting in the soil I disturb, before scooting away to bring bounty to the nestlings. Finally returning, the short span means the nest is near. I hope to put nest boxes up along the fence, but it may be a few years before they are used.

In the meantime, I sip my tea, and enjoy looking out on the misty morning coming awake before me.

Slightly Bemuseds column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

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13 thoughts on “Slightly Bemused: Savage Garden

  1. Mick

    If you’re looking for a perennial climber, try a Cotoneaster. I have one on my garden wall and the bees love it! The buzz around it this time of year is fantastic. It’s green leaves stay all year round, with plenty of red berries in the autumn and winter for the birds. It needs next to no work once it’s planted.

    1. Slightly Bemused

      Ooh, thanks for the tip! Lovely red, too. When I was young we had a fuchsia bush we called the bumblebee tree, and I see this has similar reds. If it is popular with the buzzers, it may become my new bumblebee tree :-)

  2. eamonn

    enjoyed your musings as ever slightly.
    have you put in any honeysuckle – grows up through all sorts ,the fragrance in the evenings is uplifting, bees love it, butterflies too.
    great to be out and pottering,personally I’m not trying to win at bloom – just borrowing the garden back from the winter.

    1. Slightly Bemused

      D’Oh! Not sure why I did not think of that. Small garden, but plenty of room if I choose spots wisely :-)

      1. eamonn

        you can see and smell it in hedges everywhere at this time of year, I have a friend who loves to take cuttings and plant up at home.

  3. Lush

    Lovely one Slightly, both inspiring and motivating.
    I have just acquired 800 sq metres of, currently, very overgrown garden. The brambles are almost 6 ft high and cover around 40 sq metres. but somewhere in there is a cherry tree and as well as pear, fig and apple. I hope to do something along similar lines when I have cleared out the brambles. Any suggestions from those in the know would be welcome.

    1. Slightly Bemused

      Best of luck with it, Lush.

      About the brambles, do clear them and get them out when you do. I had mine cut down for mulching, but that has proven to be a bad idea. I should have had them taken away to the local green compost dump, but now they are in the ground, reducing my choices, and are harder to clear. One reason I want to layer them with compost and plant a cover growth.

      I know nothing about fruit trees, for all I used pilfer apples and crab apples as a youngster from the orchard up the road :-)

  4. Mad

    Nice article
    Thank you
    I didn’t really understand the point about the docks though- what’s wrong with them ?

  5. Slightly Bemused

    Honestly, I do not know. I just know they are on the list. I thought nettles and dandelions were from growing up, but neither are.

    Under an act from 1936, the following are:
    Control of Noxious Weeds
    Under the Noxious Weeds Act, 1936, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible for overseeing the control and the prevention of the spread of certain weeds.

    It is an offence for the owner/occupier of lands not to prevent the growth and spread of noxious weeds.

    Owners and occupiers of land must ensure that they abide by the provision in the act.

    The following weeds are listed in the legislation:

    Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris)
    Common barberry
    Male wild hop plant
    Wild oat

    1. Mad

      Fascinating – thank you. Docks are a real scourge to get rid of though as they have such deep roots, once they get established.
      And well I don’t know about you but I’ve still got some wild oats to sow…

  6. U N M U T U A L

    Nice one Slightly…

    I always read your posts, but don’t always comment.
    They’re the reflecting pool in the broadsheet digital garden… :-)

    Arum-lily for the boggy side of your garden, thats my tuppence worth.

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