A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 18 April 2014

Garden Diary (1)

Bee fly.

Early this morning I heard a knocking noise coming from the kitchen. I ignored it, thinking it was the central heating pipes. But when I finally went to investigate I found it was a male chaffinch flying persistently at the window pane. I'm sure it was attacking its own reflection in the glass, believing it to be a rival bird vying for territory.

Out in the garden more and more spring flowers are opening. In the semi-wild shady area at the bottom of the yew hedge honesty, forget-me-not and yellow archangel are in bloom. Bluebells, tulips and daffodils — including the stunning pheasant's eye, or poet's daffodil, which some believe was the first cultivated narcissus — border the wooden fence opposite the hedge, and clumps of wallflowers crowd the base of an ornamental cherry. The cherry's pink and white blossom faded quickly — as it always does — a few weeks ago.

The clematis growing up the fence is just beginning to reveal its delicate white flowers, and the creeping stems of the greater periwinkle create ground cover. The periwinkles' purple corollas contrast strikingly with their dark, waxy-green leaves.

Under the kitchen window stands a container of quince, its crimson flowers now past their best, and naturalised ivy-leaved toadflax creeps prolifically up the red-brick kitchen wall, happily disguising an unsightly network of downpipes and drains.

The hellebores and cyclamen have been blooming all winter, and are flowering still. But the white blooms of the camellia, so abundant this spring, turn brown and wither almost immediately. At the end of tough but flexible straight stalks the flower heads of the allium will remain tightly closed until May. They look like tiny onions.

Just over a month ago, around the time of the full moon, our pond was full of mating frogs. The frogs departed, leaving behind jellied masses of spawn. The tadpoles developed, and now there are thousands of them, wriggling in the depths like spermatozoa or sunning themselves on the bricks supporting the aquatic flower baskets. Some surface for a gulp of air, their lungs already forming.

Bees, ladybirds and other insects have been on the move for several weeks, including pond-loving whirligig beetles, water boatmen and pond skaters. I've also been delighted to spot bee flies, which have the wings of a fly but the body of a bee. They have a long proboscis for drinking nectar, and are important pollinators. I've seen early butterflies too — Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Holly Blue.

Holly Blue.

(Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the pictures.)


Ruth Mowry said...


The Weaver of Grass said...

It is my most favourite time of year Robert. Walking round the fields this afternoon with my dog I thought how lucky I was to live up here in such glorious surroundings. My garden is a little behind yours I think - tulips are just beginning to show their colour. I have lots of wild primroses, that most simple of flowers, hiding in the hedge bottom. Spring eh?

The Solitary Walker said...

Life, indeed, Ruth... birth, decay, rebirth...

And Pat, I always relish your positive and appreciative attitude to life. Yes, spring has come — but I'd like it to be a little warmer.

Nick said...

Here we've been lucky this year, it's been a little warmer than it has with you and we've had butterflies of various persuasions fluttering around since February.

Susan Scheid said...

I am loving your spring posts, and I love the thought of your teeming pond! Happy spring, and may warmth come soon.

George said...

I find myself in awe of these myriad transformations that come with spring. I've developed a habit of just sitting still thirty minutes to an hour a day for the sole purpose of paying attention the ballet of life unfolding on wing and stem in my yard. I am mesmerized by it, and in the best Zen tradition, it dampens thought and allows me to feel the pulsating experience of life itself, my breath and movement tied to every other breath and movement. One thing I haven't experienced, however, is a bee fly, which, notwithstanding its size, looks rather ferocious.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi, Nick and Susan. Happy Easter!

And George — that sounds a great meditative daily practice...

Bee flies are fascinating, I think. Though they look fearsome, they are harmless. That long, slender proboscis is only used to suck up the nectar from long-throated flowers. Happy Easter to you too, George!