This month has been the strangest time for us all, and in the list of things we experience, the importance of saving lives by the wonderful NHS team, has to have been the first priority. The Government however also stresses the importance of mental health, and for those unable to go out, things immediately around them count highly. All the things I illustrate and talk about this month are taken in or around our small garden. I’ve really begun looking closely at the flowers that are out in bloom, and there is a quality of colour, texture and pattern even in the most ordinary of garden flowers. I hope you enjoy looking at them and have as much pleasure as I do in taking photos of them. Seen in close up they are magnificent, and all play a part in making the garden come alive. Seeing the bees searching for the best pollinating plants is fascinating and the bright yellow mahonia seems to be the plant that’s most attractive to them. My favourites at this time of year, with apologies to the daffodils, are the fritillaria. They are delicate, yet stand strong in a breeze, and have the most beautiful range of pink to purple & mauve colours. The yellow plants dominate the garden in this season with cowslips, primroses, daffodils and mahonia in full bloom, whilst it’s extraordinary to see tulips, gladioli and oriental poppies out in bloom together. The first butterflies we’ve seen, several peacocks and small tortoishell are enjoying the blue flowers, the highly scented hyacinths and smaller grape hyacinths.
I’ve never spent so much time watching the birds in the garden, although I suspect we’ll lose a lot of them soon, as we are running out of bird food. We’ve had territorial battles between several male blackbirds, and three or four robins are trying to dispute nesting sites. In a ten metre hawthorn hedge we have nesting, robins, blackbirds, dunnock and house sparrows, wren and wood pigeon. A male sparrowhawk flew though a week or so ago and took out a pigeon, from the feathers left on the lawn, but other small birds have been regular visitors. Starlings, although very greedy on the seed feeders are extraordinarily colourful, but we have also been delighted to see families of long tailed and coal tits join the regular groups of blue and great tits, close to the dining room window. I was extremely excited last week to see the pair of coal tits examine the empty nest box, but I’m afraid it was a flying visit. Walking along the canal a short distance from the garden, the chiff chaffs are really back in force, as are bubbly colourful goldfinches which seem to be everywhere along the canal and village hedgerows. The first male blackcaps are singing along the canal and are appearing in village gardens, so look out for the male, a robin sized bird with a jet black cap. The female’s cap is more chocolate brown, but they are usually seen about in pairs and do nest in the area. I also saw a bullfinch in the garden yesterday, and they are usually about when fruit trees are in blossom. Earlier in the week we watched goldfinches seemingly feeding, but also plucking at blossom on the tops of willow trees at the edge of the farm field, and understood then why the surface of the canal was covered in pieces of willow blossom.