Notes from a riverside garden – June 2019
We continue our notes from SB’s beautiful garden on the banks of the River Stour. This month there is drama as a youngster gets separated from its mother on the millpond!
The seven cygnets hatched at the end of May after what seems to be a lengthy incubation period although it appears the swan takes up residence on the nest for a while before the eggs are laid. She sits there through all weather conditions and rarely leaves her position. It is always a joy to see the new arrivals and to take a head count. On our return from a day at the Suffolk Show we heard a plaintive cheeping coming from the mill pond. Investigation revealed a lone tiny cygnet swimming around and around the millpond calling forlornly for its absent family! We leapt into action rushing to get a large fishing landing net in order to scoop up the little bundle. We were unsure whether we would need to launch the rowing boat or whether we could entice it over to us. Thankfully it came to us and was delicately lifted into the net! I rushed up to the nest on the island to see if the family were there or elsewhere in the garden. Thankfully she had returned to the nest with the rest of the brood and I must say seemed oblivious to the fact one of her youngsters was absent! We carefully placed the adventurer in the reeds close to the nest and with much cheeping on its part it made its way back to the nest. We suspect the family had been in the river above the sluice gates and this little chap had accidentally fallen through the gates into the millpond below. We have since seen the swan come through the gates, (there is quite a drop down onto the concrete sluice below), followed slightly reluctantly by the cygnets leaping into the abyss to follow her!
The hedgehog continues to return every night for its food. The water dish is visited so many times by it and on one occasion the hedgehog was actually standing in the bowl of water! We have seen a pair of hedgehogs in the vicinity of the feeding station at times too, and they are often together rooting around on the back lawn.
Beside our front door we have a dense honeysuckle growing up the wall. A song thrush’s nest has been built inside and she seems unperturbed by our comings and goings. We have sparrows nesting under an eave at the back of the house.
We have planted several clematis around the garden over the years. We lost, amongst others, a ‘Princess Diana’ clematis to field vole damage a few years ago, a sizeable plant which suddenly started to wilt and eventually died as the stems had been eaten through close to ground level. We planted a new ‘Princess Diana’ in our vegetable garden this spring and to our dismay we noticed it starting to wilt and looked down to see one or two of the new stems chopped through – the voles! They are an irritation in our garden. Particularly in the greenhouse where they nibble off my seedlings as they are very nimble climbers of both plants and staging. I balance seed trays on upturned flowerpots to keep seedlings out of harms way as it is so very annoying to find the first leaves all nipped off and only a stalk left! We took action with the clematis and wrapped a plastic tree protector around the remaining live stems at ground level and all now seems to be well. We have spotted a barn owl hunting over the water meadows recently; I am sure it will have no problem finding plenty of voles, which is good news for the owl at least!
We take great pleasure from nature assisting us with planting in the garden. Foxgloves appear in perfect positions. Verbena bonarensis self-seed and it is rarely necessary to move the plants from where they emerge. A wild rose is climbing through a large conifer and looks fabulous with its pale pink flowers against the dark foliage. Later it produces vivid orange rose hips which look stunning. Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican Fleabane) appears in paving cracks and in gaps in the garden walls; again we leave most of these wherever they appear. The garden is constantly evolving with the helping hand of nature itself.
I have grown plants particularly with bees and insects in mind for many years. It is such a joy to watch the bees, of various types, merrily going about their business in the garden. I so enjoy watching the activity and busyness they display which so greatly enhances and brings to life our borders and wild places. SB