Garden Journal - September 1st 2005

Wildchicken Garden Journal - Miranda Hodgson


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September 1st 2005 - Three fine days and a thunderstorm

Charles II once said that the English summer is made up of ‘three fine days and a thunderstorm’ and that’s pretty much what we had this week. Yesterday, especially, was bright, hot and humid all day long, after a sticky night. Weather of any kind hardly ever lasts long in this part of the world, so it wasn’t a bit surprising that by about 7pm a grey sky had lowered and the first rumbles were heard.

"...there were a few minutes during which we questioned the safety of the metal cowl on the chimney..."

From the start of the storm, the sky flashed several times a minute, the thunder hammered and the rain poured down in torrents. We stood for a while, at the back door, well enough back so that we didn’t get wet, and admired it. As the lightning flashes came closer there were a few minutes during which we questioned the safety of the metal cowl on the chimney but, since there was nothing to be done about it, we returned our attention to the sky.



We both love a good storm and last night’s was excellent, reminding us of our time in the Far East where they have strange, unproductive, thunderstorms which rumble on for several hours without a drop of rain falling. We got the rain part, too, but very much enjoyed the fact that this storm went on all evening, rather than petering out after about twenty minutes like so many of them do.




"I have a pet theory about thunder and why it sounds so good."

I have a pet theory about thunder and why it sounds so good. The sound of thunder touches something deep within so many of us and few can hear it without feeling some sort of emotion. It’s something that’s always prompted an ‘Oooh’ from me and I’ve often wondered what the attraction is. It’s only an idea, but could it be a deep memory of the womb, the sound or feeling from our mother’s digestive system, or from outside it? It may be all tosh, but I like the idea.


Just as the rain started we went out to the pond to see if the frogs had noticed and, sure enough, there were at least a dozen of the tiny creatures in the process of clambering on to the rocks, where they sat for a while before moving into the surrounding foliage and being lost to view. The largest were about 3.5cm, from head to tail, and the smallest about 1cm long; I’m sure one still had some of its tadpole’s tail.


frog in pond with spawn

I tried to find a young one to photo, but none were about, so here is an earlier one instead: an alert expectant parent.


Now that many of the frogs have left the pond, cutting the lawn is getting to be a drawn out business. Some of them are a very similar colour to the grass and blend in so well that it’s necessary to scour the lawn for them whilst cutting the edges, again before starting the mower and during the mowing. I don’t mind, though.

"...we’ve discovered that there are toads in the garden as well as frogs"

One good thing about watching them is that we’ve discovered that there are toads in the garden as well as frogs. We’ve come across several, from all around the garden. These young ones may not have crawled under our specially dug out tunnels under the fence from next door, but actually have been born here. I’d wondered what was going on in the pond because there were still so many tadpoles. Looking closely at the tiny frogs sitting around the edge of the pond, some of them are darker and have much blunter noses and slimmer ‘hips’. They don’t have the sharp noses of frogs and I think they must be toads. There was no sign this spring of the strings of eggs that toads lay, but there is a lot of foliage so it could have been missed.


If there is this new toad population to add to that of the frogs then this is a Good Thing; it means that they must like the garden. I do hope they get stuck in fast and start filling up on all those juicy slugs because there are plenty to go around.


Going around the garden, pottering at the plants, it feels strange that I no longer have Toby’s company. He was always there, shadowing me, and loved to watch me work in the garden. I used to joke that he was my supervisor because he watched so closely. As I potted up or knelt to snip at a plant, I’d feel his little head suddenly push under my arm to see what was going on and got used to completing tasks where I had to look between his ears to get at plants.


If he wasn’t following me, trying his best to help, I’d round a corner and find him lying in the sun, head raised, eyes closed in bliss, nodding slightly. The routine was that I’d bend down to stroke his sun-warmed fur and ask him if he was enjoying the sunshine and he’d blink at me and sigh a few times in contentment. That hot, soft, fur felt so good, so strokable and even if he needed a bath he didn’t smell bad, just of warm animal. If anyone we know passed by, he’d tell me, but now I jump out of my skin when someone speaks to me over the wall.


There are some things that are better for not having a dog – no more poo-patrol, for one thing (not that it was often necessary), and not having to open and close the gates when we go in and out. Young plants don’t get trampled any more - he sometimes used to mulch them into the soil when he jumped up and down to greet people, but there was no stopping him being friendly so I put up with the occasional destruction. On the whole, though, it doesn’t feel right without a dog. One day, we’ll have to get another one.


Anyway. Spent a lot of time deadheading during the last couple of weeks. It’s a mundane but pleasant job which lets you get a good look at everything in the garden. I was pleased to see that the Sidalceas are putting out new growth and have already opened fresh flowers. The beautiful, fiery, Helenium autumnale are romping away too and do justice to their spot at the edge of the patio. The Potentilla nepalensis ’Melton Fire’ which was cut back a month ago is flowering again, much to my pleasure. It scrambles through shrubs and perennials, lighting up areas where there is little blossom, and really earns its keep.


Potentilla nepalensis ’Melton Fire’

Potentilla nepalensis ’Melton Fire’


The Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm', bought at Yorkshire Lavender last week, doesn’t need deadheading yet. They’ve gone in the ground and provide an early autumn glow when you glance out of the kitchen window.


The Antirrhinums that went in as emergency fillers, after other plants were eaten, have been so colourful and should keep going for weeks to come if their fat seed pods are nipped off often. I had no idea what colours they were and, rather rashly, planted them out before they flowered. Not sure that those shades of pink and orange really go.


Unfortunate combination


"Not sure that those shades of pink and orange really go"





Still trying to deal with the basil glut – we’ve had a pizza fest this last couple of weeks and, for each one, I add a complete layer of basil leaves. It’s delicious. We also drop leaves into salads and that’s delicious too. For a bit of colour, yellow petals of pot marigolds and tiny purple chive flowers scattered over the fresh salad leaves set off the greens and bronzes quite wonderfully. It almost seems a shame to eat it.

© Copyright Miranda Hodgson 2005


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Published: 01-09-2005

Updated:   24-11-2005