Garden Views-07-July 2018

The great drought and heat wave of 2018 continued into July, with no end in sight, grey skies and 2 mm of rain on the first day of the month, being sufficiently novel for me to bother to photograph them.

For the first time in years we walked up the hill, over our top gate.And through Glyn’s fields on the same contour and then after climbing the wooden gate, and up through the rushes, we found the spring. The second new, galvanised manhole cover had seized up, so we had to return armed with screwdriver to free it up, and were mightily relieved to find the holding concrete ring tank still full to overflow, but only trickling in at about 250 ml per minute, or 360 litres per day.

Construction of the shepherd’s hut continued, and as the front feather boarding was added and stained, and the polycarbonate “fanlights” installed, it began to look more finished.

In the garden it continued to be damage limitation with watering. Everything was done with watering cans, and we continued to use dirty water from the house to help keep things going, but by now many stalwart ground cover perennials were starting to shrivel. Some Hydrangeas flopped, as did the Hellebores. We were truly in unchartered territory for us with our garden in wet upland Wales.

Thank goodness for so much tree and perennial cover. Roses thrived in a very unusual, generally disease free state. 

A highlight for me was having enough time, given the completed hay harvest by the last week of June, to observe dragonflies and damselflies along our stream, which by now was down to a slow trickle.

In particular, after 10 days, I was thrilled to capture some wonderful photos of Beautiful demoiselles, Calopteryx virgo, mating and laying eggs on a marginal Lesser spearwort, Ranunculus flammula, plant.

The other meadow delight, after the eventual tally of 82 orchids in our upper meadow this year, was the floral profusion in early July of our lower wet meadow which now gets set aside for a hay crop from the drier half of this meadow. The delight of much Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi, in June, shifted to carpets of golden Greater Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus, and Marsh Bedstraw, Galium palustre, by early July, with Valerian, Valeriana officinalis,  and Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, beginning to flower by mid-month, and a new find for this year, of 3 plants of Devil’s-bit scabious, Succisa pratensis, flowering for the very first time on our land at Gelli Uchaf, after all these years.

Our challenge now, given the pending grass shortage with the drought, will be to keep the sheep off this field until autumn, when seed will have been shed. The Welsh fifteen moment arrive early this year on July 24th, and we saw a Silver-washed fritillary, Argynnis paphia, briefly in the garden on two occasions for the first time.

A Hummingbird hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum, appeared and Tachina grossa, for the first time too in 2018.A hive of honeybees was installed thanks to Tony,. Elaine and Sandy, and seemed to have settled in well.And an initial beewalk was completed following a Bumblebee survey completed by Clare Flynn from Bumblebee Conservation Trust. By the end of the month we were checking our spring water supply every few days, and amazingly the inflow held steady at about 250 ml per minute, whilst all around us the ground was drying up, and several local friends had been dry for weeks.

Just as we were thinking we would lose significant numbers of shrubs and trees for lack of water, rain fell in the last 5 days of the month. The stream recovered a little, and the daily grind of using watering cans to empty the bath could stop for a few days at last. The final rainfall tally for the month was 74.5 mm, and once again the PV inverter recorded over 500 KWH in a month, the first time a hat trick of 3 months of 500KWH has happened since the system was installed in 2010. Unless something very odd happens in the rest of the year, it’s likely 2018 will also show the highest annual output from the panels too.As is often the case, the only way to end the drought was to put up the sun brolly, which did the trick again for us within just 24 hours.