Garden Views-08-August 2021

August began with a lovely benign summer’s day of sunshine, cloud and light winds, perfect for a small pop up opening of the garden to co-incide with the BBC Radio 2 and the NGS Big Bee Challenge weekend. Although a bit of a manic start to the day, as we enjoyed a regular monthly, but curtailed, Wormald brother international Zoom catch up, at 9.00 a.m. followed by our son’s family with 6 grandchildren leaving after a short break here, just as our first garden visitors arrived.

Fortunately just after I’d managed to pick some Hydrangea flowers for the blue bowls. We’d found the plan for Sarracenias in these water filled bowls failed, as the summer progressed and their foliage grew ever taller, since strong winds knocked them over.

Traffic chaos on the track/yard was narrowly avoided and we met some wonderful visitors over the weekend, who really enjoyed their time here. I even discovered that one, who’s recently moved to the area, went to the same school in Shropshire as me, just 3 years above me. What a small world.

There were lots of people interested in wildflower meadows, and many were encouraged to grab some seed heads from the upper meadow into bags we provided, to spread a bit of Gelli’s magic once home. One local couple even opted for some big bags of green hay to kick start their own wildflower meadow restoration project. As always our lovely Dahlia merckii, Eryngium alpinum  and Persicaria vaccinifolia attracted a lot of interest.

We enjoyed a much quieter, but equally lovely day of catching up, after a fabulous cool misty start on Monday 2nd. Then 2 more lovely sunny and warm days, before the weather finally changed and we had some much needed rain on the 5th. Eventually turning into a run of several wet days up to the 10th, with 55 mm of rain removing any lingering issues of water shortages for us in the near future. This, following on from the cold wet snap at the end of July which saw temperatures plunge by nearly 20 degrees C in just 24 hours, saw our 3 groups of field mushrooms, Agaricus campestris, fruit well within 24 hours. For the first time since the drought of 2018. A very welcome, though fleeting foraging opportunity, since as with many mushrooms, slugs descend speedily. 5 days saw most of them deteriorate beyond edibility.

The rain and grey weather continued for much of the month, with an unbroken run of 18 days without a dry 24 hour period, before another high pressure system established itself to take us towards the end of the month.

The first, Fibrous, waxcaps, Hygrocybe intermedia, appeared somewhat later than usual in the upper meadow on August 18th.

The first swarm to be rehoused, suffered the inevitable fate of not having a viable egg laying queen, or being robbed out, in the third week of August with most of the bees completing the task coming from the original hive about 60 yards away. It made for a dramatic moment standing between the two and watching and hearing the bees whizz past at head height, continuing until night fall.

Many of the Hydrangea paniculata are putting on their best display ever, and the morning of August 24th was a classic example of how the spirits can be lifted in an instant when a warm glow fills the bedroom after pulling back the curtains, and the valley is filled with mist. Roll on autumn.

Although before that, the last of the hay meadow has to be cut, the annual house painting completed, and this year some significant wood repair work carried out to some of the outbuilding doors.

Throughout the month, much collection and scattering of special seeds continued in the hay meadows, and I was delighted to be able to collect a lot of Whorled caraway seed, Carum verticillatum, from an old wet meadow bordering our access track, where a lack of grazing this year had allowed this rare plant, typically found in wet meadows, and which is also the county flower of Carmarthenshire, to bloom in profusion.

The month finished in a gorgeous run of continuous dry and sunny weather for another visit from our younger son’s family. For once the weather their visit was unspoiled by rain, and the younger children had much fun as Fiona stashed away the (nearly) last cuts of hay from the upper meadow in strips left to help the invertebrates.

The fairy rings of boosted grass growth, which had appeared for the very first time in our lower hay meadow were striking, and merited me carrying the stepladders down to get a better viewpoint. Finally on their last night with us, the clouds cleared after dark, the moon was absent, the wind dropped and they all came out with us around 10 pm, lying on the grass in their coats gazing at the heavens, waiting for a shooting star. Sadly, although I spotted a couple after about 20 minutes, they missed them, but I’m sure it was an experience which some of them will remember for a long time, coming as they do from the centre of Birmingham.

A few misty sunny mornings at the end of the month gave a clue of how vibrant our spider population now is.

The month ended being a typically dull month overall, as far as light levels go, (354 KWH) but not really wet, continuing a theme for many months this year, and continuing into September. In spite of rain falling every day from the 5th to the 23rd, the total for the month was a very modest 110 mm. When will payback time come?