Challenges and progress … and wild flowers

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As I have known from the beginning, my ideas and plans for the Forest Garden, and indeed the life of the whole garden itself, are “in constant evolution”, as it says at the top of the page! This is completely natural, and I welcome it, and sometimes it presents me with unforeseen challenges. A case in point is the rather unwelcome attention of the deer from the forest opposite the property. As mentioned last month (Blog, April 1st, 2021) there has been quite a lot of damage to the young trees, to the extent that a large part of April’s work was in providing individual netting to protect them (see below), and including a daily morning round of the garden to check on damage. So far, I have only lost one planted tree (a small-leaved lime which was completely severed at the base), and a few self-sown oak and wild cherry. Several other planted trees have been partially damaged, but I think they will survive.

You might think that the best answer would be to fence off the whole property to allow trees and other plants to grow up in peace over the next few years, but apart from being hugely expensive, this is against the whole ethos of the Project. I have often mentioned in these blog posts the idea of the Forest Garden being an integral part of the local landscape mosaic, and to put up a high deer fence would be a symbolic closing of the door on everything that surrounds it. So no, no fences thank you! The netting protection that has been installed doesn’t look particularly nice but it seems to be doing the job. In fact the problem will exist for quite some time yet, as the Forest Garden develops and each year young, juicy plants are added to tempt the browsers. No doubt my approach to this will evolve too, but for me it’s a question of learning to live with the deer, not against them!

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The first cuckoo and a new development …

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The workload has been fairly light this month, but there has been plenty happening. Right at the beginning of the month there was that key spring moment when you notice trees coming into leaf, a pale tinge which can be a hundred shades of green, yellow, bronze, beige, gold …, not just here in the Forest Garden, but over the surrounding area too.

I think that because of the generally mild weather since the latter part of February (see the Monthly Weather Record below), everything is fairly advanced here this year, and the Wild Flower Census (see below) showed no fewer than 40 species, up from 27 last March. This was no doubt due to the weather, because virtually all the extra plants were ‘returnees’, just coming through earlier. The Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) finally showed up (see Blog, March 1st, 2021), but just one solitary stem; hopefully it’ll be back next year in force.

One new arrival this year in the gravel outside my front door is Cornsalad (above), also known as Lamb’s Lettuce or Mâche (which is also the French name). I hope it spreads because it is very good as a salad leaf. The Cuckoo Flower turned up in numbers, and right on cue, I first heard the cuckoo on the 24th!

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Winter’s work is done, a new life begins …

February has been another busy month, with the completion of winter tasks and a general feeling of the garden beginning to wake up, especially towards the end of the month.

Some of the wild flowers that have appeared this month, left to right, top to bottom: Lesser Celandine, Hairy Bittercress, Lungwort, Dandelion and Great Horsetail

The Wild Flower Census has revealed 26 species this month, up from 17 for February last year. There is one new species, Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), which I discovered on the last day of the month hiding among the Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), and the others are flowers returning earlier than ‘usual’. This in itself is interesting from the point of view of climate change, and I have also noticed that flowering times in many cases are earlier now than those given in the flower identification books I use.

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