Dear Readers, one of the unexpected pleasures of being in lockdown has been how I’ve been able to pay attention to little things. Out of my office window I have a view of one of the two monster Buddleia(s) that are growing in the front garden. Earlier in the spring, I wrote about how one of them was smothered in aphids, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped either plant from producing a bumper crop of sweet-smelling flowers. The scent wafts up and has had a calming effect on my nervous system during several of the never-ending series of Zoom calls that work entails. But as the days have gone by, I have noticed how the whole shape of the panicle changes. First of all we get the wispy little things as in the photo above, which give no real idea of what’s to come.
As time goes on, each of the groups of flowers opens, creating an effect rather like those topiary box features that I used to see before the advent of box moth put a stop to all that nonsense, as you can see in the inflorescence to the left of the photo. The one in the centre is rather further along its journey, with the different layers of flowers gradually growing together.
And in the end, you have a perfect flowerhead (literally – the flowers are what is known as ‘perfect’, meaning that each flower has both male and female parts and is effectively a hermaphrodite). The individual flowers die back from the end closest to the stem, rather like a sparkler in reverse – in fact Buddleia always reminds me of a firework.
The lavender is in flower too, and there are bees everywhere – mostly honeybees and bumbles, but there are a few mysterious smaller bees, tiny zippy critters with white faces. I’m hoping to get a photo so that I can identify them, but they are proving to be tricky at the moment. There are also some hoverflies who look so much like honeybees that it’s only their eyes that give them away. There will be photos of them coming soon, too (if they cooperate).
Out in the back garden, a hebe belonging to the folk next door is proving to be an absolute bee-magnet. I think there is more of it in our garden than in theirs, which suits me fine.
And their cherry tree has more fruit than I can ever remember – the young starlings were getting into the cherries earlier though so I don’t imagine they’ll be around for long.
And the first little waterlilies are appearing in the pond. We split and repotted all the waterlilies in January so I wasn’t expecting much, but these are very pretty and delicate. I have a bumper order of water plants coming in the next few days, so it’s just as well I’m on a fortnight’s holiday from tomorrow.
One thing that has surprised me this year is that I have had not a single leaf of duckweed. It’s true that the pond was cleaned out earlier this year, but even so, the stuff is so pernicious that I expected some to come back. Fingers crossed that this happy state continues.
There are a lot less tadpoles than there were, but there are still a few adult frogs around – I think it’s been far too hot and dry for them to want to leave.
And there are still lots of large red damselflies about, some of them laying their eggs into the water. I expect to have a bumper crop of damselfly larvae at some point too.
And so, as I head into a couple of weeks holiday, I’m very pleased that I’ve got my eye on the small beauties that are very local. Normally at the beginning of July I’d be heading off for my annual fortnight in Austria, and my challenge is to distil the essence of what that holiday means to me and apply it to East Finchley. This will be something of a challenge, what with no mountains or chairlifts and a grave lack of cow bells, but like all things, it’s not just a physical place, it’s a state of mind. So, come with me as I try to recreate the peace of an Austrian meadow in my back garden. I suspect that, at the very least, apricot cake will be involved.