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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category


So yesterday I showed you my smallish (male?) toad relaxing in the pond. Well, last night I spotted some movement on the covered terrace, and there was a somewhat larger toad, which might be a female.

Another Toad

So we have two toads! How exciting is this!!! And toads eat the eggs and small specimens of slugs, so they are useful as well as exciting and – let’s face it – somewhat less-than-pretty.

The other day I also made another discovery in the old, disorganised compost pile in the less-frequented corner of the garden. Meet my new friend Hunter, a roman snail (helix pomatia):

Helix pomatia

I instantly moved him to the narrow border to the North-East of the covered terrace, since this is a favoured place for the slugs to burrow, and Roman snails are said to prey on the eggs of other gastropods. I’ll take any help I can get!

The Roman snail gives me a problem, though: I have to stop using slug pellets, as these kill ALL gastropods, including snails. So one is clearly not enough… So I went scavenging in the woods nearby and found a dozen more which I placed around the garden where I thought the conditions would be damp and cool enough for them to thrive. Some went into The Hedgerow, some at the back of The Ambitious Border and some in The Evening Border. (Putting a snail in The Sunny Border would just be unfair to the snail, I think…)

Now, Roman snails are protected in Denmark but you are allowed to collect them for private consumption, so I figure it’s probably also okay to collect them for your garden. After all, I’m sure the snails would rather be released in my garden than baked with garlic butter! (Though I do like snails…)

Besides my army of slug-fighting recruits I have also armed myself:

Spear or hoe?

This came with the house when we bought it, and I guess it’s technically a hoe, since it’s meant to be used to weed the cracks between pawing stones, but I’ve begun to use it as a spear when I walk around the garden in the early morning or late evening when the slugs are out and about. It might be slightly brutal, cutting them in half with a spear-like instrument, but I’m convinced it’s probably more humane than poisoning them. The other day I took out 102 slugs just by strolling around the garden with this tool…

Yes… The War On Slugs is definitely on in the Flâneur Garden! By all means possible.

 

In other news, I’ve also collected some more wildlife for my garden; 12-15 tiny baby frogs out of hundreds that were crossing the road a mile or so from here. Considering that several hundreds of them had already been run over by cars I think that it was okay to collect a few for The Puddles. Though of course their natural instinct when they have metamorphosed from tadpoles to frogs is to wander away from the pond they hatched in – hence the massacre on the road – so they quickly abandoned The Puddles, but maybe they will be back. Fingers crossed! After all, they might not eat slugs, but I wouldn’t mind if they made a dent in our mosquito population!

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Forget water beetles, forget dragonflies, forget all that, and instead look closely at the photo below:

Toad in the hole

Do you see it? Just to the right of the two rocks…

Toad in the hole - closer look

We have a toad! All right, so he was here all along (The Flâneur Husband narrowly missed him while he was mowing the lawn the day before yesterday) but that same afternoon he went for a swim! In The Puddles!!! And he stayed there for hours on end, sitting on the sloping rock and seemingly enjoying himself!

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On Friday evening and Sunday morning we had some rather severe – though short – bursts of rain. An inch of rain within 15 minutes on both occasions, and obviously even our drained lawn couldn’t handle this much water in such a short time. It all drains away eventually, but it has left the garden looking somewhat sad.

The goatsbeard has flopped over, the climbing rosa multiflora has broken the temporary trellis I built for it after some heavy rain knocked it over a week ago, and of course there are The Puddles…

Flooded Puddles

-Or should I say “The Puddle” in singular? It seems the rain has turned the whole area into a unified stretch of water, which is clearly not the plan.

The trouble is all due to the fact that I haven’t finished the area around The Puddles; where the turf has been dug away the soil level is a good 2-3 inches lower than the surrounding lawn, so obviously it will be prone to flooding until I build up the soil level again. As in all my borders I want the soil level to be at least an inch above the lawn so all flooding will occur on the lawn and not in the flower beds.

Still, the water will drain away eventually, and at least nobody can say that the plants haven’t been well watered in after I planted them.

Anyway, although flooded at the moment, The Puddles are doing their job:

Dragonfly

Today I counted 6 blue dragonflies and one red one. Personally I think they are even prettier than butterflies, so I am thrilled to have them attending my tiny waterscape. I’ve seen them in the forest around here before, but never in our garden, so I count this as a success!

Sure, there are also slugs eating away at the iris, hostas and asters (I seem to have created a slug buffet by accident; the astrantia is the only plant they don’t molest), but they would be there with or without The Puddles. And I have water beetles, common pond skaters, hoverflies and loads of other great insects visiting already, so I’m really pleased with the biodiversity this element has added to the garden.

It has been a wet and cold spring and summer so far, but for some reason my dahlias have decided to start blooming. Nothing profuse, mind you, but still… Considering that they are really not meant to bloom around here before August, they are definitely early. So far I have one bloom – an Arabian Night tuber that I overwintered in our attic – but there are also blooms underway from some of the dahlias I grew from seed, so it all looks very promising.

Arabian Night

Even this one flower is, I think, worth the trouble of lifting the tubers, bringing them back to Copenhagen and overwintering them in the attic. When I leave tonight or tomorrow morning I will pick this flower and bring it back to the Flâneur Husband; one should never forget to bring flowers to one’s loved ones, even if it’s just a single flower from time to time.

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Well, on a smaller – MUCH smaller – scale…

The Flâneur Husband asked me for a wish list for the garden when he was here last weekend, and of course the wish list included a new spade (the old one is coming apart at the rivets), a new hoe (I don’t know the English name for this type of hoe, but we only have on kind of hoe at present and that’s clearly not enough), a compost grinder (taking branches up to 40mm), some other tid-bits and this:

Why, yes! It’s a black plastic tub! It’s about a foot deep, 1½ft wide and 2½ft long! In other words it’s a miniature pond in the making… One end will need to be filled up with stones and tiles so animals that fall into it will have a place to crawl out out the water, of course, and I’m hoping that if I dig the hole deep enough I can have the soil sloping down to the tub’s edge, making it more easily disguise-able by plants.

I’m as thrilled as, well… As a gardener with a black plastic tub! Time will tell whether I manage to turn this into a miniature pond or whether it will turn into a slimy green bog of algae, but I feel confident that if I start with a visit to the local aquarium shop and get some oxygenating plants going from the start, the problems can be kept at a minimum.

It will go somewhere in the corner down by the hedgerow where it can be seen from the house but also gets some shade and provides easy escape routes for animals. After all, animals are the main reason I want a small miniature pond/puddle; I especially hope that over time it will increase the number of frogs and toads in our garden, but of course the birds will be welcome as well.

I’m terribly excited about this. project, but of course – inevitably – it involves more digging…  So I need to site the mini pond far enough from the trees that at least I won’t have to get tangled up in tree roots, and also it needs to somehow fit into the overall scheme for the Ambitious Border, since it will be at the very end of the stretch of the border that has not yet been created.

I also have 5 Blue Rhapsody roses that are in a “holding pen” in the courtyard and need to be moved out into the garden, so it’s a good thing I have a long weekend coming; Ascension Day (Thursday) is a day off here in Denmark, and financial institutions (such as the place I go to when I take time off gardening, i.e. my job) are also closed on Friday. Good thing the forecast looks promising! (Degrees in Celsius)

Weather forecast 16-21 May

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This morning I saw one of these in the wood pile on the covered terrace:

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Isn’t it cute?

I was a bit nervous about it being a house mouse, because that’s not really what you want in your garden – or house! – but extensive comparisons of online pictures reveals it to be a bank vole, which is much less worrying.

Sure, they might go for bulbs and so on, but you can’t eliminate nature so you might as well enjoy it, and either way this is a protected species in Denmark, so we just have to accept that from time to time we might loose a tulip bulb or two.

(It does mean, though, that we really need to go around the house and ensure the foundation’s ventilation holes are covered with small grills, so they stay in the garden rather than under the house. They might not be interested in coming inside the house, but we obviously don’t want them under the house, either.)

This little fellow brings us up to three protected species of small mammals in our garden – that I’m aware of – with the shrew and the bats, and there’s something oddly pleasant about this. I’m glad to share the garden with most animals (except slugs), but I’m thrilled when I spot a protected species that seems to find that our garden is a good place to live. It must mean I’m doing something right, even though (or exactly because?) the compost pile needs tidying-up and the lawn needs mowing…

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Sunday morning there was a pheasant cock crowing his rather unpleasant cry from the forest nearby, and later in the morning he passed by our garden on the road.

I couldn’t get a decent shot of him, so the above is the best I could do; he was strutting his stuff on the lawn across the road, crowing happily to mark that this is – apparently – his territory.

There was also a visiting starling, inspecting one of the nesting boxes. I do hope he/she found it to their liking so we can have little starling babies (starlets?) this summer.

Of course there was also the regular crew of sparrows, blackbirds, wagtails, robins and the odd sets of swans and geese overhead, as well as the first butterfly (small white) and I even heard a bumble bee, though he was hiding in the bushes so I couldn’t see him. Oh, and a squirrel stopped by the fir tree by and treated the hedgerow as some sort of playground, much adding to my morning entertainment.

Spiders, woodlice and other small critters are also abundant in the garden these days, and it looks like we have a new shrew living in the raised hedgerow; there is certainly a tunnel that looks like it could be the right size for such a small animal.

I have not seen any of the invasive Spanish slugs yet, but that’s only a matter of time, I fear. The small native grey slugs have already emerged, so I have no doubt that the large brown buggers will soon follow. We might have a new resident shrew, but I’d also like to attract a hedgehog and perhaps a toad since there will probably be slugs enough for all of them to eat their fill.

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On Friday I left for the garden straight from work, and as I was walking from the bus to the summerhouse I suddenly noticed something…

The woodland anemones are beginning to bloom. It’s still just a few dots of white on the forest floor, but soon it will be a veritable carpet. I will make sure to take a proper walk in the forest the next time I go up there!

I arrived in the garden just in time to have a couple of hours of daylight left to enjoy the garden before retreating inside to a warm fire and a Scottish coffee (as they say in Scotland, it’s like an Irish coffee, just with better whiskey).

I do enjoy the calm and quiet of sitting in front of a warm fire in a small wooden house with no TV, no people, no nothing. Just me, being there in the moment and feeling my mind de-clutter itself.

Mind you, that was the Friday evening. Saturday I was hi-jacked by one of the neighbours who seemed to be in a mood for sitting around a fire with a few too many beers, so that’s what we did from the afternoon into the late hours. The weather was excellent on Saturday; warm sunny spells interspersed with  mild snow showers.

imageWhile I wasn’t being laddish around a fire I did get something done. The vegetable beds are now in decent shape for sowing, perhaps on Easter Monday, perhaps later. (The forecast threatens with freezing nights down to minus 5C, so I have to wait for the temperatures to rise a bit.)

I think I still want to work in a bit more compost in the vegetable beds, both to lighten the soil and to bulk up the volume a bit.

There will be peas and beans in these two beds, like there was last year, but given that a great portion of the soil has been replaced I think it will be okay. And under the beans I will try my luck with some curly kale and some kohlrabi. And marigolds, of course, for what would a vegetable garden be without marigolds?

I think this will be an all right little vegetable garden.

I’ll finish off with a small – but significant – visitor to the garden; the first ladybug sighting of the season! These little fellows are always welcome in the garden!

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Sunday Morning Visitors


Not the greatest picture, I know, but it was the best I could do on Sunday morning when I suddenly saw two deer out in the garden.

I know they come to eat the bark of bushes and trees, and they’ve been quite rought with the little pear tree last winter and seem to continue this habit, but… I love them!

They stopped by briefly on Saturday afternoon and then again for a bit longer on Sunday morning, and it seems that they are particularly fond of the top of the fir tree that toppled over recently.

I know some gardeners go to great lengths to keep deer out of their gardens, but I welcome them; there’s something very pleasant about wildlife in the garden, and at least in Denmark it doesn’t get much bigger than deer. I get all excited when I spot them around the garden, and especially these youngsters with their thick winter fur and their furry new antlers.

On Thursday my husband will be going up to the summerhouse with his mother, and then I will replace her Friday after work. I do hope he gets to see our visitors…

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>Taming of the Shrew


>

Pardon the title, but on Sunday morning I found this little fellow in the courtyard. I’ve always imagined a shrew to be a wild and fearsome creature, judging by Catherine, The Shrew, in Shakespeare’s play, and I was rather amused when I learned that the animal by that name was such a little cutie.

This particular cutie must have died during the night, but there was no visible signs of it being mauled by a predator. I gently buried it (i.e. threw in on the compost pile) and then started googling. Because one thing is recognising a shrew when you see it, another is knowing whether it’s a good or a bad thing to have shrews in your garden.

Opinions on the internet seems divided; there are a host of shrew-deterrents on sale for gardeners, and on the other hand I read that they each all kinds of insects and slugs, so I’m inclined to live and let live. Last summer I noticed a small hole in the lawn over by the South-Western hedge, and I’m now inclined to think that might have been a shrew hole. I won’t try to cover it up any more…

So there. Deer, pheasants, shrews, a multitude of birds. I look forward to continuously discovering new wildlife in the garden. (But no more slugs, please….)

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