Saturday 13 March 2021

The Woodland Floor Garden project - March 2021 - update #3

The last ten days has been, for the most part, very unsettled with dropping temperatures, driving rain and hail and a very brisk south westerly. As such I have not actually been out for a walk since my venture to Swanscombe on the 2nd.  I should have been in Lesvos from the 4th but that was never really on the cards given that the UK is to all intents and purposes an isolated island at the moment.

The weather even kept me indoors leaving me to tackle the horrors of decorating the smallest room in the house and the awkward hall and stairwell. I do not like decorating in any shape or form but there was really little else I could do. However, I did escape into the garden when the conditions allowed and managed to get a few more jobs done as I move ever closer to returning to work.

The leaky garden tap was replaced but the fittings and extra bend in the pipe have required a more Antipodean style of positioning but it works just fine and there are no drips while on the wall next to it I have started to fill in the 36 gaps in the wine rack Bee-opolis that I put up last autumn.


Don't laugh...


The first 18 now have plastic bottles filled with small pine cones and six inch pieces of old garden hose of two different gauges that I hope the Leafcutter and Mason Bees will find to their liking.  I just have to find some other ‘tubes’ to fill in the upper ones now.

As you head up the garden the bulbs that I planted in the ‘lawn’ are starting to show and the Crocuses are already blooming along with some new Snake’s Head Fritillaries that I put in. Field Speedwell is flowering there for the first time and some Round-leaved Cranesbill is showing through.  It is starting to feel like the work over the last few years to reduce the choking grass and to un-compact the surface was worthwhile.  

I tend to stick to native primulas but could not resist these ones...


Snake's Head Fritillary

Field Speedwell

On that front there are now three Orchid rosettes visible and I have put one of my old bird cages over the top to prevent damage from rampaging cats and foxes and galumphing Woodpigeons!  It is all quite exciting and the jury is still with Bee Orchid for the id at the moment.

Hopefully a Bee Orchid

I have now tidied the area opposite the new greenhouse and managed to recycle much of the plastic and metal that I had accumulated which was good but this still left the very top of the garden beyond the first four areas of the Woodland Floor Project. 



Lesser Celandine - the plants in the first four beds are settling nicely

Last Monday I was finally able to dismantle the old aluminium greenhouse frame and safely remove the few remaining panes of glass. Once I got through a few corner sections it was actually quite straightforward to do and I carried it all down the garden and out the front in the hope that the local Rag & Bone Man would come by. Ten minutes later and they miraculously appeared although I suspect that neither of the lads was old enough to even know what a Rag and Bone Man was!  I remember the one when I was back home in Ilford driving slowly round in his truck ringing a big brass bell and hollering ‘Any ol’ iron!’ or perhaps that bit is on my head?  Must ask the parents! These two were in a flat bed with window fitters on the side and were very pleased by the cache of metal.  I offered them a couple of knackered old bikes, the huge metal bed stead headboard that I have been using as a fence for over ten years, the cast iron top off an old plate BBQ and several ancient garden chairs and they gratefully took the lot.


One thing they were not getting was my metal bath that I removed when we first moved in nearly 20 years ago.  It has been a free standing pond since then (it appears in the earlier garden videos) but I had a notion to sink it into the ground.

I carefully cut up and removed the clumps of Marsh Marigold and Purple Loosestrife and then decanted the water and sludge into various buckets rescuing Ramshorn Snails and Flatworms as I went.  The metal legs were removed and I started to dig a hole roughly where it had originally stood but about eight inches down I hit a huge tap root from the Sycamore above that snaked just below the surface. This left me with the options of either give up or compromise so I buried it as far as I could and then after I was sure it was level I shored up the sides with some of the odd triangular beams that I acquired many moons ago to create a more natural feel to it rather than the white enamel!  I put some of the plants and old water back in and before topping it up from the water butt.  Thankfully it had not gone down the next day and I have hopes of a new selection of aquatic garden wildlife making it their home.  The remaining Marsh Marigold will find its way to new home at some stage.


Flatworm and a Ramshorn

Above the bath pond stands that pesky all-shading Sycamore and that became the next task to tackle. Now I have no problem with Sycamores at all; they are a fine tree and home to a myriad of insects but I needed to raised the already high crown to remove the lower branches that shade out this part of the garden whilst still allowing the tree to keep its shape.   It was a little precarious at times but looks so much better for the haircut.

A more airy Sycamore - Greenfinches bred in the Ivy last year

Over the last couple of days I have worked on that top section where the greenhouse stood; removing a couple of bags of broken glass and all the Bramble that was just starting to get going before deep digging the whole plot.  The ground here in the old footprint has probably not been dug for over 40 years and given its overshadowed aspect was surprisingly rich and full of huge worms.  There was lots of Flint down there but disappointingly no finds unlike other bits of the garden where I have uncovered very old bottles or even bits of clay pipe that undoubtedly pre-date the house.


With the ground dug I set about sinking the moribund wheelbarrow to become another pondlet.  I had to adopt a jaunty angle as it was a bit flaky at one end but suspect that it will not hold water for long and I will have to line it.  My stash of old rotten logs was utilised and next doors ‘lawn’ once again (with permission) gave up a supply of Primroses and a few Cranesbill plants as well as some Stinging Nettles for the very top to get things going.



I laid the last nine slabs on a curve through the bed which gives me a better idea of the area I have to work with.  There are still a few bits to clear and make more presentable and plenty of room to continue the woodland floor theme.  I hope to get some Foxgloves for the back edge and some more Dead Nettles and such like from my Dad’s allotment when restrictions allow.


I even managed to put up a few nestboxes and two batboxes that have been hanging around for ages. Fingers crossed that they get used.

Wildlife wise it has been disappointing outside with almost no insects whatsoever bar my first Queen Early and Tree Bumblebees and a couple of Buff-tailsCommon Green Shieldbugs and Seven Spot Ladybirds were seen basking in the sunshine of Tuesday and the Gnatish flies in the greenhouse were identfield by Phil Collins as species of Sylvicola. I have not seen a butterfly this month yet but did find a Herald and Many Plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) or two lurking in the breezeblock building along with my sadly traditional March deceased dog Fox. It seemed perfectly intact but did have very worn teeth.  At least this one was only a day or two old and not the ripe mess I discovered last spring!  


Sylvicola sp

Many Plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla)

Seven Spot Ladybird

Common Green Shieldbugs in winter colours and a Calliphora sp

Goldcrests were regular companions regardless of the weather and on occasion came ludicrously close to me.  They are the reason I justify keeping my two fir trees at the top.  A tiding of fourteen Magpies noisily exchanged gossip in the Sycamores for forty minutes one morning before going their separate ways in pairs and Med Gulls are now a daily feature as they ‘coooow’ over head.  I am not quite sure why this species always fills me with ornithological joy but it always does.  Four of them in their breeding finery descended outside the houses on Friday to mump scraps that that had been thrown out and to give a the Black-heads a run for their money but always with the threat of the Common Gulls giving chase to steal what they found.

Med Gull


Sound up to hear the Med Gulls! You can see them too with their gleaming white wings

Magpies massing



Goldcrest chatting to itself just above my head. This is not the song or call but seems to just to be a happy foraging tune that I have heard before when they are activelty feeding.

I know I have posted something along these lines before way back at the start of November but as of the 22nd of this month I will properly be back at RSPB Rainham Marshes to try and pick up where I left off after 368 days but there is still time between now and them to hope for better weather, press on with the garden and get myself back out into the local Kentish countryside.  

 Mother Nature got me through the last year and I do not intend to let go of her so easily this time.





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