People tend to think you’re kind of crazy if you count the plants in your garden, which is why I stopped at 157. That’s 157 different kinds of plants, not the number of things out there that have roots, or different varieties of the same kind of plant. From herbs to fruit bushes to bulbs, annuals and evergreens, this tiny patch has stuffed itself with more types of plant than I would ever have thought possible for such a modest space. I was trying to estimate its size today, and I reckon it is 20m x 10m, with two additional strips of 11m x 5m each.
But even now, as osmanthus, daphne and fancy double narcissus push April to its fragrant, flowering peak, there’s not a single plant in the garden that’s making me more excited than the pile of translucent goop I found in our tiniest pond this afternoon. We’ve been in this garden for 12 years and no frog has ever laid spawn in any of our three micro ponds. That’s all changed this spring, when two frogs who loved each other very much found a quiet corner. We’ll watch with interest to see whether gloop turns into tadpoles that turn into frogs. I wonder what baby froglets eat when they get big enough to do so – frog eggs, maybe? We’ll see.
I think the diversity of plants in the garden, and my total moratorium on pesticides (and the mini-ponds, of course), has helped birds, frogs, toads and newts make themselves more at home here. There is the occasional bird casualty from our predator cat, and my children know to warn me if they see anything disgusting I wouldn’t want to come across (“Oh, Mummy! A mouse head!”). But overall, the wildlife and the cat have reached a kind of detente, and things are right with the world in terms of wildlife friendliness here. This year I also loaded up a bird feeder with niger seed, curious to see if its reputed powers of goldfinch-attraction were true. Sure enough, the yellow-winged, red-faced goldfinches showed up in January and haven’t left.
It’s a challenge, in garden design terms, to fit a huge variety of plants into a garden without giving it a piecemeal, chaotic feel. I’ve tried to repeat plants down the longest stretches of the garden, and I’m trying to fit in another osmanthus delvayii in the farther reaches of the garden, although it might mean the ruthless extraction of something else. (As I wrote in an earlier post, I’m a huge fan of purging plants I don’t love, and I gleefully yanked out a perennial pea last autumn that did nothing for the space.)
I’ve also become a big fan of empty containers, and thanks to our local Freecycle I picked up four enormous terra-cotta pots that had been painted white – something I never would’ve done myself, but which has picked out the paler narcissus, the white flowered osmanthus, and earlier in the year, the snowdrops. The stretch of garden outside my office tends to be dark, and the white pots are like beacons, luring me into the garden and away from my desk.
What’s going on in your garden this time of year? Has wildlife made its presence felt?