Thursday, August 31, 2006

A mini spider and a short-palped cranefly

Today I found a pale,flaccid, freshly emerged short-palped cranefly, probably Limonia chorea, resting on the soil surface to harden its wings and exoskeleton generally before taking wing. Within minutes it had flown.

Nearby, between two leaves of a rush plant, a minute spider had spun a delicate orb web. (View the picture at full size for the detail)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rain and cranesbills

The recent heavy rain has done some damage to Wbx. It splashes grit up into the plants and even seems to have killed, or buried, some of the smaller, more delicate patches of moss.

There is also an increasing difference between the two halves. Plants in the southern section often grow poorly and there are fewer of them, while most things burgeon in the northern half and there are far more species. I cannot think of any reason.

I have had to start thinning out some of the plants in order that one thing or another does not become dominant. I have put one of the buddleias in a pot and am minded to start a special collection of these thinnings as a Wbx accessory – a garden from a windowbox.

Two cranesbills have appeared in the centre of the clover lawn. One is herb robert, Geranium sanguineum; the other may be dovesfoot cranesbill, G. molle, but I will have to let it grow a bit before I can be certain. The first true leaf of this latter is pictured above.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nettles must go

Once again I have had to coppice the clover back to its half moon shape against the eastern edge of Wbx. The recent rains have made this plant grow remarkably vigorously.

What I thought was a nettle (see above) undoubtedly is as it stung me when I was coppicing the clover. Sadly it will have to go as Wbx cannot sustain a nettle bed.

Mosses are burgeoning: a particularly attractive mini-feature is the colony of wall screw-moss, Tortula muralis, in a crevice on the sandstone rock (see also above).

Several non-descript seedlings with greyish, oval leaves are, I have decided, Buddleja davidii, the butterfly bush. This Chinese plant did not really catch on in the horticultural world until just over a century ago, but has now spread all over the country to brownfield sites and even ancient woodlands. Butterflies do like it, but perhaps there are far fewer flowers in the countryside so that plants like this in gardens and waste places are increasingly welcome.

What I thought was a grass looks increasingly like a rush, Juncus sp., but one small blade of what I think is a true grass has appeared south of the sallow log.

The small birch in the north east corner of Wbx was struggling for a while – heat stroke I suspect – and I thought it was going to die, but it seems to have recovered slightly and may make it to winter.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Aphids on groundsel

Perhaps 50% of the seedling groundsels are not growing well, or at all, and their young leaves have turned purplish and yellow like bruises.

I pulled one up today as I thought these plantlets could be suffering some sort of fungal attack and discovered that aphids were living under the leaves. As well as weakening the plants by sucking out the sap, they may well have introduced some virus.

Several plants have not beeen affected and are growing away quickly. Maybe if this cycle continues a new, aphid-resistant strain of 'windowbox groundsel' will evolve.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Clover lawn

1 August 2006. My need to stop the white clover smothering everything has resulted in a half-moon shaped clover lawn carefully topiarised with a pair of scissors.

There is a rapidly developing community of plants right across M3 and the groundsel has seeded itself copiously. I look on these as ‘nurses’ for other species on the basis that plants seem to grow better when they are together.

There are now several patches of moss and several species seem to be involved, but it will be some time before I feel able to sort them out.

I have removed all the epicormic shoots from the sallow log, fine though they were, as it will otherwise quickly turn into a tree and probably break out of the window box altogether.

More seedlings

22 July 2006. Much has been happening in the last few weeks. The first flowering plant, the groundsel, has shed all its seed and died, but has scattered babies everywhere on the windowbox. I will leave them for the time being as I tend to believe, à la Goethe, that plants work as ecosystems rather than as individuals.

The white clover has recovered from its fierce pruning and is spreading out again, and the sprouts from the sallow log are now longer than the log itself.

There are still many small plants I cannot identify: a seedling with purplish leaves, maybe a sow thistle (see photo); a tiny, dark green trailing plant which grows very slowly to the east of the sallow log. There is also one pearlwort, Sagina procumbens, a birchBetula and a stinging nettle, Urtica dioica (see photo). However, vegetation cover is sparse, maybe 10%, and growth of many species painfully slow.

The pearlwort is difficult to photograph, but when I did I noticed it was home to some very tiny orange aphids (see photo)