Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Year five begins

This window box project was started on 4 November 2005, so today we are entering the fifth year.

20091104 Wbx 003

Over that period the box has travelled to Islay in Scotland and Bill Oddy's garden in Hampstead; it has featured in many magazines and papers and has given me a great deal of pleasure and interest.

There is no reason why it should not go on for many more years, though the plastic seems gradually to be getting more brittle and breaking down. I hope, however, to find something into which it can fit lock, stock and barrel.

Today I collected four insect species by sweep netting over the box: a bark fly (Ectopsocus petersi), the springtail Entomobrya nivalis and two flies - Lyciella rorida and Geomyza balachowskyi. The Ectopsocus and the Geomyza are both new records for the project.

The biggest surprise though was a fine crop of toadstools around the base of the rush plant.

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They are, I think, glistening ink-caps (Coprinellus micaceus) perhaps using the underground part of the sallow log as a medium on which to grow, though they seem to be more associated with the decaying materials at the base of the rush

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Rabbit revealed

For some time plants in the window box have been somewhat bitten down.  Mainly it seems to be the leaves of the white clover that disappear, but something has chomped at one of the sallow bushes.

At first I discounted rabbits as it seemed much too difficult for these animals to climb up onto the wire crates that keep the top of the window box up to about waist height.

I have, however, caught the culprit in the act and it is indeed one of our bolder lawn rabbits.  This is one record I had not really expected - I hope this bold Brer does not feel inclined to make a burrow.

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I am quite happy to let the creature have as much of the clover as it wants and we will have to see about the long term effect.  Meanwhile I reckon I have one of the few window boxes in the world that boasts a wild rabbit visitor.

20090824 Wbx & rabbit2

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sallow Muppet

The leaf-cutting bees have been at work on the leaves of one of the sallows.

20090723 South View Wbx Swallowtail 002

This example strikes me as having a curiously Muppet-like appearance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Late spring apogee

The window box is just going over from a kind of aesthetic apogee that so often happens in nature during the run up to midsummer. Everything is fresh and bright with a bit more growing to do before the dustiness of summer and the first hints of autumn start to appear.

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At the southern end of the box the tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) has flowered and a faded one is now forming a red berry that will soon turn black. Around and about the tutsan are half a dozen flowers of white clover that attract the occasional bumble bee. Hairy tare (Vicia hirsuta) pruned so drastically a few weeks ago has sent more delicate vines up to the light and their tiny mauve-white flowers thrust boldly forwards on long pedicels, challenging the variable breezes.

At the northern end of Wbx, a place that could now perhaps be called a copse, this year’s goat willow wands are one third of a metre high as are the new shoots of the Himalayan honeysuckle. The grey sallows are not so fast but look in good health.

The soft rush is just coming into flower and, deep in the foliage, the filigree leaves of herb robert are gathering strength for the plants that will make a bigger showing in autumn or next spring.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bullfinches and vetch mulch

I am quite proud of the above post title - slightly reminiscent of Shakespeare's "Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore", though I was not, of course, planning to emulate the sound of breaking surf.

Some have thought though that Shakespeare was acknowledging Ovid who in Metamorphosis XV wrote:

sed ut unda inpellitur urgeturque prior veniente urgetque priorem

Anyway, enough of that. The other day a male bullfinch perched by Wbx and, I am sure, flew over the window box.

20090505 South View WBX 002

A somewhat misty picture as it was taken through our not-recently-cleaned sitting room window.

These beautiful little birds pass through our garden once or twice a year searching for seeds and buds. Sadly they are now of the RSPB's Red List - the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. To quote from Shakespeare's sonnets once again:

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die

So, on to the second part of my title, the vetch mulch. This is simply that I took the quarter pound of hairy tare I gathered from Wbx the other day, dried it and crumbled it as a light mulch over the upper surface of the box, brushing it down to soil level between the plants. By such actions I hope to build up the shrinking soil a bit, or at least to stop it declining so rapidly.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Management decision

The hairy tare of last year has seeded itself quite liberally and over the last few weeks and has been growing with great vigour.  It rapidly smothers other plants and its weight is so great that it pulls them down to the ground.

 20090502 WBX   Hairy tare 005

So, I decided to remove the plants and give more space for the other things to develop.  The results are depicted below.

20090502 WBX - Hairy tare 044

I kept the tare arisings and weighed them indoors: 100gm (approx. 4 oz).  I have put it out to dry as hay and may then crumble it up to return to WBX.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The little things in life

On St David's day I found this tiny springtail, Entomobrya nivalis, sunbathing on the edge of the window box.

20090301 Metre & Ice House 001

Also, on top of the central sallow log I found a few strands of moss emerging from the cracks.

20090228a Wbx moss b

I reflected that this project is in the spirit of St David's last words when he told his brothers and sisters to be joyful and "do the little things in life" (Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd in Welsh, his native language)