The Summer Garden

Well, it seems like summer has returned! July so far has been a little dull, with localised thunderous downpours the only exciting weather; there’s been little in the way of hot sunshine in our corner of the county, until this weekend. From an average temperature the past few weeks of just 16*c, today Sussex is forecast a high of 29*c, and largely unbroken sunshine. I can almost hear the scrapes and grunts as bbq’s are excavated from garden sheds all around the village.

I am prepared. The coolest spot in our home is on the north side of the cottages, in the shade just outside our back door where the tongue fern grows in a crack in the bricks, and I keep my little pot of wood ruff. This is where I will put my deckchair, over-bowered by the green filter of the leafy branches of the salix sapling that self-seeded behind the log store and we have to pollard each year to prevent it interfering with the satellite dish. This is the tree where the birds land to launch their forays to nextdoor’s peanut feeder, or the bird bath tucked under the pyracantha in the shade. Blue tits are the most numerous; most of them hatched from the bird box by the bathroom window, one of the few successful broods this year. Great tits join them including a part-bald individual, and the last couple of days a delightfully dainty chiffchaff has attached itself loosely to the periphery of the flock. The chiffchaff prefers to flit and hover amidst the foliage, picking out tiny insects the tits have missed in their disputes over access to the peanuts over the fence. I have a pile of books at my side, and a cold tea.

Our back garden has many uses; a place to hang the washing to dry, the first place I go when I get home from work and need a moment to relax with a cup of tea after a busy day in customer service. Primarily however, it is a place for nature. My raised beds are packed with insect and bird friendly plants, a patch of birds-foot-trefoil at the base of the washing-line post is just coming into bloom, as is the mass of wild marjoram that has taken over the herb patch under the salix, in a way the demands forgiveness. And all the time, inch by inch the brambles try to reclaim the garden into scrubland.

It is the bramble flowers which attract the butterflies. Meadow browns and red admirals mostly, with the whites, and commas in lesser numbers. Occasionally a pocket chessboard will drop from the sky; an incomer from the nearby meadowland, a marbled white. The queen of them all is the silver washed fritillary, which on just one or two summer days a year deigns to venture from her dappled woodland haunts and floats majestically on a gown of orange.

2 Replies to “The Summer Garden”

  1. You have a bald Great Tit too?? I’ve not seen one before and couldn’t work out if it’s a genetic thing (so permanent) or just how its adult feathers are coming through. Is it common do you know?


    1. I haven’t yet seen it sitting still long enough to get a clear view and assess the possible cause. They can look very ‘tatty’ after breeding, perhaps from the constant in-out into best boxes/holes and the wear and tear of raising a brood, and I think that’s the case here. Sometimes it’s from a close call with a predator, or territorial fighting. But loss of feathers can be due to disease, especially around the face so if any signs of swellings or lethargy, it could be that. Clean birdfeeders/baths is really important.


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