We spent September, October and November 2015 digging a pond, making a terrace, and landscaping a garden around the house…. The rest of the land is going to remain as the semi-wild naturalised space it always has been.

The Pond is the biggest venture so far. I’ve never water gardened before and am now obsessively learning about the plants and the management. In many ways I am surprised that I haven’t arrived here, obsessed with water gardens, earlier… They are the perfect marriage of ecological function, aesthetic and natural resource: the dynamic balance that makes a perfect garden.

What I have learnt so far is that the plants can be brutes: so you need to chose your varieties carefully and manage their growth by ruthless yearly pruning. I’ve learnt that in order to keep the pond clean you have to balance three things; the oxygen level, the nitrogen level and the ammonia level…. This is done primarily with the planting (bio-filtration), additional to this are pumps and UV filters stopping fluctuations in vegetation and seasons becoming imbalances…I am now trying to learn my biotic indicators.

I always wanted a body of water in this part of the garden…. What I never imagined was how much the water would “lift” the garden… This spot was a dark shaded place that divided us from the landscape beyond…. The pond completely reversed this: light is reflected back into the garden and draws the landscape beyond within.

I’m hoping that the pond will add to the wildlife… All the machinery work and the dogs (all landscapers have dogs!!) have put them off… Please come back and let me give you a home.

When we first came the animals were bold. Owls hooted at us when we arrived back from the pub at 10 o’clock and talked too loudly as we opened the door. A badger interrupted a game of hockey with my 3-year-old son as it chased another boar off its patch. And every morning at 6 o’clock on the dot a barn owl would float across the cow meadow below us, skimming the top of the sunlit long grass in a stunning silence.

Now, 6 months after the pond’s construction and with the planting in, the creatures are just starting to come back. Almost straight away there were tiny larvae and water fleas. Then, in May, there were tadpoles…. We hadn’t even noticed the frogspawn…Then the invertebrates started to show up: water boatmen; diving beetles; damselfly; dragonfly; whirligigs and pondskaters. With the invertebrates came the birds: pied wagtails; yellow and grey wagtails; and the swallows, who have taken to using the pond as a ‘dipping’ pond. They circle and scream at each other, and then in a seemingly-impossible flying formation, take it in turns to “dip”.

Got the Blues

Oh Boy! May has come and the garden and countryside is full of blue. I stopped the car and photographed the bluebells in the hazel coppice and beech wood nearby.

What the photograph can’t capture is the serene stillness in woods like this…. The dense woodland completely encloses you: no noises from outside intrude…. A shriek of a disturbed blackbird… Then a return to stillness and a deep peace.

It isn’t just the silence that’s compelling; it’s the smell too. A light floral musk that mixes with the damp-moss smell of the wood.

I planted 3,000 bluebells (Hyacinthoides Non-Scripta) in my garden last November… Now they’ve come up… A lot of them look Spanish or hybridised. (Spanish bluebells are paler, do not droop or nod and have little scent). Our English bluebells are threatened by habitat destruction, illegal collection, the Muntjac deer and the rise of the Spanish Bluebell: an invasive species that hybridises easily with our native variety.

So it looks as though I am going to have to do a lot of digging 🙁

Still, there are lots of other blues in the garden to marvel at. The Camassia Leichtlinii in the Walnut meadow are out – putting on a wonderful show.

The Camassia is related to the Asparagus family and comes from the American prairies. Apparently it was a food source for many of the native peoples in the US and Canada. I was worried about putting it in the garden, thinking that the badgers/ squirrels/ deers might dig it up and eat it… But so far…. *Fingers crossed*.

Pentaglottis sempervirens, May 2016.

This is Alkanet – the other blue in the garden. This was here when we arrived at the farm, there is no point in trying to get rid of it, – I suspect that this is indigenous to this place… There is so much of it it’s probably a keystone species! I keep it in check by strim-ing it before it goes to seed… it’s a bit like Rosebay Willowherb… A beautiful thug.