May 2021: In the garden

Something has to give. 

Progress on the garden over the last few months has been so pleasing that when lockdown ended I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that pace, whilst I simultaneously attempted to add in a social life on catch-up, house renovations, client meetings and volunteer work. And it turns out that can’t quite be done!

Not only that, but May was a peculiar month in the garden. For the first three weeks it rained non-stop (yes, that is unusual, even for England) and barely got into double figure temperatures, so the garden was at a standstill. Just not enough warmth for anything to grow. Well, anything apart from the weeds, of course. May was the new April; everything literally a month behind last year.

Then, for the last week in May, temperatures suddenly shot up. It was as if the whole of May was squeezed into one week, with damp soils all round and warm, warm sunshine. The garden was on steroids. And I needed them to try and keep up!

But with three days on the trot too full of other commitments to do any gardening at all, last night I finally walked around the garden for an appraisal of the ‘estate’. Oh. Ah. Hmmm.

It’s gone. Gone for the year. That point when you realise that actually, no, you can’t work faster than nature. Not across four acres. Maybe one day, I will, but not when the basics are still being worked upon in many little corners.

And it’s quite a relief. The realisation that it’s OK – because there is no other way – for things to not be quite perfect. That in some areas the sticky weed will go to seed and that’s just how it is. It’s a bit like being unlocked all over again. Liberation has arrived!

It feels so fun; now I can garden wherever the mood takes me. I no longer have to be a slave to the next urgent thing. I can just progress whatever I feel like. The rest can wait until next year. And my blog can finally resume! What will be, will be.

So, what have been the highlights of May?

Having Mum and Dad over was a really special thing. We’ve both really missed them popping over for dinner. And having not seen the garden for a while, both observed quite significant change. Mum admiring the neat edges and – at last! – a bit more colour to the borders. She has given me so many little divisions and self-seeded plantlets from her smallish garden and couldn’t get over how they have now filled huge expanses of a four-acre version.

And even Dad, not enormously moved by herbaceous borders, put in a good word. Dad is the lawn man at home. And I wasn’t so sure he would be a big fan of our ‘No Mow May’ meadows. Yet even he could see that despite the reduced levels of mowing, the neat pathways through and improved quality of the lawns we have kept, meant that overall, the effect was much more cared for.

Still, aged 46, it’s lovely to get parental approval! 

There has also been much parental activity amongst the wildlife this month. On 16 May, Darylena was looking the fattest we’d ever seen her. 

Comparing her to her daughter, who will likely conceive for the first time this summer, it was very clear there was some baby growing activity going on.

We didn’t see Darylena for six days after that, but the next time she appeared, she was distinctly slimmer. The Darylettas were hidden away in the woodland; Darylena had come out to feed. We can’t wait to see the little spotted babes. It was the 19th of June that they first ventured into the main garden last year, so fingers crossed, we won’t have too long to wait. I’ll stay out of the now very shady woodland in the meantime, to ensure they feel safe.

We now have what feels like three generations of roe deer living here, as well as two muntjacs. It’s not really three, but the grazing of the trees and shrubs to exactly 95cm from the ground is way more pronounced than ever before, making it feel as though we are home to many more. 

There is Daryl the elder, with his three-point antlers, father to Darylena’s new babies, we assume. And their daughter from last year still lives here, although the son has fled to pastures new. We’ve not had two separate litters live in the garden at the same time before and wonder if the areas around here are more heavily populated with deer, making it harder for the youngsters to find their own patch. 

Daryl and Darylena seem to accept 2020 Daryletta being here, but Daryl is still chasing her boyfriend, Little Daryl, off over the cattle grid on an almost daily basis. Little Daryl is remarkably persistent, and undeterred by Daryl’s annoyance at his presence. Youthful confidence allowing him to sit by the house sunning himself on occasion!

But the orchard has remained deer-free over the springtime, and the difference is incredible. The lilacs I planted in 2018 have leaves on them for the very first time! And the cow parsley around the trees that has survived brings a really romantic feel.

The early, persistent rain has done wonders for the veggie garden and we are going to pick our first lettuce of the season for lunch this weekend. The wildflower meadow has also grown much more lush than during the very dry 2020, although the late daffodils have a definite windswept look about them.

The pond now looks as though it’s been there a thousand years. I attempted to do battle with the bulrushes earlier this year, but they were having none of it, having firmly superglued themselves to the liner.

It’s magical to see early morning mist on the pond and such established vegetation, but I do wonder quite how I’m going to keep it under control. I may need a visit from the wonderful Pete the Pond, I suspect.

The pink ragged-robin, which so loves damp soil, has really thrived this year and even Sammy the snail seems to be enjoying his view from the top of the reeds. I’m sure he’s terrestrial and can’t imagine quite how he got there.

But as I try to catch my breath from these busy, busy few weeks, I will allow myself to slow down a little, and just stop and marvel at Sammy on his reed and the intensity of green growth all around us.

I will stop trying to exert control over every single square inch of our patch. Isn’t that how the surprises and wonder of nature are allowed to show up, after all?

15 thoughts on “May 2021: In the garden

  1. Suzanne says:

    Your garden is so beautiful and I would love to comment on many things reply box is only giving me the very top of whatever I type and only for one line. I hate not being able to see what I’ve typed. Any suggestions?!
    A lovely post Janna. I’m growing very fond of your deer.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Oh, thank you Suzanne. I’m afraid I’m very technically illiterate, and know exactly what you mean about the one line thing. But I would love to know your thoughts. How about temporarily typing into an email/Word document and then copying and pasting it into the reply box once you are done??

        • Suzanne says:

          Hmm, I thought the copy/paste thing was a good idea but I’m not able to do that eith.Blowed if I know h
          What has happened. It first occurred in April’s problem with the name and email boxes.

        • Suzanne says:

          Don’t know why I didn’t think of copying in a comment!? The screenshot below is just a fyi. It first occurred for your April blog. We’ll see what happens.

          I really like the blog format you are using of reviewing each month and am continually fascinated by the similarities of tasks/plant behaviour in our gardens despite being on opposite sides of the world in totally opposite seasons. Good opening rain for the season…ditto; warmth and moisture…ditto; plants growing like they’re on steroids…ditto; the gardener needing some of the same to keep up…ditto; having to accept what will be will be…hmm maybe not quite the same here but that’s because retirement allows for more play time. However, it can take a very long to to finish a project but that’s usually just the result of an ageing body! Of course my garden is only a fraction of the size of yours.
          Your joy in the animals is another parallel although I have no native mammals, just insects, reptiles and birds. These are another cause for taking forever to finish a task. sometimes I spend so much time watching that I wanted todo is quite forgotten!
          Thanks again Janna for your entertaining blog post. It seems I’ll be going to Sydney at the end of the month. WhenI return home again those weeds will be waist high and then I will need to say “oh well!’

        • Suzanne says:

          That seems to have worked. I’ll ask the IT dues when I’m in Sydney, they may be able to solve the mystery. X

    • jannaschreier says:

      That is really funny how much we share in the garden, despite the miles between us and the seasonal difference. I guess gardening is gardening and we probably all hone in on the same sorts of things. I like the idea that Australian and British gardening is not so different. Although at the moment I’m struggling to garden in the sun in the low 20s – can’t imagine how I managed it outside of winter over there! And how lovely that you also get distracted by the wildlife, just as I do. I very very rarely just go and sit in the garden and yet I have hours and hours of pleasure in between gardening tasks – it sounds just the same! Just seeing something and stopping and absorbing. Could do that all day! Have fun in Sydney and yes, they sound much more qualified for IT problems than either of us! Fingers crossed they can fix it.

  2. roberta4949 says:

    very pretty plants you have there. and so many to live with my dear, lol, what is that one with the blue flowers? awww the deer are going to have babies awwww!!!! so much to see in your garden. nice.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you Roberta. The blue flowers are Ceanothus – they are stunning, aren’t they? It grows so well here with our free-draining soil. We have three different types and a self-sown one which will be a surprise!

  3. Barbara H. says:

    Ah yes, gardens do have a way of putting us in our place. We get all puffed up with pride at a lovely little vignette, turn around and moan at the weeds all around it. The advantage of “letting” the weeds get larger is that they can be easier to pull and it certainly makes a bigger clear space once we’ve gotten to them. Lovely post and a lovely garden.

    • jannaschreier says:

      It’s interesting that you and Adriana both think bigger weeds are easier to pull. I’d never seen it like that. I think partly because I spend half my life trudging backwards and forwards to the compost heap and smaller weeds mean fewer journeys! But I do sometimes pull small weeds and then wonder if actually it was a self-sown something-or-other that would have been nice to have kept. So I will embrace larger weeds from now on; thank you!

  4. Adriana says:

    Large gardens can be very challenging when you have a ‘law and order’ approach to them. I used to be overwhelmed (in spring) by my two acre garden and even the one acre one I had later – here my (mere) 1/2 acre virtually looks after itself — most of the time. Like you, I too have seen the sense in lettting some of the garden go somewhat – the more you pace yourself, the longer you last as a gardener.The beauty of your garden is certainly not diminished by a few weeds though Janna – it always looks stunning in your photos. I also agree with Barbara, larger is easier to pull.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I’ve never had a law and order approach but this is the first year when I thought it might even be vaguely possible – silly me! I do so love things to look wild, but then a nettle pokes its head out of the top and I quickly go off it! I like the idea that the more you pace yourself, the longer you last. I’ve always been a firm believer in not being a slave to the garden, but I’m extremely happy to now have a good excuse/reason for stopping and absorbing (see my reply to Suzanne) whenever I so please! Don’t want to run out of gardening life too soon; too much to do yet!!

  5. Louise says:

    Another glorious wander through your garden with beautiful photos & descriptions of life in a large garden. I’m sure it’s constantly evolving with both plants & animals alike. Your photos are exquisite. Keep bringing me the joy of your garden.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you Louise. It does warm my heart to think that my little garden over here can bring a smile to your face over there! So often it’s just me in it – and I do love that quiet time – but given how many hours I put into it, it’s extremely rewarding to know that I can share some of that joy with others. It feels slightly less decadent that way!

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