Sunday, 3 May 2015

That was April 2015 at Cordwood!

north mounding
April 2015 at Cordwood 

A summary by a compulsive list-maker!

Desperate for ‘April showers’ to bed in plants, we were disappointed each day by the lack of rain.
A meagre 20.5mm month Cordwood total - significantly below average rainfall (average for Nottingham in April is 48.5mm).

No records but some very warm days. As with March, the persistent cold wind made the nights feel chilly and slowed the onset of spring. Anecdotally, many of us consider temperatures lower up here on the hill than in nearby Arnold. Must check!!

angle shades
The actinic light was used on most evenings but the anticipated upturn in the weather didn’t happen and our total for the year inched forward to 17. Angle shades (pictured), brindled beauty and lunar marbled brown were highlights.

Bank holiday Monday 6 was celebrated by a mass fluttering of peacock and small tortoiseshells, both here at Cordwood and in Bestwood Country Park. These two species were then seen throughout April on sunny days. 
On Tuesday 7 a green veined white emerged from its chrysalis on the house wall.
My first Cordwood brimstone of the year was on the 20th, with the first orange tip on the 21st.
Our first large white was visiting dandelion flowers on the lawn on 27th.

Common carder bee was first recorded on April 7 and first red tailed bumblebee was on 13th: both then throughout.

A fifth frogspawn clump was seen on 2 April. Our first ever toad seen in ‘Lake Pearson’ was seen on 25th.

It was a local cat that was taking our generous donations of Aldi’s best dogfood from the Hedgehog Box! Nevertheless, two hedgehogs (a big and a smaller) were seen in communication on the lawn on the 18th and calling cards continued to be left.
A dead badger was spotted on Lamins Lane near Keepers Cottage and Lindy reported seeing a badger on Lamins Lane in the month. They’re getting closer!!
Common pipistrelle bats were recorded beneath the large sycamore, at ‘thorny corner’, beneath Judith and Roger’s dominating Scots pines and in in Picnic Wood on evenings when wind chill was not a factor from Tuesday 7. Our highest count (sighting) was 3.
Moles, grey squirrels and wood mice were obviously present.

Our highest number of bird boxes (33) with 14 occupied (28th).
Tree sparrows occupied the west facing colony box on Waxwings apex. Stock doves nested in the south facing medium size box adjacent to the Wizards tree: the remaining occupied boxes being used by robin, great tits and blue tits.
House sparrows began coming regularly to the feeder by the privet hedge (2 pairs 25th) which  was also regularly used by greenfinches amongst others.
Tree and house sparrows are two of the species we have targeted as wanting to see thriving at Cordwood.
Uncle Alan’s fat blocks attracted male and female great spotted woodpeckers.
First summer migrants (blackcap and chiffchaff) were heard at Bestwood Country Park on Monday 6 and willow warbler there on 19th.
Our first chiffchaff was calling on 5th, with first blackcap on 20th and first Cordwood swallow overhead on the same day. We had a pair of swallows perched briefly above the annex on 28th - were they secretly interested in my swallow nesting platform??.
Mistle thrush eggshell was found on  24th. 
Baby tawny owls were heard in the Woodland Garden on the evening of 25th.
Discarded seed beneath feeders continued to attract pheasants with ‘The Sultan’ and five wives being the highest count.
Mallards discovered Lake Pearson during the month - four being highest number. 

See ‘Gardening’.
primrose - primula vulgaris
Our main aim is to increase the range and number of native and naturalised plants here at Cordwood. April success includes:
Bluebells (hyacynthoides non-scripta) flowering on the Crimea Plantation boundary (80+), in Picnic Wood and on the grass path from Cedar walk to the meadow. 
Cowslips (primula veris) flowering in the orchard and beginning in phases 1 &2 of the meadow
Primroses (primula vulgaris) (pictured) flowering in the orchard, Picnic Wood and Cedar Walk, 
Snakeshead Fritillary (fritillaria meleagris) growing in meadow phase 1 and in the lawn
Red campion (silene dioica) growing abundantly in Picnic Wood and transplanted into the meadow.
A few wood anemones flowered in the Woodland Garden for the first time in April.
Yellow rattle (rhinanthus minor) are spreading to many parts of the orchard but so far I’ve had little success in transplanting them into the meadow.
All of these have been introduced by us.
A small patch of sweet violets (viola odorata) was growing in what is now the Woodland Garden when we arrived. These have been raided mercilessly and now are also thriving in the Cedar Walk and Himalayan Birch bed.

Introduced into Phases 1 and 2 of the meadow: 
Buttercup Ranunculus acris 
Coltsfoot Tusilago farfara (pictured)
Cowslip Primula veris 
Daisy Bellis perennis
Dandelion  Taraxacum 
Forget-me-not Myostis sylvatica
Heather Calluna vulgaris
Herb Robert Geranium Robertianum 
Lesser celandine  Ranunculus ficaria 
Oxeye daisy  Leucanthemum vulgare
Red campion Silene dioica 
Red clover Trifolium pratense 
Red dead nettle Lamium purpureum
Ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata
Self heal Prunella vulgaris
Snakeshead Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris
White dead nettle Lamium album
Wood avens Geum urbanum 
Yarrow Achillea millefolium 
Yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor

1. Development

There’s no doubt that the two months spent developing the drive has ‘knocked back’ the gardening development. The dry April too had its impact, slowing the establishment of newly-transplanted plants.
Having completed our first ‘prairie bed’ at the edge of the lawn (approx. 82m2) in March, the final 16m2 of ‘Prairie Bed 1’ (which lies beneath the sycamores) was planted. 

‘Prairie Bed 2’ (approx 72m2) was dug over, manured and planted before the end of the month. Ahead of target!
Plants used:
echinacea purpurea
  • Ice Plant (Sedum spectabile)
  • Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina 'Gold Plate')
  • Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea) (pictured)
  • Globe Thistle (Echinops Vitro)
  • Michaelmas Daisy (Aster laevis 'Calliope')
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Korean Mint (Agastache rugosa 'Liquorice Blue')
  • Inula magnifica
  • Astrantia major
  • Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum 'Broadway Lights')
  • Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker')
  • Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)
  • Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing')
  • Bergamot (Monarda 'Cambridge Scarlet'

And ornamental grasses:
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
  • Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
  • Golden Oats (Stipa gigantea) 
The remaining area allocated as prairie beds (Prairie Bed 3 - approx 150m2) will be sprayed to kill abundant perennial weeds, levelled and then sown with green manures in readiness for work in the winter.

Having planted the entrance last month, we waited for rain to bring the grass seed on. This  happened slowly.

Judith and Roger sowed grass seed on the ground cleared by the container. Once again, the dry weather and cold nights slowed grass seed germination.

I built the first of my four small ponds.

At the entrance to the Cedar walk is our 'ivy sea', glowered over by stumps that will one day be ivy clad and since April - with a stepping stone challenge. Just waiting on siting of Holly Blue butterfly to take advantage of the ivies and hollies that are its larval food plant.

Work on our flower meadow continued with plants introduced listed above.

The total wildflower meadow area is now:
Phase 1 (Summer 2014) 160m2
Phase 2 (Spring 2015) 200m2
Beneath beech  (Begun April 2015) 80m2
Total so far is approx 440m2
Meadow areas in front of the apiary (approx 300m2), and to the west of Goldcrest (544m2) will be begun in May using seed and transplants - approx 1300m2 (or 1/3 of an acre) by the end of the summer.

2. Maintenance

Shredded arisings from perennials in vegetable garden still wait composting - as do large quantities of much else too! 

Nathan added to our chippings pile on the road to our annex in readiness for mulching Jills mounding and completing the Himalayan birch mounding. This work was completed with only the new mounding and one of the front garden beds needing mulching.
I should enter here how tough this work was. I ached so much that waking in the night I convinced myself that I had flu...
English bluebell

Crimea boundary hedge - removal of brambles competing with hedge plants continued. Gaps filled with pot grown holly. Bluebells (pictured) flowered.

Hay that should have been taken from the orchard after Mike and I scythed it in the  summer was finally removed!

Two cuts of grass were taken from the lawn using the new Westwood mower (Sir David!!).

Vegetable garden 
Work clearing weeds began at the end of April. Asparagus looks poor but our rhubarb yielded 1.5kg.

Kitchen Garden
Curly Kale cropped reasonably during April and has now been cleared. 
Broad beans, garlic, rainbow chard, overwintering onions and beetroot are growing.

March saw the drive finished. well, when I say ‘finished’ …. the gates remained an issue as one fell off! The access control allows those with a key code or fob in, but only those blessed with a fob can leave. Not ideal! 

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