Garden Biodiversity Challenge #3

We have had two nice, sunny days now. Specks of colour are appearing in the garden, mostly provided by the yellow lesser celandines whose petals are opening wide welcoming the sun. More daisies are appearing as each day passes and the primroses are adorning the earthen bank we created at the west side, in the shade of the sycamore trees. I’m surprised that we don’t have any dandelions yet for dandelions have little to fear from the mower in our garden. Perhaps they should fear the geese, but not the mower.

I went in search of any other wildflowers that I could find. Plenty of plants have begun to grow, but only their foliage is showing and few are flowering yet. Finding any of these requires patience to search them out. Wildflowers are things of beauty, but generally not in a flamboyant way; their beauty is more subtle, more delicate. In a corner of our ‘highway’, a short strip of elevated ground created from earth excavated from the largest pond, I find a solitary cowslip growing in the shelter of the hedgerow. It is related to the primrose, and has similar wrinkled leaves and same yellow petals. Unlike the primrose, the cowslip’s flowers grow in bell-like clusters at the top of a stalk that rises above the leaves.  Cowslips were once a much more common plant of farmland happily growing, as the name suggest, on fields grazed by cows. But this was a time when fields had variety, and full of different grasses. I am grateful, however, that this beautiful cowslip has chosen our eircode to make its home.

The hedgerows surrounding the garden have a good mixture of different shrubs growing in it, including blackthorn. What is odd is that one bush, and only one, has decided to jump the gun on all the others and has burst into bloom. Blackthorn is easy to spot from now on for it is unusual in that it flowers before the leaves have grown, its bare dark twigs adorned with beautiful white five-petaled flowers.

All around the garden, in the shade of the trees, cow parsley is busy pushing out its leaves. It tends to smother everything else as the season develops. But in one spot, growing under the cow parsley, where there is a small break in the hedgerow, I spot a small little cluster of delicate blue violets. There are two species that grow at this time of the year, in similar places, and look almost identical. The trick is to examine the spur that extends out at the back of the flower; generally if this is pale it is the common dog-violet, whereas if it is dark it is the early dog-violet. What I found was the early dog-violet.

I mooched around the shaded lane and spotted another clump of violets, but the petal of these were white rather than blue. I was really surprised to find these for they are another species, the sweet violet. As the name suggests, just bend down and smell their lovely scent. This is a species that I don’t think I have seen before ever, it is a new species for me, so it shows there are plenty of things to find just under your nose if you just go looking.  So please, just go looking.

Species #8 Early dog-violet grows early on eastern side of the hedgerow when it gets some sunlight in early spring. It can be identified from its close relatives by having a dark spur extending out from the back of the flower.
Species #9 – Sweet violet was a new find for me. I hadn’t noticed it before growing along our shaded lane. As the name suggests, it has a lovely sweet scene, but you need to bend down low and get your nose close, to smell it!
Species #10 Blackthorn is unusual in that it flowers before the leaves come on the branches. It flowers is spring, but one bush in the garden is flowering now. Others will follow suit shortly.
Species #11 A solitary cowslip is growing in the garden. It is closely related to the primrose but the flowers grow in small bell-like clusters on the stem.