We usually watch Countryfile on a Sunday evening and the other week that lassie Ellie was sowing wildflower seeds in one of her Gloucestershire parks.
Wonderful countryside, fabulous wildlife, yet another splendid corner of Merrie England, but the wonder of it all was sullied for me.
She had just finished enumerating the range of wildlife that inhabits the area, but didn’t seem to realise that most of them are vegetarians, well herbivores is probably the correct description.
She didn’t make mention that her patch of wild flowers might be a bit of a starter on the menu for some of these voracious inhabitants.
Many of us garden in much more confined spaces, but we still have to protect vulnerable species from the marauding wildlife – pigeons and brassicas come to mind.
When the cameras moved on, maybe Ellie did protect her new-sown wildflower patch with some stout netting, otherwise it might all have been a wasted effort. Got the message?
Which leads me to another problem of pest control.
It was the subject for discussion over the lunch table the other day at Beechgrove, not perhaps the most appropriate subject as we consumed our tatties and mince.
Inevitably the discussion drifted towards the decline in populations of garden birds and sadly for some, the two leading contenders for blame were cats and magpies.
Now, I am treading on the toes of a whole lot of well-meaning people, but facts are chiels that winna ding and despite all the surveys that may prove otherwise, people do know what’s going on in their garden.
We have at least four or maybe five cats that have assumed ownership of our garden, they have their well-chosen areas for basking, areas where they sit for hours close to our bird feeders, and any cultivated area is likely to become their toilet.
There are certain species we seem to have lost completely compared with the previous plot 100yds away. Gold finch is one example.
That said, populations of blackies, sparrows and starlings, tits, robin etc are about normal.
Fortunately we have no magpies, but unfortunately they are not too far away.
We do our best to encourage wildlife where appropriate, but discouraging unwelcome foragers is not so easy.
End of grumpy old man chapter.
Well not quite – there on BBC News the other night was a reporter lassie, standing on Battleston Hill in the RHS Wisley Garden in Surrey, beside some wonderful rhododendrons, claiming that they might all be classed as unwelcome aliens.
Makes you think, can I believe any of the stuff they choose to throw at us?
Are they so desperate for sensational news that, as one famous editor is alleged to have said to a young reporter, “we need a strong story and if you can’t find one, make one up.”
Like Japanese Knotweed, which I featured a few weeks ago, the species Rhododendron ponticum is the invasive alien, NOT the other species and hybrids thereof which we grow in our gardens.
Rh. ponticum was used as a rootstock for grafting these hybrids.
Rh. ponticum itself was also used to provide the shelter belts on the west coast that enabled garden lovers to create some of our spectacular gardens.
The phrase I have used previously, whether it be Japanese Knotweed, Leyland Cypress or Rhododendron ponticum – turn your back on it and it will take off.
There is something rather apt in that heading, don’t you think, given the foregoing.
I’ve been busy in between times this last week or two removing suckers from a number of plants in the garden.
Firstly there is the Sumach (Rhus typhina), Sorbaria with its pink flushed young foliage looking good right now, then Rosa rugosa and on to a Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’, the red-leaved contorted hazel.
Pruning off the suckers at ground level is just not enough.
A chum mentioned this problem to me the other day and it concerned a plum tree.
In his case, unfortunately the suckers are coming up all over the place.
The answer is to find the origin of each sucker to be able to tear off the shoot, taking a piece of the root with it if possible.
And finally …
Be warned, them weather forecasters are suggesting that we might get a cold spell just about now.
Look after your tender plants that are being ‘hardened off’ prior to planting at the end of May.
By all means leave them out during the day, but be prepared to take them into the greenhouse or cold frame at night or throw a few layers of fleece over them if frost is forecast.