Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Oliver's garden

I regularly pay a visit to my old friend Oliver Tynan. We always make time for a chinwag and generally get on very well, even though politically we are at opposite ends of the spectrum. We also share an interest in gardens and, as he has a large area to deal with, I lend a hand as required. For example, his wife Carol won't let him scale ladders (very sensible too, as Oliver has an artificial hip), so I end up pruning his climbing roses, passion flowers, etc. Not only is Oliver's garden quite large, it is of considerable interest; he has a long-held belief in the need for the preservation of our countryside  and this is reflected in the way he tends to his plants - and the soil.

Ox-eye Daisies,  Leucanthemum vulgare, form a large
patch in Oliver's garden, Byfield. 7 July, 2015

Parts of the 'lawn' are treated as a meadow, and he delays scything until the wild plants such as ox-eye daisies, fritillaries, etc. have flowered and seeded.

Southern Marsh Orchid in Oliver's garden, Byfield.
 7 July, 2015
One consequence of this approach is that several orchids have become established. Most have finished flowering but one, a Southern Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa, remains. It will be jealously guarded until it too has flowered and seeded. This species seems to be getting commoner in Northants. Once confined to the west of the county, it is doing well in places that are appropriately managed.

One important feature is a large Walnut, Juglans regia, tree. It is a native of S.E. Europe and Asia but the fact that it is an alien hasn't prevented seedlings from popping up all around the garden, perhaps aided and abetted by squirrels.

Large galls on the laves of walnut are the work of the
mite, Aceria erinea. Oliver's garden.  7 July, 2015

Many of the leaves have bulges between the veins - galls created by a mite, Aceria erineaThe galls may be the reason why a tincture from the tree is used in homeopathy for skin eruptions, acne, etc. I have little time for homeopathy but there is no doubt that walnuts have a valuable part to play in general health.

The mites and their galls appear to do the tree no harm and it regularly fruits prolifically, yielding nuts of good quality.
Mint Beetle on an Astrantia leaf. Oliver's garden, Byfield.
28 July, 2015

Oliver's large bed of mint is always a good place to find a Mint Beetle, Chrysolina herbacea, but the specimen pictured was some distance from the mint on a plant of Astrantia.

Acanthus spinosus forming a large clump.
Oliver's garden, Byfield. 28 July, 2015

Hard by the Astrantia is a clump of Bear's Breeches, Acanthus spinosus. Interestingly one of the inflorescences was distorted by an example of fasciation. The Daily Mail has been very excited (it doesn't take much) by some fasciated daisies not far from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. 'Mutation caused by nuclear fallout!' the newspaper trumpeted, claiming that these were rare cases. In fact, fasciation is a common phenomenon and I have often found similar specimens when out walking.

Stem and inflorescence showing distortion.
Oliver's garden, Byfield. 28 July, 2015

In Oliver's garden the fasciation takes the form of a greatly shortened flower spike on a stem that is both thick and flattened, the result perhaps of several stems becoming fused. I have noted Forsythia stems similarly flattened. Biologists admit to being unsure regarding the cause of these deformities.

Finally another form of deformity altogether, this time on a Field Maple, Acer campestre. The leaves display galls caused by the activities of Aceria myriadeum. This is a mite commonly found associated with this Maple species. How do these flightless creatures get from plant to plant? 

Leaf of Field Maple showing galls formed by a mite,
Aceria myriadeum.  28 July, 2015

One of the joys we get from strolling around a garden is that there are always surprises to be found. What next?

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