Snail hunt

I’m on a snail hunt. I’m looking for Banded Snails (Cepaea hortensis). No, I’m not in hunter-killer mode as you might expect.

Banded snails have a taste for dead, dying and decomposing plant material – easier to chew apparently, and there’s quite a bit of just that in the Chelsea exhibit lawns.

Not being outside and therefore not subject to winter weathering and the action of plant chomping critters, fungi and soil microbes, the dead and dying plant material in the exhibit lawns is in need of a tidy up. I will attempt to lecture the snails on the importance of sticking to their traditional diets and to avoid eating fattening flowers. I will be keeping a very beady eye on proceedings. I hope by letting them loose on the exhibit it will receive a timely spring clean.

Banded Snails - Image borrowed from suziesden.com

Banded Snails – Image borrowed from suziesden.com

Here’s hoping the snails are old fashioned and stick to a traditional diet!

Vernal equinox 2013

Both the calendar and the planet say it’s Spring today. Hmm! Cloudy, dull, damp and cold. We reached a dazzling 5.1°C today here in Reading and there were mumbles on the radio of this March heading toward being the coldest for 50 years. Any gardener can’t help but notice the weather doesn’t seem to be as temperate as it might be.

Anyhow, the flush of snowdrops and crocus in the Chelsea exhibit lawns has passed, even though outdoors both of them continue, trapped in

time.

Chelsea exhibit lawns at the vernal equinox.

Chelsea exhibit lawns at the vernal equinox.

 

Outside, the demonstration lawn hasn’t progressed much, although there are some daffodils showing through now. Everything sits in suspended animation it seems, just waiting for some sunshine and some warmth.

 

Vernal equinox on the demonstration lawn.

Vernal equinox on the demonstration lawn.

 

Where’s a druid with a sunshine spell when you need one?

Chelsea exhibit preparations

The exhibit for this years centennial Chelsea Flower Show will show the evolution of the lawn and contain three types of lawn grown specially for the exhibit here at Reading.

The plan is for a pure grass lawn, one devoid of anything but grass – the type that ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs are made for. There will also be a ‘natural’ or ‘freedom’ lawn and three combined grass-free flower lawns.

The ‘natural’ lawn was sown last year to encourage the authentic thatch that grass lawns accumulate over winter and it will contain some of the forb species traditionally found in lightly managed British lawns such as English daisies, buttercup and dandelion. The flower lawns will be composed of eighty five species and cultivars of plants that shown the potential to withstand the demands of the flower lawn environment.

Growing the Chelsea exhibit lawns.

Growing the Chelsea exhibit lawns.

You may notice that even now the exhibit flower lawns are – full of flowers. This is no accident. In an effort to reproduce a potential format for a real life flower lawn I decided to do what I expect most gardeners will do, and add early flowering winter/spring  bulbs. The result is a great splash of colour and it is already attracting early pollinators.

The bulb leaves will fade away or get snipped by a blade before showing at Chelsea. Even though the bulb flowers won’t be seen at the show, their addition to the display lawns keeps the design and planting true to the concept by using clonal perennials and extending the floral period. I don’t know yet of any other display at Chelsea that has hidden components!

The exhibit flower lawns are currently buzzing and attracting visitors…

Honey hunting

Honey hunting

Bumbling on an exhibit crocus

Bumbling on an exhibit crocus

Peacock (Inachis io) on the glasshouse window.

Peacock (Inachis io) on the glasshouse window.

There have been a fair few house flies joining the bees and butterfly, but somehow my finger just wouldn’t press the camera button. Maybe next time…

Spring peeks through in the lawn.

Phenology tells us that Spring is coming ever earlier each year, but this year the weather seems delightfully traditional. It’s still cold with the wind in the East, and the temperatures have barely reached above 10C yet, but finally the sun has come out and on cue so have the first crocus.

Crocus sieberi in the lawn

Crocus sieberi open in the lawn 3rd March 2013

Some say snowdrops herald the end of winter, I don’t have any in the lawn so crocus – the herald of spring is a welcome sight.