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Ponds, Poison, and Peter Pan


The little flood is there most years, a creeping puddle that swallows up more and more grass until it’s a pretty sizeable pond, albeit a very shallow one. It doesn’t seem to do much harm. The grass carries on merrily underneath the water, and the daffodils still come back. I’ve tried establishing snakes-head fritillaries there. I vaguely feel that as they thrive in water-meadows, they should be happy in this sodden patch. So far, 3 years in, they aren’t doing much. Mind you, in this garden there’s a fair chance that the bulbs have gone down a pheasant anyway.

The only other things in that little patch are willow whips, that I wove together to make what I was later told is called a fedge, a living fence / hedge. The water makes no difference to them either, they are just wretched anyway. I can only assume it’s the effect of the very well established black walnut tree that reaches over them. Their companions further along the line are positively flourishing, away from the walnut’s allelopathic roots and fallen leaves.

(Allelopathy is the quality in a plant of exuding biochemicals (allelochemicals) that affect other plants. In this instance it is hydrojuglone that is produced. This oxidizes into the toxic juglone, poisoning surrounding plants and so reducing competition. (The word allelopathy comes from the Greek derived compounds allelo- and -pathy, meaning mutual harm. I just love this word stuff).  In the case of the walnut it does for my bluebells too – the allelopathy that is, not the word stuff.)


The rest of the willow run, however, is so happy that I have turned my back on neat little woven stretches of diamond pattern, and am merrily creating curves, mounds and the beginnings of small tunnels that I sincerely hope will one day turn into a tangle worthy of Arthur Rackham.


(Arthur Rackham was a children’s illustrator who did truly wonderful pictures, free from saccharine, but infused with a measured and beautifully judged darkness. His illustrations for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens are what my willows make me think of, and if they succeed in making other people think of those too, I will be very happy.)

In the meantime, I will settle for watching the blackbirds making the very best of this difficult weather, splashing and playing  in the edges of the puddle pond.

Let me know, how are you spending your time in the rain? (Or sun!)

Categories: Garden

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