The Newts are Back!

31 January 2014

I’m delighted to say that we’ve seen two newts in the pond! This blog is proving useful, in that I could check back to my post about the arrival of the newts last year, which was 8 Feb; this year it was 26 January, possibly due to the winter being more mild – though whether this reflects the true arrival of the newts, or that we are outside more to spot them, I wouldn’t like to say; we aren’t out there very much at the moment, as it’s so wet.

Yellow Flag Iris flower

Yellow Flag Iris

I’m glad they haven’t been put off by the amount of growth we’ve taken out of the pond this year. From the beginning of the pond, in 2001, I didn’t contain everything in pots, as I felt it was more wildlife friendly to let plants spread naturally, to provide cover. I also made the mistake of putting in some fairly rampant plants: yellow flag iris and marsh marigold, plus bogbean, which have definitely enjoyed the habitat, and which, with other smaller plants, have formed an amazingly impenetrable mass of roots. I’m developing a theory that the marsh marigold is the inspiration to John Wyndham for his book “The day of the triffids! The thick growth is good, to an extent, but they don’t know when to stop (or when I want them to stop, to be more precise) and the pond was in danger of reverting to dry land. So we’ve been in the pond in our wellies and waders hacking stuff out.

It’s a very difficult task: the pond has a butyl liner, so we have to be very careful to avoid puncturing it, but we need to use saws and knives to cut through the roots. I look over the growth we remove very carefully, to try and ensure we don’t eject any wildlife, and saw several back-swimmers and a beetle, but no dragonfly larvae, so I’d imagine they are buried deep in the mud. Anything I missed was in danger of making a snack for the blackbird who came to help us, and flung the stuff we’d ejected from the pond all over the place, including back into the pond.

New pond

New pond

I’ve certainly learnt lessons which I shall apply to our new pond. We decided to widen the patio a bit, to do away with an area we couldn’t make good use of, but that area included a small pre-formed pond, which was there when we moved in. It wasn’t very good for wildlife, as it was too shady and had sides which were too steep, but I wanted to replace it, so we planned a small half-hexagon raised pond as part of the patio. The builders – local friends – suggested it would look better if it extended into the garden, and it actually became an octagon. We’ve further plans to sink a big plastic tray we’ve got below the surface to the side of it, so I can have a boggy area, which I’ve always wanted.

Pale pink Kaffir Lily

Kaffir Lily

I’ve a few plants waiting to go in when we do it – arum lilies (Zantedeschia) and Kaffir lilies (the latin name for which was Schizostylis, but I think they are now Hesperantha, which is at least a bit more pronounceable) for starters, but I may have to visit a few nurseries to find some suitable primulas and other things – isn’t life hard!

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