Don’t overlook mini garden joys

Penstemon attraction.

Penstemon attraction.

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We’d been quite engrossed in watching the daily progress of vegetables recently – leeks, onions, marrows and pumpkins bulking up, and winter brassica plants growing tall – so it really was time to chill a little, think small and search out other less obvious attractions.

What we rediscovered as a result, was the beauty of tiny plants and lots of little ‘goings-on’ that can be missed in the cut and thrust of a growing season.

Cabbage white eggs.

Cabbage white eggs.

It began with the digging-in of pea and bean roots once the crops were harvested.

These, we read, are covered in little nodules that are inhabited by bacteria which fix free nitrogen from the soil air and pass it directly to the host plant.

This is one of nature’s neat arrangements, the equivalent of ‘give us a home and we’ll make sure you are never short of nitrogen’.

So I paused to examine these nodules with a hand lens before enriching the soil with them, then recorded an image for future reference.

Viola seedling.

Viola seedling.

* With the rampant growth of summer everywhere, it is so easy to feel you must be on the move, weeding, tying up, dead-heading, watering, but it really pays to pause and observe for a while.

Bee-watching should be high on the list. We have dwarf hedges of lavender and group plantings of oregano, literally buzzing with them at present.

If you want live entertainment, try counting the different species.

Once tired of that, move on to the long-flowering penstemons and watch bees gaining access to the tubular flowers for nectar.

* The number of cabbage white butterflies last year almost reached plague proportions and they’re very active again in this garden.

The greens are covered with netting but some are still gaining access.

Rather than waste energy and respond to every flutter, I’m following a different strategy this time in checking the undersides of leaves twice a week.

These pests lay their tiny eggs in blocks which can contain 50 to 100. Once they’re allowed to hatch the serious munching begins.

* We have not sown dwarf, heartsease-type violas in this garden for years, yet every summer they pop up everywhere in an increasing range of colours.

The big problem is that they only grow two inches (5cms) tall! In order to enjoy the spectacle you need to get down their level.