30 Days Wild - Careful With That Axe Barry

24th June - Sprowston, Norwich

The lack of rain lately has left my garden ponds in a sorry state. They always dehydrate in summer what with the heat and the insatiable thirst of the luxuriant plant growth, but this year they are really suffering. The water level has been at least 9 inches too low and the aforementioned jungle of iris, meadowsweet and a particularly resilient willow has served to starve the water surface of sunlight. Time to undertake a spot of maintenance and open things out a bit methinks.

But hang on, what on earth has made such a mess of some of the willow leaves? Let’s look a bit closer and see....well I never! There are loads of tiny sawfly larvae munching their way through the succulent new growth. Tap the leaf and they rear up to adopt a posture that breaks up their outline and makes them look like the jagged edge of the hole they have made. They make a thorough job to leave just a spectral skeleton waving limply in the breeze. As I watch I notice a tiny ichneumon wasp inspecting the wriggling larvae. It seems like it may be looking to insert its eggs into the defenceless fleshy morsels. Nothing seems safe from attack or predation in this miniature world.

Then I look at the tops of the willow sprigs and see hundreds of aphids sucking the rich sap from this pollard tree. It makes me think: maybe this plant has enough troubles without me chopping it down to ground level. A compromise then. I carefully hack and saw through most of the branches and where the sawflies are so affected I lay the severed limb across the parts I choose to keep so they can have plenty of fodder to help complete their journey to adulthood. Light reaches the pond, the young sawflies continue to feed and the willow......well its survived brutal treatment for the last 20 years so I’m confident it will sprout new shoots within a very short time. I should point out that this addition to the garden flora was not introduced by me; it just appeared, found the boggy soil to its liking and took over. I always vaguely determine to really lay into it and dig it out, but then I think why? It plays host to all kinds of small creatures, rusts and fungi. Live and let live: be careful with that axe!