GINA PARKINSON finds that sunshine and showers keeps the pond happy, especially those buttercups on steroids the Kingcups.

GARDEN ponds are teeming with life in the sunshine and showers that have been our lot for the past few weeks. The rain has filled them and occasional sun warmed the water, especially in shallow areas, enough to allow frogspawn to become hundreds of tadpoles.

We have two ponds in our garden, one in a sunny spot by the house and the second in a shadier area. Both were filled with frogs and eventually mounds of spawn in early spring with the sunnier spot providing the best place for the eggs to develop.

The ponds need to be left to their own devices as the tadpoles grow so inevitably the water is covered in duck weed under which the tadpoles wriggle and cool themselves. It is too difficult to remove it; even the slightest skim brings with it a bunch of these creatures, so it remains unattended until they go on their way later in summer.

Until then the eye has to be distracted by other plants growing in the waters, the most striking at the moment being bright yellow Kingcup, a buttercup on steroids. This beautiful plant has silken petals that open wide to show pollen encrusted anthers, so tempting to passing insects. It likes to grow in boggy areas or a shallow part of the pond.

Weekend catch-up

SWEET peas planted in the greenhouse or indoors in April will be growing well by now and may be beginning to look a little leggy. They need to be hardened off prior to planting in their flowering spot outside.

At the same time, the tips of the plantlets can be nipped out just above a leaf joint to encourage side-shoots. Take each shoot back to two or three pairs of true leaves. Harden them off by placing outside during the day and bringing back indoors at night for a week. Then leave them outside all the time for a week and plant out after this. Keep an eye on the weather just in case of a late frost.

In the veg patch

OUR veg garden has been neglected so far this spring and needs, as the season dictates, a good spring clean.

Seedlings are waiting to go in, they are being hardened off much like the sweet peas described above. I am hopeful that this weekend things will be starting to take shape.

Limited experience has shown me that while most vegetables need coaxing and care to bring them to crop, fruit will carry on despite disregard.

Gooseberry bushes have flowered unnoticed and are now beginning to form tiny fruit along the length of their stems.

Rhubarb has revelled in the damp weather and should continue to crop throughout the month and will look into June. We have cut ours back once already, cooking and freezing the lovely produce.

A few of the youngest stems were left on the plant which was given a good soaking of water and sprinkle of slow release fertiliser.

Within a couple of weeks more stems were ready to pull.

Plant fair

FLOWER Power Fairs will hold a spring plant fair at Ness Hall, Nunnington tomorrow. Ten plant specialists will be there with a range of perennials, shrubs, alpines and climbers for sale as well as sundries such as garden ironwork.

Visitors will also be able to get tips on pruning, soil improvement and attracting wildlife to their gardens. Tickets to the fair are £3.50 which also includes access to the beautiful romantic gardens at Ness Hall. More than 500 tulips have been planted which should be giving a good display this month.

Open gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

Hillbark, Church Lane, Bardsey, LS17 9DH. Award winning one-acre garden on three south-facing levels. The garden has formal topiary, perennials, specimen yew, ponds, gravel, rock and steam gardens, large natural pond, marginal planting and woodland area. Open 11am to 4.30pm, admission £4.

Oakley Garth, Sneaton Lane, Ruswarp, Whitby, YO22 5HN. Organic garden new to the NGS on a west-facing slope with mature trees and shrubs, gravel and streamside gardens, water features, large range of perennials, wild flower meadow and abundant wildlife. Open noon to 5pm, combined admission with Rosebank (details below) £4.

Rosebank, Sneaton Lane, Ruswarp, Whitby, YO22 5JA. A plantswoman’s garden new to the NGS with a large range of plants, many unusual, some rare. Paths and steps lead around the garden to trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, roses and ferns on a sloping site which attracts much wildlife. Open noon to 5pm, combined admission with Oakley Garth (details above) £4.

Wednesday Percevall Hall gardens, Skyreholme. 24 acres of garden and mixed woodland in Wharfe-dale with terrace, rock and rose gardens, fish ponds, mixed borders, bulbs, tender shrubs and an old orchard. Open 10am to 5pm, admission £6.

Gardening TV and Radio

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

8am, Radio Vale. William Jenkyns presents local gardening news at 9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening features and ideas from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From the Garden Show Ireland, Antrim Castle Gardens.

Sunday to Friday BBC1 and BBC2, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Monty Don, Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Sophie Raworth report from the flower show at various times through the week.

Monday to Friday 10.45pm, BBC R3, The Essay: The Meaning of Trees. An exploration of the symbolism and importance of five trees, horse chestnut, cypress, cherry, holly and birch. With Fiona Stafford.

Friday 3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. A Chelsea Flower Show inspired edition from the Tea House Theatre in central London.