Spring, mostly wet, has come and gone. The first day of summer was decidedly chilly, but now it is warm again. After having watered some newly planted annuals and relocated hostas the sky opened up and it poured. Oh well.
The koi spent most of the last week spawning. It was a regular orgy with male fish bashing the females against the side of the pond. Then the female releases the eggs and the male fertilizes them. Usually, other koi come in right behind the pairs to gobble up eggs, keeping the amount of baby koi within a manageable range. Unfortunately, my largest and oldest female fish (10 years old) became a victim of the vigorous spawning. She lingered for a day or two before expiring. She was a bright orange fish and although her offspring has some of her coloration, none are orange all over. Finley, born in 2011, comes closest, although her parentage includes a bright white father, and subsequently, she is mostly white with large orange spots. Ninja, born in 2012, is also the offspring of my bright orange koi, although her father, Buddy, is dark grey. For most of Ninja’s life she was a dull dark grey with a bit of orange on her belly. This year she started changing colors and now most of the dark grey is gone. She has become bright orange although still with grey and white spots. Koi, just like goldfish, are capable of changing colors, while high-quality food and light also can contribute to changes in color or the intensity of color. From experience, I have found that it is mostly the dark-colored fish which can turn into something much brighter, although not all of them will change during their lifetime. A nice thought when I look at some of the dark-colored offspring from two years ago; they may end up looking like some really nice fish in the (near) future.
I have already spotted the first few baby fish, seven of which I caught and relocated indoors to a small tank. When I first caught them, I could hardly see them in the tank. One small pellet of fish food pulverized into dust is the perfect fish food and now, only days later, they have nearly doubled in size. They are actually starting to look like tiny fish now. This week I will be setting up a larger tank which will serve as their new home in the near future.
In the back corner of our lot we have a large silver maple tree. At first, I was happy to have such a large tree on our lot as it provided us with some shade while everything else was growing (and at times struggling) on our bright sunny lot. But construction of the house, followed by the construction of the pond has not been kind to this tree. Add to that the fact that this tree is on a low spot in the garden where both the sump pump and some gutters drain away. A silver maple may like damp feet, but this area is too soggy, and it just continues to decline. Last year I noticed fewer leaves on the branches. After each storm, dead branches would litter the ground. This spring was no different. Fewer leaves, more dead spots and this tree will have to come down. I will wait till fall to get the job done if only to provide the shade-loving plants with its protective covering during summer. Meanwhile, the two corkscrew willows which I planted in June 2016 are growing fast and provide some much-needed shade while I am also nursing a new corkscrew willow cutting to (eventually) take the place of the silver maple. On the upswing, once this maple comes down, I won’t have to deal with a gazillion silver maple seedlings which miraculously (and most annoyingly!) spring up everywhere in the garden. Tiny little maples sprout from the large winged seeds and I spent several weeks on hands and knees around my plants or on the paths pulling them out. While I pulled out hundreds (if not thousands) daily at first, now I come across those that hid among plants and are just starting to peek out. They sprout at the pond’s edge among the grasses and I even disturb the occasional frog while hunting down stray tiny maples. As I make the rounds in the garden, pulling a few stray weeds, I also come across tiny little toads, aka toadlets, no bigger than the nail on my pinky. The other day I came across a big old toad among my plants, probably one which is responsible for the little ones in my garden. With luck, a number of these little toads will also stay in the garden and patrol it for insects, including snails, so future hostas will have less snail damage. More toads and better-looking hostas; I consider that a win-win.