AFTER a winter with little breaking the surface of our ponds, with the coming of spring they have exploded with life and colour.

The marsh marigolds provided the first splashes of gold, now replaced by the yellow flag irises, the flowers with their three large spreading petals alternating with three smaller erect ones.

The flowers do not last long but while they do they are an abundant source of nectar, rated in second place for nectar production per flower by a UK plant survey.

They are certainly appreciated by the insects in our garden, as illustrated by the buff-tailed bumblebee on an iris beside one of our ponds (pictured).

The yellow iris is said to be the original “fleur-de-lis” widely used in the coats of arms of the French monarchy and many French cities including Aix-en-Provence, just to the east of the world famous wetland reserve of the Camargue where yellow irises dominate the edges of freshwater channels in their millions.

As the iris flowers turn into seed pods they will be replaced by yet more yellow flowers, those of lesser spearwort which in a few weeks will be putting out their buttercup flowers on tall stalks.

Water soldiers which spend the colder months of the year submerged have begun to rise to the surface to show their stiff, sword-like leaves edged with spiny teeth.

They produce white three-petalled flowers but each also carries a new shoot with a young plant.

My wild flower guide classifies them as native but there seems to be some doubt about this given that almost all the UK plants are female so reproduction is vegetative.

I had never come across them until a friend whose pond was clogged with them offered me a couple.

They spread fast and I have to thin them out at intervals but they provide good cover for a myriad of water creatures and are good oxygenators.

On sunny days in late May and early June all this vegetation provides launch pads for azure and large red damselflies which, after one or two years developing as larvae below the surface, climb up the stalks and leaves, split their body skins and emerge as brilliantly coloured winged adults.

Around the last week in June, much bigger dragonfly larvae go through a similar process, emerging from their armoured body shells and taking to the air, fearsome predators with fast acrobatic flight.

Those from our ponds are southern hawkers, vividly patterned in green, blue, yellow and black, among the most magnificent and intimidating of British insects.