Tag Archives: Flowers

Elusive Birds, Flowers In Winter

White Hellebore in Flower 2nd January

White Hellebore in Flower 2nd January

This morning was quite a treat. While there was still sleep in my eyes, pouring the first coffee, I was treated to the sight of goldfinches happily feeding. Then, as I stood watching though the kitchen window, a flock of long tailed tits descended. I haven’t seen them for a long time. So I set up my brand new radio remote for my camera and attempted to get some shots to show you, but the light levels are far too low to capture anything but a blur. I went back out to retrieve my camera and while I stood there, right in front of the feeders, a long tail came down, fearless, fed in front of me and sang. Just a foot away from me. I could see his delicate, tiny legs, the downy feathers of his body and his eyes met mine. Such a delight, and a huge antidote to the chaos of the world we’re forced to live in. These are the moments worth living for. My poor dog Daisy was forced to wait to be allowed in the garden until the birds left for a while.

It’s too wet to do much on the garden, but making room in the conservatory will enable the sowing of early cauliflowers and salad, which after the excesses of Christmas  stodge, I’m craving.

Wandering around, I found there are still things flowering. So here are a couple of them. I’ll try again to get some photos of the birds, once light levels increase and there’s no danger of my precious camera getting wet. I hope to capture lots of wildlife, once they wake up after their winter sleep.

For now, enjoy your garden.

bergenia

Bergenia in Flower 2nd January

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Raised Beds, A Wildlife Pond And Flowers For The Birds And Bees.

The landscapers I brought in to get the garden bones in place have now finished. There is still a mass of work to do, but now it’s manageable. With a little more topping up in my new raised beds I can set about planting out broad beans waiting in the cold frame, potatoes chitting on the windowsill and all manner of other vegetables. The plan is to edge my plot with four feet high trellis, then train fruit against it. I hope to have raspberries, loganberries, a thornless blackberry and other soft fruits.

Although the new veg beds appear to my partner to look like not much more space than before, as the beds are only four feet wide, I can reach in from the sides and not have to tread on the soil. This is advantageous for a number of reasons. I will be able to cope better with weeding and planting (and of course harvesting) from the path. The vegetables can be spaced closer together, as there is no need to leave room for walking between rows, and now more of the garden is available for other activities. Now that we have the pond, my dog Daisy is going to have her own paddling pool. She loves water, so I can’t expect her to NOT play in some, and I’d rather it wasn’t my wildlife pond. Chasing the hose pipe to bite the water is her favourite game! That will be taking place well away from my new flower borders. In fact I’m going to have to protect plants from her bashing them until her play area is established. That will be fun!

Here Is here we are placing the raised beds, once the shed has been moved into dead space under the trees.

Here Is where we are placing the raised beds, once the shed has been moved into dead space under the trees.

The Shed now gone, raised beds can be built.

The Shed now gone, raised beds can be built.

And here they are, my super access raised beds which I hope will help feed us!

And here they are, my super access raised beds which I hope will help feed us!

I’ll do a separate post talking more about the pond, but basically it’s 6’8” x 4’6”, and 2’ deep at its deepest. We’ve made a shelf for creatures to get in and out, as I went for a preformed liner to avoid Daisy piercing the liner. So to compensate, wildlife need an escape route as these ponds don’t have the gentle slope you can make with a butyl liner. I have a visitor arriving soon so it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before I can go and buy more plants for the pond, or start the work on the garden. Mike, the landscaper who installed it, kindly brought me some irises to start me off. I have yellow flag in the pond, a British native that dragonflies love as the sword like leaves make great perching spots while they hunt. We’ve already had an official pond visitor. A toad! How cool is that?

The pond under construction

The pond under construction

Pond Completed, Apart From Some Planting.

Pond Completed, Apart From Some Planting.

I’m really pleased with the path, and glad I chose gravel. It gives me great grip when walking on it, and I am trying to age proof this garden so I can keep going on it when I’m even more feeble! Paving tends to get slippery and bricks were not an option due to time and cost. Although it all looks very stark yet, I’m sure once the planting is in place it will all soften down. I have three arch supports to place, too, which I hope will support some of the climbing plants I want to grow. Runner beans and bottle gourds, maybe even a couple of butternut squash, which I love.

My imagination is now running riot. Although I had the overall vision in mind when I set the landscapers to work, they have put in the bones. I now have to flesh it all out. My greenhouse is bulging with plants, but I have a feeling they won’t actually go far once I plant them all, so I need to sow more, grow more, take more cuttings and buy more plants. But this is the cool part, the pleasure of choosing and placing. Follow me this season to see great changes and how I make them. I’ll ensure plenty of information for you to have a go or not, because I’ll also tell you if things go wrong and why. Then you can avoid MY mistakes.

Remember the lilies from my last post? I’ve treated myself to some nice containers and planted them up, topped with gravel and now have to wait. Photos when there is something to show you! Some of the specialist seeds have germinated, too and are now being careful tended by yours truly. I’m particularly pleased to see papaver horridula seedlings adorning a pot. From what I’ve read, these hymalayan poppies are not easy to grow. They need an acid soil, which I have, so hopefully I’ll be able to raise them to maturity. Others are proving more tricky, but I am slowly getting results. Ultimately I have a lot of space to fill and seeds are far more economical then buying plants, so the more success I have the sooner the garden will be buzzing with bees and butterflies attracted by all my lovely flowers.

Goodbye Pine I’ll Miss You xxx

Nest Box already taken!

Nest box already taken

I have a new appreciation for pine. It began when I had to take the decision to have one removed from my garden. It was a beautiful tree, hence my reluctance. That and the fact that I’d seen a goldcrest in it last year. A rare find! But this is a tree that can easily make 120ft. My garden is only 120ft long and 35ft wide. My greenhouse would have disappeared under it. It’s a forest, not a garden tree. So I had it taken down and spent today shredding it and chopping it up for the wood. I got close up to the bark and needles. What lovely markings the bark has! And of course the smell is gorgeous. So I’ll be burning some on an open fire in my dining room and putting a bowl of needles on top of the woodburner to fill the room with that fragrance. Lovely!

Blue tits have nested in my bird box on the patio fence again. They raised two broods last year, and we got to see them fledge. I hope that happens again! I hope the other four boxes are occupied, too. The boxes are in my native hedgerow, and I don’t want to disturb any nesting birds, so have left them to it, but I do have a motion sensitive camera, so over the coming weeks I’ll set it up and see what we can capture, but with all the landscaping happening at the moment, I’ll have to wait a few more days before I do that. There have been delays aplenty with the landscaping. Gravel deliveries going awry, workmen being ill and the weather, although this week the weather has been great. Trouble is, landscapers have had a bug and didn’t come, so now they say Monday. I hope the weather holds out. They still have a metal shed to erect and our wooden one to relocate so I can have the space for my veg beds! I’m having three, ten feet by four feet wide with gravel paths around to make it easy for me to reach everything safely.

Primula. I love the contrast between leaf and flower!

Primula. I love the contrast between leaf and flower

Bees are in abundance. I’m still planting and planning for food for the bees. They are loving a new heather, visiting my primroses and  One success seems to be germination of my verbena bonariensis saved seed from last year. I’ve just pricked out 48 seedlings We’ve already had to rescue several from the conservatory. I’d love to be able to identify the species, as I’m seeing different ones. Some are very small. peacock butterflies have made their appearance, too. But so have cabbage whites. I’m determined to protect my plants from them this year. That will be easier with the new beds. I can run netting over hoops intended for cloches. We’ve even seen frogs, despite my pond not being ready for them yet. It’s in, but needs a bit of backfilling, stones laying around the edge and then of course the planting. I’m being given some yellow flag iris to start me off, then it’s off to a local water garden centre for some retail therapy in the form of native pond plants. I really want to entice the wildlife in. My neighbour has had great crested newts, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed that they’re still around and want to visit my pond.

Do you have a ponds? Will you install one? Let me know. I’d love to compare notes.

Massive Progress In The Garden About To Begin

Fuchsia, My father's and my favourite lower

Fuchsia, My father’s and my favourite flower

Tomorrow is a huge day in the life of my garden and myself. It’s been a journey of three years plus to get this far. I’ve struggled with health, bereavement, injury and lack of finances through the recession. But that now all changes. I am very happy to say that two men will be turning up at 9am to start digging out the path that will allow safe, level and easy access right down my garden. The shed we put in the wrong place will be moved and the metal one which got buried under last autumn’s leaves will be erected in the correct place. My pre-formed pond liner arrives on Friday and my newly acquired team will be installing that for me. THEN I can really get going. All the seedlings I’ve optimistically sown will actually make it onto the ground. I am over the moon. Once the shed has been moved  to the bottom of the garden under the trees I will be able to have raised beds I can access without straining myself or risking tripping up (my legs don’t always do as they’re told these days).

To add to my delight, my seeds, listed in my last post, have arrived. I can sow them while my team get to work on the heavy stuff. I can also continue to sort out my containers, rescuing fuchsias and bulbs that have survived the last eight months of neglect. And even further (yes, it’s good news week!) I saw new friend today at my craft club whose partner is into fuchsias in a big way. This means a lot. My father, who died last summer, was the same. He went to a fuchsia specialist to buy his plants, raised and cosseted them like babies. I inherited his love of them. Now my friend says I can meet her husband and he will no doubt let me have cuttings. I can’t wait!

So much to do at this time of year, and so wonderful that my whole attitude towards the garden has changed for the better. I spent last winter  feeling quite depressed after having to leave it alone all these months. I feared I wouldn’t be able to get on top of it and make it the stunning garden I know it could be. Now I’m so enthusiastic it’s the first thing I think about when I wake, eager to see the next seedling emerge or a plant sprout shoots outside. Gardening will never leave me. My connection to the life cycle is too strong for me to let go so to find a way to cope with my physical limitations is wonderful.

I’ve even found a way to have a unique table on the patio! We have an old metal cage which was a stage set (we ran events in the past) will become a base for the table top, which I found on Ebay. A hardwood top which, if I’d bought it with legs and paid the normal price would have been four times the price. It will look great when I’ve painted the base, and maybe the top, to go with the chairs I got last year.

Holiday, Wildlife, The Garden and Photography

I’m getting my final packing for my holiday done today. Once the camper is packed and my bed in the back made up, I’ll be able to do the last bit of watering, feeding and harvesting of vegetables to take with me. Thereafter, I’ll be on the road. But I’ll be looking out for inspiration, ideas for my plot. I’ll be spotting wildlife (I hope) with my camera, my binoculars and my scope. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep you informed along the way. If I can’t get an internet connection, I’ll catch up with you when I get home. The camera battery is fully charged and I can’t wait to get out there and take some great shots. I’m after wildlife, flowers, insects etc. I’m learning as I go and every shot of a creature helps me identify them, and in some instances add to general knowledge by including them in the various surveys being done by researchers. You could, too.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

 

I’ve found some very interesting areas to survey, and we can all take part. Children would love to join in. Springwatch made the point that all you have to do is show a child a bug and they are instantly interested and fascinated by it. They want to know more. Why not help them learn by looking up the bug? Then add it to a survey, and further conservation efforts, becoming part of the solution. Here’s a list of links you can check out for yourself.

Buglife are looking for a rare beetle, an Oak aphid and more. Their site also offers links to other key wildlife surveys. Suffolk Wildlife Trust need you to record with them hedgehog sitings, anywhere in the UK. Hedgehogs are in big trouble. You’ll also find on this site information about how to help them. Their numbers have dropped considerably, but they’re a great garden friend, so this is one creature we should all be trying to help. Also, The Guardian have published a useful list of links to various surveys and ways to get involved with conservation and wildlife. It was published last year but the links are still relevant. Natures Spot is loaded with information, including great identification photos for insects, tree, birds mammals and anything else you want to find out more about. I have a photo of a fly I’m still trying to ID. It settled on ragwort, as many insects do. It’s a nectar rich plant! Do you know what the fly is? The photo’s at the end of this blog.

Hedgehog

hedgehog

One of the friends I’m going to see is working hard on his new plot of land to create as close to sustainable living for himself as possible. I’m dying to see what he’s up to. He’s on the edge of Dartmoor and has very different circumstances and problems to deal with, including rabbits and deer. I’ll let you know what solutions he’s finding.

Magpie Moth

Magpie Moth

I’ll spend a lot of this holiday taking photos. My interests happily co-exist. Gardening, wildlife, photography all come together for me now. After a lifetime of following them as separate activities, I now combine them all. The photography gives me a way to pass on my experience via my blogs, a chance to identify species that won’t hang around while I get the books out, or a plant I want to ID when I get home, without picking it. It’s also part of my income via iStock, where most of my photos are flower or insect photographs, many of them macro. I love to peer into the tiny world I can’t see with the naked eye. There is beauty in macro form! It’s amazing what can be seen through a macro lens or magnifying glass. That hedgerow or leaf can reveal some amazing detail. Bees dusted in pollen, tiny beetles you didn’t know were there. Stamens on flowers show their shape and form. It’s a whole other world from the one we live in most of the time. The gardening itself provides the material to photo, the space for wildlife to come to, so more things to photo and food for the table!

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

 

 

Butterflies, Bees, Birds And The Big Butterfly Count 2014

 

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Today has been exceptional. Walking back up the garden having sown more radish and beetroot, I disturbed the butterflies feeding. They swarmed in front of my eyes. Such a delightful sight! Most of them were peacocks, but I have spotted today small coppers, a common blue, red admirals and large and small cabbage whites.

Peacock Butterflies dance

Peacock Butterflies dance

That’s just the butterflies. I noticed a couple of years ago when visiting Geoff Hamilton’s garden at Barnsdale Gardens that the marjoram had more bees on it than anything else. As this herb is one I make a lot of use of, I resolved to ensure at least one big clump adorned one of my borders. I have one marjoram and one oregano clump right nest to each other. This has paid huge dividends. Not only do I have plenty for my antifungal, antibacterial tea, but I have many, many bees of many types. Now, I’m no bee expert, but I saw working honey bees, buff tailed bumble bees, leaf cutter bees, white tailed bumble bees and lots of others. Hoverflies dodged their way around them, all feeding and buzzing to my delight. The maxim I keep repeating, ‘build it (or grow it) and they will come’ actually does pay off.

Bee On Marjoram - One Of Hundreds Today

Bee On Marjoram – One Of Hundreds Today

There’s a big event happening. I’ll be getting involved myself. This is a cause that really matters. One third of our food needs pollination by insects, mostly bees. Peaches, runner beans, apples, pears, you name it, bees do the job for us. The Big Butterfly Count 1014 takes place from 19th July (so it’s happening folks) until Sunday, 10th August. Right now, you can help conservation by giving the scientists the information they need. Here’s the link to get you started. 

Bee On Dahlia

Bee On Dahlia

And you can plant marjoram, simple single flowers like these dahlias, Buddleja davidii to help our insect population. Our gardens are hugely important. They cover so much of our land that we can save these insects from their demise if we try. Sorry to rant, but they need our help and it’s such a simple, easy thing to do. Grow simple flowers! Grow herbs. Will you?

Oh, I’ve had to come back and edit this post. My memory is tragically bad. I mentioned birds, didn’t I, in my title? That was to remind you. They need water. If you don’t have a pond, please put out a dish of water or a bird bath. They need to drink and bathe. Many have visited my bird bath today. They’re lovely to watch, so don’t miss out.

Grow Your Own and Other Progress

It’s all go here. Health up and down, but I’m half way through decorating my hall, stairs and landing, and want to finish the job desperately as it’s been ongoing since March. So I’m juggling getting the garden planted, growing the vegetables, decorating and the usual household jobs. That should keep me out of trouble! When I’ll find time to do my macro photography and iStock (a way to keep the wolf from the door) I don’t know, but I need to.

We’ve had two batches of baby blue tits from one nest box this year. The pair started early, in March, and as soon as one brood fledged, they laid another batch of eggs that fledged on Friday, 31st May. One flew straight onto my patio table and past Daisy (my staffie’s) mouth. Luckily she missed it! It landed in front of me and we met eye to eye before it flew to safety on my conservatory roof, mum fast on its heels with food. It was a wonderful experience to be so close to a wild baby bird.

We have five nest boxes, and I don’t think the other four were occupied, but I’ll leave it for a week or two before checking, just in case. It may be that they need moving, though we tried to put them in my native hedge in the right kinds of spots.

I went shopping this morning. I did NOT go out with the intention of buying more plants, I promise,  but guess what? Yep, four more new ones. A Sedum kamtschaticum variagatum, an agapanthus (one of my favourite South African plants) and a new one to me, lithodora, with the most exquisite blue coloured flowers. The last is another penstemon. That’s a violet colour. Penstemons seem to like it here, the slugs leave them alone and the one I planted last year is in full flower and looks fabulous right now. So another will enhance my borders next year when it’s filled out.

My tomatoes are doing well, too. The first flowers have set, are swelling and I eagerly await eating them instead of the shop-bought, tasteless, vitamin denuded supermarket offerings. I’ve just noticed whitefly on the aubergines, so I’ll be using and little soap and water in a spray to ‘drown’ them before  I have an epidemic on my hands. If that’s done in the evening, the bees and butterflies will be in bed and this method is non-toxic. But the first flowers have opened, so I should have fruit soon.

Last night I rootled around my potato crop, just in case they were ready. They so ARE! Plump, unmarked, perfectly formed Charlottes. I used seaweed meal, chicken manure pellets and blood fish and bone when preparing the soil, as well as council made soil conditioner and a bit of home-made compost. There was no-where near enough compost as we’ve only started producing enough green matter this year to produce it in any quantity. Anyway, the Charlottes. WOW WOW WOW! Amazing flavour and texture. I just wasn’t expecting the vast difference between mine and shop bought Charlottes. They were VERY creamy and slightly salty, and needed NOTHING added to them to give them flavour. No salt, no butter (I can’t have butter anyway). But they really needed nothing. I’d recommend anyone to find space for new potatoes. You won’t be disappointed.

My first creamy, gorgeous Charlotte potatoes

My first creamy, gorgeous Charlotte potatoes

Further down the veg patch Komatsuna, a Chinese green we haven’t had before is flourishing, as are the lettuce, Khol Rabi and Swiss chard. We love Khol Rabi and it’s £1.20 for one in the supermarkets. It makes sense to grow them as they take up very little space for the money savings. With my restricted diet, I’m always looking for new vegetable and herb flavours. So also in the ground are some Hamburg parsley plants. I’ve never tried it before, so I’ll let you know when we do try it what it’s like.

Lettuce catch cropped beneath the runner beans

Lettuce catch cropped beneath the runner beans

Runner and French beans are busy scrambling up the canes, and I’m looking forward to a good crop. Yum! Meanwhile, the space beneath the canes is planted with lettuce as a cache crop. One inherited food crop I’m so pleased to see doing well this year is my fig. It’s loaded with swelling fruits and they are delicious fresh. I can’t wait! Food glorious food.

My inherited fig

My inherited fig

And for lunch today? Grated raw beetroot, grated raw turnip, new potatoes, lettuce, spring onions, and the only thing that didn’t come out of the garden, some salmon. Oh, and my tomatoes are still green, so I had to use shop-bought. Tasteless!. But the rest? Lovely.

I hope to be able to ‘stay on it’ with this blog, though I can’t ever promise regularity. I’ve lots to tell you about the rest of the garden, flowers and wildlife yet, though, so I hope you return and bring your friends. It’s cool to be able to pass on experience and knowledge. It’s also great to hear from readers, and comments or questions are welcome, so please don’t be shy!