Tag Archives: garden

Wet, Wet Wet And Lichen

Lichen Macro

Lichen Macro

3rd January

Rain, rain and more rain today. Overcast skies and no chance of outdoor photography or gardening. So I got the macro extension rings out, some lighting and a bit of lichen on a twig that fell off the crab apple.

Birds are flitting all over the feeders, but there is no chance of capturing them today. Light levels are too low and my camera would get soaked.

But I do have the seed and plant catalogues that arrived yesterday to drool over. I have enough seeds already to fill the whole town, but can’t help myself from wanting to try one or two new varieties of vegetables, so sooner or later I’ll probably get a few more packets. I have friends locally who no doubt will do swops and we’ll all end up with more food and flowers.

The macro shots have given me ‘food’ for thought, which I will write about in my ChrisCaff photography blog. The title already swirls around in my brain. So What Do You want To Focus On?

Join me there.

 

Garden Makeover Progress And A Grass Snake

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

The garden makeover continues more slowly than I’d like, largely thanks to illness requiring antibiotics. However, it is coming along. My son has been helping out, and the veg beds are almost ready for planting up with broad beans, potatoes, khol rabi, cabbage, turnips and the peas just showing through the compost in modules. I haven’t even tried to sow peas in the ground as my earliest sowing of beans were eaten by mice. Starting plants off in modules deprives them of the chance to take the seed for breakfast before they’ve even had time to germinate!

Around the pond I have begun planting, adding some cowslips in the shady spot close to the fence, an iris in addition to the ones donated by my landscaper,  geranium Phaeum Samobor,  with a lovely deep pink flower which should supply some fairly dense cover for the wildlife. It grows about 60cm high, so may need some support, especially as I want to grow small, more delicate plants close by. I don’t want them smothered or the geranium to flop and leave a hollow centre. I’ve also put in three astilbes that begun as one plant last year and  I split into three. I spotted vine weevil as I was planting, so watered in some Nemasys, a natural predator of the little horrid beasts. Once watered in, the tiny nematodes swim through the soil to find vine weevil larvae and destroy them, so hopefully they will be cleared and cease to eat my plant roots.

I’ve ordered online some oxygenating weed for the pond, which is going a bit green due to my delay in getting to an aquatic centre. Once I have all the plants for the pond I’ll let you know what they are and why I chose them. For now it’s just elodea crispa to take up some of the nutrients in the water and reduce the amount of algae growing. I hope to but the rest of the plants this weekend if my partner can spare the time to take me as driving isn’t an option until my cataracts are removed. I will of course choose one water lily, but there are so many to choose from I’m going to need a bit of advice!

My cherry blossoms are just beginning their spectacular yearly display. The colours are just to die for, and always make my heart sing. Lungwort, cowslips, primroses, grape hyacinths, heathers and more are attracting and feeding bees and butterflies already, despite the garden only being half finished. The bees don’t care that some plants are still in pots. They visit them anyway.

My partner has returned from walking our dog as I am writing this and had an exciting find in the local woods. So here it is! A grass snake. It’s great to see we have plenty of wildlife in the area. I’ve never seen a grass snake in the wild, so I’m envious I wasn’t there, but pleased at the same time. I hope as they are around they’ll come to visit my garden. The addition of a pond can surely only help to attract animals in. The snake was on a path right next to a stream.

Grass Snake

Grass Snake

Tomorrow I hope to be planting the brassicas I’ve mentioned and protecting them under fine netting which will keep out cabbage white butterflies, pigeons and the pheasant. Hopefully that will mean more crops for us and less for the pests!

Healthy Broad Beans About To Be Planted

Healthy Broad Beans About To Be Planted

Well, I did plant those vegetables. We will have food this year from my brand new beds. I’ve put in my sturdy broad beans, cabbage, turnips and khol rabi. They are all under protection from pigeons and cabbage white butterflies. It’s a relief to get them out of their modules. The greenhouse needs elastic walls! It’s burgeoning with the seedlings, cuttings and overwintered fuchsias that can now be moved into the cold frames vacated by the first veg.

The New Vegetable Bed Now Planted.

The New Vegetable Bed Now Planted.

My Overflowing Greenhouse

My Overflowing Greenhouse

I’ve also spent some time clearing weeds from the back of the main border, digging up even more Spanish bluebells and rescuing seedlings I want to keep before ordering some topsoil. The soil in the main bed is sadly lacking in quality from the rest of the garden and needs building up, both in height and nutrients, so next week my son will help get the delivery from the pavement and spread it so I can continue planting and filling gaps. I have quite a few waiting in the wings. Phew! Busy busy. How does your garden grow? Please talk to me, or I’ll feel as if I’m talking to myself. Never a good thing!

Back From The Brink – A Conservation Success Pyg Nymphaea Thermarum

NYMPHAEACEAE, Nymphaea thermarum, 2010535, Bonn, Rwanda

NYMPHAEACEAE, Nymphaea thermarum, 2010535, Bonn, Rwanda

Naturally, as I’ve just installed a pond I have been researching plants to furnish it. In doing so I came across an interesting conservation success. Pyg Nymphaea Thermarum  is the smallest water lily in the world and the rarest. In fact in the wild it is now extinct. Its pads, or leaves, measure only about 1cm across, which is less than 10% of the next smallest species in the genus. It came from Rwanda, where it grew in thermal spring water that cooled to about 25 degrees. The thermal spring was over-used by farmers and in 2008 it dried up. As this was the ONLY place where this lily grew, it eventually, tragically died off. German botanist Eberhard Fische, seeing the p[ant was in trouble sent some plants to Bonn Botanic Gardens. However, they could not persuade seeds to germinate and the plant’s existence hung in the balance. Carlos Magdalena, at Kew, only discovered the solution when down to the last twenty seeds in the whole world AND one of the two remaining plants had been eaten by a rat. It turns out that most of this genus germinate in deep water, but Pyg needs co2 to germinate, and once that had been discovered, eight healthy plants were raised from seed. This little survivor now has the potential to become a houseplant! Back from the brink, this is one conservation success! I still haven’t chosen a water lily or stocked my pond with plants. That will happen this weekend, when I make a special trip to a large water garden centre I’ve had recommended to me, but I’ve had an interesting time reading!

Photo from the Kew website.

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.

Best Laid Garden Plans Need Patience!

Hard Work Happening With A Smile

Hard Work Happening With A Smile

Lots of patience was needed yesterday. It was to be the big day. Gravel sand, weed suppressant membrane and a pond were all due to arrive. The pond did, with a phone call ten minutes before delivery to let us know. Great stuff! Gravel and the other stuff next, we thought. It was late. The landscapers did what they could whilst waiting. Then I phoned the delivery company. Our load had been put on a truck that had broken down. Great. 5pm, they said. 4.30 till 5pm was their estimated delivery time. 5pm nothing. 5.15pm, I was getting agitated. Annoyed even. The weather had been perfect all day for laying a concrete base. The landscapers were prepared to stay late to get it done. 5.30pm. The truck finally arrives. Three 850k sacks of gravel and one of sand. Landscaping fabric. But the driver can’t get the goods off the truck. They had been loaded incorrectly, which had broken the pallets AND the lift he had on board was broken. No less than a comedy of errors. Only I wasn’t laughing. None of us were, especially when the trucking company wouldn’t even call back with a solution. It took my landscaper’s silver tongue to get them to organise a delivery today, Good Friday, first thing.

It's starting to take shape

It’s Starting To Take Shape

I am now very pleased to be showing you photos of a work still in progress, but now much further on. The lads have worked hard. The pond is being installed, the path is coming on and preparations to move the shed and lay the shed base are underway. It’s not a pretty site yet but it will be. At the moment it’s more like a building site, and because of the rain, going in and out to check on things and Daisy running in and out, I’m grateful to have exposed wooden floors indoors that I can mop!

Still Going In The Rain

Still Going In The Rain

So I’m spending my Easter dreaming of the ‘finished’ garden and pond. Looking at pond plants, learning from the landscapers how to make the best of the pond. It’s not an area of expertise for me. It’s a new learning curve. A very enjoyable one, too! I know I’ll need elodea crispa to oxygenate the water, and I know I want a corkscrew rush. And Mike (one of the landscapers) is giving me some yellow flag iris from his pond, in exchange for a chocolate peppermint plant.

So here are some photos of progress from my bedroom window. I would have taken some from the garden this afternoon, but the guys are being rained off as I write. It’s fortunate that gardening teaches patience. Because patience is needed. I hope I have enough to see this through!

Returning To Ambitions

Primroese

Primroses

There’s a reason this blogs been inactive. I have. Broken ribs last August on top of lifes little curve balls that piled into a mountain last year took their toll. But spring of a brand new year is here, so I’ve come back to continue with my dreams and ambitions.

I’ve been off the garden for months until recently. As I’ve mentioned, August last year saw me unable to do anything due to broken ribs, and I lost heart over the winter. But something stirred in me a couple of weeks ago and I’m back on the case. It helps that I now have the money to pay for the big heavy jobs. I can concentrate on what I can do, and not feel snookered by the path building, shed erecting or new raised bed building. I can get on with growing stuff and sorting out borders (when I have a bit of strength and energy).

The greenhouse and conservatory are filling up as I sow more seeds and things need pricking out and take up more space. So far the broad beans have come through. That’s a blessing as the first batch were all pinched by mice. So I re-sowed in the greenhouse. Onion seeds have just started to germinate, and I’m trying them from seed for the first time this year. Khol rabi is in modules, and I’m hoping to keep a more continuous supply than I’ve previously managed. There are also leaf salad, blood red spring onions, leeks and greyhound cabbage yet to push through.

I’ve also sown two types of sunflower,  giant and red, 5ft tall ones. That’s just as well, when sunflower seed for the birds is working out at £1 per large feeder refill. And during the worst weather we were filling it, plus another feeder, once a day! I’m hoping the achillea, zinnia, dahlias, cosmos all do well, as I’m going to have a lot of space to fill this year and many of the seeds from these are good extra bird offerings. The garden has to work for the wildlife as well as me.

My ambition is to make my garden good enough to get into the yellow book in a couple of years time. That’s a massive amount of work, but I think worth it.

I am installing a pond as part of that plan. It was going to be large and butyl lined, but Daisy could easily damage the liner, so a prefabricated one will be better. I’m looking at one that holds 750l or 170 gallons and is about 6ft x 4ft for £163 delivered. I’ve found a dog paddling pool for £30 so if I get Daisy that and make the pond less attractive by not having the very shallow sloping sides of a butyl lined job she’ll prefer to jump in her own pool and leave mine alone! I can always protect mine with a wire grid, too, as long as the animals I want to reach it can.

I’m already watching the blue tits build a nest in the box screwed to the patio fence. I hope the other four boxes are occupied this season, too. Four of the five were last year. While eating lunch on the patio (it’s been a warm, sunny day) I saw a sparrow hawk flash through the garden. I love all the sightings I get just from being in my garden and keeping my failing eyes peeled. Yes, failing until I have cataracts removed. Hopefully that will be soon. We’ve had greater spotted woodpeckers in in the last couple of weeks, and all the usual suspects. Now I want to find a hedgehog, a grass snake and even slow worms, though if I ever will is a matter of wait and see.

I’ve bought plants as well as sown seed. The primroses in the photo adorn a cool windowsill in the house now, but once hardened off and split they’ll be great for the spring garden next year. I’ve planted a new clematis called Freckles today against the arch. There are heathers, more primroses and even some daffodils to get in the ground. Pots of meadowsweet, tradascantia and other perennials sit waiting patiently for their turn, but I can only do so much then have to rest, so still tons to do! I’ll try and keep you informed.

Samhain Makeover New Problems, New Solutions

Most of this blog so far has been about growing food, gardening and outdoor stuff. Recent changes to my health have kind of grounded me. I’ve had to accept I just can’t do a lot of the things I used to be able to. My muscles are weak, so I can’t lift, I don’t have much stamina and of course my broken ribs have left me sore. Since then I caught flu which led to a chest infection, so since August I’ve felt pretty useless. Until I started up and old hobby, as something to do during my enforced rest. I’ve taken up crochet again. And I can’t stop! Fortunately now it’s winter, the garden is going to sleep anyway, no doubt happily, and full of wildlife as I have left things pretty untidy, the way the critters like it.

I’ve already started showing off my crochet, so if you want a peek here’s a link to my Facebook page. Here’s a taster.

All My Own Work

All My Own Work

I also love patchwork and sewing, so as my son has now vacated my spare bedroom my ambition is to turn it into a craft room. ALL the furniture came to me for free! I mentioned I wanted a drop leaf table to a friend. ‘Oh, I’ve got one gathering dust, he said.’ A neighbour is clearing her house and has a large wall unit perfect for storage. She wants rid of it so has given it to me. The friend I visited in Chippenham I mentioned in my last post has given me a little table with a life up top, perfect to go by my machine to hold scissors and cutting wheels etc. The rest I’ve got from Freegle. It’s all mismatched and old, but solid wood and sturdy, so I’m not only decorating the room, but up-cycling lots of furniture. My plan is a silvery grey wallpaper, Mossy green curtains, grey muslin curtains to mask my partners bookshelves then Royal purple furniture. I’m hoping it will look absolutely fabulous. The room faces almost north and has a big bay window. Here is where my table will sit, and is great light for sewing or photography.

You can see the state of the room I’m tackling. Vacated but certainly not sorted. So I have my work cut out, but it will be fun and worth it. I hope to set up my own little craft business on Etsy in a few weeks. So this space will become my workroom. I’ve done patchwork for most of my adult life and have crochet enough hats to keep the whole town warm. So it’s time to make my craft skills pay.I’m hoping to be able to post some tutorials here, so watch this space. See me develop the room, convert the furniture and make the crafts, as well as updates on the veggies. I do have some beet for its leaves and salad in the greenhouse, and we’re still eating broccoli, chard, and have turnips and Hamburg parsley to harvest, despite my health problems. Here are some photos of the room and stuff that I want to up-cycle. I’m going to see my mum for a few days before I make a start, so don’t expect overnight miracles!

My Potential Craft Room

My Potential Craft Room

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Well Lit Bay Window For My Sewing Machine

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

The Freecycle Chest Of Drawers

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

My Sewing Machine Table, Ready For its Makeover

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Cute little table for my scissors etc

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair

Pine, Soon To Be Purple Chair