Tag Archives: photo

Mosaic Bird Bath and News

I’ve been terribly neglectful of this blog. I’m so sorry. It’s been a mixed few months, and a lot to deal with including travel to see my family. We live out of our camper and time is taken up completely when we’re there. Then there has been work to do to earn a living, chronic health issues and  the worst summer for a long time. As you can imagine, a lot of my plans for the garden are behind schedule, but despite that I have achieved some progress. I now have a greenhouse, and have eaten a crop of very late tomatoes. We’ve had a crop of runner beans, a few French beans and some salad, plus herbs fresh all summer. What a lifestyle!

Unfortunately the onions rotted in the wet. I’ve dug over the bed and added plenty of homemade compost plus some old grow bag compost to open up and raise the soil. On a different part of the bed I’ve now planted Japanese onion sets to grow through to spring, but with the current flood conditions started again this week and next week’s forecast I wonder if that was a wise move.

The wood burning stove is now coming into play and we have plenty of fuel in the form of felled weed trees and outdated telephone directories that will end up as ashes on the compost heap.

mosaic

Birdbath mosaic before grouting

As winter storms towards us I felt in need of a bit of colour. As you know I support wildlife to the best of my ability. I decided to make a new bird bath. I had a jar full of hoarded little glass beads and bought a clay saucer. It’s very easy to do. I coated the saucer with slightly thinned PVA, let it dry then played, bead by bead from the centre outwards. Use PVA to fix each bead in turn. Leave overnight to dry, then mix a thin grout. Pour this between the beads, wiping any excess away with a damp cloth. You may have to repeat this process once the first coat is dry. Voila! One bird bath. Use an upturned clay pot as the base and you have an attractive, colourful object on your patio in the middle of winter for your birds and you to enjoy. As you can see from the photos, colour should sparkle even in the faintest winter sunlight. The first shot shows you what the mosaic should look like before the grouting. The second is my proud finished project with the poured, dyed blue grouting set. Water and birds next!

Birdbath mosaic completed

You could, of course, use mosaic tiles, using the same technique, or if you feel really adventurous, broken, flat ordinary wall tiles. Snip them into the size you want for your design with tile nippers.

Rare Plant Find In The Garden

I’ve watched it for weeks. It looked like a tagetes or marigold at first. Then it began to mystify me. The flower spikes didn’t look right. I took photos. I looked in herb books, wildflower books and finally in horticultural books, but couldn’t find it. I waited. I watched. Finally some sign that flowers might be opening happened, but they appeared to be so tiny I got the macro lens out. I contacted an expert. He was mystified too.

Eventually, I went through an ID list on The Botanical Society of the British Isles. Now I know what it is! I’m so pleased! It’s a fairly uncommon find here in the UK, but is listed as a ‘noxious weed’ in North America. It apparently is the worst hay fever plant, producing masses amounts of tiny pollen grains that cause symptoms. So, despite being pleased to have found it and identified it, once I’ve gathered the photos for it to be included on Wildflower Finder by Roger Darlington I will have to remove it. I want British natives, and I don’t want a major pollen problem propagating itself as I suffer hay fever myself!

It’s been interesting, though. I assume the seed has been sitting in this previously neglected garden just waiting for someone to bring it to the surface, which is what I did when I planted my herb bed.

By now you must be dying to know what this mystery plant is, and see some photos of it. Well, it is Ambrosia Artemisifolia or Ragweed. Here are some photos should you ever come across it.

Ragweed

Ambrosia Artemisiiflolia

Ambrosia Artemisiifolia

Ambrosia Artemisiifolia leaf detail

Ragweed

Macro shot of flower head on Ambrosia Artemisiifolia

Squirrel thief charms my garden

I woke this morning and as usual took my coffee through to the conservatory and peered out of the window. It’s raining, again, but there on my bird feeder was another visitor. We’ve seen this squirrel around before, but he’s never sat for half an hour helping himself to a bird food in such a blatant way. Local ecology in action! It’s a good job we like all our garden wildlife. He’s a charming little chap! I took the photo through the window, from about 20 metres away, but it seems to have come out quite well.

squirrel thief

squirrel thief

The second he ran off all the birds descended from the apple tree just behind the feeder and in glorious full bloom and the moment.

We’ve had, like a lot of the country, the heaviest rain in a long time. Water, water everywhere! On Sunday my weather station registered 1 3/4″ of the stuff in 24 hours. Of course we need it, and our gardens will benefit greatly. That was a lot of rain all at once, though. We’re fortunately not on a flood plain! Also fortunately, this soil seems to be very well-drained, as yesterday I was actually able to go out and use my new mower for the first time, so the rough grass has had a haircut.

If you need a mower, choose an electric model, as petrol ones are much less energy-efficient, and of course petrol is rocketing in price. You can do without the extra expense! Plus petrol mowers are three times heavier than electric ones. If, like me, you want a natural, rambling look to your garden and care for the wildlife, you only need a hover mower. This will trim the grass, but not give you stripes and a perfect finish. As we don’t want that, hover was the obvious choice.

The rain has now delayed my greenhouse build three times. At the moment I can barely get into my conservatory for towering tomato plants and seedlings that should by now be planted up in the greenhouse, but what can I do? Hopefully this rain will die out by the end of the week and I’ll finally see a glass house I can use instead of a potential swimming pool!

8 Spring Flowers to Feed the Bees – early nectar plants

I’ve just taken stock of the 8 spring flowers already open in my garden and pots. Some I brought from my old home, others were waiting for me in my new one. All of these will make nectar and pollen available for the early pollinating insects that will soon be emerging for food, especially as a warm spell is predicted later this week.

Bees, hoverflies and butterflies, moths and beetles are all in decline, and are massively important for humans. Without them we would not eat. No apples and pears, no tomatoes or plums, blackberries or raspberries; the list is endless. They pollinate our food for us for free. We owe them a lot, and it doesn’t take much to help them get back their strength. So if you are starting a new garden or trying to improve your garden for wildlife and biodiversity, go to your garden centre and buy things with SINGLE flowers, not flouncy doubles. Plant them out in groups, making them easier for the insects to spot, and watch your garden come alive. If we all do this, we can turn around an alarming decline in our insect population. This is ecologically very important for all of us.

Fifteen days ago my garden looked like this!

snow on tree

Snow covered tree

This morning I went outside to take the photographs you see of spring flowers which are laden with food for the bees and other insects. Isn’t nature wonderful when we give it a chance?

heather-early-nectar

Heather in full bloom. Great bee food.

grape-hyacinth-early-nectar

Grape hyacinth or muscari, another great early insect feast

Primula-and-snowdrop-early-nectar

Primula and snowdrop. Both great early insect food.

early nectar plant for bees

Hellebore. Great for early bee food

crocus for early nectar

Crocus. Great early nectar and pollen for insects

Pansy

Pansies or violas are good early insect food, too

hebe-early-nectar

Hebe. Lots of different ones that flower early

Sarah Raven’s Bees, Butterflies and blooms is an excellent programme with lots more information that you can glean to help you make a difference. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01c89vp/Bees_Butterflies_and_Blooms_Towns_Gardens_and_Britain_in_Bloom/

There are many more early spring flowers that will help our insects to recover from the lack of food and habitat we’ve caused for them. You can find more listed here. http://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/features/wildlife/plants-for-bees/1107.html

Time to put something back, don’t you think? So get planting. Let me know how you are helping our wildlife.

[Added 28 Feb 2012] Many thanks to the BBC who have highlighted this blog as one of the most relevant to Sarah Raven’s programme, and I’ve since written more on this subject, showing you how to feed the bees and butterflies on the cheap. You can read that blog here.

And here’s my latest offering for bees. Perennials from seed that bees will love.

Winter in Paradise

Blue Tit in the Snow

It’s winter in our paradise! Well, we’ve now experienced our first really cold spell in our new home. Birds flock in for the food and the fields look stunning in the snow and fog. It’s truly beautiful, I think you’ll agree. My tactic of feeding as many different foods for the birds seems to be working, as we’re now up to 21 different species spotted visiting our environment at one point or another. Here are one or two I managed to photograph yesterday after a blizzard of several inches of the white stuff fell overnight. The quality isn’t brilliant, as I had to hide in the shed and shoot through fog to get these shots, but at least we get to see who’s visiting.

goldfinches

blue tit

Great tit

robin

We’re really pleased with the log burning stove, too. Once that’s going in the evening, we hardly need the central heating at all. In fact we went to bed with the heating off when the snow was falling and woke to find snow had filled the vent outside, which we had to clear before using the heating again. The stove had kept the house warm all night! Less gas used, bill reduced, carbon fuel use reduced, all better for the envitonment just as we planned. I’m loving this lifestyle!

Here are a couple of shots taken since the snow. The garden looks beautiful, don’t you think?

garden in the snow

fields in the fog

fields behind our house in the fog

Now I’m off into the distance until next time….

Footsteps in the Snow

6 Weeks and Counting

We’re in! Our new home is really ours. We’ve been in 6 weeks now, but I couldn’t tell you how hard the first days were. Our dream move became a bit of a nightmare as solicitors, BT and our server all caused us major delays. All our stuff went into storage for five days, as the solicitor hadn’t completed on time. She had totally neglected to see our communications about the completion date. It was a shock. We stayed in a hotel. some of my tropical fish died, despite kindly new neighbours looking after them as best they could and it took a week to get heating working properly. Not good in November, December.

But, enough of reliving the gloom. The house is wonderful! I’m so happy here. No more car parks full of rubbish, no more overhearing children being shouted at for nothing, and so much space! We’ve thrown lots of old stuff out, either to charity, for recycling or given to friends. This house deserves to be clutter free, and so do we!

Grate heat

In the garden, I’ve already counted 17 species of birds. We’ve even had a heron visit briefly, spying on next door’s fish pond. Beyond the garden in the fields we’ve watched Shetland ponies grazing and crows (a whole murder of them live in the trees outside my bedroom window) land in large numbers to feed.

I’ve discovered that I have a crab apple that holds its fruit all winter. The thrush seems thrilled as it gorges. There’s a young horse-chestnut in the boundary hedge and I have a mature fig. I’ve already spent a little time weeding one of the borders, and there are spring bulbs peeping through. Fantastic!

So 6 weeks in and I’m and counting the days until I can get on that garden and start growing. Food, flowers, wildlife havens and a pond all to come.

New Wood Burning Stove

Inside, we’ve made a start on keeping to our ecological principles. We’ve installed a grate in the dining room and a wood burning stove in the lounge, thus reducing the need for central heating and burning fossil fuels. There’s free wood around in the fields and hedgerows and a good friend bought us a paper log maker for Christmas. We’re currently taking hoarded academic paper Jon brought here for sorting and turning it into free fuel. When we get a bright enough day I’ll take a photo for you of it in action.

Anyway… Have a wonderful 2012 folks around the globe. I wish you peace wherever you are and accord with your fellow-man. And don’t forget to be happy. xxx