Six on Saturday: 15.2.20-dahlia love begins

The garden survived last weekends storm relatively unscathed. I’ve reattached the back gate with heavier duty hinges as it got broken in the wind last weekend. But apart from that, the garden has held up pretty well. We’ll see whether it holds up to the rain this weekend. Despite the weather, I’ve still managed a few jobs this week and still a good couple of flowers still coming out to play.
1. Primula Veris-cowslips

I started with one little pot of cowslips. I’ve gradually been dividing them under the dogwood. Most of the year the dogwood would overshadow this area but the cowslips flower early enough to shine before the dogwood takes over. They provide an early source of nectar for early bees and beetles and provide the garden with a bit of colour early on in the year.

2. Charity find

This week’s charity find was this little painted pot for the price of 20p. I’ve put a cheap pot of daffodils in it for now. Another little burst of colour amongst the foliage plants. The pots have survived through the storms. The log store acts as a bit of a buffer for a few of the pots.

3. Bin tidy

I finally got round to sorting the bin area. I dug out the border, put sand down and these plastic grids that the bins can sit on. Then the area was covered with gravel. We thought it would look neater while still giving drainage rather than the paving we’d originally considered. I’d still like to build a covered bin tidy but it all looks neater than the strip of mud that was there before. The fatsia was only put at the end temporarily but it seems to like the spot so it may stay.

4. Iris reticulata- Katherine Hodgkin

The second of the Iris reticulata varieties to flower and it is a stunner. It rather foolishly decided to open during last week’s storms but has survived the winds. The creamy bloom with the blue veins is a delightful combination. I planted these in one of the tall hosta pots with the idea that they’d be up and flowering and then the hosta would come up later in the year. So far so good.

5. Lupins

I got another batch of seeds sown last week as Alice was pestering to sow something. She’d chosen a mixed bag of lupin seeds a while back. She likes the red ones on the pack. Hopefully, we’ll get some red ones or she might be a bit disappointed. Lots have germinated within a few days so it seems hopeful. I noticed last year at open gardens that almost every garden that was selling plants had lupins so I figure they must be fairly straightforward to raise from seed. I’ll grow them up in recycled plastic pots to protect them from the slugs and snails and then use them to gap-fill later in the year.

6. Plug plants

I picked up a few small plugs to grow on. I got a few of these dahlieta options. I got one last year and it flowered for months across summer and into autumn. They grow small and compact and within regular deadheading and feeding, they can keep flowering. I’ll need to grow these on and pot them on. They’ll need keeping inside initially so I may regret getting them this early but it’d be nice to have an early show of dahlia flowers.

I also got a few Nepeta hederacea plugs. This forms a good trail of variegated foliage. It’s useful for trailing out of pots or hanging baskets. Then I also got a white trailing fuschia that I will probably use in the front garden if it survives potting on.

The garden is currently very calm but we have storm Dennis on the way so I want to check the garden is all secured. I have a handful of jobs to work through over the next week. I’ve got the last few stepping stones I needed for the front garden. I’m going to add some drainage holes to the front while I’m at it. As it’s thick compressed clay having had weed matting and gravel on it for a decade the drainage isn’t great and don’t want it to waterlogged. I’ve also managed to pick up some cheap peat-free soil improver to use to top-dress it. This will gradually get taken into the soil improving the structure which will help drainage. It will also add a few extra nutrients for the plants. I’d started work on a new seat in the back garden and I’ve still got the roses to prune so hopefully get a few dry days after the storm. Hope you all survive the storms and enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 8.2.20-Exciting News

It’s been a week of ups and downs. One day mild, the next freezing. But I’ve managed a few jobs in the garden. Gradually getting things tidy ready for growth starting afresh in spring. A little bit of gentle weeding was required in the front garden and I’ve had time to read a few garden books and magazines while I plan ahead for next year.

1. Seaweed feed

My dad bought lots of feed at the end of last year and passed some onto me. So as the plants are showing signs of growth already I’ve been around and given them a sprinkle of the seaweed food. The box covered the plants in the front garden and a good amount of the key plants in the back garden. I’ll hold onto the liquid feed until the weather has warmed a bit further to give the plants another boost.

2. Foxglove seedlings

I planted a number of different foxglove seeds back in Autumn, including a few of the mountain varieties where the flowers point up. They germinated well and then have sat in their seed trays not putting on any growth, so I’ve moved them into individual pots now to see if that will help them as the daylight increases and the weather gets warmer over the next few months.

3. Mini-Daffodils

I planted a few mini-daffs in the front garden. These are quite a bit ahead of the back gardens. I’m not a massive fan of daffodils but Amy likes them, so I always keep a few on the go. They don’t provide pollen for many insects but it’s a bit of cheer to pass as we come back to the house.

4. Iris Reticulata-Harmony

The first of the iris are opening up. The first randomly came up in a fuschia pot. I think Alice may have poked it in.

I’m now starting the plant shuffle to move the spring bulb pots in amongst the winter foliage pots so they are visible from the house to enjoy.

5. Charity shop finds

Having added the metal jug amongst the pots last week, this week I found a stoneware jug to add amongst the clutter. Infront is a crab shell found on the beach and I’ve wrapped some of the old fishing rope around the pots.

6. RHS-The principles of horticulture Level 2

Now for some exciting news this week I have enrolled for one of the RHS long-distance learning courses. I am currently looking at a career change and I think this could be a good route to go. Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more passionate about my garden and growing by various methods. This should improve my knowledge and who knows where else it will take me. I’m excited, while a little scared having looked at past papers, to get started. I’ve also enjoyed the Plant-Based Podcast this week which was on making the career change to horticulture. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

We have the builders returning to fit the outside light. This will just about mark the end of the building work that has dragged on for a year. I’m excited to have it completed as I can then look at setting up the patio properly. Just in time for the spring bulbs coming out.

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Folklore Thursday: stone soup

This week’s Folklore Thursday theme is Traditional Tales to celebrate storytelling week. Alice’s mud kitchen has reminded me of the story stone soup. I was first introduced to the story through the wonderful Jim Henson ‘the storyteller’ series. In this version, John Hurt played the storyteller reduced to a beggar. He tricks the castle cook making stone soup and ends up working for the king as a storyteller until one day he lacks for a story. The story originates from Europe and has been retold in many different ways.

The basic story goes that a group of travelers come to a village in the dead of winter. The villagers are fearful of protecting their own food supplies. They are unwilling to share their food with the travelers. The travellers take out an empty cooking pot. From their cart, they bring out a chest. The leader opens the chest and brings out an object wrapped in cloth. From the cloth, the leader brings out a stone and places it in the cooking pot. They collect some water from a stream and add it to the cooking pot. One of the villagers comes to investigate and asks what they are making. “It’s stone soup, but it could do with some seasoning.” The villager thinks they may have some. Before long the soup has vegetables and meat added by the different villagers. In the end, they all enjoy their wonderful stone soup.

In other versions, the stone is replaced with an axe head, buttons, and even nails. The strangers are sometimes soldiers, sometimes a monk and in some pilgrims. William Yeats used it as the basis of a splay ‘The pot of broth’. Shel Silverstein made a song out of it that was later rerecorded by Dr. Hook.

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Last photo

Having seen this on I had an urge to take part.

Brian (aka Bushboy) is running a monthly challenge where he asks you to post the last photo on your SD card.

The rules are simple:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone for the 31st January.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

Nature Book Club: Review-A nest is noisy

This week for Nature Book Club I’m returning to look at children’s books. A nest is noisy is a beautifully illustrated book written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. They have worked on a number of books together such as an egg is quiet, a seed is sleepy and a beetle is shy. The book covers many animals that live in nests. Nests aren’t just for birds. Through this book, children can learn about the nests of birds, orangutans, tree frogs, prairie dogs and more.

Each page gives a statement such as a nest is welcoming, then many of the pages have additional information to read if you wish. Children do enjoy non-fiction of this nature. They like facts and knowing details. It’s a book which will lead to more questions encouraging an enquiring mind.

The book is great for developing children’s vocabulary introducing them to technical language in an approachable way. The children learn the names of a number of animals including some more unusual ones.

I’d recommend this book for parents or teachers as a useful tool for widening children’s ideas of how animals live. My favourite book this pair have made together is probably A beetle is shy, but this one probably has a more wide-reaching appeal.

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Six on Saturday: 1.2.20

It’s definitely starting to feel like spring is on the way. I’ve got a number of crocus and daffodils ready to open. Buds are starting to form and seeing a shift in the hours of daylight. The weather across the country has been wet but it hasn’t been too bad around me. I’ve still made it out to do a few jobs.

1. Hardy Geranium-Pratense

The cineraria I sowed a few weeks ago is shooting up in the new peat-free compost I’m trialling so I thought I’d see what else I can start. I checked my seed draw to see what else I can get going on at this time of year. I found this mixed pack of geranium pratenese. In the words of Margery Fish, “when in doubt plant a geranium.” There were about 10 seeds. They make for good space fillers suitable for most conditions with flowers the insects can enjoy.

2. Lamprocapnos Spectabilis Alba-Bleeding heart

I picked this up from Wilcos a few weeks back. At £2 each these will work out better than buying a pot of the plant formally known as dicentra. I bought one last year intending to put it in the front garden but the builders went behind schedule so it went in the back garden. I’ve largely gone with white flowers in the front so these should fit well and I think will work amongst the ferns and hostas. The plant normally dies back down as the summer goes on so it’s worth planting things around it that will follow on from it.

Here is how the one plant I have looked in summer.

3. Korean Dwarf lilac

I’d written last week about digging out the dwarf lilac as it’s fighting for space with the plants either side. I’ve dug it out and cut it down to mulch the area. It won’t rot down any time soon but should help suppress the weeds while the two shrubs either side claim the space. I might put in some temporary annuals so it doesn’t look too bare.

4. Dragonfly

This dragonfly ornament has been sat in an area of foliage where it wasn’t really visible. So, I’ve relocated it to sit on the driftwood where it can enjoy a bit of daylight on the patio.

5. Charity finds

Carrying on from the beach finds over the last few weeks I got this jug to sit out in the garden. I’m unsure whether to just use it for Alice’s mud kitchen or drill drainage to use it to plant in.

6. Snowdrops

While I’ve been out and about in my local area I’ve been admiring the snowdrops growing wild along the hedgerows and in the woodland. Alice was smitten by them a few weeks back so I’ve got a few of the basic single varieties to add in the front garden. I’ve only got a few as I’ve a suspicion that they may rot in the clay soil. I’ve been adding soil on the top to improve the condition of the soil but I think this will be an ongoing process. I’ve got leaf mulch on the go that should be ready by next autumn.

I haven’t taken photos of the new pots of snowdrops so here are some from the drifts at Wassand Hall down the road from me.

So the main job for this weekend is putting the snowdrops in the ground. The roses still haven’t been pruned. But apart from that, the garden isn’t looking too bad for the start of one of the bleakest months. The evergreen plants I choose are keeping colour going and a good few bulbs looking set to add some more colour. Hope you all have good weekends whatever you are doing.

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Folklore Thursday-Wren king of the birds

During the Big Garden Birdwatch, the wren was pretty much in the garden constantly reminding me of a folklore story. Once upon a time, the birds decided they would find out once and for all which of them was the king of the birds. They settled on a competition, the bird who could fly the highest would be named king of the birds. The birds all took flight, flying higher and higher. The small birds were the first to drop out and it wasn’t long until just the birds of prey were left. Finally, just the eagle was left. With no flight left in it, it started to descend. As it did a wren hidden in its feathers flew up higher declaring itself king of the birds.

The other birds were outraged with the wrens trickery and refused to accept the result. The wren laughed at them. It could beat them at any challenge. The eagle challenged it to swoop the lowest. The eagle dived and swept along the ground. The wren dived and saw a burrow it entered winning the contest. However, the birds of prey wouldn’t let it out annoyed at its deceit. It stayed hidden until one day while the owl was distracted it snuck out. From that day on the wren has stayed hidden low down in the bushes to avoid the angry birds of prey trying to take its title of king of the birds.

The wren used to be hunted on the feast day of St Stephen on the 26th December The wren would be killed and paraded around the village on a poll by strawboys. The wrenboys dress in suits of straw and masks and colourful clothes. Several folklore songs were sung as they paraded.

“The wren the wren the king of all birds

St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze

Her clothes were all torn- her shoes were all worn

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

Give us a penny to bury the “wran”

If you haven’t a penny a halfpenny will do

If you haven’t a halfpenny/ God bless you!”

For a tiny little bird, it has played a large part in the folklore of the UK. For a tiny bird it has one of the loudest songs. Well worth spending time watching and enjoying.

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