Six on a Saturday 17.03.18

It’s another snowy windy day for my garden, so seems an odd time to start taking part in six on a Saturday. I’ve been reading many of the blogs that take part in six on a Saturday for a while, but never taken part. I figure it’s time I gave it a go.

The garden hasn’t thawed at all over the day. At dinner time the hanging basket was still showing icicles. I’ve kept up my bird feeding efforts and have been rewarded with lots of visitors. So far today I’ve seen blue tits, great tits, blackbirds, wood pigeons, sparrows, starlings, a robin and a few wrens. The wind is preventing me filling up the seed feeders, so I’ve been keeping supplies of suet and fat ball feeders going.

My first of six comes from my windowsill propagators. My sweet peas are taking off well. As there on the windowsill they’ve been growing with a slant towards the light, so I’m trying to turn them around every few days to account for this.

Again from the windowsill comes hollyhock seedlings (Alcea Rosea). I’m trying to establish more from seed this year rather than the garden centre to save money and give me plants to use for home and school. The variety I’m growing came from a mixed pack my mum bought me reduced last year. This particular variety is “Summer Carnival”. A double flowered variety with ruffled flowers. I grow hollyhocks for the bees last year. With the double flowers I imagine these won’t have as much benefit for the bees, but as I have the seed I will give them a go.

My alpines and succulents I had growing in plastic trays last year. I’ve bought a few new varieties and transferred them to ceramic pots as I didn’t like the plastic much. I’ve improved the drainage with layers of grit and sand, so they don’t end up sitting in water. The aeonium is a bit sorry for itself after snow and frost, so if it doesn’t recover I’ll remove that from the middle.

The saxifrage is a variety called “Peter Pan” that grows into a mossy cushion of foliage with red flowers in Spring.

Then in one of the other pots, another new addition to my garden, sedum, spathulifolium blanco. Another low flowering plant, giving bright yellow flowers. Both the sedum and saxifrage should spread over their pots and then I should be able to propagate more from this small beginnings. Much like the sempervivums I started off last year I believe these are all fairly easy to propagate. From three sempervivums last year I now have double that from separating off the offsets.

I have one rather pitiful group of primula. They were a birthday present last year from one of Amy’s sisters. However on their own they just look sad. I may have to add some more next year, though I think I’ll go with some of the more natural white varieties.

Back on the patio the Black Parrot tulips are taking off well now. These are a feathered variety growing up through Ophiopogon, black mondo at the base of an angustfolio prunus. I never tried tulips in my previous garden as the combination of thick clay and a limited border made me reluctant to use the space on them. But Amy is quite fond of them I think, so I have a few varieties coming through this year.

The snow has started heavily again outside, so no more garden time today. With the bitterly cold wind blowing at strength, even wrapped up, I don’t fancy getting Alice out. So today she has enjoyed some inside time with a new paint set.

She quickly decided hands were a good tool to use for painting.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my first six on a Saturday. Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds. My blackbirds have appreciated a bag of apples I left out for them. They keep returning for a nibble and they are large enough not to be buried in the snow. I hope you all have good weekends and the weather treats you as kindly as it can. Any other six on a Saturday bloggers please feel free to comment linking to yours. I read a lot already, but happy to discover more.

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Meadow in my garden-prize

Last month I won a twitter competition from meadow in my garden. Meadow in my garden are a family company with a passion for wild garden. Their main product range is a variety of different seed mixes to help provide wild flowers to benefit many of your garden visitors. From the pollinators through to the birds. They offer seeds for all situations, dry soil, rockery, tree foot, shade, shorter mixes. I rather fancy the planter and shorter mixes to use for a few pots in my front garden and the planters at school.

In addition to the seeds meadow in my garden also provide nest boxes, bird tables and some lovely looking garden sculptures. Through twitter I was fortunate to win a conservation nest box.

With the weather it has taken a few weeks to get it put up. The nest box has the option of being converted to an open nestbox or widening the hole for larger birds such as great tits and sparrows. The open nest box will suit robins and wagtails. I have an open nest box already and as I haven’t seen much of the robin recently I’ve left it with the smaller hole and closed front.

I’ve previously written about hanging nest boxes. It’s been placed in a sheltered position, with cover nearby and spots for newly hatched birds to get out onto. But there is still a clear flight path to the entrance. At the moment this patch of fence is quite bare, but I have a climbing rose freshly planted that will gradually rise up to give more cover on this patch of fence.

The conservation nest box matches nicely with one of the butterfly houses I already had up on this stretch of fence. It’s a good quality nest box, feels like a nice solid build. Advice on placing nest boxes advices to place them away from food sources. As I provide a lot of feeders this may mean the amount of activity in my garden may put off nesting, but I live in hope. The bluetits have been in and out of the garden lots enjoying the Haith’s suet pack I put out a few week back ready for the cold weather. The coconut feeder has been very popular having been scraped clean.

Thank you again to meadow in my garden for a wonderful prize give away.

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Wildflower Hour-Lesser Celandine

This weeks wildflower contribution was lesser celandine (rannunculus ficaria). I found a patch growing in the shaded passageway behinf my garden, similar in nature to its natural habitat. This is a pretty common perenial growing in open woodland and along hedgerows. It is an early food source for bees flowering from March to May. while it grows in shaded spots it requires sun for the flowers to open.

As a part of the rannunculus genus this places it as a relative to varieties of buttercups, spearwort and crowfoot. It is quite low, forming clumps to a height of 25cm. The heart shaped leaves and small yellow flowers make it quite a pleasant sight at this poiny of the year when little is in bloom.

Poisonous if eaten raw it can cause livestock issues. It is native to Europe, but banned in some US states due to its toxic nature.

The poet William Wordsworth loved them enough to write three poems about them. When he died it was proposed a lesser celandine should be carved on his gravestone. However a greater celandine was carved by mistake.

Edward Thomas also used the lesser celandine as the subject of this poem.

Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.

She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me Februarys before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.

While a common wildflower I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more on the subject.

School Garden Update

Today the sun was shining. We had one class out of the three in F2 out. So I took this perfect opportunity to get children into the garden.

The garden area of my outdoor provision is split into essentially three allotment plots. The end plot I designated for a pear tree.  It has a dwarf apple tree, then a pear tree that will grow to a larger spread. So this plot I’m just giving the tree space to grow and under planting with a few flowers to bring in the pollinators. Apart from the potential for a fruit crop I just wanted a few trees that would have blossom for the children to build their seasonal knowledge. We have an apple tree planted outside of the garden area in addition to the pear. In the corner the mini pond has seen a few birds using for drinks. The children helped dig in a plastic planter within a tyre. We then filled around the edge with gravel and soil and heaped wood around the edge to create ramps. I doubt it will attract the frogs the children would like for a while, but the log pile and water will provide many insects a home.

Within the plot at the other end the children helped mix a rich soil mix using the leaf mulch from last year with compost to fill three of the tyres. Into these we planted two Glen Moy Raspberry bushes. I’ll need to add in supports for them to grow along, but I’ve got a lot of suitable material for making a frame in the shed, so should be possible. The raspberries are meant to be ready for June or July. One of the issues with growing for a school garden is many of the veg or fruit we might harvest would be during the school holiday or the children don’t see the culmination of their work as they have moved up a year. That said I have planted some red champagne rhubarb which will need at least a year to settle in, so my current children won’t see any results from this any time soon, but if it establishes it will keep going and going.

The middle plot the children planted up with daffodils in Autumn. I’m not a massive fan of daffodils, but wanted something to fill the space after I cleared the head height thistles.

As the garden won’t get as much of a water over Summer I’ve chosen drought tolerant plants. The rosemary is developing into a good thicket.

Then we have a number of mini hebes. I’ve gone with a number of evergreen options along the back portion of the plot to keep some greenery through the year. Between lavender, conifers, hebes and rosemary we’ve got a mix of foliage colour and leaves.

Before I started there was a willow tunnel. However much of this had been damaged by children to a point where there was one solid arch. I took cuttings last year that have been sat in the water butt developing roots. The children helped plant them in. This will hopefully gradually extend the arch back to a tunnel. I’ll have to see if they get a chance to root or whether the temptation to pull them is too much for the children.

Two visitors to the outdoor classroom.

I’ve registered for the RHS school gardening awards and hopefully will work through some of the levels to gain a few rewards. Even if I only complete the first few I think the children will enjoy seeing a certificate for their work. The garden may not look like very much, but I’ve tried to do as many jobs as possible with the children. This slows progress down. But they enjoy it immensely and are learning a mass amount of scientific knowledge. They are developing better grasps on plant biology and as the year goes on the seasons. Then as the garden develops we are seeing more wildlife visitors. From where I started last year with head high thistles across all three plots I feel immense progress has been made.

Edward Thomas-Spring thaw

Today have been the birthday of Edward Thomas. With the state of the UK weather it seems appropriate to remember him through one of his poems.



Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed

The speculating rooks at their nests cawed

And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,

What we below could not see, Winter pass.


Kindle gardening deals

This month sees many deals for gardening books on kindle. Kindle obviously thinks it’s time to get back out in the garden. While some are photo heavy that I don’t think will work on kindle. But some good pickings to be had.

Garden design a book of ideas

This gets quite favourable reviews, though I think it may be photo heavy so may be better in a hard format.

RHS small garden handbook

This one has come up on the sales before. It has some good ideas for small spaces. Presentation is good. A quick read to get ideas for a small garden or a small space within the garden.

RHS big ideas small spaces

This covers some common ground with the small garden handbook and goes onto give projects for your garden. These vary in terms of skill and equipment required.

RHS gardening for mindfulness

I bought this one a while back and only just got round to reading it. It’s quite a nice introduction to concepts of mindfulness, but it does get a bit repetitive. I’m not a massive fan of the trend for secular mindfulness books. Removed from the Buddhist eightfold path it loses much of its power to help people. However if you want a quick cheap read about relaxing in your garden it is an alright read. Wouldn’t recommend full price.

RHS the little book of bonsai

I kept a bonsai in my classroom until Alice was born. It had been managing well, but during my paternity it was killed off with neglect. It sacrificed its life for Alice, which I feel a little guilt over. I may have to purchase this book and get another on the go.

James Wong’s homegrown revolution

I’m not massively keen on James Wong’s presenting style when he comes on TV, but he does come off as knowledgeable. We are growing more veg at school. I only have limited experience of veg growing so may get this one to support.
The Golden Age of the Garden: A Miscellany

I quite like a miscellany I can dip in and out of, but might be nicer as a hard copy. Cheap enough though to take a chance on.
RHS Practical Latin for Gardeners: More than 1,500 Essential Plant Names and the Secrets They Contain

RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored

These two could be really interesting or dry as old bones. The Latin names give you clues as to where a plant will be happiest, what foliage it may have and much more. It could be useful information.
RHS Miniature Garden Grower: Terrariums & Other Tiny Gardens to Grow Indoors & Out

Terrariums seem to be quite trendy at the moment. Amy likes plants for the windowsill in the kitchen, but I dislike the majority of common houseplants so might be useful to have some more ideas.
Weeds and What They Tell Us

I mainly garden for wildlife, so the term weeds gets criticism. Weeds are wildflowers in an unwanted space. That said weeds aren’t a massive issue in my garden as it’s a relatively small space. I just fight a battle with herb robert, trying to prevent it smothering other plants.
The Garden in the Clouds: From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise

Looks to be an interesting memoir of developing a garden in a difficult situation.
A Wood of One’s Own

Another memoir with many positive reviews.
RHS How Do Worms Work?: A Gardener’s Collection of Curious Questions and Astonishing Answers

A collection of questions answered. I saw this one on a lot of peoples Christmas lists and seem to remember many other bloggers enjoying.
RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored

I’ve purchased this one. One of my teachers at school was a keen botanist. While at the time I didn’t appreciate her teaching us about propagation it has come in use as a gardener. Look forward to reading.
RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower: The complete guide to planting, picking and preserving chillies

Chilli growing is very popular currently, though probably not used in our cooking enough currently with cooking for Alice.
Tomatoes: A Gardener’s Guide

Title tells you all.
How to Grow: A guide for gardeners who can’t garden yet

A basic introduction.
Grow Your Own Drugs: A Year With James Wong

A guide to providing herbal remedies through the year.
The Balcony Gardener: Creative ideas for small spaces

Not one for me with no balconies or window boxes. Our outside walls are about to be rendered afresh so will be giving this one a miss.
Creative Vegetable Gardening

Positively reviewed veg guide.
The Sceptical Gardener: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Good Gardening

Not as cheap as the others, but coming from well respected writer. Though being the Torygraph puts me off.
Greenhouse Gardening: Step-by-Step to Growing Success (Crowood Gardening Guides)

Might be of interest to some of you. However I am lacking a greenhouse.
The People’s Gardener

A memoir from a RHS judge.
Teeny Tiny Gardening: 35 step-by-step projects and inspirational ideas for gardening in tiny spaces

Another guide for small projects.
Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation Across Two Centuries

Some positive reviews for this one.
The Gardens That Mended a Marriage

Looks to be a short read of love and gardening.
Companion Plants and How to Use Them

Not much info on this one. Looks to be short, but is cheap currently.
Grow Your Own Vegetables in Pots: 35 ideas for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in containers

Another guide for veg growing.

If any of you already own any of these please comment below adding your thoughts.

Beast from the East

Well the wind and snow hit this week. Alice’s slide has been blown about, but no major damage done so far. My pots are all tucked into the walls and a lot are heavy with grit, so none over yet.

I had a day working from home to avoid travelling in low visibility.

I’ve kept up my bird feeding efforts. I’ve seen a lot grateful birds back and forth to the feeders, though today seems to be too windy for many. Yesterday the seed feeder was emptied by dinner. Today the bird seed feeders are getting blown around too much, so it is all over the ground. To make up for this I’ve put out more fatballs, suet pellets and flutter butter jar feeders.

The weather has even brought in a fieldfare, which I don’t normally get. Times must be hard for birds.

Alice briefly went out, looked unimpressed and turned around to go back in saying, “bye bye snow”. Even double layered snow suits won’t keep her out with the cold. But she got the experience.

Hopefully Spring might get back on track soon and the shoots will recover.

Folklore Thursday

Today’s folklore Thursday was asking about garden folklore, so here is a random snippet.

Lavender in the border, apparently, keeps tigers and lions away. Well I have plenty and no lion or tiger problems in my garden so far. .