Six on a Saturday 31.3.18

This weeks six in the Saturday has been written earlier in the week as I am now on holiday down in Dorset. So I will look forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to when I return home.

Sedum/stonecrop

The first of six is the sedum/stonecrop. The plant flowers in Autumn, then dies down. I like this point of the year when the plant starts to grow back up from the ground looking like sepervivums.

Crocus

This dainty crocus has come up after it’s companions have already been and gone. No less pretty for being on its own.

Passion flowers

Tesco is selling off different climbers at cheap price. I’ve gone for two passion flowers. I have one variety already. These two are going to be planted either side to give a solid section of fence covered in the flowers. While I like to encourage natives the bees still love the open flowers of passion flowers. I have native honey suckle and various clematis of native and non-native origins elsewhere in the garden.

One blue variety: passiflora caerulea.

One white variety: passiflora Constance Elliot.

Bird bath

I’ve added a solar panel floating fountain and some stones to the bird bath I’d bought with birthday vouchers. A little bit of a novelty purchase. The bird bath reviews had said the birds enjoyed one of these fountains in the bath, so thought I’d try it. It gives little squirts of water, rather than continuous flow, when the sun is on it. So far it’s been overcast, so don’t think it’s been at its best yet. I fancy a proper water feature, but I’m not ready to invest money into wiring outside, so this little tinkle of water will do for now.

When the sun has been out it gave a solid continuous jet.

Gardening reading

On the gardening reading front I’ve finished reading Jim Buttress-The people’s gardener. This has been on sale this March for kindle at 99p. It has been a enjoyable quick read. Jim was encouraged in a love of gardening by his dad, from there he has worked in nurseries and town parks. He then went on to train at Wisley, where he failed to graduate due to the academic side. After this he went onto work in the Royal Parks and eventually as, he’s probably best known, a RHS judge and Chelsea Flower Show gold award winner. Life at Wisley was fascinating, as was hearing about his time working for the different parks. This book won’t improve your horticultural knowledge in any major way. But a pleasant read for 99p. My only gripe was how he makes himself out to be a working class lad working his way up from the bottom. He talks about dealing with resentment because he wasn’t the right class. His father was ex navy, then an accountant, so not really a working class upbringing, more middle class. That said he still comes off as a decent bloke who has done well for himself working in a profession he loves. What more can you ask for from life?

Glory of the snow

The last entry for this weeks six I don’t remember planting. I believe it is glory of the snow. I vaguely remember buying the bulbs as they sold off cheap at the end of season last year. However I think I have then dug over the ground and displaced them leading to these forgotten beauties being randomly spread around an area of the border.

The standard blue variety a bit droopy from the rain.

And the white variety.

Over this coming week I am in Dorset, so I may leave off doing six next week or may do a travelling six depending on where we visit. Hope you all have good weekends and the weather treats your gardens kindly.

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Birthday Treats

Last Saturday was my birthday. I had a nice relaxing day. Me, Alice and Amy got out for a walk and lunch. Amy has treated me to tickets for Bill Bailey later in the year, which I’ll enjoy. I’ve seen him a few times and he’s always been amazing. Alice bought me Paddington 2, which has to be one of the best family movies of the last few years. Then got Amazon vouchers from family.

On Sunday my sister and nephews came over to wish me well. We had glorious sunshine for a walk along the seafront.

Then we went to one of Amy’s sisters for tea where I received tasty beers and sweets for my birthday. Alice had a good play in the garden with cousins. This mainly involved her pushing them away any time they came close to her ball. She had a sulk about coming in for food. Once out she likes staying out.

Monday was spent waiting in for Ikea to deliver furniture. We are starting to create Alice’s woodland room. However Ikea added extra furniture and didn’t deliver the main wardrobe we’ve ordered. So we’ve got another day waiting in to see if they get it right.

Then Tuesday my parents got us out for a birthday lunch at Mr Moos. I had a rather delicious blue cheese burger and a Belgium Waffle with toffee ice cream for pudding. Alice enjoyed her first full ice cream to herself with lots of shouts for more when she finished. Amy enjoyed her orange marmalade ice cream. An ice cream fit for Paddington. The cows are on site at Mr Moos, but sadly they were out of the barn and couldn’t see them in the field. Alice was a little disappointed, so may have to take her out for a walk around the countryside.

With my Amazon vouchers I had bought a few small things for outside. A new birdbath. I’d gone for a RSPB one. I wanted a decent sized one, which meant a plastic or resin for the amount I’m willing to spend. The reviews had said it looked better than the photos, but I’m not convinced. It still looks cheap to me, but it a decent size with a good bowl for the birds to get in.

Then I’ve bought the wildflower key. This book is recommended as one of the best guides for identifying wild flowers in the UK. With my efforts for #wildflowersunday I’ve been gradually improving my knowledge, but a better guide will help.

For my other hobby, my photography, I’ve ordered a more padded camera strap. I only had the strap the camera came with and it aches on the neck if I’m carrying it round my neck for a while.

 

I also had some good news today that I have won another prize from Oldhouseintheshires I added a blog to the linkup entering into the competition to win a garden sign and garden vouchers. Check the link out for more garden blogs. Lots of interesting reads on there. With my meadow in my garden win and this I’m feeling pretty lucky.

Six on a Saturday-24.3.18

Well it seems that Spring has arrived. On my journey to work the rabbits are back out along the wooded edges and the daffodils are coming out in greater numbers. Today is my birthday and the first day of the school holidays, so a day for relaxing. I’m continuing with the six on a Saturday garden blogs concept from the Propagator.

My first, as already mentioned, is my daffodils. I planted a number last year as Amy likes them. While I’m not massively found of them they do add a good splash of colour for Spring and I do like them as another herald of Spring arriving.

The next I think is a camellia. I’m not certain if it is a camellia or an azalea. It came with the garden and I’ve never tried looking it up to work it out. Either way I know it needs ericaceous compost. I gave it a surface layer in Autumn and gave it a liquid feed a few weeks back. This seems to have done it a world of good. A lot more flowers than last year. It’s suffered a bit with the frost, but for a few weeks I’ll get to enjoy the white blooms.

My windowsill propagator sensed Spring was here too. As shown last week my hollyhock seedlings and sweet peas are coming along well. However the morning glory seed were showing no sign of life. Then Monday one poke out, then a few more as the week went on and now were looking to have plenty on the go.

This will be my first year attempting morning glory. They came within another pack of climbers. In the UK it is grown as an annual as it is too tender for our climate. It is a climber with trumpet shaped flowers. The blue flowered varieties are the ones I’ve seen most often, but this pack has reds and oranges on. We’ll have to wait and see if I manage to keep them going to find out what colour they go.

Earlier in the week gold leaf gardening gloves were slightly reduced in the Amazon Spring sale. I’ve read about Gold Leaf gloves before. They are the only RHS approved gloves, recommended because of their durability combined with suppleness. I generally don’t wear gloves. I like the feel of soil and dislike the hindrance of not being able to feel what I’m doing properly. But I have a few plants which irritate to the touch and having planted new roses I want to try to take better care of them than the previous owners had. So, while they were on offer I thought I’d treat myself. While pricier than my previous sets I’ve ended up replacing the last few after short periods. We’ll see whether quality work out better. Having arrived they do feel as good as the reviews said. I’m sure in future I’ll give them a proper review when they’ve seen some wear and tear. The leather feels lovely in comparison to my previous rubber gauntlets I’d equipped myself with for roses.

In the last week I’ve finished the RHS botany for gardeners. This is on kindle sale this month for 99p. It was well worth the 99p. As it’s mainly text it was fine reading on kindle. Many gardening books don’t suit the kindle format, but this was good. It covered a wide range of subjects from Latin and taxonomy to cell structure and propagation.  It was an interesting read that I think I could reread in a year or two. It’s given me abetter understanding of why gardeners do jobs particular ways.

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And my final contribution of my six, my hebe cuttings. I’d started the cuttings just in water and they rooted. I had no idea whether they would. I had an inkling that they would and thought I’d experiment to see if I could cultivate another bush or two from cuttings. They seem to be doing well in the pots, but I think they might need moving to a bigger pot now. We’re going away in a weeks time, so I’d like to do it before then, so I can ensure they have a decent watering before we go.

As mentioned at the start of the blog it is feeling more Spring like and the rabbits are out and about. I’m aiming to manage a decent photo of a wild rabbit this year. I’m getting closer, but  still nothing amazing yet. Here is one from yesterday I’ll leave you with. Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. In a few weeks I think I’ll have a lot more in flower to comment on. Hope you’ve enjoyed my six.

The big sunflower project

This week in school I planted sunflowers with the children. We are growing sunflowers for The Big Sunflower Project for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy. Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy are rare forms of neuromuscular disorders that cause defects in the cell structures of muscles leading to low muscle tone. This can cause many physical problems from walking to breathing and speech. It can affect walking and other every day tasks.

For the big sunflower project we are growing the sunflowers to raise awareness of the condition. They ere chosen for their cheery look and their ability to soar to high heights. They aren’t held back.

http://centronuclear.org.uk/

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We are growing two varieties of sunflower: Russian Giants and velvet queens.

We started some off in the propagator and some in the pots.

Please check out the links to read more on the project. My class enjoyed planting their seeds. Hopefully ours will tower to make the project proud.

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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.

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Spring-Thaw

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.

Thaw

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.