National Tree Week

This week is National Tree Week! Now, when I hear about these National weeks I always wonder who came up with these and who decided it should be now. With social media, it seems every day is world something day or National save the something day. But National Tree Week is quite an established week. It was set up by the UK tree council in 1975 in response to Dutch Elm disease. The original press release is worth a read. Events included then prime minister Harold Wilson planted a tree and Chequers and Margaret Thatcher later in the week planting one as leader for the opposition. While The UK tree council sounds like it should be a group of ents from the Middle Earth of Tolkein the aims of the week are worth sharing.

The week aims to do something positive to help your local treescape. The main aim is to get new trees planted. As a lover of wildlife and gardening and the two combined planting trees in your garden is a great thing to do.

Trees for wildlife

Trees make up vital parts of many healthy Tolkien. They can offer shelter, food, perches and cover. I only have a few small trees within my garden, but they provide a safe spot for the birds to hide within to then move out into the garden to look for food. They are also acting as a carbon store helping tackle climate change.

Last Winter the many apple trees in gardens surrounding mine brought in the fieldfares.

Garden design

Pretty much any book you read on garden design will at some point suggest you need to have some form of tree to provide interest at different heights. They can draw the eye in different directions and can be used to make smaller areas look bigger used well. They can be used to cover unwanted views or stop other people seeing in. Some sources will suggest that they will block out noise, but unless you have a very large garden and are creating a very wide shelter belt this is unlikely to have a massive effect.

Seasonal interest

Through the year the colours of the leaves and shapes offer different interest. The lush green of Summer being replaced by the fiery colours of Autumn. Then even in winter they still keep a structure to the garden.

Even now the leaves have fallen the tree still serves a purpose to hang the bird feeders on and a few decorations of local glass buoys.


Within my local area flooding has been an issue over the last decade and looks like it will potentially increase. Trees have been shown to reduce flooding. When it rains some water will stay on the leaves and evaporate off and not reach the ground. Then some of what does reach the ground will be absorbed into the tree roots. They also slow the rate of water reaching the ground and flowing into drains or rivers. Tree roots also help to act as a net keeping soil in place preventing soil washing away and causing problems. While a single garden tree won’t have a massive impact if every garden has one or two trees this adds up.

Planting a tree

Now is a good time to buy and plant a tree. You can pick up much cheaper as bare root trees. It is a good time to get planting as the tree has a chance to get rooted and well watered in over the wetter months before we face another potential drought next Summer. Don’t forget if you plant a tree most will need watering regularly for the first few years during dry periods.

The RHS offers these as there top five small trees.

And more advice can be found here.

The RSPB also offers advice here.

Hope you feel inspiration to take a look at your exisitng trees or even add a new one. Enjoy this National Tree Week and get out and admire the wonders that are trees. Maybe even induldge in a bit of tree hugging.

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Building a bug hotel

Now seems to be the time to get out with kids and build a bug hotel. I’ve heard Skinny Jean Gardener talking about them on the podcast and then had the Wildlife Trusts guide pop up on social media. I built one when I first moved into my house. But, I don’t think I’ve talked about it on the blog before.

My bug hotel was made with bricks and decking squares. These cost 2 for £5. You can decide how tall you want to build, but 4 to 6 layers seems a good height. The bricks were free from facebook market place and the tiles I already had. So it probably cost less than most commercially bought bug houses for something much bigger that makes a not unpleasant feature in the garden.

Each layer is filled with different materials for wildlife to make homes in. Straw, rubble, sticks, bamboo canes were all stuffed into fill the layers. Upturned pots fill spaces. This variety provides potential homes and hibernation spots for a variety of life. Alice likes to pull bits out though and rearrange, so it often needs restocking as fir cones disappear to other parts of the garden.

I had some spare tiles I placed on the top for a bit of waterproofing. They do crack in the cold from time to time but as they weren’t being used for anything else I don’t mind. Living roofs are popular options for the top of bug hotels as well.

I went for a bird bath on the top. I find this smaller bath get used by the sparrows while the seagulls dominate the bigger one in Summer. It’s in need of a clean out. Important to clean baths to prevent the spread of bird disease.

The bug hotel has a few extensions. A commercially bought frogilo. Then a cracked pot half buried provides some shade for frogs.

At work, there is lots of building work going on meaning I should get a steady supply of pallets. I have claimed on for the base of a bug hotel in my school garden. I started filling it with straw we had left from our farm role play and pushing bricks around the edges. Hopefully, we can build it up to a reasonable height and then maybe create a green roof on the top.

A bug hotel is a nice project for the garden and ideal for working on with kids. It can be as quick as half an hour or be an ongoing project like my school one. But by making it with the kids they are getting outside and talking more about what might make homes inside. Great for science and their imaginations as they decide on furniture for the insects.  We want children who care for their environment and this a great way to build that love of nature.

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Further reading

RSPB-Home for nature bug hotel

Woodland trust guide

Wildlife Trust guide

Six on a Saturday: 24.11.18

Well, the weather has certainly taken a turn for the worse this week. I have few leaves left on the trees. I now need to start keeping an eye on the pots blowing over each night. We do have a date for the work starting on the house having the render redone. After that, the patio is going to be repaved. So next weekend I will be clearing everything off the patio. So you may start seeing photos with random pots placed in the border.

1. Bird feeder poles

My bird feeder was looking a bit tatty and these poles were on offer. I’ve been concerned about the birds coming in at the same time as next doors cat. The previous stand the cat could get up. These have a bit more height, which I’m finding is quite nice as I can see the birds on the feeder from the house better.

I have catcher trays under the feeders to cut down the mess on the ground and it allows a few different birds to hang onto the feeder that couldn’t otherwise.

As soon as I came in the starlings swarmed over the feeder.

A bit blurry as it didn’t stay when it saw me taking photos, but nice to see the goldfinches in.

The little robin from last week is still coming in to keep a close eye on me at work.

The ground feeder ends up a bit of a mess but brings in the blackbirds.

2. Hedgehog house

I have two wire dome hedgehog houses, but on one some of the wire had come unravelled. A while back a bird got stuck on it. I’ve since been dubious of that type and been keeping my eye out for a wooden one. This one is only small.  I would like a bigger one with a feeding chamber, so keeping my eye out still. I’ve previously made a home made one but this has been broken.

3. Unknown evergreen shrub

I don’t know what this shrub is. It doesn’t offer much excitement generally. It has small, dark, evergreen leaves. The yellow rose grows straight up through it. They are currently towering over the bush. It adds a bit of structure though and acts as a barrier to stop Alice falling off the raised patio.

However, I noticed last Sunday we have a few small delicate white flowers blooming.

4. Conifers

These three conifers came with the garden. They are about a metre high. They’ve been planted too closely together. If I take two out and leave one I’ll be left with dead growth where there squashed together. They aren’t really adding much to the border. They don’t fit with any of the rest of the planting. Instinct is to take them out next year. What do you all think? Stay or go?

5. Borage

The borage is flowering again. Great news for the remaining bees.

6. Windfalls

I’ve had a few apples fall from the tree that I left on the ground. The blackbirds love them and can see something has been enjoying them. If you have fruit trees it is good to leave a few for wildlife. Brings in the birds who will then remove other unwanted pests from your garden.

After saying my bulb planting was done I picked up some cheap mini iris. So got these to get in. Going for a few in pots and a few in the border. I’ve got my little helper to get out with me. She’s been keen to help clear leaves. I’m not sure she’ll enjoy the colder weather though.  Enjoy your weekend!

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Six on Saturday: 17.11.18

Last weekend saw me fill two pots. I was planning to wait until the patio had been repaved, but as we’re not sure when this will happen I’ve added two new pots. Lots of wildlife is still visiting the garden. The behind our garden is swarmed with the remaining bees and wasps. I’m finding I’m reading a lot of gardening material currently. As the season shifts to mundane jobs of weeding, pruning and clearing it seems more fun to plan for next year.

1. Azalea japonica-Agadir

Amy has commented before on an azalea at her dads that she likes. I have another rhododendron in a pot that has become too leggy. This is going to be removed to school after it flowers next. The rhododendron has large leaves that suffer from the sea winds we get and last winter did it no favours. I’m hopeful the smaller leaves and more compact shape of this azalea will cope better with my gardens conditions.

2. Ceanothus-blue

I picked up a cheap ceanothus. These give lots of small blue flowers in late Spring potentially filling a gap in my seasonal interest. As with the azalea, this isn’t the ideal time to buy as I now need to keep it sheltered, but it was reduced. I’ve put it in a pot, for now, to give the roots some protection beyond its plastic pot, but long term it will be going in the border.

3. Hellebore

For some winter interest, I’ve added in two hellebores behind the bench area. The area is partially shaded for much of the day. I’ve tried hellebores before and liked the flowers, but I put them in too sunny a pot where they fried as it went into Spring. Then got eaten to pieces by slugs. The two I’ve gone for are angels glow, which flowers with dirty white-pink flowers. Then Christmas Carol, which has pure white flowers with a yellow centre. The leathery foliage isn’t the most attractive in my foliage corner, but the flowers can provide a good source of pollen for early Spring insects.

4. Garden gate

This is the gate from the front garden. It has been kicking around the back garden since I moved in. I feel I should make a feature of it somewhere in the garden or at any rate grow a climber through it. Any ideas anyone?

5. Garden robin

The birds have been visiting a lot recently, but the robins are one of the few that come in while I’m working. This one is practising its Christmas card pose.

6. Shelfie

I have tidied the downstairs bookshelf and sent a number of books to the charity shop. I have moved down a number of garden and wildlife reference books that I refer to pretty regularly. I often have breakfast before the rest of the house is up, so like browsing garden books to make future plans. I thought it would be better to have more of them together where I tend to read them over a cuppa. Just finished Christopher Lloyd’s exotic planting for adventurous gardeners and exotic gardening by Ian Cooke. I’ve moved onto new small garden after a twitter recommendation. So far lots of good design advice. I’m up to a point with the garden where I’m keeping plants alive successfully, propagating and filling the garden. But I need to look more at how it all ties together and this book has helped me find a few ways forward.

This weeks six featured a lot of potential interest in future months, so hopefully, the three plants featured this week will provide future posts in the coming months. Surprisingly the fuschias are still providing bright burst in the garden, the roses have more buds to open and the hebe is still providing colour. But the overall feel in the garden is still a bit drab in comparison to Summer. Better to return to my book and dream of warmer, more colourful times.

Enjoy your weekends.

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Houseplant hour-flowering houseplants

Last week I listened back to episode 46 of on the ledge podcast episode 46 of on the ledge podcast with Wisley curator Mathew Pottage. I was hoping for a bit of inspiration on my plans for exotics on the patio.  During the episode, they discussed the idea of why foliage houseplants are more popular than flowering houseplants.

I can think of quite a lot of reasons. Foliage has a longer period of interest than flowers. The Instagram houseplant trend tends to favour photos of leaves and variegation. Many flowering houseplants take a lot of care with long periods in between flowering. However, it did get me thinking. I pretty much only grow kalanchoe for flowers indoors. A number of the plants I grow do flower. A couple of my cacti have quite nice flowers actually, but I don’t grow them for the flowers. The kalanchoe I buy is the standard supermarket varieties. I don’t actually like them very much, but Amy does, so I buy one and they last on average about 4 months before I replace them. The spot Amy likes for them is a kitchen windowsill where they gradually become scruffy from leaf burn. Essentially we buy them as a longer lasting form of cut flowers. Before any one comments I am aware there are lovely forms of kalanchoe, but I’m not keen on the standard supermarket varieties. They look like plastic plants to me. I’ve never bothered with orchids or bromeliads or any of the other. I have done quite well with cut flowers from my garden this year. Ox-eye daisies, cosmos and sweet peas have filled many vases over the Summer.

So in an effort to branch out, I have bought one of the ever-present Christmas amaryllis kits from Aldi. For £2.50 I’m willing to take a chance. The box did say pot included. This was just the plastic drainage pot to pot the bulb up in. I had a bit of an issue finding a pot to fit over the sleeve as it was quite a short wide size. But I did locate a suitable size that isn’t too hideous.

The bulb sits on the pot with its neck out of the soil, then pushed firmly down to ensure contact with the soil. Until the stem starts to get going it doesn’t need much watering. It should take about seven to ten weeks to flower. So it may flower ready for Christmas.

So wish me luck as I venture into growing a houseplant with flowering in mind. Who knows? After this, I may even branch out to buy an orchid for the first time. What flowering houseplants do you all recommend?

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Six on a Saturday: 10.11.18 pot bulb planting

A few weeks back I got the majority of my bulbs in the ground with the help of my new bulb planter. The second batch was easier going, just going into pots. I had good success with bulbs in pots on the patio. The tulips need fairly deep pots I think for success. It gives them strong straight stems. They lasted for a good period with a nice succession of bulbs from the daffodils, through muscari and tulips and then lilies. Alice helped plant these and cover them so my careful arrangement of alternating colors may have been muddled a bit with enthusiastic covering. We’ll see how they come in Spring and how much she mixed them. That is assuming she doesn’t dig them out before then.
1. Tulip “tres chic”

These tulips were a wedding gift from one of my aunties. A nice reminder of the day. It looks to be quite a nice form. I’m not a fan of the standard bedding tulip shaped, so I’ve been trying more varied forms.

2. Narcissus “Erlicheer”

Another wedding gift, this has again gone in pots. A rather frilly petal set up. it can be forced indoors and is recommended for fragrance, so be interesting to see how these grow. They can flower as early as December but can go as late as March. It will be nice to have a burst of ivory white to pure white in the garden at that time of year.

3. Tulips doll’s minuet

I largely went for dark purple/black and rich deep scarlet tulips last year. These are continuing that theme and moving away from the traditional tulip form. I saw a number of similar spreading tulips through other #sixonsaturday blog posts and liked that you got a good period of interest with the flower starting tight and then opening up to spread.

4. Tulip roccoco

Again, continuing with the red theme I’ve picked a frilly ruffled form of the tulip. The black parrots I grew last year were stunning and these are essentially red versions.

5. Grow light

I’ve purchased a clip on grow light for the plants on the windowsill in the utility room. These were on offer from Amazon’s daily deals. I’m just using it to extend the hours of light they get in the evening. While it doesn’t get particularly hot like the old-fashioned varieties I still don’t feel secure leaving it on and going out. The main aim is to try to give the aeonium a supplement of light to keep it going through the winter. I’ve discussed it before, but this aeonium has suffered over last winter outside. It survived, just. This year I’ve brought it in. It’s dropped a number of leaves and was spreading out, which didn’t look to healthy. From the advice of the #houseplanthour more light seemed to be the way forward. I’d moved it to a brighter windowsill, but still don’t think it was getting enough. This will hopefully help. I’m tempted with some of the ikea grow light bulbs. These fit into many normal household light fittings and would give an extra boost to a few of the houseplants, allowing me to grow plants in rooms I wouldn’t normally be able to.

6. The armchair book of the garden

On my continuing charity shop hunt for Hessayon I found this little gem. Full of famous gardens, history, plants, how to guides. A nice book for dipping in and out of.

Hope you all have good weekends. We’ve had a very windy night, so need to get out to insepct for damage.

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Six on a Saturday: Autumn is here 3.11.18

The last week has seen the weather change properly to Autumn. The leaves are coming more rapidly from the trees. The light is softer. The day is shorter. But still plenty happening in the garden.

1. The view from above

The changing of the clocks, the first proper frost and shortening days has brought the soft Autumn light to the garden. From above you can see many of the trees have shed their leaves in the strong winds over the last few weeks. But still, a lot hanging on in there.

The patio work is still set for beginning next month. I mainly have evergreens on the patio, so while they suffer from the weather it keeps a bit of greenery through the year close to the house.

2. Decidious fall

The dogwood has almost finished dropping its leaves. It has some nice red stems for Autumn interest, but come Spring it will be getting a hard prune down to the ground, then fresh red stems will grow. It’s getting a bit big and the stem colour isn’t as nice on older stems.

The acer is one of the first trees to shed its leaves. I’ve been pruning out a third of branches each year to keep the size down while maintaining a nice shape. I’ll probably give its yearly trim soon.

The leaves around most of the garden fall off neatly and don’t end up on the lawn. So, I largely leave them where they are providing rich growth for foliage corner.

3. Evergreen interest

From moving in I’ve added a few more evergreen plants so there is some greenery through the year. The camellias, conifers and euonymus provide a framework to keep some cover through the year.

The cineria has grown out of control, but it will retain it’s silver leaves through the winter filling the border with a good area of cover. Then I can look at thinning it out next year.

On the patio, the skimmia is slowly growing and getting set to flower.

4. Hydrangae

The hydrangea have featured lots this year, but they deserve a mention in regards Autumn. After flowering these slowly fade, so several months on from flowering they are still looking nice. The pink will fade to brown. I quite like the faded brown flowerheads, which I leave until Spring to cut. This gives the plant some protection from frost, but I also just like the look of it. For a long period of seasonal interest in my garden, there isn’t much else to touch their crown.

5. Feed the birds

The temperature has dropped and with that birds have returned to the feeders in greater numbers. I have just had a new delivery of Haith’s bird seed. I buy in bulk, saving money, and reducing my plastic waste. Haith’s are Lincolnshire based company that produces cleaner seed, that is supposedly better for the birds. I can’t comment on the health benefits, but I do know the birds love the seed. I’ve had maybe 40-50 starlings in the garden at once over the last week.

6. Pumpkin

It’s that time of year where a mass number of pumpkin are killed in the name of All Hallows Eve. Landfill will be swamped with pumpkin carcasses. I am going to wash my seeds and dry to leave for the birds. Apparently, a number of birds and small mammals will eat them. Alice didn’t give her pumpkin much time this year. Last year she stood for ages watching, this year not so bothered. We didn’t go out for Halloween, but she has spent a lot of time dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.

Hope you enjoy your weekends. I’ve still got the last of the Spring bulbs to go in the pots and if it’s dry enough the lawn is in need of a mow.

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