12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 7

Well, Alice decided to make up for the night before by sleeping much better so I have a bit more energy today. I started the day with some wild music listening to the lost words album: spell songs. This album came after the success of the book. It’s a nice peaceful album for the morning wake up.

Then I got out to top up the bird feeders and enjoyed a cuppa out in the cold morning frost.

The sparrows are always quick to get in first on the feeders. They are a bit skittish at the moment and don’t like me being out so struggling for quality photos.

The dove watched on, not wanting to come in while I was out.

The tits showed off their acrobatics hopping through the honeysuckle and lilac to get to the fat balls.

One fed and dressed Alice and I headed for the Mere. There was a good haze over the fields when we arrived.

The sun was low on the water, but a nice crisp winter temperature to be out with the sun shining.

We had brought seed to feed the birds Alice was a bit scared of the geese, which is understandable. Normally we feed the ducks from further round where the geese don’t go but it was a bit boggy. A good mix of gulls, ducks, moorhens, swans, and geese out today.

Constant snacks form a vital part of any outing to prevent a grumpy child.

Alice was keen to read all the bench memorials leading to us discovering about Wilfred Cutting’s world record-breaking roach catch.

The rowboats all out of the water for winter.

Alice checked out the distant birds.

The teasel still looking architectural along the water’s edge.

And a sighting one of my favorite birds working its way along the jetty. The wagtails characteristic hop is always good to watch.

I’ve enjoyed my stroll out. Good to get outside properly after a good few days with little movement. Tomorrow sees the yearly New Year dip. I won’t be taking part. Even with the wetsuit on it’s too cold for going in. Having seen people emerging from the water like the D-Day landings I’m willing to just watch and give my donation to the RNLI. The litter around Hornsea has been really bad today, so may take the litter picker and a bag to do a beech clean while we’re down there. Alice has been picking up all the rubbish today on our walk. While I am proud of her sense of civic duty it does make for slow progress walking.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 6

Yesterday saw a beautiful sunset. My photos didn’t really manage to capture the magnificence of the colours, but you’ll have to take my word for it. It was stunning.

Today I have been very tired. Alice didn’t sleep well, so ended up sleeping in with her. She’s fine today, but I’ve been achy and tired all day to a point I needed a nap. She has still been determined to do lots. We’ve had a gingerbread house kit leftover from Halloween in the cupboard which we’ve been promising we’d make with her.

We had a trip out to the garden centre. Alice was excited as ever by the water feature display. She loves watching the fountains. Further round she pointed out her favourite fish.

The Christmas displays are starting to be dismantled, but there was still one of the snowy dioramas to watch.

Alice spent part of her Christmas money on more fairies adding a bee and caterpillar fairy to her fairy enclave.

I kept my purchases to just a couple more bulbs from the £1 trolley. I will show them off later in the week. The garden is a bit sparse for flowers now but there is still some beauty to be found in the dried flowerheads of the hydrangeas. The corvids have been dominating the garden today with jackdaws and crows putting many of the birds off visiting. The sun has been out and seen a few insects flying around today.

It’s going to be an early night for me I think and then just as I thought I was done with the bulb planting more to go. I’ll try to get them in the ground tomorrow.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 5

Today we made it out for a brief walk around Hornsea Freeport. Not the wildest location for 12 days wild. But Alice and I have been wearing our wildness the last week. She had one of the RSPB badges with a robin with a Santa hat on, while I have a robin on a holly branch. Alice’s has been put down somewhere in the house but don’t know where. I’m sure it will turn up after the Christmas period is done and she’ll then insist on wearing it. One of the cafes at Freeport stocks the collection box, so she choose a new badge. We looked through as she was asking which we got in our garden. We had a choice of several finches, sparrows and butterflies.

Alice went for the peacock butterfly, a regular visitor to our garden in summer and sometimes into autumn.

I’ve also done my bit for promoting the Wildlife Trust wearing my bug shirt. Alice always likes asking me about the different insects on this one.

My gardening jacket is gradually filling up with the wildlife that visits the garden.

Back at home, there doesn’t seem to many signs of life in the garden. A bird of prey seems to be circling the area. Combined with the wind there isn’t much visiting the feeders today. The wren and dunnocks are sticking to the shelter of the shrubs and the sparrows are flitting in and out. The pots are showing signs of things to come, though I think the weather will probably go colder again slowing their growth. Time to settle in the warmth inside with a fire and a good book and chill out.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 4

Well, today I’ve managed to get out in the garden quite a bit, only in short bursts, but better than nothing. I’ve finally got round to sawing up the whitebeam that has been sat against the fence for a month. While I was sorry to remove this tree it wasn’t right for the position whereas the holly looks to be well suited. The tree has been sawed up and added to my pruning pile. I keep my prunings between the lilac and the Dryopteris fern They don’t really show there but will provide habitats for several creatures while they slowly rot. Between the branches and foliage in this area the frogs liked it for shelter in summer.

Alice was out with me for a little bit using a stick to poke holes for bulbs. The last of the alliums are now in. Most went in the borders but Alice stuck a few in random pots so we’ll see where they come up.

The hellebores have managed a few flowers that haven’t been completely chomped to pieces. A few insects were still flying about but signs of life are currently low out there.

The birds were happy to see me go in. They headed straight for the feeders as soon as I headed in.

I feel better for getting out, even if it was only for a little bit. Sawing up the tree and planting the last bulbs takes two jobs off the list. I’ve got a bit of winter pruning to do and trying to get the bin tidy flooring done in the front garden. My new wheelbarrow will get a decent run out. Enjoy the rest of your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 28.12.19

So, it is time for the final six of the year. We have made it past the shortest day of the year so things will start picking up from this point on. I think I’ve managed a six every week without fail which is an achievement in itself. The garden has moved on massively since I started taking part in six on Saturday. Seeing everyone else’s gardens has shown me a mass number of seasonal options. As a result, my own garden has developed with a much greater spread of seasonal interest. So, thank you all for sharing your gardens.

1. Camellia

Earlier in the year, I’d removed the white camellia. While it had quite a nice shape the flowers were frost-damaged every year. On the white flowers, it showed too much. I was bought a red camellia ‘ Dr King’ for my birthday a couple of years back and it is getting to a nice point now. It is covered in buds ready for spring. These suffer from frost damage as well but the red flowers don’t show it as badly as the white. The leaves are evergreen so it provides a bit of greenery through the year but the foliage isn’t much to shout about.

2. Alliums

Back in November Sarah Raven was selling off the bulbs at bargain prices. SO for just over a tenner, I got over 100 alliums that I finally got round to planting just before Christmas. A rare bargain from a site that is usually one of the more expensive choices. I’ve got 15 allium nigrum. I grew this white variety this year and it was stunning. These will top up the couple I had in this year. I also bought 15 Allium ‘Caméléon’. This is a new variety to me, similar to the nigrums but with a little colour in the centre. Then I went for a mass 80 Allium sphaerocephalon. These are small-headed alliums. These will potentially self sow saving me having to bulk out with new additions each year. All three varieties should be popular with wildlife. Opening the box it had a wonderful garlic scent I’ve planted these along both borders. I’ve still got a few to go, but these should give a great display along both borders and then leave some good structural heads as they fade. Alice took a handful and has rammed them in pots so I may have a few surprises.

3. Cuttings

I’ve taken a few hardwood cuttings of the dogwood. I’d seen a few articles listing it as the time to do it. These can then be used for pots. Alice found a snapped off hydrangea and stuck it in the ground, so I filled a pot for her and cut her a few bits off. I’ve used some vermiculite in the compost mix and the cuttings were dipped in rooting powder. We’ll see if it makes any difference. I’ve left them soaking in Alice’s mud kitchen to get them moist before I take them out.

4. Heucherella

I’ve picked up two cheap heucherella. These were in the discount section. I’m a little dubious of why winter plants have been reduced in winter but I think it’s just because the leaves have been nibbled a bit. I’ve checked the roots for vine weevil and they look ok. The colours are fabulous. I’m thinking these will go in the front garden as I’ve got a good spread in the pots in the patio already. The purple is labelled as ‘cracked ice’. The green is just named as mixed.

5. Mushrooms and fairies

Amy and Alice bought me some ceramic clattering mushrooms which I’ve paired in the border with a fairy I’d bought Alice before Christmas. The way things are heading I’ll end up having to list my garden on open gardens as a fairy garden as they are continuously spreading.

6. Wheelbarrow

Our wheelbarrow came with the garden. It was falling apart when we moved in. Three years on there are more holes than barrow left, so I’d asked for a new wheelbarrow. Amy has treated me to to a Walsall wheelbarrow. I’ll be needing it to shift soil over the next week as got a good bit of digging to do in the front garden and I want to shift the soil to the back garden.

Alice helped with supervising the construction.

The old wheelbarrow

The new wheelbarrow.

It’s been a good year in the garden. There have been lots of successes with plants I’ve grown for the first time, many from seed, the front garden is coming on well and many of the plants in the back are getting to a reasonably established point after 3 years. Still more plans for next year. Enjoy your last weekend of the year and the decade!

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Christmas 2019

We have returned home from spending Christmas with my parents. Now time to take stock of the last few days and filter through my photos.

Christmas Eve we gave Alice a Christmas Eve box with a few little bits and new pyjamas.

She enjoyed a few Christmas stories.

We started the day at our house. Alice was more excited for giving us our presents and seeing us opening them. Though she somewhat spoiled the surprise telling us what was in each present.

She did get round to opening hers eventually.

After attending the local church service we headed over to my parents. Alice was excited to give everyone presents again.

My mum did a top job of Christmas dinner.

Before needing some chill time.

Then after a good break we returned for pudding.

She was completely wiped out and went to bed early, meaning she was up early Boxing Day. She started the day slobbing out.

My sister joined us for Boxing Day and Alice was spoiled with a new spread of presents.

A noisy Rainbow Dash that will be out of batteries soon. If they aren’t I think Amy may well remove them.

She got a disco light that she absolutely adored.

Then we enjoyed another feast.

We’ve had a lovely couple of days spoiled by family. Alice has had a great time seeing both sides of her family over the last week. She is happy to be home though playing with all her new toys and introducing them to old toys. I hope you have all had super Christmas Days too.

12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 3

We started the day at my parents and we’ve enjoyed one last chilled day before returning to normality. We’ve largely spent the day inside as we aren’t quite over our coughs but I have managed to enjoy a few tastes of nature. My mum’s Christmas cactus looking good now it’s flowered.

I’ve popped out a few times to check out the birds in my parents garden. The robin was out and keeping an eye on me while I was out.

I heard a bird I wasn’t familiar with and eventually worked out what it was. My parents have a blackcap visiting. These are common visitors in some parts of the country but are new to there garden, so a pleasure to see.

We returned back to our home where I’ve found homes for some of our new wild decorations.

Hopefully, I’ll now have some time to settle in with my new wild reads. Alice has enjoyed herself enormously being surrounded by family but she is happy to return home to all her presents. Tomorrow we may manage to get out a bit more and maybe enjoy some of my own presents now all of Alice’s are assembled.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 2

We got through Christmas day with a very tired little girl and now enter day 2 of 12 Days Wild. She went to bed very early at half five. This has meant I’ve been up early enough to see the sunrise. Not the most exciting sunrise, a grey blue sky through the clouds.


But it did mean we got to hear the dawn chorus. The blackbirds and dunnocks were the first to come into the garden. These were followed by the robin singing away merrily. The chirpy blue tits joined the mix and then the discordant starlings came along.


Alice has got some stunningly illustrated nature books for us to enjoy at bedtime.

Hopefully tomorrow we may make it outside a bit more now if the weather isn’t too bad. Time to look at walking off some of the excess.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 1

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having fantastic days spent celebrating however you prefer. Today is the start of the Wildlife Trusts 12 Days Of Christmas. For 12 Days from the 25th December to the 5th of January, I will be looking for different ways to engage with nature. These can be little things like feeding the birds, going for a walk in nature or admiring the winter sunset. It’s not too late to sign up to show your support for nature. Go on the website, sign up, it’s free, and you’ll be added to the map.


As today I imagine many you will be overwhelmed with commitments I am suggesting an act of wild that you can do from the comfort of your own sofa while waiting for visitors. During the weekend of the 25th January to the 27th of January, it is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. For one hour you sit and watch the birds and record what comes in. It is free to take part and you don’t need to be an RSPB member. This survey provides valuable information about the increases and decreases in bird populations so conservation efforts can be targetted.

BLue tit 3

I’ve taken part the last few years and have usually found my garden just manages double figures of species. Last year was a bit low with building work going on and wet weather. The builders still have some jobs to come back to a year on so they may have people in and out in the run-up to it. But in order to maximize the birds that come into your garden, I have a few tips.

  • Put out a variety of foods: seed, suet, fat balls, mealworms or meat scraps. Different birds favour different food.
  • Use feeders at different heights. Some birds such as the blackbirds eat from the ground, some like the feeders in cover near shrubs, others need more space around the feeder.
  • Clean the feeders beforehand. This stops the spread of diseases between birds.
  • Provide water sources in the garden. During winter water is often frozen so the birds will come in for water as much as food.

Enjoy your Christmas Days and I hope you all have wonderful days.

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Six on Saturday: 21.12.19 The front garden in winter

As we reach the end of the year I thought I’d take one last look at my main garden project this year. I have been working on revamping the front garden. It was previously just pebbled with a bland pot of green in the middle. I have tried to plant so that there will be a nice mix of shade-loving foliage with a few different periods of seasonal interest. Between the ferns and the rocks, it has elements of both Japanese gardens and Victorian ferneries. Both influences I am happy with. Overall it is starting to come together. Almost all the plants have been bought at reduced prices or out of season. So I have opted for plants that weren’t always in the best of health but I was confident that they would recover. It’ll still be a few years until it all fills out properly but I’m already happy with the progress.

1. The view from above

The view from above shows I’ve kept a reasonable framework of evergreen plants for winter. I planned the planting to try to keep a reasonable level of interest through the seasons. The ilex crenata along the border edge has filled out a bit since planting. It should eventually form domes of green but at the moment it’s still a bit patchy. The patches of Asplenium ferns are holding out the best of the evergreen ferns. I was expecting these to be the toughest as they grow wild in my local area. A lot of the other species are still small but will look good next year as they fill out. The stepping stone path still needs finishing. I used a few temporary log cuts for the last stepping stones and haven’t got round to replacing them. There are quite a few gaps where the hostas have died down, so may look at filling next year with more cyclamen so there is something on the go through the year. I did consider white primulas to fill the gaps but they don’t have much to recommend them in terms of foliage. The rocks are settling into there positions and the moss is settling back over them. The builders came back to finish the pipe so it drains out the garden. The water butt hasn’t been needed much of late but is well filled for next year.

2. The bins

I have a job to do over the holidays adding some ground base grids under the bins and then gravel fills the gaps. This will make a more solid base for the bins to sit on. The materials have been sat there since the last holiday. So, so long as the ground isn’t too solid I’ll hopefully get this done. There are some lords and ladies growing underneath the bins currently. This has attractive foliage but poisonous berries. It spreads rapidly by seed. I’m in two minds about digging it up to remove or to place somewhere else.

3. The cyclamen

The cyclamen are looking good still. I got a few cheap trays from Tescos a few months back and they’ve added some nice winter flowers. Hopefully, they’ll self-seed. I forget which types are hardier so don’t know if they’ll return next year.

4. Window boxes

These boxes were intended as window boxes but they are too small so they ended up either side of the door. The hostas have died down now but Asplenium trichomanes are still on the go. I planted some white crocus in for spring as well. Hopefully, keep something on the go through the year. I’ve added a few Katherine Gold Irises for good measure. These were a purchase Alice made a few months back when I gave her the choice of whichever bulbs she wanted but I haven’t really had anywhere for them so they are getting rammed into these. Just poking its way in at the front of the photo are a few fuschia that are still holding on. I doubt those last few buds will open currently.

5. Heuchera

The heuchera have largely stayed looking good. The lime marmalade and forever purple combination is still one of the finest pairings of heuchera in the garden. The bright green combined with the veined leaves looks grand.

A few of the other varieties are looking a bit downcast by the wet weather but hopefully, they’ll pick up again. I’m going to have to look at taking cuttings next year to increase stock as they are quite pricey to fill decent sized areas. The moss is establishing well on the rocks. I’d be happy for it to continue spreading onto the ground to form a good mat.

6. Crocus planting

I’ve gone for filling gaps with mass crocus planting. I went with all white Joan of Arc from Gee-Tee bulbs. I was good about getting the bulbs into the lawn in the back garden but only just got these in. I am leaving it a bit late but hopefully, they’ll just come up a bit later. I’ve already planted some wild garlic, Allium Ursinum. Accounts differ of this spreading and running rampant, but as it is contained to the front garden with nowhere else it can self-seed easily I should be able to remove if I decide I’ve made a mistake. My theory is the scent of the garlic will drive the slugs away but I have little hopes of this actually working. There are lots of the deciduous ferns and hostas are shrivelled up now, so the crocus will have a chance to flower before these comeback.

We’ve seen lots of people stopping to check out my progress on the front garden even at this time of year when it’s looking a bit sparse. Hopefully, by next year the evergreens will have filled out nicely so there is still a lot of foliage through winter. We had a full day of rain yesterday so don’t think I’ll be doing many jobs today, but I’m off for Christmas now so hopefully get on with the remaining jobs.

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