The Deep #TwoPointSixChallenge

The Deep is looking for support to help with their running costs during this period of closure. For those of you who don’t know The Deep is an aquarium in Hull that is normally open to the public. It is home to sharks, turtles, stingrays, penguins and more. But, it is also involved in conservation work and breeding work. This important work isn’t necessarily as well known. It was the first UK aquarium to successfully breed zebra sharks. The Golden Mantella frog is under threat in the wild from viruses and habitat destruction. Work at places like The Deep safeguards their future so research can continue and they have the possibility to be reintroduced into the wild in the future.


In order to raise funds to continue to support this work, five members of the animal care team are planning to run 26 miles around their site later today. They will be running in a relay team maintaining social distancing. You can find details of how, if you wish, you can support below.


Six on Saturday: 25.4.20

Despite being on lockdown I’ve not done a massive amount in the garden this week. Amy has been painting the kitchen so I’ve just done a few jobs over the week. The lawn has had its first mow now the lawn crocus are dying down. The bare patches are gradually recovering from building work last year. The dark-leaved cherry has finished flowering so I’ve given it a prune before the flowers underneath make it harder to get around it. The dahlia seeds went in at the start of the week. I have gone with Bishop’s Children again and a cactus mix. The cactus mix is already showing green signs of germination. Hopefully, the Bishop’s Children will catch up soon. The seagulls continue to be pains. They have taken to digging plants out. I’m not sure if they are after nest material or food while they are missing their usual fish and chips but they have become a bit of a menace. So far I’ve managed to replant much of what they’ve dug out but I need a solution to the issue.

1. Geranium phaeum

The first burst of the geranium flowers are out one on the phaeum varieties. These came to me from divisions of my mums, which I think had come to her through my aunty. They are a small purple variety. It gets numerous flowers all over. not particularly showy but popular with the insects. This is acting as ground cover around the Sambucus nigra.

2. Tulip ‘candy prince’

This tulip came as part of a Morrison’s pink set I bought to please Alice. Not the most exciting form and too pale to be that exciting on there own. They came with bright pink hyacinths and if they came through together it would probably make for an exciting combination but right now they are in a section of the border where they aren’t really standing out in any major way.

3. Clematis Montana

This Clematis Montana grows over the fence from my neighbours. It puts on a glorious display but needs a bit of a trim after flowering. The bees have loved it.

4. Farmer Macy order

I put in an order with Farmer Gracy for an iris and a dahlia a few weeks back. The dahlia is Black Jack. I ordered this one as I was meant to get it as part of a Sarah Raven collection of dark dahlias for pots. But, this one had issues with supply so I never got it. The other two were spectacular so I wanted to get my hands on this one. The Iris is a bearded iris ‘Batik’. This looks to be a stunning blue variety with white speckles. Hopefully, these will feature later in the season. I’d like to comment on how well it was all packaged. The bulbs come in a nice breathable box and are packaged within paper bags. No unnessecary plastic waste.

5. Newsagent bargains

I found these at one of the local newsagents while doing the milk run. They were dirt cheap and not options I’d normally go with but these are unusual times. The tray of begonias are something I’ve never bothered with but having grown lots of these in my work at the garden centre I was feeling it was a shame I wouldn’t end up with any of my own now. The Fuschia is ‘Claudia’. This is a pale pink trailer intended to go alongside another trailing white variety I’ve already got. Then the dark-leaved plant I’m assuming is a dahlia as it has the look of the Bishop’s children I grew last year. Lots of brash plants to add colour this year.

6. Tulip ‘Queen of the night’

These must be one of the most featured tulips on six on Saturday posts but with good reason. They are stunners and reliably come up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my six this week. If you fancy taking part check the participant guide. I need to carry on watering as it’s very dry though we now have rain forecast. Lots of the seedlings need potting on and looking to make another plot on a plate. Enjoy your weekends and I hope you’re all keeping your sanity through all of this.

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Book Review: The complete guide to garden privacy-Alexandra Campbell

Alexandra put out a call for reviews of her first book last week, so in the interest of disclaimer, I have been sent this to review. That said, I was excited to see what she had to say. Alexandra’s website, The middle-sized garden, contains blogs and videos sharing many useful gardening tips. She has written for many magazines and newspapers: the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and more. Her blog has won many awards over the last few years.

The book is available through Amazon:

Paperback priced £14.36 at time of writing.

Kindle Priced £7.83 or free with Kindle unlimited.

From the blurb:

Find out how to make your garden feel private, no matter how small it is. This book will help you choose the right trees for privacy, find out which hedges are best for privacy, how to select a new garden privacy screen and how to screen eyesores. Create a secret garden or help minimise noise in your garden. Expert tips and advice from The Middlesized Garden, a top award-winning garden blog from the UK.The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy offers practical solutions with easy-to-read diagrams and inspiring photographs of real gardens.

So, this book couldn’t really come at a more opportune moment. With many us contained within our homes and gardens, more people are looking at spending their lockdown time in their gardens. Across the country, people have been discovering gardening for the first time. This is in many ways a fabulous development, gardening brings so many benefits, both physical and mental. But, it means the volume level has gone up. In many gardens, the privacy level is low as the gardens haven’t previously been used. So people are hastily trying to renovate their gardens to make them better spaces. Prior to my work closing, we were seeing good sales in fencing equipment as people looked at upgrading and fixing their existing screens. But there are many ways to add privacy to your garden that this book explores.

Trees can block line of sight to upper store windows

The book covers some basic principles of privacy asking you to think about which key areas do you want to be private. Within a row of gardens, it is almost impossible to make your garden completely private but if you identify key areas you can work to give yourself a secluded area. You may not need the privacy all year round. It may just be that you want privacy in summer when you will be out more. This opens up more seasonal options allowing for light to still reach your house in winter.

A parasol provides privacy from windows

Many of the options discussed are pretty obvious. Hedges and fences can be used to block views. But Alexandra goes into the extra detail of discussing the legal aspects such as where planning permission is needed. Plant lists are included for evergreen and deciduous options. The book makes use of nice clear diagrams throughout to illustrate the points she is making in the text. For example, for a seating area, you don’t necessarily need a high screen. An obstacle of 1.5m will hide you to people when you are sat. This is shown clearly through the diagrams and explanations. Screens, trellis, structures are discussed. A chapter is devoted to privacy in the front garden looking a few different ways I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about to add privacy such as window boxes.

A wall can provide privacy and block some noise.

The final chapter was particularly interesting and relevant right now looking at noise and wind. The wind can carry noise a long way. Alexandra looks at the way sound is carried by the wind over obstacles and discusses ways to increase your privacy.

Euonymus blocking line of sight to the eyesore of the compost heap


Overall this is an informative read. I devoured it over two days back and I’m sure I will return to look up aspects again. Anyone who reads her blog will know, Alexandra writes clearly, concisely and presents a lot of information within a relatively small book. It has made me look at the privacy in my own garden differently. I am starting to think out how I can add some extra seclusion to particular areas. I would recommend this book if you have issues with neighbours overlooking your garden or if you are looking at ways you can change your boundaries. This book will show lots of options for making your garden into your own secluded paradise.

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Six on Saturday: 18.4.20-Spring glory

It’s been a good week in the garden with many wildlife visitors. Alice has been busy making perfume in the mud kitchen and we worked together making bird feeders. I made the gardening press for the second week running. I had feedback from my first RHS assignment which was very positive and my plant profiles were good enough so that’s nice to know.

1. Fern fronds

The fern fronds are spectacular in my garden currently. Many of the ferns are in there second or third year in the garden so they established into nice large clumps. The fresh green fronds unfurling is one of the great pleasures of spring. A sign that warmer weather is coming and it really brings the garden back to life.

2. Hostas

Along with the ferns, the spikes of hostas are emerging. Most are in pots to give some slug and snail protection but I have risked some in the border.

3. Tulip ‘ballerina’

This was a new addition for this year. I bought a bulk bag of this and I’m glad I did with all the time we are spending in the garden. These have been lovely at each stage, so I’m covering the full cycle within this week six and making no apologies for the mass photos. Starting as nice tight curls.

Then opening with a nice warm orange. Orange was a colour lacking in my garden so thought I’d try some. They are a nice size. Not so small as to be lost in the border but still delicate looking. I’m not a fan of the really massive tulips that open and look messy straight away.

Then they have picked up more a red tinge as they’ve opened fully.

4. Implementations-Castor trowel

I was given a bit of birthday money and since we are going to be stuck in the house and garden I went with a few tools. I had upgraded my secateurs previously so thought I’d look at a decent trowel. As one of the most commonly used tools, it’s nice to have a well made one. Implementations in Nuneaton specialise in making copper tools. They are recommended by Charles Dowding for reducing slugs and snails. This is based on the theories of Viktor Schauberger about different metals having an energy effect on the soil. While this is probably new-age nonsense the tool is well made, looks nice and feels good to use.

5. Japeto knife

I wanted a sharp knife as working at the garden centre I’ve realised how useful a decent knife is for many jobs. From opening parcels and flat packing them and compost bags, along with cuttings, it is a useful tool for the back pocket. I ordered this one from Japeto with the personalised letters. There was a mistake in shipping so I’ve ended up with one with my initials and one for free which was decent of them. It is wonderfully sharp and has been used lots dismantling all the boxes from the many deliveries we are currently getting.

6. Bulb lasagne

The Tesco bulb lasagne has done well. The crocus got it off to a good start. The Muscari have kept going well. The tulips got a bit crisp in the morning sun so I relocated the display table to the opposite wall so it doesn’t get the morning sun. The tulips are triumph tulips ‘purple flag’. They go nicely with the Muscari but have been flattened a few times by seagulls dive-bombing. They seem to have suffered with seagull poo more than any plants normally have for some reason.

Hope you are all coping alright. I think having Alice is giving us a routine to our days and making sure we stay busy. I’m looking to pot on a few bits from the mini-greenhouse and start the dahlia seeds off. Then looking to finish reading Alexandra Campbell’s new book on garden privacy. Hope you all enjoy whatever you have planned.

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Six on Saturday: 14.3.20

Welcome to this week’s six on Saturday. I’ve had another good week at my new job. This week has mainly involved potting on pelargoniums and petunias. Then I’ve done a few practical jobs. I’ve built a good few barbeques for the shop floor and a few benches. The most commonly asked customer questions are about if it’s too early to plant different things out. We have shifted out the last of the winter bedding plants and deliveries are coming in for the new season. It’s interesting to see what is popular amongst different people and what is the best seller each week. This week I’ve suspicious feeling toilet paper may trump plants but we’ll see.

1. Sparrowhawk

Last weekend I saw something zoom past at the end of the garden. It twirled around and dragged a blackbird to the ground. It settled on the lawn and I saw I had a sparrowhawk. I’ve seen them come through before but this was the first time I’ve seen one settle on the lawn. Probably a male as quite small. I know some people don’t like them eating the birds visiting their feeders but they only end up in an area if there are enough birds to support them.

2. Iris Germanica

I have had these two irises sat in the cupboard for a month or two and decided it was time to plant. I’d moved the bleeding heart alba out of the cold frame so potted these up. Then shift them to a bigger pot once they get going. The sweet peas are doing well in there too. Forming leaves now.

3. Beach finds

On last weeks beach walk, I found a bit more driftwood and this metal pole with bits of rock. It’s been added to one of the pots.

4. Hydrangea pruning

I did the hydrangeas hair cut last week. I always worry I’ve gone too far but they flourish each year so must be doing something right. Even if I did go a bit far I’d only miss out on flowers for a year. Pretty tough now they are established. To prune them I cut just behind the mops and after where I can see the leaf buds coming out. Then dead growth with no leaves is thinned out.

5. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai’

I’d been envious of everyone else’s prunus incisa the last few years. I saw one in the bargain section incredibly cheap. I thought it might be dead at the price but thought it was worth a chance. It is coming back to life with wonderful blossom so looks like they were just clearing it ready for the new stock of them.

The blossom hangs delicately from the branches.

The bottom of the pot has been dressed with moss. There was a bag of hanging basket moss selling at 99p at one of the garden centres. I thought it would make for a nice mulch to the pots and add a Japanese element to the pots.

6. The lawn

The lawn has been in a very sorry state the last year. With having to move everything off the patio for the builders and then the builders going over it for several months it has a lot of bare patches. I’ve spread grass seed and the last of the soil improver bought last month to see how about getting it re-established as a lawn. It does make it look worse initially but it should recover quickly enough. I finished raising the brick edging I hadn’t completed a few weeks back. It should keep the divide between the lawn and borders a bit neater and make it easier mowing.

The crocuses have established themselves in dribs and drabs. Not the sea of colour I’d like but they should spread year on year.

As the UK prepares to go on lockdown I hope you have stockpiled compost and garden supplies to keep you busy. Check out the rest of the six on Saturday posts through the Propagators blog and read the participant guide if you fancy taking part. I hope you’ve enjoyed my six on Saturday and enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Bottle bird feeder

Today we set out to make a bottle bird feeder. Wildlife Kate has set a challenge to make your own bird feeder. There are suggestions of making it from materials you already have such as Lego or Duplo but as we have particularly aggressive seagulls currently I didn’t think these would last long. The seagulls shredded a metal feeder last week so being a bit careful where I place them so they don’t hurt themselves or others. We have previously made Cheerio feeders and pine feeders so I thought we’d look at doing a different one. I try to do craft activities where Alice can do most of the making otherwise it isn’t really hers and she won’t have the interest in using it after. So after a google search, she decided to go with a basic bottle feeder today. Glad she didn’t test my woodwork skills.

All that is needed for one of these is a bottle string and scissors. We’ve wrapped it in masking tape as Alice said she wanted to draw a flower on it. Masking tape works wonders for craft activities for wrapping things that would be difficult for a three-year-old to draw on.

Then we did two holes opposite each other lower down. This was one of the few bits I did more of. She did the stabbing to make the hole, then I’ve cut it a bit neater and smoothed it a bit to avoid casualties. The holes are probably a bit too big but these are what she marked out.

She wanted to draw a flower, write her name and draw our house on.

A little fiddly filling as our usual funnel is slightly bigger than the bottle.

Then hung up ready for the birds.

Then she asked for her camera and sat patiently waiting to see if she could snap a picture.

Before deciding the birds would like a song. She has also decided her hat is a cowboy hat, so lots of shouting yee-haw and hot dog may have put the birds off a bit.

Butter wouldn’t melt.

Now to wait and see if it attracts any birds. They are peering out from lilac but they always take a little while before they’ll risk a new feeder.

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Update: we got some visitors.

Houseplant subscriptions

I have noticed a spike in my stats for an old blog covering Geo-Fleur plant subscriptions. I guess while all the plant addicts are stuck on lockdown they are craving their hit of plants. So time for some plant pimping. Geo-fleur is no longer operating as Geo-fleur. One of the staff moved onto House of Kojo. This member of staff is no longer with House of Kojo and they have no association with Geo-Fleur anymore. They are still offering interesting plants though but no plant subscription service. Worth taking a gander. So I’m going to cover a few houseplant subscription offers as I felt I should update the previous blog. I haven’t used any of them but I have heard good things about the ones listed. If any want to send me a box to review I am perfectly open to plant bribery.

The idea of a plant subscription is a bit of strange one. You pay to get a mystery plant delivered to you at a set interval. Some do monthly, some every 3 months, etc. Many offer delightful pots to go with the plants. I had three months with geo-fleur and I received several plants I would never have bought myself. A rather nice succulent, a string of hearts and some nice airplants.  All three are still thriving over a year later. It can be a bit of an expensive way to get hold of plants but can make for a nice gift for a special occasion.

Bloombox is one of the more established subscription services. They offer a classic subscription, a larger plant subscription or something special for rarer plants.

Lazy Flora is nice in that they offer garden subscriptions, houseplant subscriptions or veg box subscriptions. With a lot of people struggling to get hold of GYO, I could see this one being useful. There is also the option for buying a combined indoor/outdoor pack.

Plantpetclub seems worth a mention for offering a variety of pet-friendly plants.

A few suggestions for you if you are out there looking for houseplant subscription. If you try any let me know how you get on with them.

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Armchair Naturalist-Wildlife surveys

Several people have asked about surveys that they can take part in during lockdown. Obviously please do these within your gardens and don’t go endangering yourself. So as part of my next armchair naturalist series, after an idea from Haith’s, here are several surveys you can currently take part in within your own gardens.

Taking part in wildlife surveys can be great fun. It engages the brain, they often teach you to identify new species and provide valuable data for conservation organisations. I’ve discussed the benefits of wildlife surveys and many that happen during the year previously here. Today I am just listing surveys you can currently take part in during lockdown from your garden.

#Greatstaghunt The people’s trust for endangered animals want to hear about any sightings of stag beetles. Not one I get up North but some of you may be fortunate enough to see.

Living with mammals is looking to know what mammals you can sight in your gardens.

Big hedgehog map is mapping hedgehog sightings and people pledging to make hedgehog holes.

National Biodiversity network list many surveys you can take part in through the year.

UK ladybird survey  The UK ladybird survey keeps track of the spread of invasive harlequin ladybirds compared to our natives.

UK pollinator monitoring scheme asks for you to do a timed survey on a patch of flowers. You can add your records here.

The big pond dip is one for people with ponds, obviously best done from May to August. Once you’ve done your dip it gives you a score and you then get advice on what you could do to make your pond more wildlife-friendly.

BTO The British trust for ornithology runs many year-round surveys but the easiest of these to take part in currently is the garden watch.

iRecord allows you to record all manner of wildlife sightings, insect, bird, mammals and wildflowers. This is then used by many organisations to help support where numbers are dropping and to see where wildlife is thriving.

Feel free to add any more you know of in the comments below.

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Happy Easter

Happy Easter blessings to all! I hope you’ve all been able to enjoy your Easter weekends within whatever limitations you are facing. We’ve had fun making our plot on a plate and being out in the garden. No giant bunnies for us this year, but maybe next year grandad rabbit will return.

Alice was very excited to see we’d had a visitor in the garden today.

And following the trail.

The traditional metal tins caused much excitement. I think she thought that the whole egg was chocolate.

Gnomes up to no good as normal.

And the end of the trail.

We’ve now got to spread out the chocolate eating over a month to avoid a sugared up child. Hope you’re all keeping well.


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Plot on a plate

With the lack of show gardens as the garden shows are cancelled Chelsea Physic Gardens have set a challenge to create a plot on a plate. The general gist is to make a garden or a landscape on a plate. You can use any plate up to 35cm and 6cm depth. People can enter as many times as they like, so you can carry on making as many gardens as you’d like. These can become a bit addictive making. We may end up a whole load sat around a bit like my kokedama craze.

The categories are as follows:

  • General
  • The Professionals
  • Children aged 5-9
  • Children aged 10-15
  • Peoples vote (all entries)

Now, Alice is only 3 so she missed out on the children’s category so she may have to go in the pros instead. Alice had a plate left from a fairy garden she’d previously made that was in need of a freshen up. I scraped a section of mind-your-own-business up to use as the grass base for both plates. While some people see it as an annoying weed it’s quite nice for these projects. Alternatively, moss works well or you can sow grass seed into compost but this means you have to keep cutting it. It’s enough of a hassle mowing the lawn without having to take scissors to the fairy lawn as well.

The fairy house came with the set. We collected up a few glass beads for a path. Glass beads form a large part of Alice’s gardens. They are used much like fake grass but a lot prettier.

Our florist bits box was raided for some trees.

And a few Muscari were snipped for “trees”.

I drilled a drainage hole in a dish that’s been sat outside the back door for a good while as a plant saucer. I’d get in trouble if I claim a plate from the kitchen cupboard. I’m going for a basic landscape

A few slate chippings have been employed for a path.

I’ve snipped a few Ilex crenata branches to give me some trees. I put a bit of rooting hormone on. If I keep it moist I might get lucky and end up with some extra plants or some I can use for bonsai.

Gemstones have been employed for water.

I’ve tried to do it as a living landscape so it will need to be kept moist and shaded for the mind-your-own-business and to see if the cuttings can root. It was a nice little craft project. I may try another, maybe a little moss garden to place amongst the already mentioned kokedama. For those parents looking at something to fill the time during lockdown, it makes for a fun activity to do with the kids. Alice says hers isn’t finished so she’ll keep going back and adding to it and moving bits round for further entertainment.

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