Six on Saturday: 28.11.20

Alice has still been off school part of this week so the garden has largely been neglected but the small time we’ve had on garden jobs has been enjoyable.

1. Breakfast birdwatch

On Wednesday we had Alice’s last day of home-schooling before her year group reopened. It has been closed after another child tested positive. But they’ve had their isolation period and she can return. I posted last week that we have been doing breakfast birdwatches but I wanted to post about it again as she drew such lovely pictures.

We have found a lot of feathers through the week on the lawn. I need to set up the trail camera to see what is responsible. It may just be birds scrapping or it could be the neighbour’s cat or the sparrowhawk.

And a mouse fallen victim. As we have remains left I suspect the cat as the sparrowhawk would have taken it.

2. Sparrowhawk

I did spy the sparrowhawk catch a sparrow last week. It zoomed in and snatched one and was out. I just managed a picture through the window before it was off. But I’m not sure it’s responsible for all the damage.

3. Sprouts

The sprouts were devastated by caterpillars earlier in the year but wasps then devoured them all and they have recovered. I’m not sure if we’ll have a crop for Christmas but it would be nice.

4. Front garden lights

Friday would have been the Christmas light turn on in my town. But they haven’t had the chance to raise the money this year so they are lower key. So, there has been a community push to place lights outside peoples own homes. In the front garden, I have used some solar-powered wire LEDs. They have a backup battery for dull days. I have stuck to the white lights in the front garden.

5. Back garden lights

In the back garden, we have lots of battery-operated coloured lights. I’m using rechargeable batteries as they do need recharging a few times over the month they are up.

6. Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

This is an Algerian Iris that normally flowers January to February time. I’d bought two varieties earlier in the year as I’d been taken by other peoples. It’s nice to have a flower in that winter window where little else is flowering. But this seems to have got started early.  These are flowering at the base of the stems so I don’t know if I’ll get some larger ones in future years.

We will be going out of lockdown next week and into Tier 3 lockdown so there won’t be any changes for us. But seeing as we are both still working, Alice is at school and the garden centre is still open it doesn’t really affect my life much. I hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 21.11.20

We have had another week of balancing work and homeschooling. Alice’s year group was closed due to a positive Covid case. Amy and I are tag-teaming on the homeschooling. I teach Alice for the morning then Amy comes back to take over and I’ve headed into work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening. We planted up a few tulips in pots and emptied a few of the dahlia pots for storage. But largely the garden has been neglected. That said, there is still lots looking good out there.

Geranium oxonianum

I believe this is a form of geranium oxonianum though I don’t know which. It was passed on by one of my aunts. There are little pockets of these flowers dotted along the borders. A reliable no-fuss plant.

2. Dahlias

We have had a few chillier nights and the dahlias are starting to show the strain. I was hoping for dahlias in December but they are looking to be giving up now.

3. Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii

I picked this up just before lockdown reduced as it will soon shrivel up. It’s a nice variegated form of spurge that should give spectacular lime green flowers next year. It’ll need to be in a pot to give it the dry conditions it needs.

4. Ox-eye daisies

A few tatty daisies are in flower here and there. While they aren’t providing any sort of decent display the few pollinators still active will appreciate them.

5. Charity hydrangea

I picked this up from outside a house during our daily exercise walk in the first lockdown. They were outside a house and just asking for a donation. They seem to open quite green before quickly shifting to pink.

6. Breakfast birdwatch

I have largely stuck to teaching Alice traditional school lessons to keep her ticking over while she’s off school. A big focus on her phonics, reading and writing but I have included a little burst of nature contact with taking part in the breakfast birdwatch. We aren’t getting much variety currently but we are getting large numbers of sparrows and various pigeons. The sparrowhawk has come through a few times sending everything scattering but the crows usually turn up to mob it. I find I take more bird photos in winter as with the trees bare it becomes easier to get shots.

Alice goes back to school at the end of next week so going to be playing catchup on jobs after that. I am currently working through my RHS unit on pests and diseases so I am seeing signs of damage everywhere that would normally be neglected. I have enjoyed having the extra time with Alice but it has been tough balancing both our jobs and home life. Hope you are all keeping well and finding some solace in gardens and the outside world.

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Six on Saturday: 14.11.20-Wooden tools

We have had a busy week. Alice’s year group is closed now as a child in her class tested positive for Covid so she has 2 weeks at home. So, Amy and I are splitting our work time to home school while returning to work to school-school. Alice was initially upset to be off and then she realised this means she’s getting lots of time with us doing lessons again.

So onwards with this weeks six. I thought this week I would have a look at a few wooden tools for the garden. A new shop opened in town two days before lockdown. So, sadly it has had to close. It is stocking lots of wooden sculptures and gifts, but it also has many garden tools at cheap prices.

1. Dibber

We have quite a bit of bulb planting to go and Alice has got the hang of using my dibber so we can have 2 so she can have her own. We have a mass of Iris reticulata to pot up so that will speed the job up.

2. Trug basket

I thought this might be useful to carry some of the tools out and keep track of where they are. I might stain it before I use it just to hide the muck a bit.

3. Cane topper

I’ve got this cane topper ready for next year to erect for the sweet peas. I’ll need to get some canes to slot in the holes. Ideally, I’d like to make it a little taller than what I used this year. But this year was making do with what was around with lockdown. I might ask if they can make some smaller single cane toppers as be nice to have some instead of the less attractive rubber ones. Though they may be practical they aren’t the nicest.

4. Yew pot tamper

This tamper is used for pressing the compost down and smoothing it off in pots and seed trays. It was supposedly made from a yew grown by the great plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll. I like to think some of her talents rub off on the plants started using it.

5. Yellow rose

The yellow rose has managed its second flush of flowers. Very late on but much appreciated. Some years it has managed a third flowering but I don’t think I’ve fed and mulched it as much this year.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

I think this was a basal cutting I took from Dahlia tamburo earlier this year. Either that or Black Jack. The dahlias are still going. The dahlia flowers are lasting well currently as we’ve had dull dry days. The wet days bring the petals off and the warm sunny days lead to the fading. I’ve still got quite a lot of dahlias looking good. But I could do with them being frosted now so I can lift the ones coming out and put blubs in. A lot will be getting left in the ground and getting a mulch but the potted ones come out.

We might be on lockdown but we still have Alice’s dance lesson coming virtually through zoom so I will be busy for part of the morning. Then Alice is asking for a home-school lesson. She doesn’t have a concept of the weekend giving me a day off. Hopefully might manage a few jobs in the garden over the week if I can persuade Alice that they are part of her home-schooling. Enjoy your weeks.

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Six on Saturday: 7.11.20-new patio seating area

Going back quite a few months we won vouchers from woodblocx for our efforts during grow your own for wellbeing week. I left off spending the vouchers until the building work had finished. I finished off building it last week and moving the patio furniture around. I went for a double bench and it feels like a nice solid bit of kit. Obviously, we will be lacking visitors currently with lockdown. As both me and Amy work in education this lockdown doesn’t look to change our daily routines much as we are still heading to work. So, we won’t get to enjoy the new seating area much for a little while.

1. The view from above

From above you can see the new seating area is taking up a decent space on the patio so everything has had a move around to accommodate. A few plants have been moved into the borders. We have Alice’s mud kitchen given its own space behind the bench and then the log stores have been placed opposite each other. The patio concrete is quite bad and it is something we’d like to get paved at some point in the future.

The seating area

The seating area is a decent size. Two of us can comfortably sit on each bench. The corner space is designed to be used as a planter but we thought it would be more useful as a table so I have built the tabletop additionally. The top lifts on and off so we can potentially use it as storage. Though it quite heavy so probably something that doesn’t come in and out much like the umbrella stand that will be away for the winter. The woodblocx work a bit like Lego. Each wooden block has holes in and then you put plastic dowels in so they then fit together like Lego bricks to make the design. It feels pretty robust. We’ll probably look at getting some bench cushions next year when the weather warms up and we want to sit out more.

3. Behind the bench

I have used the backspace to put a few shade lovers. These ferns and hostas are shaded by the bench and wall. These will also provide a bit of a wind buffer. I did have heuchera on here last winter but when I moved them back after the builders finished I found vine weevil. I have disposed of them and treated the garden with nematodes. It is just warm enough they may still work but I will need to keep a close eye on things in spring.

4. Alice’s mud kitchen

The mud kitchen has gained a bit of space. It is largely filled with charity shop finds. Currently, she is mainly making perfume from the deadheaded dahlias. To one side I have an acer and hostas, to the other side the fern pictured in the previous photo.

5. The log store

The log stores have been moved right along the wall close to the French doors. I put hanging basket hooks on previously for solar lights. These were cheap ones and half have stopped working. I’m keeping my eye out for some decent replacements. The mini-greenhouse has a few cuttings on the go and a few Digitalis lutea and a few heucheras I’m trying from seed.

The log stores are also acting as wind and sun buffers for an Acer palmatum ‘seiryu’. With our sea winds, I shouldn’t really bother with Acers but I have persisted anyway. Eventually, I will create enough buffers for them to thrive.

On the opposite fence to the bench is the water butt. It’s 300 litres and has served us well over this summer with a large amount of our watering coming from this. I reckon one more decent one and I could probably manage without using the tap but Amy needs bringing around to this idea. This area has gathered a collection of plants that don’t currently have a place. There are two large dahlias that I am waiting to be frosted. Then they can be lifted and I’ll sort this area properly.

So, that rounds out the patio. I still need to tidy some of it up but I’m sure the bench will get plenty of use. We Christened it on bonfire night with a mini-bonfire, marshmallows and sparklers. I hope you are all having good weekends and keeping well.

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