Six on Saturday 9.6.18

While many of the sixes are now featuring roses my buds are staying firmly shut up North. But still plenty of visual delights on offer.

1. Foxgloves

One of my favourites is now in flower with many self seeded along the border. Planted for the pollinators the bees have been all over. I know many people proffer one colour, but I like an eclectic mix.

2. Lupins

Another cottage garden and Chelsea favourite. These were decimated by slugs last year, but defences have worked better this year.  While I only have one growing this year it has multiple heads coming up.

3. Ox eye daisies

Last year I grow these from seed. I now have far more than I need. I’ve divided some for my school garden and still been left with vast swathes. They are supposed to be one of the best flowers of pollinators with a mass supply of nectar.

4. Fruit

The dwarf apple had a large number of fruit forming. I will need to pick some out soon if they don’t drop naturally to encourage less, but bigger apples.

The dwarf cherry is also fruiting. It’s not going to be a feast, but might have enough to add to a single bowl of cereal. That is, if the birds don’t get them first. The starlings have been checking it over.

5. Marigold

A lone marigold left over from last year has flowered under the camellia.

6. Preparing for next year

Already starting preparation for next year. While I’m sure plenty will self seed I’d hate to be without, so foxglove seeds have gone in the propagator. Then got a few other biennials to sort. I’ll get them started in the trays, then pot on, then transfer to the border later in the year.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. A bit overcast today, but the garden wildlife is starting to come out in more. Enjoy your weekends!

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Living with slugs (and snails)

As most regular readers of my blog will know I’ve tried to build my garden up to attract various wildlife. I’ve tried to avoid potentially harmful chemicals for weed killing and pest controls. But even trying to encourage wildlife I still need some methods to control some of the more destructive forces in the garden. I’m talking about the slugs and snails. My aim hasn’t been to wipe them out completely as I don’t feel comfortable with committing large scale molluscacide I just want to reduce plant damage.

While many people use nematodes I’m not convinced of the long term sense in this solution. Nematodes for slugs and snails involve microscopic eelworms that create bacteria leading to slug destruction. Snail shells combined with time above ground defend them from nematodes. While a biological control seems like a better option than slug pellets which have been shown to be harmful to animals up the food chain. But something about the idea of nematodes is distasteful to me. I just want to control the numbers, not eradicate completely. I’m not looking for little daleks programmed to exterminate slugs and snails I just want a few less holes in plants trying to get established.

So I still favour biological controls, but not ones leading to total destruction of the slugs and snails. Encouraging predators into the garden helps create an equilibrium with the slugs and snails not destroying all green life. I have encouraged birds in through keeping bird feeders stocked. While they come for the food put out they still usually do a sweep of the borders to check for prey.

I’ve also tried to encourage hedgehogs to take up residence. While none have stayed they do visit through the hedgehog hole. Within. The garden I have hedgehog homes and feeding stations to bring them in. The trail camera shows they do visit. I don’t know how many slugs they account for, but I still like knowing they are there.

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Frogs and toads can eat through large quantities of slugs and snails. While I don’t have a pond next door does. To encourage some across into my garden I have a number of frog homes. Spots that are shaded and moist for frogs and toads to shelter in. A broken pot can be buried into the ground to provide shelter.

On top of biological controls slugs and snails can be controlled through barriers. Copper tape is recommended as they don’t like crossing the copper. However many still will cross when wet. Grit and egg shells are again recommended, but any gaps and they will find a way through.

Sheep wool pellets can be used to protect plants. They also act as a mulch helping water retention in the soil. It is however quite pricey for any reasonably sized area.

With almost any barrier method the slugs and snails can find a way in. Any leaves drooping over the barrier provides a path to a feast. Most varieties become less effective when wet. So I’ve mainly employed barriers to allow seedlings to get established. Then I trust that the larger plants can handle a bit of leaf loss.

When I have seen damage is bad I’ve employed beer traps to reduce numbers. Slugs and snails seem unable to resist beer. The beer dehydrates them leading to their death. Darker beer is supposed to be more effective, but I haven’t four d much difference between cheap lager and other varieties. Plus I don’t really like to pour away nicer beers to the slugs.

I have some commercially made traps, but jam jars and plastic bottles can be up-cycled into traps.

Through this multi-fronted approach I seem to be keeping plant damage to a level I can live with. While many people go out with the torch at night to remove this isn’t really an option for me as I have Alice to put to sleep, so not about to send time in the night picking them off. If you do though it is worth getting to know your slugs. Leopard slugs for example eat other slugs so are worth leaving.

My seedlings seem to be surviving better this year and making it to flower. I may even risk adding some hostas to the shaded corner!

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Six on Saturday:26.5.18

This week has been a good week for gardeners with the mass coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. I was happy with Chris Beardshaw as best in show and the Yorkshire Garden as the people’s choice. Both were clearly excellent quality show gardens. While often the show gardens have little relevance to my garden, with little I can take away to my own garden, I’ve like many of this years entries. I’m only halfway through watching the coverage, but it is now half term for me, so I’ve got time to catch up and give my own garden some attention.

1. Lavender

Along the front path I have a patch of lavender planted last year. These were 99p purchases that were bone dry needing some care. I’m glad to say they look like they’ve recovered and hopefully I grow these into a nice mass to give scent entering and leaving the house. I have a number of lavender patches around the front and back garden and several varieties. As a keen wildlife gardener it’s a reliable plant for helping support a wide variety of pollinators, so was a must for me despite the clay soil I work with. All the patches had plenty of grit mixed in when planted to help improve drainage. This patch at the front has been the first to flower this year.

2. Fennel

The fennel was planted last year. It only had a chance to form a small mound of feathery leaves. But as a hardy perennial it has come back stronger this year forming a nice mass of feather foliage. It makes a pleasing contrast to much of the more rounded leaves of the plants around it. Fennel forms umbels of yellow flowers that are good for butterflies to land on.

“It is an indisputable fact that appreciation of foliage comes at a late stage in our development

Christopher Lloyd

3. Tomatoes-gardeners delight

One of the parents at school has donated a tray of tomatoes. I’ve brought them back home to get them started and then will plant out into the school garden at a later date. This week is British Tomato Week for anyone thinking of buying a few plants. Tomatoes require a bit of love and attention, but should they get to picking stage it is a true taste delight eating your own tomatoes. I’ve grown them in a schools a few times, but not for a few years, so we’ll see how I get on.

4. Obelisk

I’ve set up a recent Aldi purchase of an obelisk. I’ve set it in a plastic half barrel planter. Not the prettiest thing, but needed a wide base. Maybe in future years I’ll splash out on a better quality one, but the width I needed it will do the job nicely for now. My sweet peas are coming on well on the windowsill and I’m looking to plant out onto this next week. The obelisk itself looks good and is making a good perch for the birds. Alice’s small hands helped get the soil into the container through the gaps in the obelisk, but has given it a little bit of a leaning tower effect.

5. Cosmea

The cosmea grown from seed is now getting it’s first flowers. The warm weather has brought them on a bit, but now it’s going colder again may halt there progress.

6. Birds

After a period of smaller numbers while the young hatched the number of birds has increased. The number of species is still low, but the quantity of starlings, sparrows and blackbirds is momentous for a small garden. I’m currently looking out on maybe 30/40 starlings, blackbirds scavenging in the border and sparrows along the fences. Today I’ve seen: starlings, sparrows, wrens, jackdaws, wood pigeon, collared dove, herring gull, blue tit, great tits and robins. While a noisy bunch it’s good to hear the cacophony of the young outside the double doors.

Hope you all enjoy your bank holiday weekend and have the chance to get outside into your gardens.

Six on Saturday: 19.5.18

Today the garden will hopefully be in use as we have family coming round for Alice’s second birthday. No Royal Wedding for us. Time has gone quickly with Alice coming on more everyday. The garden has come on a long way over that time as well.

1. Alliums purple sensation

There are still a few queen of the night tulips hanging on in there, but most of the tulips are gone. This loss though is being replaced the alliums. The purple sensations spheres are spreading out to form full spheres. These alliums form one tall stem with one small sphere to each stem.

2. Alliums Turkish onion

These alliums were planted in the first year in the house. They have large leaves before forming a large sphere low to the ground.

3. Aquilegia

Aquilegia, or Granny’s bonnet isn’t something I planted. It has come up each year poking out through other plants. But the leaves are interesting. The colours vary. One is flowering now, while a few more self seeded ones in the shade have more to come.

4. Oxalis

Last week we went to a community plant sale and picked up some cheap purchases. Amy like the oxalis. I believe this can spread badly, but for now it’s going on the new ladder planter on the patio.

5. Lilies

I also bought two lilies for the patio. One orange and one pink. They’ll add a burst of colour to the ladder.

6. Herbs

Amy wants a number of herbs to cook with, so we got a few cheap purchases at the sale. Dry as a bone currently. In need of a good water this evening.

Now to get things ready for birthday celebrations. Guests arriving in an hour. Hope you all have good weekends. The weather is glorious for a garden party. No sitting in watching weddings or football for us. The previously posted birdbath is getting good use now.

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Six on a Saturday 12.5.18

Time for six on Saturday as started by the propagator. The last few weeks of heavy rain followed by bright sunshine has really brought on the garden. Everywhere luscious green foliage is appearing. Blossom is out all over. The tulips are almost spent, but the alliums are following close behind to replace the loss. I like Summer flowering plants that form tall spires and they are all making their push to the sky. The hollyhocks, the foxgloves, lupins and teasel are all pushing up higher and higher. It’s a good time of year for the garden.

1. Clematis

The first of my six isn’t actually from my garden. It’s my neighbour’s clematis that is growing through. My own aren’t doing very much right now. There is one on side of the fence that was in the garden when we moved in. This had become thin and sprawling and only managed one flower last year. I’ve trimmed it back to almost the ground and it seems to be returning stronger. Then I have another on the other fence that was planted fresh last year that seems to be establishing now.

The neighbours clematis is growing through and over the fence. It’s providing a nice burst of colour in a patch that is currently a bit bare. I’ve got a climbing rose coming up here. Combined they should compliment each other well. Not sure of the type of clematis, beyond Spring flowering, but it is going strong.

2. Lilac

The lilac is out in flower now. It’s one of Amy’s favourite and the colour is nice. Not as strong smelling as I remember last year, but still has more flowers to come.

I’ve taken out a few suckers to grow new plants. Lilacs spread by suckers. The roots spread and new shoots grow around the stem. I’ve dug out three and potted up in a gritty soil mix. Then watered well and stones on the top to help retain moisture. These are destined for school if they establish well enough. I’m trying to save school budget by improving my outdoor area with free plants grown by different methods of propagation. I’m also making use of the discarded plastic pots of other purchases that are now planted in the border.

3. bluebells

The bluebells in my garden are just getting going. This years frosts has sent everything a bit off kilter. They were English, but I think they might be hybridized now. I’ll see when they flower.

Behind the garden there is a path with both blue and white varieties flowering. They are one of my favourite Spring flowers. Another like daffodils that mark the season.

4. teasel

Last year I established some small teasel seedlings in the border. Now they are beasts ready to flower. While not a popular garden option as it seeds all over and the leaves fill a lot space I wanted it for its wildlife potential. Bees love it. Goldfinches flock to it. I love seeing the goldfinches in. Last year they were all over my cornflowers. I’ve scattered some cornflowers seeds again. So I’m hoping between the cornflowers and the teasel and putting out niger seed I’ll see them more regularly. As biennials it should flower this year, as there second year. I have a few starting off this year to ensure a patch flowering next year.

The leaves are great, large, thorned things that surprisingly haven’t been eaten apart by slugs and snails.

5. Sempervivum

My patio holds my more exotic plants with alpines and succulents, while the border holds more traditional cottage garden choices. The sempervivum suffered with the frosts, but are recovering well now with rich green leaves and the darker leaved varieties looking fresher.

Six. beer traps

The slugs and snails have been devouring one of the patches of foxgloves and self seeded hollyhocks.

I have tried to avoid weed sprays and pest deterrent sprays that may be harmful to much of the visiting wildlife. I haven’t used pellets for several years now to avoid poisoning other animals up the food chain. My compromise has been beer traps. I periodically fill them up to kill off a few of the slugs and snails and give plants a chance to recover. It doesn’t eliminate, but it gives the plants a chance to establish a bit stronger. In hot weather the beer evaporates quickly, so they need topping up regularly if you want to keep them effective. As I’m just trying to keep numbers down I’m a bit lackadaisical about this.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six and enjoy your weekends.

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My watcher on the wall keeping an eye on my writing.

Six on Saturday-5.5.18

So this weekend is a longer weekend with the Bank Holiday. Surprisingly, we have sunshine as well. Bread buns are out of stock across the nation as people prepare for barbecues. My garden is seeing Spring coming to fruition. The blossom is on the trees. The Spring bulbs are all coming through I force now. The Summer bulbs are starting to poke through. Already I’ve forgotten what went where and having to check back on the blog to see what I’ve planted.

1. Cherry tree

Last Summer I ended up with a cheap dwarf cherry. It had lost many of its leaves, but come back to life now. The branches aren’t the most amazing shape, but I’m hoping as it grows up I can encourage a more pleasing form. The birds have been pecking away at buds for the last few weeks. Despite this the blossom has still managed to come out.

2. Apple tree

The apple tree is also blossoming. Another dwarf fruit tree. This was given a severe prune last year and dug out and turned around to encourage growth in a better form. It had seen five years of neglect while the house was rented. So last year we only had a small number of apples while it recovered. This year going off the blossom I might get enough for chutney again.

3. Queen of the night tulips

The queen of the night tulips are starting to flower marking the last of my tulips. These have grown much taller than the other tulips despite the pack details saying they’d be roughly the same height. This has give them a bit of a leggy effect, tall and thin over their other family.

4. Geraniums

Carrying on from last week I’ve added two new geraniums to fill patches of border that are a bit empty. Then as these grow I can divide and spread around the border and take some for school when I’ve filled my borders.

I’ve gone for two recommended for pollinators: Ingwersen’s variety and renardii. After this severe Winter I’m more aware of hardiness in the garden. Both of these have good hardiness ratings and RHS plant of merit awards as well as the good for pollinators award. Both are tolerant of a range of soils and conditions so they should thrive. They are also recommended for under planting roses. I haven’t currently done this, but maybe if they get to a point where I can divide I might use them for that purpose.

5. Ajuga, black scallop

I bought one small plant last year as part of an alpine deal. Since then it has spread nicely over its pot. It’s a hardy evergreen with rich dark leaves. The blue flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. Unlike most of my other alpines it likes moister soil and shade. It is recommended for under planting shrubs, so long as it is an area that stats moist. It spreads by runners, so I can create more removing the runners to establish in other pots.

6. Seagulls

For the last of my six here are one of my commonest visitors the seagulls. Being a seaside town my garden is swamped by these as much as sparrows and blackbirds. Currently I’m woken by a dawn cacophony of randy seagulls on our roof. They like sitting on the shed and at times will try to sit their massive frames on the bird feeder. I do put bread out for them, which is swarmed over within minutes. It isn’t the best food source for them, but as were a seaside town I can’t imagine it’s any worse than the chips. Yesterday Alice and myself were in the garden when this group descended within metres of us. Alice thought it was hilarious and wanted to go closer to say hello, but I kept her back. Don’t fancy a peck from those beaks.

They can be a pain stomping through borders, but by and large I quite like seeing them settled on the fence.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed my six and have good long weekends enjoying the sun.

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Dorset holiday part 5

On the last day we headed back to Hengistbury Head with another of Amy’s friends from her time in Indonesia visiting. When we arrived at the car park there was torrential rain and waves breaking over the sea wall and wind doing its best to blow us over. We weren’t sure the ferry would be running and as it turned out we just missed it. So we grabbed some lunch Mudeford side.

By the time we’d finished the weather had cheered up and the rain had just about stopped. So Alice got another trip on the ferry.

We visited our host again to thank her for the use of her house and wish her a happy birthday. However Alice was tired and grumbling, so no cake for us.

We headed back along the headland for the return ferry.

Back at the house she had a nice restful final afternoon.

The next morning we loaded up the car and headed out to come home. I wanted to try one last time to spot the deer a bit closer. The New Forest has a great number of deer and varieties. I’d seen a few from the car, but none up very close. Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary has a viewing platform that supposedly the deer visit regularly.

We had no luck spotting the deer, but we did find several more of the New Forest Ponies.

The robins and chaffinches were out in force.

Alice wasn’t bothered that we didn’t find deer, blissfully unaware, but was happy to see the horses one last time.

We had a quick wander through the trees. Alice apparently spotted lions.

We had one last look at the horses before heading on our long journey home.

Alice did very well until the last half an hour where hunger got the better of her. We stopped off at my parents. My parents next door neighbours have generously given Alice a bee push along. She had a good push and forth back and forth between the kitchen and the sitting room. This break gave her enough of a rest to get through the last part of the journey.

We’ve had a super time in Dorset. The weather hasn’t been the best, but we’ve made the best of it and had an amazing time. We’re both very grateful to our host and Alice has had a superb week away.