Six on Saturday: 21.3.20

This week has seen many hundreds of petunias and fuschias potted on alongside a lesser number of begonias. The first tomato plants I potted on at work are now making it onto the shop floor and are selling well. I can’t decide whether it’s just the time of year or whether people are planning to dig for victory but the grow your own seems to be selling well.

1. Fairy garden

I’ve finally got round to sorting Alice’s fairy garden. She bought this solar panel teapot a few weeks back. It has little lights inside illuminating it at night. We worked together covering the pot surface with various stones and glass gems. A pond area and grass area have been designated.

She recently got a few new residents as well.

2. Feeder cam

I won a nest camera kit last year. However I pretty much never get birds nesting so I decided to remove the camera and install it within a fence feeder tray. It’s wired and can be connected to my laptop to get a closer view of what is visiting. I was inspired by having seen Karen’s blog showing her new wildlife camera. She has a superior version with its own power source and no wires. But I’ve had this camera a year and done little with it so feel better for giving it a purpose.

Currently, that’s nothing. But the birds will find it soon I’m sure.

3. Bargain shrubs

I’ve been pretty good about not buying from work but these were super bargains. The Magnolia ‘Susan’ is a small variety that I can hopefully manage in a pot. They don’t really suit my conditions but at £1.49 I’ll take a chance. Then the Ilex creanta ‘Stokes’ will probably used in the front garden. I planted a hedge line already. So I may use these to thicken it up a bit. Or might keep these just keep them to try and do box type balls.

4. Daffodils

The daffodils are out in force now around the bench of happiness. These were planted when we first moved in and are now well established. They were just cheap bags of mixed daffodils. I’m not that fond of daffodils but Amy likes them and they do bring some cheer to this corner before the ferns and hostas get going again.

5. Bulb lasagne-muscari

The crocus is still going strong in the front pots and the muscari are coming through in the back pot now. Tulips to follow. These have been good little Tesco bargains.

6. Dahlietta Surprise Becky

The first dahlia of the year is flowering. This was bought as a plug when I went for my interview at the garden centre. It has been growing on inside and we now have the first flower. I’ll be pinching out in a day or two and taking the growth back a bit to encourage bushiness but for now, it’s stunning. I had one of these little container dahlias last year and it went for months on end. I’m hopeful this one will do the same.

I hope you are all ok in these strange times and getting some comfort from your gardens. I got round to updating my contents and added a 30 days wild page of ideas. Many of them can be done in the garden if you are confined to quarters. Don’t forget to check the other six on Saturday blogs through the founder’s blog. Check the comments on his latest for more blogs. Stay safe out there.

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Time at the Bay

We have returned from the in-laws at Robin Hood’s Bay. The weather hasn’t been the best but we managed a few walks and had a bit of time to enjoy their garden.

It was quite windy both days so we stayed off the cliff path but managed to walk down between the houses.

We revisited the Victoria where we had our wedding meal.

The gnomes of the bay are still looking cheerful.

Amy borrowed my camera to get a bit more practise before she starts teaching photography again.

Alice wanted a photo next to hellebores outside one of the pubs. Maybe my influence is rubbing off.

The Victoria has wonderful drifts of snowdrops and daffodils open together at the moment.

A spectacular camellia on the walk down.

The stone walls on the walk down are full of life at the moment. Ferns and snowdrops are filling the walls.

Here are bricks made from the local clay. When I talked in my last blog about the soil being thick clay I meant it.

The in-laws garden is in transition between seasons. A lot going over while other bulbs haven’t come up to replace them. The cyclamen and snowdrops are starting to go over.

A lot of the hellebores are starting to go over but there are still many putting on a good show.

The pond is doing well. Amy’s dad has added a solar panelled fountain. Not at it’s best on a grey day but still entertaining Alice. I saw a few of the newts in the pond. They are probably eating all the tadpoles each year so they aren’t getting the frogs as much currently.

Alice is enjoying pretending to take photos. We’ve dug her out an old camera now so she can start taking some actual photos.

The willow hedge is establishing nicely. I rather fancy making a willow tunnel in my garden as it’s so easy to grow from cuttings but not sure how it would fit with the existing structure.

The daffodils along the hedge going strong.

The bird feeders were seeing as many visitors as I think I’ve ever seen there. Charms of goldfinches, bullfinches, chaffinches, sparrows, magpies, jackdaws, robins and peasants.

The blackbirds were rather inquisitive.

The chimney pots by the back door looking good.

A few cyclamens still providing some deep colour.

The greenhouse is filled with some succulents doing very well at the moment. My aeonium is miserable and just lost a stem after I knocked it but the ones here are looking great.

Alice was keen to get out and race in the garden. She ran lots of laps in the garden.

The crocus in the lawn looking great. Mine are starting to come through but the weather hasn’t done them much good. It’s going to be a good few years before I have a good show from them.

It’s always nice visiting the in-laws garden. I normally come away wishing I had lots of their plants in my garden and wanting to rush out and purchase lots but I’m actually pretty happy with my own garden currently. Though I wouldn’t mind some chimney pots for planters. Alice had a great time. She’s walked up and down the steps to the seafront several times over the weekend and she hasn’t needed carrying at all this visit. She’s growing up rapidly.

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Burton Agnes: snowdrop walk 2020

It’s almost a year to the day that we visited Burton Agnes for the snowdrop walk. It makes for a nice winter stroll. We’ve got one of Amy’s friends visiting so thought it’d be a nice day out on one of the few days that wasn’t meant to rain heavily. Burton Agnes is a lovely Elizabethan hall with a walled garden and woodland. The first we thing we spotted was Amy’s dad in the carpark, which was a nice surprise to see him there.

There was a good queue to get in as everyone gift aids their ticket. Once in we headed on the snowdrop walk first. Alice was excited to see the snowdrops pointing them out everywhere.

The snowdrops carpet all the woodland ground.

The walk gives you a gentle stroll suited to a three-year-old. The wind was bitter even well wrapped up but the snowdrops were stunning.

They have left lots of stumps and branches to rot down. Good to see positive woodland management.

Even busy with people walking there was plenty of bird song as we walked.

When we visited last year I commented that Alice was disappointed that there was noo Gruffalo. There was an owl and snake and fox. They have rectified this mistake.

They’ve done a good job on the park with a massive tower and spiral slide for the older children, then two smaller climbing frames for different ages. A zip wire runs along the back.

We had a stroll around the outside of the house of the gardens.

The garden is bare currently.

The walls still providing for some of my favourite ferns.

But the greenhouse was well worth going in for the mass display of Narcissus.

Amy is taking on more classes at school and she is teaching more photography. So, Alice got a few lessons today.

Then Amy borrowed my camera to get some practice in.

Then back to the courtyard to see what was available. I resisted the snowdrops. No more Galanthus for me. I’ve just added a few more in the front garden and I’ll let them spread gradually now.

The irises were more tempting. I’ve got a small pot of Katherine Hodgkin but they do look good in a mass display.

I’ve got Katherine’s gold still to come but it’s nice to see what they are going to look like.

I went for two pots of Iris reticulata ‘Pixie’. They are not in flower yet. Pixie is a pretty little purple variety to add to the mix. It’s been a lovely day out. Alice managed very well with the walking, had a great time in the play park. I now have 100s of her photos to filter through.

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Folklore Thursday-Wren king of the birds

During the Big Garden Birdwatch, the wren was pretty much in the garden constantly reminding me of a folklore story. Once upon a time, the birds decided they would find out once and for all which of them was the king of the birds. They settled on a competition, the bird who could fly the highest would be named king of the birds. The birds all took flight, flying higher and higher. The small birds were the first to drop out and it wasn’t long until just the birds of prey were left. Finally, just the eagle was left. With no flight left in it, it started to descend. As it did a wren hidden in its feathers flew up higher declaring itself king of the birds.

The other birds were outraged with the wrens trickery and refused to accept the result. The wren laughed at them. It could beat them at any challenge. The eagle challenged it to swoop the lowest. The eagle dived and swept along the ground. The wren dived and saw a burrow it entered winning the contest. However, the birds of prey wouldn’t let it out annoyed at its deceit. It stayed hidden until one day while the owl was distracted it snuck out. From that day on the wren has stayed hidden low down in the bushes to avoid the angry birds of prey trying to take its title of king of the birds.

The wren used to be hunted on the feast day of St Stephen on the 26th December The wren would be killed and paraded around the village on a poll by strawboys. The wrenboys dress in suits of straw and masks and colourful clothes. Several folklore songs were sung as they paraded.

“The wren the wren the king of all birds

St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze

Her clothes were all torn- her shoes were all worn

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

Give us a penny to bury the “wran”

If you haven’t a penny a halfpenny will do

If you haven’t a halfpenny/ God bless you!”

For a tiny little bird, it has played a large part in the folklore of the UK. For a tiny bird it has one of the loudest songs. Well worth spending time watching and enjoying.

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

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Six on Saturday: 18.1.19

We come to the end of another week and the garden has survived the worst of the storms. Only the one pot that is getting blown over so not too bad in the grand schemes. The predicted cold weather over the next week isn’t meant to be as severe in my area though it may be wet.

Burgon & Ball winnings

A few weeks ago I posted about winning the Burgon & Ball photo competition and now my winnings have arrived. For those of you who don’t know Burgon & Ball are a Sheffield based company established in 1730 working with steel. They have an established history of making quality tools and they received the RHS endorsement in 2012. So, it’s very nice to win a collection of their tools. I opted for an allotment set, despite no allotment, as it had more tools I don’t own in. I got two long-handled weeders. The weed slice is for quick work on surface weeds. The express hoe has an oscillating blade. This apparently makes it easier to pull across the soil as it angles itself to cut.

I think these will work well in the front garden where I get a lot of surface weeds that can just be scraped off.

The razor hoe should be good for some of the cracks in the patio.

Then finally, a mug. While I don’t have an allotment still good to have a garden mug.

2. Beach finds

I’ve tied up a few of my beach finds. Alice helped thread, then directed me to place them for decoration around the trees.

3. Further bargain bulbs

Morrison’s bulbs were down to a pound and less. I opted for some pink hyacinths ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘candy prince’ tulips I thought Alice would like. I don’t massively like hyacinths, but they are supposedly good for bees. The tulips aren’t particularly good for wildlife but have to make some concessions to beauty. The naturalising mix should be of more benefit to wildlife. It contains Tulip Tarda, Chinodoxa and Muscari. I already have patches on Chinodoxa and Muscari, but I’m interested to see how the Tulip Tarda perform. These are closer to the original wild form. I’ve gone with quite a lot of bulbs that can naturalise so I don’t have to spend as much each year. I may regret going for so many that can spread, but be a few years till I have to worry about that. For now, I can enjoy the show.

These have all made it into the ground. As I haven’t marked any of my previous bulb plantings I’m going from memory of what is coming up where so I could have some strange combinations. I’ve tried marking bulbs but Alice likes moving labels and there are too many bulbs now.

4. Blackcap

I posted a few weeks saying I’d spotted a blackcap in my parents garden. I’ve now seen one in my garden. I’ve not wanted to disturb it so I haven’t got a great photo yet, but nice to have a newcomer to the garden. Not a rare bird, but apparently staying overwinter more frequently and moving further north. This was followed by several long-tailed tits, which are becoming another more common winter visitor up north.

5. Big garden birdwatch preparation

During winter and in preparation for the Big Garden Birdwatch I’ve increased the number of feeders dotted around the garden. I’ve also put a few closer to the house so we get to enjoy a few birds at close quarters. I’ve got a few of the jars of fat food from Wilco’s. These provide lots of energy during the winter months. I’ve put the nyjer feeders back up. I haven’t bothered with them in a while as the seed was rotting away, but as I’ve seen a number of finches recently I thought I’d give it another go. The stands are rusty ones I bought cheap when I first moved in. The outer layer has almost all cracked away. I don’t particularly like getting rid of things or creating waste so I’m considering giving them a lick of paint. Looking online though there are lots of choices beyond the original black, so it’s tempting to jazz them up. On the subject of feeders, it is worth moving them around every so often as this stops the build-up of leftover food underneath and helps stop the spread of disease.

6. Cineraria

Having found a new source of peat-free compost last week I wanted to try some seeds to see how it performed as seed compost. This is the main reason I need compost for so if the seeds can’t germinate it won’t be much use. Cineraria is a plant I’ve used around the borders as it contrasts well with darker plants like the dahlias. But after a while, it gets too big and woody and loses some of its charms. I’ve used the compost as is. I’ve not mixed anything additional in so I can see how it performs as it comes. I’ve used a large seed tray, this has been placed on a windowsill and should take about two weeks to germinate. The bag of the packs says germination guaranteed. So Wilcos can expect a letter asking for my pound refund if they don’t.

Well that’s your lot. I’ve not much planned for the garden this weekend. I’ve got a bit of pruning to do. I want to cut the height of the shrubs nearest the house so I’ve got a view down the garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch. We’re off out to visit one of my Amy’s friends. They have a stunning garden that we saw at open gardens last year (garden number 4). While it won’t have the abundance of summer I’m still looking forward to seeing it and how it holds up in winter. I hope you’ve all not been blown away and enjoy your weekends. Don’t forget to check the links on the Propagator’s blog to see other six on Saturday posts.

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