30 Days of Wild: Idea 4-Wildlife books

It is sometimes difficult to get outside work and family commitments can take us places less than wild. So today suggestion is to spend a few minutes settling with a wild read. There are many great authors currently getting published under the rather horrible title of nature writing. The market has been flooded with books covering the restorative power of nature. There is a wealth of options covering all forms of life.

I’ve got a few books ready for this month. The first option is a debut from Norwegian professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson. I’m excited for this one. It’s a while since I read anything on insect life so I’m ready for something new. It’s been well reviewed so it hopefully won’t disappoint.

The next is a trip to childhood nostalgia. I have The enchanted places to read by Christopher Milne. After watching the lovely Christopher Robin movie telling a fictionalised version of Christopher Robin I wanted to know more about the real story. This book recounts his memories of the real 100 Acre Woods. I thought it might be a good read for looking at creating memories for Alice.

The last book I have lined up is Still water by John Lewis-Stempel. John Lewis-Stempel’s meadowlands remains one of my favourite books on the natural world. His books feature superb descriptions of what he observes in his day to day encounters. Coming from a farming family and farming himself his books write from a different perspective to many of the books on the market. He manages to write about farming while supporting wildlife showing different options for the future. Still Water has a particular interest to me living near Hornsea Mere, the largest fresh water lake in Yorkshire, and North Cave Wetlands.

Still-Water

Following on from John Lewis-Stempel I’d also recommend checking out the Wainright Prize. John has won a number of times and been nominated in other years. The list always features an interesting mix. They aren’t always all to my taste but they do seem to showcase the best in the field.

So whatever you are doing today make some time for nature even if it is just a few pages of a wild read before bed. I hope you’re all enjoying 30 days wild. What have you got up to? Any wild reading recommendations?

Follow me on Twitter.

30 Days Wild-sign up time

It’s that time of the year again when I start preparing for a month of wildness. I originally set up this blog in support of the Wildlife Trust’s 30 day days wild initiative. Through June the WIldlife Trusts encourage you to do one wild act each day. This can be as simple as cloud gazing, finding something blue. Or you may actually get out to a reserve or go on a day out in nature. It is a great way to connect with our natural world. Connecting with nature in this way has been shown to improve happiness, reduce stress and make you more mindful of the world around you. But mainly it’s good fun. There isn’t any pressure to do something every day but there are basic enough ideas you should be able to manage something.

I signed up for the school pack. This comes with some lovely ideas on large cards. There is a pack of information, posters, stickers and a colouring wall sheet. Alice wants to steal the wild teacher badge from me so I don’t know how long I’ll manage to hold onto that.

People who have followed the blog for a while will know I’ve taken part for several years now. Earlier in the year, I was asked if one of my previous wild acts could be used in a book the Wildlife Trust was putting out for 30 days. The book is now out. 365 days wild by Lucy McRobert lists lots of ideas, as the name suggests, of things to do through the year to connect with nature. The book has been put together well. Attractively designed, it features many photos and details of the wild acts. It’s a book you can settle down to read or just flick through to get inspiration.

I’m proud to have a small entry within the book from my previous years taking part in 30 days wild. I wrote a haiku as one of my previous wild acts. There is a description of how to write a haiku and then my little effort at the bottom of the page. The family have taken the mick that it was just this small entry, but then they’re not published poets like I now am. Took me at least two minutes work.

30 Days Wild is great fun to take part in. There are great online communities through Twitter and Facebook sharing their efforts. I highly recommend signing up.  Never been a greater need to show appreciation for nature.

Follow me on Twitter.

Six On Saturday: 30.3.19 Birthday Edition

As mentioned last week Sunday was my birthday and I received a number of nice garden gifts. I had a good day despite my throat still hurting. The sun was shining and I managed a little bit of time out weeding in the garden. Then lunch out at the Floral Hall and a walk along the beach. So onwards with showing off my presents.

1. Niwaki treats

The wife has picked up from my Christmas present that buying me something from Niwaki is a good bet for making me happy. The first treat was the double holster. This comfortably fits the secateurs and snips. I’d bought a holster previously and I’ve found it very useful for having tools to hand. This should get plenty of use as well as storing the tools better. As I often leave them on work surfaces Alice isn’t going to spike herself on my tools. Then she also bought me some crean mate a block for cleaning tools with to prevent rust and build up of gunk. Should help keep my tools in good nick.

2. Hydrangea libelle

Hydrangea libelle is a small white lacecap hydrangea bought for me by my parents. So far my garden has three pink mopheads and I have three limelights to go in so this will add some variety to the hydrangea love. It grows to just over a metre so I may keep this one for a pot rather than the border.

3. Hosta Dream weaver

While it doesn’t look like much currently this should become a gold-leaved hosta. This grows wider rather than taller at about 50cm tall and 70cm wide so it might be a nice one for a pot or else I’ll use it in the shaded front garden.

4. Bird books

I got two books on birds. One to help with learning the bird song and another more informative book that looks like it should be interesting. It’ll be nice to sit in our new garden room and read these.

5. Garden vouchers

I received some garden vouchers. Vouchers are always nice as you feel you can buy something you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable buying yourself. I think I’ve got my hydrangea fill for now. So maybe some big patio pots or more ferns for the front garden.

A previous birthday present

This camellia Christmas Rose was bought for me two years ago by one of my now sister in laws. It has taken to years to flower but it has been worth the wait. They are big and brash but it’s a welcome colour burst at this point of the year. It probably isn’t quite hardy enough for my conditions but the edge browning doesn’t show as badly as on the white camellia.

It was a good birthday. I’ve now got to work out what to spend my vouchers on. My plans for the front garden are gradually coming together. The building work is still going on but I can start on prepping some of the space ready. Hope you all have good weekends and check the six on Saturday participants guide if you feel like getting involved in this lovely gardening community.

The Front Garden

Recently I’ve mentioned the front garden, quite a lot, in my six on Saturday posts. However, I rarely feature it or show it off as there isn’t very much happening. It is set up to be low maintenance and requires very little attention. Drought tolerant plants and evergreens have been the order of the day. While it easy it lacks any razzle-dazzle. The current building work is going to change the front. The top half is being rerendered. Then the bottom half is having the windowsills redone and we will be painting the brick again.

The garden itself is North facing and shaded as a result for much of the day. A few doors down to the West there is a house with an overgrown Aucuba Japonica hedge that provides a bit of shelter from that direction and a bit more shade. The small border I believe is fairly shallow. I seem to remember there is a pipe going through both.

I’ve emptied part of the thin border ready for the scaffolding going up. There was a patch of lavender close to the house but this has got a bit scraggly so I removed it. Arum Italicum pops up along this border. I will probably dig it out. While I like the foliage it spreads quickly. The lavender at the other end I will probably relocate. It’s doing alright but it doesn’t really get enough sun to thrive. I quite fancy a few evergreen plants with shade-loving perennials or bulbs to add some excitement. Possibly some evergreen ferns and maybe a few hostas. Alternatively, the bin may end up where the lavender is. I’d like them tidied away behind a screen but can’t decide on the right spot to place them. I’d like the garden to look better but it still needs to be practical.

The opposite border is dominated by two hebes and next doors conifer. I imagine the conifer will go at some point as it is blocking their window now and the house side is starting to brown off. The hebes are evergreen and require little maintenance. I like how they give nice rolling domes of greenery all year. Lamprocapnus Spectabilis, bleeding heart, pokes out through the middle for a few weeks each year. However, the darker of the two hebes is dying off with more browned off patches. They don’t flower much anymore. So, I’m unsure whether to remove the one or both and whether to replace with like for like but smaller and healthier. Or whether to go with something different. The hebes suit the shaded conditions and sea winds but it will have the same issues that it will need replacing every 5-10 years potentially. The hebes don’t prune well so when they outgrow their space it causes an issue. I have the two Ilex Crenata Holly stokes that will also form neat domes but could be pruned back and shaped to form tight evergreen interest for the whole year. While they are getting established I could plant some filler plants in between.

In front of the windows, I’ve got two window boxes. As the wall will have just been redone I don’t want to attach these to the walls so I plan to look for some stone bricks to sit them on. The windows open out at the bottom so I can’t put anything too tall that can’t tolerate being brushed by the window opening in Summer. The window boxes are 50cm long while the window is just over a metre. So they’ll sit under the windowsill centrally. I’m thinking some ophiopogon and small ferns, mini hostas for these. I reckon they’ll only fit 3 or 4 small plants with maybe some bulbs coming through in Spring. Maybe something spilling over the edge but unsure of what yet.

As I’m in doubt of what to plant in the boxes I’m seeking the advice of an expert, the good Dr Hessayon. As ever it’s full of lots of solid food for thought. Then how to window box gives lots of design ideas for different styles.

The stones are full of weeds so this will need to come up. Then I’ll either be replacing the weed matting and stones or turning it into a large planting area. One of the hydrangea limelights is probably going to be in the middle. As it’s a small area I want plants with long seasons of interest and there are few flowering shrubs as good as the hydrangea for this. Even after the flowers go over they can still look attractive. It should also suit the shaded conditions well. The ground ends up covered in weeds and moss. I don’t know whether to try and turn this over to a moss garden Japanese style. Moss is of massive benefit to the environment acting as a big carbon sponge making this an attractive option. Any advice anyone?

I’ve probably got a month or two to make decisions so I can carry on with my daydreaming and rearranging in my head.

So the big decisions are:

  • Where the bins will go?
  • What to do with the hebes?
  • What is going in the windowboxes?
  • What am I going to do with the stones?

Anyone care to offer their thoughts?

Follow on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 16.2.19 Taste of exotics

Having posted about Ophiopogon planiscapus last week I thought I’d continue looking at some of my plans to widen out my selection of exotic plants or at least exotic looking plants. While I’m holding off on most of my sowing a few of my choices for this year have such long germination periods I thought I’d get them started.

1. Musa lasiocarpa-dwarf banana

One of my Morgan & Thompson seed purchases this year was a pack of musa lasiocarpa. This dwarf banana is fairly hardy supposedly taking temperatures down to -10. I’m aiming to grow it for the patio but with up to six months to germinate, I thought I better get started. While they are available as small plants there is a satisfaction that comes with growing from seed. Though as these come with a warning that germination is “slow and erratic” I’m not getting my hopes of success up to much.

2. Agaves

The second of this year’s Morgan and Thompson seed purchases. This was a mixed packet of agave seeds. While I am in the cold North being by the coast I think might give them reasonable survival chances if I can get them going. There are a few gardens in my area that bring agaves out for Summer so we’ll see how I get on. At less than 99p after deals were applied I’m willing to take a chance on them. After a week in the propagator I’ve already got some germinating, so we’ll see if I can keep them going to become fully fledged plants. I need to read up on the next stage. I’d only read up on germination as I thought it might fail at that stage.

3. Heated propagator

In order to increase my chances of germination success, I’ve bought a heated propagator. It featured last week with the black mondo seeds. It’s only a cheap variety that adds a few degrees heat but that could make all the difference. It doesn’t have a thermostat to control temperature but I didn’t want to break the bank on it. I do wish I’d gone for the premium though for a more solid lid.

4. Discount ferns

A few weeks back I picked up a few discount ferns. While they are a bit miserable at the moment I think they’ll pick back up with fresh fronds. The borders are filled mainly with cottage garden favourites so to tie the patio and lawn area together I’m looking to use ferns and hostas that will feature in both areas.

One corner of the border already contains a good number of ferns. I’m now looking to mirror this on the opposite border. These new ferns are destined for there. Dryopteris is a nice erect shuttlecock form growing to around a metre tall.

Cristata the king is a tall form that remains evergreen in warmer climates and deciduous as it moves to colder climates. It tolerates a lot of garden situations from shade to semi-shade and tolerant of a variety of soils. It tends to clump and can then be divided to spread it around.

Filix-Mas is deciduous giving me hope that it will come back fine. Once established it shouldn’t need much care. Most of the ferns are evergreen as I’d intended them as a constant green backdrop. This will add a bit of contrast within that mix.

5. Plant lovers guide to ferns

Ferns make for fascinating plants with their prehistoric nature. They provide excellent foliage. Many of my choices are evergreen providing the garden with a background of year-round interest. This book from Kew Gardens has a lot more detail than I expected. I thought it would have a few recommended varieties and a bit of planting detail. A coffee table book but it’s actually very informative. There are recommendations for different areas of the garden, some design ideas, a solid section detailing different ferns and propagation.

6. Propagating houseplants for outdoors

It isn’t an original idea Will Giles did it, Christopher Lloyd did it but this year I want to try some of the houseplants I keep inside outside. It was discussed in one of this weeks plant based podcasts. My prime candidates are plants that are easy to propagate so I can keep the backup inside and put the propagated plants outside without worrying if they die.

Candidate number one is my spider plant. If I let it my spider plant population grow they could easily take over the house. I normally cut the flowers before they become pups. I have saved a few though to go outside in the Summer. They have put on good root systems and are getting to reasonable heights.

The second plant I’m looking at is my string of hearts. These are supposedly easy to propagate. Cutting laid on soil should root. I imagine this could be used in mixes pots to trail the edge of pots. I’m not sure of its hardiness but a few cuttings of these will only cost a handful of soil. So if they die straight away I haven’t lost anything but a bit of time.

I’m aware these are not necessarily the most exciting photos to ever feature on my six but hopefully, they will be more exciting later in the year. The discount bedraggled ferns should recover to become glorious foliage. The seeds will flourish into beasts. The houseplants will bring new elements to the outside patio area. Exciting times ahead.

Follow me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 12.1.19

The days are getting longer now. I’ve travelled home during daylight a few days this week. The first day back at work with the children has been nice, though we now have building work in the classroom and at home. No escaping. Good to be the weekend now and have some time to check over the garden.
1. Primulas

I’m not a massive fan of primulas. I mainly see them in Council bedding schemes with a lurid range of colours. But I’ve kept a few yellow and white varieties close to the wilder varieties. I considered removing them last year, but blog readers encouraged me to divide them and leave them in. I still can’t say they excite me, but it is a few flowers at a point where little is happening.


2. Crocus

With the building work going on I’d moved a few pots off the patio and onto the border. I’ve a suspicion that I may have crushed some of my existing croci. So I’ve added a few cheap ones from the local florist.


3. Fern-Dryopteris Affinis

Another purchase from the florist, I found this fern discounted as it has browned a bit. But once new fronds come along it will be fine. I currently have one patch of ferns under the Acre. I want to add some in the opposite border along with a few hostas. This will add some cohesion to the borders. Then with the planned ferns and hostas on the patio, this will hopefully tie the two layers together a bit. I won’t plant this yet though. I’ll let the weather warm up a bit first. Golden shield fern has the traditional look of ferns fronds and grows about a metre long. An attractive foliage plant that should look good combined with the hostas wider leaves.


4. Camellia buds

The established camellia is awash with buds. This is a white-flowered variety. It suffered from frost last year and many of the flowers had rather unsightly brown edges. It probably needs protecting with fleece, but I don’t really want large plants that aren’t hardy enough. We’ll see how it goes this year and decide it if gets the chop.

The less established I think was called Christmas Rose. It has red flowers. But it hasn’t produced any yet. It is looking a bit scruffy, but it does have buds this year. Again, I’m looking to see if it pays its way or whether it also faces the chop. I’m not a massive fan of them, so wouldn’t miss them much.


5. Lychnis Coronaria-Rose campion

Having cleared some ground over the last few weeks I can see the mass number of self-seeded Lychnis. Luckily, I like this plant but I will need to move some around the border. The mass of pink flowers kept going for a long period through last Summer and attracted lots of insects.

They are pretty well covered in dust from the render coming off, but a bit of wind and rain I’m sure will remove some of this. Once they put on new growth I’m confident they will look a bit healthier.


6. Dahlias-Naomi Slade

It’s time to rest now and dream of Summer. In preparation for that, I am reading Naomi Slade’s beautiful book. With lots of stunning photos it acts as a catalogue of dahlias to buy. But on top of the eye candy it has lots of information to go alongside. I’ve never grown dahlias before so this will be my first year. I’ve got a collection Sarah Raven sells to grow in pots on preorder. They are shorter varieties that don’t need as much staking land and can handle the confines of the pot to go on the patio. After reading this I’m sure I’ll want to add some to the borders as well. What dahlias are you planning this year?

So now it’s just patience of waiting for the weather to warm up to get started on the dahlias and other seed sowings. So enjoy your weekends and good gardening!

Follow on Twitter.

7 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 7 Wildflower Hunt

Today is the last day of the Wildlife Trusts 7 days of Wild Christmas. It has been fun blogging daily again about our wildlife experiences, but it is time consuming blogging each day. So while my engagement with nature won’t stop the daily blogs will.

Moon Gazing

The day started early with Alice up at six. She is sleeping through on her own now most night so while it was an early start at least we’re not being woken up several times a night. As soon as Alice got downstairs she checked out the window. She is currently a bit obsessed with looking for the moon but lately, it has been too cloudy. So she was very excited to see stars and the moon this morning. We’ll have to spend a bit more time on astronomy rather than our usual biology studies.

New Years Plant Hunt

Today Alice and I got out for a walk to leave Amy to get on with some of her teacher prep. I haven’t done my New Year Plant Hunt for the BSBI so I thought today was the day. Last year we were up at Robin Hood’s Bay, so we saw no end of gorse. We headed out through the local park initially.

Alice was in a cheeky mood.

In the park, we found daisies, groundsel, and a small white flower I need to check up.

Alice told me the birds were singing and we managed to find the source of the singing.

We walked through town spotting a good spread of Winter heliotrope, a form of forget-me-not, and Herb Robert. I’m going to have to dig out the wildflower key to check it up.

Then we headed for home back along the seafront spotting another patch of winter heliotrope.

Not a massive number of species, but not bad for a walk just through town. Before I took part in 30 days wild I wouldn’t have known the names of most of these or even probably noticed them. So the fact that I can now name some of them shows some progress. It’s a simple joy spotting and being able to name elements of our natural world. Then by submitting my sightings I help contribute to the BBSI knowledge of seasonal shifts.

#WaveofWhales

The author Nicola Davies has called for a protest on Japan’s decision to resume whaling. She is requesting people send pictures, paintings and drawings to the Japanese ambassador to show opposition to this backwards step. I talked to Alice about the news story that whales would be killed and her answer was “Why?” A question I can’t really answer. Should you want an activity to do during the holiday this seems like a good activity to do with children and teach them responsibility for our world. Alternatively a good task for teachers when we return to school.

Post to be sent to Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka, Embassy of Japan 101-104 Piccadilly London W1J 7JT

Alice reading the snail and the whale

I was considering making seedballs today as got all the components ready, but after our walk, Alice just wants to colour and watch some Fireman Sam. As ever, Norman Price caused havoc. It really is time to look at pre-empting the trouble and look at getting Norman into a young offenders institute. At the very least Dilys should be getting monitored by social services for irresponsible parenting. I may get round to making seedballs later in the week but for anyone who fancies it here is a guide.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my return to taking part in the acts of wild. The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days wild will return in June. While I won’t be blogging the same quantity enjoying the natural world will still continue. From taking part in 30 days wild taking joy from nature has become pretty ingrained in my daily practice.

Follow me on Twitter.