30 Days Of Wild: Idea 1 painting stones

A simple idea to kick off my ideas for 30 days wild that only requires a little bit of preparation of finding a stone beforehand. Now taking stones from the beach is illegal and the craze for painting rocks last year drove my wife crazy as we were seeing people taking bucket loads of stones from the beach. So there have been campaigns to decorate and then return the rock to the beach. The kindness rocks project shows lots of nice ideas of people writing messages onto their rocks. The artist Jackie Morris is in the habit of decorating and returning rocks with her lovely spiral Celtic Maze designs in gold. If you plan to do this as a teacher with your class please source the stones responsibly.

For some reason, Alice doesn’t like to keep her rock painted. We’ve painted the same rock multiple times over the last month and she’s then wiped it. But never mind she’s enjoyed it.

I’ve done a simple design to sit on top of the bug hotel in the garden after a varnish. I may do an equally simple bee design next to go alongside this.

Hope you’re all getting involved with 30 days wild and have enjoyed your first day.

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Front garden update

The building work is almost at an end. The front of the house is rendered and the brick has been repainted grey. I’ve been hard at work prepping the ground ready for planting.

The ground was covered in pebbles and under this weed matting. Unfortunately, the pebbles have been covered and don’t really do a proper job of suppressing weeds. So I’ve worked taking this all up to get back to the soil under the matting to start afresh making most of this area into a planting area. The ground under is pretty solid clay so I’m working on breaking it up with the mattock. I’m improving the soil structure mixing in some Dalefoot compost in my bid to go peat free and some calcified seaweed. In theory, this should improve the plants chance of taking and growing in the clay soil as well as adding some nutrients.

The removed pebbles have been put down the passage behind the garden to create a more stable path through winter. This becomes a quagmire in wet weather so hopefully, this will improve access year round.

I’ve hammered out the stones that lined the border with the removed hebes. These have quite a bit of concrete still around them. I’m reckon I can still use them though scattered round the border. I’m planning to plant Ilex crenata along this edge creating dark evergreen domes. I’ve got the plants ready to go in. I’m just waiting on the builders to finish their last few jobs so planting can commence.

The path is getting redone with tiles. This should smarten it up from a cracked concrete path. I’ve got to weed it prior to the tiler coming.

While the builders are doing the pipes we’re having a water butt added. This might save me the odd trip round to the tap at the back.

Then the side border of the paths is going to become a bin hideaway and possibly a log store. Neither particularly interesting gardening features but necessary. We may not get a chance to do this until the Summer holiday though.

I’ve made a hanging basket ready. I’d looked into alternatives to the traditional basket of bedding plants and come up with this. The birdcage came from Amazon. It’s been lined with some spare capillary matting. I cut a circle out of a bin bag to put on top to help keep water in. The soil mix has some vermiculite in to help water retention. The plants are coleus, ophiopogon planiscapus and nepeta. The nepeta trails over the edge of the cage. The coleus and opiopogon I thought would contrast nicely in colour and leaf shape. Time will tell how it holds up through Summer but overall I’m happy with the look of it.

I’ve been building plants up for a while buying things up on the cheap. The main focus of the planting is going to be hydrangea limelight in the middle. This will have plenty of space to grow out. The long season of interest should make this a good focal point. Then I have a mixture of ferns, hostas and heucheras to fill around it. Currently it’s all sitting on the back patio.

Along the house wall, I’m planning to pave the edge so we still have access to the windows. Then I have two window boxes made up ready.

I’m itching to get going on the planting up now, but need to wait on the last few builders jobs. But hopefully won’t be too much longer. It’s going to be a slow process for the plants establishing but I’m optimistic that it will work out well.

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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.

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Bugtopia Hornsea

Today I’ve had Alice to myself while Amy went to teach revision classes so we headed off on the bus to Freeport. I did the obligatory hour or so at soft play, also known as hell on Earth, bouncing off some of her energy before heading to Bugtopia. Bugtopia was the actual reason I wanted to go to Freeport. It’s been open a while now but I didn’t feel Alice was old enough to enjoy it that much.

Bugtopia is a heated trail room filled with animals, mini beasts and birds. The jungle trail is a heated room filled with a mini stream and jungle stream. It is currently small but I believe there are plans for expansion. Despite the size, it is rammed with life. Butterflies, moths and insects can be found resting on stones and leaves. Terrapins and turtles fill the water pools. Then there are a number of birds flying in the space and a parrot kept within a caged area. Entry is £6 for adults, £5 for children but you can come and go through the day. So you can plan for having a wander through, having lunch or doing some shopping, then go back in. A season pass would be nice for us as we live so close but didn’t see that as an option.

Through the day there are talks to go back to if you want to get your money’s worth.

  • 11am- Incredible Inverts
  • 12pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 1pm- Parrot Show
  • 2pm- Incredible inverts
  • 3pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 4pm- Parrot Show

On entry, the first sighting was a familiar one, an Atlas moth. During a previous 30 days wild a fellow teacher bought Atlas moth cocoons without realising how big these beauties are. They are probably about the size of my hand. They are short-lived as moths existing in this stage to mate.

Another familiar sight to teachers, the Giant African Land snail. My head has tried to palm some of these of on me. While Alice was excited to see these Amy doesn’t want me to have one.

Alice loves a water feature whenever we go to the garden centre and all bridges are exciting places to trip trap across looking for trolls. So she loved walking over the little streams and was delighted to spot the terrapins.

Butterflies and birds fluttered high and low.

One of her favourite discoveries was the snake. I was surprised she liked this so much but she told me it was like the one on the Gruffalo’s child and that made more sense. She returned back to this cabinet a good couple of times to say hello.

A turtle and another Atlas Moth.

We left for lunch and returned to see parrot training. It was interesting to hear about how they are building up the skills and teaching it to fly and work to earn a reward as it was born in captivity. My camera was still adjusting to the high humidity in the room so apologies for the steamed over photos.

Not the most flattering picture of the staff I’m afraid but the parrot is stunning.

Alice had a closer look around.

We went in and out a number of times over the day. She chose a rubbery crocodile as a souvenir which she lost on the way out. After a minute strop, we located it again. Disaster averted. Alice was a bit scared of the butterflies flying close to her head which prompted us to leave but she did talk happily about what she’d seen on the way back so she’d obviously enjoyed it. When we got home she wanted her animal box out and dug out the butterflies telling me the blue one was like one she’d seen.

Overall it was a good first visit. While it is small the fact that you can go in and out and return for workshops means you can get longer than it initially appears on entry. I think as her attention goes up she’d probably stand and watch a number of the animals for quite long periods. It’s filled a day of the holiday nicely and I reckon she’ll be talking about what we saw for a while to come.

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Six on Saturday: 23.3.19

Last weekend saw a good amount of rain so my gardening efforts were limited to moving a few self-seeders around the border and adding some extra foxgloves. I planted some Japanese Anemone but bare earth doesn’t make for an interesting six. I’m not feeling to well so don’t intend to do much beyond contemplating the front garden plans.

1. Daffodils

The daffodils flower in a ribbon across the garden over a few weeks with the sunnier borders flowering first and the shadier bench area flowering last. I’m not a massive fan of the daffodils but Amy likes them and they come up reliably with little to no effort on my part.

The first patch was planted in the first year and are pretty well established now.

I added a few patches of smaller varieties to the border too. Quite pretty but none of the fried egg variety I like have flowered yet.

2. Foxgloves

I have a few established patches of foxgloves, some grown from seed last year and some self-seeded in the border. However, I still don’t feel there are enough so I’ve added a few more. If I end up down near the florist/pet shop later I will probably get a few more. These two have been placed around the hollyhock with the lupins in front. Should be a good classic cottage garden combination. But again, it probably needs a third as these things work better in threes or more.

3. Forget me nots

As mentioned already, I have spent time moving some of the self-seeders around the border. Forget me nots form a carpet on one border so I moved a few to the opposite border. They were one of the first plants I added to the border when I moved in. Three small patches became a mass carpet but that’s how I like it. Every so often I rip large handfuls out and they return again to fill any spare gaps I leave.

4. Lilac

The lilac is a sold part of the background of the garden near the bench. It has leapt rapidly to life over the last few weeks with buds coming on quickly. Between the lilac and honeysuckle, this corner is one of the best for scent.

5. Muscari

Last year I planted muscari in pots and then moved into the border after flowering. I’d forgotten about these so it was a nice surprise to see one poking up. It is, however, the only one I’ve seen so we’ll see whether anymore appear.

6. Blossom

I’ve been unsure of what the red-leaved tree at the bottom of the garden is so I opened up the question on Twitter. The consensus was a prunus of some variety possibly black cherry. Either way, it has a handful of little blossom flowers that are rather stunning. Though not enough that I’m going to stop pruning it back each year as it could reach twenty feet. Though admiring the blossom all around it would be nice if we made as much fuss as the Japanese. Well worth celebrating.

Tomorrow is my birthday. So, next weeks six will hopefully be featuring new gardening gifts. Failing that if I haven’t received six gardening gifts I will have to gift myself the difference.

Check the guide to take part in six on Saturday.

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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?

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The Plant Based Podcast review

Today a new gardening podcast came on the air. I was excited for the release of this as the two presenters Michael “Mr Plantgeek” Perry and Ellen Mary have always come across as knowledgeable and likeable people through their various outputs. Both push the boundaries of gardening in exciting directions. I’m also confident between them they will have many interesting connections to get guests on the show. It sounds like they’ll be looking to try and cover different ground to existing media and I reckon they will have a few surprises in store.

My love of gardening podcasts has been discussed on the blog before. It’s a format which surprisingly works well for something people would associate as being very visual.

The first three podcasts have all been launched together. In the first podcast, the duo interviewed Beverley Glover of Cambridge Botanic Garden. There was a good discussion on how we can help bees. I was reminded of the need to stick to single forms of most flowers to help bees. I generally don’t select double forms and do try to choose pollinator friendly forms. It was this desire to help wildlife that led to me having mass ox-eye daisies in the garden this year. They ended up spilling all over the border but I was rewarded with many visitors.

The second podcast was with vegan bodybuilder Paul Kerton. While I’m not about to go vegan with my low blood pressure and dietary problems a lot of interesting points were made. Most of all the need for people to see other peoples points of view.

The third podcast with Liz Browne from Urban Jungle Nursery. This covered a lot of topics that have been done to death in the gardening media recently. The return of the houseplant is all over the place. But the three of them together made for good listening. There was a nice shout out for Will Giles known for his exotic garden and books on the subject.

They went on a tangent to discuss how much of the gardening media is out of touch with younger gardeners. While I enjoy watching much of the traditional gardening shows. We aren’t all Monty with space for multiple garden areas. In the words of the Smiths, “Because the music that they constantly play. It says nothing to me about my life“.

Then a little discussion about taking houseplants outside in Summer to use as an alternative to traditional bedding plants. This is just what I’ve been planning to do with several spider pups and string of hearts cuttings destined for outside. I want to try a few more adventurous options on the patio. The aspidistra can have its Summer vacation as well.

All in all a very good start for a new podcast. Three episodes with very interesting podcasts. They kept my attention while I listened back to back cooking dinner. Three different but engaging guests. My only criticism is the volume went up and down during interviews but this is a common podcast problem.

The podcast is available through iPlayer and podcast player. There were quite a few named plant-based podcast but a search for plant-based podcast and Perry brought it up. Though I’m sure it will go up the rankings fast with popularity. Well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing who else they interview.

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