Plant Rescue Box

The new local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique, has partnered with the plant rescuer, Sarah Gerrard-Jones, to stock plant rescue boxes. These are bags or boxes of plants that need a bit of care to get them back to pristine sales point. They may need a repot or can be saved by taking cuttings. They are an opportunity to grab some interesting plants at bargain prices. When I saw Botany Boutique was going to be offering these I reserved one straight away as I like a plant rescue project. There is a sense of satisfaction in bringing back a plant to health that otherwise would add to the waste in this world. Sarah’s book the plant rescuer is currently on sale for kindle. I’ve bought it and probably going to give a read after I’ve finished my current book. I’m not generally keen on plant books on kindle but as I had a voucher it was pretty cheap. If it turns out to be good I’ll probably buy a hard copy.

The collection

For £15 I received:

Sago palmCaladium, Kalanchoe, 2 African violets, peace Lilly, Hoya, 2 calatheas and a few succulents.

  • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta)
  • Caladium
  • Kalanchoe
  • 2 African Violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia)
  • Peace Lilly (Spathiphyllum)
  • Hoya kerri
  • 2 Calatheas
  • A collection of succulents

The state of these varied of why they’d been included. Some like the peace lily and African violets I think have been included as they are going past flowering point. The succulents are pretty disfigured. The caladium had a good few bent stems. The sago palm had two crisped smaller leaves and two larger healthy leaves.

Caladium

The caladium is one of the plants that interested me more as it isn’t one I have and it has an interesting leaf. It was quite a large plant but many of the stems had been knocked and weren’t going to heal. I don’t know caladiums well enough to know the variety but it looks pretty to me. It could be gingerland but they change a lot depending on the light levels.

I began by cutting out the damaged stems. This left a much-reduced plant but still a good couple of leaves.

The soil had a little bit of fungal growth. Possibly grey mould. Fungal issues are not uncommon for plants like this that need a decent level of moisture. The fallen leaves were causing part of the issue. With some plants, you can leave them to dry out between watering to reduce fungal problems but as caladiums need a good level of water this isn’t a great option. So I went with the more extreme option of removing the existing soil and repotting in fresh soil.

As it was a decent clump and one section had the fungal covering I decided to divide it while the soil was off. Caladiums form tubers, much like dahlias. You can take cuttings so long as it has a little section with a tuber on. I divided two smaller sections with leaves that are set to unfurl. Earlier in the year you could probably get away with just tuber and let it form new stems. I went with how it naturally wanted to split cutting this section with a sharp sterilised knife to avoid spreading disease.

The larger tuber section had a bit of root rot. If you looking at the photo below you can see a number of roots that have gone brown and they felt like mush. These were cut off and the healthy white roots were retained.

To pot it up it needs holding in the pot at the desired level and then the soil was poured around the roots, tapping every so often to let the soil go down and continuing until the pot was full to just below the rim. The old soil has gone in the council bin just in case it was a nastier fungal disease than I believe.

At the end of this process, I have two small pots and a larger one. I have left them for a good soak in a tray. With any luck, I’ll have one decent plant for me and two I can gift away. They are often recommended for growing for one summer season buying the tubers in spring and not keeping so we’ll see how I get on with the winter dormancy period.

Succulents

The succulents are the ones I have the least interest in as I already have healthy versions of many of these. The sempervivum looked like it had just gone leggy but when I inspected it came away from the soil.

I stripped off the rotting and dead leaves back to the small central stem that was still healthy. I have a number of semperivums already so I’ve just poked a hole in the other pots and slotted it in. It may root, it may not. It doesn’t bother me too much either way as it isn’t one I’m that bothered about. It’ll be a while until it gets to any size to be worthwhile.

The succulent at the front has just been labelled succulent. Not sure exactly what it is. Could just be an etiolated echeveria or crassula.

I’ve stripped off the lower leaves and potted it deeper. I could have potted up the leaves and they would form new plants too but it doesn’t look like anything I’m too interested in. I considered composting it but it felt cruel when I was trying to rescue everything else. You can see it has several small leaves at the top that will hopefully form a fresh healthy plant. The stem below the ground can root us into the ground and it looks a bit neater for removing damaged leaves.

Kalanchoe

I was gifted a few Kalanchoe plantlets a few months back and they have been growing well. I think this may be another kalanchoe daigremontiana, mother of thousands. So I may well be swamped with this plant as it is very good at propagating itself. It had a few damaged lower leaves.

I potted it on into a slightly bigger pot. I removed the lower damaged leaves and potted it slightly lower with the repot. This is one I’ll probably just gift on unless it appears to be a different Kalanchoe from what I already have.

Healthy plants

The calatheas largely look healthy enough. They just have a few yellowing leaves. These have gone in the bathroom along with a few relatives as I already have a maranta and Goeppertia. These like to be moist with good humidity so the bathroom is the ideal spot. Mine is south facing so if I place them on the far wall they seem to get about the right light level and be happy. I’ll monitor these and see how they do and if there are any more problems. They are in small pots currently and it is always harder to keep the water level right. As plants grow and get potted on they become a bit more forgiving. The leaves need a bit of a clean so I’ll take them in the shower with me over the week to give a clean off.

The African Violets look to be fine. They have finished flowering so it will just be a matter of growing them on and potting as needed until they are ready to flower. For now, I have just put them in the north-facing spare room. I’ll keep my eye out for some small pots to put these in.

Sago palm

Despite the name, they aren’t actually palm trees, though they have the look of one. They are actually gymnosperms, relatives of conifers. They originate from southern Japan. Cycads have very ancient origins going back to Jurassic times with many dying out in the great extinction but some survived to modern times. This had two smaller leaves on the outside that had browned off. These have been removed. If I remember rightly new leaves form from the centre so hopefully, I have just removed older leaves. When checking plant health the roots are my first port of call. By taking a plant out of its pot you can check for watering issues, whether over or under watering as well as pests and disease. This had some white powdery egg like growth at the bottom and similar yellow growth higher up.

As I was unsure of what this was I figured a repot was probably a good plan. I removed the soil and washed off as much as I could. Scraped off a little bit of what looked to be fungal growth.

It seems to be increasingly rare to receive a plant in a potting medium that actually suits the plant. I reckon I see daily posts on the British Cactus and Succulent Society Facebook group where people have root rot from cactus purchased in moisture retentive soil. The sago palm comes from Japanese islands and when I’ve seen pictures in its native environment it is usually rocky slopes. So I’ve gone for a free draining mix with a good level of sand and grit. I’ve top-dressed it with grit as I plan to place it outside for summer and this will prevent a few weeds getting in. I’ve kept it in for now as it is a particularly windy day out there and didn’t want to traumatise it anymore. These can grow 5m or so but as it is slow growing this won’t be happening anytime soon.

Hoya kerrii

Hoya kerrii is known as the sweetheart plant. It is generally sold around Valentine’s Day as a single cutting of the heart-shaped leaf. I rarely see it actually sold as a vine with any stem. It is almost always sold as leaf cutting that is barely rooted and doesn’t survive much beyond February. Removing it from the pot confirmed my suspicion. This had the tiniest bit of root wrapped in a little bit of what I assumed was coir fibre wrapped in an elastic band. The leaf is yellowed and a bit wrinkled so I’m assuming the issue with this was underwatering made worse by its lack of root system.

I carefully unwrapped the fibre from around the root and kept as much root as I can. I then potted it into the soil so it has space for more roots to grow. The plant looks better on one side so I’ve kept that side facing out while the yellower side is hidden. The yellowing is difficult to judge why it’s happened as it could be over or underwatering, lack of nutrients, too many nutrients, too much sun, or too little sun. So I’m just going to have to see if giving it a better root run helps first and that should help with watering and nutrient issues. My suspicion is its days are numbered but I can probably get a little enjoyment from it before composting.

All in all, I’m very happy with what I got in the plant rescue box. There are several plants that appear decent enough quality without any effort and a good few that I think will recover. A few succulents I’m not so bothered about, not that I dislike succulents, I have many, but these are already ones I have or close enough to ones I have. The plants would have cost many times the amount paid so if I can bring them back it’ll have been a good saving. I’ve enjoyed the initial process of diagnosing and starting them on the road to recovery. We’ll see how many of them I manage to keep going back to full health.

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Dinosaur Terrarium

It’s been a good while since I made a terrarium and I’ve found several good containers to make ones in. The last one I made was an open terrarium that lasted a good few years before the fittonia outgrew it and it started looking messy. The point of a terrarium is to help grow plants that need higher humidity. Unfortunately what you mostly see sold are succulents encased in glass. Succulents are adapted to dryer conditions and the higher humidity of a terrarium will slowly rot the plant. The plants that are suited terrariums are ones which want high humidity and are slow growing. A lot of plants that come from the rainforest understory are used. These would naturally grow in the damp undergrowth which will be similar to the conditions of a terrarium in our houses. A really well-made sealed terrarium can be left for long periods without much maintenance making them an attractive choice for the home or work.

I had a lot of the ingredients for making a terrarium in and bought in a few others. Today’s terrarium used:

  • Glass container
  • Leca (Lightweight expanded clay aggregate)
  • Spagnum moss
  • Potting mix
  • Moss
  • Plant (fittonia)
  • Decorative items

Alice helped make the first closed terrarium. We started with the drainage layer. I used Leca for this one. This acts as a reservoir for water so the roots don’t sit in water. Leca makes for a good choice as it’s lightweight and holds the water and releases it up as needed. Gravel or stones can be used but are heavier. Glass pebbles can be used for a more decorative choice.

Next, we used sphagnum moss to act as a barrier between the drainage and the potting mix. Some people use activated charcoal as it is believed that it helps filter toxins and impurities. We misted it down at this point to help squash it down before adding the potting mix.

The potting mix went on top of the sphagnum moss as the growing medium for the plants. I had bought a fittonia for the main plant for this terrarium from a new local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique. The shop seems to be doing well and I hope it continues to as it’s nice to have somewhere close to buy interesting choices from. The fittonia will eventually outgrow the space and then I can either restart it or cut and replace with cuttings. The moss is a carpet moss I bought from Etsy. I have used moss from the garden before and it has been alright in the spare room as we don’t heat it. But in most situations, our native moss will dry out too quick inside which is why I’ve bought actual terrarium moss. Alice chose a few rocks, the Trex and a polished ammonite for decoration. She was very proud of the end result.

Open terrarium

Then we made a second larger terrarium in an open gold fish bowl I’d bought cheap from a charity shop. I’m keeping my eye out for a glass plate or acrylic disc so I can make it a closed environment. While it’s open it will need more watering whereas if I can close it it will increase the humidity for the plants.

I used the remaining fittonia from the first and I was able to split it again to use for two sections. I had a little bit of carpet moss that I arranged around the fittonias and made a path between the two. Then grit was used to cover the bare soil.

I think it looks pretty good. Now we have to work on getting the moisture levels right in both. The nerves of this fittonia are great vibrant ones.

And a dinosaur prowling for good measure. I’ve made this one for work where it’s probably going to be in a room with fairly low light so I will probably be supplementing the light with a grow light.

I would like to develop a better knowledge of terrarium plants. There are better choices than fittonias that will stay small for longer but these should give me a year or so by which point I’ll probably want a different display at work anyway. A lot of the fun is in the construction. It makes for a pleasant craft activity.

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12 Days Wild: Day 10-Plant hunt and bird box

Today was the last day before I return to work so we’ve tried to make the most of it. The ice decorations we made yesterday came out of the freezer. The ribbons helped to ease the decorations out of the plates.

We kept one inside in a bowl so we could see how it melted and Alice could go back to keep checking and feeling it.

Then two went in the trees outside. The decoration inside took until dinner time to melt while the outside ones held out until the late afternoon.

Then we carried on with the craft activities. Alice received a paint-your-own birdhouse for Christmas from my parents. So, we made a start on painting it. She wanted the brightest colours going. I’m not sure how birds feel about kaleidoscopic homes. We’ll see if any end up using it.

It will need a bit of time to dry before we assemble. Some pieces will need painting both sides.

Then we got out to take part in the BSBI’s New Year Plant hunt. I think we’ve taken part the last 2 or 3 years though we’ve often been up visiting Amy’s dad at Robin Hood’s Bay.

Nothing unusual recorded but I find it enjoyable taking part in these hunts. My knowledge has increased over the last few years and I take pleasure in seeing the flowers coming and going through the seasons. Each flower at the moment taking us a step closer to the warmth of spring and the abundance of summer. First up we have red valerian which is a common sight through a lot of the year.

A few different daisies spotted on our walk.

Winter heliotrope. A rather nice flower that was introduced to gardens in the UK in 1806, but with a bad spreading habit making it unsuitable for most gardens.

As Alice gets older we’ll hopefully make it a bit further afield and find more interesting flowers. But, her legs will only manage so far currently. Eventually, it will be nice to go around the Mere where there is a variety of habitats. But for now, a jaunt to the park and around town is about her limits.

So, I return to work tomorrow but it’s only a training day so I get eased back into it. The endless cups of tea at home come to a halt. Time to get back on with a bit more RHS revision. Hope you’re all enjoying your Sundays.

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Half term adventure from home-The snail and the whale

It is half term for us. Sadly Hornsea is facing rising cases of Covid. We are not on full lockdown but many of our friends and family are having to isolate so many of our half term plans have been thrown off. We are trying to be careful so we are avoiding contact with people where we can and trying to plan safer activities. Yesterday, we watched Tall stories livestream of Julia Donaldson’s snail and the whale. We saw the Gruffalo last year when theatres were still an option and it was fabulous. A livestream doesn’t quite give the same experience as the theatre so I wanted to create a bit of excitement around it so Alice didn’t just think we were watching a normal TV show. It is shown from London but each showing is done in collaboration with a different theatre It seems like a good way to support theatre during these difficult times for the arts.

A good story can take you all around the world without even leaving your room-Tall Stories

For those of you who don’t know, the snail and the whale is a lovely story written by Julia Donaldosn and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It tells the story of a tiny snail who wants to see the world. It hitches a lift on the tale of the whale and travels around the world. The story ends with the snail saving the whale. Despite its size it can still help the bigger whale. It has a slower pace than her more famous books like the Gruffalo but I think it has a rather nice mindfullness about it. The TV version particular exemplifies this with beautiful scenes like something from a David Attenborough documentary. The ‘Save the whale’ part of the story is a bit of a Greenpeace blast from the past but it is a story filled with positive messages for children.

After she’d gone to sleep on Sunday I set up a trail of small world trays with scenes from the story around the house for Alice to discover when she woke up. I started with the snails black rock with the message from the story, “Lift wanted around the world”.

Then a little further down the hallway we had the Antartic scene. A planting tray, a sheet of card with circles of white paper made up our Antartic scene. I thought we had lots more penguins but sadly not. Though oddly Alice keeps going back to this one.

A few logs, the bears and an eagle made up the next scene.

The volcano and beach was made with coloured rice and rocks. The rice is coloured by putting rice in a tuppaware box and adding a few drops of food colouring and a spoon of vinegar. Shake the box and then let the rice dry. The animals came from the charity shop a while back, though she’s never played with them that much. Now she has a story that goes with them she has enjoyed them more.

Then a water tray made from a storage box filled with water and Alice’s bath toys.

The trail then led her to an invite to the theatre show and a new toy. Since we didn’t have to travel this theatre trip was saving us lots of money in parking costs, drinks, ice-cream, etc so I thought we could justify a speacial treat to mark the occasion.

She loved doing the trail and carried on acting out the story through the morning and making some of her own.

We got dressed up for the occasion as it seemed like the right thing to do despite not leaving the house.

And then settled into watch the show. Alice loved the show giggling along at the jokes. Sadly our internet cut us off about 5/10 minutes before the end, but luckily she knows the story well enough that she acted out the rest with her toy and the trays I’d prepared. There are a few activities Tall Stories have created online which we may try over the week. The theatre show tells the story from the perspective of a daughter and dad telling the story of the snail and the whale as a bedtime story. It’s sweet and funny and acomponied pleasantly by music on the viola.

Tall Stories have more broadcasts of the show over the rest of the month. It’s only £10 so cheaper than actually going out to the theatre and if you have little ones at home and are stuck for ideas for things to do in this strange Covid environment this is a great option. Alice has asked to act out the story again today so I think that’s a sign that she probably enjoyed it. We ended up watching the BBC snail and the whale adaptation too. It provided a good days entertainment and I have a few follow up ideas for over the week. Well worth checking out!

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30 Days Wild: Day 5-Grow your own for wellbeing week

A little bit of exciting news for the blog first. The Wildlife Trust got in touch to ask if they could use one of my blogs to feature on their 30 days of wild bloggers. So one of the blogs from earlier in the week was featured on their site. Nice to be asked as I’ve taken part for 4 years now and I’m happy to carry on supporting the campaign for lives more engaged with nature.

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/30-days-wild-guest-author/30-days-wild-our-teddy-bear-picnic-30-days-wild-parenting

Yesterday I decided we’d have a go at a handful of the activities from National Grow Your Own for Welfare Week. Not the snappiest of titles for a national week but a good cause. This initiative has come from Life at number 27, a social enterprise that pushes the mental health benefits of gardening and particularly of grow your own. With many mental health services pushed to the limits through government cuts the last few years the need for organisations like this has gone up. They have put together a nice little booklet of activities to do perfectly suited to kids and fun for the adults as well. Growing your own fits in perfectly with anyone taking part in 30 days wild. It gives you a chance to help create a more sustainable lifestyle, cut your food miles and it’s good fun. Allotment holders are always experts at the sustainable lifestyle side with lots of ideas for creating their plots on a shoestring budget, reusing materials, composting, water collection and all the rest. Whether you grow your own on an allotment, in your garden, a community space or on your windowsill eating your own produce gives a burst of happiness making it well worth the effort.

We started Wednesday evening with some rock labels for the veg pots. Amy and Alice employing their superior artistic talents.

A few made by drawing and some with decoupage using paper tissues Amy bought with bees and butterflies on. I wonder if you can guess some of the things Alice is excited to grow?

Then we carried on with learning a bit more about butterflies reading “what’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth?” This unimaginatively named book gives children lots of key facts to help identify between the two. Sadly out of print currently so a bit expensive for a book I used a lot for teaching.

Then on Thursday, I decided Alice would buy into these activities more as a list. She then got the satisfaction of ticking each activity off as we did them. No pressure was put on to finish them all but it lays out what the options are.

We started with the cress caterpillars and had a bit previously grown to eat along the way.

Then the two have been placed ready to grow.

We had made a few seed bombs during National Children’s Gardening Week so rather than repeating the activity we just went to do a bit of bombing on some of the unkept grass behind the garden.

We headed back in to have a go with the paper pot maker. The sooner Alice masters this skill the less I’ll need to make. These give use a biodegradable pot and a use for newspaper and excess paper packaging with deliveries.

Back outside we got them potted up with some red marigolds (Alice’s current favourite colour).

Then we got some cut and come again lettuce sown in a pot. I prefer growing the salad leaves in batches in small pots as it means we have salad at various stages so we don’t get a glut all at once.

Another task ticked off, we moved onto lip scrub. Olive oil, sugar and fresh-picked mint and a little lemon were mixed together in a bowl and spooned into some tins I had spare.

I think this may have been Alice’s favourite activity of the day but that may have something to do with the size of her scoops of sugar. While she did count out the 6 spoons of sugar she put more effort into getting six large scoops of sugar than 2 of olive oil. She was very excited to show her mum her tin.

After a decent sugar dose, we went out to let off some of that excess energy with the scavenger hunt included in the booklet.

She had good fun dashing about. Here she is finding water.

Another activity in the booklet was to make your own bug hotel. We built a fairly substantial one a few years ago with old bricks and decking panels and tile offcuts.

So we added some of our stones to the top to add some extra decoration.

I think Alice enjoyed herself. She asked to make some more lip scrub, so we tried the lemon recipe as well. And she’s now waiting for our lettuce to grow. She’ll eat it from the veg patch but she isn’t convinced by the shop stuff. She’s also taken a liking to the mint, so I’m not sure I’m going to have any left for my intended mojito but nevermind. But nice that she’s trying new food. The activities today all came from the growing for welfare pack, so if you fancy any of them check it out and there a few competitions to try.

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Book review-How to get Kids Gardening with the Skinny Jean Gardener

I’ve had this book a little while now and I’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing it. Photos on the blog today are of my little girl gardening as no one likes long pages of pure text on a screen. For those of you who don’t know Lee Aka. The Skinny Jeans Gardener I first came to know him through his podcast. The podcast is a burst of energy. He’s had some great guests and it’s always a laugh. He’s appeared on TV on Blue Peter and the gadget show and appearances on Sunday Brunch. More recently he has been an ambassador for M&S little garden promotion. He has worked hard pushing gardening within schools and encouraging gardening to be taken on as part of schools curriculum. In March he toured a mass number of schools promoting gardening to kids. A hard-working chappy with fingers in many pies.

Available from Amazon currently £12.99.

Or direct from Lee with the option for signing.

The book has clearly been a labour of love for Lee who is passionate about kids gardening from his work with M&S and the school tours. The book is a record of many different gardening activities Lee has carried out with his daughter Olive, the star of the book. The ideas are tried and tested with Olive and during the school tours. As a former teacher and parent, I was interested to see what activities Lee would suggest. With children confined to their gardens, there has never been a better time to look at getting yourself and the kids into gardening.

The book has lots of great ways to get kids into gardening. It suggests easy things to sow. When growing with kids they want to see results, so it lists things where they will see results. Lee also understands the importance of using grow your own with kids. Growing fruit and veg gives the kids something solid they can enjoy in a greater way than a flower. They get to enjoy eating and helps promote a healthy diet. Win-win! There are a ton of things to make, things to promote wildlife: bird feeders, bug hotels and seed bombs. There are fun builds to give the kids more to play with, music areas, mud kitchens and more.

If my recommendation isn’t enough it comes with celebrity endorsements from Adam Frost, Sam Nixon (of CBBC fame) and GQT panellist Mathew Biggs. Most of the projects Lee details cost very little to make. They are almost all limited materials or involve upcycling something. So even on lockdown many of these projects can still be made. For the teachers out there Lee makes reference to the Early Learning Goals. For the non-teachers out there these are the standards children are meant to meet by the time they leave Foundation Stage (age 5).

Overall this is a great book for parents and teachers looking to get children involved in gardening. It’s rammed with ideas. You can dip in and out of it for ideas. It’s a book you can go back to. Well worth looking into if you are struggling for things to do right now.

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Book Review: The complete guide to garden privacy-Alexandra Campbell

Alexandra put out a call for reviews of her first book last week, so in the interest of disclaimer, I have been sent this to review. That said, I was excited to see what she had to say. Alexandra’s website, The middle-sized garden, contains blogs and videos sharing many useful gardening tips. She has written for many magazines and newspapers: the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and more. Her blog has won many awards over the last few years.

The book is available through Amazon:

Paperback priced £14.36 at time of writing.

Kindle Priced £7.83 or free with Kindle unlimited.

From the blurb:

Find out how to make your garden feel private, no matter how small it is. This book will help you choose the right trees for privacy, find out which hedges are best for privacy, how to select a new garden privacy screen and how to screen eyesores. Create a secret garden or help minimise noise in your garden. Expert tips and advice from The Middlesized Garden, a top award-winning garden blog from the UK.The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy offers practical solutions with easy-to-read diagrams and inspiring photographs of real gardens.

So, this book couldn’t really come at a more opportune moment. With many us contained within our homes and gardens, more people are looking at spending their lockdown time in their gardens. Across the country, people have been discovering gardening for the first time. This is in many ways a fabulous development, gardening brings so many benefits, both physical and mental. But, it means the volume level has gone up. In many gardens, the privacy level is low as the gardens haven’t previously been used. So people are hastily trying to renovate their gardens to make them better spaces. Prior to my work closing, we were seeing good sales in fencing equipment as people looked at upgrading and fixing their existing screens. But there are many ways to add privacy to your garden that this book explores.

Trees can block line of sight to upper store windows

The book covers some basic principles of privacy asking you to think about which key areas do you want to be private. Within a row of gardens, it is almost impossible to make your garden completely private but if you identify key areas you can work to give yourself a secluded area. You may not need the privacy all year round. It may just be that you want privacy in summer when you will be out more. This opens up more seasonal options allowing for light to still reach your house in winter.

A parasol provides privacy from windows

Many of the options discussed are pretty obvious. Hedges and fences can be used to block views. But Alexandra goes into the extra detail of discussing the legal aspects such as where planning permission is needed. Plant lists are included for evergreen and deciduous options. The book makes use of nice clear diagrams throughout to illustrate the points she is making in the text. For example, for a seating area, you don’t necessarily need a high screen. An obstacle of 1.5m will hide you to people when you are sat. This is shown clearly through the diagrams and explanations. Screens, trellis, structures are discussed. A chapter is devoted to privacy in the front garden looking a few different ways I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about to add privacy such as window boxes.

A wall can provide privacy and block some noise.

The final chapter was particularly interesting and relevant right now looking at noise and wind. The wind can carry noise a long way. Alexandra looks at the way sound is carried by the wind over obstacles and discusses ways to increase your privacy.

Euonymus blocking line of sight to the eyesore of the compost heap

 

Overall this is an informative read. I devoured it over two days back and I’m sure I will return to look up aspects again. Anyone who reads her blog will know, Alexandra writes clearly, concisely and presents a lot of information within a relatively small book. It has made me look at the privacy in my own garden differently. I am starting to think out how I can add some extra seclusion to particular areas. I would recommend this book if you have issues with neighbours overlooking your garden or if you are looking at ways you can change your boundaries. This book will show lots of options for making your garden into your own secluded paradise.

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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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