Six on a Saturday 16.6.18

It has been a windy week. Despite the strong sea winds my garden suffers from the fox gloves are still standing proud. The hollyhocks I’d already staked luckily. But a number of plants have suffered and the leaves are looking the worse the wear for the weather. The garden is currently in a state of anticipation of things to come. The roses, the hydrangeas, the hollyhocks, the teasel is all set to flower. But hasn’t quite happened despite the signs for the last two weeks.

1. Cobra lily

This strange looking plant is a cobra lily. It’s the first year growing one, so have no idea if it’s coming up right. The picture on the packet shows a dark striped flute shape. Then at the base planted black mondo with the idea that it would be a striking combination. Watch this space to see if the lily develops more. While its meant to be hardy I’m not sure the wind this week has done it much good.

2. Campanula

Each year these star shaped flowers have regrown out of this post. I think it’s a type of campanula, but not something I planted. It is lovely though in flower and the bees love it.

3. Aquilegia

After setting up foxglove seeds ready for flowering next year I’ve also set up a tray of aquilegias. I’ve got some that self seed already, but I’d like to introduce a few more to increase their numbers. I’ve gone for a more flamboyant variety with two coloured flowers.

4. Weigela

I’ve picked up a cheap weigela from Morrison’s. My neighbours has been flowering and is looking beautiful. I’m planning to start in a pot on the patio then see how it grows.

Next doors.

5. Pollinators

The garden is awash with insect life now. Bees are out everyday. Damselflies are coming in bigger numbers. Hoverflies are loving the daisies and marigolds. It’s a clear sign that things are warming up. The weekends have still been cloudy, so still not many butterflies. Sat out in the garden there is now the hum of insects to listen to.

6. Mud kitchen

The biggest addition to the garden this week is Alice’s new mud kitchen. Made for her by her grandad and my father in law to be. She has been loving mixing and smashing the soil. I’ve made a mix of play sand and compost for her cooking. Truly something special for her made by family. I have noticed many of the nearby pots now have a top dressing, but never mind getting her outside and involved in the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. Got a few garden jobs to get on with quickly as it looks like rain is coming.

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Camelia propagation

After watching Carol Klein, on this weeks Gardeners World, I thought I’d try and take some cuttings of one of my camellias. I’m planting more in my outdoor area at school, but as I have little budget to spare in this I’m relying on cuttings from my own garden, donations and plants grown cheap from seed. Having had success with lavender last year and my hebes from this year are doing well I’m going to continue trying expand my propagation techniques.

The camellia has been looking stunning the last few weeks, but the flowers are wilting now. Having fed it better during the last year has had a big impact.

So having watched Gardeners World, checked the literature and internet for advice I set out to attempt the cuttings.

I started with the drainage for the pot with a crock and stones.

Then a thin layer of gravel.

The soil needs good drainage and space for roots to form through. I mixed compost and a gritty sand as a good medium for the cuttings.

To choose a branch for cutting I was looking for growth from the last year. The older growth is lighter and the newer growth redder and fresher. Looking on this particular plant. Then with secateurs I cut a small section of the newer growth.

With a sharp knife I then cut diagonally just after a leaf. These were dipped in rooting powder then placed in the prepared soil mix.

After a water the cuttings were covered with grit for two reasons. First to retain moisture. Second to stop weeds.

The cutting has been placed on the patio in a warm spot, but not one that gets sun the whole of the day to prevent drying out. Some sources of advice mention sealing the pot with a plastic sandwich bag over. I hate taking these on and off to water, so going to try without. Time will tell if it was a bad decision.

The advice reckons the cuttings will be ready for potting on in around three months. I’m looking for roots out of the bottom of the pot, but as I’ve used quite a big pot I’m unsure if I’ll get this.

While I’ve been bust propagating Alice has been busy planting stones from the alpine plants pots into the left over plastic pots from recent purchases. She is happy as anything using these plastic pots. So for Gardeners Worlds aim of reducing or reusing plastic if you have lots of spare plastic containers give them to a toddler to see a face of pure excitement.

I will report on progress later in the year. To follow my garden exploits and wild exploits with Alice subscribe to the blog or follow on twitter.

Dorset holiday part 5

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

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

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

We headed back along the headland for the return ferry.

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

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

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

The robins and chaffinches were out in force.

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

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

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

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

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

Dorset holiday part 4

Our next trip out on our Dorset adventure took us to the New Forest Wildlife Park. While I do favour seeing animals in their natural environments some I would never get the chance to see. The New Forest Wildlife Park has many animals that are rescue animals that have required a home to survive. While the ethics of keeping animals in this way is hotly debated as more and more animals become endangered captive animals may offer opportunities for reintroducing species back to the wild.

We were greeted by a bear.

The park holds a number of species of owl and these were some of the first animals we saw. Alice was still riding high on the coattails of seeing the Gruffalo characters the day before and was excited to see the owls again. As mentioned before I have a fondness for owls.

Having recently read Simon Cooper’s excellent book, “the otters’ tale” I was excited to see the otters at the park. The park has several species: the Asian short-clawed otter, giant otters and the North American Otters. Our native otter Lutra lutra was absent. But I enjoyed seeing the otters on offer bounding around. Truly amazing animals. Slick through the water and bounding playfully on land.

Alice was quick to spot them.

Inside we found the rather cute harvest mice and hedgehogs. I’m glad to say Alice correctly identified both.

The park feeds the birds in the forest. Blue tits and great tits were enjoying the feeders.

Underneath the feeders a taste of the wild, Rattus Norvegicus, the brown rat. While generally not a welcome visitor it was good to see this animal moving around the forest floor.

The lynx was very accomadating for photos.

Alice stopped for a brief break with Amy.

Wallabies roam the enclosure with you.

Alice was keen to spot the wolves with her binoculars, but no luck.

Another wild invader of the park.

Alice enjoyed digging in the play area.

The bees are starting to come out in greater numbers a sure sign Spring is here.

We didn’t make it round all the animals. There were more deer and bison across the other side of the park, but we didn’t think Alice’s legs would take any more.

Before heading back to the house we stopped off at IKEA for a few things for Alice’s room. It was just a short journey on from the park. While it was hell on Earth for me Alice seemed to think it was just a giant soft play area.

Once back at the house a tired Alice tucked herself into the blanket.

One last day to discuss of the holiday and then that’s the lot.

Dorset Holiday part 3

After a break for six on Saturday I’m returning to the write up of our Dorset holiday. Our third, and possibly my favourite day, took us to the Moors Valley Country Park and forest. The park is a joint venture between Dorset Council and the forestry commission. Any time I see the words forestry commission I equate it with expensive car park. We visit Dalby Forest up North fairly regularly and this is the same. They advertise as no entrance fee, which there isn’t. However they make up for this with a good parking charge. That said, it is money well spent as the areas they manage are beautiful with a rich diversity of species.

When we arrived it was very wet. Our waterproof trousers came in use again. One of the main reasons for wanting to come to the park, apart from the wildlife, was the Julia Donaldson walks. The parks have sculptures of all the key Gruffalo characters and a Highway Rat trail. Alice is currently loving the Julia Donaldson animated TV versions and will sit through the books. Her favourites are probably stickman and room on the broom currently. Room on the broom isn’t currently part of the forest, but still plenty for her to get excited by.

First she found the owl.

Then many excited cries of, “mouse”.

We paid for the Highway Rat activity pack in the visitor centre. The pack gives you some stickers, a mask and a few activities to do as you go round. It probably wasn’t worth the £3 for Alice as she’s too young for most of it, but never mind. The walk is marked without needing to get the pack should any of you want to do it. It was raining continually for the first part of the walk making the ground hard going for Alice. She lost her wellies a few times in the thick oozy mud. This wasn’t much fun for her, so she went in the howdah. The walk took us on a pleasant circular walk of about a mile. Just right for a little one.

On the way there are the Highway Rat characters and a few things to look out for. By the end the rain had stopped and it started to cheer up.

After finding the rat we returned to the visitors centre for a hot drink and to refuel Alice. With the weather improving and Alice looking a bit more cheerful we headed out again to the steam railway. Along the edge of the lake runs a miniature steam railway. Currently the lakes banks are overflowing into the surrounding fields with the ducks and swans roaming over a larger pool.

As well as being Julia Donaldson mad, Alice is also mad for Thomas the Tank engine at the moment. She was very excited to see the train dragging us to get on.

The train trip takes about twenty minutes with a stop off at the station at the other end. On the platform is a small cafe and a train shop. We treat Alice to a new Thomas toy, a rainbow Thomas. Alice has been over the moon with her Thomas refusing to part with him at bedtime, sleeping clutched on to it.

The park has a great play area split into different age appropriate areas. She adored the playhouse and slide.

The digging area was great fun. If we let her she’d have stayed there indefinitely.

However we wanted to find the Gruffalo, so on we went. She was excited to find the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child pointing out the prickles and shouts of “nose” pointing to the wart.

Throughout the day I could hear plenty of bird song. Crows and other corvids weren’t put off by the weather. I spotted lots of tits: great, blue and long tailed. Then lots of robins.

Before we left we bought Alice two last treats with some money Granddad had given her for Easter; a stickman and a mouse. Almost all of Alice’s toys are second hand,from charity shops and facebook, so being on holiday we thought we’d treat her. Back at the house she played with her new toys.

A good amount of walking left her tired again.

A wonderful day! Every photo of Alice shows how much fun and enjoyment she got from the day. A great time was had.

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Dorset Holiday part 2

Our second day out, on our Dorset break, took us the village of Lyndhurst. This historic village is known as the capital of the New Forest. It was established as a royal hunting ground in 1079 by William the Conqueror. Lyndhursts other claim to fame is the grave of Alice Liddel; the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Despite being Alice’s name sake we didn’t visit the grave. We came for a walk and to see the horses. The New Forest ponies are one of the famous attractions of the area. The horses are wild in the sense that they roam freely, though they are technically owned by the New Forest Commoners. Around 3000 roam the forest and have done for the last 2000 years. They are a stunning sight bringing pleasure to many sightseers.

Alice was just as excited to see them. Just had to hold her back from trying to stroke them. While they are generally good natured they are capable of causing injuries.

The walk out from Lyndhurst took is out over gently rolling heathland. Heather and gorse cover the hills. I wish I had a better knowledge of fungi as there was an abundance of weird and wonderful varieties on display.

We could hear lots of birds as we walked, although only spotted a few.

Robin

Chaffinch on the gorse.

Pied wagtail

Alice did very well walking a good mile out before returning back in the howdah on my back. She didn’t really want to go in it, but we could tell she was getting tired.

It completely tired her out.

This gave time to set up for our Easter hunt in the garden. I’d opted for buying metal eggs that we can fill ourselves to give a few little eggs rather than a mega egg at this age.

Alice has quickly realised objects wrapped in foil are usually chocolate.

Choc choc

Another lovely day. I’d happily return to Lyndhurst to see the horses again. On a day with better weather I imagine there are good chances to see the reptiles the forest is famed for and many heathland butterfly species. That said we still had a lovely day and the horses alone would have been enough excitement for Alice.

In the next holiday instalment we went in search of a Gruffalo.

The big sunflower project

This week in school I planted sunflowers with the children. We are growing sunflowers for The Big Sunflower Project for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy. Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy are rare forms of neuromuscular disorders that cause defects in the cell structures of muscles leading to low muscle tone. This can cause many physical problems from walking to breathing and speech. It can affect walking and other every day tasks.

For the big sunflower project we are growing the sunflowers to raise awareness of the condition. They ere chosen for their cheery look and their ability to soar to high heights. They aren’t held back.

http://centronuclear.org.uk/

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We are growing two varieties of sunflower: Russian Giants and velvet queens.

We started some off in the propagator and some in the pots.

Please check out the links to read more on the project. My class enjoyed planting their seeds. Hopefully ours will tower to make the project proud.

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