12 Days of Wild: Day 12

And so 12 days wild comes to an end. I always enjoy taking part in these online communal nature pushes. While I live my life this way much of the year it is nice to reflect on what we do. But blogging each day is a drain on time so don’t mind going back to my usual interspaced blogs.

We had a few trips for boring practical purposes to do in the morning. But we popped over Tesco’s carpark to have a quick stroll through the community orchard and along the railway track. Alice told me we needed to look for fairy doors and she was right.

A robin serenaded us from the shadows.

On the way back we saw a few of the ducks along the drainage ditch.

Then in the afternoon, Alice wanted to go down to the beach again. She did really well walking and we made it a good way down the beach. I had taken the bucket along to collect more driftwood. Alice helped out finding pieces she felt were worthy of coming home. The sanderlings were running about back and forth around us. I’ve rarely had them coming so close to us, so that was a joy to see on the last day of 12 days. I didn’t have my camera on me, but I may try walking that way again over the next few weeks to see if I can get some photos of them. I did have my phone though so captured a pic of Alice decorating one of her castles.

It’s been a good break off and I’ve enjoyed blogging about Alice and my nature experiences. The daiy blogging will stop but the love of nature won’t.

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Six on Saturday: 4.1.20-Six for a New Year

Welcome to a new year of six on Saturday. I made it through the last year and  I think I managed to post each week giving me an amazing record I can look back through. I thoroughly recommend taking part. There is a great community through the blogs and Twitter and I’ve learnt so much. I am still off work currently so I’ve had a productive week tidying the garden and getting a few bits planted. I’ve still got my front garden bin tidy to do, but I’ve made lots of progress in other areas. I’ve also had a tidy of a few of the blog pages and started adding a gardening contents page as I’ve noticed lots of traffic to particular blogs. It needs more work but nice to have quick access to particular blogs I refer back to quite often.

1. Bargain tulips

We popped out a few days ago to the garden centre for a family trip out. The bargain bulb trolley is out now with bulbs reduced to £1 each. So each picked a bag. I thought Amy was going to go for the pheasant’s eye daffodils but she opted for the sealing wax daffodils. I’m not a fan of daffodils as they don’t offer much benefit to wildlife and I’m not a great fan of the colours. Most of the ones we have are wilco’s specials so these will be some of the few I know the names of. Alice went with the Red Riding Hood tulips. I’ve grown these before. They have nice stripy foliage and bright red flowers. The alliums were my choice. Three very tall summer drummers. I had said last week I was done with bulb planting, but what I obviously meant was done until I see a bargain.

Alice helped plant her tulips, then lost interest as the other bulbs aren’t her taste. The crowbar came in use again for making nice targetted holes in the border.

2. Muddy puddle

Then Alice got on with the more important work of making a muddy puddle. She used the rainwater from her mud kitchen to soak a section of the lawn.

The lawn is in a pretty bad condition after builders last year but Alice had fun jumping up and down in her puddle.

3. Homebrew nematodes

This week I had found the book outwitting squirrels was free through Kindle to borrow. The book tackles different ways to tackle different “pests”. On the whole, I let nature take its course and allow the wildlife to find an equilibrium. But I have planted several hostas I would like to protect. In the book, it talks about making your own nematodes. Nematodes are a microscopic worm that preys on slugs and snails. It’s a natural way to keep slug and snails down. It costs about £16 and needs applying about every 6 weeks.  So it is quite a pricey way to combat them. By collecting up slugs and snails in a confined area you can create conditions for nematodes to build. The water at the bottom can then be added to a watering can to add the nematodes into your soil. It is unlikely to be that effective in the cold weather during winter but it’s free for me to try so can’t do any harm. If nothing else I’ve got the kit ready to try again when the seasons change.

A washbasin has been filled with a layer of water, then an island of plant material has been placed on top for the slugs to sit on.

Slug collecting has commenced.

Then the washtub is covered with a tile.

4. Kokedama

Earlier in the week, I’d made a kokedama. It is still sitting looking dumpy but I found a grey saucer which I think suits it better. While I imagine this doesn’t look that amazing to any of you I could see the process of making these being quite addictive. If I had enough materials I could easily encase many more plants in this way. I have one more fern and may dig out some of the ivy seedlings to try wrapping.

5. Fairy house

Yesterday I made Alice another addition to her growing fairy garden. The house has had a chance to dry overnight and I found it a space near the mushrooms put in last week. I think it’s looking quite nice if a bit rustic. Alice wants me to make more so I’m going to need to get the saw back out. Before long we’ll have a whole happy village going on.

6. Burgon & Ball photo competition

And for my final six some exciting news. I won the Burgon & Ball garden photo of the year competition. I will be receiving a lovely bundle of gardening bundles worth a few quid. I had a choice between a garden pack or an allotment pack. The garden pack had some nice secateurs and forks, but as I already own Niwaki secateurs I’ve gone for the allotment options.

Avid Allotmenteer:

So I can add an award-winning photographer to my egotistical over-exaggerated CV along with being a published poet. The photo I entered was one of my favourite dahlia pictures of the year combined with one of my favourite garden insects. I could happily watch the dragonflies for hours. When one landed on the dahlia, my favourite dahlia I grew last year, I went a bit snap happy. But I did get some stunners. So, I’ll be waiting on the postman to deliver me my Burgon & Ball goodies. Then I’ll be itching to get the dahlias started again, but that’s a good few months off despite what Gardener’s World magazine was advising this month.

It’s been a good holiday off and I’ve enjoyed plenty of time with family. Still shaking off my stupid cough, but gradually getting better. I’ve got a little time left to try and get a few more garden jobs done and we’re planning to get out for my dad’s birthday today and another walk on the beach. Enjoy your weekends. I hope the start of the year has been gentle to those who have returned to work.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 10

Today we said goodbye to Christmas. It’s all packed up and put up in the loft with the dahlia tubers. That took up more of the day than we expected, even though it always takes us longer than we expect each year. So it wasn’t until late afternoon I got outside. I’d decided I wanted to have a go at making a fairy house from an idea I’d seen on Pinterest. I needed to saw a log outside. So I picked a nice round one from the log store and got sawing. The birds have been unwilling to come in the garden much lately while I’m out. But once I’m busy the birds don’t mind me. Once I got sawing the blue tits were first in followed by the regular sparrows and blackbirds.

The magic must have been working on my fairy house preparation as I had a visitor I don’t remember seeing in my own garden for a good while. A greenfinch came in for the seed. Greenfinches were hit by disease a few years ago nationally. It’s heartening to know there are still some out there.

Alice didn’t help with much of this project. She did a couple of saw strokes cutting the wood. But the one part she was definite about was that the door should be red.

For a quick little project, I’m happy enough with the result. Alice wants me to make another, so may get better as I go on. I made mistakes with this one I know I can avoid next time. I’m not sure if I’ll varnish it or let it decay naturally. The glue can dry overnight and then we can look for a spot for it in the garden.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 8

So we’re past halfway through Wild Christmas and into a new year. We headed out to the beach to see people throw themselves into the water for the New Years dip. We didn’t get make it down in time but saw people heading in from a distance. The crowds were much bigger than when we previously watched. There is already drone footage on youtube showing off the crowds.

But Alice wasn’t too bothered. She only wanted the snacks anyway.

And a slow wander along the beach checking out the best stones.

Then she found a suitable writing stone for writing her name.

A bit further down the beach, someone was blowing the most fantastic bubbles. The photos don’t do justice to how big they were. We asked the mum what they were and found out they were Dr Zigs. It looks a bit pricey but Alice enjoyed chasing a strangers for free.

Back up on the path, Alice had a good scooter along.

Then she thought she was hilarious laying on the grass.

We tried the kite which normally works brilliantly, but there just wasn’t enough wind today for a change.

We had a good time out and Alice didn’t want to go home. A good sign that we’re parenting right. We’ve got a boring morning of packing Christmas away tomorrow morning, then see whether we can get out again.

Six on Saturday: 31.8.19

It’s almost the end of my Summer holiday and I’ve made good progress with the front garden. The front border is gradually filling up and the plants will fill out over the next year. The back garden has been neglected a bit but the dahlias and zinnias have filled this late Summer period well. I’m gradually building up to having a good level of seasonal interest throughout the year.

1. Gladioli

I’m not that keen on these gladioli and pulled a lot out last year but obviously didn’t get them all. They were bought as a cheap mix. They have reliably flowered each year and come out in the blousiest colours. They do add some late Summer colour which I appreciate, but I’d like more definite stronger colours.

2. Perennial sweet peas

These are next doors but they flop over Alice’s mud kitchen nicely. They come back each year and so long as I keep cutting they’ll keep flowering for a while. I didn’t manage to grow my own this year as we were limited for space for seed trays with the building work going on. These partially make up for it.

3. Fairy Gardens

I got criticised last week for not including my little star, so she’s back. She has been working on her fairy pot displays currently. She is rapidly becoming very girly. Everything has become all about the unicorns or the mermaids. She bought a fairy kit for her birthday a while back now. It came with grass seed which rapidly grew out of control and I have enough grass to cut without mowing the fairies lawn too. So the dying grass has come out to be replaced with sempervivums. I drilled a few holes but I’m not sure it has good enough drainage so we’ll see how it lasts but won’t look worse than the grass.

She then got a new fairy kit this week. She decided she wanted it the brightest pink in the pack. This one came from the Irish Fairy Door company. It’s a nice little kit with the door, paint, felt-tips and colouring book and special key. We only paid £4 for it though whereas it’s £16 online.

Then we glue gunned it to a pot and added stones around the door and she has set it up within a bucket planter. All her found objects have been put in. Acorns, conkers and pine cones. So it may have some odd seedlings in a few months. Then we put a few more sempervivums for flowers dotted around.

We also made it to garden village in Hull this week to see the fairy doors. Alice found her name along the avenue of trees.

And she got a ceramic toadstool to add to her garden.

4.Fern-Dryopteris

Part of my parents garden is being dug out for an extension. They kindly offered it to me. It is quite a beast. At about a metre heigh and similar spread, it took some digging. If I’m doing any more plant removing I need to remember my own tools. Spades are meant to be cutting tools not bludgeoning tools. For future reference here is a video on how to sharpen tools parents. I have been spoiled for nice tools over the last few birthdays and Christmas so have got used to top-notch tools. Though I do appreciate the fern it is looking grand in a shaded spot next to the lilac where little has thrived. I think it is probably some form of Dryopteris and will need well watering in for a while as this isn’t really the ideal time to be moving a plant of this size.

5. Nasturtium

I planted dairy maid last year. These have come up in the same spot but have flowered much brighter orange. So I’m not sure if these are the self-seeded offspring or something different. I did let Alice loose with some of the free magazine seeds that could be sown direct. So these could be the result of her random scattering as I think there were some nasturtiums amongst what I gave her. Next year there will also be poppies in places I haven’t planned. Keeps things interesting and ensures all spaces are filled. These are adding a nice bright burst where I’ve cut the lychnis back so I can see the sedum as it is coming into flower now.

6. Dahlia soulman

This dark beauty came as part of the Sarah Raven short dahlias for pots. I featured the other half last week. The growth has sprawled sideways out of its pot. These were meant to be short and not need staking, but perhaps a short stake might have helped tidy the growth. The flowers are stunning. It’s been one of the last to flower. It doesn’t currently have as many buds as others. but the few flowers I’ve got justify the effort.

It’s been a boiling week in the garden. The first proper week of Summer weather and now back to work. I’ve got a bit of work to do in the back garden. We’ve got two railway sleepers to make a step outside of the sliding doors. I’m not sure how well this will work but it didn’t cost much to get them and they can be used for something else if they don’t work there. Then the edge of the house has a gap of rubble. I was going to see if we can plant sempervivums into these spaces to tidy it up and suppress the weed growth.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekends and get some time to enjoy your gardens.

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Six on Saturday: 17.8.19 Exbury Gardens Hydrangeas galore

We have returned from our holiday down in Dorset having seen some lovely gardens. It’s interesting travelling down South. The difference in climate makes a massive difference to what is grown. Cordylines tower over roundabouts. Camellias look healthy rather than windswept and it feels like everything grows that little neighbourhood taller with pines common across the county. Visiting gardens gives me a chance to see specimens I wouldn’t necessarily see locally.

This weeks six comes from Exbury Gardens which we visited earlier in the week. Exbury is located on the edges of the New Forest. It is owned by the Rothschild family famous for mass wealth made through banking. It is known for its rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias which I imagine were spectacular earlier in the year when the majority will be in flower. It holds two national collections: Tupelo and Oxydendrum. With a small steam railway and 200 acres, it has a lot to offer visitors. I may have gone overboard on the photos but believe me I could post a lot more.

1. Hydrangea paniculata

We enjoyed this spectacular walk, which I think was from the Jubilee Pond. My love of hydrangeas has been discussed a lot recently. This stretch was largely made up of hydrangea paniculatas of different varieties. They were clearly well positioned and well established as they were thriving. One of the great advantages of hydrangeas is the long season of interest and these I’m sure will be looking great for a good while to come.

I spotted this variety great star that was a bit different from any I’ve seen before. I was quite taken with it, but then I was quite taken by the whole row. Earlier today I saw a quote from Vita Sackville-West that seems relevant here.

“In some gardens the hydrangeas were making a great display, but they look their best in large clumps, I think, not as a single specimen for which a small garden has only room; and in any case they always remind me of coloured wigs” Vita Sackville-West

The hydrangea were massive. Here are photos with family for scale.

2. Hydrangea walk

Further round there was a dedicated hydrangea walk made up of lots of varieties but mainly the dome mopheads of macrophylla. In my neighborhood, the soil largely creates pink hydrangeas. It was interesting to see a mix of colours along one walk.

Alice wasn’t so taken with the Hydrangeas. She only allowed us to continue as we’d told her it was the route to ice cream. Though she did enjoy playing hide and seek.

3 Steam train

The little railway gave us a tour of the gardens Alice couldn’t manage on foot so we got glimpses of the rock garden and the dragonfly pond. At Halloween, it transforms into a ghost train and at Christmas offers Santa Steam Specials which sounds great fun. Alice enjoyed the train ride even though it wasn’t her favourite colour red.

4. Ferns

The sheltered conditions of the dense woodland and sheltered slopes combined with the milder Southern climate gives ideal tree fern conditions. I have given up on my tiny little specimen. It’s either been too cold or too dry and it’s going to be years to form a trunk.

5. Rhododendron

While the majority of the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, the gardens are famous for, are past their best there were odd flashes of colour. Alice liked this vibrant red.

6. Ice cream

Alice eventually got her promised reward. She enjoyed it lots. She did well walking good distances. She almost got ice cream for dogs before I realised what I’d got. There were a lot of options for dogs around the area with many of the pubs and restaurants we visited offering snacks and drinks for dogs. Quite a dog-friendly part of the world. Unusually Alice went for strawberry ice cream rather than her usual chocolate but she enjoyed it lots.

We barely covered a fraction of what Exbury has to offer but was more than satisfied with our day out. I could happily visit again at a different time of year or even the same season as there was so much ground we didn’t cover. If I lived close I’d be buying a pass.
We’ve had a great time away and I’ll be posting more about our trips out over the next few days. Check out other sixes through the propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday: 6.7.19-Murder in the garden

After last weeks Agatha Christie-themed six, we return to normal service, though Alice has committed a number of garden crimes this week. The weather has been good allowing lots of the plants to romp away. The consensus on the mystery plant was pericaria. I’ll have to see what happens as it continues to flower.
1. Murder in the garden

A few weeks ago Alice helped prune the dwarf Korean lilac bush with her scissors. The problem is now she wants to cut everything down. In a lapse of attention from Amy, Alice took her scissors to the hydrangea. Luckily she can’t reach too far so it’s mainly lost blooms towards the bottom.

Butter wouldn’t melt.


2. Dahlia progress

She then went onto commit a second garden crime pulling and snapping off one of the dahlia seedlings. Luckily it was one of the varieties I’ve grown from seed and I have around 20 on the go. She wanted to plant the part she’d pulled out, so we now have lots of dahlia cuttings on the go. I don’t know that they’ll have time to grow to any height but it kept her busy while I potted some more of the dahlias.

I’ve potted on about 20 of my little Bishops children seedlings. They are getting to reasonable heights now and the sun should bring them on a lot.

And two of the tuber grown dahlias have gone in the ground now, complete with snail beer traps. We even have a few buds.


3. Nemaslug

In order to try and protect the dahlias and the hostas that have gone in the front garden, I’m trying nemaslug. Nemaslug is a biological control using microscopic worms that prey on the slugs. It is supposed to be harmless to other wildlife, unlike pellets. I haven’t used any controls for about 4 years beyond beer traps and barriers but as I have planted so many slug favourites I thought I’d try this so the hostas can make it through their first year. It comes as a powdery mix that you dilute in water and then use diluted again in your watering can.


4. Watering

The ground needs to be wet for nemaslugs to work so I’ve needed to wet the ground in the heat. I’ve not been using the hose recently. I’ve been managing purely from the water butt. But I want the nemaslug to be effective so I set Alice loose with the hose. It might mean the watering is a bit sporadic. The hydrangeas and the slide got more water than other areas but everything, including Alice, was definitely wet.


5. Lily Martagon-pink morning

I planted these in pots last December. These have been the first of my lilies to flower. They were stuck in a shaded corner while the building work went on. This has led to them growing at a bad slant towards the light but the flowers are still stunning.


6. Poppy

The first poppy has come through. I think this is self-seeded from last year as the two I spread this year were red and pink. These are a stunning colour. Last year the wind came through just as they opened and I only got to enjoy each for a day. But it’s been a bit calmer this year.

It’s getting hard to choose six each week now with so much to do and so much going on. If you want to see more of what is going on check the Propagator’s latest blog to read more peoples sixes. I’m going to be trying to do some weeding and clear a few of the spent Spring flowers ready for dahlias going in the ground.

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