Six on Saturday: 5.6.21 hodge podge edition

This week’s six is coming from a few different gardens as it’s been half term and we’ve kept busy. I am taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s 30 days wild, though I am not blogging about it daily this year as it is quite time consuming and I have a lot coming up this month.

Wassand Hall

We made it to Wassand Hall on the bank holiday Monday. Wassand is probably our closest garden to visit. It’s just out of town with a short woodland walk and a small walled garden but they pack a lot in. They had set up a trail of small animal doors for kids to find on the woodland walk. Alice got a bag of sweeties at the cafe for her efforts so she was happy. We enjoyed a courgette cake and a bakewell slice. The gardens were at an odd inbetween season with some bits going over and other bits on the way. It’ll look great in a month or so. The hothouse is filled with amazing cannas and banana trees so the exotic section will be looking good again. The current star of the show was the irises. I picked up a few cheap from their plant sales and a couple of hardy geraniums.

Deer

We then walked out from the garden towards the mere. Were were tret to the sight of 2 deer running off to the long grass and managed a quick snap. I see them quite often locally but this is the closest photo I’ve managed yet.

White butterfly

Returning to my own garden we’ve had some sunshine this week bringing out the insects. Here we have the forget-me-nots being enjoyed. They’ve probably got another week or two until I pull them out and scatter the seed again. Amy’s teaching more photography next year so we’ve both been practising our skills more this week.

Damselfly

The damselflies have started to make their first appearances of the year in our garden. Hopefully the dragonflies will follow soon.

Alliums

We visited my parents later in the week. The alliums are doing well and a good few bees coming out to play. I rather like the contrast on this photo.

Robin

And the birds weren’t too bothered by us being there.

I have my first jab this afternoon so hopefully still have the use of my arm afterwards as got a few jobs to get done tomorrow before the return to work. Hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 15.5.21 bee week

This week with Alice we’ve been looking at bees with a bee themed play tray. So I thought for this week I’d take a look at some of our measures to help the bees. Educating Alice about the world around her feels like the best way to encourage her to grow up to care and respect all that we find in our world.

The play tray consisted of a tinker set from tots of fun. Then the large bee peg dolls I painted. The bee hive was a special purchase having sold off a few magic tricks I made a while back. She’s come up with some lovely stories over the week with it and enjoyed the open ended play taking it in different directions each day.

We got some wildflower seed with the tots of fun set and some bee bombs from Rowse honey. Alice helped plant them in her bee pot now her tulips have gone over. Didn’t really look at exactly what was in the mix but hopefully something will come up.

For my birthday I spent part of my birthday money on a Mason Bee tube. Mason bees are one of our more common solitary bees that are easy to help. These tubes are great. I wanted one that was easy to replace tubes as they are used and a set up easy to clean. Many marketed bee hotels are too short with tubes too wide or too narrow. Sometimes plastic encouraging damp. Basically most sold at garden centres to people with good intentions are rubbish encouraging disease and parasites. So I decided I just want one decent one rather than several that potentially harm the bees. They benefit from some maintenance each year which you can find on the mason bee website.

I also bought the new Dave Goulson book gardening for bumble bees. The garden jungle covered this subject briefly but good to know more. Dave’s books are easy to read but filled with research based facts. I like his focus on positive steps people can do to help wildlife. Looking forward to reading this one.

Within the garden we grew lots for wildlife. As a general rule less cultivated single flowers are better for pollinators. I provide a variety of open flowers and tubular flowers as different insects favour different flowers. This geranium phaeum has been very popular with the smaller garden bumble bees the last few weeks. It flowers well. Then I prune it back to the ground and usually manage 3 sometimes 4 bursts of flowers over a year.

The forget-me-nots are out in abundance currently. I let them spread all over the border. These are favoured by the honey bees. Here photographed by my wife. These self seed all over and then over plants come up through. Many of the alliums are coming through which are also great for bees. The single dahlias are very popular with both bees and butterflies. Planning for different flowers through the year keeps an interesting variety of visitors coming into the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at bees. It’s Alice’s birthday tomorrow. She’ll be 5 years old and very excited. So lots to get on with. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 24.4.21

Hello all. The last week has been a harsh one for the garden with cold nights and dry days so the plants are taking a double whammie of drought and frost. So, the job of watering begins again.

1. Drought

The plants have largely held up alright but the hydrangeas have suffered from the dry weather and cold lights. I have watered them more this week but the Hydrangea libelle has suffered most. This one seems to be a little less hardy than the others suffering more than the others each year.

2. Tulip Tres Chic

We were bought these as a wedding gift and so far they have been coming back, though I haven’t seen many yet this year but I think there is another patch of them somewhere so they may turn up still.

3. Mixed tulips

Alice selected some mixed tulips for pots last autumn. As individual tulips they are nice colours but they haven’t worked well in pots as suggested as the height and timing of each has varied too much. They can be shifted into the border once they’ve finished this year where I think they will work better. The yellow and red has been the nicest of the mix.

4. Sambucus racemosa sutherland gold

The Sambucus leaves unfurling are stunning. The leaves initially display the dark centre before turning to a vibrant golden green. It’s drought-tolerant, wind tolerant and can handle being hard pruned. The flowers are popular with pollinators. It’s a winner for me by the coast.

5. Iris unguicularis Walter Butt

This has decided to put out another flower. While you only get a few at a time it is nice having something that flowers from December through to April. That little flower burst in winter was much appreciated but even now when the spring flowers are in full swing it is still worth pausing for.

6. Lamprocapnos spectabilis

I have lots of the standard pink bleeding heart spread along the border now. It seems to grow well in my ground and flowers for good periods. It was enjoyed by the bees a lot last year when we were on full lockdown and I could sit and watch. This particular patch is getting to a good size again. I’ll probably leave it another year and then divide it again.

They are beautful flowers. With the weird shape it’s always a bit of surprise to see bees enjoying them, but they are popular.

Lots to enjoy this week. The lawn is mown. But looking very dry. We have rain forecast later next week so hopefully get the water butts refilled but for now I’m going to need to give things a bit of help. Hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the slight relaxation of freedoms.

Six on Saturday: 3.4.21

The weather has been nice for the first week of the holiday though meant to be chiller next week. I have had to use the new blog editor so I have no idea what will show. You may just have to imagine six beautiful photos as I have no idea if it will work.

  1. Ladybird Loveliness I have been happy to see several ladybird in the garden. We had a lot of aphids last year with the veg patch so an army of ladybirds would be useful.

2. Sealing wax daffodil

This is one of the few daffodils I know the name of as it was Amy’s choice of the bulbs from the discount bin two years back. Almost all the other daffodils are cheap mixed bags.

3.Prunus incisa Kojo-no-mai

I moved the small prunus into the ground in autumn and it is looking grand. It is only about half a metre but every cm is covered in blossom. Should look spectacular as it grows. It grows to about 3m and should fill the space beautifully.

The bees are loving it anyway.

4. Narcissus Elka

I put these little daffs in the hanging pot back in autumn. They came as a cheap add onto another order but they are rather pretty in the pot.

5. Beefly

We have had quite a few of these visiting the garden. It’s a beefly. Not an actual bee, but a fly that disguises itself as a bee. They have the very distinctive long proboscis sticking out in front. A great wonder in the garden.

6. Robin

We’ve seen a good few different birds in the last week but I was happy to manage this photo of the robin mid song. It’s been back and forth from the feeder to the ivy so nice to get a shot.

Hope the photos have showed as I feel I got some good photos this week. Hope you’re all keeping well and enjoyed the slight relaxation of the Covid restrictions.

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Six on Saturday: 23.1.21-Winter Flowers

Today’s six is coming a bit later. I normally pre-write the six before the weekend but I’ve been busy at work covering extra shifts all week. This has also meant little time for gardening but to be fair the garden isn’t in too bad a state. As ever, check out the founders six on Saturday guide if you fancy joining in the fun.

1. Iris unguilaris-Mary Barnard

I have two varieties of this Iris in pots to give some winter interest. This is the first flower for Mary. It’s a stunner. Hopefully, we’ll get many more over the next month or so. The photo doesn’t quite reflect the purple colour accurately.

2. Iris unguicularis-Walter Butt

Walter featured last month but it is worth featuring again.

3. Iris pallida

A new Iris addition. This will flower May/June time. There is a nice variegated version with stripy leaves. I’m not sure if this or not but we have signs of growth.

4. Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’

This came with the Iris above. It has lovely frizzy fronds. While the individual leaves are lace-like. It doesn’t look like much but I think it should be a winner in a pot.

5. Frost

This morning is very frosty. All the birdbaths have been frozen solid. This was one our plot on a plate from last year that has been dismantled and left for the birds to drink from. But the fairy is frozen in place.

6. Galanthus nivalis-snowdrop

The first of the snowdrops are out. I don’t have many varieties of snowdrops. They are mainly nivalis. It’s a simple beauty. I’d like these to gradually bulk out and form patches.

Lots to enjoy today. It’s starting to get lighter each day so I should start to see a bit of the garden in the evening when I get home from work. Next weeks topic at school is beetles which I’ve been looking forward to. Fascinating creatures. I hope you are all having good weekends.

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12 Days Wild: Day 7-New Year’s Eve

The day started very cold again. The back door was very stiff to slide open. But, it’s been nice sitting in the backroom and seeing the birds enjoy the extra bird feeders. They are obviously appreciating the food in the cold weather with large swarms coming in.

A good day to steal Amy’s macro lens for a few close up photos. I have a suspicion that all this frost is probably going to destroy the camellias emerging blooms but so it goes. I think it’s going to get dug out after its next round of flowers.

The colour of the Golden King holly almost concealed by frost.

It has stayed cool enough that the frost hasn’t really faded. We didn’t get out until after lunch and there was still lots of ice around. Alice wanted to go to the park to play hide and seek and look for more robins to show her robin toy.

Alice all wrapped up with her favourite new hat.

We did manage to find a robin over by the church wall. The wall here is covered in moss and ivy and you can usually find a good few birds hopping in and out of the cover.

Alice with her robin.

We spotted a squirrel which Alice told me is robin’s brother. It’s an interesting family tree.

I’m glad we are getting some decent sunny days before we head back to school. It is freezing but it’s still a tolerable temperature once we are wrapped up. But we are lucky to have numerous nice spots to walk out too. We will not be doing anything special for New Year’s Eve. Even if there weren’t restrictions in place New Year’s Eve isn’t much fun when you know you’ll still get woken up the same time as normal by a 4-year-old. So, normal bedtime for us. But I hope you all manage to welcome the New Year in safely and enjoy whatever you are up to.

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12 Days Wild: Day 6 late finish and early start

Last night was the last full moon of this year. A ‘cold moon’. The evening started very cloudy and it wasn’t looking very hopeful for taking a decent photograph so I played with shadows.

But about 15 minutes later the cloud cover had blown over and I got a clear shot. Well worth going out for a few minutes in the cold.

Then I had an early start with a run along the seafront. It was very cold this morning but the seafront paths don’t freeze as easily with the salt spray. The cold weather isn’t so much of an issue as you get up to heat quickly enough once running. The sunrise was stunning over Mappleton in the distance. I started running again during lockdown but I sprained my ankle when I got to the last week of couch to 5K so I left running while it recovered. I’m starting slow again.

And then at the end of my run over the fields at the other end of town.

Later on in the day, I took a little time to watch the bird feeders. I have set up the extra bird feeding station for winter. I put this up during the winter months the birds need it more. The rest of the year I just keep two feeder poles and a few extra in the trees.

Through the day I’ve had the reminder of why I don’t bother with these stations most of the year. They are shorter than the others so the seagulls attack them. They have shredded metal feeders in the past. They can become very destructive and it puts the other birds off.

But as the day has gone on I’ve seen a few other birds use it with tits and starlings visiting lots. The sparrows are pretty much a constant garden presence.

After the initial run it has been a peaceful day of resting and revising for my RHS exam. I’ve just about got all my revision notes in order and been recapping all the details. There is a lot to take in and I’m taking 2 exams next time so I don’t know that I’ll manage the commendation again. But we’ll see. Still a month to go before I sit it.

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12 Days of Wild: Day 5-Graveyard walk

Today I wanted to head out along Polly’s Path. It is a little path that leads alongside one of the town’s graveyards and it is one of the best spots for seeing birds. At this time of year, the mass of trees and hedges are filled with berries making it an irresistible lure for wildlife. It is, however, very boggy. I imagine the corpses decompose well as it spends a lot of time water-logged.

I wanted to give Alice a chance to use her camera and she wanted to take her new robin toy to see some more of its friends. Her backpack now fits more comfortably so she can take some of her own possessions.

On entering the graveyard we were met by a great variety of birds with blackbirds, tits, finches and pigeons staying close while several corvids flew off. Graveyards are often great spots for wildlife with badgers often making sets nearby.

Alice got to see plenty of the robins she wanted.

And a good few squirrels.

Her own camera isn’t quite up to scratch but it allows her to feel like she’s taking part in mine and Amy’s hobby.

Though she got a good selfie.

The graveyard leads through to the Transpennine Trail. It’s quite a while since I last took Alice down this way but it is a nice walk. The path is sunken down from the graveyard and surrounding fields making it feel quite calm and secluded.

This does come with the disadvantage that all the water runs down into it. A few more days of rain and it will be the Transpennine Canal. But, that does make for good splashing fun while Alice sang bear hunt.

The birds were equally evident along here with a mass of different songbirds enjoying the berries.

While we didn’t go a massive distance it still felt good to get out and see so many different birds. Most were common birds that visit our own garden but it was still nice to see so many and get out for a stroll. The wet conditions mean we didn’t have to fight through crowds which currently is a bit of a novelty around Hornsea with many people coming for the beach. Hope you’re all enjoying that strange half-life time between Christmas and New Year and managing some time enjoying whatever you like to do.

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Six on Saturday: 26.12.20 Staying positive

I hope you have all had a good Christmas even with tier restrictions. We had a super day, even without visitors. We very slowly opened presents. Alice had a lovely day with many fabulous presents from friends and family. I got a few gifts for my outside lifestyle but nothing so much on the gardening front. But I hadn’t asked for anything so didn’t expect to. Alice received a few gardening gifts. Mainly craft activities: paint your own birdhouses and fairy gardens. So, I’m sure they will feature over the next few weeks.

It seems like the last few weeks there have been many of the six on Saturday posts mentioning how they are struggling for motivation to garden. Then with the news on changes to tiers in the UK, I know many people’s mental health has spiralled further down. This combined with many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is leaving many people across social media stating that they are struggling. So, for this weeks six I am looking at six things which have helped me recently.

1. Get outside

Getting outside has been shown to improve mental wellbeing again and again. Ideally during daylight hours but even getting outside at night in a semi-natural setting has been shown in some studies to help. If you don’t have access to an outside space a windowbox or houseplants have been shown to have some mood-lifting capability but I don’t really think it’s a substitute for getting out properly. It can be an effort to drag yourself out currently but having the right clothing helps keep you out once you get out. I keep a set of cheap waterproof trousers by the back door which are more than adequate for most gardening jobs. The Gold Leaf dry touch gloves are my go-to in winter as my clay soil can become pretty horrible this time of year. Buffs for neck warmth and a hat are more convenient for warmth than a big scarf. But once you get doing most jobs outside you warm up quickly enough.

2. Aim low

It helps to aim for just getting small manageable jobs done on each trip out in the garden. If you’re trying to get out and do everything your mood will end up lower. But if you go out with just the aim of planting say 10 bulbs, pruning one plant, you have more chance of succeeding and coming away feeling satisfied. I aimed to get my Iris reticulata planted a few weeks back. It took about ten minutes. They were all bunged in pots but I came away feeling better for having gone outside with a small definite aim in mind that was achieved.

3. Don’t be hard on yourself

If you don’t get jobs done it doesn’t really matter. Worst-case scenarios for most gardening jobs is a slightly less impressive display of something the year after. So long as the job being left isn’t endangering anyone there is no need to place pressure on yourself. It is unlikely our gardens are going to be enjoyed by anyone much beyond our own households anytime soon. So, there is no need to beat yourself up if jobs don’t get done. I have alliums that have been sat in a cupboard for a good while. They have been left while other jobs have been completed. I will get them in the ground probably in the next week. It may be too late it may not be. Doesn’t matter. These irises were meant to be going around the hostas in pots but I haven’t got around to it so they just went in small pots. I haven’t even bothered to tip them out of their plastic pot. They’ll still give some flowers.

4. Celebrate what is there

I have tried to plan the garden to ensure there is something in flower throughout the year. Currently, the stars are the cyclamen. The hellebores should be stunning but they’ve been nibbled quite a bit. There are a few Irises that will be flowering over the next month. But if you look there will be something worth celebrating even if it is just frost on leaves or the stark beauty of bare branches against a winter sky. Celebrate what is going on.

5. Grow evergreen

To avoid the garden looking too stark over winter I have quite a lot of pockets of evergreen planting hidden around the garden. For much of the year, it isn’t visible but as the herbaceous perennials die back the ferns and heuchera are revealed. The hollies come into their own. The evergreen shrubs provide structure over the winter. It just keeps the garden looking that bit lusher over the darker months so you don’t find yourself looking at a full garden in decay. This shaded corner is filled with evergreen ferns and heuchera. They have browned off a bit but they still provide a solid block of green to lift the spirit.

On a side note, as this is the time of year people go for nostalgic posts, the 3 large ferns at the back were amongst the first plants I planted when we moved in. They were tiny little things, maybe 20-30cm big. Now well over a metre.

6. Enjoy the wildlife

With many of the trees bare the birds become much more visible in winter. This combined with food sources gradually dwindling bird feeders become more important. If you do provide feeders keep them clean as a disease can be spread easily in winter and make sure you keep them stocked. If they are empty birds waste energy visiting. Watching the birds in winter provides endless joy. I usually increase my feeders at this time of year in preparation for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. By providing a variety of food and water sources I get to enjoy many different birds coming into the garden.

If you fancy reading more on gardening for improving mental health check out these two books:

The well gardened mind.

RHS: your wellbeing garden

If you fancy some gentle viewing watch the National Gardening scheme lecture with Tom & Sue Stuart-Smith. It supports a wonderful charity that then gives onto many worthy causes.

NGS lecture.

It is also day 2 of the Wildlife Trust initiative ‘12 days wild‘. This aims to get people to appreciate nature in these dark months to improve mood. Well worth signing up and looking through their ideas. Check out yesterday’s blog.

We have another day of rest ahead for boxing day. We’ll be taking it slow. I hope you all enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.

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Six on Saturday-12.12.20-cold and frosty morning

This week we had the first proper burst of frost. This week’s six are almost all plants that have featured regularly but they take on a different appearance with the frost.

1. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little lime’

This has retained its colour for a long time. It’s a smaller version of limelight and I have it growing in a pot currently. Hydrangea flowerheads look great with frost on and the combination of lime green with the icy edging is an attractive one.

2. Heuchera purple palace

The heuchera often stand out in the frost with the veining becoming more pronounced. Here purple palace was looking very nice with the frost along the stems.

3. Sea holly

This sea holly has held onto its colour beautifully this year. It was quite late to flower but it must have been on the go for about 2 or 3 months now. The flowerheads were starting to drip when I got out.

4. Dryopteris sieboldii

I really like the fronds of this fern. It forms single leaves spaced alternatively along the stem. Similar to the holly ferns but with a more spreading growth pattern rather than upright.

5. Dryopteris possibly filix-mas

This fern was dug out of my parents front garden when they were having their drive way changed. It was a beast and hard work getting out with my mums blunt spade. I haven’t had the chance to take a file to her spade with Covid but it is more of a bludgeoning tool than the cutting tool it’s meant to be. I’m pretty sure it is a form of Dryopteris but not certain of which. Possibly filix-mas, possibly affinis. Either way it’s a nice a big fern filling out a space to the side of the lillac. It gets sun first thing in the morning and then is in increasing shade through the rest of the day. I like the way the frost settles on the edges of the fronds.

6. Hydrangea macrophyla

This is one of two hydrangeas that frame the steps down to the garden. These have lost their colour, fading from pink to brown. They are lovely even as they fade. They always look good with a layer of frost on. These will be cut back in late winter to encourage more flower buds, along with cutting out dead growth.

We have Alice’s ballet lessons starting again today. I did consider going back past the garden centre then remembered it’s Christmas and it will be hell on earth. So we’ll give that a miss. I am finishing off replanting the hanging basket. The fuschias were looking a bit tired. I’ve got a few winter plants to replace them with. Hopefully look a bit better. Hope you enjoy your weekends.

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