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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Six on Saturday: 28.11.20

Alice has still been off school part of this week so the garden has largely been neglected but the small time we’ve had on garden jobs has been enjoyable.

1. Breakfast birdwatch

On Wednesday we had Alice’s last day of home-schooling before her year group reopened. It has been closed after another child tested positive. But they’ve had their isolation period and she can return. I posted last week that we have been doing breakfast birdwatches but I wanted to post about it again as she drew such lovely pictures.

We have found a lot of feathers through the week on the lawn. I need to set up the trail camera to see what is responsible. It may just be birds scrapping or it could be the neighbour’s cat or the sparrowhawk.

And a mouse fallen victim. As we have remains left I suspect the cat as the sparrowhawk would have taken it.

2. Sparrowhawk

I did spy the sparrowhawk catch a sparrow last week. It zoomed in and snatched one and was out. I just managed a picture through the window before it was off. But I’m not sure it’s responsible for all the damage.

3. Sprouts

The sprouts were devastated by caterpillars earlier in the year but wasps then devoured them all and they have recovered. I’m not sure if we’ll have a crop for Christmas but it would be nice.

4. Front garden lights

Friday would have been the Christmas light turn on in my town. But they haven’t had the chance to raise the money this year so they are lower key. So, there has been a community push to place lights outside peoples own homes. In the front garden, I have used some solar-powered wire LEDs. They have a backup battery for dull days. I have stuck to the white lights in the front garden.

5. Back garden lights

In the back garden, we have lots of battery-operated coloured lights. I’m using rechargeable batteries as they do need recharging a few times over the month they are up.

6. Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

This is an Algerian Iris that normally flowers January to February time. I’d bought two varieties earlier in the year as I’d been taken by other peoples. It’s nice to have a flower in that winter window where little else is flowering. But this seems to have got started early.  These are flowering at the base of the stems so I don’t know if I’ll get some larger ones in future years.

We will be going out of lockdown next week and into Tier 3 lockdown so there won’t be any changes for us. But seeing as we are both still working, Alice is at school and the garden centre is still open it doesn’t really affect my life much. I hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 21.11.20

We have had another week of balancing work and homeschooling. Alice’s year group was closed due to a positive Covid case. Amy and I are tag-teaming on the homeschooling. I teach Alice for the morning then Amy comes back to take over and I’ve headed into work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening. We planted up a few tulips in pots and emptied a few of the dahlia pots for storage. But largely the garden has been neglected. That said, there is still lots looking good out there.

Geranium oxonianum

I believe this is a form of geranium oxonianum though I don’t know which. It was passed on by one of my aunts. There are little pockets of these flowers dotted along the borders. A reliable no-fuss plant.

2. Dahlias

We have had a few chillier nights and the dahlias are starting to show the strain. I was hoping for dahlias in December but they are looking to be giving up now.

3. Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii

I picked this up just before lockdown reduced as it will soon shrivel up. It’s a nice variegated form of spurge that should give spectacular lime green flowers next year. It’ll need to be in a pot to give it the dry conditions it needs.

4. Ox-eye daisies

A few tatty daisies are in flower here and there. While they aren’t providing any sort of decent display the few pollinators still active will appreciate them.

5. Charity hydrangea

I picked this up from outside a house during our daily exercise walk in the first lockdown. They were outside a house and just asking for a donation. They seem to open quite green before quickly shifting to pink.

6. Breakfast birdwatch

I have largely stuck to teaching Alice traditional school lessons to keep her ticking over while she’s off school. A big focus on her phonics, reading and writing but I have included a little burst of nature contact with taking part in the breakfast birdwatch. We aren’t getting much variety currently but we are getting large numbers of sparrows and various pigeons. The sparrowhawk has come through a few times sending everything scattering but the crows usually turn up to mob it. I find I take more bird photos in winter as with the trees bare it becomes easier to get shots.

Alice goes back to school at the end of next week so going to be playing catchup on jobs after that. I am currently working through my RHS unit on pests and diseases so I am seeing signs of damage everywhere that would normally be neglected. I have enjoyed having the extra time with Alice but it has been tough balancing both our jobs and home life. Hope you are all keeping well and finding some solace in gardens and the outside world.

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Six on Saturday: 31.10.20-Autumn planter

Well today we enter tier 2 in my local area. Though this doesn’t really change anything as we haven’t had anyone else in the house for a while and we have a small child and no child care so going out to bars with other people wasn’t a big part of our life. But we’ve still had plenty of fun this week with our snail and the whale adventure, tree planting with the promise, and a Halloween trail at Burton Agnes. So at least we’ve got out before we have our options slightly restricted.

I saw a few weeks ago that Mr Plant Geek AKA Michael Perry was running a competition to create an autumn planter. I thought it would make a nice little weekend project with Alice. We had a big empty pot ready and I had a vague idea of plants I wanted. We had a good wander of the garden centre to find suitable plants deciding on our choices together. Then a decent slab of carrot cake for me and brownie for Alice before returning to get to work.

1. Callicarpa

Amy had wanted a callicarpa last year but I resisted as it is a pretty boring plant for much of the year. The leaves are nothing to shout about. The flowers are alright but not exactly a show stopper. Where they excel is the autumn berries. As you can see they are like nothing else. Masses of small purple berries cover the plant in autumn. On there own it’s a pretty boring plant so it needs really companions to provide interest the rest of the year or to be used as a temporary display.

2. Heuchera

I wanted something evergreen with a bright leaf to provide interest through autumn and winter. This one fitted the bill. The wider leave provides a contrast in shape and colour to the callicarpa and the grass. I was looking for a brighter red one but they didn’t have any currently.

The veining isn’t as striking as some but will be more prominent at other times of the year.

3. Carex

This is a nice short grass. I have a pot of carex ice dance which has stayed reliably evergreen through the winter. The short thin spikes contrasting with the other elements of the pot.

4. Trailing pansy

Alice wanted a few of these pansies. We put one in her bee pot from a few weeks ago and dotted a few around the edge of this planter. I’m not a massive fan of this sort of bedding plant but it will add some nice bursts of colour to the pot as they spill over the edge. The colour she selected is working well with the other plants and I think it will improve as the autumn goes on and they fill out.

I topped the pot with pebbles to stop splashback on the wall if it needs watering and to keep it all looking neat. It acts as a mulch keeping some moisture in reducing the need to water, not that this matters currently.

6. The overall look

I think we selected plants that look attractive together. It should stay looking good through the darker months and be a nice sight out of the back door. They are complementing each other nicely.

And here are the two of us looking proud next to our work. Alice really wants to win the cushion for the first prize so we’ll see how it goes. Whether we win or not it was nice planting it up together and talking through the plants with Alice and selecting options together at the garden centre. You can also see Alice’s bee pot she filled with tulips a few weeks back. She agreed to put a pansy in so it doesn’t have to sit looking like an empty pot for half the year.

We had a good time making our planter together and Alice stayed out to help me with other garden jobs after. We got a few more things planted and she helped sweep the patio and give the windows a clean after all the dust from the builders. A good productive afternoon. Fingers crossed we win as she is very excited by the cushion to a point where I will have to buy her a cushion if we don’t win. But even if we don’t we can take pleasure in our planter over the darker months of the year.

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Six on Saturday: 10.10.20

Welcome to the weekend and this weeks six on Saturday. There have been lots of new people joining in with six on Saturday, particularly on Twitter. If you don’t know what it’s all about, check out the guide from the founder. It’s been a busy week for me as I’ve covered extra shifts at work which has been lovely working with different children but has meant I haven’t got on with any of the jobs I wanted to in the garden. Even if I hadn’t been working I would probably have tred carefully doing any jobs this weeks as we have had lots of rain and if I’m not careful I will turn the garden into a quagmire. The scaffolding is still up from the builders and they have a few finishing jobs to do. But they aren’t going to while we are having days of hailstones.

1. Dryopteris sieboldii

After featuring a rather beautiful but possibly tender fern last week I thought I’d feature a tougher specimen. This one originates from China, Japan and Korea. It is fully hardy, drought-tolerant though a slow coloniser making it well suited to pots. I have a number of forms of Dryopteris though this one is distinct from any of the others with its finger-like fronds.

2. Allium amethystinum ‘forelock’

I picked out a new allium to try. This grows globes much like many others and then forms tufts on the top. A little strange. They are around half a metre in height so should be good for the middle of the border. I think I may start them in individual plastic pots and then move them to spots in the border in spring when I can see where they will look good.

3. Allium siculum (Nectaroscordum)

Not one I’ve grown before but I have seen them in many gardens. The hanging flowers are quite attractive. Like most alliums, it is loved by bees.

4. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’

It often feels like I miss out on autumn as many of the trees and shrubs have the leaves blown off by our strong winds before they have a chance to change colour but this little ornamental cherry is doing well. I recently moved it into the ground. It is currently too crowded but I’m going to be lifting some of the dahlias around it soon so it will have a bit more space when the spring blossom returns.

5. Ornamental kale-Brassica oleracea

In order to add a bit of interest after the dahlias have gone, I got a tray of ornamental kales. I saw these around a few gardens in the neighbourhood last year and they seemed to be doing well in peoples gardens. So, I thought I’d give them a try.

6. Fuchsia hanging pot

I planted this fuchsia in the borders as it said it was a shrub variety. However, it seems to want to trail so I’ve put it in one of these hook pots that I can attach to the wood store. I can gradually build up a living wall type set up on it. I’m not a massive fan of fuchsia but currently, they are providing some of the best colour in the garden.

Hopefully, I might manage a few of the garden jobs this weekend. I won’t manage anything much today but might manage a bit tomorrow. A bit of a rushed six after a busy week but hopefully have some time to rest over the weekend. Alice’s dance class this morning so I’m going to sit and read Derek Jarman’s the garden. Enjoy your weekends!

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