Burton Agnes: snowdrop walk 2020

It’s almost a year to the day that we visited Burton Agnes for the snowdrop walk. It makes for a nice winter stroll. We’ve got one of Amy’s friends visiting so thought it’d be a nice day out on one of the few days that wasn’t meant to rain heavily. Burton Agnes is a lovely Elizabethan hall with a walled garden and woodland. The first we thing we spotted was Amy’s dad in the carpark, which was a nice surprise to see him there.

There was a good queue to get in as everyone gift aids their ticket. Once in we headed on the snowdrop walk first. Alice was excited to see the snowdrops pointing them out everywhere.

The snowdrops carpet all the woodland ground.

The walk gives you a gentle stroll suited to a three-year-old. The wind was bitter even well wrapped up but the snowdrops were stunning.

They have left lots of stumps and branches to rot down. Good to see positive woodland management.

Even busy with people walking there was plenty of bird song as we walked.

When we visited last year I commented that Alice was disappointed that there was noo Gruffalo. There was an owl and snake and fox. They have rectified this mistake.

They’ve done a good job on the park with a massive tower and spiral slide for the older children, then two smaller climbing frames for different ages. A zip wire runs along the back.

We had a stroll around the outside of the house of the gardens.

The garden is bare currently.

The walls still providing for some of my favourite ferns.

But the greenhouse was well worth going in for the mass display of Narcissus.

Amy is taking on more classes at school and she is teaching more photography. So, Alice got a few lessons today.

Then Amy borrowed my camera to get some practice in.

Then back to the courtyard to see what was available. I resisted the snowdrops. No more Galanthus for me. I’ve just added a few more in the front garden and I’ll let them spread gradually now.

The irises were more tempting. I’ve got a small pot of Katherine Hodgkin but they do look good in a mass display.

I’ve got Katherine’s gold still to come but it’s nice to see what they are going to look like.

I went for two pots of Iris reticulata ‘Pixie’. They are not in flower yet. Pixie is a pretty little purple variety to add to the mix. It’s been a lovely day out. Alice managed very well with the walking, had a great time in the play park. I now have 100s of her photos to filter through.

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Six on Saturday: 15.2.20-dahlia love begins

The garden survived last weekends storm relatively unscathed. I’ve reattached the back gate with heavier duty hinges as it got broken in the wind last weekend. But apart from that, the garden has held up pretty well. We’ll see whether it holds up to the rain this weekend. Despite the weather, I’ve still managed a few jobs this week and still a good couple of flowers still coming out to play.
1. Primula Veris-cowslips

I started with one little pot of cowslips. I’ve gradually been dividing them under the dogwood. Most of the year the dogwood would overshadow this area but the cowslips flower early enough to shine before the dogwood takes over. They provide an early source of nectar for early bees and beetles and provide the garden with a bit of colour early on in the year.

2. Charity find

This week’s charity find was this little painted pot for the price of 20p. I’ve put a cheap pot of daffodils in it for now. Another little burst of colour amongst the foliage plants. The pots have survived through the storms. The log store acts as a bit of a buffer for a few of the pots.

3. Bin tidy

I finally got round to sorting the bin area. I dug out the border, put sand down and these plastic grids that the bins can sit on. Then the area was covered with gravel. We thought it would look neater while still giving drainage rather than the paving we’d originally considered. I’d still like to build a covered bin tidy but it all looks neater than the strip of mud that was there before. The fatsia was only put at the end temporarily but it seems to like the spot so it may stay.

4. Iris reticulata- Katherine Hodgkin

The second of the Iris reticulata varieties to flower and it is a stunner. It rather foolishly decided to open during last week’s storms but has survived the winds. The creamy bloom with the blue veins is a delightful combination. I planted these in one of the tall hosta pots with the idea that they’d be up and flowering and then the hosta would come up later in the year. So far so good.

5. Lupins

I got another batch of seeds sown last week as Alice was pestering to sow something. She’d chosen a mixed bag of lupin seeds a while back. She likes the red ones on the pack. Hopefully, we’ll get some red ones or she might be a bit disappointed. Lots have germinated within a few days so it seems hopeful. I noticed last year at open gardens that almost every garden that was selling plants had lupins so I figure they must be fairly straightforward to raise from seed. I’ll grow them up in recycled plastic pots to protect them from the slugs and snails and then use them to gap-fill later in the year.

6. Plug plants

I picked up a few small plugs to grow on. I got a few of these dahlieta options. I got one last year and it flowered for months across summer and into autumn. They grow small and compact and within regular deadheading and feeding, they can keep flowering. I’ll need to grow these on and pot them on. They’ll need keeping inside initially so I may regret getting them this early but it’d be nice to have an early show of dahlia flowers.

I also got a few Nepeta hederacea plugs. This forms a good trail of variegated foliage. It’s useful for trailing out of pots or hanging baskets. Then I also got a white trailing fuschia that I will probably use in the front garden if it survives potting on.

The garden is currently very calm but we have storm Dennis on the way so I want to check the garden is all secured. I have a handful of jobs to work through over the next week. I’ve got the last few stepping stones I needed for the front garden. I’m going to add some drainage holes to the front while I’m at it. As it’s thick compressed clay having had weed matting and gravel on it for a decade the drainage isn’t great and don’t want it to waterlogged. I’ve also managed to pick up some cheap peat-free soil improver to use to top-dress it. This will gradually get taken into the soil improving the structure which will help drainage. It will also add a few extra nutrients for the plants. I’d started work on a new seat in the back garden and I’ve still got the roses to prune so hopefully get a few dry days after the storm. Hope you all survive the storms and enjoy your weekends.

Six on Saturday: 8.2.20-Exciting News

It’s been a week of ups and downs. One day mild, the next freezing. But I’ve managed a few jobs in the garden. Gradually getting things tidy ready for growth starting afresh in spring. A little bit of gentle weeding was required in the front garden and I’ve had time to read a few garden books and magazines while I plan ahead for next year.

1. Seaweed feed

My dad bought lots of feed at the end of last year and passed some onto me. So as the plants are showing signs of growth already I’ve been around and given them a sprinkle of the seaweed food. The box covered the plants in the front garden and a good amount of the key plants in the back garden. I’ll hold onto the liquid feed until the weather has warmed a bit further to give the plants another boost.

2. Foxglove seedlings

I planted a number of different foxglove seeds back in Autumn, including a few of the mountain varieties where the flowers point up. They germinated well and then have sat in their seed trays not putting on any growth, so I’ve moved them into individual pots now to see if that will help them as the daylight increases and the weather gets warmer over the next few months.

3. Mini-Daffodils

I planted a few mini-daffs in the front garden. These are quite a bit ahead of the back gardens. I’m not a massive fan of daffodils but Amy likes them, so I always keep a few on the go. They don’t provide pollen for many insects but it’s a bit of cheer to pass as we come back to the house.

4. Iris Reticulata-Harmony

The first of the iris are opening up. The first randomly came up in a fuschia pot. I think Alice may have poked it in.

I’m now starting the plant shuffle to move the spring bulb pots in amongst the winter foliage pots so they are visible from the house to enjoy.

5. Charity shop finds

Having added the metal jug amongst the pots last week, this week I found a stoneware jug to add amongst the clutter. Infront is a crab shell found on the beach and I’ve wrapped some of the old fishing rope around the pots.

6. RHS-The principles of horticulture Level 2

Now for some exciting news this week I have enrolled for one of the RHS long-distance learning courses. I am currently looking at a career change and I think this could be a good route to go. Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more passionate about my garden and growing by various methods. This should improve my knowledge and who knows where else it will take me. I’m excited, while a little scared having looked at past papers, to get started. I’ve also enjoyed the Plant-Based Podcast this week which was on making the career change to horticulture. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

We have the builders returning to fit the outside light. This will just about mark the end of the building work that has dragged on for a year. I’m excited to have it completed as I can then look at setting up the patio properly. Just in time for the spring bulbs coming out.

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Last photo

Having seen this on https://cornwallincolours.blog/ I had an urge to take part.

Brian (aka Bushboy) is running a monthly challenge where he asks you to post the last photo on your SD card.

The rules are simple:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone for the 31st January.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

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Six on Saturday: 25.1.19

Today’s six on Saturday is a post of two halves. The first half coming from a family friend’s garden, the second half is from my own garden. Last weekend we went to visit one of Amy’s friends whose garden we had seen on open gardens last year (garden 4). I was interested to see it in winter as it has a lot of foliage I’d assumed was evergreen. But it was all still looking great. The mass carpets of cyclamen foliage covering lots of ground, alongside hellebores coming into flower looked great.

1. Alice and snowdrops

Alice was very taken with the snowdrops, though she is referring to them interchangeably as snowdrops and snowbells. I don’t think I have any coming up in my own garden anymore or they are lost in the foliage. I may have to see about adding a few in the front garden. Then Alice can enjoy snowbell hunting in our garden.

2. Pots

I’d seen this area of their garden in summer when the pots were filled with hostas and ferns. Even in winter without the hostas, the ferns still look great.

The semp pots and rock towers still looking good. All the found objects adding to the look nicely.

3. Pruning

Returning to my own garden I made the decision to give the Korean dwarf lilac a rather severe haircut. I’ve cut it each year but it has gradually been creeping up in size. The surrounding shrubs will be given a trim in spring. Though having cut the dwarf lilac and looking at the gap I think it may be better removing this completely and letting the hydrangea and choisya claim the space rather than having three shrubs fighting for space.

4. More driftwood

I’ve talked previously about my plans to use driftwood in the garden. I’ve managed to claim a few more pieces to start laying out in front of the pots just next to the Korean dwarf lilac. I’m loving the very knotted piece full of holes. A great find.

Then I’ve managed to get another big piece. I need to wash some of the sand and salt then I’ll probably look at putting it into the borders as I’ve done with the other large piece I found.

5. Iris reticulata

The iris are shooting up quickly with the mild weather. I think I may have an early show for many of these. I expanded my selection with a few different varieties Katherine Hodgkins, Katherine Hodgkin’s gold and harmony. Having seen some stunning purple ones in the last few weeks I’d like to add something like Pauline next year. They have stunning deep purple flowers.

6. Hydrangea buds

A number of the hydrangeas have foolishly put on growth beyond the old mopheads with the mild weather. I think they may regret this if the temperature drops as predicted. Rather strange looking things when you look closely.

I’m planning on carrying out my Big Garden Birdwatch so I’m looking to disturb the garden as little as possible this morning until that is done. Then the forecast is dry for today but rain for tomorrow so I’m going to be looking to tidy up the pruning work today. I’m cutting it down as much as I can and putting it down as a mulch under the hydrangeas. It will be slow to break down but it will provide for beetles and woodlice.

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