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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Six on Saturday: 11.1.20

This week saw me return to work. One training day and then back working with the children. It’s always a shock to the system going back and I’ve found myself tired much of the week and adjusting to not having as much time outside or in natural light. But the weekend is here so some time to see outside. But I managed a few last gardening jobs last Sunday before I started again and managed to grab the odd minute of fading light in the evenings to get out in the garden.

1. Hellebores

I had posted about my disappointing hellebores a few months back. My newer ones are putting on a more satisfactory show. Good to see some flowers that haven’t been destroyed by slugs.

2. Christmas tree

Alice had a real Christmas tree for her bedroom. It survived the Christmas period largely intact without dropping all its spines. So it has now been moved outside. I’ll now look at potting it up with Alice maybe as another dinosaur garden. It’ll give us a display for a while until it gets too big.

3. Ivy kokedama

Following on from last week’s fern kokedama I dug out an ivy seedling from the wilderness behind the house and wrapped it. I still didn’t quite get the soil mix right so that it holds together but manage t wrap it all in tight. Still a bit of an ugly dumpy look, much like the last one, but I quite like it.

4. Driftwood

Following on from finding the big driftwood lump last week I went back with Alice to look for some smaller driftwood. I thought I could use it as a line marker for my pot displays on the patio to add another layer of structure. Then if I can add some more driftwood within the borders tie the patio and lower garden together. The larger branches I’ve used to make a path edge to the pots and then I’m piling beach finds of smaller wood behind. If I gradually build it up I think it will look quite nice. I’m keen to try and add more found objects from my locality to place my garden within the bigger picture.

The larger piece found last week has been dug in near the bench of happiness. I was aiming for a zen stone effect. Not sure that I’ve quite got that feel, but it’s a nice piece of wood giving the birds another perch. The surrounding area has geraniums, ferns, and heuchera that will gradually grow around it until it is just poking out.

5. Heuchera-raspberry

St Andrews B&Q in Hull is clearly plant hell from there discount tables. The plants are raised on benches with strong winds off the Humber drying them out. Then they probably don’t receive much water as it is generally cheaper to get rid of the plants or sell them cheap than pay someone to water them. The table had a mass of roses, shrubs, and heuchera. Even hardy ivy had fallen victim. But amongst the casualties, I found this heuchera ‘raspberry ‘ which I think has enough life still in it to save. I’ll clear the dead and dying leaves and I reckon it will come back strong next year.

6. Gro-sure peat-free compost

The main reason I wanted to go to B&Q was to check their peat-free compost. B&Q stock a range of peat-free options. Hull stocks Gro-Sure peat-free which at £4.50 is relatively cheap as peat-free goes. The importance of going peat-free has had lots of media time recently. Gardeners question time had a segment about it last week. Sara Venn wrote a blog earlier in the week briefly covering some of the issues in the horticultural industry.  I’ve heard quite a few positive reviews about the gro-sure mix though I’ve also heard that it has been discontinued in favor of their new horizons mix. New Horizons is Westlands main peat-free compost. I’ve found it fine for growing seedlings and plants in pots but it has poor seed germination. Hopefully, gro-sure will be better, though I’ll be annoyed if I then find it is no longer available. Dalefoot compost has been the most reliable peat-free I’ve tried but I largely have to get it through the post and it is 3 times the cost. I may buy a bag of their seed compost for the planned dahlias to ensure success.

Considering it is mid-winter I’m quite happy that I still have a good amount going on in the garden. I don’t have a mass amount in the way of flowers, but there is still plenty of strong foliage keeping the garden looking reasonable. It’s not the glory of summer but it isn’t too bleak stepping out.

On a side note from my six, I’m sure many of you will have noticed the moon last night or stepped out to see what was going on with the partial lunar eclipse. The moon was a particularly spectacular sight. I manage a decent photo without resorting to the tripod. I suffer from shaky hands making things like the moon awkward to photo. I’ve seen many better shots of last night, but this was satisfying for me. My winnings from last week have arrived so I’m going to be investigating new tools now and then the new Monty show to watch. Enjoy your weekends.

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Nature book club: Review-Moon

For the last month or so Twitter has had a new hashtag hour #naturebookclub. Currently, this is taking part on Sundays 6-7 pm. It’s a growing community and I’ve seen some great recommendations through it. As a teacher and a parent I’m finding I recommend picture books a lot, so I thought I would look at reviewing some of the children’s books I’ve enjoyed, both at school, and with Alice.

Moon-Britta Teckentrup

Alice goes through phases, much like the moon, of being obsessed with the moon. We have to check out the window in the morning and at night to see it’s still there and how big it is. So, I thought she would probably enjoy this book. The book doesn’t have a running story as such. It goes around the world showing different landscapes describing what happens. On each page, there is a cut out of the moon. As you go through it gets bigger and then wanes. This is the main reason I’ve used it for education, to discuss the phases of the moon. It isn’t detailed in the text but as you go through the book you can talk about wider subjects. Alice was asking whether the animals were nocturnal the other night for example.

The illustrations are gorgeous, despite being toned down as it’s night time they are still entrancing. Much like the illustrations of Eric Carle, they are basic looking but lovely and a lot of work will have gone into their construction. The illustrations and text describe moonlit settings around the world showing a wealth of animals.

As with many of the best children’s books coming out now, it can be enjoyed by both the adult and the child as it has a poetry to it alongside the gorgeous illustrations. As a story about the night, this does tend to be one we read in the evening. I’ve read it with Alice, then she’s often wanted to look through it by herself. That’s always a good sign that it has engaged with her on some level. She will sit talking through the pages. She’s at that lovely pre-reading level of making up her own stories to the pictures but is also starting to know some letter and sounds and is pointing them out.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little review and possibly feel inclined to check out nature book club. I would also recommend ‘tree’ by the same author that shows the life of one tree through the seasons. It’s another stunner.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 9

We spent the morning getting a few jobs done and went out to do a food shop, so little wild activities. Alice wanted to have a picnic on the way back but the spot I had in mind was parked up. So we had a picnic in the extension room and watched the sparrows coming and going in the garden.

Alice remembered I’d promised her we could go back to the beach to try and fly the kite again. We took the litter picker and bucket down with us and we’d got a good amount just by the end of the street.

We wrapped up well against the elements and headed down to the beach. After a few false starts, we got the kite going.

Then we had a good stomp on the beach. Alice’s current beach obsession is making footprints. She made a good circle of footprints and then checked out all the dog footprints.

There was a lot of driftwood down on the beach including a few substantial pieces. A bit more than Alice can manage, though I am tempted to head back with the car. We took one branch to stick in the garden to give the birds a perch. By the time we headed back, it was starting to get dark. We watched out to Flamborough to see the lighthouse. Alice has been learning about it at nursery so she enjoyed looking out for the flashes. Tomorrow we’ll see about finding a spot for the driftwood in the garden.

12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 6

Yesterday saw a beautiful sunset. My photos didn’t really manage to capture the magnificence of the colours, but you’ll have to take my word for it. It was stunning.

Today I have been very tired. Alice didn’t sleep well, so ended up sleeping in with her. She’s fine today, but I’ve been achy and tired all day to a point I needed a nap. She has still been determined to do lots. We’ve had a gingerbread house kit leftover from Halloween in the cupboard which we’ve been promising we’d make with her.

We had a trip out to the garden centre. Alice was excited as ever by the water feature display. She loves watching the fountains. Further round she pointed out her favourite fish.

The Christmas displays are starting to be dismantled, but there was still one of the snowy dioramas to watch.

Alice spent part of her Christmas money on more fairies adding a bee and caterpillar fairy to her fairy enclave.

I kept my purchases to just a couple more bulbs from the £1 trolley. I will show them off later in the week. The garden is a bit sparse for flowers now but there is still some beauty to be found in the dried flowerheads of the hydrangeas. The corvids have been dominating the garden today with jackdaws and crows putting many of the birds off visiting. The sun has been out and seen a few insects flying around today.

It’s going to be an early night for me I think and then just as I thought I was done with the bulb planting more to go. I’ll try to get them in the ground tomorrow.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 4

Well, today I’ve managed to get out in the garden quite a bit, only in short bursts, but better than nothing. I’ve finally got round to sawing up the whitebeam that has been sat against the fence for a month. While I was sorry to remove this tree it wasn’t right for the position whereas the holly looks to be well suited. The tree has been sawed up and added to my pruning pile. I keep my prunings between the lilac and the Dryopteris fern They don’t really show there but will provide habitats for several creatures while they slowly rot. Between the branches and foliage in this area the frogs liked it for shelter in summer.

Alice was out with me for a little bit using a stick to poke holes for bulbs. The last of the alliums are now in. Most went in the borders but Alice stuck a few in random pots so we’ll see where they come up.

The hellebores have managed a few flowers that haven’t been completely chomped to pieces. A few insects were still flying about but signs of life are currently low out there.

The birds were happy to see me go in. They headed straight for the feeders as soon as I headed in.

I feel better for getting out, even if it was only for a little bit. Sawing up the tree and planting the last bulbs takes two jobs off the list. I’ve got a bit of winter pruning to do and trying to get the bin tidy flooring done in the front garden. My new wheelbarrow will get a decent run out. Enjoy the rest of your weekends.