Six on Saturday: 10.4.21

It’s been a funny old week. We had a glorious weekend last week followed by a week of cold weather. I have got a few jobs done during my school holiday though not as much as I’d like. But, I have completed my next RHS assignment on design. Not feeling great about this one as I think I may have misinterpreted the questions. We’ll see when I get feedback.

Fun in the sun

So last weekend was Easter Sunday so we had our Easter egg hunt. Normally we would see see family but it’s not a possibility this year. Alice still had a good hunt. The Easter Bunny may have gone overboard on the eggs, so I didn’t put them all out and she still had a very full basket by the end.

Taking stock of her hunt.

Sun lounger

Amy bought herself a new sun lounger which was immediately claimed by Alice. You can see the difference in the weather to now. Dress, no sleeves, no hat, no multiple layers.

Dancing

Alice relocated a ribbon stick she made last year and had a good dance around the garden.

Random seeds

I gave Alice some of the seeds from the draw that can be direct sown to scatter. This fills gaps in the border and gave me some interesting surprises last year. The blackball cornflowers were quite pretty last year so hopefully they’ll do well again.

Ballerina tulips

The tulips are going strong now. I think these are ballerina tulips though the photo makes them look redder than they really are. There are patches of these coming along the border. It seems to have come back strongly.

Snow

And from glorious sun to snow. It came down pretty quickly for a period on Tuesday, though it didn’t settle. The wind was pretty strong and the garden is all looking very dry now. We haven’t had any of the forecast rain this week and the garden could probably do with a good shower. There is some forecast but I think I’m going to need to start watering the front again. I’ve been watering some of the more tender plants as it helps protect them from the frost a bit. When the leaves have a fine layer of water it provides a bit of insulation and slows the thawing a bit. Don’t know how much truth there is in this but can’t see it’ll do much harm.

Hope your week has been good. I return to work next week and I’m taking on a few more hours. So, a little less garden time but a bit more time to make use of the nursery polytunnel.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 27.3.21

Well, it is holiday time Two weeks off to start catching up on garden jobs. The lawn has been reseeded but I still have some pruning jobs to do. I talked about the hydrangea last week but there are still the hydrangea paniculata to go. I’m going to be spending a day in work reseeding a few grass patches as hundreds of tiny feet takes its toll on the grass. But should have time for my RHS course and gardening. It was my birthday this week, but it was another lockdown birthday so no going out. But I got some nice gifts. Nothing on the gardening side but there isn’t really anything I needed.

1. Moon

One present I did get is a card reader to transfer photos from my big camera to my phone making it quicker to get access to my photos. Here is a quick moon shot taken Thursday night. Popped out in the garden as I could see a clear gap in the clouds. It was a nice mild night. You can hear the frogs out there currently. I need to set the trail camera again and see if the hedgehogs are around.

2. Forget-me-nots

The forget me nots are out in force which will bring in many bees over the next month. I know some people don’t like them but I like the fact that they spread to fill any spaces in the border and bring in so many insects.

3. Muscari

A stray muscari coming up well ahead of the others.

4. Discount planter

I picked up one of these cheap wildflower planters from Tesco now they have reduced stickers. It has a mix of poppies, cornflower, cosmos and sunflowers. So wildflower used in the loose term. I like these for using for bulbs for spring displays as they store easily when not needed. I have a few round pots but thought this might bring in a few insects on the patio this year before it is repurposed for bulbs.

5. Alice’s tulips

Alice’s tulips are growing strong. I think these were Chopin or Giuseppe Verdi tulips. I can’t remember which way around we planted them. Either way, a very bright burst of sunshine out the back door.

6. My real garden

We crowdfunded a gardening book a few months back and it has now arrived. The book was put together by Ann-Marie Powell and Tasmin Westhorpe documenting peoples gardening experience in lockdown. They asked for contributions and it features a great mix of professional and amateur gardeners.

And here is our contribution. Alice taking her place amongst garden media and Chelsea Gold winners.

Hope you all have good weekends. The weather is meant to be good this weekend before it becomes wetter. So time to get jobs done.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 13.3.21

Well, I made it out into the garden a few times last week. Got a few jobs done. The front garden is largely weeded so now need to do a bit more work on the back garden. Lots coming up now.

1. Science week

This week in the nursery the topic has been flowers. I’ve done a few activities with the kids, sowing some seeds, sketches and we tried food colouring in the carnations water. Red and yellow didn’t take, but the blue has given them some edging.

2. Bleeding heart

Or Lamprocapnos spectabilis for those of you who remember the new name. I like the fresh growth of these. They come up as strange bony fingers and spread. The leaf colour stands out amongst the darker heuchera and ophiopogon.

3. Crocus Joan of Arc

I had doubted their existence a few weeks back. It didn’t look like many of these were coming back in the front garden. But I’m glad to say many of them are poking up now. The first bees have been coming in to enjoy.

4. Snowdrop planting

The lack of signs of crocus at the start of the month had led to me ordering more snowdrops from Gee-Tee bulbs as they snowdrops were coming up stronger. We got 100 nivalis into the ground last weekend. It sounds like a lot but it isn’t really when you put a few to a hole. Alice helped plant them and then we gave them a good water as it had been dry for a few weeks. This has, of course, meant it has rained all week since.

5. Mud kitchen

And we got to play in the mud kitchen for the first time in a few months. Despite her face in the photo she was actually enjoying herself.

6. Iris reticulata ‘George’

I think this has been one of my favourite of the early irises. The dark colouring and patterning is gorgeous. I planted these in pots and in the planters at work, so these are on display as the hundreds of parents and kids come around the site. Pretty little morning treat for those who notice.

Forecast is pretty grim for today with rain and wind. The rain I can stand but the wind is a hazard for sorting roses. So may give that a miss today. We are looking at frogs next week at work so I’m preparing the activities while Alice trials playing with it all. I went in the garden at night earlier in the week and could hear them all croaking away. I hope you all have good weekends whatever you are up to.

Find me on Twitter.

Nature Schooling: Butterflies

Next weeks topic in the nursery is butterflies. As ever I’m looking at the topic with Alice before the lessons in the nursery. I’ve covered butterflies quite a few times with Alice so it’s getting harder finding new ways to cover the same information. Her knowledge has gone up and she is naming specific butterflies now. But she knows about the lifecycle and many details like the body parts now. So I’ve done a bit of extra research to find some different ways to engage her. Obviously, this time of year is a bit useless for going outside looking for butterflies so it has mainly been outdoor activities. I’m going to start by recapping two previous ideas.

Butterfly life cycle

We made this life cycle as part of 30 days wild. It was a simple piece of craft but one she has kept on the notice board and still talks about regularly.

 

Butterfly printing

Butterfly printing is a nice activity to look at colour, pattern and symmetry. It’s a nice activity even with younger kids as the child will usually end up with something that looks good so they come up away with a sense of achievement.

The very hungry caterpillar stage show

So, returning to look at butterflies again I wanted to find something different. Any topic on butterflies in education inevitably makes use of the very hungry caterpillar. It’s a great story with many opportunities for art, maths, music and science. The very hungry caterpillar stage show is currently available to stream. It is a bit pricey for what is essentially a rental but Alice enjoyed it a lot. It’s not like we are getting out to the theatre currently. The show features several Eric Carle stories. The puppetry is great and Alice sat engrossed.

To make it more of an occasion I made a set of tickets and put them in an envelope for Alice to find. We set up the front room as a theatre with the curtains shut and the lights down. We had watched the snail and the whale as a live stream a few months back so Alice is getting used to theatre this way. I had bought a cheap set of butterfly wings for the event thinking Alice would enjoy dancing and twirling in them. She loved them and spent several days after as a new superhero ‘butterfly girl’.

She obviously enjoyed it as I got a few days of her performing her own shows and her drawing pictures.

And she linked to the previous rainbow topic asking to make a rainbow of butterflies with the Sizzix machine.

Baker Ross crafts

Looking back through the blogs gives the impression that we largely do very close-ended craft when in reality Alice has access to lots of art materials and usually decides what she wants to make. Pictures like her very hungry caterpillar above and her rainbow of butterflies. However, I saw two Baker Ross sets I thought she would like on offer so I ordered them. The first was a butterfly mobile. I like this one as it has the pulling mechanism setting it apart from previous models we’ve made. She made the decision to use felt tip as we’d painted a lot of wood recently and she didn’t want to wait between coats or have to paint multiple coats. She focused very well and it took a good section of an afternoon.

The finished effort hanging in her bedroom.

The Baker Ross kits often come in threes which suits us perfectly as a family as we each get to make one. Here is my effort.

The second kit was for a hanging feeding station for bees and butterflies. I’m not convinced most of these ever get used by the intended species but I enjoy involving her in the garden and I believe wildlife is one of the best hooks for getting children gardening. It’s still a bit cold for hanging them but we have them ready for as the weather warms up.

Maria Merian

Recently, I have been trying to find decent role models for Alice to look back on. Her current interest is art and for many months now she has been telling us she wants to be an artist when she grows up. The story of Maria Merian is one I stumbled upon but I have become quite fascinated by her life. She challenged the accepted belief in the 1600s that butterflies came from ‘spontaneous generation’. They believed butterflies sprang from the mud. Insects were seen as evil. As a child, Maria had studied caterpillars first hand and linked many caterpillars to the butterflies they became. Her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations laid out her observations on metamorphosis. David Attenborough has commented on her being one of the most significant entomologists in history. His series Natural Wonders has an interesting episode in series 2. We’ve watched a few different kids videos together on her life and I found one book written for children about her life. It’s been interesting looking at with Alice as it has presented the idea that people previously believed something that was wrong. It’s also shown Alice an artist who painted the natural world which is what Alice often chooses to paint pictures of.

Loose parts

I made a few butterfly outlines from cardboard and left with a few different items for Alice to find.

Once found she set about decorating them. She is becoming very precise in her artistic endeavours insisting on exact symmetry and pattern.

She went back to it a few times over the day. I’ll probably use this in the nursery for a settling activity and then leave it out for child-initiated time.


Book recomendations

There is no shortage of butterfly books for children and books are as ever one of our most useful teaching resources, particularly at this time of year when it will be harder to find butterflies except the odd overwintering one in the sheds. The hungry caterpillar is obviously popular, though I don’t like to focus too much on the story as it is one they often have at home. A butterfly is patient is beautiful, though has no plot to speak of and the text isn’t that engaging with the very young. Its value is looking through and discussing. What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly is great for getting across key facts in an accessible way. Summer birds tells the story of Maria Merian for kids.

Butterflies are always a nice topic and the kids should be fresh after the half-term break. Looking forward to teaching it with them. I’ll leave you with a video made for the children home learning. Hope you enjoy it.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 13.2.21 fun in the snow

It will come as no surprise why today’s six theme is. Last week it appeared everywhere in the UK was snow covered but us but it came eventually. Not as thick as elsewhere. Being coastal it doesn’t tend to last long.

1. Snow

The snow started light but it got heavier over a few days. The front garden is north facing and thus shaded so it isn’t melting away there.

2. Snowdrops in the snow

These nivalis are looking particularly pretty with the Ophiopogon behind. The snowdrops seem to be doing well in the clay soil with lots returning. I’m not sure as many crocus will come back as not seeing as many coming through.

3. Birds in the snow

The birds have been in lots this week with me keeping the feeders well stocked.

4. Snowman

We didn’t have very long for making a snowman. All we managed was this little lump before school. But it put some of my sprouts to use.

Alice was happy anyway.

5. Iris reticulata Katherine Hodgson

The first of the Iris reticulata are in flower. This is one of my favourites. It grows in one of the hosta pots. These flower and shrivel and the hosta then comes up for summer. The feathery pattern is particularly beautiful.

6. Birdwatch competition

We had some nice news that Alice was picked by nest friends to win a bundle of prizes from learning resources UK for her birdwatching efforts in the big garden birdwatch. She is now asking when they’ll be delivered.

The snow is gradually melting away but for a day or two the pavements will be lethal as it changes to ice. We are on half term now so will probably shelter inside for a day or two while it melts away. Snow is fun, ice less so. My chest is gradually feeling better after Covid. Still a background headache but all manageable day to day.

I hope you’re all keeping well. The weather and lockdown not causing too much disruption for you all.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 2.1.21-Vine weevil

Happy New Year! I should really start a new year of six on Saturday posts with something inspirational and uplifting but I’ve been meaning to write about this subject for a while, so this is what you are getting. But gardening isn’t all positive and we roll with punches. We have ups and downs and by sharing the negatives I may help someone else in future.

1. RHS pests and diseases

I have started the process of revising for my next RHS exams. In the next round of exams, I am taking two exams. The first on soil and composting, the second on plant health, pests and diseases. I purchased the RHS pests and diseases in preparation for my revision and I have found myself browsing it in odd moments for the many ways our plants can be attacked. The book is a good guide to promoting plant health and while it does list chemical solutions it largely pushes more nature-friendly methods of promoting plant health. My current garden concern is vine weevil which I will spend the rest of my six looking at in more detail.

2. Vine weevil

Vine weevil are a fairly common pest. They are more of an issue for plants in pots which I think is where my problem started. I had two pots of heuchera that I discovered a few months back were infested. I disposed of these pots but there have been signs that they are in the ground too. So far the problem seems to be just in the front garden and the back seems to be unaffected. I could dig up the plants affected but this may mean removing almost everything and even then any new additions could still be attacked again. So I am trying several approaches to tackling them.

Vine weevil are a beetle Otiorhynchus sulcatus. The larvae are plump, white, legless grubs with brown heads that can be found around the roots of plants. While I have an interest in most aspects of nature you will find few positive odes to the vine weevil grub. Most people would describe them as repulsive. Knowing what they are they are not a welcome sight. They live in the soil where they nibble through the roots of your plants. In some cases, this will just stunt growth. In more extreme infestations they will cause the death of the plant.

I knew I had vine weevil when moving a pot I moved the plant and it came away in my hand. The larvae had eaten the whole of the stem and roots detaching the crown. It is possible to clean these off and re-pot but I didn’t want to take the risk so I disposed of the plants in pots. If you would like to read how to clean off infested plants read Plantsagogo advice. They attack a wide range of plants but heuchera are a particular favourite with hostas, hydrangea and cyclamen being on the list of vine weevil diet. Pretty much the list of what I grow in the front garden.

The larvae mainly cause damage through autumn and spring. The adults emerge late spring and summer. They are about 9mm long with dull black bodies and antennae that form a right angle. They are slow-moving and eat notches out of the leaves. They are flightless so you can set up barriers around your pots. If you grow plants in pots you can keep them in a saucer of water as the vine weevil don’t swim. The adults will lay many hundreds of eggs over a couple of months.

3.Non-chemical control-nematodes and predators

There are a handful of chemical controls for vine weevil but many of these pesticides are unsuitable to infestations in the ground. The pesticides can be applied as a compost drench but all the products I have looked at involve neonicotinoids which will kill more than just the vine weevils. Instead, I have used nematodes. These are natural predators that will attack the vine weevil larvae. They are delivered as a powder that you mix into a solution that you add to a watering can to water over the area. I gave the front garden a treatment in autumn and then again late on.

I have also encouraged natural predators of vine weevil to try and control the numbers further. The front garden does get frogs visiting despite no pond. There are a number of dark damp spots such as under the water butt where they can hide. I have been intending to look at making a mini-pond for the front garden to encourage them further but this is probably a job for spring now. I have also put a fat ball feeder in the front garden to encourage a few more birds in. I feed the birds with many different feeders in the back garden but I don’t really bother in the front as there isn’t much cover around for them. Once we get to late spring I will start to check the plants in the evening to see if I can remove any of the adults myself.

4. Encouraging healthy plants

The nematodes may not prove effective enough though as they don’t work as well as the temperature gets colder. They stop working at temperatures below 5 degrees. I applied the last dose about 2 weeks before the temperature dropped to this point. So I have taken a dual approach of looking at biological controls but also looking at promoting the health of the plant. Back in autumn, I gave the front garden plants a scattering of bone meal. Bone meal is a good autumn feed as it encourages plants to toughen up for winter and root well. As vine weevil mainly cause issues with roots I want the plants to be in as good health as possible. The bone meal is sprinkled on the surface and lightly forked in.

5. Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial fungal that form associations between roots and plants to give the plants better access to nutrients. The RHS profile page partly dismisses them as the use of lots of fungicide and other fertilisers can disrupt the process. However, as we learn more about the effect these fungi the more gardeners are seeing the benefit of using this funghi. We still know relatively little about how these relationships work but they are truly astounding. I am reading Merlin Sheldrake’s entangled life and it is fascinating reading all the things fungi are capable of doing. Empathy sells many different mycorrhizal products for the gardener aimed at many different functions. They have products aimed at acid lovers, roses, evergreens but I went with the general rootgrow product. This is ideally spread on the roots when planted but as I have already got the front garden planted up the plants received a sprinkling around and it was forked in around some. So this will, hopefully, allow the plants attacked by vine weevil manage to grow back strong enough to survive any future attacks.

6. Mulching

Mulching may not seem to have much to do with vine weevil but let me explain how this may potentially help. The front garden is heavy clay. So heavy you can sculpt with it. Bricks were made locally from it. I have discussed my efforts to improve the soil previously here. Nematodes do not work as effectively on heavy soil in part because the temperature drops colder. So in order to make sure I get the most from the nematodes I need to improve the soil. I am using a no-dig approach of applying top dressings. The soil organisms will gradually take it into the soil improving the structure of the soil. I have used Dalefoot clay buster which I can get delivered free locally. This is a lovely product for enriching the soil. Not cheap, but it feels and looks beautiful. Most gardeners will appreciate this while any of the non-gardeners reading this will think I’m crazy. As well as improving the conditions for nematodes, the mulch can also help improve the drainage while also helping water retention which may seem contradictory. It also provides the plants with some additional nutrition. Clay soil is rich in nutrients but it is not always accessible to plants. All of this should improve the health of the plants to make them more resilient to vine weevil and other problems.

I hope you have found some of this of interest. We’ll see next month if vine weevil come up on my exam. If they do I feel pretty prepared for answering a question on them. The one time I’ll actually be wanting vine weevil to appear.

Find me on Twitter.

 

12 Days Wild: Day 8-Happy New Year

Well, we have made it through 2020 and into a new year. I know for many this has been a difficult year but I have ended the year in a better state. My work-life balance is better. I work locally so get to walk and spend more time in nature rather than wasting much of my day on commute. So I’m happy to be moving onwards.

Just because it’s New Year’s Day doesn’t mean we get any extra sleep. Alice was up for her usual 6:30. I was generous and let Amy carry on sleeping. The birds have been very active in both the front and back garden enjoying the lack of humans while they nurse hangovers.

When Amy did emerge, I got out for a run. It was pretty horrible weather but it woke me up a bit getting out. I ran a little stretch of the old railway line through the wooded section. I’m using the couch to 5k app and it currently very gentle 90 seconds of walking followed by 60 seconds of running. But I want to ease back into it after a strain.

Then a short stretch of the seafront. It was busy today, even with the rain, with people coming out for the traditional New Year’s Day fish and chips.

Then headed out to run along the edge of the fields. I do like running along the bridle path but it will be off-limits for winter as most of the time it is underwater. But in spring and summer, it’s nice running along here startling the odd rabbit. But we are fortunate to have several natural environments we can run through. It’s very easy to get away from housing and into either more rural areas or along the coastal path. I ran while we lived in Hull but it wasn’t as enjoyable running through urban sprawl.

On the walk back home I kept an eye out for which wildflowers were in bloom ready for when we go to do our official count.

 

The rest of the day has been spent putting Christmas away. While the tree is pretty decorated the house feels bigger again for having it away and most of Alice’s new toys assigned to a place. The wetter weather has left the garden very squishy but I do have a few bulbs still to plant and I couldn’t do that while the ground was frozen.

Find me on Twitter.

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.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 5.12.20

So this week I got my results from my first RHS level 2 exam. I passed with flying colours receiving a commendation. It will be hard to carry that through on all the exams as I had plenty of time to revise for this first one with the first lockdown but I am quite determined to try.

This week has been a pretty miserable week weather-wise with lots of rain. I don’t really want to step on the lawn currently if I can avoid it. Yorkshire Water has been down the street pumping out drains so hopefully, we won’t get any flooding as a few areas nearby were starting to pool. We are on higher ground so things usually drain away from us but still not much fun walking to work through rivers so hopefully, they’ll keep on top of clearing the drains. It does mean many of this week’s photos are very overcast.

1. Sophie Conran topiary shears

Following on from the success of my first RHS exam I felt I deserved to treat myself. I’ve had my eye on these Burgon & Ball shears for a while. I don’t have masses of topiary to prune but I do have plenty of shrubs where they will prove useful. They feel beautiful, with a nice smooth cutting motion. The fact that they can be used one-handed will be useful on a number of shrubs I own where I want to be precise.

2. Bargain heuchera

Tesco was clearing out many perennials and small shrubs. I was tempted with a few but I don’t think I could fit that many. I imagine they are making room for poinsettias that will be killed off on the journeys home as soon as they encounter cold. I did buy a few heucheras. A couple of dark red and a veined green. I lost a few potted ones to vine weevil. I’m not sure whether these will go in pots or the ground but at just over a pound for them it seemed rude not to rescue them.

3. Dahlia lifting

The dahlias have largely been frosted. I finished lifting the dahlias in pots. These will go up in the loft for storage and then come back down after Easter when I put the Easter decorations back up. There are a few in the ground I want to dig up as they are too close together but it has been too wet the last few days.

4. Log delivery

Last weekend we had a delivery of wood for the log burner. The 2 patio log stores are now full for winter. The wheelbarrow was put to good use carting it around.

5. Helleborus niger

The Christmas rose hellebores are starting to flower. I find the first ones are usually damaged. I think it is slug damage but then the usually improve. The damage doesn’t really show from the house. You can see little patches of white flowers in the shaded corner under the black cherry.

6. Helleborous orientalis

This hasn’t suffered from slugs but suffers from the usual problem with hellebores. They have stunning flowers but they facedown so you don’t see the beautiful speckling.

This weekend, I have the plant profiles to complete for my next RHS assignment. Then I need to begin the process of revision for the next two exams. I have to cover a variety of plants over the course. So many trees, so many shrubs, so many perennials and so on. I haven’t covered many trees yet as I don’t really have that many within my small garden so I am trying to readdress the balance and write more profiles of trees with this assignment. The most recent assignment covered pests and diseases. This has been quite interesting and made me look at how I can ensure the best health of my plants. Hope you all have good weekends and are keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.

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.

Find me on Twitter.