Six on a Saturday-2.6.18

Time for this weeks six. A guide to participants by its creator here. This week has been back and forth for weather. We’ve had days of brilliant sunshine and overcast dark days that seem like Winter hasn’t left. The garden is full of a sense of anticipation. Many flowers are on the verge of opening to display their treasures.

1. sedum, spathulifolium blanco

This sedum started as a small tight ball in March. Now it has flowered and spread covering the pot with small bright yellow flowers. The sempervivums are just poking through nicely.

2. Asiatic lilies

These two Asiatic lilies were bought a few weeks back at a community plant sale. They are giving a fantastic glow on the patio. The orange is more neon than I expected. Possibly a bit tasteless, but the patio pots are saved for more exotic choices. Whereas the border seems to be developing largely into cottage garden favourites.

The photos don’t really get across the vibrancy of the orange.

3. Sweet peas

I planted my sweet pea seedlings into the garden. A bunch into a pot to grow up the Aldi obelisk. Then another group up a wig wam in the border. Already a few flowers have opened. So far a pleasing combination of red and purple.

4. Morning glory

Having finally become fed up of the morning glory seedlings on the windowsill I’ve also planted them out. Some into pots to climb the fence near the house. Some into the border to climb the fence.

The weather going chiller again has been a concern, but if they don’t grow they don’t grow. While the flowers are pretty I don’t think I’ll bother again. Space is limited on the windowsill for seedlings and the border can only fit so much, so don’t want to be worrying about tender plants. Hopefully by next year a number of the climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle will have established over more of the fence.

5. Geraniums

I know the geraniums have featured a number of times over the last few weeks, but more have come into flower. The renardii flowers are lovely with their veins of colour, although the leaves have picked up an unsightly orange appearance.

These thugs were donated by my mum last year and have now taken over a section of the bottom of the garden. Eventually they’ll need dividing or they’ll dominate the whole area. But right now they are filling a good area and suppressing weed growth. When you examine the flowers close up they are rather delightful.

Another unknown variety from my mum that has been flowering for several weeks and just keeps giving. Another tall beast, but looking good under the dwarf apple tree.

Some smaller self seeders filling gaps in the border.

6. Donations

My mums contributions this year are snap dragon seedlings and decorative gourds.

In return she may have verbena and hollyhocks as I have quite a few going strong.

Things are really getting going in the garden now, should have some more colourful sixes ahead.

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30 days of wild 2018 day 1

Today is the start of June and the Wildlife Trusts 30 days wild. The 30 days is the reason this blog was set up. The basic idea is for 30 days in June you try to do one wild act. The Trust provides a range of ideas: follow a bee, photograph something blue, feel the grass under your feet, etc.

Since I originally took part in the 30 days two years ago enjoying nature has become well integrated into my life and I am raising Alice to hopefully have the opportunities to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. The benefits of this lifestyle has grown in profile over the last decade. The research is starting to put figures to the anecdotal evidence. Spending time in nature can improve health, reduce stress and improve your general mood. My time outdoors and involvement in nature is well documented in this blog. I do believe it has played a positive role in my life and has helped me cope with the challenges of sleepless nights as a parent and in high stress job.

This year I don’t intend to do as long write ups as previous years. I want to enjoy other people going through the process of discovering love of nature and enjoy my own activities rather than feeling pressure to publish. So I’m only going to post a few highlights.

Today I went for a walk with Alice round to the park. On the way I spotted a cinnabar moth. Cinnabar moths are a day flying moth that is part of the tiger family. Last year I found the caterpillars a number of times, but don’t remember ever seeing the moth. The caterpillars feed on common ragwort, which grows quite freely in a number of local spots. Two years ago I probably wouldn’t have noticed this little remarkable moth. Whereas two years on of involving myself in nature I’m more alert and mindful to what is around me.

We got back from the small park and Alice wasn’t ready to go in the house, so we grabbed water and sunscreen as the clouds had gone to be replaced with brilliant sunshine and headed out again. This time to the larger park.

Down at the park we looked into one of the wetter patches. This section is usually boggy, last year it dried up a lot more at this time, but this year it has remained a pool. I’ve spotted newts, although I didn’t see any today. I could however see many tadpoles.

Growing out of the water are these beautiful wild yellow iris. Again, two years ago I wouldn’t have known what this was. But two years on and a collection of field guides later I spotted it for what it is, rather than thinking it was a limp daffodil. I haven’t grown irises in my garden, but I have admired a number of wild and domesticated ones in other peoples gardens and I’m tempted. There are varieties to suit most soil and I think they might do well in my garden.

Returning home Alice still didn’t want to be in, so we went in the garden. We topped up the water bath and Alice helped fill up the bird feeders. The birds quickly descended to feast.

I’m proud of how far Alice has come in two years. We take her outside most days for a walk. I’m sure this time spent walking in the park and along the sea front is why she is so confident on her feet, beyond the expectations of her age. When we go out in the garden she’s taken to filling a bowl at the bottom of the garden with water. When asked who is it for? She can answer hedgehog. She fills the bird baths. She puts out bird seed. I hope she continues to be interested in helping nature as she grows up.

So my 30 days posts may be each day or may be sporadic, but either way I hope many of you get involved and enjoy.

Six on Saturday:26.5.18

This week has been a good week for gardeners with the mass coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. I was happy with Chris Beardshaw as best in show and the Yorkshire Garden as the people’s choice. Both were clearly excellent quality show gardens. While often the show gardens have little relevance to my garden, with little I can take away to my own garden, I’ve like many of this years entries. I’m only halfway through watching the coverage, but it is now half term for me, so I’ve got time to catch up and give my own garden some attention.

1. Lavender

Along the front path I have a patch of lavender planted last year. These were 99p purchases that were bone dry needing some care. I’m glad to say they look like they’ve recovered and hopefully I grow these into a nice mass to give scent entering and leaving the house. I have a number of lavender patches around the front and back garden and several varieties. As a keen wildlife gardener it’s a reliable plant for helping support a wide variety of pollinators, so was a must for me despite the clay soil I work with. All the patches had plenty of grit mixed in when planted to help improve drainage. This patch at the front has been the first to flower this year.

2. Fennel

The fennel was planted last year. It only had a chance to form a small mound of feathery leaves. But as a hardy perennial it has come back stronger this year forming a nice mass of feather foliage. It makes a pleasing contrast to much of the more rounded leaves of the plants around it. Fennel forms umbels of yellow flowers that are good for butterflies to land on.

“It is an indisputable fact that appreciation of foliage comes at a late stage in our development

Christopher Lloyd

3. Tomatoes-gardeners delight

One of the parents at school has donated a tray of tomatoes. I’ve brought them back home to get them started and then will plant out into the school garden at a later date. This week is British Tomato Week for anyone thinking of buying a few plants. Tomatoes require a bit of love and attention, but should they get to picking stage it is a true taste delight eating your own tomatoes. I’ve grown them in a schools a few times, but not for a few years, so we’ll see how I get on.

4. Obelisk

I’ve set up a recent Aldi purchase of an obelisk. I’ve set it in a plastic half barrel planter. Not the prettiest thing, but needed a wide base. Maybe in future years I’ll splash out on a better quality one, but the width I needed it will do the job nicely for now. My sweet peas are coming on well on the windowsill and I’m looking to plant out onto this next week. The obelisk itself looks good and is making a good perch for the birds. Alice’s small hands helped get the soil into the container through the gaps in the obelisk, but has given it a little bit of a leaning tower effect.

5. Cosmea

The cosmea grown from seed is now getting it’s first flowers. The warm weather has brought them on a bit, but now it’s going colder again may halt there progress.

6. Birds

After a period of smaller numbers while the young hatched the number of birds has increased. The number of species is still low, but the quantity of starlings, sparrows and blackbirds is momentous for a small garden. I’m currently looking out on maybe 30/40 starlings, blackbirds scavenging in the border and sparrows along the fences. Today I’ve seen: starlings, sparrows, wrens, jackdaws, wood pigeon, collared dove, herring gull, blue tit, great tits and robins. While a noisy bunch it’s good to hear the cacophony of the young outside the double doors.

Hope you all enjoy your bank holiday weekend and have the chance to get outside into your gardens.

Propagating hebes

Last year for my birthday my mum bought me a rather lovely hebe. Unfortunately it had lost its label. I have a vague idea of what it is, but I’d like to try and grow another. I’ve had reasonably good success at keeping bought plants alive, but I’m trying to establish more now from seed and from cuttings. Partly to develop my gardening skills and partly to garden frugally.

So just before Christmas I took two cuttings of my hebe. I had a theory that it would root just in a jar of water as it is similar to willow, though on a different scale of size. I couldn’t find any references to this, but thought I’d give it a try. In my work as a teacher I wanted to show the children how roots develop. So I think they would have rooted easily in a pot of soil, but it’s nice to see them develop.

Two months on it looks like my theory was right. They have both started to form good root structures.

I think it’s time to transfer to soil, so I’m starting them in the mini terracotta plug pots. So with soil added I’m now going to see if they grow to go on to fill a larger pot, then eventually, with some luck and care, they’ll make it outside.

I’ve no idea if it will work out or not. Wish me luck! But even if it doesn’t the experiment hasn’t cost me anything to attempt.

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Garden update: February

Yesterday I got out to finish the edging started earlier in the week. Upcycled bricks have been used to give the lawn a marked edge.

The view from the upstairs windows shows it best. It’s just added a bit of definition to the borders. I’ve got a few areas where I need to spread grass seed to extend the lawn to where the bricks are. Overall I’m quite happy with how it looks, but may need to a bit further work levelling them.

The next hardscaping job I think is to put a path in. Walking over the patch at the bottom of the steps is leaving a bare patch. I’m unsure whether to go basic and just do stepping stones or an actual path of slabs. Or may go for something more fluid like a curving gravel path.

The hydrangeas have had their haircut for the year. Not something I would have planted. They came with the garden, but with all the rain run off from the patio they do wonderfully here. They flank the entrance to the lawn nicely. It’s a balancing act though of cutting the flower heads off, trimming back so we still have a path, but not cutting too much to stop blooms.

The hydrangea at the bottom of the garden near the bug hotel had its trim as well. The bluebells are starting to come through in this corner. From last year it looks like they are starting to form decent clumps.

Last year I planted some crocus. They didn’t really take off, but this year they seem to be establishing better.

I’m continuing to add ferns near the shed in the difficult to weed space to supress the weeds.

Daffodils are springing up around the border.

And one over eager allium.

On the patio the tulips around the prunus angustfolio are poking through.

And the daffodils in the pot are coming through. They made an early dash to bloom. Then, with colder weather, seem to have thought better of it.

With the daffodils, snowdrops, blue bells and then a little later on the tulips I’ll hopefully have more happening in Spring. A little more for pollinators than last year.

My seed trays are planted up. I’ve planted hollyhock, morning glory, cosmea, verbana and sweet peas. I’d like to do some more, but that’s all the space filled. My foxgloves from last year have self seeded all over, so that’s good. I’d like a nice mix of cottage garden flowers.

I’ve taken out two roses that came with the garden. They’d been neglected a good while. I’d tried reviving last year, but I don’t care for the position that much either. So I’ve cut my loses and dug them out. To replace the loss I’ve added a Paul Scarlett Rose climber a little further along the fence. You shouldn’t place new roses where old roses have been. It encourages disease and poor growth. I’ve gone for climbers as I’d like the gradually cover the fence in climbers and would prefer having the thorns to the back of the border, rather than working though them.

With a good weed done it should all look nice over the next few months as colour comes in.

Edging the lawn

Today saw me braving the cold to make a start on my plans to edge the lawn. Our next door neighbours have knocked out a chimney breast and we claimed lots of vintage Edwardian red bricks for my garden. They were heading for the skip, but were upcycling them. The bricks are getting dug into the lawn edge to hopefully give me a neater edge when mowing.

I’ve previously edged the bench area with stone bricks, so it won’t all match. But I don’t want to see these lovely bricks go to waste.

Alice watched on.

Before enjoying her Christmas present.

Then abandoning me to play on her push along.

The blackbirds have been watching me from next door but one while enjoying the apples left on the trees. Hornsea is full of fruit trees where the fruit are never harvested giving the birds a good Winter food source.

I’ve got through half today and hopefully finish the job later in the week.

The garden is looking set for Spring. The daffodils are coming up strong now. Soon be flowering. I’m seeing a few tulips peeking through. I’ve even got one allium making an early break for it.

Big Garden Birdwatch

Last weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB is survey has been going since 1979 and provides useful information on the rise and fall of garden birds. I have been putting out a variety of food across Winter attracting in a good variety of birds. However the weekend before didn’t bode well.

The snow started to come down. At first slow, then in proper flurries.

Thick enough to settle.

Come the day of the birdwatch the snow had gone, but it was still a cold, grey day. Not ideal conditions, but I’m pleased to say I still had good numbers in. The way the survey works is you count the greatest number you see at once, so you don’t count the same bird again and again.
So my results as follows:

4 Blackbirds
5 Starlings
14 Sparrows
3 Wood pigeons
2 Great tits
1 Crow
1 Wren
1 Blue tut
2 Jackdaws
10+ common gulls

So I just managed to break double figures. This was a quiet day as my garden goes, so several regular visitors didn’t show. No robins or goldfinches, which are out there now as I write. But still a respectable variety of species for a small garden.

A mass of gulls made up one of my highest counts. Though only in briefly they swoop in, quickly, and in large numbers.

The missing birds.

A little disappointed that a few birds didn’t show, but I’m still happy that my garden is helping support a decent variety of garden birds. The initial results nationally seem to be showing the sparrow as top, followed by starling, then blue tit. Being by the sea my results differ from the norm. Hopefully over next year as the cover in the garden builds at a variety of heights I will see further wildlife visiting.