Six on Saturday: 15.5.21 bee week

This week with Alice we’ve been looking at bees with a bee themed play tray. So I thought for this week I’d take a look at some of our measures to help the bees. Educating Alice about the world around her feels like the best way to encourage her to grow up to care and respect all that we find in our world.

The play tray consisted of a tinker set from tots of fun. Then the large bee peg dolls I painted. The bee hive was a special purchase having sold off a few magic tricks I made a while back. She’s come up with some lovely stories over the week with it and enjoyed the open ended play taking it in different directions each day.

We got some wildflower seed with the tots of fun set and some bee bombs from Rowse honey. Alice helped plant them in her bee pot now her tulips have gone over. Didn’t really look at exactly what was in the mix but hopefully something will come up.

For my birthday I spent part of my birthday money on a Mason Bee tube. Mason bees are one of our more common solitary bees that are easy to help. These tubes are great. I wanted one that was easy to replace tubes as they are used and a set up easy to clean. Many marketed bee hotels are too short with tubes too wide or too narrow. Sometimes plastic encouraging damp. Basically most sold at garden centres to people with good intentions are rubbish encouraging disease and parasites. So I decided I just want one decent one rather than several that potentially harm the bees. They benefit from some maintenance each year which you can find on the mason bee website.

I also bought the new Dave Goulson book gardening for bumble bees. The garden jungle covered this subject briefly but good to know more. Dave’s books are easy to read but filled with research based facts. I like his focus on positive steps people can do to help wildlife. Looking forward to reading this one.

Within the garden we grew lots for wildlife. As a general rule less cultivated single flowers are better for pollinators. I provide a variety of open flowers and tubular flowers as different insects favour different flowers. This geranium phaeum has been very popular with the smaller garden bumble bees the last few weeks. It flowers well. Then I prune it back to the ground and usually manage 3 sometimes 4 bursts of flowers over a year.

The forget-me-nots are out in abundance currently. I let them spread all over the border. These are favoured by the honey bees. Here photographed by my wife. These self seed all over and then over plants come up through. Many of the alliums are coming through which are also great for bees. The single dahlias are very popular with both bees and butterflies. Planning for different flowers through the year keeps an interesting variety of visitors coming into the garden.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at bees. It’s Alice’s birthday tomorrow. She’ll be 5 years old and very excited. So lots to get on with. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 3.4.21

The weather has been nice for the first week of the holiday though meant to be chiller next week. I have had to use the new blog editor so I have no idea what will show. You may just have to imagine six beautiful photos as I have no idea if it will work.

  1. Ladybird Loveliness I have been happy to see several ladybird in the garden. We had a lot of aphids last year with the veg patch so an army of ladybirds would be useful.

2. Sealing wax daffodil

This is one of the few daffodils I know the name of as it was Amy’s choice of the bulbs from the discount bin two years back. Almost all the other daffodils are cheap mixed bags.

3.Prunus incisa Kojo-no-mai

I moved the small prunus into the ground in autumn and it is looking grand. It is only about half a metre but every cm is covered in blossom. Should look spectacular as it grows. It grows to about 3m and should fill the space beautifully.

The bees are loving it anyway.

4. Narcissus Elka

I put these little daffs in the hanging pot back in autumn. They came as a cheap add onto another order but they are rather pretty in the pot.

5. Beefly

We have had quite a few of these visiting the garden. It’s a beefly. Not an actual bee, but a fly that disguises itself as a bee. They have the very distinctive long proboscis sticking out in front. A great wonder in the garden.

6. Robin

We’ve seen a good few different birds in the last week but I was happy to manage this photo of the robin mid song. It’s been back and forth from the feeder to the ivy so nice to get a shot.

Hope the photos have showed as I feel I got some good photos this week. Hope you’re all keeping well and enjoyed the slight relaxation of the Covid restrictions.

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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.

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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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Scampston Hall-Autumn

We have returned from a family trip out to Scampston Hall. Scampston has two great attractions. The grounds were designed by Capability Brown, the great landscape designer of the 18th century. Then the walled gardens contain the Dutch designer Piet Oudolf’s largest private commission in the UK. We had chosen to go there so we could meet up with my parents. It feels more comfortable meeting somewhere outside currently.

Scampston is free for one visit to RHS members, but only on Fridays. So far I’m not managing to get any free visits out of my membership. I visited Burnby too late in the year. Glad I’m paying student membership. I am enjoying the RHS magazine though which has been excellent.

We began with the walk around the grounds. There is a short walk through part of the grounds and woodland or a longer walk taking in more of the area. With Alice’s shorter legs we only did the shorter walk but it was a nice stretch taking in parts of the Capability Brown design. Alice was very keen to check the map each step of the way.

It took us through the rock garden which currently looks like it’s a work in progress. Several gunneras have been cut to the ground and the river was dry.

It took us down to the waterside and bridge-building.

Several swans and geese about.

Then we went through a stretch of trees with a pleasing trio of Acers.

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Burnby Hall

Today I sat my first RHS exam. I think it went well. I was able to answer everything. Just a few questions I think I may have lost marks on. In order to break up the journey home from Skipton I stopped off at Burnby Hall Gardens. I enjoyed my lunch and did a quick loop of the gardens. The garden contains a large man made lake and contains the National Collection of hardy water lillies.

It was a glorious day to visit with the sunlight reflecting on the water.

The pond is filled with ornamental roach and carp that are used to being fed by visitors. They come to snap at anyone near the edge of the water.

The water lillies were looking spectacular. Though I can’t say I can distinguish that many differences in the collection beyond colour.

The water was attracting many dragonflies. They were skimming all over the water hunting for smaller insects.

Off the edge of the lake are various garden areas. With Covid they have put a one way system in which takes you to the Victorian garden first. This is made of a walkway, pavilion and formal beds.

The beds were looking good but I think they probably peak earlier in the year. But some pretty Japanese anemones and Asters.

After the Victorian garden you come to the rock garden along the edge of the lake. Ferns fill many of the crevices. but there were a few more autumn favourites. The nerines looking particularly good.

The butterflies were enjoying what is possibly plumbago.

Though I did have the urge to take the labels off many of the plants. Here one slightly spoiling this otherwise beautiful Acer palmatum ‘dissectum’.

The stumpery was probably my favourite area. The shade was appreciated today. The mass green of foliage from ferns was very peaceful. A serene area scattered with totem like sculptures. The hobbit house is a nice playful touch.

They seem to be in the process of establishing a hydrangea walk. Only small specimens at the moment but theis will look great in a few years.

A well filled dovcote.

I enjoyed my trip today. A pleasant stop off for food on the way home and to bring my blood pressure down after my exam and the drive through Harrogate and the Wolds. I could happily return again to see it through the seasons. Thank you for all the well wishes today and support people have given me for my first RHS exam. I won’t get the results until December 2nd but I’m feeling fairly confident of at least a pass. I’m still getting to grips with the new blog editor so apologies for mistakes and poor formatting.

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Six on Saturday: 12.9.20

I have made it through my first week at work. It’s been lovely. I have the first of the RHS exams next week. I am feeling confident of passing but I’d like to get the commendation but we’ll see. WordPress has made the update to the new editor for writing my blogs. So far it is very clunky, sections I’ve written keep vanishing so I’m hoping I can change it back or it improves rapidly as this was a pain to write. I hope you all appreciate it.


1. Scaffolding

The builders are returning to finish our rendering. This has been an ongoing problems since last year. The builders did the job poorly putting internal insulation on the outside of the house and then rendering over. This all has to come off and then another team of builders who seem to know what they are doing are fixing it. It means the garden is going to be a bit of a mess for a while as a lot had to come off the patio ready for the work.

2. Front planters

I have two planters either side of the front door. Into these I placed hydrangea runaway brides. One has thrived. The other has shrivelled. Not sure exactly why. They were both suffering slightly with chlorosis but they’ve both had the same feed. They both get watered at the same time and have similar conditions.

I have cut back the one that has shrivelled. It may return next year but I’m not holding out much hope soI have moved some cylamen in to fill the gap for now. The foliage of the cyclamen being one of my favourite autumn plants.

Only one is flowering currently but they look to be a red and a white one.

3. Pot Rose

Alice has been going past the florist each day on her way to school and has been asking if we can get one of these little pot roses. As we’d made it through a week of work and school I indulged her.

Not necessarily a colour I’d choose but it looks nice enough. We’ll keep it inside to flower and then try transferring it outside to see if it can come back again.

4. Mouse

I went looking in the shed for a potlast Sunday and knocked this little mouse into the bird feed box. I kept it in a box so Alice could have a look and then released it back. They don’t do any harm in the shed. The bird food is all in metal tins and I’d rather they were out in the shed than coming in the house.

5. Bishop’s Children dahlia

This was another of the Bishop’s Children dahlia grown from seed this year. There has been a variety of colours from bright red, through pink and orange and yellow. This one seems to have developed as a partial double form.

6. Asters

The asters are coming into flower now. This is a tall variety that is wedged behind a hebe and sambucus.


And now they’re flowering the insects are happy.

Well, this was painful to write in the new editor. There is no spell checker and trying to read back through it leaps around so I expect complaints from my mother about mistake. I will be getting on with my last burst of exam revision this weekend so I may not get around to reading everyone else’s six blogs until after Monday. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 29.8.20

I haven’t spent much time in the garden this week apart from preparing for wind damage. A few things have been staked in better and a few things removed as they were blown over. I lost one sweet pea patch but nothing major. The combination of wind and rain can be very punishing for the garden but as the week has gone on it has shifted to a bit less wind and a bit more rain. I have still been reading up on plenty of gardening know-how as I prepare for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. On Thursday evening I attended a zoom lecture by Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s plants. This was excellent. The talk came through Lou Nicholls Patreon channel. There is a good line up of talks coming up. It’s about the same price as the monthly gardening magazines and probably better value. Rosy’s talk covered several perennials with excellent tips, a wealth of experience around the Chelsea chop, growing tips for plants, trouble-free alternatives to several popular choices. It was well worth the monthly price. Mark Lane, Steven Edney, Phil Gilmartin, Harriet Rycroft and more are lined up already. It gives you access to Chelsea winners, university lecturers and authors and the chance to pick their brains on their specialist area.

1. Heuchera ‘Bressingham’ hybrid

These were started from seed a few months ago. I bought two types from Chiltern Seeds. These and greenfinch. I potted them on from the seed tray this week into plugs. I now have about 100 plus. I doubt they’ll all make it to maturity but I should hopefully have enough for my needs. They have evergreen bright green foliage. The flowers come out red, pink and coral and are cut for cut flowers but they are also loved by the bees. I haven’t seen as many of the greenfinches germinate but not abandoning them yet.

2. Digitalis lutea

This is a perennial foxglove I am growing from seed. These have been potted on now into 9cm pots. They should be able to carry on rooting for another month or so and then I should have some strong plants ready for next year. They are shorter than the biennials but I have had issues with the biennials. I had one year I where I think I removed many of the self-seeders and another where slugs accounted for a number. With the perennial varieties, I can plant them where I want and now where they are coming back up.

3. Hylotelephium

The talk with Rosy Hardy reminded me I’d added two new Hylotelephiums to help encourage butterflies. I’ve also wanted some of the dark-leaved varieties since I first saw them in the in-laws garden. Time to mention them so I have the record on the blog of what they are called. These were known as sedum but they had a name change with the spring flowering plants retaining the name sedum while these autumn flowerers gained a new name. This is a short, sprawling one ‘Bertram Anderson’. I have placed at the front of the border to spill over. It’s a bit untidy but I think as it flowers it should be popular and when it puts on fresh growth next year it will fill out and look a bit better.

This is another dark-leaved type, Hylotelephium ‘Vera Jameson’. More like the popular ‘Autumn Joy’ with dark leaves. It is taller than ‘Bertram Anderson’ but that is currently meaning it has flopped over. It would have benefitted from a Chelsea chop but I bought it after the time for that. Rosy Hardy gave an excellent explanation of how to do this in various ways on the Thursday talk. I’ve put it next to the green ‘Autumn Joy’ which you can see in the picture. This has lost a number of its leaves as I don’t think it was in the best health when I got it but it will come back fine next year.

4. Brunera ‘Alexander the Great’

This is just small currently but will fill a nice space with its super foliage. Suitable for shade and the small forget-me-not flowers attract the bees. It has a large Dryopteris fern to one side. They should contrast nicely in terms of texture and foliage shapes.

5. Verbena rigida

This is shorter than the ever popular verbena bonariensis but forms larger clusters of purple flowers. But just like its taller relative, the small tubular flowers are popular with butterflies. I have got a packet of seed kicking around somewhere so may try and grow a few more to spread around. It’s fitting in nicely here with the fuschia.

6. Dahlia tamburo

I believe this is Tamburo. Alice swapped labels last year. I bought the tubers last year as part of a collection of short dahlia for pots. It’s a lovely dark dahlia. It’s one fault is that the flowers tend to come out in the middle of foliage. They often form between stems and then the foliage growth overtakes them. I’m sure this could be resolved with careful pruning but deadheading is enough of a job currently.

I’ve got one more week and then I return to the world of work. There are a few days forecast as dry so I can hopefully get a few garden jobs done so the garden is in the best state before I start work. If you fancy taking part in six on Saturday read the guide.

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