Six on Saturday: 4.9.21 In-laws garden

Well this has been a good week for my gardening and horticultural interests. I recieved my RHS exam results and I passed the two units I took back in June, recieving a commendation for the soil unit. So, that’s all good. Then we’ve been away to the in-laws who have a lovely garden to enjoy. We even managed a garden visit to Burton Agnes on the way back which was nice to see. I’ve been for the snowdrops and for Halloween but never made it in Summer. I’ve finished my current RHS assignment on plant choice. I just need to write the plant profiles that go with each assignment. My next exam is on propagation so I figure I’ll be taking lots of cuttings to secure the knowledge. If you missed it, I wrote about heuchera yesterday including the propagation methods suitable for them. This week’s six is coming from the in-laws garden.

The apples

They have apples grown in a few different ways, including cordons along the path. But the shed apples were the stand out apples. They set the bar for red apples standing out beautifully along the back of the border.

Roses

There were lots of roses looking great, too many for one blog, so I am just posting a few of my favourites.

Anemones

The anemones grow in a few patches around the garden but they really do come into their own this time of year. Masses of flowers over a good period. One of my favourites but they’ve not grown that well for me. My own white one in the front garden is still quite small and the back garden ones haven’t looked too healthy this year so I am keeping an eye on them.

Birds

The garden sees a good variety of birds visiting. I saw green, bull and goldfinches and multiple tit species while watching the feeders. But I did also spy this sparrowhawk eyeing up the buffet table.

Dahlias

I grew a mass of dahlias in 2019 and I gave a lot away. Two ended up in the in-laws and they are still thriving.

Alice

And last but by no means least, Alice had a good run around in the garden. They have a good bit of space to explore and the garden is divided with gates and fences and island beds, steps up to different levels. So there is lots to enjoy for a little child. She requested her usual photo on the hand chair.

And having a good run about on the lawn.

I’m back to work on Monday after the school holiday so hopefully get a few bits tidied up tomorrow. The garden is holding together alright but I’m preapring for moving a few bits around in the border as we go into autumn. Hope you all have good weekends and don’t forget to check the founder of six on Saturdays blog to see more posts.

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Six on Saturday: 36.6.21 RHS Harlow Carr

Last Monday I had my next round of RHS exams. I think the soil module went well. I may have managed a commendation, not so sure about plant health. I think I passed but not sure of what level. But I had less interest in learning about chemical controls I have no intention of using. On the way to my exam, I stopped off for a quick visit to RHS Harlow Carr. It’s the first time I’ve visited. I want to try and make use of my student RHS membership while I get it cheap. Sadly most of the gardens are open for RHS members on workdays so I rarely get to take advantage. The weather was good, cloudy but warm. Nice for walking around a garden. Not ideal for photos but I got some wildlife shots I’m quite proud of. My six are going to go beyond six photos into six categories because there were far more than six things to enjoy.

Wildlife

The gardens are providing for a rich and diverse variety of wildlife. I saw a good number of birds species, bees and butterflies. The combinations of stream, woodland, meadows and wildlife friendly plants provides a good range of habitats for wildlife. My wife is teaching more photography next year and I’ve been taking some pointers and it’s paying off.

A small tortoiseshell in the scent garden.

A blue tit near the bird hide. There were a lot of bird feeders around though most were empty. I think they are still probably getting by on lower staff numbers with Covid. The bird hide feeders were stocked and swamped by squirrels with a few birds venturing on.

A crow and ferns. I like corvids. They are beautiful birds in their satorical eleagance. Combined with ferns for a nice background.

Squirells were hovering up food all other the place.

Irises

I love an iris and right now there many at their best. Harlow Carr had a great numbe of beauties.

Iris robusta gerald darby

Iris chysographes. A stunning dark beauty.

The alpine house

I’ve never been that interested in alpines and rockeries. I grow a few but as I have put much my effort into my shaded front garden with thick clay they don’t have much place there. But it was interesting to see and alpine house. None of the local gardens we visit regularly have one so it made a change.

It was interesting seeing how some are planted in a roughly natural setup spreading through the rocks while others are contained in their pot.

And an orchid.

Meadows

A lot of the outer areas had been left to go to meadow which was being visited by a few different insects even on a fairly grey day.

One of our native orchids.

The stream

The stream runs down the middle of the garden and had some of the most concentrated planting. This was very much to my taste. Lots of lush foliage with punctuations of flowers. The visitor boards explained how they are climate proofing the gardens by planting suitable plants and making use of the water and drainage.

The primula candelabra are what I will probably remember the garden for. These had been used in big blocks along a lot of the border. At the end of my visit I intended to buy some but I didn’t see any for sale. But it’s probably for the best as they worked so well here as they had been planted in large blocks, not just one or two.

The meconopsis were also looking grand, but I know their reputation for being awkward to grow to even consider spending the time on.

The inevitable purchases

Obviously, it was unavoidable that some plants would come home with me. The plants were largely at the silly price you would expect from an RHS garden. In some cases 3 times what I think I’d pay locally but there was some perennials at a reasonable price. I went with two salvias. Hot lips which I know many people dislike as there are now better lips on the market. But it is popular with bees and nice spilling out at the edge of a border. If they had amethyst lips I would probably have gone for that, but not available. I also went with one I know nothing about Salvia greggi mirage cherry red that looks to be a good vibrant red. This looks be a nice in your face colour. Then as the irises had been one of the stand out plants I went with iris Benton deirdre. This was a Cedric Morris bred iris with white petals with maroon feathery edging. It looks to be quite dramatic. The last purchase was a cheaper one on the way home from a toilet stop-off. I got a primula vialli. This was instead of the candelabras I had seen at Harlow Carr. This will fit better amongst my existing plants though I could probably do with another pot or two. But it will gradually spread.

I hope you have enjoyed my Harlow Carr visit and I make no apologies for featuring more than six photos. There are still lots more I could show off.

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Six on Saturday: 21.11.20

We have had another week of balancing work and homeschooling. Alice’s year group was closed due to a positive Covid case. Amy and I are tag-teaming on the homeschooling. I teach Alice for the morning then Amy comes back to take over and I’ve headed into work. This hasn’t left much time for gardening. We planted up a few tulips in pots and emptied a few of the dahlia pots for storage. But largely the garden has been neglected. That said, there is still lots looking good out there.

Geranium oxonianum

I believe this is a form of geranium oxonianum though I don’t know which. It was passed on by one of my aunts. There are little pockets of these flowers dotted along the borders. A reliable no-fuss plant.

2. Dahlias

We have had a few chillier nights and the dahlias are starting to show the strain. I was hoping for dahlias in December but they are looking to be giving up now.

3. Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii

I picked this up just before lockdown reduced as it will soon shrivel up. It’s a nice variegated form of spurge that should give spectacular lime green flowers next year. It’ll need to be in a pot to give it the dry conditions it needs.

4. Ox-eye daisies

A few tatty daisies are in flower here and there. While they aren’t providing any sort of decent display the few pollinators still active will appreciate them.

5. Charity hydrangea

I picked this up from outside a house during our daily exercise walk in the first lockdown. They were outside a house and just asking for a donation. They seem to open quite green before quickly shifting to pink.

6. Breakfast birdwatch

I have largely stuck to teaching Alice traditional school lessons to keep her ticking over while she’s off school. A big focus on her phonics, reading and writing but I have included a little burst of nature contact with taking part in the breakfast birdwatch. We aren’t getting much variety currently but we are getting large numbers of sparrows and various pigeons. The sparrowhawk has come through a few times sending everything scattering but the crows usually turn up to mob it. I find I take more bird photos in winter as with the trees bare it becomes easier to get shots.

Alice goes back to school at the end of next week so going to be playing catchup on jobs after that. I am currently working through my RHS unit on pests and diseases so I am seeing signs of damage everywhere that would normally be neglected. I have enjoyed having the extra time with Alice but it has been tough balancing both our jobs and home life. Hope you are all keeping well and finding some solace in gardens and the outside world.

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7 days of Wild Christmas: day 2 Boxing Day

So, the Christmas Day massacre is over. The turkey has been sacrificed in the name of the Winter rituals. We can now sit back a bit more and relax. We’ve had a lovely Christmas day. I got a number of nature and gardening presents and Alice had a super day. She enjoyed being around her cousins lots, but will probably blog separately about that.

During my lazy morning I’ve done a few online acts of wild.

The Big Garden Birdwatch

The registration for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is now open. The Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the largest wildlife surveys in the country. It has been going since 1979 and gives a wealth of information on the decline of bird life and shifts from countryside to towns. During the weekend of the 26th of January and 28th you are asked to put an hour aside and count the birds in your garden. Last year I hit double figures though it was actually quite a quiet day in my garden.

The RSPB also encourage schools to take part through the Big Schools Birdwatch. I’ve spent a bit of my school budget on binoculars and magnifying glasses and bug viewers to encourage the children to develop an interest in nature. A few of the parents took part in the birdwatch at home as well. So I’m hoping to get some engagement in school again this year.

Online articles

During my lazy morning I’ve sat and read a few nature articles. While registering for the Big Garden Birdwatch I found a few articles on the RSPB website. If your after a quick way to connect with nature the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts websites are good sources of information for those days you can’t get out.

Robins revealed

Forest Bathing

Fox hunting

The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable

Oscar Wilde

Boxing Day sees the sad pursuit of fox hunting. Despite being illegal it continues without many prosecution’s against those disregarding the law. But with rural crime units facing reduced funding they can’t tackle the lawbreakers effectively. Exactly why this upper class blood sport is allowed to continue brings anger to many. The National Trust allow fox hunting on their lands despite the membership voting against this. As such I won’t support the National Trust while this continues. I would like to visit their gardens but feel unable to support the organisation.

On a similar line grouse shooting there is another petition against grouse shooting. This is nother damaging practise against wildlife. As another act of wildness I’ve put my name to the petition opposing. Through Mark Avery this has been through government before, but it’s worth continuing showing opposition.

Petition

Listen to the birds

During the morning I popped outside to enjoy the bird song. We are staying at my parents and the garden is full of birds currently. The robins and blackbirds were singing away. The more raucous starlings were adding to the noise. The collared doves were cooing. Another little joy costing nothing.

Afternoon walk

After another feast of gluttony I got out with my mum and Alice. While not walking in the wildest areas it was good to get outside. Alice fell asleep for a nap which will do her good. She’s had a busy couple of days.

We did spot this growing around a lamp post. They seem a bit out of season.

Hope you’ve all had good Boxing Days. A bit more restful for us with a bit less travelling.

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Daunder

Today’s word for the day from Robert Macfarlane: “daunder” – to walk without fixed purpose, to wander aimlessly, to stroll, saunter & idle about, in city or in country (Scots). Cf another fine Scots verb for this, “to stravaig”.

This morning I had an appointment, but following that I decided to take a daunder back through the park. Of late, I haven’t had much chance to go through what it a lovely local space for me. The avenue of trees, the wide expanse of grass, the surrounding gardens all make for a pleasant stroll. Squirrels enjoy a number of confirs in the surrounding gardens. The park provides a rich variety of habitats with wet areas, woodland, ground cover, short and long grass.

During Winter one of the areas of trees becomes bogged down and for a few months becomes a temporary duck pond. Today the mallards were resting by the side, while the crows hopped back and forth around the edge.

Many of the surrounding stone walls are covered in ivy. This wonderful Autumn rich pollen source has now gone to seed. Once dropped the ivy can continue it’s creeping domination of the southern corner of the park only to have it’s efforts thwarted later in the year by the groundsmen.

Signs of Spring are poking through with snowdrops in flower and daffodils preparing for their colour burst.

One of my favourite areas of the park takes a path through trees into a short holloway to nowhere in particular. The chaffinches were out in number today hopping around the ivy encrusted trees.

Throughout the park I could hear the sound of great tits chattering back and forth.

The blackbirds were accomodating for photos.

Just a quick wander round the park shows life is starting to emerge again. The Spring flowers are showing their heads. The birds are finding their voices again. The sun is almost warming. Good to be out.

New Year at the Bay

For New Years Eve we had a quiet night in as Alice isn’t quite ready for parties. New Years Day we headed up the coast to Amy’s dad’s house at Robin Hood’s Bay where we had a lovely meal at the Hare and Hounds in Hawker. Amy had the trio of pork and I had the home made burger with goats cheese. I just expected a few pieces crumbled on the top, but it was a solid slice of grilled goats cheese. It was all delicious. Alice had a good wait, so had walked back and forth across the pub multiple times before food. But she did quite well for her age. She has decided to reject booster seats now. She wants either a chair to herself or my knees to sit on. She knows her own mind for a one and a half year old.

The next day saw a good sunrise over the bay with breathtaking skies. I think I said it last time I went, but photos don’t do it justice.

The next day we got out for a walk. I was taking photos as we went for the New Year Plant Hunt organised by the BSBI. The aim being to monitor what wildflowers are in bloom in Winter.

A few seen on the way.

Red Valerian

The winter heliotrope. A rather delightful low laying wildflower.

Plenty of gorse along cliff faces.

We had a nice walk along the beach. We didn’t quite make it to Boggle Hole, just down the coast. Boggle is a local name for a hobgoblin, a mischievous little person. Boggle Hole was one of the spots the smugglers on this stretch of coast used, thus the name.

Alice was keen to get in the howdah today trying to clamber in before we were ready.

Continue reading New Year at the Bay

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

It’s the time of the year to register for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The birdwatch is over one weekend. Just an hour is needed to sit and count birds in your garden. The data collected is invaluable for conservation efforts. 

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/packrequest/
Last year saw me record a respectable 11 species, but I’m hopeful for more this year after a year of feeding the birds and making the garden more wildlife friendly. 


Variety in the garden

As we move into frostier weather the garden is looking tattier leading to me questioning what I want planted and what I want to remove. I’ve been reading Christopher Lloyd’s-the well tempered garden giving me lots of food for thought. But today has seen a mass influx in bird life vindicating what I wanted the garden to do. I wanted to encourage wildlife into the garden and today has seen a massive variety on the feeder.

Having discussed previously keeping the feeders stocked for Winter I’ve been trying to keep my feeding station stocked with a variety of food. However as there are many hungry birds with the frozen ground the seed goes in  day, even with two large seed feeders. The fat balls and suet blocks last a bit longer. However it is worth it for the spectacles I’ve seen today.

I have feeders spread over a feeding station and hung on the trees and shrubs. Some are in cover, some are more open to encourage different birds to feed.

The birds are clearly struggling for food at the moment as my bird count has hit 14 species just during this morning.

I’ve seen:

  • wrens
  • Sparrows
  • dunnocks
  • blackbirds
  • starlings
  • robins
  • wood pigeons
  • blue tits
  • coal tits
  • great tit
  • herring gulls
  • common gulls
  • jackdaws
  • goldfinches

Notice, all plural, even the robins. The robins are normally territorial fighting other robins off, but clearly the need for food is trumping that instinct today. It’s a joy to see the goldfinches, which didn’t used to spend winter up North, but are gradually moving up. The birds were eating a mixture of the food provided and scavenging from the garden. It’s good to know what I’ve put in place has increased the variety on last year.

A couple of today’s visitors. With so many birds out this morning I haven’t wanted to go out and interrupt for photos and risk scaring them off. So not the finest photos I’ve taken.

Time will tell whether in another year I’ll have managed to entice any greater numbers into the garden. But either way 14 species is a clear indicator that putting food out makes a huge difference to what comes into the garden.

 

Winter feeding

The last month has been busy with Christmas preparations beginning. The disaster that is my Nativity play has begun. So blogging has been low of late. But now I’m getting past deadlines. Quite a bit has been happening in my garden and progress has been made on my school outdoor area, which I will try to update during the next few weeks.

After thick snow descended on Thursday the garden has been well coated with ice on snow. It had just thawed on Saturday. This has left the garden with lots of hungry birds struggling to find food.

Through Winter it’s important to help the birds. The water sources freeze, so I’ve been trying to get out to crack the ice in the bird bath. The food I put out disappears quickly. The seed goes in a few days. So as well as the seed I try to keep the peanut feeders filled with either peanuts or suet pellets. These seem to last a bit longer than the seed. So even when it’s been a busy week and I haven’t got out to replenish the seed I’m still leaving something for the birds.

Haith’s have been helping me out as they sent me a bag of their help to fly Autumn/Winter mix to review. This is a seed mix with high energy and oil content to  help give birds that fat and energy they need to survive the Winter. Haith’s bird food is put through a cleaner process. The grain dust created during harvest can be damaging if seed is not cleaned. Much of the bird food you buy won’t be cleaned in this way.

Haith’s sent me a bag of both the cleaned and the unclean mix. I wonder if from the photo you can spot the difference?

On the left is the cleaned and the right the unclean. I was surprised at how much of a difference I could see in the two batches. While I’m not able to do the test taste to appreciate  the difference I’m sure the birds will appreciate it at this time of year when food is scarcer.

Before filling the feeders I also gave them a good clean out. I’ve talked about it before, but it is important to clean feeders to limit disease spread.

Before I’d left the garden the birds were already sneaking in, clearly ready, for a feed.

Over the day I’ve seen a good mix of visitors: sparrows, great tits and blue tits got in to test it first. Then pigeons, starlings and jackdaws followed. Then had wrens, dunnocks and robins in and out.

Then a few herring gulls came in, although not for the seed.

Alice has enjoyed getting out to explore the garden again after several days of frost. She checked in on the bug hotel and gave the flowers a sniff.

Thanks again to Haith’s for sending the bird food to review. The birds seem to be enjoying it. It’s been nice to get out briefly into the garden and then sit in doing data input while looking up to see the birds enjoying the new seed.

Half term begins

The half term holiday has begun for me. Me and Alice got out for a wander yesterday.

We headed down to the Mere. Alice enjoyed the rather noisy geese and mallards.

It was a bit windy, but Alice enjoys the feel of wind.

Alice has started to imitate animal noises, so we got a good baa at the sheep.

Back home the garden is seeing more bird life. Next door decided they didn’t have the time for their cats. So the cats have been given to family. Suddenly we have much more bird action again. What a difference a cat makes.

The goldfinches have returned after several months of absence.

The birds are enjoying the feeders for longer, so the seed is disappearing quicker.

With the cats gone the birds are becoming more confident coming close to the house.

With the lack of cats and the leaves falling I’m getting lovely views of the birds now. I can sit in the kitchen and look out on a wealth of life.