Six on Saturday: 31.7.21 the wilderness

I have at times made reference to the wild area or the wilderness. This is a much grander title than the reality of this area. It is the path that leads behind the gardens on our street where our neighbours store their bins. It is covered in ivy from the houses behind, nettles, docks and creeping buttercups. Brambles crawl through, although they don’t get to flower much as I have to cut them back to keep a path for the wheelbarrow and neighbours for their bikes. It has a whole host of caterpillar plants with ivy and nettles being good for many moths and butterflies. So, on the whole I don’t tidy it much beyond keeping a functional path. But last year bind weed crept in so I made an effort to clear it as the odd seedling was coming into my garden. I’ve seen a few tufts of it back this year but I think I’m keeping on top of it so it doesn’t flower and set more seed. Having cleared part of it I looked to make the soil less fertile and suitable for certain wildflowers.

  1. The area

The neighbours keep their bins back here whereas I’m too lazy to wheel them round each time so they sit as an eye sore in the front garden. Beyond the bins is a good nettle patch which is harvested periodically for nettle fertiliser and left most of the time for wildlife. The other side was cleared of bindweed and currently is where I throw any pollinator friendly seed packs that come from charities, magazines, etc. Beyond is a wall of ivy across 4 gardens.

2. Poppies

The area has been filled with poppies of various types and colours. This pale pink has been the most numerous. It seems to be favoured by the hoverflies rather than the poppies within my garden which are swarming with bees.

3. Mallow

There are a few dark coloured mallows. I rather like this one. I wouldn’t be upset to have this in the main garden.

4. Cornflowers

Within the garden I’ve got a few different colours but in the wild patch it is just the blue. But it is a brilliant blue.

The bees are enjoying them and the birds will when they go to seed.

5. Teasel

I grew teasel in my garden a few years ago. I’ve not allowed it to return as it is took up a lot space. But it is very good for insects and then the seeds for birds. So I’m glad some of it escaped to the back path where it can grow out of my way.

6. Another poppy

This variety hasn’t been as numerous as the pink but it does stand out.

It’s a messy path but it is doing a lot of good for the biodiversity of the area. I need to cut the ivy back a bit further before the fence collapses. It isn’t really my job to do but if I didn’t we’d lose access to the garden this way. I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks detour out of the garden. The end of this week has been made up of thunderstorms. A few things are flattened but it’ll bounce back. I hope your gardens are all holding up well and the flooding around the country hasn’t affected any of you too badly.

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Six on Saturday: 24.7.21

It is now the school holiday. It’s been a lovely year at the nursery and I’ve been lucky to work with lots of groups of amazing kids. We’ve got lots of gardening plans for next year at work so will be nice to get cracking on that.

Discount climbers

Tesco’s has obviously been worried about the heatwave as they reduced all plants by 25%. I picked up a pile of climbers for my work project and some for me. Honeysuckle and passionflowers for the shaded woodland border. Then a clematis for my garden.

Geranium rozanne

I know this is a very popular geranium as it is reliable but I’m not really that bothered by it. The colours are not that exciting. Most of the hardy geraniums have been given a hard prune to the ground. They’ll grow and flower several times a year treated this way. Rozanne is still flowering well though. The bees like it at least.

Love in a mist

A house around the corner was selling pots for 50p. 50p well spent. I love the strange flowers and the seed pods that follow.

Echinops ritro

Butterflies have made the news the last few weeks. The wet spring and start to summer has meant numbers are down. So I’m trying to make sure they have some decent flowers available when they are in flight. This is a short globe thistle that should be good for bees and butterflies. They like a sunny position with free-draining soil. Mine is improved clay but this should mean it is fairly drought tolerant and shouldn’t need much watering. Possibly none once established.

Eryngium planum

Sea holly was part of our wedding flowers and I’ve got a few patches around. I’ve added this one as it’s a nice tall one to add some height mid borders. As with the globe thistles, they are good for wildlife and drought tolerant. Mine have returned each year but not seed seeded. I think with my clay soil they don’t self seed as readily as other soils. But we’ll see if this year is any different.

Small tortoiseshell

I have started to see a few more butterflies but we have rain forecast for the next week which badly affects butterflies’ ability to fly. So it’s going to be more important than ever to provide for the butterflies during the periods they can fly. Here is one on the hydrangea.

Today we have Alice’s ballet lesson before a break for summer, followed by a kids party. I’m going to be carrying on with clearing a bit more of the forest school this week for the woodland border. Then begin planning the allotment and sensory garden areas. Hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Six on Saturday: 3.7.21

So we move onto a new month and I can see a shift into summer now. More of the summer flowers are coming into flower now I’ve cleared the spring forget-me-nots. The roses are hitting their peaks. The foxgloves are towering high. Lots to enjoy. Having got another round of RHS exams out the way I’ve had lots of enthusiasm for getting out in the garden and I’ve got on with a good bit of maintenance work this week.

Charles DeMills

This is an old rose I planted a few years ago as I wanted the added disease resistance that comes with many old roses. They don’t generally repeat flower but they put on a single decent show and are usually strongly scented. It has however failed to flower all that well previous years as it has suffered from rose balling. The petals have got wet from rain and then they fail to open. This year it is up to a size where it has managed a decent display of flowers. They apparently smell wonderful but I haven’t got my smell back fully since Covid. They open up to form a flat flower head and it opens up to a more ruffled afair. Then it starts to disentegrate and needs dead heading.

While I have managed to achieve more flowers from it, it is still a fairly shapeless shrub with little to recommend it the rest of the year. It may not stay. As I go on in gardening the more I agree with Christopher Lloyd that rose worship should be abandoned to treat them like any other shrub. The odd one is nice but not in every garden.

Cornflowers

I bought a cheap little pollinator planter from Tesco’s. So far it has mainly been a pretty mix of different coloured cornflowers. I haven’t actually seen any pollinators on them. But they’ve got a lot of other choices in the garden to pick from.

They may still prove useful for the birds though. Previous years the goldfinches have enjoyed the seeds. The blue ones are probably the standout colours. The pinks are pretty enough but a bit washed out for my taste.

Allium christophii

These are a reliable favourite allium. They have large rounded heads. Also known as star of Persia. You can see form the structure why. The bees love them and so do I. Never enough alliums.

Allium forelock

I think these were forelock which I planted last autumn. These are a new addition to the garden. They have however grown to about 2m. They are taller than me which places them twice the height on the pack. But I don’t have anything else that quite looks like this so I think they must be forelock. They open to form the round ball leaving the white tufts sticking upwards.

Allium nigrum

These are a favourite allium of mine. I like the white heads. They form a half dome and work best in combination with other plants. The contrast making the other plants shine out.

Petunia-constelation

We went to a table top slae last week. There were plant sales outside. I didn’t purchase any but Alice wanted this one. I don’t really bother with this sort of annual plant but Alice wanted it and it’s pretty enough. It has gone in a hanging pot on the log store.

I grew these last year while I was working as a grower at the garden centre. They are a popular choice. The speckles are interesting and they stand out well.

We’ve got a fairly quiet weekend ahead so hopefully have a good bit of time to get on with catching up on garden jobs. I’m also enjoying a bit of garden reading. I’m dipping in and out of “the flower yard” by Arthur Parkinson. He gardens in pots. It’s had a few useful tips but it’s not really my way of gardening. I like a spread of flowers through the year to have maximum impact for wildlife whereas Arthus gets a wow factor for spring and summer. The sort of gardening of emptying pots, annuals is heavy on environmental impact with a lot fo compost getting used as well as using annuals and bulbs that have to be replaced fairly regularly. But the pot combinations he comes up with are very pleasing. An instagram gardener. Apart from anything I’ve shifted more out of the pots to save the time watering as the pots require that extra time watering more regularly than plants in my clay soil. Anyway, hope you enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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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: 14.11.20-Wooden tools

We have had a busy week. Alice’s year group is closed now as a child in her class tested positive for Covid so she has 2 weeks at home. So, Amy and I are splitting our work time to home school while returning to work to school-school. Alice was initially upset to be off and then she realised this means she’s getting lots of time with us doing lessons again.

So onwards with this weeks six. I thought this week I would have a look at a few wooden tools for the garden. A new shop opened in town two days before lockdown. So, sadly it has had to close. It is stocking lots of wooden sculptures and gifts, but it also has many garden tools at cheap prices.

1. Dibber

We have quite a bit of bulb planting to go and Alice has got the hang of using my dibber so we can have 2 so she can have her own. We have a mass of Iris reticulata to pot up so that will speed the job up.

2. Trug basket

I thought this might be useful to carry some of the tools out and keep track of where they are. I might stain it before I use it just to hide the muck a bit.

3. Cane topper

I’ve got this cane topper ready for next year to erect for the sweet peas. I’ll need to get some canes to slot in the holes. Ideally, I’d like to make it a little taller than what I used this year. But this year was making do with what was around with lockdown. I might ask if they can make some smaller single cane toppers as be nice to have some instead of the less attractive rubber ones. Though they may be practical they aren’t the nicest.

4. Yew pot tamper

This tamper is used for pressing the compost down and smoothing it off in pots and seed trays. It was supposedly made from a yew grown by the great plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll. I like to think some of her talents rub off on the plants started using it.

5. Yellow rose

The yellow rose has managed its second flush of flowers. Very late on but much appreciated. Some years it has managed a third flowering but I don’t think I’ve fed and mulched it as much this year.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

I think this was a basal cutting I took from Dahlia tamburo earlier this year. Either that or Black Jack. The dahlias are still going. The dahlia flowers are lasting well currently as we’ve had dull dry days. The wet days bring the petals off and the warm sunny days lead to the fading. I’ve still got quite a lot of dahlias looking good. But I could do with them being frosted now so I can lift the ones coming out and put blubs in. A lot will be getting left in the ground and getting a mulch but the potted ones come out.

We might be on lockdown but we still have Alice’s dance lesson coming virtually through zoom so I will be busy for part of the morning. Then Alice is asking for a home-school lesson. She doesn’t have a concept of the weekend giving me a day off. Hopefully might manage a few jobs in the garden over the week if I can persuade Alice that they are part of her home-schooling. Enjoy your weeks.

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The beauty of life on one tree

Today I came across the news story of spikes being placed on a tree in Oxford. I figured straight away that this was probably done to stop bird poo on cars and after watching it saw I was right. This follows on from the story of Norfolk cliffs and hedges being covered in nets. While the bird poo is a pain, my car gets covered in seagull poo, it seems bizarre to cover the trees natural beauty and prevent wildlife using its natural resource.

Walking through the park today I stopped to admire the life on one tree. The weather was warm today but this tree was literally humming with activity. Blackbirds and sparrow were flying in and out the up story and a few butterflies were hovering around but too high up for photos.

The bees and hoverflies were swarming all over. I couldn’t track the numbers out today.

The ladybirds were out in force.

The understory providing space for more plants to grow.

The shade providing flowers with the conditions they need.

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy this beauty? The amount of life supported on one tree is amazing. Why would we think we can improve on nature? I’ll leave you with a quote from someone smarter than me.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

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Six on Saturday: 23.3.19

Last weekend saw a good amount of rain so my gardening efforts were limited to moving a few self-seeders around the border and adding some extra foxgloves. I planted some Japanese Anemone but bare earth doesn’t make for an interesting six. I’m not feeling to well so don’t intend to do much beyond contemplating the front garden plans.

1. Daffodils

The daffodils flower in a ribbon across the garden over a few weeks with the sunnier borders flowering first and the shadier bench area flowering last. I’m not a massive fan of the daffodils but Amy likes them and they come up reliably with little to no effort on my part.

The first patch was planted in the first year and are pretty well established now.

I added a few patches of smaller varieties to the border too. Quite pretty but none of the fried egg variety I like have flowered yet.

2. Foxgloves

I have a few established patches of foxgloves, some grown from seed last year and some self-seeded in the border. However, I still don’t feel there are enough so I’ve added a few more. If I end up down near the florist/pet shop later I will probably get a few more. These two have been placed around the hollyhock with the lupins in front. Should be a good classic cottage garden combination. But again, it probably needs a third as these things work better in threes or more.

3. Forget me nots

As mentioned already, I have spent time moving some of the self-seeders around the border. Forget me nots form a carpet on one border so I moved a few to the opposite border. They were one of the first plants I added to the border when I moved in. Three small patches became a mass carpet but that’s how I like it. Every so often I rip large handfuls out and they return again to fill any spare gaps I leave.

4. Lilac

The lilac is a sold part of the background of the garden near the bench. It has leapt rapidly to life over the last few weeks with buds coming on quickly. Between the lilac and honeysuckle, this corner is one of the best for scent.

5. Muscari

Last year I planted muscari in pots and then moved into the border after flowering. I’d forgotten about these so it was a nice surprise to see one poking up. It is, however, the only one I’ve seen so we’ll see whether anymore appear.

6. Blossom

I’ve been unsure of what the red-leaved tree at the bottom of the garden is so I opened up the question on Twitter. The consensus was a prunus of some variety possibly black cherry. Either way, it has a handful of little blossom flowers that are rather stunning. Though not enough that I’m going to stop pruning it back each year as it could reach twenty feet. Though admiring the blossom all around it would be nice if we made as much fuss as the Japanese. Well worth celebrating.

Tomorrow is my birthday. So, next weeks six will hopefully be featuring new gardening gifts. Failing that if I haven’t received six gardening gifts I will have to gift myself the difference.

Check the guide to take part in six on Saturday.

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Six on Saturday: 23.2.19 Spring flowers from the in-laws

Last weekend we went to stay at the in-laws. Their garden always looks good and I always admire their seasonal interest. My own bulbs seem to be running behind everyone else’s schedules. I’m seeing irises flowering everywhere while mine is still coming up. It was nice to enjoy the variety in their garden.

1. Snowdrops

Dotted around the border are little pockets of snowdrops. I’ve placed patio pots in my border while the building work is going on and I have a suspicious feeling I’ve placed them in all the spots my snowdrops would have come back up. Nevermind between in-laws and Burton Agnes I’ve had lots of chances to still enjoy the purity of these little white delights. I’ll get mine back on track next year.

2. Irises

I’ve come to really love the vibrant colours of irises and the vein patterns of irises in the last few years. This is the first year I’ve added them to my own garden. The in-laws had two varieties in flower but I only seem to have photographed one variety.

3. Daffodils

I’m not a big fan of daffodils but they are an unavoidable herald of Spring. Amy likes them so I keep a few patches growing in my own garden. They fill a gap in seasonal interest and don’t really require any major care. I’ve seen more a shift towards the shorter early flowering varieties in other peoples gardens which I suppose means the stalks aren’t in the way as other flowers come up.

4. Hellebores

Spread around the borders there are a number of hellebores. A few are starting to look a bit past there best but some lovely colours on show. They were drawing in some of the bees emerging for the start of the year. I’m hoping my own self seed and spread some more though I think I’d like to add a darker variety into the genetic mix. They hybridise quite freely leading to some beautiful and not so beautiful combinations.

5. Crocus

The crocus were probably the stars of the show with some growing in the border and some growing in drifts through the lawn. They might only be little but their vibrancy attracts attention.

This little-isolated one particularly drew my attention.

6. Garden birds

When Amy moved to work in Indonesia she left behind two cats with her dad. Sadly one has recently died. This combined with extra feeders has brought lots of birds into the in-laws garden. Charms of goldfinches were flying in and out constantly. I don’t see as many finches in my own garden. Disease has hit chaffinches and greenfinches but I got to enjoy seeing lots last weekend. Here are a selection of the best photos though I took many more. I did consider doing six birds but having done quite a few bird posts around the Big Garden Birdwatch I thought I’d stick to more flowers.

Hopefully, my own garden may have woken up to Spring by next week for me to return to six from my own garden. Enjoy your weekends and good gardening.

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7 Days of Wild Christmas-Day 1 bird feeding

Merry Christmas nature and garden lovers. I hope you are having, have had or are about to have a good Christmas day. This Festive period I am taking part in the Wildlife Trusts 7 days of wild Christmas. For many the festive season is a fairly depressing time. The days are dark and long, for some Christmas brings reminders of things lost. I find with each year I feel more and more distant from Christmas. I dislike the commercial excess of Christmas and the abundance of selfishness that many people develop as they sulk over receiving unwanted presents. The time I manage to engage with nature, gardening and getting outside helps relieve my spirits in this darker periods of the year.

But even for those who enjoy Christmas time engaging with nature can still bring much joy. The great benefit of much of what nature offers is that it is free. At a time people are getting wrapped up in the price tags and worrying they haven’t spent enough on someone nature offers a free burst of happiness.

I gain a lot of pleasure from the birds in the garden. Much wildlife comes into the garden just for the fruits on the trees. I do like to put out a bit more though to encourage more in. During these darker colder days it really helps birds to have easy access to extra food. It’s easy to forget to feed during the excitement of Christmas. But a few options will last a few days.

The suet tends to go fast. This feeder can be emptied in a day but it offers a good energy burst to the birds.

The fat balls last a few days meaning I don’t need to be out all the time replacing.

The same goes for the suet blocks.

The bird seed goes in a day but is one of the most popular feeders bringing in a great variety of birds.

Then from feeding regularly I get rewards like the ones in these photos. These were taken yesterday at my dad’s house where they also leave out plenty for the birds all year.

These charming goldfinch have been visiting regularly and that burst of gold and red is enough to bring joy to even the coldest winter hearts.

The starlings, while noisy, offer a great deal of beauty with the iridescence of their feather.

I hope you all enjoy your Christmas days and still find a bit of time out to appreciate nature. We have family time ahead now. Alice is at an age where she understands a bit more of what is going on. So I’m sure we’ll have a nice, if somewhat tiring, day.

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An excited little girl

Dorset Holiday part 1

We have returned from a lovely week down in Dorset. One of Amy’s friends from her time working in Indonesia had offered us the use of her house while she was on holiday. This has worked out ideal as we then didn’t need to take bed guards and hundreds of toys for Alice as they were already there. That said, the car was still pretty full. Tiny peugeots are possibly not the best family holiday cars. This was the longest car journey we’ve taken Alice on at six hours. But she coped very well. We timed it well for her having a good nap on the way down and two stop offs. Only one section with a screaming child in the back. Alice enjoyed her service station stop offs. Everything is an adventure at her age.

The first proper day down we got ourselves in order with a trip to Aldi for food. We realised the weather forecast was rain for almost the whole week, so we stopped in sports direct and invested in waterproof trousers. This have been invaluable, keeping us dry, meaning we haven’t needed to worry sitting on wet benches or being splashed every time Alice launched herself  into a pudding.

Then a visit to Hengistbury Head where Amy’s friend was staying. Hengistbury Head is headland jutting out of the coast between Bournemouth and Mudeford. It has a variety of habitats including beach, heathland, grassland and shrub making it an area of scientific interest, a special area of conservation interest, a special protection area and an environmentally sensitive area. On a good day I imagine this is an amazingly bio diverse area with wonders to be seen. However the two days we visited were cold, windy and wet, so much of the wildlife was hidden away.

To get to the head you can go round on a land train or take a short ferry from Mudeford Quays. We opted for the ferry. Alice thought it was very exciting going on the ferry. It was her first time on a boat. There was lots of excited pointing at other boats and smiling at the other people on the ferry.

Along the headland are lovely little beach huts, some for renting.

We had a little amble along the headland with our host and her twins.

Alice loved jumping in every puddle on the way and searching for rocks.

While the wildlife was put off by the wind there was still plenty to interest me with shrubs and wildflowers for me to look up in my birthday present, the wildflower key.

We had a lovely time along the headland. I would love to return on a sunnier day. I expect we would have seen a lot of butterfly life more species of bird. Part two to follow, in which we see wild horses.