Sunday, December 27, 2009

Visitors to my garden, no.2

BLACKCAP      (Sylvia atricapilla)

On Christmas Eve my front door was open and I caught a glimpse of  a bird I had never seen before sitting in the cherry tree. It was about the same size as a sparrow, but had a creamy grey breast and a brown capit wasn't part of the flock of chattering sparrows and flew off without visiting the feeder. I dug out the bird book and think it must have been a female (or juvenile) Blackcap.
According to the book some of these birds overwinter here, often visiting gardens and bird tables, but the majority arrive in April and leave by October. They are warblers, the males are greyish, browner above with little strong pattern except a dull black cap which is narrower and more peaked than that of a tit. Females have a brown cap and the juveniles more rufous ones, as the one I saw was a rich reddish brown it may well have been young.
Blackcaps spend much of their time in bushy undergrowth in in woods or gardens with trees.They can sometimes be seen in autumn feeding from honeysuckle or elderberry bushes. They nest in a bush or hedgerow and lay 5 eggs which hatch in 10-11 days. The young will fly 10-13 days later.
They eat mainly insects and berries.
Their song is rich and clear after a scratchy start, bursting into a rapid phrase of warbles, but also includes a hard 'tak' which, coming from a thicket or tree is usually the sign of one of the Sylvia warblers.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photos of the week. (Snowy morning)

When I opened the curtains this morning, this is what I saw.

So I took the camera outside and took these pictures.

Sorry about the quality, but I was on a night setting and got a bit of camera shake.

I bet Buddha's tummy is cold!

Evan Smudge wants to come inside!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Photo of the week

Sorry, this should have gone in last week, but I've been a bit busy over the weekend. I just had to prove we've had some sunshine!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Plant of the Month


There isn't much colour in the back garden at the moment, but my Mahonia Japonica makes a welcome burst of sunshine amid all this rain we're having lately. The bright yellow flowers will be followed by purple seeds. It lives at the far end of the garden and is hidden from view until I get 2/3 of the way down the gardenpath, however if I am working in the shed I can see it from the window- a cheery sight to give me inspiration.

Mahonias are full-half hardy and prefer shade or semi shade, so my one is perfectly at home under the willow tree. They like a well drained, fertile soil, not too dry. they are evergreen and grown for both foliage and racemes of sometimes fragrant yellow bellshaped flowers. Some of the taller varieties have deeply fissured bark.Taller ones make good specimen plants while he low growing varieties are good for groundcover.

Propoate by leaf bud or semiripe cuttings in summer, or by seed in autumn.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

photo of the week

The puddle by the shed door.

Yep, that just about sums the week up!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Between the Showers

I was just about to take Finn for a walk yesterday when I spotted this rainbow,

so I grabbed my camera and took the following pictures while the sun was shining.

I hope I've caught the effect of the sun on the wet leaves.

This week has been another week of gale force winds and driving rain with not much opportunity to do anything outside.

The archway which supports the clematis has collapsed. I.m not sure what to do about it as it has buckled under the strain.

I did pick up another of those cute little double primroses at the market this week for my tub outside the front door, also another cyclamen and a primula which I am assured will flower all winter! The cyclamen are all coming into bud now, if you peek under the leaves you can see them starting to push through. Also there is one flower on one of the wallflower.
I did manage to repot my little Fuschia cuttings I took about a month ago, as you can see they look quite happy, there were two that didn't make it though. I'm determined to have some colour in the garden next summer!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Photo(s) of the week

Two photo's of the week this week!

I've chosen this one because the philosophy behind the slogan seems apropriate , although I'm getting a bit fed up with lemonade and would like a couple of oranges please! and I picked up the cute little double primrose at the Country Market this week, the Bizzy Lizzies have just about given up, but the Fuschia and Sage cuttings seem quite happy.

I've chosen this picture of the Bamboo by my kitchen door being blown about in the gale force wind because we have had a lot of strong wind this week!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Photo of the week

This weeks photo's a bit of a copout again this week, but it just seems to sum up the week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visitors to my garden no. 1.......Bank Vole

It's a shame that the only way I find out which small mammals visit my garden is courtesy of the cats. I'm not actually sure if they are visitors or in fact resident, is it in fact me that is the visitor to their territory? Anyway the Bank Vole caught on camera and in Smudge's mouth last week was a juvenile as they are darker than the adults. The average lifespan is just over a year, with the population peaking in the autumn before the winter takes its toll.
Voles haverounded faces, short ears, small eyes and a tail no more than 1/2 the length of head and body. They live in burrows and move along hidden runways in grass. Bank voles prefer hedgerows, scrub and burrows in gardens and woodland where there is plenty of undergrowth. As the bank vole has a diet of seeds leaves and berries which do not wear their teeth down, their teeth stop growing on maturity , whereas those of the field vole grow continuously thougtheir lives.
Population is at its lowest in April/May before the breeding season starts in late spring & summer. A female vole can have 4/6 babies every6/8 weeks. They are weaned at 14/28 days and are able to breed at 6 weeks although those born in late summer wait until the following year.
They are hunted by birds of prey, owls, stoats,weasels, foxes,badgers, pine marten, wildcats and snakes.
Vole populations build up over 4/5 years, as numbers increase they become more aggressive to each other and stop breeding succesfully, possibly due to stress.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

photo of the week

Never mind photo of the week, I think this must be photo of the year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plant of the month-pt2


The Kaffir Lily flowers in autumn and reaches a height of 2ft.. It is a perennial and should be divide every 3 years in spring. It likes a moist soil with good drainage and a PH neutral to slightly acid, a sunny or partially shaded position ou of the wind.

Can be grown from tubers or seed. Tubers should be planted 5cm deep in spring. Mulch in the first winter to protect from cold and every spring to keep soil cool. Fedin spring and twice more while growingand water well in dry conditions.
 Seeds should be sown before the last frostof spring and covered lightly with topsoil.
Varieties include Mrs Hegarty, Sunrise and Vicountes Byng with pink flowers and Major with bright crimson flowers

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I decided it's time to put the net curtains back up and  to stop hiding behind the hedge now that most of the leaves have fallen. So inbetween the showers last week I decided to tidy it up a bit, this is what it looked like before I started,

And this is how it ended up!

I'm not sure if it's an improvement or not, I feel really exposed now.
The next job is the Wild Cherry tree which  looks a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa. It has grown at a weird angle because the Ash tree above it  takes all the light in the summer. I thought I'd pollard it, so that it shoots out again,level with the fence.
I also bought some bulbs, Anemone st. Brigid, Anemone de Caen, Allium Moly & Brodiaea Fabiola and managed to plant them along the front path and in a couple of tubs.
Today I bought another couple of cyclamen and put them by the honesuckle in the back, were I origionally meant put the ones I bought last week, I'm hopng to ge some more next week again.
Looking at the back lawn, it looks as if it needs another cut, but the ground is much too wet at the moment and we had the first frost of winter yesterday morning.

Friday, November 6, 2009

photo of the week

Rain on the windowpane

Not much of a picture this week, you're probably thinking, but the rain on the window just about sums the week up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Plants of the month pt.1

Pyracantha (Firethorn)

 Pyracantha brings a blaze of colour to the dull November days. It is evergreen with glossy oblong leaves. In the early summer it has white, frothy flowers followed in the autumn by a multitude of berries, either red, orange or yellow depending on variety. Orange Glow,which is the variety in my garden, can reach a height of 15 ft. Owing to it's vicious spines it makes an excellent boundary hedge, to deter burglars. It is equally at home trained against a wall, (although it is not a climber, so it will need support), or freestanding as a specimen bush.
 Fully frost hardy, it is easy to grow but although it appreciates a sheltered site in sun or semi shade it will tolerate a north or east facing wall. Having said this my one has been growing against the east facing wall of my shed in a positive wind tunnel for at least 10 years and seems quite happy. It appreciates a fertile, well drained soil although again my soil may be well drained but I think the chicken manure I dug in when I had potatoes next to it has long since been exhausted! When pruning, cut back outward growing shoots after flowering, so concentrating all the strength against the wall.
 Young plants should be planted mid autumn to early spring, about 2ft. apart. Propogate by semi ripe cuttings in late summer or by seed. The seeds should be overwintered indoors and plated out in a cold frame in spring.
 The main disease is Fireblight, but this is easily controlled by pruning. The varieties Mohave, Shawnee and Teton are resistant to the disease.
 The Pyracantha is immensly attractive to wildlife, the berries being a great favorite with the birds, although the red vaieties are more popular than the orange and the yellow least attractive of all. The flowers attract a large variety of insects and bees. The Holly Blue butterfly lays eggs on it and the caterpillars eat the flowers and berries. It also prvides good nesting sites for birds.
 On the negative side, the berries may cause stomach pains if eaten and the spines make pruning and weeding quite hazardous, but apart from this it is one of my favorite plants in my garden, I think it gives really good all year round value and is the first thing I see when I open my kitchen door.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I thought I had left it too late to buy Cyclamen this year, but on Tuesday I found 3 Cyclamen Silverado, which according to the label should fower late winter, early spring.

I planted them in front of my backdoor, by the table and chairs, so that I can see them if we get any days warm enough for a cuppa outside.

I'm hoping my little sleeping dragon will frighten the slugs away!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday in my garden (shed)

It was a wet and windy day yesterday, so I spent some time in my candlewokshop in my garden shed.
Here is a selection of the candles I have made there.

From the window I get a good view of all that is happening in the garden without disturbing any visitors to the bird feeders.There is usually a steady stream of sparrows,and  bluetits with the occaisional great tit. So far this year I haven't seen any chaffinch or greenfinch.
Inside the shed there is a gathering of snails who seem to delight in eating the labels from the candle perfume bottles! Also, as I found to my expense, it seems to be a favored place for sleepy wasps, one of which I woke up as I picked up a packet of dye!
The gas cooker I use to melt thewax makes it nice and warm even on the coldest of days and the shed is filled with whichever perfume I am using at the time_ Pine at the moment ready for Christmas.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photo of the week

This week has been spent clearing the leaves from this little fella's home. He only had about 2'' of water above all the debris!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Ash Tree

My Ash tree is in the corner of my front garden. It towers above the house, giving shade to the garden and privacy to my bedroom. The sunlight and shadows play on the walls making the rooms inside come to life.
 There is a wooden seat undeneath it where I sit for a morning coffee break sometimes, hidden from passers by by the tall hedge whish surrounds my garden, Lilac down one side, a mixture of ash, cherry, berberis and bramble along the front and Buddlea, alive with butterflies during the summer, on the third side.. I always describe my garden to people as the one with the foliage.
Ivy and Dog rose scramble up the trunk of my Ash tree and the air beneath is filled with the scent of Ivy flowers at the moment. When I returned home this afternoon the air was full of the sound of Sparrows squabbling amongst the Ivy on the trunk.
My Ash tree is a roosting place for a number of Jackdaws, crows and/or Rooks. The odd Magpie has been known to visit it aswell, but the Seagulls prefer the rooftops. The Jacdaws nest in one of the unused chiminies on my roof, so far they seem to respect the fact that I need to use one of them! A number of smaller birds flit through the branches and wait for the birdseed to be scattered and tease the cats from the safety of the canopy.
I love my Ash tree, unfortunately my neighbours aren't quite so fond of it!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Last Sunny Days of Autumn

Here are some pix I took while making the most of the Autumn sunshine today

Friday, October 2, 2009

Picture of the week

A Quiet Corner

This is the corner of the garden which catches the early morning sun. My first dog is buried here, and this is were I come to sit quietly and meditate.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Summer in the garden

I'm not a gardener but I love my garden. It's at it's best in the Spring, probably because I put in most work in the Autumn and Winter. In Spring it's full of daffodils, followed by masses of Bluebells. By Summer it's pretty welldoing it's own thing and gets a bit out of control and by Autumn it's jungle clearance time.
I love nothing better in the summer than to take a blanket, book and a bottle of
wine and watch the butteflies and bees on the Aquilega and Marjoram and Buddlea.

This year it was going to be different. I was going to GROW VEGETABLES. It started off alright.In the Spring the lettuce and radishes and spinach flourished in the cold frame and the beans and peas shot up in pots outside the backdoor. Then the slugs discovered this new gourmet restaurant and said 'Thankyou very much', but didn't even leave a tip. The cat made a bed on the onions and chased the frogs, who were suposed to eat the slugs, into next doors garden. Evan the mint,which has been around for years and I thught was indestructable disappeared. I did have a bit of success with potatoes in animal feed sacks.

I tried crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and lawn clipping around everything, but the slugs obviously hadn't read the books which say these are meant to either be a deterrant or fill them up so much they haven't room for the really tasty stuff. y the time someone sugested seaweed the was nothing left to put it around, so I can't say if this would have worked or not!
A friend uses 'slug pubs', but I hate the thought of fishing out drowned slugs, similarly I'm not sure what to do with any found under grapefruit halves_ I suppose I could throw them next door to join the frogs!

Meanhile the Honeysuckle, Clematis and Jasmine were rambling out of control, the Rosa Rugosa were growing tall and treelike, but not producing as many flowers as usual, and thev Willow tree was going mad forming a roof over the far end of the garden.

So I carried on lieing on my blanket reading my book, drinking my wine and watching the bees on the Aquilega, Marjoram and Budlea.