In a Vase on Monday – Spring Flowers

Monday 18th February. I’ve run around the garden and picked flowers for a tiny posy. My mother in law Joan gave me the little cut glass vase. So cheerful, the reflection of light, and jewel- like flowers. How can such delicate beauties survive the cold.

There’s double and single snowdrops, chinodoxa glory of the snow, pink cyclamen coum, crocus, Paperwhite narcissi, and heavenly-scented daphne.

I’ve spun the vase round to show you the yellow aconites. What a joy to see them flowering in the wild garden. Just as the aconites start to go over crocus tommasinianus suddenly appear. A feast of pollen for emerging queen bumble bees.

Crocus are doing well in the woodland garden, but I didn’t plant these out in the meadow here. I wonder why an unexpected plant, growing where it wants to be, should make me so happy. I run out and check these little flowers each day and stand and ponder. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m not sure why.

For my summerhouse door wreath this week, I’ve popped a few crocus flowers in my recycled test tubes filled with water. No need to use florists foam which adds to pollution. Use little test tubes, glass spice jars or miniature jam jars.

Fresh green ivy berries and moss hide the workings, and wild clematis or old- man’s beard- makes a nest for the snowdrops.

There’s stirrings from the pond already. I’ve seen several frogs- maybe there will be frogspawn soon. A pair of bullfinches are investigating the nest box in the tree next to the summerhouse. They are going to be very noisy neighbours, judging by the racket they are making. A friend and I sat and watched them this afternoon, and marvelled at the weather being mild enough to sit outdoors, in the middle of February, the summerhouse doors thrown open. A moment to treasure.

Links; Cathy IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/in-a-vase-on-monday-alternative/

Bullfinch song https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bullfinch/

Crocus tommasinianus https://www.peternyssen.com/tommasinianus-ruby-giant.html

Cyclamen coum for autumn planting https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/cyclamen/cyclamen-coum

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis https://www.cumbriawildflowers.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=181

Chinodoxa https://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/autumn-planted-bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-forbesii-blue-giant

clematis vitalba https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/travellers-joy/

In a Vase on Monday 11th February 2019

Spring flowers and a silver birch wreath. A honey -scented display for the summerhouse today.

Arriving home late from work, I’ve run round the garden and picked a few spring flowers to decorate the wreath.

This week, tete-a-tete narcissi and Iris Eye Catcher join the snowdrops in my display. I can report, the little test tubes I mentioned last week are working a treat. The double snowdrops have lasted seven days.

The test tubes arrived attached to a bouquet of orchids, a gift from a friend. As usual, I put them in the potting shed until I’ve thought of a use for them. We are all trying to manage without oasis florists foam, which is not recyclable and adds to pollution.

I twist a wire around the top of the test tube and press it into the twiggy wreath. It stays there securely, despite high winds. Storm Erik bashed the garden, but didn’t damage the display- with the summerhouse turned to face the shelter of the trees. I patch in some emerald green moss and fresh ivy to hide the workings.

Here’s where the flowers are growing, in the wild garden under beech, oak and cherry trees.

Double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Singles, Galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens.

Yellow aconites are finally starting to spread. They are slow to establish and like lots of leafmould.

I finish the day walking down the lane to pick willow stems for valentine hearts. And joy! The first lamb, born today. What a lovely surprise, and I’m glad it is a glorious sunny day. Not like last year, when they arrived in a snowstorm. Today is a good day to be born. I stand for a while watching the tiny lamb find its feet. Within minutes it’s jumping, all four feet off the ground. A sight I’ll never tire of, and another sure sign spring is not far away.

Links:

IAVOM with Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/in-a-vase-on-monday-and-so-it-goes/

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory http://www.hodsockpriory.com/

Yellow aconites https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/eranthis/eranthis-hyemalis

Floristry supplies Googies Flower Shop https://en-gb.facebook.com/googiesflowers/

Last week’s IAVOM https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-february-4th-2019/

Lemon Crunch Triangles – family Favourite recipes

If you were listening to Radio Leicester this week for the Gardens Hour, you will have heard us munching on Lemon Triangles. It’s a nice quick recipe that everyone seems to love. It keeps for a week in a tin, or can be frozen. But to be honest, it disappears quite fast in our house ( and at the radio station). Lemons come straight from my greenhouse. It’s been a good winter for them, with plenty continuing to grow and ripen. Now is the time to re-pot them or if they are in the maximum size pots, remove the top inch or so of soil and top dress them with fresh compost. Start to increase watering and add feed every time. I’m still battling scale insect. It’s a slow task of removing them with a washing up sponge and warm soapy water. I just turn on the radio and settle down to the task. At least it’s warm in the greenhouse. And the citrus flowers smell divine.

INGREDIENTS

175g butter or margarine

175g soft light brown sugar

175g self raising flour

2 medium eggs

Grated rind of 1 lemon

TOPPING

Juice of 1 lemon

100g caster sugar.

METHOD

Heat oven to 180C gas mark 4. Grease and line a 19cm x 29cm shallow tin.

  1. Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan and stir to incorporate.
  2. Remove from heat and beat in the flour, rind and eggs using a wooden spoon, until smooth.
  3. Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes.
    Stand for a few minutes and then remove the grease proof paper. Return cake to the tin and cool slightly.
    Mix juice and sugar together and pour evenly over the cake. When cold, cut the cake into squares, and then halve to make triangles. Perfect for morning coffee, or afternoon tea.

I wrote about my citrus trees and greenhouse here https://bramblegarden.com/2019/02/02/six-on-saturday-photos-from-my-garden/.

In a Vase on Monday-February 4th 2019

I’m starting to miss sunshine and warm weather. I’m muffled up with coat, scarves, gloves, two pairs of socks, and still the cold seeps in. There’s been such a cold wind. The ground is frozen and the pond iced over. And yet, mooching about looking for something cheerful, I find chinodoxa- untroubled by the cold, the colour of Mediterranean skies. A little bit of hope.

A circle of silver birch twigs makes a pretty background for spring flowers. I just twist the branches like rope and tie the ends together. I’m trying not to use florists’ foam as it’s currently not recyclable. I’ve found a solution. A friend sent me a box of orchids, each one with a 7cm test tube of water, keeping them fresh. Recycling them, I twist a piece of wire around the necks and stick them in amongst the twiggy coils. Topped with moss, and hidden with ivy, no one will know they are there. I just have to top up the water each morning, and at the same time, add fresh flowers as I please. The wreath here was made on Saturday with wild clematis -old man’s beard- ivy and winter flowering honeysuckle lonicera fragrantissima. It survived high winds, mostly. Silver honesty lasted a day, then blew into the back field hedge where it glistens like a tiny mirror. And the star-like cow-parsley seed heads have gone. It’s an arrangement that changes with the weather. I like that. It’s real life. A reflection of what’s happening in my garden today.

So this morning, I’ve picked some snowdrops and chinodoxa and added them to the arrangement. Chinodoxa known as “glory of the snow” seems untroubled by the cold north wind. Such a delicate flower, and yet so hardy.

To add my own sunshine, I’ve found some aconites, Eranthis hyemalis. We called these gold coins when we were growing up.

Snowdrops nestle amongst the foliage. I bought the single variety , galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens. A little bit of history now growing in my wild garden. There’s been a garden at Easton for at least 400 years. A renovation project started almost 20 years ago, has rescued the garden for future generations to enjoy. The double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Another favourite place to visit with my Mum.

My wreath sits above the doors on our 1930s turntable summerhouse. We’ve turned our backs to the wind and swung the summerhouse around to face the wild garden. There’s wild garlic thriving on the right, under the willow. I’m really pleased to see snowdrops I planted three years ago starting to form little clumps. How long, I wonder, before the scene is a sea of white. I shall have to wait and see.

Links :

I’m joining Cathy for her IAVOM meme. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-skinny/

Chonodoxa https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-violet-beauty

Eranthis https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/bulbs-in-the-green/eranthis-hyemalis-winter-aconite

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory snowdrops http://www.hodsockpriory.com/about-us/the-gardens/snowdrops/

NGS snowdrop gardens to visit https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/snowdrop-gardens/

Lonicera fragrantissima https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/68665/i-Lonicera-fragrantissima-i/Details

Six on Saturday- photos from my garden

My grandfather Ted Foulds’ Sankey terracotta pots being put to good use on the potting shed window. Snowdrops from Hodsock Priory open day sales. Trees in the wild garden, reflected in the glass.

Iris Katherine’s Gold, a new sport of Katherine Hodgkin, thrives in my tiny terracotta pots in 50 /50 grit and compost for good drainage. Arriving home from work, I open the greenhouse door and all the iris flowers unfurl and pop open. A heart-lift moment in the middle of winter. Reminds me of a dragon fly, metamorphosing.

Citrus in the greenhouse. Each day I watch them ripen. I mull over my favourite recipes. Orange shortbread fingers. Lemons drizzle cake. Citrus marmalade. Pancakes. Lemon tea. What will it be? Scent from the flowers is another joy. Flowers open 12 months of the year.

In the potting shed, I wind some silver birch twigs into a circle. Winter flowering honeysuckle. Pale and beautiful. Lonicera fragrantisimma. A perfect partner for wispy wild clematis, old man’s beard. As always there’s ivy full of green berries. Simple beauty. And silver coins or honesty. Translucent in the February sunshine.

Perhaps a few snowdrops will match the icy chill in the garden today. It’s cold enough for snow.

Enjoy your weekend, and keep warm! I’m trying to weather the winter – any way I can. The garden is certainly helping. Though signs of spring are more than welcome.

I’m taking part in the Six on Saturday meme. Why not go over and join in. Here’s the link : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/six-on-saturday-02-02-2019/

Nest Boxes and Bird Feeders for the Garden

#BigGardenBirdWatch – My survey results.

Looking out of my potting shed window, I can see plenty of pigeons and a few robins. But where have all the song birds gone? Last weekend I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and I was shocked by the results. Hardly any birds in my garden.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is in its 40th year, starting out in 1979. Over half a million people take part; it’s the world’s largest garden wildlife survey. But what it has shown over the years is a downward trend, a drastic decline in the number of thrushes, starlings and sparrows.

Results show:

  • Song thrushes down 75 percent
  • Starlings down 80 percent
  • Blackbirds down 41 percent
  • House sparrows down 57 percent
  • Greenfinches down 57 percent
  • Robins down 31 percent

Birds on the increase are

  • Wood pigeons up 950 percent
  • Collard doves up 307 percent.

In my one hour survey I spotted:

1 great tit

3 blackbirds

2 robins

1 wren

1 pheasant

1 chaffinch

5 pigeons

It’s about five years since we heard the tap- tapping of a song thrush breaking open a snail shell on the garden path. And I can’t remember the last time we spotted a sparrow. It must be 10 years at least.

So, with plummeting numbers, what can we do to help. One positive action is to put up a nest box. Loss of habitat might be a factor in the decline of the sparrow. We are all keeping our homes in better repair, meaning there are fewer gaps under the tiles where sparrows like to nest.

I asked Shropshire company CJ Wildlife for advice on buying and siting a nest box and here’s some hints and tips I’ve gathered.

Each bird has its preference for a particular nest box. The entrance opening is a determining factor.

  • 28mm hole- suitable for blue tit, coal, great, crested, marsh and willow tits, pied flycatcher and tree sparrow
  • 32mm – house sparrow, tree sparrow, great tit, crested tit, nuthatch
  • Oval entrance hole – house sparrow, nuthatch and redstart.
  • Open fronted box- well hidden in foliage- robin, wren, spotted flycatcher, redstart, black redstart, pied and grey wagtail, song birds.

Buying a bird box

  • Choose one made from high quality wood, up to 18mm thick, for insulation.
  • Look for an FSC label – certified products contain wood in accordance with Forest Stewardship Council regulations. The council promotes responsible forest management
  • Birds will often return year after year to the same box, choose one that is going to last. WoodStone is a mix of wood and concrete which has good insulating properties and a long life. A 10 year guarantee is given.
  • Metal or some ceramic nests might not be suitable, as they could have low insulation properties.
  • The best bird boxes come with a metal plate protecting the entrance hole from predators. These plates can also be purchased for a few pounds to protect existing boxes that don’t have this feature.

Maintenance of bird boxes

Bird boxes should be emptied every year between the end of October and January 31st. This will help to prevent parasites building up. Wear gloves and a dust mask. Wash the bird box in hot soapy water, or use bird-safe cleaners. Leave to dry for a few days in a garage or shed, and return the bird box to its original position.

Bird boxes can be painted, outside only, with non-toxic water- based paint.

Siting a bird box

  • Chose a north or east- facing position, as bright sunshine will overheat and possibly kill young birds
  • If mounting bird box on a tree, use the dry side and avoid the side where water rushes down in heavy rainfall.
  • Choose a secluded place, away from patios and barbecues
  • Site near vegetation so that young birds making their first flight will have some cover
  • Protect open nest boxes with thorny vegetation around them
  • The best height for bird boxes is between 1.5m and 5.5m
  • A clear flight path into the box is needed
  • Avoid sites such as the top of a fence, where predators can easily access the bird box.

In my garden, I’ve started off with boxes for robins, sparrows and great tits. And I’m hoping to attract a nuthatch or two. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. I’m saving up for one that has a camera inside. I’d love to watch nesting birds in action.

Many thanks to CJ Wildlife for supplying bird food, and feeders, which I’ll talk about next time, and substantial, high quality nest boxes. I’m looking forward to attracting more birds to my plot, and doing my bit towards reversing the downward trend in garden bird numbers.

Here are some links you might find useful.

BTO https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw

Woodland Trust https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/

CJ Wildlife https://www.birdfood.co.uk/bird-feeders.html

CJ Wildlife nest boxes https://www.birdfood.co.uk/nest-boxes.html

Big Garden Birdwatch https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

 

 

Please leave a comment below to be included in a prize draw for a Jupiter feeder and 1k suet pack, currently on sale for £18.99. Names will be randomly selected and there’s no cash alternative. Sorry, UK entries only. CJ Wildlife decision is final.

Photos of birds credit :CJ Wildlife.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BigGardenBirdWatch and #Winterwatch on social media to share your findings and stories from your weekend survey. And please feel free to share this blog piece on any social media platform. It all helps. Thank you.

In a Vase on Monday

I always seem to be wandering about in the gloom. I rush home from work just in time to check over the greenhouse and poly tunnel. It’s always a delight to see what’s burst into flower while I’ve been away. So today, I’m sorry to say, my flower arrangements are a little dark- again.

Luckily, there’s just enough light to pick a few stems of Paperwhite narcissi. The scent is such a joy in winter. It’s a little overwhelming indoors, but three stems in a posy are just right.

I’ve partnered the Paperwhites with a chocolate hellebore. I bought this last spring at Ashwood Nurseries where the owner John Massey very kindly gave our group a tour of his private gardens, as well as delicious lunch in his cosy kitchen. It’s a memory I will always treasure, thanks to John’s kindness and generosity.

My little posy came on an outing with me to Leicester for the gardening phone-in programme at Radio Leicester. After answering listeners’ questions on everything from sowing seed to pruning, I set off for my Mum’s house. The posy looks just perfect on her sunny kitchen window.

Pittosporum has a purple wavy picottee edge in winter. I’m cutting back my eucalyptus gunii this spring as it’s got to about 8ft. Trimmings make a lovely background for any flower. I’m also cutting back a giant white jasmine. The foliage is almost every green, and there are a few purple-tinged seed heads that look very pretty.

By the time I finish messing about with flowers and foliage, the trees in the back field are charcoal outlines. I stand and marvel. Is there anything more beautiful than a native oak. The farmer who planted this has long gone, and his son also. We live next to the farm. No doubt, this tree will outlive me. Meanwhile I’ll stand and gaze, and make a promise to protect it, should anything ever come along to threaten it.

I’m joining Cathy again this week for her IAVOM meme. Here’s the link to join in and read about what the others are growing and putting in their vases this week.

Links:

Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/in-a-vase-on-monday-it-makes-scents/

Ashwood Nursery black hellebores : https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/helleborus-xhybridus-single-black-pearl.html

I wrote about my visit to Ashwood here https://bramblegarden.com/2018/02/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-ashnurs-gdnmediaguild/

I wrote about growing Paperwhites here https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/01/fairy-lights-for-the-greenhouse-and-an-update-from-this-weeks-bbc-radio-programme-for-gardeners/

Visit Ashwood https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/visit-us/

In a Vase on Monday. Daylight photos

I feel rather guilty for the dark, poor quality photos posted last night. I shouldn’t have lingered on the footpath, looking at the wildlife. It was dark by the time I reached home.

So today, I rushed back – and it was still daylight! It feels as if it is getting lighter. It’s a month past the shortest day and plants in the garden are moving. The sap is starting to rise.

Anyway, thank you for your kind comments on all my photos – even when the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s the same flowers that were posted yesterday for IAVOM – in daylight conditions today.

The “workings ” are a willow heart with a kokedama vase tied on with string. I’m not using florists foam as there’s growing concern about it polluting water courses and not being recyclable. No one would ever know that the vase is a jam jar covered in moss from the garden, with green twine wound over and over to make the kokedama “nest.”

It’s easy to top up the water every day, and the flowers seem to last just as long. In fact they probably last longer, because each day you can fish out the posy and trim a tiny amount off the stems. Refresh the water, and all’s well.

We are all trying to find our way through the new circumstances we find ourselves in. No one can ”un- see” David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme. The film of the whale carrying its dead calf will stay with us always. As will the pictures of the beeches and ocean polluted with plastic. I for one will find alternatives for florists foam, until a recyclable ”green” alternative is produced. I’m using test tubes and mini glass vases, hidden in moss. I don’t feel as if my flower arrangements are suffering.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting IAVOM at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/.

In a Vase on Monday – flowers from my garden

I should have taken my photos in daylight. But a last minute walk around the fields won instead. We were just in time to see a buzzard swoop from the bottom field oaks across to the lane. By the time we’d walked around the margins of the field, the buzzard was on the move again. It flew overhead. We could see it was a young bird, one of last summer’s fledglings. Three quarters of young buzzards die before they mature at three years old. We are lucky to have them here. Every day we look for them. Often we hear their mewing cry before we see them. The sound carries into the potting shed where I’m working.

On the potting shed table today, I’ve a few stems of alstroemeria and some paper white narcissi. I’m growing alstroemeria in the unheated poly tunnel, protected under two layers of fleece. There’s a few stems with buds which I hope will open.

I spend a few minutes separating the layers from the honesty seed heads. A bit of silver is more than welcome in the winter gloom.

There’s a few sprigs of chrysanthemum White Stallion, and a halo of dried gypsophillia saved from the summer.

Emerging from the potting shed with my posy of flowers, there’s just enough light to follow the garden path home.

I’m joining with Cathy for this week’s IAVOM. Why not go over and see what everyone else is growing and cutting for their vase of flowers this week.

In a Vase on Monday https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Here’s this week’s links to find out more. RSPB on buzzards: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/buzzard/breeding-nesting-habits/

RHS growing Paperwhites : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/48820/Narcissus-papyraceus-(13)/Details

Alstroemeria from http://www.postalplants.co.uk/

RHS advice on Honesty https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/98034/Lunaria-annua/Details

Six on Saturday- Photos from my Garden, 19th January 2019

Is there anything more beautiful than a January rose.

One of favourites is Rosa Pearl Drift. Rarely out of flower all summer. Throws out the occasional joyful surprise through winter. We had a posy of blooms for Christmas. Disease resistant and low maintenance. I can highly recommend this beautiful, hardy rose.

Picked at 4.30pm today: Paperwhite Narcissi from the unheated poly tunnel, black hellebore bought last spring from Ashwood Nurseries. Similar varieties are Hellebore Black Pearl. Partnered with blue green eucalyptus stems and jasmine. A joy for my potting shed window. I love fresh flowers in winter, probably more than in summer. There’s more need for cheer in the dark days of January.

Planted broad bean De Monica in my new hinged deep root trainers from Haxnix.

I planted Aquadulce in October and overwintered them in the greenhouse. They’ll be planted out next month for an early crop. De Monica will provide a successional crop later in spring.

I’m trialling a new peat-free potting compost from Westland being launched this year. I’ll report back as plants start to grow over the next few months. So far, so good. It’s nice to use, free draining, and consistent. There are no large lumpy bits in it. And it doesn’t grow a green algae on the surface of pots, like some of the compost I’ve tried in the past.

A view of the wild garden, taken from the summerhouse. I’ve been planting 200 foxgloves, grown from two packets of seed, sown in mid summer. It would have been expensive to buy ready-grown plants. These cost £4 for seed, and a few pounds for compost. It’s a good way to create a maplanting effect, on a budget. You can start sowing seed now to catch up. Plants grown this spring should provide some flower spikes late in summer. They will bulk up and provide a real show the following spring.

Scattered all around my garden are piles of twigs and logs, covered with leaf mould. Homes for invertebrates. Beetles, bugs and insects mean food for hedgehogs, frogs, toads and birds. My army, all ready to munch on pests such as slugs and snails. It’s a fair exchange, I think. I give them a home, they look after me.

And finally a day-time view, past the summerhouse, down the field to the woods where our tawny and barn owls live. At dusk we sit in the summerhouse and watch them glide by, silent as the night. The emerald green field is a joy in January. You can virtually see the crop growing! It’s almost a month past the shortest day, and the sap’s rising and plants are getting going.

I’m joining in with for Six on Saturday. Why not go over and see what others are posting for their six photos today. Here’s the link : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/six-on-saturday-19-01-2019/.

LINKS:

I wrote about John Massey and Ashwood hellebores here ; https://bramblegarden.com/2018/02/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-ashnurs-gdnmediaguild/

Hellebores: https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/plants/hellebores/helleborus-xhybridus-single-black-pearl.html

Paperwhites came from Gee Tee Bulbs https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/ and were planted in October.

Vegetable seeds / foxglove seeds from Mr Fothergills http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAiAsoviBRAoEiwATm8OYG3vsJS9JxyNd2rIPtJ1lZ4saSuPRVFTatI-9eqArW1r61_7P6cLbxoCQygQAvD_BwE

Deep root trainers for sweet peas and broad beans https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/deep-sherwood-rootrainers

Westland composts https://www.gardenhealth.com/product/natures-haven-multi-purpose-compost