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/

Six on Saturday- a walk round my garden, 9th February

I’ve got a pair of old nursery trolleys made out of metal with wooden plank tops. They are perfect for moving compost and plants about the garden. They hook together so in theory your could pull two. Usually we just use one at a time. They also make a good platform for a spring bulb display. It’s lovely to see my grandfather Ted Foulds’ Sankey terracotta pots out on show. He used to love to visit my garden each week and “walk the estate.” He had a good sense of humour and was a very kind man.

Iris Katherine Hodgkin is just coming into flower. So pretty, with markings that look as if they’ve been drawn in blue ink. Behind them, there’s royal blue Iris Harmony, and pale yellow Katherine’s Gold- a sport of Katherine Hodgkin, and new for me this year.

Behind the iris pots is an old zinc container full of Hyacinth Blue Jacket. It’s a beautiful deep velvety blue flower, and the scent is fabulous. I grew them from prepared bulbs, started last autumn. Some flowered for Christmas, but by leaving a few in a cold poly tunnel, I’ve spread the flowering over a longer period. It’s just now that I start to need some colour in the garden. I’ll put some hazel sticks in amongst the bulbs to support them. Those flower buds look so promising on a freezing cold day.

Still on the subject of bulbs … I never know how these posts are going to go on a Saturday, I usually just roam about the garden taking a few photos, and somehow a theme emerges. This week, it’s early bulbs. Here in the wild garden there’s cyclamen Coum and winter aconites Eranthis hyemalis. I didn’t plant them exactly in this spot. Mice or some other creature has carried them here. I actually planted them further across to the left, about 3 metres away. Still, they are thriving here, so who am I to complain. I’ll not disturb them now, or fight nature.

I’m pleased to see the snowdrop corner is finally starting to get going. I planted these yellow and white snowdrops two years ago after sharing a purchase with a friend. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on snowdrops, £12.50 for three little bulbs. And I probably won’t do it again. But they are such pretty things. I’m delighted to see they have doubled in number this year. They obviously like the leaf mould and undisturbed spot, under ash and willow trees.

Talking of trees, one of our huge beech trees had to be felled this week. It was leaning precariously towards the house roof. I can hear the chain saw sounds right now as my husband chops it up for next year’s firewood. I always feel sad when we have to chop down a tree. But it’s opened up a patch of sunlight in the paddock. Maybe I’ll plant something lovely there in its place. Meanwhile, I can’t stop gazing at the green mossy logs. They are a thing of beauty, don’t you think.

As you can see from my view from the potting shed window. There’s plenty more trees in the garden. We really ought to thin them out some more. But I can only face doing it a bit at a time. I’m very averse to change, and I’m getting worse. I would probably like time to stand still. But with gardens, as with everything in life, that’s not going to happen.

Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/six-on-saturday-09-02-2019/

Cyclamen Coum https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/cyclamen/cyclamen-coum

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

I wrote about Ted Foulds here https://bramblegarden.com/tag/tulips/

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/

Prize draw winners – The Immortal Yew

Tony Hall

Kew Publishing. Hardback. £25

ISBN : 978 1 84246 658 2

One of the pleasures of writing a blog is sharing a love of gardening with like-minded people. Books are also a passion of mine, particularly anything with a horticultural theme. So I was happy to be invited to write a review of The Immortal Yew, written by Kew Gardens manager Tony Hall. Stories of myths and legends surrounding yews dating back 2,000 years had me glued to the pages from start to finish. I was drawn in by the sight of the “lion’s paw” yews flanking the doors at St Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-wold, a sight said to have inspired JRR Tolkien when he was writing about the gateway to Moria in Lord of the Rings. A photo of these strange, ancient yews provides the cover picture for the book. The publishers, Kew Publishing, very generously offered three copies for a prize draw on the blog. The winners, randomly selected, are Sharon Moncur, Philippa Burrough and Alison Levey. Thanks to everyone who left comments on the blog. If you didn’t win, please keep reading as there are many more books to follow over the next few weeks, including The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell, Island Gardens by Jackie Bennett, the English Country House Garden, George Plumptre, Oxford College Gardens, Tim Richardson, and The Christmas Tree by Barbara Segall. Winter is a great time to catch up with reading, before tasks in the garden entice us outdoors again.

To read my review, please click here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/25/the-immortal-yew-book-review/

What books would you recommend to gardening friends? What are your favourite books?

Links : Immortal Yew https://www.amazon.co.uk/Immortal-Yew-Tony-Hall/dp/1842466585/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548966993&sr=1-1

Kew Gardens https://www.kew.org/

Kew Publishing https://www.kew.org/files/kew-publishingjpg

Sharon Moncur https://renaissancegardener.org/

Philippa Burrough http://www.ultingwickgarden.co.uk/

Alison Levey https://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/

Please feel free to share this blog on any social media platform, linking back to this site https://bramblegarden.com/

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.

Six on Saturday. Joining in for the first time.

Six photos from my garden and potting shed this week.

Catching the light in my potting shed window: Old Man’s Beard, wild clematis vitalba. Commonly called traveller’s joy. I stand on tip toe, reaching into hedgerows to harvest long stems with silver seed heads. They’re a lovely addition to winter flower arrangements.

Silver coins. Honesty seeds. Hanging from the rafters to dry. They will be tucked in amongst rosehips, holly and ivy for Christmas decorations.

Chinese lanterns, harvested in October. I love the various shades of orange. They fade to a delicate papery apricot colour. And left long enough, they become transparent.

My potting shed window looks out onto the wild garden. So heartening to see hazel branches with lambs-tail catkins. A welcome reminder that spring will return. The twigs make useful supports for my paperwhite narcissi and hyacinths which are in the dark under my point shed bench at the moment.

The last few golden leaves are fluttering in the breeze. Hazel, maple, ash trees make a mini woodland. I’ve planted 200 foxgloves in the wild garden. We sowed the seed in mid summer, pricked them out in August, and planted out, they will sit making roots over winter. I’m growing Sutton’s Apricot, a glorious silky, peach- coloured foxglove, and Pam’s Choice- white with a blackcurrant thumb print in each flower.

It’s dusk before I finish planting. I stand by the pond watching blackbirds taking a last-minute bath. I wonder how they can stand the cold water. I expect it keeps their feathers in good condition. A tawny owl glides silently along the field hedge. Short-tailed voles live in the long grass here. Within minutes, it’s dark. It’s not like in summer, where there’s enough moonlight to potter around. November dark is cold, pitch black. Time to go indoors, light a fire and make hot chocolate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden with me tonight. I’m joining https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ for his Six on Saturday meme. What jobs are you doing in your garden this weekend?

Help, I Need a Marquee………

Faulkener 019

The conversation went something like “Hello, I need a marquee.”  The reply was “That’s ok. For how many and what’s your budget.”  “About 40 people. Er… there’s a problem with the budget. There’s isn’t one.”

I expected the phone line to go dead. But to my  amazement, Richard  from Storer Smith Events laughed and told me to go on.  He wanted to know more.

There followed a somewhat embarrassing account.  I was organising my first ever fund-raising event.   I’d failed to keep track of ticket sales. Now there were 46 people coming – and the venue could only comfortably take 25.  I was having sleepless nights. People were going to turn up for a posh afternoon tea- dressed in their Sunday best. What on earth was I going to do?

There was a silence on the end of the phone. Then a sigh. Then the words, “Well, I’d better help you out then.”    I don’t think I have ever been so relieved. My bacon had well and truly been saved.

Richard – I’ll forever think of him as my knight in shining armour -saved the day. He provided a 6m by 9m marquee,  with carpet, tables, chairs, and also a monster  (almost) fire-breathing heater –  complete with gas. A team of workers to put it up- and take it down.  All free of charge.

Thanks to Richard,  we had a fabulous marquee for our vintage afternoon  tea- all in aid of Rainbows Hospice.  We enjoyed a  wonderful talk  and slide show from celebrated author Barbara Segall   who was speaking about her newly-launched book, Secret Gardens of East Anglia. I wrote a review about the book here .    Gary from Rainbows talked about the wonderful facilities and work at the hospice for children. Such a heartwarming, inspiring afternoon.

We served six types of posh sandwiches, and tomato and thyme tarts. Followed by a mountain of cakes, mostly made by my wonderful Mum. And gallons of tea in pretty mismatched china.

It all worked beautifully and I’m pleased ( and mightily relieved ) to report that we made almost £1,000 for Rainbows.

I’m so grateful to Richard for his kindness. It is a relief to know that wonderful people like him still exist when there is so much bad news in the world.

There’s a whole roll call of people to thank for helping to make the event a success. But chiefly, I want to thank Richard, for his kind and generous help.  Also Barbara Segall, who refused a fee for her talk. My friend Alison Levey from blackberrygarden.co.uk  blog who fetched, carried and was fab at selling raffle tickets. Geary’s Craft Bakeries provided the bread ( thank you Charles Geary). The co-op at East Leake supplied the fillings for the sandwiches. The Printers in Loughborough provided posters and tickets.

For the goody bags for each person who attended, Lady Ursula at Easton Walled Gardens provided 50 complimenatry tickets to visit the gardens.  Burgon and Ball gave me beautiful tins of string. Mr Fothergills gave me  packets of  flower seed. Cooks Lane Herbs gave me gorgeously-wrapped, wonderfully-scented handmade Red Clover and Honey Soap. Seedball   sent tins of wildflower seed.

For the raffle, books came from Alison Levey, Frances Lincoln (Quarto Homes) publishers, wine from the Round Robin, East Leake, flowers and plants from Googie’s Flowers , East Leake, calendars from The Calender Club, Loughbrough, Chocolates from Thorntons. Six Acre Nursery at Costock gave a lovely hellebore plant.

The photos are examples of marquees provided by Storer Smith Events. As you can imagine, I wish everyone would now rush out and book him up for the next 10 years. Such a good-hearted soul has won my loyalty for life!  Contact Richard at info@storersmithevents.co.uk. Phone 01889 563200. He’s at Uttoxeter ST14 5AP but supplies marquees all around the country.

Win a copy of Secret Gardens of East Anglia- and here’s an update on my fund-raising plans

I have always believed people are amazingly kind and generous. Now I have the proof.

A week ago I wrote here about combining my gardening skills to raise money for Rainbows Children’s Hospice. And the response has been overwhelming. I wrote about giving talks to garden groups- and hosting open gardens. And immediately my lovely garden design customers Pat and John Stanley agreed to help. And best-selling writer Barbara Segall offered to give a talk on her new book Secret Gardens of East Anglia.

Here’s a poster for the event.

As soon as I mentioned Rainbows, Fiona from The Printers company in Loughborough offered to do the artwork and produce the posters for me. Thank goodness she did, as my first attempts were very amateurish and you’d have laughed to see them! Here’s Fiona, left with her assistant Maggie, right.

As soon as I had my posters, I whizzed around local shops and businesses asking them to put them in their front windows. Not one person turned me down. Here’s Googie in her shop – Googie’sFlowers at East Leake, near Loughborough. And as well as letting all her customs know, Googie has offered some gifts for the raffle.

The response on social media has been truly wonderful and supportive. On the day I announced my fund-raising plans, writer and gardener Gill Heavens sent the most fabulous card wishing me all the best with my projects. Such lovely, encouraging words. It actually made me cry, to be honest. I was so grateful for her generous donation as well, which I just kept looking at, as I couldn’t believe that I had set in motion a series of events that would lead to kind people sending money for Rainbows. Gill is also on twitter @GillHeavens which is where we first met.

Writer and blogger Alison Levey of blackberrygarden.co.uk @papaver on twitter very kindly offered to give Barbara accommodation for the night. I’m so grateful, as our spare room doesn’t bear inspection at the moment! It is in need of a complete renovation. I feel another blog post coming on…..

My dear friend and neighbour Charles Geary from award-winning Leicestershire company Geary’s Bakeries has promised to donate all the bread for our afternoon tea. And my amazing and ever-supportive Mum is making the cakes! Our local Co-op supermarket at East Leake is supplying the tea, sugar and milk.

I wrote a review of Barbara’s book Here . Publishers Frances Lincoln, part of the Quarto Publishing Group, have offered two copies to give away to readers of my blog. To win a copy please post a comment below and two will be picked out at random. Terms and conditions: The competition closes on 12th November. Entries after this time will not be counted.Open to readers world wide. Prize cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative. Winners chosen at random and will be contacted via the blog or on twitter. Winners to provide their postal address and books will be sent in the post via Frances Lincoln. Secret Gardens of East Anglia can also be purchased from amazon Here. Please also say in your comment if you don’t wish to be included in the give-away. Good luck everyone! And never underestimate the power of a smile 😊

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