February Recipes : Pear and Almond Pastries

I’m making these again today. I opened the kitchen cupboards and there was literally nothing cheerful in there! No biscuits, chocolate, cake. We’ve run out of everything. I wonder if we will look back on these times and ponder how we lived through this pandemic and learned to appreciate the simple things in life. I shall certainly never take for granted being able to just pop to the shops. Everything has to be so well organised. Lists on top of lists. All food is being delivered, for which I’m extremely grateful. But, oh, the dismay at discovering that I’ve forgotten something- just as I’ve pressed the button to order supplies. It’ll be a week before I can get another delivery. We do see an end in sight with vaccines on the way, so keep going everyone. Keep smiling. And make pastries, as there’s nothing nicer to cheer you up than the sight of these lovely tasty treats. Any fruit can be used, they are just as lovely with apples, frozen plums, raspberries, tinned peaches – any combination you like. Let me know what recipes are keeping you cheered up, and report back if you make any of these delicious pastries too.

Here’s the link for the recipe: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/11/02/pear-and-almond-pastries-family-favourite-recipes/

And a photo of spring flowers to bring some joy as well:

White primulas. My favourites. Though I have seen some deep red double varieties mixed in with burnt orange which might look lovely in a blue China casserole dish…. if only I could get out to buy some.

Narcissi Geranium and cut flower collection tulips from last spring. All my tulips are poking through the ground now, and daffodils are in bud and flowering early. The veg patch is covered in forgetmenots. I use them as a green mulch to protect the soil and keep down weeds. Some are potted up to stand on the summerhouse steps. They are very easy to dig up as they have a shallow, fibrous root system. They do well when lifted and grown on in containers.

Daffodils make a very welcome return. I’ve watered them with potash or tomato fertiliser, having taken advice from a medal-winning grower. The liquid feed helps to strengthen the stems and enhances the colour, making them stronger and brighter. A good tip as we regularly seem to be getting stormy spring weather. It’s so sad to see daffodils flattened by the wind.

Eranthis hyemalis – winter aconite in the woodland garden. They won’t last long as temperatures are currently 13C.

Green-tipped Galanthus Viridapice looking pretty on the potting shed window. Snowdrops too have been a very welcome and joyous sight. But in the mild weather, they have opened right out and will be going over sooner than usual. I shall water these too with weak tomato fertiliser in the hope of boosting the size of the bulbs and increase the number of flowers for next year.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

*I’m trying something new- doing Instagram live sessions from the greenhouse every day, essentially to keep in touch with my Mum and MIL Joan, and also to show my daughters how to grow plants from seed. Under normal circumstances I would be by their side helping them with their new houses and first gardens. But I can’t while we are in lockdown, so I’m doing what I can from home. I’m karengimson1 on instagram.

January in the Garden

Here I am, pottering about in my garden again. I must say, the weeks fly by and it’s soon time to write another column for Garden News Magazine.

I hope you enjoy today’s article. I’ve had some lovely letters of support from readers saying my ‘potterings’ have kept them upbeat and busy during the pandemic. I’m pleased to see many readers have been inspired to have a go at different gardening techniques, or decided to grow something new. And many say the recipes are tasty, and always turn out well. What a relief!

Here’s some additional photos the editor didn’t use for the column. It’s fascinating to see which ones they choose. I submit about 10 for them to select from. It takes about a day to decide what to write about, take the photos and then actually sit down and compose the piece. It’s 350 words – which is actually quite a challenge. I try to say a lot in not many words. I edit it three times before I send it, taking out any spare words each time. What a luxury it is to write the blog. No one is checking the word count on here.

My hazel plant supports in the snow. New rods have replaced any that snapped, and have been woven along the centre to add strength. We seem to be getting stormier summers, so plant supports have to be extra sturdy.

Some sweet peas I grew last summer. I’ve sown some in autumn, but the second sowing now will provide plants that flower right through to November. Successional sowing extends the season.

Seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.X_dxARDfWfA.

And https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/shop/gardening/seeds/easton-walled-gardens-mix.

Here’s a photo of ‘Sunshine’ climbing French beans. Highly recommended, easy to grow and prolific. We have a freezer full, and they only take a few minutes to cook from frozen. All the flavour and goodness is captured for tasty winter meals. I’ll be starting my bean seed in May. Don’t start them off too early as they cannot be planted out until the first week of June. If sown too early, they become leggy and weak. They are very fast growing.

Bean seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Pea-and-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-French-Bean-Sunshine.html#.X_dw0hDfWfA

Here’s a larger photo of the willow heart flower arrangement in the potting shed window. It’s made from Paperwhite narcissi, alstroemeria from the poly tunnel and dried gypsophila and honesty seeds from summer. The foliage is eucalyptus saved from Christmas floral arrangements. Flowers are held in a jam jar covered in moss which has garden string twined around it, kokadama -style. We are all trying to do without florists’ foam, and using jam jars, and tiny glass test tubes works really well.

See more ideas, join zoom -and in person lessons- with Georgie Newbery at Common Farm Flowers : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/collections/workshops

Paperwhites came from Gee-Tee Bulbs https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Gypsophila and honesty seeds from https://higgledygarden.com/

I mention new birds boxes. I wrote about CJ Wildlife supplies here: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/30/nest-boxes-and-bird-feeders-for-the-garden/

The RSPB nesting material is from: https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/nest-box-accessories/nesting-wool-refill.html

And finally, the rhubarb upside down cake recipe can be found here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/18/rhubarb-cakes-family-favourite-recipes/

Thank you for reading and getting in touch. It’s much appreciated. And a very Happy New Year to you all.

I’m @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Do say hello on social media.

A Walk Around My Garden, Sunday 23 August 2020

It’s been a challenging few weeks. We wanted rain. And we got it. A month’s worth in four days. Followed by Storm Ellen and 40 mile per hour winds. Anything not firmly staked, flopped over. Sunflowers and cosmos took a bashing. It’s taken a couple of days to prop up plants, tie them in, and sweep up twigs and leaf litter. I sometimes wish I was passionate about interior design instead of gardening. Wouldn’t it be lovely to create a scene, and have nothing smash it to pieces. But, sadly, I’m not remotely interested in being indoors. I’m only really happy when I’m outside, in the fresh air. Anyway, to cheer us all up, here’s some photos of what’s in flower in my garden today.

My new rose, Belle de Jour. Rose of the Year for 2021. Flowers open clear, bright yellow and fade to sunset shades of peaches and cream. There’s a delicate fruity scent and plenty of pollen for bees. Nice healthy green leaves, which is good for an organic garden like mine.

I think we can definitely say these flowers stand up to the weather. Some roses ‘ball’ in the rain. They fail to open and turn to mush. Luckily, Belle de Jour copes with a deluge; there’s not a mark on the petals. My rose came, by post, from Roses UK which promotes the British rose trade. I’m sure the new rose will be a huge success. It’s looking lovely in my garden already. And I’m always pleased to support British nurseries.

I’m growing a new variety of courgette, ‘Summer Holiday.’ Isn’t it pretty. I don’t know why, but this photo makes me so happy. It looks such a gorgeous little thing, bright yellow, with a twisty green stem. It’s a joy. And so easy to grow. I’m in favour of anything easy, this summer. Everything seems to have been hard work, so a highly productive trouble-free plant is very welcome. There’s a recipe for courgette and cream cheese soup to follow. It only takes ten minutes to cook.

Courgette flowers look beautiful too. They only last a day, but are a sunny, joyful sight. I’ve planted courgette and squash all along the base of my climbing bean frame. They make good ground cover and smother weeds.

Here’s the beans I’m growing this year. Don’t they look colourful.

Yellow: Climbing French bean ‘Sunshine’. A new variety.

Green: Climbing French bean ‘Limka’.

Purple: Dwarf French bean ‘Red Swan’.

All growing together along the hazel A-frame support, with blue morning glory intertwined. The dwarf French beans grow to around 122cm (4ft). Climbing beans are around 2.5m (8ft). Every day, I’m gleefully throwing handfuls of beans into the freezer. They will be such a treat mid-winter when fresh greens are in short supply.

I have a newly-planted border all along the path to the front door. It was infested with couch grass. Over the winter I dug out all the plants and turned over the soil, searching for every scrap of tiny white couch grass roots. I had to do this four times before getting on top of the problem. In May, I planted the border with annuals; sunflowers, nicotiana, cosmos, and underplanted them with salvias, which I treat as bedding plants as they are not very hardy here.

I favour dark dusky-coloured sunflowers. This one pictured above is ‘Black Magic.’ It’s a multi-headed sunflower the colour of dark chocolate. Bees love it, and the seed will feed birds in winter. I won’t bother growing ‘Italian White’ again. The first sign of a gale and the petals curled up and dropped off. Not hardy enough for my windswept plot.

If you like yellow sunflowers you would love these, growing in the back fields behind my garden. We cheered when we saw the farmer sowing the seeds in spring. It’s a wildlife -friendly mix to attract pollinators, and the seedheads feed birds and mammals over winter.

The ridgeway footpath goes all along the side of the sunflower field. We walk along it twice a day, as we are still in the habit of our lockdown exercise regime. And some of us are still not venturing far, as we can’t take any risks. I’m still getting over a serious illness from three years ago, and although surgeons gave me a second chance, I’m not strong enough to fight off infection. Doctors nowadays are forthright. And mine, straight to the point, said a ventilator wouldn’t be an option. So there we are. I have to be careful. I’m not dwelling on it. I’m just grateful for small mercies, sunflowers included, as I can gaze at them and feel happy. I don’t know how, but I can.

We still have swallows flying here. They must be finding plenty of insects. I’ll miss them when they go. I think of the journey they have to make, such tiny birds. Such a long way. It’s always an anxious time waiting for them to return in spring. Maybe, I’m going to have to get my courage up, and be like the swallows. Set off into the unknown. I can’t stay here forever, as lovely as it is, and as tempting as it’s become to say how well I’m coping. Someday soon, I have to set forth. Wish me luck!

On the footpath, going home, I pass by this old crab apple tree. It must be 100 years old, the size of its trunk. It makes a natural arch over the pathway. I like to gaze into the distance and wonder how the view might have changed over the past century. Probably not a lot as it’s still all farmland round here. But the people who’ve passed by this tree, their lives would have been very different 100 years ago. We have so much to be grateful for.

Nearing home, by our field gate, you can see the row of trees we planted 30 years ago when we were in our 20s. We never thought those little saplings would grow into a wood. And we didn’t know how much joy they would give us, watching the leaves change through the seasons, and giving a home to birds and wildlife. This summer, these daisies suddenly appeared. On sunny days, they have a strong chamomile scent. They may only be weeds, but they are a lovely sight, even so. Don’t you agree.

How has your garden fared this summer with the heatwave, drought and storms? It feels like we have faced many challenges, all round. Let me know what’s looking good in your garden right now, and whether you are managing to get out and about yet, or like me, waiting for your moment.

Links:

Karengimson1 on instagram and @kgimson on twitter

Roses UK: https://www.rosesuk.com/

Rosa Belle De Jour: https://www.apuldramroses.co.uk/

Summer Holiday courgette: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Courgette-Seed/Courgette-Summer-Holiday_2.html#.X0GQChB4WfA

Beans: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Pea-and-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-Bean-Seeds/#.X0GQPhB4WfA

Sunflowers : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Black-Magic-F1-Seeds.html#.X0GQbRB4WfA

Six on Saturday meme : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/22/six-on-saturday-22-08-2020/

Six on Saturday. A walk around my garden 11 July 20209

Phacelia is a bee magnet. I’m growing it around the edges of the vegetable plot. It’s an annual, but self-seeds readily. It can also be grown as a green manure crop, but for this use, it has to be turned into the soil before it flowers. I’ve been re-reading Jean Vernon’s Secret Lives of Garden Bees. Writing about Phacelia, she says: ” Look closely at foraging bees and you’ll notice the blue pollen balls that they collect from these flowers. ”

Geranium pratense. Meadow cranesbill. A native wild flower found along the grass verges here. Seed has blown into the garden and it grows along the hedgerows and amongst ornamentals. It’s very welcome.

Occasionally it throws up a white variant, and also flowers in delicate shades of lilac. I love the green ‘veins’ on the flowers. It reminds me of the markings on a butterfly wing.

Over on the veg plot, I found these flowers this week. They are potato flowers from the Shetland Black tubers growing in compost sacks. Aren’t they beautiful. You can tell the potatoes are part of the deadly nightshade family. I’ve never grown black potatoes before, so I’m eagerly awaiting the harvest.

Dianthus cathusianorum. In the gravel edges on the front drive, these bright pink flowers wave about on 50cm stems. They must love the free-draining conditions. We have to remember to drive around them. The scent is wonderful. Spicy. Heady. Memorable.

And finally, sweet peas. These are from a range called ‘Ripple Mixed.’ I’ve grown Wiltshire Ripple for many years, but the mixed pink and purple- striped flowers are fast becoming new favourites. Highly scented. Nice long stems. Long lasting in a vase. Recommended.

That’s my six for today. What’s looking good in your garden this weekend?

Why not go over to the propagator’s blog and see what everyone is selecting for their six today. It’s fascinating to see what everyone is growing, all around the world.

Links: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Phacelia :https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/item_977A_phacelia_tanacetifolia

Geranium: https://www.naturescape.co.uk/product/meadow-cranesbill-plugs/

Shetland Black potatoes :https://marshallsgarden.com/products/shetland-black-seed-potatoes-10506756

Dianthus: https://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/products/dianthus-carthusianorum-ruperts-pink

Sweet peas: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XwowbBB4WfA

https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/02/the-secret-lives-of-garden-bees-book-review/http://addictedtobees.com/. Jean Vernon

Don’t forget to read the next blog down, all about Niwaki garden tools. There’s some Niwaki garden snips to win.

A Walk Around My Garden- Sunday 14 June 2020

Sweet peas, sweet williams and roses are in full flight. I’m amazed anything survived the recent torrential hail and high winds. Some of the tree leaves have holes where the hail went straight through them. But flowers were unperturbed.

Rose Cerise Bouquet climbs to the top of a mature beech tree. It thrashed about in the storm, sending a cascade of red petal confetti across the lawn. It’s such a floriferous rose, there’s hundreds more flowers ready and waiting to open. It will bloom, on and off, until November.

I also feared for the climbing New Dawn rose. The willow tree supporting it was almost stripped of its leaves. Most ended up in the pond. There was no water to be seen. Just rose petals and shredded leaves. However, remaining rose buds opened, and the tree has put out tiny new baby leaves to replace those whisked away in the storm. I’m sure nature is sending us a message. Through troubled times, there’s always destruction, fear and grief followed by renewal. We have struggled through Corona virus times. But we will recover.

Pinks and carnations are in full flower now. I’ve planted old-fashioned types, Mrs Sinkins white and Doris Pink. I’ve also invested in some modern ‘Devon’ hybrids, Devon Cream, Devon Wizard. Cranmere Pool, Letitia Wyatt. The names sound as delicious as the wonderful scent. A good one to look out for is ‘Memories,’ an improvement on the heritage variety Mrs Sinkins with good weather tolerance and it is also repeat flowering.

I wouldn’t be without sweet williams. I’m sowing next year’s flowers now. A pinch of seed in a 3″ pot, or a sprinkle in a half seed tray. Leave at the base of a sheltered house wall and they’ll germinate in a few weeks. I’ll prick them out into a full seed tray and then plant them into their final positions for them to settle and produce roots and leaves this year. Being biennials, they will grow now, and flower next year. A whole bed of flowers for just a few pounds. I’ll grow the highly scented auricular-eye type, and one called Sooty, which is almost black.

I’m just planting the last of the sweet pea seedlings. The October-sown plants are in full production. But I’ll want a supply right through until first frosts. This is the secret of growing. Always keep sowing a few more and a few more. Make sure you have a back-up supply incase anything goes wrong. I’ve just had a neighbour at the front gate. Do I have any climbing beans, by any chance, he asks? Luckily, there’s some in the propagator – a back-up in case mine get nibbled. He can have these to replace the ones taken by rabbits. We chat about the weather, slugs, snails and mice. And covid. What are we to do, he asks? I shrug my shoulders. Keep going, is the only answer I have. Don’t give up. Celebrate the successes and don’t be beaten by the failures. Help one another where we can, and try to enjoy the simple things. Look closely at all the beauty in the world. That’s all I can say.

I usually take part in the Six on Saturday meme…but this week I’m a day late. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/13/six-on-saturday-13-06-2020/

Whitman Pinks:https://www.whetmanpinks.com/garden-pinks-en/page-3/

Peter Beale Roses https://www.classicroses.co.uk/

Mr Fothergills sweet Williams https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/

What’s looking good in your garden this weekend? Thanks, as ever, for reading. Your comments are always welcome.

Walk Around My Garden – Saturday 6 June 2020 #SixOnSaturday

This week, it’s mostly all about roses. As you would expect, wild roses have my heart. The garden is surrounded on two sides by tall hedges. We’ve never pruned them in 30 years. It’s one of those jobs we’ve always put off as being too big to tackle. Secretly, I love the wildness. Who says hedges have to be manicured. Who cares what people think. I love the tangle of honeysuckle and wild dog roses cascading from the top of 30 foot hawthorn. It’s a sight that gladdens my heart. I don’t mind if people assume we are too lazy to keep the hedgerow trimmed. I’ll hold my head up high. I’ve always been rather stubborn, you see. It can be a good thing when life gets tough. I’m quietly determined. I don’t make a big noise, but it’s amazing what can be achieved with calm tenacity.

Just pause for a moment and gaze at this pink hawthorn. This opens white, and fades to a beautiful shell pink. The hedgerows around here are mostly snowy-white Crataegus monogyna. Every now and again, there’s a pretty pink variant. It stops you in your tracks. You can’t fail to just stand and stare, it’s so breathtakingly lovely.

Rosa Canina takes full advantage and climbs high into the branches of trees and along the hedgerow. It’s a good year for flowers. Plenty of pollen for bees, and there will be masses of bright red hips providing winter food for birds.

Climbing through a mature willow next to the pond, there’s pale pink New Dawn. Again, I never prune this rose, or spray it. It just rambles where it likes. I expect the wind blowing through the tree keeps the rose disease-free. Blackspot tends to thrive in gardens where roses are surrounded by still air. In this windswept garden, luckily we have no trouble from either pests or diseases. It’s even too windy for aphids to get too plentiful. Those that survive, get eaten by birds.

We have a very overgrown pergola. The phrase ‘overgrown’ seems rather prevalent this week, I’ve noticed. The pergola goes from the back of the house, right round to the front drive. For half of it’s length, there’s this glorious rose Constance Spry. For about three weeks it has enormous highly-scented flowers. It only flowers once, but what a display! I’ve planted clematis, jasmine and ivy to extend the season. It’s a Rose I would never be without.

Constance Spry makes a lovely cut flower. Here’s it’s partnered with Sweet William which is just starting to bloom. It’s time to sow some more Sweet William for next year. I’ll use a half seed tray, good seed compost, and I’ll sprinkle the seeds sparingly. The tray will go at the base of the house wall on the north side, and seeds will germinate in about two to three weeks. I’ll then prick the seed out and put them in their own 3″ pots to grow on, or I’ll plant some in a holding bed on the veg plot. In August, they can be dug up and put in their flowering positions or planted out from the 3″ pots.

Here’s Constance Spry in a cutting basket with highly-scented Mme. Isaac Pereire, a heritage bourbon rose which dates back to 1841. This repeat-flowers all summer and mingles beautifully with Clematis Purpurea Plena Elegans. Plena means double, and these flowers are like purple pom-poms from August/ September onwards.

Finally, here’s the old china silk rose, Mutabilis. Much loved by bees. And, as you can guess, also grows quite happily without much attention, if any, from me.

As usual, after we’ve looked in the garden, there’s always a walk along the ridgeway path at the back of the garden. Today, there’s a video of skylarks. Turn the sound up loud. The farmer has planted wide bands of wild flowers around all the field margins. There’s a whole field of sunflowers and millet for wildlife. This year we have many skylarks. A few years ago we had a very poor summer with only one skylark. There is nothing sadder than the sound of a lonely skylark.

We’ve had some spectacular sunsets this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday’s walk around the garden. Are you growing any roses in your garden? What’s looking good where you are this week. Thanks again for joining me in my garden. All welcome, for virtual visits!

LINKS:

I like to follow the Six on Saturday meme and see what everyone is growing. #SOS

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/06/six-on-saturday-06-06-2020/

Dog rose: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants/wild-flowers/dog-rose/

Common hawthorn: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hawthorn/

Rosa New Dawn https://www.classicroses.co.uk/new-dawn-climbing-rose.html

Rose Constance Spry https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/constance-spry-climbing-rose

Rose Mme. Isaac Pereire. https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/mme-isaac-pereire

Sweet Williams. https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-William-Seeds/

Rose Mutabilis https://www.trevorwhiteroses.co.uk/shop/china-roses/mutabilis/

Skylarks: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/

Clematis : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/210954/Clematis-Purpurea-Plena-Elegans-(Vt-d)/Details

Walk Around My Garden Saturday 30 May 2020 #SixOnSaturday

Rose Constance Spry. Planted when my youngest daughter was born. Roses speak of celebration, and this one really shouts a welcome -to-the-world for Rachel. It flowers for three weeks in early June and fills the garden with a glorious fruit-salad perfume.

Where I am today. Up a ladder. Trying to control the tangle of clematis, jasmine and ivy. This has been allowed to run wild for four years. Little and often might be my approach to tackling the problem. Otherwise, it seems an impossible task. The pergola runs from the back garden to the front drive. A shady walkway in the heat. I’m not going to rush the task. Luckily I’ve got a new Henchman ladder to help with the task. No more wobbling on unstable step ladders.

Alongside the pergola there’s a wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa variegata. Some of the layers have deteriorated. I need to take advice on pruning to try to get it back in shape. Pruning the pergola will give it more light. Behind, climbing to the top of a mature ash tree is Rosa Cerise Bouquet which flowers on and off right through the summer into October.

Another rose looking lovely at the moment is Rhapsody in Blue which has been moved three times. Just goes to show, you can move roses, despite what it says in the books. Highly recommended. Disease resistant and free flowering. Lovely scent and unusual colour.

My grandfather’s rose, Zephirine Drouhin. He gave me this before he died. It’s wonderful to have something from his garden to remember him by. I know it was a favourite of his. I’m sure he knew it would give years of joy. And especially at the moment when everything seems uncertain and Covid has caused so much stress. It is as if he is still helping me, through all the plants coming into flower now. A reminder that life goes on, the seasons keep going. So must we.

My grandfather grew all his fruit and vegetables. People did in those days. Luckily, I watched, followed like a shadow and learned. And he gave me some of his garden tools, so when I’m hoeing the garden, I think of him, working his veg plot and feeding his family. I wonder what he was thinking while he was hoeing his garden. Did he find the peace that I’m finding right now. Was it a comfort to him, as it is to me, through all the trials and tribulations life throws at you.

Foxgloves have seeded in one of the veg plot beds. I’m digging these up and putting them in the wild garden, to make room for winter greens, Brussels sprouts and kale. Flowers will be picked for jam jar posies. I’m putting flowers on the village green again this summer to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. There will be an honesty box for donations.

The first sweet peas. Always popular in my jam jar posies. These were sown in root trainers in October. I’ve just sown some more for late flowering through to November. This one is from a packet of seed called Wiltshire Ripple Mixed. All have speckled flowers and a picotee edge. The scent is just wonderful.

As usual, when we’ve walked around the garden, there’s a short ramble along the ridgeway path to my ‘hole in the hedge’ porthole. It’s a viewing point I discovered a few years back. I didn’t make it, nature did, and I watch deer, rabbits, foxes, birds, owls, and hares, quietly and unnoticed.

Today, the May blossom has gone over, but there’s beautiful dogwood flowers framing the view. In an ancient hedge, there’s always something of interest. A tapestry of flowers, rosehips, crab apples, and seeds.

It’s just a humble wild dogwood. But it is as beautiful to me as any ornamental and expensive cornus tree.

And finally, after all that walking, sit a while in my 1930s summerhouse -on-a turntable. In the heat, it’s turned to the shade, facing the wood and pond. A perfect place to contemplate life and all the reasons to be grateful. All the things I value are not the things that can be bought. Hopefully my grandfather would be proud of the person I have become. I’d love to tell him how things have turned out. And that I’ve been happy, thanks to his good advice.

Links : I like to read and join in with the hashtag Six on Saturday why not go over and see what other gardens look like today, all over the world. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Henchman ladders like mine: https://www.henchman.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCgG1JcfaQwtYjZ_lj7F3XBMAvXjIpri5d5vqMGjRlDY0i6E414m6RBoCRQMQAvD_BwE

Roses : https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCtnJOqLRzmev76pY_7u5maadGtrLFXf09qHEGmx4mHw71JE0ccaxkxoClDQQAvD_BwE

Sweet peas :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.XtIkQBB4WfA

ACTIVEARTH soil conditioner – product review

I’m extremely careful with products I bring into my garden. I’m mindful of the creatures that share this patch of earth with me. There’s the obvious: birds, hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, frogs, toads, grass snakes and newts. Then there’s the less noticeable, all the insects and beetles which fascinate me and play their part in the food chain for all the other inhabitants here. So I don’t use chemicals. No fertilisers, weed killers or poisonous pest and disease sprays are used. And yet, the garden thrives and is beautiful and productive. Flowers and food crops do well.

It’s well known I’m an organic gardener, so I’m often asked to try out new products. Recently I had a delivery of Envii Activearth an organic ‘soil fertility activator.’ This contains nutrients and beneficial bacteria which helps to enrich poor soil and encourages worm activity. I care about my earthworms, so the product was ‘sold’ to me when the makers said it would benefit them.

I sprinkled the granules around in my veg plot, especially where I’m growing some beans which need good fertile conditions to do well.

The product smells pleasantly of chocolate. A small sachet goes a long way. I spread it at about 40g per square metre. I saw on the packet the product is also suitable for flower borders and lawns. It contains magnesium, calcium, hydrogen and potassium.

I was pleased to see the packaging can be composted and doesn’t have to go into landfill. Mine went into my green compost bin.

Here’s a peaceful stroll around my garden. Aren’t the birds loud this spring, I can’t ever remember so much birdsong. Or perhaps I have just always been too busy to stop and properly listen. If you love cow parsley you’ll enjoy my woodland walk at the moment. The paths are lined with gorgeous lacy white flowers. I’m planting white foxgloves amongst them just now for next spring’s display.

There’s a patch of wild garlic and three-cornered leek too. I’ve tried making soup with the garlic. Very useful when there’s little in the cupboards at the moment. I’m still not getting out and about, keeping safe and busy at home. I’m resisting attempts to call me back into the world for work. I’m quite happy mooching here in the potting shed. It’s so peaceful here.

This is the view from the potting shed. A favourite layered viburnum. Possibly Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. There were wild violets all around the base. They are still there, hiding under the stinging nettles. I’m working on reducing some of the nettles and adding wild flowers this summer.

We planted these foxgloves, Pam’s Choice, last summer. They brighten up a shady patch round the back of the pond. They stand up to high winds, which is just as well as we’ve had gales gusting 42 knots (says my husband – who is a sailor).

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s ramble around the garden. What’s looking good in your gardens today, and what plans have you for new plantings this summer?

Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for my sample product, but in common with most other bloggers, I only accept samples for review if there’s no payment given, and I can freely give my honest opinion.

Links : https://www.envii.co.uk/shop/activearth/

Six on Saturday – A walk around my garden 16 May 2020

A seedling sorbus mountain ash. Sometimes nature delivers such beautiful surprises. We didn’t plant this tree, it arrived all by itself. We allow plants to grow and any that fit in with our wildlife-centred scheme of things are allowed to stay. This seedling produces beautiful creamy white flowers. Much loved by bees. Then in the autumn, rich orange berries. Much loved by blackbirds. My youngest daughter Rachel has just bought her first house. What a time to be negotiating a house purchase, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been extremely stressful. But holding on to our hats and keeping calm, between us we have steered our daughter through choppy waters. And she and her boyfriend Sam have a (rather scruffy) old house with a very large garden. So today I’m digging up a few sorbus seedlings and potting them up for her new plot. I’ll also search out for some wild cherry, maple and oak saplings. The same size as those we planted when we moved here 30 years ago, our heads full of dreams to create a lovely home and have children. Now we are watching the youngsters cross the threshold of their first home, and it brings back all our memories. History repeating itself. We get to re-live our joy, as we watch them start their lives together.

As you can see, our little saplings have grow tall. The mini-wood is carpeted in bluebells and patches of wild garlic and three cornered leak.

Here’s the view from the pond. The turntable summerhouse is turned to the garden today to catch the morning sun.

The leaf-mould paths are lined with white lacy cow parsley. A favourite time of the year.

Wild flowers sweep along the edges of the paths. These are starry stitchwort, or stellaria.

Our little plot provides all the firewood we need for our log burner. A habitat for hedgehogs and beetles, insects and grass snakes too.

By the pond there’s a huge mature viburnum. I believe it is Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. It looks beautiful all year round. In May, it’s covered in flat creamy white flowers, and in winter the snow and ice settles in layers on the branches.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s walk around my garden. I’ve made a sunny place to sit and read in the front garden. Just right for mulling over the past, and looking forward to the future. I’m sure you’ll all raise a glass and join us in wishing Rachel and Sam many congratulations. Good luck with everything, and always be happy. Life’s not always a bed of roses, but if you stick together, help one another and always be kind, you’ll have a wonderful life together.

Karen xx

Links SOS : A favourite blog. Why not go over and see what photos other gardeners are sharing from their plots today, all over the world. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/six-on-saturday-16-05-2020/

Please leave a comment at the end of the blog, and feel free to share this blog on any social media platform . Thanks for reading.


Six on Saturday- A walk around my garden 25 April 2020

Bluebells. These came from my grandfather Ted Foulds’ garden originally. A lovely reminder of him. There was only a small patch to start with. Now they run from the front to the back garden. It’s surprising how fast they spread, without any help from me. There’s some wild garlic in amongst them too, which I’m trying to control a little this year.

Trees are leafing up so quickly in the sunshine and heat this year. The bluebells will have to be quick to flower and set seed before they are shaded out. This is the path past the summerhouse to the pond.

The view from the summerhouse. It looks like a jungle already. There’s oak, beech, hornbeams, cherry, willow and ash in the mini-wood. All the trees came as saplings from the borough council when we moved here 30 years ago. There was a scheme to plant trees on farmland. I think it was linked to the woodland trust. We applied, and they delivered 260 saplings for us to plant. The whole family set to and helped us plant them in a day or so.

All along the woodland paths there’s a lovely white starry flower, I think it’s called stitchwort. I didn’t plant it, but it’s very welcome here.

It seems to be all green and white shades today. May blossom or hawthorn is suddenly in flower.

Such a beautiful sight at dawn. These flowers were just in bud yesterday. The hedgerow is so beautiful just now with sections of crab apple, maple, hazel and viburnum all in a hurry to wake from their winter sleep. The scent from the crab apple blossom is something I’ve never noticed before. I think the heat is enhancing the scent.

Oops, that eight photos. I’m sure no one’s counting…..

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a view through my ‘gap in the hedge.’ I didn’t make this portal, nature did. I love to peer through and watch the wildlife. There’s always something happening in the back fields. Lovely to see some green shoots in the fields too. Fields have been bleak and bare all winter, after the flooding.

Links: Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. The comments box is below all the hashtags and social media sharing buttons. Please feel free to share too. Thank you.

BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour 22 April 2020

If you were listening in to BBC Radio Leicester for Gardens Hour today, I’ve written some notes to accompany the programme.

I’m working from home at the moment. The oak tree above has just burst into leaf. I can see the tree from the top of the paddock. The swallows returned here last Wednesday, and we’ve seen pipistrelle bats over the garden.

Blossom has been fabulous this year, with no rain to spoil the flowers. I’m sitting under this Prunus Kanzan cherry tree today to answer questions and talk about my gardening tasks.

We had a question about an apple tree failing to establish.

If your tree is failing to thrive, it usually indicates a problem with the growing conditions. Poor growing conditions will stunt any tree or shrub.

Water any newly -planted trees well. Soil may be dry around the roots even when the surface appears moist. Check with a trowel to see how far the water is penetrating the ground.

Weeds and grass compete with trees for moisture. Keep a weed and lawn -free zone at least 1m in diameter around the plant.

Mulch locks in the moisture and helps feed the tree. Apply a mulch a good couple of inches deep around the tree, avoiding the trunk. (mulch piled up against the trunk can cause ‘drowning,’ so take care it doesn’t get pushed up against the tree).

You can use your own home-made compost or composted bark for the mulch. Do not apply to dry ground, as it can also lock -in drought.

You can place a drainage pipe in the ground alongside the tree at planting time, which helps water reach the roots. However, take care, as too much water can cause water logging, which is also detrimental.

Feed with a potash fertiliser, which promotes fruit and flowers.

Salix Flamingo – wiki commons photo.

We had a question about a Salix Flamingo willow tree failing to thrive. The tree has come into leaf and the leaves have shrivelled.

I’ve found this tree difficult to grow. It’s grown for its new, shrimp pink leaves which emerge in April. These leaves are delicate and easily damaged by cold winds and frost. Too much direct sunshine on emerging leaves can also cause them to shrivel. We have had a combination of high daytime temperatures, cold east winds, and plummeting night time temperatures. In a sheltered garden you would have no problems, but in a slightly more exposed spot, the tree struggles. Also, being from the willow family it requires plenty of moisture. We haven’t had any rain for several weeks and the ground is parched- despite all the record-breaking amounts of rain we’ve had over autumn and winter.

Usually, the tree recovers and produces a new set of leaves to replace the ones that have shrivelled. Watering and throwing some fleece over at night usually nurses it along until we get more even growing conditions in early summer. I’ve known them to suffer from a type of rust, and also canker. But apart from that, they are very pretty trees. They either like you, or they don’t though!

We had a question about a montana clematis failing to flower. This is my clematis Montana Wilsonii. The one the caller had was a pink variety, planted last year and growing in a pot next to an archway. The clematis on the other side of the arch was doing well.

Clematis montana flowers on the previous season’s wood. The caller hadn’t pruned it, but sometimes a montana clematis will take 2-3 years to settle into flowering as its first thought is to grow to the top of the archway.

Clematis don’t do as well in pots, unless they are a really good size and you can keep up with the watering requirements. So it would be best to plant the clematis in the ground and keep it well fed and watered. Potash feed, again, for flowers. And prune immediately after flowering, although I hardly prune my montana clematis to be honest. It’s pretty low maintenance, once established.

And finally, we had a caller wanting to buy a Venus fly trap. They are usually sold at local garden centres, which of course, are not open at the moment. However several are making deliveries, so it’s worth ringing round to source supplies of plants. I’ve found this one on line from QVC. I’ve bought various plug plants, bedding and bird food from QVC and found the service to be quick and reliable. However, I’ve never bought any fly trap plants from them, so can’t say more than I have managed to find a supplier.

I hope you’ve found these notes useful. Please listen in on Wednesdays at 12.30 with Ben Jackson and on Sundays (usually) with Dave Andrews at 1pm on your smart speaker, DAB 104.9FM or on BBC Sounds.

It’s great to be involved with local radio gardening and we try to offer something for experienced gardeners wanting to try new varieties and grow for shows, and also for those who have never grown anything before. All questions welcome. We will try our best to help. I am part of an experienced team.

Comments box is right at the bottom of the page, below hashtags, social media sharing and links.

BBC Sounds to listen back: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p088w205. At 2.37.30 on the timeline.

Links : https://www.qvcuk.com/Thompson%26-Morgan-Dionaea-Muscipula-%28Venus-Fly-Trap%29-9cm-Pot-x3.product.518780.html?sc=Froogle&ref=fgl&source=froogle&utm_source=google&utm_medium=base&utm_campaign=base&cm_mmc=PPCSHOPPING-_-Google_Shopping-_-SmartShopping-_-Garden&Leisure&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5nSbQtMrf4di1C69MLikRT3XMgWNUhDGsymlRFAS-4yMUnqRnj5vxRoCm6AQAvD_BwE&

What’s flowering in the garden 7th April 2020 -BBC Radio #SowAlong #BBCRadioSowAlong

If you have been listening in to Gardens Hour on Wednesdays on BBC Radio Leicester, you’ll have heard our ‘ten minute tips’ recorded in Ben Jackson’s garden. I always come home and plant the same varieties in my windswept country garden. Ben’s plot is in a lovely sheltered walled garden in a village. His soil is beautifully free-draining, in a garden which must have been worked for 100 years. Mine is cold wet clay, created from farm land over the past 30 years. It’s an interesting contrast and I love to see how plants perform in both our gardens.

Here’s an update on plants, showing what they are looking like today.

We planted tulips for cut flowers on 29th October. These are Exotic Emperor, a new early-flowering tulip, a double form of the popular White Emperor. It has a long flowering period with delicately green flamed cream petals. Looks good for nearly six weeks.

We planted a ‘cut flower mix’ and mine included this lovely Tulip Flaming Purissima. This comes in a range of creams and pinks. Very pretty and reminiscent of the old fashioned flame tulips made famous in the Tulip-Fever era. Very long lasting, and weather resistant.

We planted bulbs ‘lasagna’ style in layers. Here’s my big Italian pot by my front door. This had snowdrops and dwarf iris in January, dwarf tete a tete daffodils in February, and now today has Hyacinth Blue Jacket, Exotic Emperor tulips and scented Geranium narcissi. When these are over, I’ll replant the pot with scented -leaved geraniums for summer.

In both our gardens we planted a range of daffodils to flower from February right through till the end of April. Here’s my pheasants eye narcissi planted under the cherry trees in the orchard. I’m so pleased with these, I’ll mass plant them in September for an even better display this time next year. I’ve gone round the garden making notes and taking photos to remind me where there are gaps and what changes I want to make. If I didn’t make notes, I’d forget by the time September arrives.

Talking about daffodils, we planted these Paperwhite narcissi on December 2nd. Some flowered at Christmas, but I held some pots back in the cold potting shed and brought them out a week apart so that I could have flowers for vases right through to the end of a March. Flowering times are dictated by amounts of daylight and heat. So plants can be manipulated to flower over a period of time.

We planted up our dahlias on 31st January. These were overwintered in a frost-free shed. I took 2″ cuttings in February and these have rooted in the propagator in 3″ pots at 18C. Above are the dahlias making really good growth in their seed trays, half filled with compost to start them off. They will stay in the greenhouse until the end of May.

We sowed our tomatoes on 28 February, and I pricked them out mid March. They are growing nicely just out of the propagator and on the greenhouse benches. I keep the greenhouse heated at 6C.

On 9th March we planted our tiny plug plants which cost about 60p each. We planted them individually in 3″ pots and put them on a sunny windowsill.

They have grown really well, and I’ve managed to take three lots of cuttings from the mother plants, which means lots of bedding plants for free. Taking cuttings makes them grow strong and bushy too, instead of tall and spindly.

We also planted up some impatiens plugs into 3″ pots. These are now in flower and I’m putting them into their summer containers to grow on. I didn’t pay for these plants. They were free samples from the grower, Ball Colgrave.

If you are listening in today, Wednesday 8th April, this is where I’m talking from because I’m isolating due to covid. I’ve got 100 cosmos seedlings in 3″ pots including a new variety Apricot Lemonade. I’m also growing calendula pot marigolds which are great for bees and butterflies. I’m growing the very pale lemon Snow Princess, and pretty calendula Orange Flash.

I’ve just planted my new potatoes, Charlotte and Lady Christl in two of the divided beds. They are planted 12″ (30cm) apart, 4″ (9cm) deep.

I’ve also planted my broad beans, De Monica which is a new variety specially bred for spring sowing. I’ve sown double rows, with plants and seeds 9″ (23cm) apart. Seeds were planted 2″ (5cm) deep.

And this is the view from the greenhouse and potting shed. Turn up the sound to hear the birdsong. There’s a bank of wild cherry trees on two sides of the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my greenhouse and garden. Hopefully the photos have jogged your memory about what we’ve been growing for our ‘ten minute tips.’ I’ll keep you posted on the progress of all these plants. I’m hoping the garden is going to be quite productive and very colourful this summer. That’s three uses of the word ‘hope,’ but under the circumstances, I think we all need some hope, don’t we.

Links : BBC radio Leicester Gardening – Sundays 1-2pm and Wednesdays 12.30 -1pm at the moment, subject to change due to covid. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_leicester

DAB 104.9FM and at BBCSounds. Ask your smart speaker to tune in to BBC Radio Leicester.

Update: today’s programme starts at 2.36.23 on the timeline. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p087sjhn.

A Walk Around My Country Garden -27 Mar 2020

When I planted this walkway of trees, I never knew how essential they were going to be. I must meander along these paths at least 20 times a day, lost in thought.

I’m sharing as many cheerful photos as I can find today. The covid crisis initially knocked me for six. I am desperately worried about all our elderly relatives. For all those expecting babies in the summer. For my young daughters, one a newly qualified nurse, working with desperately ill patients right now. If I could solve everything with walking, I would have worn out my shoes. It’s the first time in my life I have no answers. I can’t do anything to make it ‘right.’ Normally I can think of something. In every other crisis, I have found a solution. Something to make things better.

So I am turning to what I know. Gardening. Giving out advice to anyone who needs it. Families have struggled to buy fresh salads and veg these past few weeks. I certainly haven’t managed to obtain what I’ve needed. I couldn’t find bread, flour or milk. It’s made me feel vulnerable and determined to be more self reliant when it comes to fruit and veg at least. So anyone who needs grow-your-own advice can contact me and I will help. For specific individual garden design advice, how to start a cut flower garden, grow a meadow, deal with a shady border, I am asking for a donation to Rainbows Hospice direct, any amount and I don’t need to know how much. All my garden club talks have been cancelled, and as you know, all my fees go to Rainbows. The clubs have all rebooked for next year, but I wanted to do something for this year to help. So anyone interested, please e mail me at k.gimson@btinternet.com for more information. I am learning to Skype and FaceTime live, and also using the phone and computer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as my grandparents used to say. Funny how their little sayings come back to you in times of trouble. It’s as if they are trying to help you, even though they are no longer here.

Enjoy the slide show of photos. I hope it lifts your spirits and makes a difference. From now on, I am solely focusing on people who are doing good, sharing information about what they are doing, supporting them in any way I can. That really is the only way forward for me.

I took this video from the garden gate last night. It’s so heartening to see farmers out and about working their fields after such a dire autumn and winter. If they are out there preparing seed beds, then we can too in our own gardens. I shall be glad to see the green shoots of seedlings after a winter of brown, barren fields.

Hedgerow blossom. This looks like a shooting star to me. Such a beautiful sight. A heart-sing moment. The hawthorn too is coming into leaf. Soon there will be clouds of May blossom to cheer us along.

Lots of daffodils at the top of the paddock. These were a sack I bought from Dobbies at Christmas, reduced from £24 to £3. I couldn’t resist the bargain price, and took a risk. They’d been stored cool and dry so were in good condition. I didn’t expect flowers this year, but they are looking stunning. Every bulb has come up. I’ll water with a potash liquid to feed the bulbs for next year. And if I see another £3 sack, I’ll certainly buy it!

Yellow flowers symbolise friendship, and that is certainly what we all need right now to get us through this crisis. I’m relying on phone calls and my twitter friends to keep upbeat. I’ve just added my name to a list of local volunteers to ring round anyone who lives alone and needs someone to chat to once a day.

Today, the wild cherry trees (prunus avium) started to flower. What a wonderful sight. These trees only flower for a week or two, but we will sit under them with our cups of tea, have picnics outdoors and revel in every single moment they are in bloom.

My cut flower tulips are in bud. Tulips in the sunny front garden are already flowering early. I’ll cut a huge bunch of daffodils and tulips for the front windows. Vases of flowers will cheer up anyone passing by, even though they can’t call in to visit.

These double creamy tulips, Mount Tacoma, are favourites. They remind me of swan feathers. So graceful.

Scented narcissi, Geranium and Pheasants Eye, are starting to flower. Fabulous with yellow hyacinths and the first wallflowers.

In the greenhouse, the succulents are starting to glow. I’ve started to water everything, and I’m pleased this aeonium has come through the winter.

There’s plenty of citrus fruit coming along. I’ll be able to make orange cakes and lemon meringues soon.

Would you believe it, my new Polar Bear snowdrop is still in flower – at the end of March. It’s a new elwesii type of snowdrop with huge rounded petals and short pedicels which make the flowers look up and out rather than hang down. It looks rather surprised to be out in the spring sunshine amongst daffodils. I wonder if next year it will flower much earlier.

There’s life in the pond. The tadpoles are forming. Lots of pond skaters, some newts, and we’ve even spotted a grass snake, on our new wildlife camera set up on bank.

I’ve mounted the camera on a log, so I can move it about the garden without it being knocked over. Tonight we are hoping to catch sight of the hedgehogs. They are out and about at dusk, making nests in the bottom of the ‘fedge’ and under the old disused hen house.

Ladybirds are much in evidence. Here they are on the phlomis. My army of pest control workers. I’ve left twiggy piles of stems all around the garden to give insects a place to hibernate. Hopefully they will repay me by eating the aphids.

And there’s plenty of bees, thankfully. Bumble bees and solitary bees of all shapes and sizes. I have a new book to review, The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon. I can think of nothing better than sitting under my cherry trees and loosing myself in a book. It will be something soothing and calming. Much needed at the moment.

Here’s an enormous bumble bee on the wild anemones. It’s lovely to have a book you can go to to learn more about the bees visiting your garden. And look at ways you can help them to thrive. Something positive to focus on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around my garden today. The sun is shining and it’s 30C in the greenhouse. All the windows and doors are thrown open. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking lovely in your garden today. And if you are feeling alone or sad, let me know. We are in this together. And be reassured that lots of people are doing wonderful things to help one another. You just have to look for the positives in life. As ever.

Love Karen xx

Wildlife Watching – camera on trial and prize draw for readers

One of the joys of gardening is sharing my plot with wildlife. When I see hedgehogs, it makes my day. When the same hedgehogs emerge from the shrubbery with a family of babies, well, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve given them a home, and it’s simply wonderful to see them thriving.

Today I received a wildlife observation camera to try out on the plot. It took me 20 minutes to read the instructions and set it up, and it has been a constant source of joy all afternoon- and into the evening. There’s an infra red camera to watch after dark.

I set up the camera by the horseshoe pond and placed a suet block in front. It took birds a few hours to find the food, and they were suspicious at first. Then a robin and bluetit tucked in to the treat. The picture is really clear, and you can switch on the sound as well. It’s lovely to hear birdsong while you are working indoors.

The wildlife observation camera comes from Wildlife World. Everything is packed in eco friendly cardboard. The little postcard with a ‘thank you for your order’ message is a nice touch. We enjoyed the chocolates while fathoming out the instructions.

This is what’s in the box. There’s the wire-free outdoor camera, a box with a mounting bracket, a user guide, some screws, batteries, and a USB cable for charging.

The only assembly I needed to do was screwing the mounting bracket to the bottom of the camera. The batteries were already installed. I expect the camera could be attached to a house wall to watch a bird table, or near a nest box to watch birds and hatchlings. I want to watch a particular blackbird that comes to the pond in late afternoon every day. It spends a good ten minutes splashing around in the shallows. And I’m hoping to catch sight of the hedgehogs as I know they also visit the pond at night.

Here’s what the picture looks like at dusk. If we are very lucky, we might even see the barn owl flying along the boundary. He visits us every evening, silently gliding along the hedgerow like a ghost.

These are screen shots from my i-pad. I haven’t worked out how to share videos from the camera yet, but it’s early days and I’ll have to read through the instructions again.

At about 9pm, great excitement! A grass snake slithered over the stones and into the water. I hadn’t realised they were out and about just yet. But we’ve had two days with sunshine and warm weather. All evening I was glued to the screen watching a tiny mouse dart back and forth hoovering up bird feed crumbs. I took the suet block in for the night in case it attracted rats. And also I didn’t want the hedgehogs to eat it. They have their own special meaty-type food.

Here’s a sample of the instructions for setting it up. I had to go on to the App Store, find ‘ToSee’ and download the free app. It took about ten minutes to sort that out. I was quite pleased with myself, as I’m hopeless with any kind of technology. It was fairly straightforward and the camera connected with the app first time. I then carried the camera outdoors and set it down by the pond. Tomorrow I might move it to another location. When you close down the i-pad or phone, the camera sends a signal if it detects any animal movements. It’s quite a distraction from work!

Overall, I’m delighted with the ease of setting up, the quality of the picture and the welcome little extras such as sound and night time viewing. I have no hesitation recommending the Wildlife World observation camera. It is powered by rechargeable battery and has motion detection by PIR sensor.

I’m working from home now for the foreseeable future. The wildlife camera is part of my ‘coping with panic’ strategy. Corona virus is very much uppermost in my mind, as it is for all of you, I’ve no doubt. But I’ve decided to try to think of something each day that will bring me joy and ease my worries. Concentrating on gardening and nature soothes and heals. I’ve found this to be true twice before when I’ve been seriously ill. And now, like many, I must find coping strategies again, and ways to stay positive when there just seems to be bad news every day.

Please leave a comment below to be included in the prize draw for a wildlife observation camera. Names will be randomly selected by the company. Sorry it’s UK entries only. There’s no cash alternative. Camera types may vary. Wildlife World company decisions are final. Usual rules apply. Please also comment if you don’t want to be entered in the draw and let me know.

Keep safe, and I hope you can all get out and enjoy your gardens too. xx

Links: Wildlife World https://www.wildlifeworld.co.uk/product/wirelesswildlifeobservationcamera/

Last of the late snowdrops – and snowy pictures of my garden

Patience often pays off. I’ve been watching the prices for this new and expensive snowdrop. Then, when most of the flowers had gone over, the garden centre reduced the price! It was my lucky day. Galanthus Polar Bear is my new favourite snowdrop, and it’s a quite a beauty, isn’t it.

I managed to find a pot with flowers still in bud. It’s a very late flowering type with short pedicels, making the flowers fling out and look up at you. So unusual, as most snowdrops bow their heads and look down. It’s got a lot of charm, and is the star of my potting shed windowsill at the moment.

While we are still talking about snowdrops, I thought I’d show you some snowy photos of the garden. It’s been the mildest wettest winter on record here, and this is the first, and only snow we’ve had so far. It makes the garden look magical and hides all imperfections (fortunately.) No weeds are on show, and brambles look ornamental with an iced topping of snow. Here you can see my greenhouse, polytunnel and potting shed set up, all close together to save walking too far between them. In front of the potting shed there’s some renovated 1930s plant nursery trolleys. Very useful for moving plant pots about, and for staging potted displays. My second-hand poly tunnel has doors both ends which is great for good air circulation. The 20ft Alton Cedar greenhouse is also second-hand and renovated by my husband. We painted it black, and made matching black staging inside. Beyond is my cut flower and veg patch and then the orchard, before you reach the paddock gate leading to the ridgeway footpath.

In the exotic border in front of the potting shed, I’ve left stems and seed heads intact for birds to eat and insects to find shelter. These innula seeds look pretty with a topping of snow.

The horseshoe pond can viewed from the potting shed windows. There’s a gently-sloping boulder beach to stand on, and this gives easy access for hedgehogs, frogs, newts and grass snakes. It’s very calming to stand and watch the ripples from raindrops. Today the pond is a cauldron of frogs, mating and producing frog spawn.

From the pond you can see the cut flower and veg patch. My hazel sweet pea supports have weathered three named storms on consecutive weekends. Really, if they can cope with all that, I think they will stand firm and strong for the summer display. There’s little slab paths between the plots so I don’t have to walk on the soil. It’s a no-dig garden inspired by Charles Dowding who’s been a patient and valued mentor these last few years, along with his partner Stephanie Hafferty. They’ve both given me lots of advice and I’ve got more value out of my plot thanks to their suggestions.

At the end of the veg plot there’s a small orchard, rather neglected. We’ve pruned it this winter which means we might lose some of the crop in the summer. But over a few years we will get the trees back into shape and down to a manageable size for harvesting. Under the trees I’m planning a wild flower patch. I’m going to leave some grass and see what happens, I will sow some plug plants in another area, and finally I’ll try a wild flower lawn, ready seeded. I’ll report back on the project.

Finally here’s the view down the field hedge tunnel. This path is made from bark and brushwood chippings from the garden, put through my new Stihl electric shredder. It saves a fortune on bagged bark supplies, plus helps me recycle waste from the garden.

Thank you for reading. Please share on any social media platform , and get in touch and let me know what your garden looks like just now. Comments box is right at the bottom of the page.

Links: Stihl shredders : https://www.stihl.co.uk/STIHL-Products/099364/Garden-shredders.aspx

Polar bear : https://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/spring-planted-bulbs-and-snowdrops/galanthus-snowdrops/collectors-snowdrops/galanthus-polar-bear

In a Vase on Monday- flowers from my plot 9th March 2020

Finding comfort in familiar things, I’m joining in with my favourite IAVOM theme today.

Spring flowers always bring hope. And we need plenty of hope at the moment, don’t we.

Here’s my flowers, picked fresh from the garden. They are in an unusual location, the drinks holder of my car. The perfect place for a jam jar of flowers, on their way to my mother’s house (via Radio Leicester, where I talk about what’s growing on my plot).

There’s some shoots of Japanese cherry, Prunus Kojo-no-mai, at the back of the posy. Some lace-edged heritage primulas, Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White, plum coloured Hellebores, and one very pretty bellis daisy.

The daises have grown all by themselves in the gaps between paving slabs at my back door. Something so pretty, just growing from seed carried on the wind. They have given me as much joy as anything I’ve planted and tended, probably because they have survived against the odds. There’s no soil there. And no loving care. But they have thrived. A message to us all, about resilience, maybe.

I love the slightly messy, many petaled flowers of bellis daisies. There are single and double forms. Seed packets cost a couple of pounds. Once you have them, they will always be with you. But not necessarily growing where you put them!

In my mother’s garden, the daisies romp delightfully across the lawn and into the border. She mows around them. It’s obvious where I get my empathy with plants from. My lovely mum has always been my greatest influence in life.

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and successful week. I’d love to see what you are all sowing and growing in your garden just now. It’s very busy here, with plenty to do in the garden, as always. Hoping for some sunshine and nice weather – soon.

Links: In a Vase on Monday https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/in-a-vase-on-monday-pillaged/

Bellis Daisy: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Bellis-Goliath-Mixed.html#.XmZXWoGnyfA

BBC Radio Leicester, gardening starts at 1pm every Sunday with Dave Andrews https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002zx56. Listen back on Sounds, or ask your smart speaker to tune in to BBC Radio Leicester

Please share via any social media platform. I do not pay for any advertising, and I’m always grateful to anyone who spreads the word and signs up to follow, via e mail. Thank you. 🙂 🌱

Note: I was not driving when I took the photos in my car. Naturally.

Six on Saturday – a celebration of snowdrops in my garden- 29th February 2020

We had beautiful sunny weather for precisely ten minutes today. I ran out, opened the summerhouse doors, took some deep breaths of lovely fresh air. And then it snowed. That was the end of my time in the garden. Me and the cat ran back inside.

I’m sharing six photos of snowdrops, as this is the last day for them here. The snow will finish the snowdrop season in my garden, but it has been a lovely long spell. Snowdrops opened early in the mild temperatures, and they’ve stood up well to the rain, being under flood water several times in the past few weeks.

My favourite snowdrop Galanthus Madeleine has been stunning again this year. I bought it three years ago from Thenford Gardens. I shared a pot of six bulbs with a friend. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for a pot of snowdrops, but it was worth it. This year, I had nine flowers and plenty of extra leaves which shows it is happy and spreading. Pictured above are some of them on show in the potting shed. I love the way the petals fold around each other like the wings of a bee. So delicate.

Here is Madeleine fully open on the potting shed windowsill. It’s a very pretty snowdrop at all stages. The yellow markings are brighter in sunnier situations, and bulbs don’t like to be too wet.

Viridapice is another snowdrop I love. It has such pretty delicate lime green markings. Another good do-er. It is spreading nicely under the ash trees in the wild garden.

Living on the boundary between Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, I felt I had to have Galanthus Robin Hood. I’ve been many times to Sherwood Forest where Robin and his merry men are said to have lived. This snowdrop got its name from the crossbow X- shape green markings. It’s a very tall snowdrop and I have it at the top of the garden so you’ll pass by on the way to the back fields footpath. I have Galanthus Little John nearby, and I’m searching for a snowdrop called Maid Marian to complete the trio. They make me smile every time I see them.

Regular readers will know that I’m a bit lackadaisical with labelling. Sadly I’ve lost the name of this beauty. Maybe a reader will know what it’s called. Isn’t it striking though, with three petals spreading out like wings.

Quite honestly, I’m just as happy with our native snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. Plain and simple. It’s gorgeous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weekend snowdrop tour. I also hope you are having better weather than us at the moment. We’ve had a week with 12 Environment Agency flood alerts in one day. The greenhouse has flooded more times than I can count. I just keep sweeping the mud and water out of the door. I’ve never known a winter like it.

Please leave a message below to let me know what your gardens look like right now. How are you coping with the deluge?

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share on any social media platform as it all helps. I don’t pay for any promotions of any kind. I simply rely on your kindness in commenting and spreading the word.  Scroll down for the comments box, right at the bottom of the blog post.

Links: snowdrops from Easton https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/visit/opening-times-and-prices

Madeleine, https://jacquesamandintl.com/product/plicatus-madeleine/

Viridapice https://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/galanthus-nivalis-viridapice/classid.2000008237/

Robin Hood https://www.harveysgardenplants.co.uk/product/galanthus-robin-hood/

Sherwood Forest https://www.visitsherwood.co.uk/about-robin-hood/

Blue Monday in My Garden and Ridgeway Walk – 20th January 2020

Lace-edge primulas, looking glorious in January

Today I’m celebrating. I’ve spent the first full day in the garden for three years. There was much to do! Brambles and nettles have invaded the boundaries, and I couldn’t get down the side of the poly tunnel. Something needed to be done. And luckily my strength and energy levels have returned and I can be outdoors all day. Something I took for granted until becoming seriously ill in 2016. So happily, it’s not Blue Monday for me- it’s three cheers, and hello garden, here I come!

This area round the back of the potting shed and alongside the poly tunnel looks a mess. It’s out of sight and out of mind- until I need to clean the poly tunnel plastic covering. Then I can’t get access. So I set to and cut back all the nettle stems and blackberries. Some of the trailing stems are 4m long. Vicious, thorny things!

There’s a wheelbarrow under there.

Despite wearing tough clothing the brambles manage to ‘get me.’ But I fight back and win. It takes me a couple of hours, much longer than it used to, but I’ve learned to pace myself and celebrate every small achievement. By chipping away at the task the area is cleared, pots washed and neatly stacked and order restored. It’s such a nice feeling, to take back control.

I make a start on mulching the borders. Some of the boundary borders have become over run with plants such as geranium and euphorbia. Perennials like these can be rather too successful. Before 2016, the whole garden was planted with tender perennials, salvias, penstemons, exotics galore. Mum and I would visit rare plant fairs to seek out small treasures. But these require cosseting. I discovered there’s a good reason they are rare. They need splitting, dividing or they disappear. Cuttings require overwintering in a heated greenhouse. They are gone in a flash without tender loving care. I will replant, but hardier varieties are being selected. Newly acquired tender beauties will remain in plant pots, easily scooped up and swept into the greenhouse at the first sign of frost. I’m not giving up on delicate plants, just readjusting the balance.

A whole border of hellebores had to be dug up last autumn. The plants had become overrun with couch grass and weeds. We moved them to the woodland walk where the grass will die out eventually. And I’m delighted to report that hellebores can be moved and thrive. These are looking fabulous. Every one survived in the well-mulched wonderful leaf-mould soil. So pleased, as these were grown from seedlings given to me by a friend.

Another cause for celebration. My new potatoes for winter have been fabulous. We planted these on 7th August in recycled compost bags. Well watered through late summer, they grew like triffids. As soon as the weather turned cold, the bags were hauled into the greenhouse to be kept frost free. Since Christmas we’ve had a steady supply of tasty potatoes fresh from the greenhouse. There is nothing more cheerful than new potatoes in the depths of winter. I’ll be repeating the procedure again this year, with double the number of bags.

As always, after a hearty gardening session, as a reward, I head out of the top field gate and walk along the ridgeway path. Is there any finer sight than an oak tree set against a bright blue sky. It’s a sight I’ll never tire of.

A quick peek though the gap-in-the hedge. I wasn’t quick enough to take photos of the pheasants in the ditch on the other side. A magnificent thrill to see them skimming low across the field, their feathers rich and glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Hazel catkins, a welcome sign of spring. I cut a few twigs to prop up my amaryllis bulbs in the greenhouse. Flowers and catkins always bring cheer.

It’s a circular walk- along the path, down the lane and back home. This is the hedgerow alongside the lane. My favourite oak, on the ridgeway walk, is almost in the centre of this photo.

I stand and admire this 300 year old oak, one of a row. And I think about the farmer who planted them and didn’t live to see them grow to maturity. It’s such a generous act to plant a tree. It’s not for yourself, but for future generations to come. There are some gaps along the lane where elms have died. Perhaps I’ll ask the farmer if I can plant some replacement oaks. And someone else will stand before them, in time, and marvel at their beauty, like I do.

After a cup of tea, I potter about, collecting up plant labels – there are many- and wind-blown pots. I check the greenhouse, first tapping on the door to warn the wrens. They roost on the slider and if I don’t warn them, there’s a sudden flapping of wings around my head. I don’t mind sharing my greenhouse. It might mean the difference between survival and death, in a cold winter.

Turning for home, I notice the time is 5.05pm. It’s a wonderful sunset. And there’s still enough light to mooch about and easily find my way to the back door. Spring is on the way. And I feel ready for all the gardening challenges to come.

Have you spent any time in the garden today? What’s looking good or coming into flower on your plot. Get in touch and let me know.

Links : special primroses from Piecemeal Plants http://www.piecemealplants.co.uk/

Polytunnels, mine was second hand. New ones from https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvJXxBRCeARIsAMSkApqtMjv4FjaWKWNJbY1MEf_7o_CBJK1XrGe3UABgLDs1weAGIcT3A6caAk26EALw_wcB

I’m using mulch from https://www.bloominamazing.com/.

And also https://www.strulch.co.uk/.

And https://www.plantgrow.co.uk/products/

I wrote about growing new potatoes for winter here :https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

Compost from https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/our-products.aspx

Seed potatoes from https://taylors-bulbs.com/

Oak trees https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/english-oak/

Hazel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hazel/

I am @kgimson on twitter, karengimson1 on instagram.

Six on Saturday- Flowers from my Garden 4th Jan 2020

Winter flowers are more precious to me than summer blooms. In summer there’s an abundance of riches, and sometimes flowers go unnoticed with too much rushing about, keeping on top of the weeding. But in winter there’s time to stop and pause, and jewel-like colours lift the mood. Today I’ve picked my favourite blue Algerian iris. How can anything so delicate survive the cold! It looks like it is made of silk. I have a huge untidy patch of Iris unguicularis right by my front door. All summer we trip over the long strap-like leaves, and constantly threaten to dig it up. But from November to May there’s a daily flush of flowers, arriving in ones and twos. They last for a week, brought indoors. Perfect for a tiny Victorian glass vase. Iris unguicularis likes to be planted at the base of a south-facing wall. Heat and drought seem to suit it well.

My iris naturally flowers in winter, but there are also roses in flower, quite out of season. This is Rosa Phyllis Bide, a wonderful rambler which reliably puts on a show from early summer right through to autumn. I’ve also managed to find some Viburnum Dawn and Lisarose, and a sprig or alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. A cheerful, scented posy for the kitchen table.

After meandering around the plot I head for the garden gate and set off along the ridgeway walk. Fortunately it’s a dry day and the footpath conditions are improving. It’s been the wettest autumn for 50 years and farmers struggled to get in the harvest or sow autumn crops. In the distance there’s field after field of maize still standing. As far as the eye can see, fields stand fallow. There’s no lovely green shoots of winter wheat, barley or oil seed.

There’s only two crab apples left. Mammals and birds have had a feast. There’s been an abundance of fruit and berries this winter. Rosehips dripped like blood from the hedgerow. Huge flocks of fieldfares fly overhead and alight on the hedges to strip them bare. Resident blackbirds try their best to defend their ‘larder,’ but they are defeated by the noisy, marauding visitors. Luckily I’ve a store of cooking apples at home and I’ll throw a few out every day if the weather turns cold. Sometimes this bounty, regularly distributed, is the difference between life and death for birds. I generally rely on planting berried shrubs in the garden to provide natural food. But if it turns really icy, I’ll buy some mealworms, nuts and seeds.

As usual, I look for signs of spring. I know there’s a months of cold weather to come, but it’s heartening to find fat buds on the oak trees, above, and grey catkins on willow. Back home, the winter-flowering honeysuckle is in bloom and the scent wafts around the garden. It’s always a surprise to find such a delicious scent emanating from such insignificant flowers. I’ve wound some stems through a silver birch wreath, along with fluffy wild clematis seed heads. After Christmas I miss the decorations. I keep the festive feeling going, but swap to spring flowers instead. This will look lovely and cheerful over the summerhouse door.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden and along the ridgeway today. What flowers have you seen in bloom already? Get in touch and let me know what’s bringing you joy in your garden over the winter.

Links: iris unguicularis https://www.woottensplants.com/product/iris-unguicularis/?gclid=CjwKCAiAjMHwBRAVEiwAzdLWGOy0g3Obpt8I_71GTzDsIURPiShw3RWDCpwp4RC80YOuRaFAqW3ikRoCDakQAvD_BwE

Rose Phyllis Bide: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/phyllis-bide?gclid=CjwKCAiAjMHwBRAVEiwAzdLWGOQWws_A5vY11U8becLKemzBaIcwDJ3IzRUq2t10myMB88ssr2Rx4RoC2H0QAvD_BwE

Wild crab apples: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/crab-apple/

Lonicera winter flowering : https://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/lonicera-fragrantissima/classid.4101/

Fieldfares: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/species-focus/fieldfare

Happy New Year Everyone! Some news from my garden 31 December 2019

Photo: Paperwhite narcissi and pink alstroemeria from my greenhouse today. Gypsophila and honesty seed heads saved from the summer. Eucalyptus foliage and willow heart. Flowers are in a jam jar covered with moss and twine, kokadama-style. Lovely to have home-grown flowers for the New Year.

I love surprises. My grandmother used to say you can never predict what’s going to happen, so don’t worry about tomorrow. Concentrate on today. I’ve pretty much tried to follow her good advice. And just about everything she said has turned out to be true. So, I’ve been writing this blog for three years- not knowing where it would take me. And the biggest surprise is that it’s followed by a growing number of readers. I set out thinking I’d be pleased if just one person read it and was inspired to grow something from seed. Well, I’m amazed and pleased to say the blog was shortlisted this year for the Garden Media Guild Awards. The awards ceremony was quite a glitzy affair at the Savoy in London- not somewhere I ever expected to visit. It was hosted by Nick Bailey, and I sat next to Pippa Greenwood- someone I’ve always admired. Rachel DeThame and Anne Swithinbank were on the next table. Alan Titchmarsh won an award for practical gardener, and Carol Klein was given a lifetime achievement award, presented by Roy Lancaster. Marc Rosenberg won news journalist of the year. Bramblegarden didn’t win the blog category, but just to be a finalist was quite something for me. It took me right out of the potting shed and out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing, now and again, isn’t it.

My second lovely surprise came when the weekly Garden News magazine asked me to write about my garden, and the first of my articles is out this week!

Mum and I have been subscribers for about 20 years. Never in a million years did I think I would be sharing my garden with readers. But that’s what’s happened and they’ve asked me to write and send photos of what I’m growing on a regular basis.

There was a bit of a panic when they asked for photos of the garden. It’s not looking its best in winter, and the rain means I’m very behind with tasks. But I made an immediate decision not to have a frantic tidy up. My garden is what it is. There are too many brambles and stinging nettles, and those will be addressed over the winter. But, apart from that, it will be as it is, a rather messy garden with zones of productivity. I’ve got 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long with little paving slab paths between. This means I never have to stand on the soil. For the past three years the whole garden has been ‘no-dig’ following the principles of Charles Dowding. There’s a 20ft Alton cedar greenhouse I’ve painted black, and alongside, a matching 20ft poly tunnel. The rest of the one acre garden is mostly trees, and low maintenance shade planting. It’s left to the owls, grass snakes and hedgehogs. I’m delighted to share space with them all.

Across the centre of the veg plot there’s a hazel wigwam or A-frame trellis. This has been patched up for the past two years and will be renewed this winter, ready for spring planting.

The hazel frame is perfect for growing sweet peas. The plants just scramble up by themselves. I don’t have much tying in to do. I plant gladioli down the middle of the structure to utilise the space. These grow about 1m tall and usually need staking, but the hazel frame supports them instead.

This is my favourite Wiltshire Ripple variety, which has a fabulous scent.

Here’s how I make my newspaper pots, using a spice jar to form the tube.

I stand the newspaper tubes in terracotta pans. It’s a good task to do when the ground is too wet to work on, which has been the situation here for the past three months.

Albutt Blue. It’s wonderful to be thinking about sweet peas – in the middle of winter.

I wish I could share the scent from all these flowers. Sweet peas are the essence of summer.

What plans have you for growing in 2020? Are you planting old favourites, or trying something new. Get in touch and let me know.

And remember, if you are writing a blog, you never know who might be reading, or what opportunities might come your way. Just enjoy your blogging.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year. Happy Gardening!

I am on twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson/status/1149241935502225408

On instagram at https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Links: Garden News magazine: https://www.greatmagazines.co.uk/garden-news-magazine?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujlf4tfcbFd4OxHcjvuH6NR9Uk54A_wVM0S9IDq_ZeSvA0FtiofT0oaAg9_EALw_wcB

Garden Media Guild: https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/awards

Sweet peas Mr Fothergills https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.Xgur1YGnyfA

Sweet Peas Easton Walled garden https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on

Higgledy Garden Seeds https://higgledygarden.com/

Savoy London https://all.accor.com/hotel/A597/index.en.shtml?utm_term=mafm&gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujh9QGSEjYNiJ8ON9HjLVkRMH3UNhpD8tpccFO4povH1E6R5zr5qXIaAikZEALw_wcB&utm_campaign=ppc-ach-mafm-goo-uk-en-uk-exa-sear-a&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=uk-en-GB-V2352&utm_source=google

I like to join in with In a Vase on Monday, although it’s usually a different day : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

And Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Happy Christmas Everyone!

I’ve escaped from the house for half an hour. There’s two dozen mince pies in a tin. All my cooking is done. Icing sugar is liberally sprinkled all over the kitchen table. But clearing up can wait. I need to get outside into the garden. Surely, no one will miss me for 30 minutes…..

I’ve been saving crab apples for Christmas decorations. There’s Red Sentinel, Jelly King, Transitoria, and the common malus sylvestris which grows wild in hedgerows around here.

I’m trying to use less plastic and wire in the garden. So as an experiment I’m using cocktail sticks to secure my apples. I’m not using floral foam either. Flowers can be tucked into little glass jars and test tubes. Foliage can be woven into willow. It just takes a bit of forward planning. And I’m pleased with the results.

Wild clematis, old man’s beard, highlights the rosy red apples and rosehips. Such a joy to use what’s to hand in the garden. Within a few minutes I’ve gathered everything I need.

I planted dozens of rosa canina when we made a garden here and rosehips are plentiful this year. I never take all of them from one place. Always leave some for the birds. They’ll need them to get through a cold wet winter.

My willow and crab apple wreath cheers up the summerhouse for Christmas. I’ve heaped woollen blankets in there and created a little library of favourite books. A peaceful place to rest and survey the garden birds. We’ve plenty of robins and blackbirds in the garden. They will be looking for nesting sites soon. Behind the summerhouse, the fields lie fallow this year. It’s been too wet to plough and sow any winter crops. Winter barley and wheat would usually be providing bright green shoots by now. It’s sad to see the ground so waterlogged and unproductive. However, birds and mammals are finding ‘leavings’ from the summer crops. Today we saw 300 field fares land in the field. They must be finding left over seeds and grains.

This is the field gate we walk through as we set off across the back fields. There’s a footpath along the hedgerow. Usually, there’s only us rambling along, but at Christmas the lane attracts a great many walkers. I like to decorate all the garden gates with willow and foliage. It only takes a few minutes to twist six willow stems into a heart and wind in some holly and garrya elliptica. Some dried hydrangea Annabelle makes a focal point, and hides the string tying everything together. Three crab apples glow yellow in the afternoon sunshine. It’s a constantly changing arrangement as birds peck at the hydrangea and apples. I don’t mind. It’s wonderful to watch them enjoying the juicy fruit. I can easily add some more. I enjoy the birds as much as the arrangements to be honest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s walk around my garden. Thank you for all your lovely, kind and encouraging comments all year. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. See you in 2020, when there will be some exciting new developments at bramble garden to show you. Enjoy your gardening as well as your festivities. Now, back to the icing sugar and that messy kitchen table….. there’s trifles still to make. And Christmas puddings to steam.

A walk around my garden Tuesday December 17 2019

Photo taken February 2019.

Something I love to do is pot up a lot of bulbs to make a table display. Bulbs are fantastic value right now. Today I bought two sacks of daffodils reduced from £24 to £3. They were virtually giving them away. I just couldn’t resist. So the morning was spent cramming them into 6″ pots with recycled compost saved from summer. As pots of compost are not very inspiring, I’m sharing a photo of my table display from February this year. Isn’t it cheerful to think we will be looking at all this colour in just a few months.

From left to right, there’s white Carnegie hyacinths, yellow tete a tete daffodils, Blue Jacket hyacinths, white Joan of Arc crocus, and various bright and wonderfully scented primulas and primroses. The perfume carries all around the veg garden. Such a joy after a cold, wet autumn and winter.

Some bulbs just starting to come into flower are Paper White narcissi. I started these off a few months ago in 10″ pots in the cold poly tunnel. There will be a steady stream of highly -scented pure white flowers for the next three months. Fabulous for cut flower displays for the potting shed and house. My favourites.

This week I harvested some of the new potatoes grown in recycled compost bags for Christmas.

I wrote about planting them here :https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

There were a few critical comments on social media when I posted this. Some people said it was a waste of time, there wouldn’t be much of a crop, the potatoes just didn’t grow for them. I was quite down-hearted for a while, thinking I might have wasted my money on the seed potatoes. But, this week, I tentatively plunged my hand into the compost bags, and found these beauties. There’s lots more to harvest. The good thing about growing them in bags is you can just take a few at a time. So I’m glad I didn’t listen to negative comments and give up. I’ll certainly grow them again for next Christmas, and I’ll double the number of bags; that new potato taste is absolutely wonderful in the middle of winter. A special treat. Which is what gardening is all about, pushing the boundaries and trying something new. A little bit of success is so encouraging.

Another winter task I love is making plant labels from twigs. I’ve lots of self-sown ash and hazel trees in the garden with nice straight stems. A good way to control them and make something useful from the wood is to cut them into 8″ -10″ lengths and shave off one side for the writing. It’s a lovely soothing job when you’ve spent time battling through crowds for Christmas shopping. Restores balance and good humour!

Following a wander around my garden, there’s always a trip through the top gate and out on to the back fields. These trees are much admired every day of the year. There’s usually a buzzard perched in this first one. It flies along to the next tree, keeping just ahead of me, as I amble along. Quite often there’s a pheasant in the ditch. Meg almost catches the tail feathers as they leave it until the very last moment to fly away. She is being trained to stop and do no harm. But the pheasants don’t know they aren’t in any danger. They make quite a noisy fuss, skimming low over the fields right to the other side and safety.

Along our walk today we visit the sunflower field. Great clouds of small birds rise out of the crop. The sunflowers are like statues- all facing south, their heads frozen in time, but determinedly facing the sun. Backs to the north wind. Like us really. Today, I’m facing south and trying to catch any slight rays of sunshine I can.

I find lambs’ tails. Hazel catkins. That’s sunshine to me. Soon be spring, they seem to be saying.

What signs of spring have you found in your garden today? Have you got snowdrops showing through yet? Here they are poking through the ground, tiny milky white buds like the eye of a needle.

I like to read Six on Saturday. Mine are always more than six, and I can’t always take part on the right day. Life is too short to worry about these things. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/six-on-saturday-14-12-2019/

Christmas Flowers -In a Vase on Monday

There’s something very appealing about rooting around in ditches, searching for moss covered twigs and pieces of crumbly old bark. I like nothing better than finding bits and pieces that might come in handy for floral arrangements. It brings out the inner ‘Borrower’ in me. I suppose it’s the same as beachcombing for pretty shells and driftwood. Very soothing and satisfying.

It takes me an hour or so to gather enough twigs, moss, ivy and rosehips for today’s projects. The hedges are thick with swags of ivy all adorned with clusters of glossy green berries. These will ripen and turn black in time and provide a feast for the birds. Luckily, there’s enough for everyone to share. I never take too much from any one area.

Wild roses have taken years to climb to the top of the hedges and rosehips form great cascading arches right down to the ground in some places. Meg, my little puppy digs and burrows around in the ditch. She loves this occupation even better than I do, always keen to help, emerging with mouthfuls of sticks and an eager expression. By the end of the morning, my baskets are full, and Meg is happily muddy. We head home, mission accomplished. Setting the finds on the potting shed table, I’ve plenty of red-berried plain green holly, some trailing larch branches festooned with tiny gold fir cones, tendrils of old man’s beard or wild clematis and a pile of wild cherry stems, thick with flower buds already. These stems go into water and straight into the house where the warmth will bring them into flower by Christmas, if I’m lucky. I stand and survey the haul for quite some time. Then I wind willow and silver birch stems into hearts and circles and start to weave in the hedgerow bounty, adding crab apples and dried cow parsley seed heads which remind me of shooting stars. Meg sleeps on my coat in a box under the table, satisfied with her morning’s work. Occasionally, there’s a huge yawn, but mostly deep breathing, like a well fed baby. And in the peace and quiet, I can get on with my tasks.

White alstroemeria and tiny white Stallion chrysanthemum from the poly tunnel pots, adding colour to the hedgerow greens. White gypsophila, dried from the summer.

Hedgerow finds with dried hydrangea flowers and pine.

Teasels and Garryia elliptica on the field gates.

Hydrangea Annabelle with a clematis Montana and willow circle.

Hydrangea and old man’s beard clematis catching the sunlight.

A simple willow heart and ivy.

Christmas hellebore. One of the Gold Collection varieties. A welcome addition to seasonal arrangements. Slit the stem lengthways for 4″ and stand in water right up to the flower head, before using in arrangements.

Summerhouse posy. Holly, lavender and fir.

Rosy hydrangea flowers, wild clematis and pine.

Willow, dogwoods, skimmia and conifer stems.

Potting shed window. Rosehips, crab apples and cow parsley seeds.

Links : In a Vase on Monday. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/12/09/in-a-vase-on-monday-spike-revisited/

A Walk Around My Garden and Back Fields -7 December 2019

Can there be anything more cheerful in winter. Hyacinths, planted in October and grown in the dark, now brought out into the light. Roots climbing out of the pots. Emerald green flower spikes. The promise of flowers- and scent- at a time when we need promise. I potter about all day in the sunshine, planting bulbs, poking about in plant pots, looking for life. I find snowdrops. The tiny white flowers, tight closed. But soon they will be lighting up the garden.

In the greenhouse, the miniature iris bulbs are through. I’m growing Iris reticulata Harmony, a lovely deep inky blue; Katherine Hodgkin, pale blue, and a new variety, Katherine’s Gold, a sport which is a pretty pale yellow form.

These pots will be placed on garden tables in spring, but for now, they’ll stay protected in the greenhouse. Mice are very partial to bulbs.

All jobs completed- pots tidied for recycling, and a few leaves raked into piles to be turned into leafmould- I set off for my daily walk out though the top gate and along the hedgerow path.

Oak trees and hedgerows are almost bare now. A chance to enjoy the beautiful intricate structure of branches. Hidden views are revealed, and if we are lucky, we see a barn owl, hunting in the late afternoon as food becomes scarce.

Just a few crab apples remain on trees. Blackbirds and mice have had a feast this year. It’s been a record harvest.

I find a patch of oak leaves turning a glorious gold. But why haven’t the winter gales blown the leaves across the field, like the rest of them.

Looking closely, I find leaf galls on the undersides of the leaves. They are types of Oak Spangle galls. I wonder if they can somehow manipulate the chemical composition of the leaf to delay senescence. I have seen tiny insects, mine caterpillars, do this in my beech leaves. There are so many mysteries, so much more to learn. Who knows if this will be useful to humans in some way in the future.

On my beech tree leaves, a tiny green oasis remains. Evidence of tunnelling by the moth larvae of Stigmella tityrella. Have you ever noticed these on your trees before?

I find a hazel leaf cozily wrapped around a twig. I gently peep inside. Who could resist? A tiny cluster of ladybirds are snuggled at the base. I carefully fold the leaf back and hope they stay safe and sound until spring.

Turning back, the sun is starting to set. I can see our trees in the distance. A blackbird sings in the hedge. It sounds so loud on a still afternoon when there’s no one else around to hear it. Just me. It will be dark soon, so I hurry across the fields. Suddenly it feels cold. How quickly a sunny day can turn to dusk. Luckily I know the path well and could find the way with my eyes closed. Which is just as well, as it’s pitch black by the time I reach home.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share my blog and help me spread the word. Are you managing to get any gardening done at the moment. Get in touch and let me know.

Links: More than Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/six-on-saturday-07-12-2019/

Stigmella tityrella :http://www.leafmines.co.uk/html/Lepidoptera/S.tityrella.htm

Moths: https://ukmoths.org.uk/species/stigmella-tityrella

Galls: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2018/07/galls-to-spot-this-year/

A Walk Around My Garden – 23rd November 2019

If I could only have one tree, it would be a field maple. At this time of the year, there’s a golden carpet of leaves covering the whole garden. Even dark corners and shady woodland walks are glowing yellow. Much needed cheer, when the days are short and turning cold and dark. We must find our own warmth from nature, whenever we can.

This year, I’m experimenting with the boundary. Thin branches are laid horizontally to form a ‘fedge,’ a cross between a fence and a hedge. This creates a habitat and shelter for mice and hedgehogs, birds and insects. Smaller twigs are put through my new shredding machine to create woodland paths and mulch. The idea is to make use of everything in the garden and do away with the need for bonfires, which are bad for the environment. Sunflower and cow parsley stems will be woven into the ‘fedge’ creating useful hibernation sites for beetles, ladybirds and lacewings. Even earwigs are welcome here, useful predators of vine weevils and many orchard pests.

Looking up, you can see there’s plenty of twiggy growth in this garden. I rather like the pattern of black stems and yellow maple leaves. It looks like a pen and ink drawing and someone has ‘scribbled’ across the skyline.

Temperatures suddenly dropped below zero for the first time this autumn. We’ve been relatively mild until now, with record amounts of rain. The hazel trees responded by dropping all their leaves in one go- as if in fright. Overnight, puddles of ‘gold’ appeared all over the garden.

Searching for more gold, I found a dogwood, Midwinter Fire.

This dogwood is beautiful all year round, but particularly shines in November. When the leaves drop, bright orange stems will catch the winter sunlight. A wonderful sight in snow and frost. Well worth planting in any border, in full sun, or part shade. Needs minimal pruning, unlike the red-stemmed varieties which can be pruned to the 3″.

Mooching about the garden, I find a mini potted fruit tree with its first apple. This is a desert apple, Malini, growing on a dwarfing root stock. I’m growing it in a 12″ pot and it will go with my youngest daughter when she flies the nest. I have a patio full of tiny fruit trees, to form a fledgling orchard, for her first home.

Into the poly tunnel, I find some pretty chrysanthemums coming into flower. These are the hardy Stallion variety. They can cope with the cold, but do better if protected from rain. They are grown in 10″ pots, stood outdoors all summer, and brought under cover in October.

There’s plenty of yellow chrysanthemums too. We call these Aunty Dorris, as cuttings were given to my father law by his aunt in the 1950s. Much treasured in our family.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk around my garden this week. Are you searching for colour at this time of the year. What are you finding that’s cheering you up at the moment?

Finally, as a change from gold, I find these beautiful – and very late roses in the front garden hedge. I believe they are the Ballerina Rose, a really good, disease-resistant variety. It flowers on and off all summer- and right up until Christmas. In fact, these roses will be going into my Christmas door wreaths, along with rosehips, old man’s beard wild clematis, fir cones and crab apples. Guaranteed to bring good cheer.

Links :

Field Maple, Acer campestre https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/field-maple/

Hazel : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hazel/

Dogwood https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/57639/i-cornus-sanguinea-i-midwinter-fire/details

Apple trees: http://www.lubera.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAw4jvBRCJARIsAHYewPOyG2A6Q46HJPng2Xsb2BEURZuS09DZ69up4PWKOAp7k10agvT6HVgaAuxQEALw_wcB

Rose Ballerina: https://www.classicroses.co.uk/ballerina-shrub-rose.html

More than Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/six-on-saturday-30-11-2019/

Six on Saturday- A Walk Around My Garden and Back Fields- 9th Nov 2019

It’s a cold, misty start to today’s walk around my garden and back fields. Peering through the gap in the hedge, the old oak tree looks golden. We see a fox crossing the field, so brazen in the morning light. Fox and field blend into one. All autumnal tones merge today. The fox heads for the ditch, sending a pheasant flying into the next field. In the hedge where I’m standing, blackbirds and robin start up their alarm call. I think it must be the fox causing the upset. But then a buzzard glides low overhead- silent at first, then making a plaintive mewing cry. I shiver. Magnificent. Deadly. Owning the sky.

We walk along the ridgeway path. It’s been a slow start to autumn here. Field maples usually yellow-up by mid to end of October. Suddenly today, as temperatures dip below zero, the hedgerow takes on a golden hue. It reminds me of a patchwork quilt. ‘Squares’ of black dogwood stitched together with patches of golden maple. Such a pretty view. I gaze at it, and hold it in my memory. A few autumn gales and the magic will be gone. A whole year before we see such sights again.

Blackberries. The bane of my life this year. They have taken over my garden and this winter there will be serious chopping back. Meanwhile, leaves glow a glorious red. Quite pretty, if they were not so determined to take over the world.

It’s been wet here. So far this month there’s been 42mm of rain. In October we had 146mm, and in September, 118mm. The ground is waterlogged, ditches overflowing. We follow a path where horses have trod. The ground is so soft there’s deep hoof prints, full of water. It’s calming following footprints, the sky reflected in the little pools of water.

A dip in the hedge reveals our trees on the left. I can hardly believe we planted them, all those years ago, when I was in my 20s. They’ve been a source of joy ever since. On the right in the distance stands Polly’s Wood. I have a dream to join the two woods together- a corridor for wildlife. One day, perhaps. We shall see. Dreams do sometimes come true.

Back through the garden gate, on our boundary, there’s a green corridor running down past the pond to the summerhouse beyond. Autumn and spring are my favourite times for this part of the garden. In spring, the lime green new shoots are bright and cheerful. At this time of the year, field maples and cherry trees create a golden tunnel.

If you look carefully, you can just see our 1930s summerhouse, hidden amongst the trees.

Thank you for all your kind words last week, following our cousin’s funeral. It’s seems I am not alone in turning to nature as a balm when there are sorrows. Perhaps we all find solace and hope in nature all around us. And gardening is something we all turn to in moments of need. This week after walking for miles, and gardening all hours, I feel restored and ready to face whatever life brings. No doubt there will be many more ups and downs to deal with. Nothing stands still in life, or in gardening, for that matter. Does it.

Links : More about buzzards and listen to their call :https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/buzzard/

Field Maples : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/field-maple/

Six on Saturday – A Walk Around My garden and Back Fields 2nd November 2019

It’s a rather somber walk around my garden and back fields today. We are mourning the loss of a cousin, taken too soon. It’s shaken us all. Someone our age, who should have lived another 30 years at least. These things are not within our power to change. A feeling of sorrow overwhelms me as I walk under leaden skies, the weather and landscape echoing my sadness.

This is a favourite view from the top of the back fields immediately behind my garden. It’s a view I stand and gaze at every day. You can see for miles. The fields that looked so golden all summer, so productive with wheat and barley, lay fallow today, waiting for the next phase. Waiting, like me, to see ‘what next.’ I’m thinking about my life today, and my cousin’s. I feel as if today is some kind of turning point.

Walking usually clears my thoughts. I make a lot of plans while putting one foot in front of the other. Just along from my garden there’s a ridgeway path. I’m usually in a hurry, marching, heart beating fast. Much better than sweating away in a gym. Today, I’m on a go-slow. Thoughts lost in the mist in the distance.

It’s been so wet here of late. Fields flooded, pond overflowing. We’ve had double the normal amounts of rain. Five months worth in five weeks. My spring bulbs, ordered in excitement and anticipation in July, lay still in their boxes in the potting shed. Waiting. If the ground doesn’t dry up soon, I shall have to throw them all into plant pots.

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope. Nature always supplies something to hearten, even something small and relatively insignificant. I find rosehips in abundance. Glowing red and spangled with raindrops. Food for the birds. I care about the birds and their survival, and am glad to see the rosehips and hedges full of hawthorn berries.

There’s crab apples too. Food for birds and mammals. A tiny mouse scampers and hides under a tussock of grass. We move away to allow it to feast in peace. It’ll need to build up reserves to get through the winter. Just behind the hedge, we see a family of roe deer, three adults and two fawn, this year’s young. They are like shadows, so quiet and calm. They melt away into a tangle of trees, unconcerned by our intrusion. A highlight of summer, we came upon one of the babies, left in the long grass by Polly’s Wood. Such a beautiful, heart-sing sight. Taught to stay still as a statue, it didn’t flinch, and we moved quietly away, knowing the mother was watching nearby.

I find a birds nest in the hedge. A mossy thing of beauty. How do they manage to create such intricate structures, merely using beak and claw. There are many wonders.

The hedgerow provides another message of hope. Hazel catkins or lambs tails. A reminder that spring will surely come. As it always has. The seasons carry on regardless.

Maple leaves are turning golden. Providing ‘sunshine’ – whatever the weather.

Back through the garden gate, dogwood Midwinter Fire is glowing in its autumn glory. Soon the orange stems will be revealed, a glorious sight through until spring.

Here’s a view of the potting shed from across the pond. I find myself standing gazing out of the potting shed window, thinking, planning, mulling things over. Then I set to and fill my grandfather’s old Sankey terracotta plant pots with compost. Thinking of him, and all my much-loved and sadly missed relatives, I plant my bulbs for spring. Spring will return and life goes on. We have to look forward, while not forgetting the past. And gardening thoughts and tasks will help to ease the pain. As it always has.

In A Vase on Monday- 28th October 2019

The first frost sees me running up the garden, collecting dahlia flowers in buckets. Even slightly faded, tatty flowers are harvested. Every bloom has suddenly become precious. It will be a whole nine months before we have any more of these glories.

In amongst the dark blood red dahlias are these interlopers. I didn’t plant them. I’ve been growing cactus dahlia Nuit d’Ete for around 20 years. Alongside, there’s some white dahlias called My Love. Could they have crossed to produce this striped flower? It’s a mystery. A very pretty interloper, even so. It can stay.

Frost means the end of tender flowers such as dahlias. Plants will collapse virtually overnight. Last year I left the tubers in the ground and covered them with a foot of dried leaves and a cloche. The secret is to keep them relatively dry. However, this year I will lift them all. The ground is sodden. We’ve had 266mm of rain over the past two months, double the usual amount. Five months worth of rain in the past five weeks. There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep the dahlias from rotting, unless I lift them.

So, using very sharp florists’ scissors, I collect buckets of flowers for the house, before tackling the tubers. Tubers are carefully lifted to avoid bruising. They are cut off leaving 3″ of stem. Turned upside down to drain. Then put in a dark, cool, frost free shed. After a week or two, I’ll wrap them in newspaper, or put them into pots of dry compost to overwinter. They will be started back into growth in the greenhouse in February, cuttings will be taken, and the whole cycle of planting and harvesting will go round again.

I also picked some verbena bonariensis, diascia, the last of the Nicotiana Mutabilis, some very late gladioli, and herbs such as rosemary and lavender.

There is one last flower from Dahlia Obsidian, a tuber I bought from East Ruston Garden in Norfolk a few years ago. I like to buy a few plants when I’m on holiday to remind me of the visit. This one is particularly good for pollinators, being an open, single flower.

Added some Amaranthus, love lies bleeding. I have grown the red and the white form this year.

And this is what the flowers look like, all put together. I had enough flowers for four or five vases.

I put the verbena mixture in a Kilner jar that used to belong to my great aunt Betty. She was a keen cook and preserved everything in those jars. She gave me about 100 when I first set up home. Happy memories; I use them every day and think of her.

It’s warm and sunny enough to sit in the garden today. After all that rain, I’m not spending a second shut indoors! I’ve even written this sitting outside on an old garden chair covered with a cosy woollen blanket. My feet are getting cold, so I’ve put a few bricks under them as a makeshift foot stool. No doubt there will be more frost ahead, but I’m determined to get outdoors as much as I can this winter and not get stuck by the fire.

Have you had a frost in your area yet? Are you leaving your dahlias in the ground or lifting them, like me? Let me know how things are growing in your part of the world.

Links : Cathy IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/in-a-vase-on-monday-not-fade-away-2/

Dahlia Nuit d-Ete https://www.peternyssen.com/nuit-d-ete.html

East Ruston Old Vicarage http://www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk/pages/view/564/home.htm

Dahlia Obsidian https://www.sarahraven.com/dahlia-verrones-obsidian.htm

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you for reading, and for getting in touch.

Six on Saturday- 26 October 2019

The last of the sunflowers. This one, above, looks like it can’t decide whether to open or not. It’s been wet here, 142mm of rain this month. Twice the usual amount. However, flowers coped well with the deluge. Dahlias love the rain. They just tip forward slightly to drain. Sunflowers have also thrived. My sunflowers are a mixture of Infrared and Allsorts Mix from Mr Fothergills. I sow them in seed compost in March in 9cm pots, grow on in the greenhouse until they have two pairs of leaves, and then plant out after all danger of frost has passed. I use Strulch mulch to protect from slugs. It’s a scratchy kind of mineralised straw mulch which slugs and snails don’t like. It helps to retain moisture and feeds the soil as it rots down. I also spray everything with home-made garlic liquid. The recipe comes from Sienna Hosta nursery. If it’s good enough for a multi- gold medal winning nursery, it’s good enough for me. It works, with the proviso that you have to spray repeatedly, especially after rain. I’ve got a 3L Hozelock sprayer set up ready, which makes life easier. It’s worth it to protect delicate seedlings from slugs, without resorting to chemicals. The garlic spray doesn’t kill slugs, but deters them, leaving them available as a food source for birds and mammals.

Seed merchants used to mostly supply yellow sunflowers, but in recent years there’s been a big increase in varieties available. I love the chocolate -coloured flowers and the mini-sunflowers, such as Teddy Bear, which can be grown in a container and only grows to 1m with 12cm wide very double ‘fluffy’ yellow flowers.

Glowing red, this sunflower reminds me of rich dark chocolate. This was the darkest flower in a packet of Velvet Queen seeds. Truly scrumptious.

Plenty of pollen for bees, and I leave the seeds on the plants for the birds to enjoy over winter. Insects hibernate in the sunflower stems.

Lovely markings on these sunflowers from the Allsorts Mix.

And finally, Thompson and Morgan produced a new and exclusive multi-branching sunflower which repeat flowers from spring until Christmas, if protected from frost. It has rather an unwieldy name- SunBelievable Brown-Eyed Girl. It’s perfect for containers. My potted sunflower was amazingly prolific, and produced about 100 flowers over the season. Plenty for mini flower arrangements like this one which has calendulas, and herbs mixed in with the sunflowers. It lasts about a week in a vase.

Tonight we put the clocks back and the evenings will gradually close in. We’ll just have to make our own sunshine- and grow more flowers. Don’t you agree?

Which plants have you grown this summer? Let me know which have been a success for you. It’s good to share ideas and information, and help one another- especially as winter draws near and we all need a bit of colour to keep our spirits up.

Links : SOS six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/26/six-on-saturday-26-10-2019/

Mr Fothergills Infrared https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Infrared-F1-Seeds.html#.XbSrg4zTWfA

Allsorts Mix https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Allsorts-Seeds.html#.XbSrtYzTWfA

Velvet Queen https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Velvet-Queen-Seeds.html#.XbStyozTWfA

Thompson and Morgan https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/sunflower-sunbelievabletrade-brown-eyed-girl/tka1036TM

Calendula Orange Flash https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Calendula-Seed/Calendula-Orange-Flash.html#.XbSvAozTWfA

Garlic wash spray, Sienna Hosta Nursery https://www.siennahosta.co.uk/pages/garlic-wash-recipe

Karengimson1 on instagram

@kgimson on twitter

GardenMediaGuild member

Six on Saturday. Enjoy your Bank Holiday Weekend Everyone. Home is where I’m spending mine.

I often share views through the gap in the hedge. It’s a window on the changing seasons. Today, I thought you might like to see what’s growing in the hedgerow around my ‘window.”

Hawthorn. Crataegus monogyna. Berries are ripening fast. It seems too soon. It feels as if it’s only a short while since snowy white May blossom heralded the end of winter. And here we are, it’s harvest time. It’s a good year for berries. A larder for the wildlife. Hawthorn supports more than 300 species of insect. Flowers are eaten by dormice, and berries called ‘haws’ are rich in antioxidants and eaten by migrating birds such as redwings.

Hazel. Corylus avellana. Again, I feel it’s only a while since I posted photos of ‘lambs tail’ catkins. It’s a good year for nuts. Our garden is ‘raining’ hazel nuts. Even the squirrels can’t keep up with the crop, which is really saying something as their appetites are legendary. I’m often gathering them as fast as I can, while five or six brazen squirrels, adults and this year’s babies, bound across the top of the hedgerow. Multiple holes in the lawn show evidence of where they have ‘hidden’ their harvest. I hope they remember where they’ve left them. Hazel leaves are good for the caterpillars of many moths including the large emerald, small white, barred, umber and nut tree tussock.

The dormouse eats hazel nuts to fatten up for hibernation, and also eats caterpillars in the spring. Nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, and jays. We’ve had an adult and baby green woodpecker in our garden all summer. It’s been fascinating watching the adult showing the baby where all the best spots are for food- the rotten wood pile, orchard and patch of grass where chafer grubs thrive.

Field Maple. Acer campestre. Winged seeds are turning red. They will soon be dispersed by the wind. And it can get very windy up here on the ridgeway. I really should have consulted an ordnance survey map before moving here. Gardening is a challenge in gale force winds. Next time, I’d like a nice secluded walled garden, please. Everyone reading this, knows there will not be a next time. I love this wild and peaceful place. I will never move from here.

The Woodland Trust tells me that maple leaves are eaten by several moths, the sycamore moth, small yellow wave, mocha, and the maple prominent, among others. Moths are on the decline so it is a good plant to have in any garden or hedgerow. We have some grown as trees, as well as mixed in the hedge.

Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and birds, and small mammals eat the fruit.

This hedgerow is full of dogwood. Cornus sanguinea. Stems and leaves turns a rich burgundy in winter. A wonderful sight on a cold day. Leaves are already starting to take on polished and burnished tints. Green berries will soon turn black.

Leaves are eaten by moths, including the case-bearer moth. Flowers are valuable for insects, and berries are eaten by birds and small mammals. We enjoy standing and watching bats flitting over the hedgerows at night- catching the moths and flying insects. They seem to follow a repeated circuit, a figure of eight, over our heads. You can almost anticipate where they will be seen next. A joyful way to spend a few minutes, or longer if time allows. Owls fly in across the fields to take the small mammals- mice, rats and field voles. We have little owls, tawny and barn owls here. It can be quite noisy some nights, when they call out across deserted fields. The sound carries. We stand quietly and listen.

Crab Apple. Malus sylvestris. Abundant this year. Leaves are valuable for the eyed hawk moth, green pug, Chinese character and pale tussock. Wonderful names that conjure up all kinds of pictures in my mind. I decide to learn more about moths.

Fruit is eaten by blackbirds, thrushes and crows, and also mice and voles. Foxes and badgers forage in ditches for them. When fruit ripens and falls it seems to ‘cook’ gently in the heat. It’s a fabulous scent and always reminds me of apple pie and crumbles.

I read somewhere that you can measure the age of a hedge by the number of different plants growing in it. Apparently, it’s approximately 100 years for each variety. Looking around, I know that farming has been here since medieval times. There are ridge and furrow fields across from our garden and also half way to the village. They are particularly noticeable when fields flood. Furrows pool with water, while the ridges stay high and dry. You can just wonder and imagine how they grew their crops using hand tools, without the aid of machines.

Speaking of machines, the sound right now is combine harvesters north and south. To the west and east, there’s the monotonous chug, chug, chug of bailing machine. Soon there will be ploughing, and the growing season starts all over again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my view through the gap. I didn’t make the gap, nature did. But I look through it each day to spy the changes, and sometimes there’s hares, pheasants, fox cubs, all unaware that I’m watching.

Links : New hedging plants for my garden come from Hopes Grove Nursery, a family business in Tenterden. They supply ‘hedge-in-a-box collections for wildlife, cutflowers, gin making. Their latest collection is a horse-friendly range, suitable for field boundaries.

https://www.hopesgrovenurseries.co.uk/shop/mixed-native/horse-friendly-hedge-mix-mixed-native/

Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-nestbox/owl-boxes-for-trees/

Six on Saturday. Wind-Swept Walk Around My Garden on 10th Aug 2019

I don’t like windy weather. It makes me unsettled. I worry about everyone’s gardens. So much effort goes into growing flowers, fruit and veg, it’s heartbreaking when it’s destroyed by the weather.

I’ve waited all day for the wind to drop. It hasn’t. So it’s a blustery, sort of a walk around my garden. My dahlia stems are pointing in all kinds of crazy directions. I should have staked them better. But I didn’t. This one is still looking lovely though. It’s a decorative double called David Howard. Beautiful, orange-blushed flowers 10cm across, set off by bronze-tinted foliage. Plants grow to about 75cm, unless toppled by the rain and wind……. sigh.

Double flowers like these last around two to three weeks in a vase. They keep on opening up, like a ripple effect, until the centre is revealed. Well-known florist Jonathan Mosley gave a demonstration at the Belvoir Castle Show recently and revealed a few tips on getting the best out of cut flowers: Use a very sharp kitchen knife to cut flowers, not secateurs which crush the stems rather than cut them cleanly. Walk round with a bucket of very cold fresh water, and drop stems straight in, so air bubbles don’t get the chance to form in the stems. Cut flowers early in the morning and stand them up to their heads in water in a cool dark place such as a potting shed or garage for at least 6 hours before using them in arrangements. Giving them a really good drink makes them last much longer.

I’ve decided to go for an apricot-coloured theme this week. It might help calm our shattered nerves. This is one of my favourite rambling roses, Ghislaine de Feligonde. It flowers in huge swathes in June, and then puts out the occasional flower right through the summer. Bees love it, it’s free flowering and doesn’t get blackspot. All cause for a celebration, I think. Plus is looks good in a a vase.

In keeping with the colour scheme, there’s some beautiful seedling spider day lilies bred by Pollie Maasz at Pollie’s Lilies. These ones don’t have a name as they are trial plants. Pollie selects the best from her trials and registers new names. It’s a fascinating process and I’m glad to have some of her “babies” to try out here.

I am very fond of New Guinea hybrid impatiens. They flower all summer for no effort other than watering and feeding with seaweed extract or liquid tomato fertiliser. I don’t even bother to dead head them, they seem to sort themselves out. This one is Magnifico Star Orange. Cheerful even when it’s raining and blowing a hooley in the garden. I can always pretend I’ve been transported to the tropics.

I love begonias. This one is from the Apricot Shades range and is good for containers and hanging baskets. It will flower its heart out until the first frosts, then I’ll bring it in to the frost free greenhouse for winter. Dried off and kept indoors, it can be started into growth each spring. A really good value plant and so many lovely colours to choose.

Finally, from my pelargonium collection, there’s this beauty. This is one of the species hybrid pelargoniums from Fibrex Nursery. I think it is Pelargonium Ignescens, but will stand to be corrected. I have quite a few from the nursery and the labels have long gone. This one dates back to the 18th century and has pretty soft, downy leaves too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk round my garden today, despite the howling wind! This is the view from the far hedge, in the back field behind my garden. It’s a wonderful place to stand and observe the weather. You can see for miles and today the farmer has started – then stopped – harvesting the corn. In a day, the crop will be safely gathered in, and the scene will change again, with ploughing the next sound we’ll be hearing.

Links: sos are https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/10/six-on-saturday-10-08-2019/#comments

Dahlia David Howard: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/57111/i-Dahlia-i-David-Howard-(D)/Details

Rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/rosa-rambling-ghislaine-de-feligonde.html

Pollie’s dayliles https://www.polliesdaylilies.co.uk/

Fibrex https://www.fibrex.co.uk/

Six on Saturday – a walk around my garden- 3rd August 2019

Short of time, I usually post photos of my garden at dusk in a last-minute dash about the place. Today, I got up early at 6am. And, surprisingly, the back fields are as misty as an October morning. We are having some really strange weather conditions this year.

I opened up the summerhouse in the hope of a nice day. The weather report says it’s going to be 23C.

Things I can hear at this time in the morning: Cows in the field opposite. They line up along the hedge to see what I’m doing. Snorting, sniffing and generally jostling for space, they are noisy and rather nosy neighbours.

I like to walk the perimeter of the plot twice a day, at dawn and dusk. We’ve made a kind of avenue of trees accidentally. We just happened to place the cherry, maple and ash trees wide enough apart to drive a lawn mower between. It makes a lovely calm leafy track, and the view out across the field changes daily. This path is good for watching the owls. They can’t see us, but we can see them.

On the other side of the trees, there’s a small paddock, an orchard and veg plot. This year, there’s more cut flowers than veg, although we are enjoying Charlotte Potatoes, and broad beans at the moment. I planted some French beans a fortnight ago and they will be cropping in another couple of weeks. The cut flowers have all been battered down by the rain. We had a whole month’s worth of rain in 36 hours. Floods are out in surrounding fields. Growing in a total jumble is Ammi, dahlias, rudbeckia, nicotiana, borage, verbascum, sweetpeas, cosmos and pot marigolds. There’s cabbage and garlic squeezed in there somewhere.

On the garden table there’s pots of the new Agapanthus Fireworks. My trial plants flowered from March and have now produced another three stems. I’m delighted with my plants and can highly recommend them. They are easy to grow and flower for a long period without needing anything more than watering.

My trial Aeonium plant is also looking really lovely. It’s a gorgeous colour and shape.

That’s my six photos for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed your ramble around my garden- at an much earlier time than usual!

links :

Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/six-on-saturday-03-08-2019/

Agapanthus Fireworks : I wrote about them here : https://bramblegarden.com/tag/tulips/

Agapanthus from Wyvale Nurseries : http://www.wyevalenurseries.co.uk/news/news/agapanthus-fireworks-wins-new-product-award-at-glee/

Aeonium Review here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/04/12/review-of-garden-beauty-web-shop-and-prize-draw-for-aeonium-schwarzkopf/

Please feel free to share this blog post.

Six on Saturday. A peaceful walk around my garden. 20th July 2019

Looking west.

Field boundaries awash with seedling clematis. I never cut them back. They grow as they please. Clematis Betty Corning is very similar. Long flowering in the shade of the hedge.

Rosa American Pillar survives without much care. This one came from a holiday cutting taken (with permission) from the front garden of a cottage at Sandsend. We used to rent the school house at the bottom of the valley for summer holidays with the family. A lovely reminder of sunny days, sea and sand.

Protected by tall hedges, the plot provides all the cut flowers, fruit and veg we need. No sprays or chemicals are used here. It’s a haven for wildlife – as well as me. Don’t look too closely. There’s plenty of weeds.

Flowers from the plot. On sale at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire. All proceeds to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people.

Sometimes I make door wreaths from the flowers. Here’s one I made this week.

Enjoy your weekend.

Links :

Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/20/six-on-saturday-20-07-2019/

Seeds from : https://higgledygarden.com/

Rainbows Hospice: https://www.rainbows.co.uk/

You might like to read : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/07/19/infection-update-19th-july-2019-gardening/amp/

Also, In a Vase on Monday: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-3-june-2019/

About Bramble Garden : https://bramblegarden.com/about/

Please share on any social media.

I’m @kgimson on twitter. https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson?lang=en

karengimson1 on instagram https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

In a Vase on Monday – 15th July 2019

I’ve discovered, by accident, the magical effect of a sunset on sweet peas. It turns them into mini “stained glass” windows.

Picking them at 9pm, I suddenly find it’s too dark to take photos. Nights are rapidly drawing in. Mid-summer lulls you into a relaxed state of mind. Surely there will always be time to meander round the garden. Then, quite soon after the solstice, everything changes. There’s no streetlights here; dusk means picking your way through tall corridors of dark trees, along grassy paths, past the horseshoe wildlife pond. If you are lucky, you’re accompanied by a barn owl, sweeping along the hedge in eerie silence. You’ll marvel how such a large bird can ever catch any prey without being seen. But they make not the slightest sound and pass by like a shadow. If they see you, they don’t panic and madly swerve as some birds would. They barely acknowledge your intrusion, calmly changing direction and floating over the hedge to continue on the other side. They seem not to flap their wings, but soar and glide as if carried by the wind.

Our boundaries are made from farm posts and galvanised pig wire. We like to keep a connection with the surrounding fields. After all, our garden was once part of the farmland. We’ve simply borrowed the ground to grow fruit and flowers.

There are 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long, divided by narrow slab paths. This year it’s a muddle of potatoes, broadbeans, Sweet williams, daisies and verbascum. A rickety A-frame of hazel rods runs through the centre, for sweet peas. This year I’m growing a combination of heritage types from Easton Walled garden and Higgledy Garden, and new varieties on trial from Mr Fothergills.

Amethyst and rubies; sweet pea flowers shine like jewels in the sunset.

My flowers are being sold at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire, with all proceeds going to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. I am a voluntary fund-raising ambassador for Rainbows, and I also give slide shows and talks to garden groups for charity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peaceful walk around my garden at dusk. There’s much to see, even in the gloom.

Links : Cathy In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/in-a-vase-on-monday-think-pink/

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

Higgledy Garden Seeds. https://higgledygarden.com/

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/

Notes: Most birds make a flapping, swooping sound when they fly. Owls have special edges to the front of the wing that breaks the air into small streams of wind that rolls to the end of the wing. Comb-like feathers further break down the air into even more smaller streams to create almost silent flight.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park – A Celebration of the Gardens

BOOK REVIEW

By Harriet Rycroft and Tim Miles

Produced by Reef Publishing for Cotswold Wildlife Park

£18 inc p&p.

Looking through the mansion window, I see a pretty stone terrace, balustrading covered in rambling roses, mighty English oak trees in the distance. And a rhinoceros. Or two. I’m at the Cotswold Wildlife Park and it’s not your traditional garden view!

I can hear blackbirds, robins -and yes, there’s a lion’s roar, and black siamang gibbons “whooping.” I’m having a special behind the scenes tour with head gardener Tim Miles and gardener and writer Harriet Rycroft.

Tim and Harriet have spent the past 18 months working on a new book The Cotswold Wildlife Park- A Celebration of the Gardens. And there’s plenty to celebrate. The gardens are a paradise of exotic plants, special trees and shrubs, and wild flowers.

Photo: Front cover.

There are more than 250 species of animals and birds living at the wildlife park where important conservation and breeding work is being undertaken. The star attraction is undoubtably the white rhinos – saved from poachers in Africa, and now producing offspring.

Photo: my i-phone pic of page 60 in the book. Original photo credit: Harriet Rycroft.

Rhinos appear to have free rein in the parkland setting, but in fact, their paddock is ringed by a ha ha. It means there are no fences. They can clearly be seen from all surrounding paths. When I say “clearly seen,” I might add that the paths meander around flower beds containing thousands of ornamental onions, Allium hollandicum Purple Sensation, and grasses such as Stipa gigantea (giant oat grass) and cultivars of Miscanthus and Cortaderia (pampas grass). It’s rather a wonderful combination. Rhinos and alliums. You’ll not see that anywhere else in the world.

Planting provides browse material for many species, but also, importantly, shelter for the animals. This might be shade from summer sunshine, or protection from wind and rain. Planting must, of course, let visitors see into enclosures, but it is so exhuberant that the the lines are blurred between visitors, animals and the wider landscape.

I did manage to get a good look at African Spoonbills and Madagascan Teal. But if they wanted to hide from me, they could.

It is interesting to see trained fruit trees along the walled garden enclosures. There’s a perfectly-pruned fig, and around the corner there are espalier cherry and pear trees, fruiting kiwi and grape vines. Bamboo, a favourite fodder for many animals, grows inside and outside of the enclosures, again blurring the boundaries between them.

In the Tropical House I spy a Linne’s Two-towed Sloth. It’s the first time I’ve seen one. He’s nestled in amongst the foliage, rubber plants (Ficus elastica) cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) and bromeliads and orchids. Branches of oak provide “perches” and there’s an illusion that house plants have “escaped” to take root in this mini-jungle. In a fascinating insight into the relationship between keepers and gardeners Tim explains that any plant plagued with pests such as greenfly, is given to the keepers to be placed in the Tropical House. Exotic birds clean up the plants by eating the pests. A win-win situation all round. Natural pest control at its best.

Continuing the tropical theme, in the protection of the Walled Garden, there’s palm trees, bananas and cannas interplanted with dahlias, Begonia luxurians and Begonia fuchsioides. Plants overspill onto the paving so you don’t notice the concrete kerbs. Creeping plants such as Tradescantia, Plectranthus and Verbena cascade and intermingle.

Phormiums, banana plants and bedding such as geraniums and coleus (solenostenum) provide a contrast in form, colour and texture.

Container planting features fuchsias, begonias, scented pelargoniums, trailing Scaevola Sapphire, twining Thunbergia African Sunset, nemesia- and even a Protea cynaroides (king protea). It’s rightly described as a “theatre with plants.”

There’s a conservatory- leading to the Bat House and Reptile House- where I spotted a pretty pink Cantua buxifolia.

Some sort of pink grevillea also thrives in the protection of the glass.

I’m still searching for the name of this pretty blue flowering plant. Let me know if you have a name for it. It’s rather lovely to visit a garden and find something you haven’t seen before.

No surface seems to be left without cover. This is the end wall of the rhino house, smothered in golden-flowering Fremontodendron California Glory.

We just throw our weeds in a compost bin, but certain weeds growing at the park provide food for the animals. Giant tortoises love stinging nettles, and goose grass or cleavers are relished by some of the herbivorous reptiles. Banana leaves are popular with stick insects and locusts, but are also given to squirrel monkeys. Honey treats are stuck to the leaves. The monkeys have fun picking off the treats, and then spend time cleaning themselves of the delicious sticky honey.

Gardeners don’t just get requests for plant material for food and nesting; prunings such as lavender and rosemary provide useful enrichment / active entertainment for the lions. Keepers fill bags with the clippings to make giant catnip toys.

With so many rare and glorious plants, the gardens at Cotswold Wildlife Park are a delight to visit all year round. Visiting transports you to another world. A world that’s been created with imagination and passion. There’s nowhere else quite like it.

All pics, apart from the front cover and the baby rhino, are i-phone photos from my head gardener tour.

Links:

Harriet and Tim’s book is available from Cotswold Wildlife Park https://shop.myonlinebooking.co.uk/cotswoldwildlifepark/shop/product-list.aspx?catid=8

Six on Saturday- a view of my garden 18th May 2019

It’s a sad farewell to the tulips today. Cold weather has given them staying power this year, but I can see they are fading fast. I love the dark purple tulips. They remind me of a bishops’ sash, an amethyst ring, a royal cloak. A stained glass window. Silk.

This is Purple Queen of the Night. I’ve noticed tulips vary in colour, depending on supplier. So this one came from Taylors Bulbs, the one below is also Queen of the Night, from Parkers wholesale.

I’ll be planting more of the the Walkers variety; these stood up to the weather well, and didn’t “melt” when it rained.

I shall miss the jewel-like colours of tulips. It’s been the best display I’ve ever had, and didn’t cost much. Most of the bulbs were bought in the sale at Christmas and planted the first week of January. Waiting to plant until it’s really cold helps prevent viruses which spoil the flowers and leaves.

When the tulips fade, my garden turns green. This is the view from our bedroom window today. The beech trees are at their freshest now, lime green leaves highlighted by sunshine. Gradually they shade out the woodland floor and I say goodbye to the spring understory; bluebells, wild garlic and the last of the white narcissi. Wild clematis and honeysuckle provide some compensation. I didn’t plant these climbers, but they are welcome here. Honeysuckle crowns a silver holly pyramid. No harm seems to come to the holly. It’s a cheerful combination. A happy co-incidence.

The evening scent drifts around the garden and in though bedroom windows. A wonderful scent to end the day. A feast of nectar for night-flying moths. For daytime-flying insects, crab apple blossom provides a banquet. It’s usually smothered in bees. This one I think is Wedding Bouquet.

If you have a small garden, Malus Laura is the one to choose. This gorgeous small tree grows in an upright, vase- shape, doesn’t cast much shade and has wonderful dusky pink blossom, purple new leaves, and plum coloured crab apples. So much interest in just one tree.

Links: Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/six-on-saturday-18-05-2019/

Queen of the Night : https://taylors-bulbs.com/spring-flowering-bulbs/

Malus Laura : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/124642/Malus-Laura/Details

Malus Wedding Bouquet : https://www.frankpmatthews.com/catalogue/malus/10139

Borde Hill Garden

Rhododendrons, azaleas, woodland, sculpture, rare and unusual trees and plants.

We stand still and listen. “There’s a great tit…a chaffinch…a goldfinch…a robin.” I’m writing the names in my notebook, but the list is recounted faster than I can record them.

We are on a tour of Borde Hill Garden. And, what luck, one of our party is an expert on birdsong. The chorus of sound drifts through the trees. Such a beautiful melody, and a wonderful place to be. An English woodland garden on a spring day. Just glorious.

I spot a tree creeper. To my shame, it’s the first time I’ve seen one. A tiny bird, the size of a wren. My first thoughts are that it’s a mouse. Its speckly brown feathers perfectly match the tree bark it’s clinging to. It scurries up a few metres, and then uses its long downward-curving bill to fish out an insect from a crevice. Suddenly it moves to the other side of the trunk. It knows it’s been spotted. Then, making a “see-see-see” call, it flies away. A magical moment- and we’ve only just arrived in this woodland paradise.

We start our tour in the Garden of Allah, a dell created in 1925 where the the owners nurtured many of the species brought back from the great plant hunters of the time. Head gardener Andy Stevens points to a towering Liriodendron chinense (Chinese tulip tree) which was raised from seed collected by Ernest Wilson in central China. Borde Hill bought the tree as a 16ft mature specimen from the famous Veitch’s nursery in 1913. There’s a huge Magnolia fraseri which arrived in the garden as a seedling from the south-eastern USA in 1933. And further into the garden there’s a Davidia involucrata (pocket handkerchief tree).

I can’t decide whether to look up, or down. Up, into the branches of so many rare and unusual trees. Or down, at the ribbons of pure white wild garlic flowing into drifts of bluebells. It’s easy to see why Borde Hill has been described as “unforgettable.”

Leaving the dell, walking past rhododendrons and camellias planted in the 1920s, and magnolias planted as seedlings in the 1930s, we reach Warren Wood and Stephanie’s Glade. It’s here that many of Borde Hill’s fabulous collection of champion trees can be found.

There are many trees I have never seen before. We stop and admire a rare Meliosma Beaniana which is smothered in delicate creamy coloured flowers. Like many of the trees and shrubs at Borde Hill, there’s a fascinating history and story behind them. This tree came via Ernest Wilson who was plant hunting in China in 1908. It was planted at Alderman (now a boarding school) and transplanted at Borde Hill in early 1930s. Records show it flowered for the first time in its new home in 1933.

I found a particularly lovely tree, possibly a type of photinia. It is smothered in white flowers. A magnet for bees and hoverflies.

Borde Hill is famous for rhododendrons and azaleas which are reaching their peak now. I’ve never seen such a striking and colourful display.

Some of the azaleas are scented which adds to their attraction.

Walking out of the woodlands, suddenly you come upon a more formal scene, an Italian garden with topiary flanking a rectangular pond. There’s a statue and waterfall at one end, and large terracotta plant pots each side of the water.

There’s always a surprise around every corner. At the top of the steps, near the sculpture, I found this Peony Mai Fleurie.

Further along the walk, I found more peonies, looking at their best right now.

Tree peonies and perennial forms seem to do very well at Borde Hill and I make a note to plant more in my own garden.

This week sees the start of Borde Hill’s 20th anniversary Sculpture Exhibition (10 May to 30 Sept). Visitors can walk through the 17 acre gardens and enjoy more than 80 pieces by well-known and up-and-coming artists.

I love this one, which I think is Little Owl by Paul Harvey. The labels were being put out on the day of our visit.

And this one, which I’m guessing is Icarus by Nicola Godden. Such a perfect setting in front of the house. Checking the website, I see this winged figure was commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Village. There’s also a wind sculpture by Will Carr to look out for.

There’s something for everyone at Borde Hill, and all-year-round interest too. But for me, the magic of the place will always be the peaceful walks through those magnificent trees. And the sound of birdsong. The very essence of spring.

Borde Hill: Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, opens from 25 March -3 Nov.

The garden, listed Grade II by English Heritage, is set within 200 acres of parkland.

Special events this year:

Roses. Talk and tour with Michael Marriott from David Austin Roses: 20 June 10.30-2pm

The Rabbit’s Eye View- long term plant performance, landscape masterclass by Noel Kingsbury, 11 Sept 10-4.30.

Practical Pruning – Juliet Sargeant 16 May 10.30-3pm

Designing a Romantic Rose Border – Juliet Sargeant, 11 July 10.30-3pm

Tasty Autumn Talk- Juliet Sargeant, 18 Oct 10.30-12noon.

Many thanks to Eleni and Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke for hosting our visit, and to Constance Craig Smith and the Garden Media Guild for organising the tour.

Links :

For more information about Borde Hill : https://www.bordehill.co.uk/

More on birdsong : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/04/identify-bird-song/

RSPB Let Nature Sing: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/

Six on Saturday – 9th March 2019

Flashes of light in the wild garden. Anemone blanda White Splendour. It’s full of bees today. White Stands out well against a leafmould carpet. I love the golden stamens.

Wild primroses escape from the hedgerow and colonise the lawn. We will mow around them.

Wild violets all along the hedgerow. Fabulous scent. More bees.

Talking of scent, these hyacinths, Carnegie White and Delft Blue, are still going strong on the greenhouse trolley. I’m enjoying shuffling the plant pots around for my “potted garden” display. Must admit, I got the idea from Monty Don. His “little pots of delight” always caught my attention. Last autumn, I threw lots of bulbs unceremoniously into shallow pans and Sankey pots, and stuffed them under the greenhouse benches. Corkscrew hazel twigs are holding the hyacinths up. ( Thank you Mary for dropping two sacks of twigs on the grass verge for me. 🙂)

From little terracotta pans – to this giant Italian pot, bulbs look great in any container. This is packed full with 50 white tulips. After I’d planted them, I thought I’d layer up with other bulbs to extend the flowering season. There’s white crocus Joan of Arc, anemone blanda, blue hyacinths, and blue violas, topped off with narcissi February Gold.

It’s really worth buying top-size bulbs. These crocus have three flower stems per bulb. It prolongs the crocus season. So cheerful now the weather has turned cold and windy. We need all the cheer we can get. It’s currently sleeting here, and snow is said to be on the way. Enjoy your gardening weekend, and try to keep warm. I will be in the greenhouse- with the heating switched on!

Links:

Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/six-on-saturday-09-03-2019/

Anemone blanda https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/90635/i-Anemone-blanda-i-White-Splendour/Details

Bulbs : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Bulb compost : https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/products/bulb-compost.p.aspx

Six on Saturday- My Garden view March 2 2019

Snowdrops are fading fast. We’ve had the warmest February on record, which means they flowered early. But late-flowering varieties came into flower and withered within days.

Warm weather means an early start for daffodils. I’ve planted wild-type varieties here. Amongst the trees. Fancy doubles would look out of place.

Pots of Paperwhite Narcissi have been successionally flowering since November. For very little work, staggering the planting, a steady stream of flowers are produced for container and cut flowers. The scent is so welcome when it’s cold and dark.

New variety Snow Baby was an experiment this year. They are perfect for hanging baskets, window boxes and containers. Long flowering- whatever the weather. A little beauty. It’s earned its place on my order list for next spring.

Terracotta pots of white primroses and polyanthus are all around the garden today. Such a fabulous scent – and much loved by bees.

Pale yellow wild primroses are popping up all along the grass verge and our front garden. I haven’t used weed killer or feed on the lawns for years. Nature’s reward is a blanket of wild flowers starting with primroses, then wild violets, blue self heal, and in the damper areas, lady’s smock, cardamine pratensis, or cuckoo flower. I wonder if we’ll hear the cuckoo this year. We only heard it once last spring. Sad to think that in my Grandfather Ted Fould’s day, cuckoos were a common sound in the woods around his home. Now we are lucky to hear just one.

We have lost half of our cuckoo population over the past 20 years. I’m anxiously watching the BTO’s satellite tracking survey showing the position of tagged birds in the Congo rainforest. Soon they will set off for the long flight back to Britain, via the West African coast.

Climate change is causing the timings of the spring season to fluctuate. Evidence shows that migrant species are not advancing their arrival times sufficiently to keep pace with the change. One thing we can do is not spray our gardens so the cuckoo and other migrant birds find insects to eat when they get here. And I’ll leave our surrounding hedgerows tall and wild, to encourage all types of nesting birds.

You can learn more and watch the satellite tracking here https://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking

I’m joining the Propagator with his Six on Saturday meme. You can see more here :https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/six-on-saturday-02-03-2019/

In a Vase on Monday

It’s 25th February- and it feels like May. There’s a steady low hum of bumble bees on the hellebores by the front door. I’ve just seen a wren making a nest under the bedroom window; there’s been a nest there every year for the past 30 years. And joy! There’s frogs in the pond. So hopefully there will be frogspawn soon. Today I’m sharing a selection of photos of my containers. So it’s not strictly in a Vase on Monday- but rather in a container on Monday. I thought I would share photos of the places where I’m taking flowers from to make my daily arrangements for the summerhouse, and kitchen table. And of course some of the flowers will always go to the care home where my in-laws are now living. They can’t easily get out to see gardens, so I shall take spring joy to them.

These narcissi are Snow Baby, new to me, and a real beauty. Grows to only 6″ with flowers the same size as tete-a-tete. Flowers start off the colour of clotted cream and fade to white. Perfect in every way, and the bees love them too.

It’s good to try new varieties, while still planting old favourites such as February Gold and Paperwhites.

Speaking of Paperwhites, I’ve still got pots of deliciously scented flowers on my garden trolly next to the greenhouse. Very handy for picking and adding to bouquets. They are propped up with hazel twigs from the wild garden.

Hazel catkins- “lambs’ tails” – are a much awaited treat. A joyful sight. So full of bees today. I’ve never seen as many out in February before.

White crocus Joan of Arc has joined the trolly display. Also a wonderful pollen supply for bees.

Giving months of interest is hyacinth Delft Blue . Such a wonder to watch it slowly forming a flower spike and starting to unfurl. The scent is heavenly too!

I’m very fond of hyacinth Carnegie too. I love the green tinge to the petals followed by pure white flowers. Well worth growing.

And finally, even the humble daisy is putting on a show right now. Some of these dainty flowers will be going into my jam jar posies. I’m leaving plenty behind for the bees.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my roundup of what’s in flower in my garden. Thanks to Cathy for hosting In a Vase on Monday. Why not go over and see what Cathy and the others all around the world are growing and displaying in their pots, vases and containers this week. It’s a fascinating read.

Links : #IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/in-a-vase-on-monday-it-had-to-be-you-2/

Paperwhites https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/daffodils-narcissus/tazetta-poetaz-narcissi/narcissus-paperwhite-grandiflora

Hazel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/hazel/

Narcissi Snow Baby https://www.peternyssen.com/narcissus-snow-baby.html

crocus Joan of Arc https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/crocus/large-flowering-crocus/crocus-joan-of-arc

Hyacinth Blue Jacket https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinths/ordinary-hyacinth-blue-jacket

Hyacinth Carnegie https://www.peternyssen.com/prepared-hyacinths-carnegie.html

Six on Saturday

For a change, I’m going to let you wander around peacefully on your own. I’m in the potting shed cleaning tools and generally getting set up for the growing season. There’s a lot to do.

Overhead there’s skylarks. I’ve turned the summerhouse towards the back fields so you can watch them. Such a wonderful sight and sound. Four years ago, we had only one. A lonely skylark is heartbreaking. No amount of frantic singing attracted a mate. Since then numbers have increased and I counted several today. They nest on the ground in the field behind ours.

Like a mirror, the field is reflected in the glass. In the top right window, you can see the trees on the other side of the field.

We peep through the gap in the hedge to watch the skylarks.

Bullfinches are investigating a bird box in the trees behind the summerhouse.

Finches have been eating the wild clematis seeds. Each day I replace the stolen wisps of old man’s beard.

Pots of Paperwhite narcissi sit on the steps. The scent drifts in through the doors.

There’s lots of white Joan of Arc crocus too. Plenty of bumble bees today. It feels more like April than February.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden.

Links : Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/six-on-saturday-23-02-2019/#comments

Skylarks : https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/

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

Paperwhites ; https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/daffodils-narcissus/tazetta-poetaz-narcissi/narcissus-paperwhite-grandiflora

Joan of Arc crocus : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/crocus/large-flowering-crocus/crocus-joan-of-arc

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/

Announcing my prize draw winner. CJ Wildlife bird feeder.

I’m pleased to announce that Chloris has won my prize draw for a bird feeder kindly donated by CJ Wildlife.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment and took part in this draw.

Look out for my next prize draw which will be for a copy of Emma Mitchell’s new book The Wild Remedy. I’m enjoying reading this beautiful book, and a review will follow shortly.

Shropshire company CJ Wildlife kindly send a selection of bird feeders and nest boxes for me to try out,

The items arrived well packed in a cardboard box, with recyclable shredded cardboard and paper packaging inside.

Inside the box was an Apollo feeder, HighEnergy No-Mess feed, a Shannon peanut butter feeder and jar of special Peanut Butter for Birds. Also some suet and seed hearts. And a bird table scraper and some disinfectant to keep everything safe and hygienic.

APOLLO FEEDER

The Apollo feeder is made from UV stabilised polycarbonate materials which should be long lasting. I found the feeder easy to disassemble in seconds, with no tools needed, making it simple to clean and refill. There is ventilation in the lid part, which prevents condensation in the tube, helping to keep food fresh for longer.

My feeder has three port holes. There are five and seven-hole- types available. The distance between ports ensures birds don’t feel stressed by being too close together. I like the perching rings which allow birds to feed in a forward facing position.

HIGH ENERGY NO-MESS FEED

This was very popular with the birds in my garden and disappeared quite quickly. The seeds have been de-husked which minimises wastage and mess. This is great for ground, seed feeders, and bird tables. It contains kibbled sunflower hearts, kibbled peanuts, yellow millet, and pinhead oatmeal. It’s interesting to see that 100g gives 550 K/Cal energy. Some other feeds have a lower energy value.

SHANNON PEANUT BUTTER FEEDER

This feeder made from polypropylene hangs in a wall, fence or tree. Mine is on the front of the potting shed. The Peanut Butter for Birds jar slides under the roof. I found this was very popular with bluetits and great tits. There is a perch for them so they can feed in a forward -facing position. Simple to use, and clean, with no mess.

CJ Wildlife have a variety of peanut cakes containing seeds and insects, berries and mealworms. The robins love the little heart suet and seed cakes.

BIRD FEEDING TIPS

Common garden birds can be divided into three groups: seed eaters, insect eaters, and birds that eat both. Seed eaters such as sparrows and finches love food that consists of sunflower seed, corn, oats, and chopped peanuts. Insect eaters such as robins will prefer food containing mealworms or dried fruit. Tits are among the group of birds that will eat both seeds and insects.

Birds have an energetic lifestyle and need lot of calories each day just to survive. By providing high energy food we can help them through difficult times, such as when there’s bad weather, and when they are building nests or feeding their young. Sunflower hearts and peanuts have a high energy value.

Most seeds have a kernel- the part the birds are going to eat- surrounded by a tough outer case that is discarded by the bird. In some feeds the outer case is removed, meaning there is less waste. If you buy sunflower seeds for example that haven’t been shelled, birds use more effort to take the husks off and don’t get as much energy.

In a recent BBC Gardeners’ World magazine report it was revealed that we spend, as a nation, a staggering £813,698 a day on bird food. The figures come from the Horticultural Trades Association.

I was surprised to read, in the magazine investigation by Marc Rosenberg, the RSPB claim that dried peas, beans and small pieces of dog biscuits can be added to low-end mixes. It says birds will not choose to eat them. If you see coloured pieces in the mix, red, green and yellow, it might possibly be reconstituted dog biscuits.

So, from now on, I shall buy from reputable suppliers. I’ll choose kibbled sunflower seeds, knowing that birds lose energy removing the husks. I’ll clean the feeders out once a week, using hot water or bird- safe disinfectant, rather than just topping up the feeders as they get low. And I’ll remember to put out fresh water each day. Birds need water to keep their plumage in good condition and it’s fun to watch them splashing about.

I wrote about my low bird count for the RSPB BigGardenBirdWatch here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/30/nest-boxes-and-bird-feeders-for-the-garden/

Climate change is having an impact on all our wildlife. Caterpillars are not emerging until later in the season due to cold, wet spring conditions. This is having an impact on birds such as bluetits who hunt caterpillars to feed their young.

I’ll certainly be doing all I can to provide a lifeline for all the birds visiting my garden. I just hope numbers increase before too long.

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.