Monday, 22 July 2013

Star Of Bethlehem

I know it's July,
But this is flowering now.

This is Campanula isophylla, commonly known as Star Of Bethlehem. Just to confuse things, Star Of Bethlehem is also the common name of a bulb, Ornithogalum. So on this occasion, the Latin name wins.

I was given this plant many years ago by a friend of mine. I planted it in a brick container under the eaves of the house roof. As a result, it doesn't get much rain, even in winter, and I never, ever water it. Seems to like it though. It has thrived there, never damaged by the severest of winters, despite not being fully hardy. I have tried growing it in other situations, but it has not survived the winters elsewhere.

And what about the weather then. What a heatwave. We didn't see that one coming, did we?  Oh, hang on. Way back on the 1st of April, I think I mentioned it. And you all thought it was an April Fool joke, didn't you ?

At the time, I was writing about Mother Nature always paying her debts. And have you noticed the rain, or should I say lack of it. Whilst the media dwells on the heat, no mention of the fact that we've had very little rain since the start of the year.

This is a Dodecatheon, flowering a few weeks ago. I've had this plant for quite a few years now. It always produces a flower spike, and every year the snails eat it. But not this year, thanks to the lack of rain, the snails left it alone.

Despite the lack of rain, pleased to report that these guys are still in the garden. But on a sadder note, the garden is almost devoid of birds. For the first time in many years, I have had to cease feeding them. Two magpies, who had built a nest in the hawthorn tree, became quite aggressive to the resident blackbirds in the garden. I decided that I didn't want to encourage birds to come and feed, in case the magpies attacked them, or worst still, followed them back to their nests. The magpies produced two youngsters, the only nest in the garden this year.

So what has the weather got in store for us next then ?  Well, every year, we get something called the September Anticyclone. If we have a bad summer, the September Anticyclone gives us a good early autumn. Had a lot of them lately. But if we have a hot summer, (you can see where I'm going here, can't you?), then the September Anticyclone moves south of the UK and we get gale force winds. You heard it here first. Just don't believe everything you read.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2013

Here we are again with a real hotchpotch of things in bloom today:

Starting off with Doronicum Little Leo, a dwarf variety that does a brilliant impression of a dandelion, but it is not a dandelion. Honestly!

Speaking of Honesty, the garden is absolutely full of them at the moment. Lunaria annua is a self-seeded biennial that requires no help from me whatsoever. Seeds itself wherever it's happy.

Dicentra Luxuriant, a slow growing perennial.

Berberis darwinii, a self-sown evergreen shrub. Don't be confused by the foliage, that's a clematis growing through it.

And now on to some food, this is Apple Bolero, a Ballerina variety that was pruned heavily during the winter, but seems none the worse for it.

Strawberry Toscana, a red flowered variety, and it tastes nice too.

Apple Red Valentine, now flowering for the third time. Wonder if I'll get any fruit from it this year.

And this is where I cheat a little; young plants of Mimulus Magic, nearly ready for my summer baskets. Well they are flowering, albeit in the greenhouse.

Young plants of French Marigold Bonanza, also destined for the summer baskets.

If you want to see what is in bloom around the world today, why not pop over to May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme.

And finally, on a totally unrelated topic, our local TV weather forecaster said today that he hadn't got a clue what the weather was going to do on Friday or this weekend. Now that is the most accurate weather forecast I've heard in a long time.

Monday, 29 April 2013

It's About Time

Yes, spring has finally arrived.
We have flowers !

In case you're thinking that I've been busy in the garden, nope, planted these last September. They've been outside all through the winter, and have just burst into full bloom.

And these were also planted in September. If you decide to give it a try this autumn, make sure you plant large established plants. In previous years, I've used small plug plants in September, and they just don't survive the winter.

Did you know that we are about seven growing weeks behind in the UK at the moment ?  And it's only about eight weeks to Midsummer's Day, after which the nights start drawing in. Just saying.

And on that happy note, how about a topical tip: I got a free garlic bulb with my groceries the other day. Now I like garlic, but alas, garlic does not like me. However, all is not lost. You see, roses absolutely adore garlic. It protects them against aphids, mildew and blackspot. And, as far as I know, it doesn't give them indigestion either. So I will be dividing the garlic bulb into individual cloves, and planting them close to each rose.

Totally off topic, I thought I'd share a little more Sheffield news with you. Don Valley Stadium, an athletics stadium built over 20 years ago, on an old steelworks site where my father used to work, is to be demolished. Very sad, I know, but it's yet another casualty of austerity cuts. Apparently, the local council can't afford to maintain it anymore. And what will they build in it's place, you may ask ? Why, a sports stadium, of course. Obviously made of self-maintaining materials that haven't been invented yet. Can't fault forward planning.

We've been having a lot of April showers recently, resulting in one of my favourite weather phenomenons; love rainbows.

And finally, following on from my last "guess the plant" post. By the way, the last one was a Tree Peony. Here's another one for all you plantaholics:

Now come on, easy peasy.
Give you a clue, this is a summer flowering shrub. Now that narrows it down, doesn't it ?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2013

Still not much in bloom
The garden is almost suspended in time.

Galanthus Sam Arnott, I know snowdrops should have finished flowering long ago, but they haven't.

Crocus tommasinianus, these shouldn't be around either.

Daffodils, but these flower in April don't they ?  Erm, well no actually, because these are the dwarf varieties that usually flower at the same time as the crocus.

Helleborus orientalis, okay these did start flowering on time, but they also spent a lot of last month buried under snow.

And finally, a couple of baskets of violas. At least some plants know what time of year it is.

If you want to see what's in bloom around the world today, why not pop over to May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme.

Monday, 1 April 2013

British Summertime Begins

Really ?
I know the clocks went forward at the weekend but.......

I still seem to be having problems matching my photos with the post title. This Paeony is very brave, poking it's nose through the snow, especially with severe frosts still forecast.

And this Corydalis is determined to flower, no matter what.

Snowdrops are still blooming, and yes, that is more snow in the background. We have just had the coldest March for fifty years. That goes right back to the swinging sixties, the decade of flower power. But flower power is definitely lacking here at the moment. Shrubs that should be in full bloom now are still in tight bud. Crocus have appeared through the snow, but are very reluctant to open.

So, a topical tip, which I really shouldn't be giving in "summer", but anyway, here goes. If your bin lid is frozen in the mornings, put a garden cane or similar stick across the rim of the bin, to hold the lid open just a fraction. Hey presto, no problem opening the bin on frosty mornings. Well, apart from the weight of snow on the bin lid.

Mother Nature is really building up quite a debt this spring. Can't wait for payback time. Heading for a heatwave !

So, how about a little competition for all you plantaholics out there ?  Can anyone identify this plant ?  It usually blooms in May in the UK. Might be a bit late this year. Please feel free to consult the internet if you're stuck. Although, somehow, I don't think it will be much help:

I never said it would be easy.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

It's Springtime

And now is the time of year to prune, sow, plant.
Oh, hang on a minute.

Oh well, maybe not. Hard to believe that at this time last year it was 20C (that's 68F in old money.) That Candlemas prediction was right on the button, wasn't it ?

When I first started gardening, it seemed quite straight forward. After all, the instructions of when exactly to do everything were written on the seed packets and in the gardening books. And so, I would sow tomato seed in February, because that's what it said on the packet, no matter what the weather was like outside. It took a while for the penny to drop, wondered why my seedlings were always so spindly. So now I garden to Nature's calendar which changes from year to year. The moral is, I suppose, to not believe everything you read. Oops, shot myself in the foot there.

Hope you're keeping your bird feeders well-stocked, so that the little birds can just fly in and ....
Something not quite right there. Yes, it's back, at least it was a few days ago, when this photo was taken. Must have been stocking up before the snow.

Ah, that's better, long tailed tits feeding today. Lots and lots of birds in the garden today, they'll be attracting predators if they're not careful. Talking of predators:

The magpies have finished building their nest at the top of the hawthorn tree. They don't seem very impressed with all the snow that's fallen inside it. And this brings me onto a very worrying point. Now is the time of year when many birds are usually nest building. In recent weeks there has been a lot of 'spring activity' if you know what I mean.  Hopefully, they knew what was coming and delayed things a bit.

Took this photo of self-sown Helleborus orientalis a couple of days ago. They are now under a large blanket of snow, but they'll be back. As too will these:

Galanthus Sam Arnott, usually finished blooming by now. But these aren't even fully open yet.

By the way, topical tip here. Topical I said, not tropical. If, like me, you have plants residing in a cold greenhouse. Maybe residing isn't the correct word to use there. Anyway, you're probably wondering when you should be watering them. The compost will be looking very dry at the moment, as a result of the cold weather. Well you know that snow, put it into your pots, not directly onto the crown of the plants though. Whilst the temperature is cold, the snow will act as a blanket, and when the greenhouse warms up, the snow will melt, not only gently watering the plants, but feeding them as well. Don't try this on tender plants that are still resting though. You don't want to wake them up in this weather.

And on a brighter note, remember that Nature always pays her debts. So, soon, we must be heading for a heatwave. You read it here first. Now what was that about not believing everything you read.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2013

It's that time of the month again, to record what's in bloom.
But because of the recent heavy snowfall, this is going to be one very short post.

Galanthus Sam Arnott, commonly known as snowdrops. The clue is in the name. Despite the snow they've managed to bloom.

 Clematis armandii, the first bloom of the season. This clematis should be in full bloom in a few weeks.

Helleborus orientalis, the Lenten Rose , love 'em. You wouldn't believe the contortions I had to make to get these photos. They face downwards, you see, but because of the recent snow they were really sulking.

And that's your lot I'm afraid. If you want to see what's blooming around the world today, please visit May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme.

And finally, totally off topic, again, have you heard about the recent discovery of King Richard III in a Leicester car park ?  Leicester is just down the road from here, well it's a very long road, a motorway actually, but I digress. A tomb has just been designed, but some folk are saying they want a memorial that also depicts the discovery of his bones. What on earth are they thinking of ?   A parking meter ?

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Snow Joke

Yes, folks, it's coming back again.
Heavy snow forecast.

This photo was actually taken about three years ago, when I was walking home from work. The buses and trams had all stopped running, so I had no option but to walk. Sheffield is built on seven hills, and I had walked up and down two of them by the time I got here. As you can imagine, I was feeling very sorry for myself, but at least it had stopped snowing, and I just stood there knee deep (I'm not very tall) in snow, and admired the scenery around me.

I wasn't taking a shortcut through the countryside, by the way. This is the rear entrance to Birley Spa, an Ancient Roman spa that now sits in the middle of a housing estate. In Roman times, the water was believed to have healing properties; today it comes with an 'elf and safety' warning. In Victorian times, the pond, then used as a boating lake, and the adjacent woodland were a popular tourist attraction, the Disneyland of their day.

I visited the spa several ago, first time since my childhood. As a child, a very small child, yes even smaller than I am now, I remember paddling in the nearby stream, full of frogs and water voles. I never saw the pond then, because the man who lived in the spa house always kept children well away from it. Very wise of him, although I didn't appreciate it at the time.

Anyway, back to the recent visit. The spa has been renovated. You know the sort of thing, Roman marble columns patched up with concrete. Although it is now a Grade II listed building, so future work should be more in keeping with the old building. As well as seeing the pond for the first time, I also went under the spa house to see the actual Roman spa. Unfortunately, the stream has been concreted over and now runs underground.

Saw this in the garden today, a Goldcrest. The first time I ever saw one was last year, amongst a flock of goldfinches, but this one came alone. It stayed in the garden for a couple of hours, undeterred by the blue tits who were constantly chasing it off the feeders. The only problem with seeing unusual birds at this time of year is that they are usually an indicator of bad weather to come. Have I mentioned the snow ?

And finally, totally off topic, I thought I'd just give a mention to the High Speed train service that has just been announced this week; due to arrive in Sheffield in twenty years time. Somehow the phrases 'high speed' and 'twenty years' don't sit well together do they ?  And, apparently, the proposed train route runs straight across Sheffield Airport's runway. Now that is going to be one amazing level-crossing.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

In The Shadows

Although, actually it wasn't.
I'll explain later.

The snow has only been gone a week, and look what I've got, flowers. Yippee. These are spring-flowering pansies that have been blooming since I planted them in the autumn. For the last two weeks they've been under a 6 inch blanket of snow, but don't seem any worse for wear. And the bulbs planted in there have sprung up too.

Last weekend's bird watch went better than I expected. We had a winter wonderland on Saturday after another dollop (technical term) of snow. Hardly any birds that day, but Sunday, after a deluge of rain, snow all gone and along came the birds. I'd put out plenty of food for them, especially on the bird table, but they were a bit reluctant to go on there. Can't imagine why.

Now back to that shadow thing. Today is Groundhog Day in the U.S. or in Punxsutawney to be precise, when a Groundhog called Phil ( I know, I'm not making this up, you know) comes out of hibernation. He didn't see a shadow today, which apparently means an early spring, in the U.S. at any rate. Obviously a very scientifically proven legend. I'd like to see Professor Brian Cox explain that one.

Meanwhile, over here in the much more subdued UK, we have a legend too. Well we would, wouldn't we?  Ours is called Candlemas Day, and we get a little poem to go with it:

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight,
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again."

So today has been bright and sunny. Marvellous. And the weather forecasters are predicting Arctic winds and snow next week. I think I prefer the groundhog.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Love Is In The Air

Yes it is, despite the snow.

This robin has been visiting the garden recently with its mate, who refused to have its photo taken. Typical. Robins are very territorial, and only tolerate another robin in their territory during the breeding season. Also had a couple of blue tits checking out the nest box, already.

So despite a very wintery picture outside, spring is definitely on the way. And how do I know that, you may ask. Have I been listening to the weather forecasts? Well no, it's more to do with observation.

Take this magpie, for instance. It has not only been flying around with its mate, but they've also been building this:

Yes, even when it was covered in snow, they continued to build this nest. Magpies do tend to nest early, so that their young can be fed on the eggs and chicks of smaller birds, but they don't usually build  the nest this early. And that would mean that the other birds should soon be nest building too. Time will tell. Of course, the magpies could have got their timing wrong. And, to be honest, they were building the nest with very prickly hawthorn branches. Ouch!

This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch when you can record the birds seen in your garden. Unfortunately, it also corresponds with the "big garden holiday" when all the birds you've seen in the garden over the past few weeks, decide to take a weekend break. They do, honestly. They've obviously been checking out the internet on their iPhones.

And finally, if you're fed up of the snow, take a look at this:

It's a hellebore, but look at the colour of the leaves. Looks like it's had a good feed, and indeed it has. You see, snow is not just water. It contains lots of minerals as well. And when the snow thaws, it not only waters the plants but feeds them too. Check out the plants in your gardens, when the snow disappears this weekend. They should be looking really happy, as long as they're not knee-deep in water, that is.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2013

It's that time of the month again, to record what's in flower in the garden today.
Well this won't take long.

Helleborus sternii, bowing its head because of the recent snowfall.

Primroses purchased a couple of years ago and still doing well.

Rose Princess Alexandra of Kent, an English Rose bred by David Austin. Remember the rosebud I featured a few posts back, well this is it. Not fully open yet, but not bad for a snowy January day.

And finally, Helleborus orientalis, also featured in the bud post a short while ago. How kind of it to open for today. I'll be featuring this one again when all the buds are open.

So that's it, said it was short. Oh there were some violas and pansies as well, but you would have had to use your imagination, as they were under the snow. They were in full bloom. Really.

If you want to see what's in flower around the world today, why not visit May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme. Thanks Carol.