Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Way We Were

Remember this ?

This was my back garden in December 2010.
I know that at this time of year it is traditional to look back over the past year, but on this unseasonably mild December day, I thought I would look back at December last year.
Wow, what a difference a year makes. The only digging I did then was shifting the snow to get out of the house. But after I had tunnelled my way to the front gate, there were even more snow drifts to get to the road, or at least where the road used to be.

Well, that was then and this is now. Today I decided to check out my worm compost bins. Whoa, I think I've lost a few squeamish readers there. Sorry.
For those of you still here, I have three worm bins; one for filling, one for emptying and one where they just do their own thing. And boy do they like to do their own thing, they certainly put rabbits to shame.
The emptying and filling bins didn't seem to have many worms in them, so I will replenish the stock in spring. The pleasure palace bin was a hive of activity though, I felt like I was intruding on their privacy. So I'll leave them to their own devices until spring when I will be able to harvest some fresh compost and in return I can start feeding them again with kitchen scraps etc.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bear's Breeches

Now that conjures up some weird and wonderful images, doesn't it ?
It's actually the common name of this plant:

This is Acanthus mollis. It's displaying a glorious mound of foliage at the moment, quite unusual for late December. Acanthus mollis was originally introduced to Britain by the Romans, but was then lost to cultivation and reintroduced in 1548. I was introduced to it many years ago whilst watching Geoff Hamilton on TV. The programme was about his move to Barnsdale, and how he intended to remove all the existing plants in his new garden, to start afresh. But there was one plant that he intended to keep. Yes, you've guessed it, it was an acanthus.

I grew several plants from seed, and dotted them about the garden, all in shady areas. They took years to grow, but one by one, most of them produced flowers, although not every year. I have since discovered that they flower best in full sun. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Seasons Greetings

To one and all.

Look !  Look what I've done !  I've managed to get my Christmas Cactus to flower on Christmas Day. Are you impressed ?  You know how professional gardeners take years to master the technique of making plants flower at a certain time, well, truth be told, this was just a bit of a fluke. But for a minute there, you were impressed, weren't you ?

This is a Schlumbergera, more commonly known as a Christmas Cactus. It lives on the kitchen windowsill, and is growing in Seramis granules. A few weeks ago, I noticed that it was looking a bit sorry for itself, so I started watering it a bit more than usual, (usual being not at all.) Hence the flowers.

The sun came out this afternoon, which leads me nicely into the saying:

"Sun through the apple trees on Christmas Day,
Means a fine crop is on the way."

If the prediction comes true, we should have a frost-free May, because frost would damage the apple blossom, and a fine autumn to harvest the fruit.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Longest Night

And the shortest day.

These are the blooms of succulent Echeveria Black Prince bred by Frank Reinelt in California. It is a cross between Echeveria affinis and Echeveria shaviana. Well, that's got the Latin out of the way. Phew !  I purchased it as a young plant this summer, and really didn't expect it to bloom this year, but here it is in December. It spent the summer in the greenhouse, and was moved to a windowsill just a few weeks ago. Seems to appreciate the move.

Today is the Winter Solstice, when the sun turns round and heads back towards the northern hemisphere. It is also known, in some circles, as the start of winter. Although if today's weather is anything to go by, that's no bad thing. It was a beautiful day today; took the dog for a long walk, and refilled some summer baskets with winter pansies and primroses. I'm trying a new method this year; re-using last summer's compost and feeding with slow-release granules. I read about it in an article in Which? Gardening, so we'll see what happens next spring.

Could have done with more daylight today, but then again, it is the shortest day. From now on it starts getting lighter at night. Yippee ! But did you know that it continues to get darker in the morning for a week or so ?  Not that you will notice, as at this time of year, it's usually dull and cloudy.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sleepy Eyes

Ah, isn't he cute ?

He probably got tired of trying to get to the fat balls, so he just fell asleep, like you do. We have flocks of collared doves in the area, so I try not to entice them into the garden too much. They do come for a drink though, but only in ones and twos, not the entire flock.

This feeder is supposed to attract the blue tits and the long-tailed tits. They come occasionally, but at the moment a family of sparrows spend many a happy hour here. They treat it like their local McDonald's.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Didn't See That Coming !

Neither did the weather forecasters

Or the local council who decided to lightly grit the roads. Sheffield was gridlocked for about two hours this morning in the south of the city. Glad I don't have to negotiate rush hour traffic anymore. The first snow of the winter may have arrived unexpectedly, but at least it wasn't as severe as last year.

There were two crows in the garden again this morning. See, I told you they were in love. They certainly weren't predicting a fine day today.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Something To Crow About

Or a right carrion.
Geddit ?

We had two crows in the hawthorn tree today, taking a lot of interest in a partially built magpie nest. The magpies were nearby but kept their distance. With no eggs or young in the nest, there was no need for them to protect it, not yet anyway. And here's a saying about crows that I found on the internet:

"Expect the weather to be fair,
When crows fly in pairs."

There was me thinking that they were flying in pairs because they were in love. Must admit "let's go out together because it's a nice day" isn't the most romantic chat-up line I've heard, but then again, I've heard worse. Oh, and the weather; it wasn't too bad I suppose, quite a bit of sunshine and no rain.

Did a bit of time travelling in my Tardis yesterday; the clock in my car is still on British Summer Time. And just to enrich the experience, so is my watch. There's nothing quite like arriving at your destination before you've set off. Warning !  Don't try this if you've got an appointment. It can get rather confusing.

Friday, 9 December 2011

A Right Royal Rose

Born to rule.

This is Rose Queen Elizabeth blooming in December. How dare it ? Took this picture today because tonight's frost might put an end to it's display. The rose has been in the top 10 of roses for the last 40 years, and was introduced in 1954. It was the first rose that I purchased. I bought it many, many years ago, can't remember where from. No, I didn't buy it in 1954, I didn't mean that many years. Must admit, it really has been neglected. It's planted at the bottom of the garden on a bank, shaded by trees and bushes. Well I was a novice gardener when I bought it. In those days, it was a matter of digging a hole and putting a plant in it. Nowadays, I put plants in situations that suit them, and do you know, they seem to appreciate it. Funny that ! Last spring I pruned a number of shrubs around the rose, which allowed a lot more light in, and I pruned the rose back by half. Seems to have done the trick.

Looks like it's payback time with the weather. Let's see, November was mild, dry and calm. So winter should be cold, wet and windy. Mmm. You know, it's a pity that the financial institutions don't take a leaf out of nature's book, when it comes to repaying debts.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

No Flies On Me

As long as I stay indoors that is.

Look at this; a cloud of midges flying above the privet hedge. Don't they know it's December ?
And where were all the birds ? Ah well, they were all on the feeders, because there's no point in looking for insects in December, is there ?

Noticed a halo around the moon tonight, which links nicely to this saying:

"If a circle forms around the moon,
It will rain soon."

We shall see. Whilst on the subject of the moon, there will be a full moon on Saturday. According to the lunar calendar, 48 hours before the full moon is the ideal time to plant. Well it is if you like planting in the rain, because that's what the weather forecasters are predicting for Thursday. If you do have anything to plant, don't do it this weekend. There is a lunar eclipse on Saturday, so it will not be a good time to do any gardening.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Some Like It Hot

Especially on a cold, wet and windy day like today.

This is Salvia microphylla Hot Lips. Where do they get the names from ?  Apparently, it was discovered in Mexico, growing outside the rooms of a deeply spiritual maid. I bet she was well impressed when they named the plant 'Hot Lips'. I purchased this plant from  Hayloft Plants a couple of years ago. It spent last winter in a cold greenhouse, and I will be putting it back in there in the next few days because it is a half-hardy perennial.

Noticed a number of rainbows this morning whilst I was out walking the dog. Reminded me of the old saying:

"A rainbow at night,
Fair weather in sight.
A rainbow at morn,
Fair weather all gone."

How true it was, as the day wore on, it just got wetter and wetter.