Monday, 24 December 2012

Season's Greetings

A holly, jolly Christmas to all.

I was going to post a seasonal photo here, you know a robin or something, but the local robin seems to have gone on holiday, so I settled for a cute photo instead. Actually, speaking of the robin, I have seen two of them in the garden recently, but not today. And two blue tits are showing a very early interest in the nest box. Ooh spring is just around the corner.

But back to today. I thought I would write about holly, traditionally used at this time of year. There are lots of holly bushes in the woods and hedgerows around here. So I decided to do a little digging; on the internet, not in the garden, it's too wet.

Apparently, way back in 1725, Lord Oxford and his entourage travelled through Sheffield. As they crossed over Birley Moor, Lord Oxford remarked on the large plantation of stunted holly trees, or hollin as they were known in those days. It was used for keeping sheep in the winter. Where the plantation ended became known as Hollins End, or Hollinsend as the area is known today.

Of course, those trees are long gone, but wouldn't it be nice to think that the holly tree in my garden, may be distantly related to those old trees on the moor. Distant in miles as well as time, but still possible I suppose.

Oh, and Lord Oxford also remarked about the bad state of Sheffield's roads as well. Some things never change.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2012

It's that time of the month again.
To show what's in bloom in the garden.

Pansy Colossal, purchased this autumn for next spring's display. They obviously didn't read the instructions on the pack.

Primrose, purchased a few years ago. Yes it's another one for the spring display.

Antirrhinum majus Madame Butterfly, purchased last spring for a summer display. I forgot to tell it which summer, so it didn't begin flowering until autumn, and is still producing blooms despite the recent frost and ice.

Lobelia erinus Superstar, purchased last spring, and flowering throughout the summer. Amazing that it is still in bloom after the severe frost.

Apart from the violas, that I have regularly featured recently, that is all that is in bloom today. Last week's weather has really sent the garden to sleep.

If you want to see what is in bloom around the world today, please visit May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme. Thanks Carol.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Darling Buds Of.....December

Now that just doesn't sound right.
But there are buds a plenty:

This is a nice, healthy bud on Rose Princess Alexandra of Kent, one of the David Austin roses that I planted last autumn. Somehow, I don't think it will open because of the severe frosts forecast this week. But it is in a very sheltered position, so who knows?  Maybe.

This, on the other hand, is Helleborus argutifolius, which normally produces buds at this time of year, and should be flowering in a week or two, and will continue to bloom right through the winter whatever the weather.

And this is a 'twirly' (too early.) Another Hellebore, to give it its full name; Helleborus orientalis Double Ellen Red. I bought it two years ago from Hayloft Plants. The first year I grew it in a pot, and the second year I grew it in a deep hanging basket, but no flowers appeared. I then discovered that these Hellebores like a really deep root run to get established. So last summer, I moved it from the hanging basket into the ground. The cold, wet summer must have tricked it into thinking I had planted it in autumn, as now it is on the verge of flowering. It is in a very sheltered spot so hopefully any early flowers will survive.

And finally, I'm pleased to report that Long-Tailed Tits have returned to the garden. A flock of about a dozen of them have been feeding in my neighbour's conifer. Although I have put out fat balls for them, they seem more interested in the sunflower hearts at the moment. Maybe I should put a notice up for them.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Wild West

Well it's not really wild, it's a cultivar.
But it has a wild habit of growth.

This is Fuchsia Tom West, a hardy fuchsia, believed to be a mutation from Fuchsia riccartonii. It originated in France in 1853. So here we are in December, and it is still flowering. It is growing in a shady border, protected by privet hedges, and has survived the two recent severe winters, so it really is hardy.

And the wild bit?  Oh yes, well, it sends out runners. It thinks it's a strawberry. Most of the growth is upright, but it also produces branches that run along the ground, and root several feet away from the main plant. Plants for free, requiring no work on my part. Result.

But there's another habit that is not so helpful. The plant has variegated foliage, but sends up branches with no variegation, as can be seen in the photo above. These branches need to be regularly pruned out, otherwise the entire plant will revert back to green.

The squirrel has been at it again, trying to get into a squirrel-proof feeder, but this feeder really is squirrel-proof. Although the squirrel didn't think so.

I'll give him ten out of ten for effort, but he didn't get any food. Not this time anyway.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Christmas is coming
But this is twirly:

This is my Christmas Cactus that I featured last year when I accidentally managed to get it to flower at Christmas. This year, however, I watered it too early.Well it was looking very sorry for itself. And the result; it's twirly.

Now for those of you who are not from this neck of the woods, perhaps I should explain the term 'twirly'. Years ago, the local bus companies operated a system whereby pensioners could not use their bus passes before 9.30a.m. And if any pensioners dared to try to use their bus passes before the exact stroke of 9.30a.m. the bus driver would say "twirly" (which translates to 'too early') and refuse to let them on the bus unless they paid the full fare.

Anyway, I digress, back to the garden. A couple of magpies have been rebuilding their nest recently. Why? Don't they know that winter is just around the corner?  Today they started annoying a squirrel who was perched on a  branch close to their nest.

The squirrel was totally oblivious to them, fully engrossed in what it was doing. And what was it doing?

It was eating an apple, one of my apples. How dare it.

On the subject of apples, I harvested all of mine recently by a rather unusual method. Don't try this at home, it's not the way to collect apples. My two Ballerina apple trees had grown very tall, unlike me, and the apples were all at the top. I had already decided that I would be pruning the trees this winter, so I brought the project forward a little, and pruned the branches laiden with fruit. It wasn't that successful, as most of the apples fell off during the process, and some got damaged. But I've now collected all the fruit, and the apple trees just need a little bit of tidying up.

One of the trees is biennial fruiting, it produced fruit this year, so it wouldn't have been producing much next year anyway. I left a lot of fruiting spurs on the other tree. So it wasn't a complete disaster. But as I say, it is not a method I would recommend for collecting apples.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2012

After my last post, peering into my neighbours' gardens,
Thought I'd better get back into my own garden and see what's in flower this month.
Not a lot:

Antirrhinum majus Madame Butterfly, bought as small plug plants this spring. They struggled all summer to reach flowering size, and this is the first one to bloom. I'm hoping they'll survive the winter and provide a good spring display.

Pansy Colossal, bought for next year's spring display, but producing a few flowers already.

Geranium Sybil Pink, a trailer, still flowering in the hanging baskets.

Lobelia erinus Superstar, not done very well this year. Largely my fault, I didn't plant it out in time, and it got a bit pot bound. Oh alright then, it got very pot bound.

Fuchsia, I don't know which variety, but it's growing in the border, and has survived the two recent severe winters, so it is very hardy.

Viola Penny, also purchased for next spring's display, but putting on a superb display already. Hope they don't burn themselves out before next year.

And finally, I've cheated a little. With so little in flower in the garden, here's a bromeliad flowering indoors.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme. If you want to see what's in bloom around the world right now, why not pop over to Carol's blog.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Bounty Hunters

Dinner is served as Nature reveals her bounty:

This conifer, growing in my neighbour's garden, had been hidden by my overgrown lilac tree that had grown into the side of it. But last year I had the lilac drastically pruned. The conifer spent all last year adjusting to its new found freedom. This summer, I noticed it was producing fruits, and now its seeds are attracting a lot of attention.

And this conifer is growing in another neighbour's garden. It is now a very large tree, and has been producing these cones for several years. My neighbour originally purchased it as a Christmas Tree, and after the holiday season was over, he planted it in his garden, and it just grew and grew. It attracts a lot of wildlife; flocks of goldfinches often come for the seed, and squirrels like to run along its long branches.

My neighbour also has this large holly bush laden with berries. Now I have a large holly tree in my garden, and it flowers every year, but berries, not a one. Apparently, I have a male of the species, wouldn't you know it, and only the females produce berries. I suppose I shouldn't complain, my tree was planted by Nature, so it was a freebie. And it is helping to pollinate my neighbour's plant.

So you see, it is not only the plants you grow in your own garden that attract wildlife, your neighbour's gardens play their part too. And if you haven't got any seeds or berries growing naturally for the birds, you can always feed them:

Since taking this photo, I have moved this feeder, as I discovered that rainwater from the shed roof was running down the wall and into the feeder. It is now hanging in an apple tree and looks a lot happier. Have you ever seen a happy bird feeder?  Anyway, I've removed the old seed and am allowing it to dry out before cleaning and refilling. It will be even happier then, as will the birds. At the moment it is the bird equivalent to an empty shop window.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The North Wind Doth Blow

And we shall have ...... helicopters.
Bet you weren't expecting that.
I'll explain later.

This is a perennial Aster, commonly known as a Michaelmas Daisy, planted by Nature, not by me. It is growing in a sunny border, that in a normal summer is quite dry. But this has not been a normal summer, and the sunny border never dried out all season. For the first time ever, the plant has not succumbed to mildew, and has put on its best ever display.

Here is what it looks like from a distance. This is just one plant. Unfortunately, all the plants around it are passed their best, so it is flowering all by itself. May move it to a different spot next year, somewhere not as dry, because it obviously thrives in damper soil.

Now, about those helicopters. Here they are on the patio:

And here's a close up:

And here's one on the lawn:

As well as losing their leaves, autumn is the time when trees disperse their seeds on the wind. In this case, yes you've guessed it, the north wind. A neighbouring garden, to the north of mine, contains a large sycamore tree. And a few days ago, when we had a strong north wind blowing, the tree decided to shed its seeds, all over my garden. Now I don't know if you've ever seen sycamore seeds falling from a tree, but they swirl around just like little helicopters. They do, honestly. I imagine there will be a lot of sycamore seedlings to pull up next spring.

And finally, following last night's halloween, here's a photo of the spooky moon:

By the way, forgot to mention, this blog is one year old today. I would like to thank everyone for stopping by to read my ramblings, and especially to all those of you who leave comments, the icing on the cake. Thanks again.

Monday, 22 October 2012

An Artist's Palette

Er, I'm not the artist.
I just appreciate the colours.

A few weeks ago, I featured Rhus typhina displaying this year's cones above its green leaves. And now, after a few cold nights, the leaves are changing colour. Rhus is one of the last trees to produce its leaves in spring, but also one of the first to lose them in the autumn. Although this plant is well known for its autumn display, it is very brief, and the next windy day will soon put paid to it.

We've only had a few cold nights so far, and the trees are only just beginning their autumn displays here. But I decided to take a walk and see what Nature had painted so far:

The first trees I came across were really a mixed bunch. The one in the centre is showing no colour change at all.

Ah, that's better. This shrub was just a little bit further down the road. Nature had been out with the paintbrush here.

Just around the corner, and in the distance, again a mixture, some showing autumn tints, and some not.

And finally, this beautiful specimen, planted in front of the local shops. Nature did a good paint job here, after doing her weekly shop, no doubt.

Cold weather is forecast for next weekend, so the autumn display should really get going by then, but snow showers are also forecast, which could make the display short-lived. So over the next week or so, whilst rushing around, why not stop a while and take a look at the trees, and marvel in Nature's art exhibition. And it's free.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2012

It's time to check out what is flowering this month.

Begonia Superstars Red is in full bloom now, and still protecting my strawberries. You can see the unripened fruits in the photo. No prizes for guessing where the ripe fruit is. They were delicious.

Lily Sun Flight, purchased this spring and planted quite late. Which explains why it is flowering now.

Osteospermum, planted in the top of a wall basket. Big mistake. They point to the sky, so I can't see the full display. Memo to self, must plant them lower next year.

Geranium Blanche Roche, a trailing pelargonium, purchased this year, and still blooming despite recent frosts.

Hydrangea, one of the oldest plants in the garden. The bloom in the centre of the photo is the normal colour. The surrounding blooms are older and fading.

Lily Scheherazade, the name just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it ?  Another late planted lily.

Aster frikartii Monch, one of the few asters that doesn't succumb to mildew.

Begonia Superstars Apricot, I love these varieties of begonia. Pity the weather hasn't been so good to them this year.

Sedum, planted a few years ago, and putting on it's best display to date.

Cyclamen hederifolium, found these hiding at the bottom of the garden. Very hardy and very pretty.

Viola Penny, bought these for next year's spring display, but they are flowering now.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme. If you want to see what is in bloom around the world now, pop over to Carol's blog.