Saturday, 28 January 2012

Grubs up

It's feeding time again.

I'd just like to point out that this feeder post is not leaning. No, that was the photographer, and no I wasn't drunk. These finches came to visit my garden yesterday. In fact, I had 32 goldfinches at one point. And if you're wondering how I managed to count 32; I took a photo of the flock and then counted them. Easy peasy.

Today is the start of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch event where people throughout the UK are invited to spend one hour this weekend counting the birds in the garden. Now I wouldn't advise actually standing in your garden to do it. For one thing, it's a bit cold, but more importantly, the birds will just fly away, and then they'll be watching you, and that's not quite what it's all about.

If you haven't got a garden, and don't fancy going to the local park, you can still join in, sort of, by visiting WildlifeKate's Garden Blog tomorrow between 11.00am and midday, when Kate will be focusing her live cameras on her bird feeders.

I was going to mention how a lot of the birds seem to do a disappearing act on this weekend, but this year it's not the case. Yes, they've all come visiting today, I've even seen three siskins, the first sighting this season. Now that's what I call timing.

And finally today, I'd like to give a special thank you to Professor Ian D. Rotherham for mentioning this blog in his article in today's 'The Star'. Thank you kindly, sir. Much appreciated.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Paws For Thought

It's The Birthday Boy !

I thought I would introduce you to my Head Gardener, Joey. It's his birthday today. Okay, he's not really the head gardener, but he does enjoy the garden, and he is a specialist in blueberry plants. Really, he is. Let me explain:

A few year ago, I purchased some small blueberry plants because they were for sale at a bargain price. False economy. They took years to reach fruiting size. But eventually, one spring, they produced quite a lot of blossom. This coincided with the arrival of Joey to our household. He loved to wander around the garden, smelling all the flowers. But one day, I came home to find that he had dead-headed all the blueberry bushes. No fruit that year then.

The following year I moved the plants out of his reach whilst they flowered. And then I put them back in their original positions. What was I thinking ? You know what's coming, don't you ?  Yes, sure enough, I came home one day to find, that not only had he eaten all the ripe fruit, but also he had pulled off all the unripened berries from the plants. But just look at that cute little face.

Last year, I moved the plants out of his reach all season. I didn't put any netting on them, because there was more than enough fruit to share with the resident blackbirds. Didn't realise the blackbirds were going to have a party and invite all their friends, did I ?  I managed to rescue the remaining berries and put nets over them.

And this year ?  Well I did that pruning the other day, you know.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Berrytable Feast

But no-one is eating.
I wonder why.

Whilst I was out walking, I noticed what looked like a tree in full autumn splendour, but it's not autumn today, it's midwinter.

On closer inspection, I discovered that it was actually a cotoneaster bush in front of a tree, and it was absolutely laden with berries.

A little further down the road I came across a cotoneaster horizontalis bush, again covered in berries. What I don't understand, is why these bushes are covered in fruit, when the ones in my garden were stripped of all their berries months ago. Admittedly, the low growing bushes are near a busy road, but the taller bushes are well away from the road, adjacent to vacant land that no-one walks on. Strange. I hope it's not a sign of bad weather on the way, and that the birds have left these berries for such an event.

Today is St. Paul's Day, and yes, there is a saying that goes with it:

'If St. Paul's Day be fair and clear,
Then it betides a happy year.'

Well it's fair at the moment, but not clear, yet. Still, there's time. Here's hoping.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

How Very Prim And Proper

It's primrose time !

This is Primula Rosebud purchased a year ago, and now blooming again in its second spring. I know it's the middle of winter, but the primroses think it's spring, and who knows, maybe they're right.

And these are Primula Fruelo, purchased last July from Brookside Nursery. I hadn't used this nursery before. Their prices were a lot cheaper than all the other companies selling this variety, so I decided to give them a try. The plants arrived on time; I liked the way you could select the week you wanted them to be delivered. I opened the package, and despite my initial concerns that the plants were not in mini greenhouses like most plug plants are these days, I was very impressed with the condition of the plants. They had survived the journey unscathed, and were all of uniform size, ready for potting on.

Primula Fruelo are sweetly scented perennials, apparently. I wouldn't know, as I have no sense of smell. They have massive blooms up to 3 inches across. Mine are half that size at the moment, but they are still young plants, and these are the first blooms to open. When they get more established, and we reach their flowering period of February to April, they should be putting on a really good display.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Cut Above The Rest

Well, a bit of pruning actually.

I received a message yesterday from Trehane Nursery. I bought some blueberry plants from them last year. The message was about pruning blueberries, and included a couple of links to YouTube videos, made by Trehane, showing how to do it. So I watched the videos a few times, and guess what I did today.

Yes, today I ventured out into the garden, secateurs in hand, and attacked all my blueberry bushes. Well I didn't exactly attack them, I pruned them really, but I'm sure they thought they were under attack. It looks so easy on a video doesn't it ? But when you come to do it yourself, it's a bit daunting. Anyway I persevered, couldn't help thinking that I was cutting off a lot of fruiting branches though. Still, job done. I'll find out in the spring if I've done it correctly.

There was a large rainbow in the sky this morning, yes that's it in the photo. Remember that saying:

'A rainbow at morn,
Fair weather all gone.'

It was right again. We've had showers all day.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2012

Wow that's a long title.
I've got writer's cramp already.

Bacopa Double White, a tender perennial, what part of 'tender' doesn't it understand ?

Achillea Lilac Beauty, still flowering despite the frosts.

Primula Fruelo, planted in the autumn, and just starting to flower.

Galanthus Sam Arnott, oh alright then, it's a snowdrop. Lots of plants in bud, but this is the only one that has dared to open up, so far.

Polyanthus Gold Lace, now flowering in its second season.

Helleborus sternii, the only hellebores in the garden that have lifted their heads up today after the frost.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is a meme hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens in which garden bloggers from all over the world take photographs of plants that are flowering in their gardens on the 15th of each month. The event has been running for five years, so I'm a little late to the party. Story of my life really.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Another Fine Mess

I think it looks quite nice myself.

This is Fuchsia Eton Mess, and it's flowering outside in January. I know, it's getting a bit silly now. Although, the weather forecasters are predicting heavy frosts over the next few days, so that should put an end to these out of season displays.

I've had a change of heart, like you do, it's a woman's prerogative you know. I've decided to move the fuchsia basket under cover after all. I've made room for it in the greenhouse, and the plants now have a 50/50 chance of survival.

Today is the feast of St Hilary which, according to legend, is often the coldest day of the year. Coldest day of the week maybe, but I think we will have colder days than today before the winter is out. There is, however, a more reliable saying:

"If the birds begin to sing in January,
Frosts are on the way."

Well, the sparrows have been making such a lot of noise in the garden over the last few days, so it looks like those predicted frosts are coming.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Walk On The Wild Side

Nowt to do with me.
I didn't grow these, but Nature did.

This is Achillea millefolium, commonly known as Yarrow. Apparently, Anglo-Saxons believed that the plant could heal wounds made by iron weapons. The yarrow is a common roadside plant, mainly because it has a deep taproot, and also because its basal rosette of leaves escapes the mower.

And this is Senecio jacobaea, commonly known as Ragwort. It is treated as a pest on agricultural land, as it is considered poisonous to grazing animals especially horses. Strangely enough, it was named after St. Jacob, the patron saint of horses. Very odd.

I noticed these plants flowering by the roadside, and decided to photograph them today because their days are numbered. Jack Frost maybe ?  No, far worse than that, the local council's mowers were out today. Actually, it's not that bad, they'll only cut off the flowers, the plants will survive.

Another mild day today. A little concerned about two weather forecasters, on different TV channels, both predicting that we're going to pay for this. Oh dear.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Piece Of Water Music

Oh alright then, how about a rose instead ?

This is Rose Handel, a climbing rose bred by Sam McGredy and introduced in 1965. It has beautiful pink flowers in summer. Woah, don't adjust your screen settings. I forgot to mention, it has creamy white flowers in late autumn, and also in midwinter by the look of it, as this is now flowering in January. What ?  You've already changed your screen settings ?  Oops, sorry.

I bought this rose about 20 years ago. I had just had a rose arch put up, with Rose Golden Showers growing up one side. A friend of mine recommended Handel, so I bought it and planted it on the other side of the arch. I have since discovered that it is prone to disease, but mine is still going strong unlike Golden Showers that I lost several years ago. Handel's survival may be due to it being grown with a Clematis Jackmanii that gives it winter protection. I prune the clematis in late winter, but don't remove the leaves and dead stems until spring.

Still a bit windy today, but nothing like the last few days. The local weatherman referred to the 93mph gust as a lee wave, similar to the gusts in 1962 that flattened a Sheffield housing estate. Fortunately, this time the gust was in a rural area rather than the city centre. Nature can really be a vandal at times.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Blowing In The Wind, The Sequel

A little bit breezier today.

Now this is weird. Looks like the fairies had a New Year party, and forgot to put the furniture away afterwards. Makes me really annoyed. I mean, where was my invite ?  Must have got lost in the post.

These toadstools are growing in a hanging basket containing strawberry plants. The compost they are growing in is a peat-free organic mix, which probably explains how the spores got in there. Never experienced this in a hanging basket before though.

Oh, and the wind ? Well, would you believe a 93mph. gust was recorded in the hills north west of Sheffield. Now that's a little bit too close for comfort.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Blowing In The Wind

A little bit breezy today.

This is Achillea millefolium Lilac Beauty, a short-lived hardy perennial that flowers between May and October. So what is it doing flowering in January ?  I bought it five years ago as a young plant. So how short is short-lived then ?
Achillea plants were named in honour of Achilles who, according to Greek mythology, used the plant to heal the wounds of his soldiers after the siege of Troy.

Well, what a windy day it has been. Not been as windy here as other parts of the UK, but we have had gusts of 60mph. Nature will insist on paying her debts in full. Lest we forget, November was very, very calm.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

To one and all.

This is Nemesia fruticans Nesia White Shell. That just rolls off the tongue doesn't it ? There are two types of nemesia; annuals that flower for a few weeks in summer, and tender perennials that flower from spring until late autumn. Hang on a minute. I think that calendar I've just hung up must be broken, it says January. Yes, it's flowering in January. It's planted in a wall basket,  a North facing wall basket at that. If it survives the winter, I'll treat it to a larger pot of it's own.

Several years ago, I grew a perennial nemesia in a 10 inch pot, along with a few other bedding plants. The nemesia survived the winter, but all the other plants in the pot had died. It started flowering in April, and having a 10 inch pot to itself put on a marvellous display all spring, summer and autumn. Don't think it flowered in January though. Still can't have everything I suppose.