Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Forsythia Saga

Or a string to your bow.
I'll explain that one shortly.

This is a Forsythia, I do not know its full name, as it was a gift from my neighbour many years ago. In fact, he gave me several of them, just little things they were, but that was then, and this is now. Yes, they just grew and grew. They were originally planted in partial shade at the bottom of the garden, but as the surrounding trees matured, they are now in somewhat denser shade.

The photo above was taken a few years ago, as my plants are not flowering this year, but my neighbour's plants are now in full bloom. And the reason my plants are not flowering; ah, yes, well, it was one of those rare occasions when Nature and I were not working in perfect harmony. You see, I pruned the bushes last year, just after flowering, but I pruned them hard as they had become very overgrown. The idea was that they should have then regrown before the winter. I didn't expect any flowers this year, but I had expected the plants to have bushed out a bit. Unfortunately, Nature wasn't in on this plan. After a cold summer and a very dry autumn, the plants have not grown much at all. Hopefully, they will catch up this summer, as I really would like flowers next year.

And so ends the Forsythia saga. Oh, apart from the bit about the strings to your bow. Apparently, in Korea, there is a musical string instrument called an Ajaeng. And slender sticks of Forsythia are used as a bow to play it. I'd love to have a go at that.

I saw an unusual sight in the garden yesterday, nine magpies, seven of them posed for the photo above. They all appeared to be adults, very strange. They were chased off by a pair of crows. In fact, the crows have also chased off our resident magpies, who for the first time in many years, are not nesting in my neighbour's hawthorn tree. Much to the delight of the blue tits, no doubt.

After a glorious March, the weather forecasters are now predicting wintry weather for early April. Looks like those siskins were right after all.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Currant Affairs

It's okay, I'm not going all political.
It's only a Flowering Currant.

This is Ribes sanguineum, a deciduous shrub, native to North America. It was discovered by botanist David Douglas in 1825. Unfortunately, he met a grisly end on one of his expeditions, but as this is not Horrible Histories, I will not give the gory details here.

My particular plants were not planted by me, Nature planted them. Have you noticed she seems to do more planting than I do ? Well she's so good at it, that I let her get on with it. This one is not a particularly brilliant colour, but the bees love it, so it keeps its place in the garden.

I have four birdbaths scattered around the garden. This is not one of them. Perhaps I should have put a 'No Bathing' notice up. Still, this rather pregnant Blackbird seems to be quite happy.

The blue tits don't appear to have ordered the removal van just yet. Unless they moved in while I was not looking, a sort of moonlight flit in reverse. They still keep popping into the box though, so they've not abandoned it.

And finally, a peony-flowered Tulip, blooming in March. I've never had tulips in March before.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What's In A Name

Or two or three or....

This is Triteleia uniflorum Wisley Blue, or at least it was when I bought it. This unassuming little perennial has been known by no less than five different names. Why ?  Are the botanists trying to confuse us, or have they just got too much time on their hands ?  Yes, it has also been known as Brodiaea, Ipheion, Milla and Tristagma. But I will continue to give it the name that was on the plant label.

I planted two clumps many years ago, one at the front of a sunny border, and the other on top of a dry stone wall in shade. The clump in the border has long since gone, but the clump on the dry stone wall is thriving, they obviously like the well-drained position.

Today we moved the clocks forward one hour to British Summer Time. It certainly feels like summer in the afternoons, but we are having a lot of fog in the mornings, which reminds me of the saying:

'As many mists in March,
As there are frosts in May.'

It's been a strange day in the garden today, hardly any birds around at all. Even the blue tits were conspicuous by their absence. They spent most of yesterday in and out of the nestbox, obviously doing the decorating, but today no sign of them. I decided to do a bit of investigating, and discovered a squirrel asleep near the top of the hawthorn tree, and more worryingly, a sparrowhawk in the neighbour's tree. But as dusk approached, the birds returned, including the blue tits, phew.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I Fought The Lawn

And the lawn won.
Well it nearly did, until I got the mower out.

Yes, the first mowing of the season. I use a push mower, no electrics or petrol, saves a fortune on gym membership too. It only takes me ten minutes to mow the lawn, it would take that long to untangle the cable of an electric mower. If you remember the push mowers of old, my dad had one, it was built like a tank; well today's models are really lightweight. I mean, even I can use one.

And then I fed the lawn. I know, all that effort to cut the grass, and then I feed it to make it grow again. Ah well, there is a method in my madness. I use a product called Lawn Magic, often used on football pitches and bowling greens. Basically, it makes the grass grow stronger roots. It also makes the weeds grow. No really, that's a good thing, because you know how lawn weeds hug the ground so the mower misses them, well now they reach for the sky, or to be more precise, my lawn weeder's prongs.

And this is Clematis armandii, now in full bloom. I purchased it a few years ago and planted it in dense shade, to climb up a berberis. To be honest, I didn't think it would survive, but survive it did, and just grew and grew. The first year it clambered up the berberis as it was supposed to do. The following year it climbed up into the hawthorn tree until a gust of wind blew it down. And this year it jumped over the hedge onto my neighbour's lilac tree, where it is flowering its socks off. After flowering, I will be giving it a drastic prune to keep it under control.

The blue tits haven't booked the removal van just yet. They're still just taking small bits of furniture into the nestbox. In fact, one of them had a very close call with a sparrowhawk on one of the feeders. Fortunately, it doesn't seem bothered by the incident, and is continuing to use the feeder as normal. That little bird is far braver than I.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Zap The App

Oops, a little typo there, I meant zap the aphids.
Yes, they are just starting to arrive in the garden.

See the little fly on the primrose, I watched as it laid its eggs on a nearby pansy. Now non-organic gardeners  would probably have squashed the eggs, and maybe even swatted the fly as well. But you see, this little fly is a hoverfly, I recognised it by the way it hovered as it flew around. I bet that's how it got its name, you know.

Hoverflies are the good guys in the garden. They pollinate our flowers, and their youngsters eat aphids, bucketloads of them, well they eat a lot anyway. So if you are contemplating turning your garden into an organic haven, it's very important to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

And it's not always easy. Sometimes the good guys can turn bad, like wasps that eat aphids in spring, but by late summer are damaging our fruit, and disrupting our picnics. And then there are the bad guys that are actually good. Did you know that there is a type of slug that only eats other slugs ?

So let's here it for the hoverflies, often overlooked in favour of the bees and butterflies, but just as important. They look very similar to bees and wasps, but their flight gives them away.

And now for an important announcement, this will be the last blog post on Gardening With Nature UK. No, wait a minute, don't delete me from your favourites, I'm only changing the blog title. You see, I've discovered that there is another, more established, blog with a similar title. So to avoid any confusion, and whilst this blog is still in its infancy, I've decided to change the blog title to Yorkshire Buddings.

If you search for that on Google, you get yorkshire puddings, which really taste quite nice, my grandma used to make lovely ones, but I digress. So Yorkshire Buddings it will be. I do realise, of course, that if I ever get onto anyone's alphabetical blog roll, I'll be at the bottom of their list. But I know my place.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Home, Sweet Home

They've put a deposit on it, literally,
Signed the contracts, and now they're ready to move in.

After weeks of checking out the nestbox, the blue tits decided to start moving the furniture in today. Only small items at first. You know, like the TV and the radio, wonder if they can get Freeview in there.

Seriously though, isn't it amazing how they can predict the weather ?  How do they know that in a few weeks time, the weather will be warm enough to sustain them with a constant supply of aphids ?  But somehow, they do know.

It really makes you wonder about our place in the scheme of things, doesn't it ? After all, we humans can build multi-million pound computers to predict the weather, and still get it wrong. And yet a little bird, like a swallow for instance, can accurately predict when it is time to leave Africa and set off back to the UK, to arrive just as the warmer weather begins. Maybe we are much further down the pecking order than we realise.

By the way, the five cuckoos that were tagged by the BTO have left the Congo and are now on their way back to the UK. All in all, looks like some fine weather is on the way.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2012

Yes it's that time again.
Although lots of plants are still very shy to bloom.

At least the dwarf narcissus are putting on a good show. Sorry I don't know the varieties, the labels went walkabout years ago.

Leucojum aestivum, also known as the Summer Snowflake. I know, it's March, but it's only flowering about a month early. Yes, the Summer Snowflake blooms in spring not summer. I wonder which bright spark named that one then.

Another dwarf narcissus, but I know this one. This is Narcissus Rip Van Winkle. Are you feeling sleepy ?

Gerbera Mount Rushmore. You're probably thinking this photo looks a bit odd. Well I had a bit of an accident with it in the greenhouse. I broke the stem off, oops. But being as the flower had only just opened, I dropped it into a water feature, like you do.

The very first full sized daffodil to flower this year. No idea of the variety, it's been growing in the garden for centuries, oh alright then, decades.

Vinca minor, just starting to flower.

Gold Lace Polyanthus, now in full bloom, my favourite polyanthus.

Ribes sanguineum, just beginning to bloom. You see a flower, the bees see dinner.

Mahonia aquifolium, just beginning to flower. This one was planted by Mother Nature, under the hawthorn tree. She really knows where to position plants, doesn't she ?

And finally, Clematis armandii, clambering over a berberis, and flowering towards my neighbour's garden. How dare it ?

If you would like to see more gardens in bloom around the world today, pop over to May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting this meme.

And just as an afterthought, for all those of you in the UK who have been experiencing glorious spring weather, the siskin came back today. You have been warned.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Squill Of It

A Striped Squill to be precise.

As I was tidying up the garden, I came across this sweet little flower peering out of a pot under the hedge. This is Puschkinia scilliodes, named after the Russian botanist, Apollo Mussin-Pushkin. Why couldn't they have called it Apollo ?  So much easier to spell.

And these are Crocus tomasinianus, now flowering in large clumps around the lawn. The squirrels didn't get them after all.

And then I came across a hybrid Crocus. As I was taking its photograph, the camera said 'blink detected.'  Have you ever seen a crocus blink ? Neither have I, but the camera never lies, does it ?

And finally, I came across a white Viola Miracle flowering in a basket. These are a new strain of violet based on the old fashioned, sweetly scented varieties.

Needless to say, I didn't get much tidying up done,  but there's always tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cherry Cherry

No, not the Neil Diamond song.
It's a cherry tree, I think.

Whilst out walking the dog, I noticed this tree in the distance, in full flower. Yes, I know, it's early March. So I decided to investigate further, much to my dog's annoyance I must add. You see, he wanted to go in the opposite direction, and it was his walk after all.

But it was a nice sunny day, so we got a bit closer, and Joey decided to pull on the lead every time I tried to take a picture. It was his walk after all.

And then we got up really close. Joey was sniffing around under the tree by this time, so I was allowed to take a photo. It was his walk after all.

And in conclusion, I think it is a wild cherry, or Prunus avium, but I could be wrong. I did notice that the cultivated cherry trees by the roadside were all in bud, and their leaves were just showing too. I'm sure these trees normally flower in April. Looks like spring is coming early this year.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Charlie Is My Darwin

Bit of a play on words there.

This is Rose Charles Darwin flowering in March, I know, it really should not be flowering now. Admittedly it's not the best looking bloom at the moment, but if you had been out in the wind and rain, and the frost and snow, you would probably look a bit worse for wear too. I'll give more details about this rose when it flowers again in summer. I pruned all my roses, except this one, last week in the spring like weather. And as soon as this bloom goes over, I will finish pruning this rose too. Now that we have had some much needed rain, my next job will be to feed and mulch the roses.

And look who's back:

Yes, the siskins are here again. Oh dear, winter has not finished with us yet then. As I've mentioned before, these beautiful little birds only visit my garden in the winter, and don't leave until the last of the winter weather has gone. I didn't see them at all last week, must have been on their holidays, but now I've got four of them on the feeders.

There's a full moon on Thursday which makes Tuesday an ideal time for planting. If you're thinking this is mere mythical hokum, sorry to disappoint, but it is scientifically proven. 48 hours before the full moon is the perfect time for planting and sowing. Have you ever noticed how often it rains around the full moon period ?  And have you ever noticed how nice the weather is 48 hours before the full moon ?  I often used to take these days as holiday to do the gardening, and observed that I often got good weather, especially in the mornings. And I didn't have to water the plants either, because it usually rained afterwards. Check the weather forecast as well though, because there is always the exception that proves the rule.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Marching On

Yes it's March.
The beginning of spring, or is it ?

Do you remember when I accidentally managed to get my Christmas Cactus to flower on Christmas Day ? Well this is a Christmas Rose blooming on the first day of March. Oh well, can't win them all. This is a double Helleborus niger purchased last June from Hayloft Plants. I didn't expect it to flower this spring as it is still a very small plant.

According to legend, Helleborus niger was named the Christmas Rose because a young girl's tears made it appear through the snow. She was crying because she had no gift to give to baby Jesus. It usually flowers in January, apparently on what used to be Christmas Day according to the Julian calendar. Wish they hadn't messed about with the calendars. No wonder a lot of the old sayings don't come true anymore.

And talking of sayings, it's the beginning of March, so:

'If March comes in like a lion,
It goes out like a lamb.
If it comes in like a lamb,
It goes out like a lion.'

Oh I would say it's been the lambing season today, but that doesn't bode well for the end of the month, does it ?