Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spring Cleaning The Garden

  The weather was calm this afternoon to start with.I had cleaned the greenhouse out yesterday,and felt inspired to start clearing some winter debris away from the garden.The dead sweet peas were taken off the spiral poles,and the base of the barrel planters cleared.I think that the left hand pot has some self seeded Petunias growing away.It is obviously sheltered under the houses red bricks.I moved the metal Peacock to under the fence to try to stop the wind knocking him over.
 I cleared all the mud,seeds,and leaves that had fallen between the pots and over the path.The Hostas were cleaned up,the black Bamboo tied to the canes to support their strong growth.I trimmed off all the dead Rose branches,and finally pruned Lady Emma Hamilton.Her growth has been impressive but she was over grown and twisted branches growing into each other.I hope that this causes more fresh growth,and more flowers.

 The Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) is lovely blowing in the wind.The leaves and stems make a nice noise as the wind blows through them.I have three pots growing with them in.I hope eventually to split them to make more Bamboo pots to go along the path.
 The Wildflower area behind the pond has been cleared,and the big perennial clumps dug out.I hope that all the dormant seeds in the soil can benefit from the light and exposed soil. Wild Things (the channel four plant program) showed seeds growing after lying underground for up to eighty years on Salisbury Plains where the British Army train with military exercises.No herbicide has been sprayed there for over fifty years.
  The wild flowers have self seeded,and should grow strongly i hope.I have added no manure or fertiliser.It is the same building soil that was here before.
 I also cleaned up some of the pond plants and tried netting the little green pond weed that has gone crazy.The plants are all thriving.The Horsetail grasses had a little resident sleeping in the muddy roots who i caught to have his photo taken.The Norfolk Reed,Moses Reed,Water Lily,and Flag Iris were all replanted in the water.
 A baby Frog leaped from the Horsetail grass.He posed for some photos before I put him back into the pond.I don't know if we had tadpoles in the pond,or whether he has migrated from another pond to climb into ours.I am pleased that the freezing ice did not put him off.The water was full of microscopic life swimming around.
I moved the cold frame back against the fence.I will grow some Leeks,and early Cabbages in here whilst the greenhouse is awaiting its new cover.
  I just watched the One Show and saw Monty Don.He has a new series starting on Friday night about French gardens.He says that Long meadow (his own garden and where they film Gardeners World) is a mud bath.He says its too early to start panicking about the weather.We need to wait and see what the weather brings this year.
  I want to clear the sunken border tomorrow of Teasels,and weeds to see whats growing.I want to split my Echinops and clear the debris of bird seed under the static feeder.The big job will be to trim the Ceanothus back into a lollipop shape that is under control.It is much too big for its allotted space.The Buddleja will also be trimmed back.I think that the Sambuca Nigra needs to be moved because the Dicentra is looking vigorous already at its base.I might get some Winter Primulas tomorrow to start dotting colour around the garden.January is a lean time for colour.My Primulas are flowering away but only in two colours.They seem to be able to survive year after year,despite being swamped in the summer by other plants.They wait under the dead plants,snow and ice,before flowering in December/January.The gardens torch bearers of a new growing season and early signs that winter will end soon.
   I get a feeling every year that makes me go outside into the garden to start preparing again for a new growing season.Maybe its something to do with the light,warmer day,or an internal gardener alarm.
  The poor year last year has made me more determined that this year will be a great one.Seeing the Baby Frog was a real buzz.I love seeing wildlife so close the the house,in an urban housing estate.
 It started pouring down with heavy rain at about four pm,and the wind is blowing the rain against the conservatory as i write this.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Post

 I did my RSPB big garden bird watch count today.It was a disappointingly quiet hour sat watching the garden.There was a ten minute flurry of activity then the rain drove the birds back to the shelter of the trees.The Goldfinches were eating the sunflower hearts.Five of them made them the most counted birds.I only managed to count twelve in the hour.No Blue Tits,Coal Tits,Great Tits,House Pigeons,or Starlings.I did see Blackbirds,Sparrows,Goldfinches,Dunnock,and a Collared Dove.
 The weather has been bad fluctuating between snow and ice, and now torrential rain and strong gusting winds.Its been too inclement for any gardening or allotment clearing today.
 I read a good article on the Daily Telegraph about the attraction of having a greenhouse.
Mine has been ripped to shreds by the wind,drenched with the rain,and misshapen by the snow.It is more of a colander than a greenhouse.I have been clearing the debris that has been damaged by the water getting inside it.When it drys up and is not windy I will put on the new cover.My money this year will be going on a New Zealand air ticket,so the glass greenhouse will have to wait.I want to start growing Vegetable seeds,Tomatoes,Chilli's,and grow on plug plants in here this year.It will be the power house for the garden and allotment.
Winter debris covers the garden.The wildlife likes the rugged look.The pond needs cleaning up for the spring.The green pond weed needs scooping out.I bought a little aquarium net to clear the weed and fallen leaves.The wildflower area behind it needs cutting down to the soil.I will put plant supports in this year before they flowers have grown tall,to try to keep them in place.
  Looking at the garden there is growth of Daffodils,Tulips,Crocus,and Iris.The Iris were squashed when the man laid the greenhouse concrete base,but have survived and are growing by the doorway.The Chinese Tree Peony,and Dicentra are growing up from the soil, hopefully bigger and better than last year.
 The Ceanothus needs a good trim to make it fit in its allotted space.It is about eight feet high and five feet wide now.Not bad for a plant that was in a 2litre pot to begin with.The birds love flying into the leaf covered branches to chill.
 The Butterfly bush also needs a good trimming.It is very vigerous plant though and takes hard pruning in its stride.
 I hope the weather improves so I can start the spring clean up soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wild Things

 The snow is slowly melting away in the garden,but the birds are still flying in to feed.This Dunnock sat feeding for ages.They normally hop around the edge of the sunken border or between the pots on the path.His feathered coat is quite ornate,with the black and brown stripes.
 The Blackbirds are the most frequent visitors to the garden.This weekend it is the RSPB big garden bird watch.When you spend one hour counting all the birds (or the most birds of each species that you see in the hour) in your garden/park/wherever you do it.
The results will be available in March.It will be interesting to see if the terrible wet 2012 has effected bird numbers.The birds are like friendly garden spirits.When its too snowy and icy watching them outside is therapeutic.I saw a tiny bird this morning hopping along the Butterfly Bush branches,and feeding on the fat balls.I had to goto the RSPB website to identify it..It was a juvenile Goldcrest.The first time I have ever seen one..
Two programmes caught my attention.The first one was on Channel Four called Wild Things,about the wild plants growing in the British Isles.How they have changed over time,using maps that plot where individual species are found growing.Some have spread like wildfire,where as others have started to disappear.They look at what has happened to the native British plants.
 The first program looked at Danish Scurvy Grass,Bluebells,and Lichen.Danish Scurvy Grass is a coastal plant that is growing along the motorway verges now miles from the seaside.The salt spread on the roads to stop it from freezing gets sprayed into the verges.The seeds get drawn along by fast cars,which is why it is called the fastest Plant in Britain.
  The British Bluebell was looked at with its extremely complex scent,and compared to the non native but spreading all over Spanish Bluebell.The problem is the two species are producing hybrids,and they are worried the Native British Bluebells will die out.I cant wait for March/April to find a Bluebell wood.The scent from all the flowers is what people remember.I will be close to the Bluebells sniffing them when they flower.
  The book was sent free for me to read,and it is beautifully photographed and written.It makes you want to walk outside and see what wild plants are growing.A wild plant growing in your garden is a weed!The natural world is alien to a whole generation of people.I hope this inspires more people to look at whats growing around us.I love the three new presenters and hope they get a chance to do longer more in depth programs in the future.I remember David Bellamy was the first person who got excited by Botany.If you can read the book I would.
  The other program was on BBC1 and was called Allotment Wars and showed the darker side of allotments.Terrible petty committees trying to evict plot holders, sabotage of prize vegetables and peoples sheds, arguments between plot holders that lasted years..
 It painted a grim picture,but probably not reflective of most allotments.Generally people are willing to help their plot neighbours,sharing tips,plants,and equipment.Most Vegetable competitions are good natured but competitive.
  Councils are also reducing the size of plots,and increasing the number of plot holders which can only increase tensions.You need to hope you get on with your neighbours who are around you.Councils sold off large amounts of land before allotments become fashionable so now there are horribly long waiting lists before you can even put your spade or fork into the soil.
   There is a big movement now to grow your own food,to know where your food comes from,and what chemicals have been applied to it.If you love cooking then growing your own fresh ingredients is a big draw.I have seen several top end restaurants that have kitchen gardens near them for the chefs to harvest and cook from what is in season.
  I think that gardening,and growing your own will bring people together generally.An allotment is like a small organic village with many people striving towards the same aim.Growing Vegetables,and Fruit.
  Gardening is one of the few activities that can cross class boundaries,and geography.Anyone can garden from massive country estates,down to small window boxes or pots on the windowsill.The activity is stress relieving,therapeutic,and deeply satisfying.I think people have got the kick ever since they planted the first seeds and saw their plants growing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wintry Garden Pics

  The weather changed from the mild winter of Christmas into Arctic cold with freezing temperatures.The first snow of the year has fallen here blanketing the garden in white.Not huge amounts,but enough to make the garden look like an Xmas card.One benefit has been the increase in the garden birds feeding to keep their energy levels up.The Goldfinches are always feeding on the sunflower hearts.
 The view from the conservatory window.When it is cold,icy,and wet outside this is an ideal spot to look out into the garden and plan for the coming spring.Seed and flower catalogues adorn the table,and i have spent ages looking at all the delicious flowers,vegetables,and fruit in the books.Looking beautiful and unblemished.
 The Butterfly Bush needs cutting back but the long delicate branches are a perfect perch for Blue Tits,Coal Tits,and Great Tits to eat their seeds.I have even seen a small flock of Long Tailed Tits eating fat balls.
 The Bunting is still hung up from the glorious year that was 2012.The wind,rain,snow,and ice has changed the red white and blue to off colour.The Black Bamboo was groaning under the weight of the snow.I love its evergreen leaves and shiny black stems.They need tieing up though to the canes.They have a habit of falling over at the moment..
 The cold spell has sent the Blackbirds into a frenzy.They are always feeding,fighting,and flying or hopping around.I counted eight the other day.These are Russian Blackbirds who fly here to escape the freezing Arctic conditions.they probably think minus three degrees centigrade is balmy!
 A lovely Robin has been visiting as well.I love these chirpy characters.The red breast and snow make you think of Christmas.I think over half our Xmas cards had a Robin on the picture.
 The Himalayan Birch Tree is dormant at the moment.I'm waiting for it to thicken up,and for the white bark to appear.It is vase shaped,but hard to photograph with the bare hedge behind it.I love the ghostly bark of these Trees.Its growth will be a long term project to see how it grows.Vegetables,and Flowers are short term and easily appreciated.Trees take much longer,and become more personal when you finally plant one.We have waited two years nearly to plant a decorative tree in the front garden.
 Another plant doing well is these Rhododendron growing under the front room window.Two of them are over wintering lovely,one is very sickly looking and may be composted.I actually used acidic compost to plant these in to make them feel at home.Its a mystery why two thrive,and one fails?
The Vegetable seeds i ordered have come.Now i need the snow to go away so i can prepare the allotment for march planting.I also went to Hampsons and bought some half price bulbs.Three more Bishop Dahlias, and some Double/single Freesias that smell divine.
 I have perused the flower books and will order some Foxgloves,Night Phlox,Nemesia,Delphinium, and Hanging basket plants.I will concentrate on growing the vegetables this year.The Perennials will hopefully give a sea of colour in the sunken border.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Snappy Returns

 It has been a good few months since I did a blog post.The wetness of 2012 exhausted my creative garden juices and I took a little blog break.I have blogged for about nine years now I think.I enjoyed Xmas and new year.I have started to get the gardening bug back.The first snow of 2013 has fallen overnight and is falling down now.The birds have been all over the garden today feeding between snow flakes.
 The tall feeder looks blurry behind the snow flakes.I love snow,but I think this will be a few day flurry before it moves away.
 The winter always brings in new birds to the garden.this cheeky Chaffinch has been in the garden feeding every day.He is always alone though.maybe he will bring his family when he has them.We saw a Song Thrush yesterday feeding in the garden.The first one I have ever seen here.I was excited,they are very noble looking birds with beautiful chest speckling.
The old friends the winter Primulas have burst into flower.The white petals and yellow eyes are the only flowers in the garden.I need to get out and start clearing the debris up ready for the Spring.The Daffodils are already growing from the frozen ground.
 I got a leaflet from the Spring Flower Show in Harrogate.That is on the 23rd April 2013.We needed a cold spell to kick start the garden.Its part of the cycle of seasons here to have a cold spell.
  I spent yesterday and today poring over seed catalogues.From Marshall's,Thompson Morgan,and Mr Fothergills.There was too much choice really.
 I will grow Grapes,Tomatoes,and Chillies in the greenhouse.The Allotment will see me move away from traditional crops, and mixing them with new trendy foods.I have ordered small amounts of heirloom Potatoes to grow just for eating.The raised beds and covered paths will hopefully make it easier to maintain the over grown plot.I just need to finish clearing it up.2012 was a year of Royal Celebrations,and Sporting Success, but was detrimental to the allotment and garden.2013 will be an outdoorsy year for me,away from the TV!
  I have also ordered today more Strawberries.The French Mara De Bois which I think Michael Roux Junior said were his favourites.They are a cross between wild Strawberries and the plump English Ones.
  I'm hoping that my Fruit Trees will be productive this year.I want a Bramley Apple or two, and some Pears.I do not know if the Cherry Tree will be under attack again from black aphids and ants.It looks very distorted where it grew.
   I want to go to New Zealand this year to see my Sister,and Nephew.I bet I can find some plants and flowers to blog about from there.
 The RHS flower shows and Great Yorkshire Show are some of my future blog posts too.Attracting wildlife will feature too this year.
 Here's to a productive 2013 for growing flowers,vegetables,fruit,and writing regular blog posts!