Monday, 20 February 2017

20th February 2017

The phone woke me up with a start at one o'clock in the morning on Saturday.  My first thought was, "This must be bad news."  As I picked up I imagined my younger sister telling me my 94 year old mother had passed.  We are preparing a birthday party for her 95th this weekend but she hasn't been well recently. I steeled myself for the news.  My youngst son was on the other end ... a moment of relief then the panic of  'Why is he phoning so late then? What has happened?' 
"Are you alright?" I ask.
"Oh, " he says, "I've got the wrong number.  Sorry mum did I wake you?"

First daffodil
This lovely hellebore was one of those monthly offers from Gardens' World Magazine three years ago
.... six free plants for the cost of postage.  I received Helleborus purpurascens; Helleborus niger and Helleborous Double Ellen.  They were all tiny and needed time to bulk up before planting out but they are all showing off today.

The good thing about a blog is the ability to look back to previous years.  Looking at an area of primroses I was struck by how few there appeared to be compared with my memory of 2015.  Sure enough photographic proof shows a full line under a large laurel.  That line now has gaps in it.  We had the laurel chopped back last year so that area was badly disturbed and it maybe the plants were killed.  Easy to put right though ... plenty of primroses elsewhere that can be divided to fill the gaps.  I have a seed tray full of seedlings I could use anyway but I really want to plant those at the top of the lane in the road verge.  I know that is not my land but it could look so good with a little effort!

Crocus in the lawn

I am filling the bird feeders up there every two days now and the bird numbers seem to have increased ... but I have no idea what it was like in previous years as the place was too overgrown to see any birds! I do know a couple of magpies have started to build a large nest there using my wood pile for supplies.  They are pretty close to one of my nest boxes! Not good news! The sparrows and chaffinches are not impressed either! 

I was right about the frog a couple of days ago ... it found its way to the pond where a mate was waiting and the two are now making lots of froggy noises. 

The clear out has continued.  The seed trays are washed and ready for planting; storage boxes in the greenhouses have been emptied ... that was so hard to do! ... I am a terrible hoarder and look to find a use for all sorts of old rubbish knowing full well I will never do anything with it in reality ... this time I closed my eyes as the bin filled up!  Years worth of saved plastic pots gone ... not all of them mind! 


I love this time of year ... everything waking up and the knowledge that this will soon be this ....

Last April

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Messing About

I got up this morning intent on spending the day tidying up the garden then did exactly the opposite!

I began well by sprucing up a small bed outside the back door.  It doesn't look great just now but it is no longer covered in dead leaves and the old stems have gone.  The patch in the middle will be filled with a tower of sweetpeas in a few weeks I hope.  Haven't got round to actually planting any yet ... that's a job for tomorrow.

The composters looked ok next to the shed but I decided to move them to behind the greenhouse.  Stupid idea! My back is now killing me!  The reward is loads of lovely compost and plenty of empty space in the bins.  The down side is the mess I made!  I piled loads into the back borders where the veg will be and filled some large pots but had to leave this pile when I ran out of energy to move anymore!  The robin was pleased.

I moved a table to behind the greenhouse too.

Now I know this looks a mess at the moment but I have a plan!  It involves a saw, a screwdriver and a pot of paint ... could be very messy!  I have been on Pinterest .... I LOVE Pinterest! .... and spotted a lot of quaint potting benches made from old tables and pallets so how difficult can it be??

This is the look I am going for:

I have the green paint, some planks of wood and a couple of metal shelf brackets.  I want some sort of pretty sign, a twig heart and a few painted pots.  If you don't see a photo in the next few weeks you will know it went horribly wrong and ended in a trip to the tip .... and we won't need to mention it again!!

Next I started to shift the dead leaves from the herb patch when this young lady jumped out and I decided to stop.  She is massive ... obviously about to pop if she doesn't down load all that frog spawn soon.  I think our pond will be seeing some action tomorrow.

Friday, 17 February 2017

February 2017

I have been shopping!

I made the most of the Lidl special offer .... 5 pks for £1 for the veg seeds and 5 pks for £2 for flowers.  Unfortunately I then chose to go through the self service till and somehow managed to over charge myself by £1.60!

My Garden Club always offers half price Thompson & Morgan seeds but this year the lady who organises this decided to quit ... no one was stepping up so I volunteered to take over.  It took some persuading to get to the minimum order level of £100 but we made it on time for the seeds to arrive for the February meeting. I was giving out the seeds when two more orders were handed in .... just when I thought I had finished!

Looking at details of another garden club in a neighbouring village I noticed they had a talk about barn owls.  Now my husband is a keen birder so he agreed to accompany me.  The owners of Tean Valley Meadow, Alan and Sylvia Williams, retired in 2002 and bought 11 acres of meadow and set about creating a nature reserve.  Thirty three young owls have been fledged from their owl boxes over the years.  It sounded idyllic.  What a great thing to do in your retirement. 
As a visitor I felt quite cheeky when my number came out first in the club raffle ....  but I desperatly needed a new pair of work gloves and there was a leather pair on the table ... serendipity!

So here is how I wore out my old gloves .... before Christmas I began to tidy up a small area near my house.  I was happy with what I had accomplished and had plans to finish the job when I came back from a three week holiday to India.  Imagine my surprise on our return to find the council had decided to do something about the overgrown mess and had visited with their chainsaws: they destroyed the shrubs and left the mess!

A week later my gloves were in tatters ....

but the ground space was clear.

I have already planted some spring bulbs in there ... obviously not enough .... but they are coming through now.

Before Christmas I had visions of a bluebell wood .... today I visited Hodsocks Priory so I now want a snowdrop wood!

I had a lovely day spotting the different species.  It made me look more carefully at my own snowdrops some of which were in the garden when we moved in twenty four years ago and sure enough I found a small clump with lots of green on the inner petals ... no idea what it is but 'Dragonfly' looks quite similar or it may be Merlin.  I have no plans to start collecting snowdrops.  The cost of some of the bulbs is frightening.

The Hodsock shop was a treat ... lots of bulbs and hellebores and bees all over the place!

 Lots to do in the garden this weekend ... LOVE this time of year!!

A little treat!

 Finally, here's one of the tigers we saw on our birding holiday in India.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Wild Side

I have spent quite a few hours at the top of our lane recently trying to improve the place.  As I have already mentioned this is a road verge separating the top of our road from a fast flowing and busy by-pass.  I was fed up of seeing it over grown and filled with litter so I went in to do a little pruning .... and got carried away!

This ....

 ... now looks like this ...

 The area was filled with piles of dumped garden waste including large tree trunks.  Most had been there so long the branches snapped off very easily to form a large pile of firewood .... and a great place for any homeless hedgehog mad enough not to want to move into my hedgehog box (see previous post!)

The other problem was the huge brambles that had grown over the shrubs and trees and were cutting out all the light.  It was hard work cutting them down and pulling them out of the vegetation.  Anyone looking at my scratched arms and legs might think I have been self-harming!

Thirdly there was the problem of litter.  I was okay with the food wrappers and beer cans; disturbed by the pants and stockings but rather disgusted when I was confronted by used toilet paper and a smelly place!  That particular area was avoided.

 This area ....

... was quite straight forward.  Just litter and dead wood to shift and it turned into this ...

Here is another before view ...

This isn't quite the same angle but it is the same area (look closely at the tree on the left and you can tell from the V shaped branches).

Next I dug up part of a large nettle patch.  I know what you are thinking but I didn't destroy the nettles, just incase there were any insect eggs, I took them to a compost area next to more nettles.  There are plenty of other nettles here!

The ones I dug up were growing from an old pile of dumped garden waste that over the years had formed a small hill of compost ... perfect for the 200 spring bulbs I had received from a Gardeners' World offer (paid just £5.60 for P&P).

It might look like I have buried someone at the moment but by spring we should have daffodils, crocus, snakehead frittilaries, chionodoxa and anemones covering the bare earth.  I have put a couple of primulas in, some foxgloves and aquilegia.  Bluebells and grape hyachinths have been planted in the middle and I scattered some wild flower seeds around (yes, I know it is rather late but it is still warm).  

An old plastic box filled with stones and plant pots made the basis of a small watering hole for birds and frogs.  I have placed it well away from the path and fenced it off to avoid any stray children falling in face first (but the water is very shallow just in case).

Four bird boxes are on the way from Amazon.  I will set up a small feeding station: in the meantime I have hung a couple of fatballs from a tree.

I have been beaten by this section.  

I made a start but after three hours I was worn out!

I made a small hedgehog house out of the twigs

I am pleased with how it is looking now as I walk passed.  More importantly though a robin has started turning up everytime I go up there and on my last visit a flock of long tailed tits kept me company so I just need a hedgehog to move in and I will be very happy.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Paint & Posts

I had a bit of a crafty day today.  The morning began with the front gate.  We painted the front windows and doors last year but ran out of steam before we got to the gate needed fixing at that time anyway so it was left.  Andy got round to fixing it over the summer and it was up to me to paint it ... so it got left again!  On a warm day last week I gave it two coats of dove grey and then spend ages on Pinterest looking at photos of gates.  I can get lost on that site for hours ... there are some amazing gates, honestly! ... but all I wanted was a simple stencil design.  The one I chose was printed onto thick card and this morning I stuck it onto the gate ...

The stencil has been filled in pale green (to match the front windows).  It is the first time I have tried anything like this and I am quite pleased with the outcome.  The photo below makes it look very pale ... it stands out a bit more in real life!

 While I was waiting for the first coat to dry I got out the tool box and bits of wood from an old fence.  Now you may not believe this but I can assure you I have never had any woodwork lessons in my life ... mine was the last generation where girls did cooking and sewing and lads played with wood.  Well. I measured the pieces; I sawed the pieces; I hammered the bits together; I realised too late that one piece was upside down and the door was too small so I had to pull it apart and start again ... but after a LOT of sweat and swearing I was the proud owner of .....

 .... if you are still wondering it is a luxury hedgehog house!  I am just glad I don't have to make a living from woodwork .... how anyone can saw in a straight line I do not know!  Yes, it looks a mess but I had a lot of fun making it and Andy had a right laugh when it was finished!  Anyway it doesn't matter because the hedgehog won't mind as long as the roof keeps her dry (which it will) and I took it up to the top of the lane (really need to think of a name for this place) and covered it in dead leaves so no-one can see what it looks like anyway!

I put a few cat treats round the door to entice a new owner to find it.  Unfortunately my lovely pet, Isis, died this week so she won't be needing the treats.  We had eighteen loving years so she is missed. x

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mad as a Box of Frogs

Happy Halloween!

Well, summer has gone then! How did that happen?! The clocks have gone back and we are plunged into dark evenings ... so how do we cheer ourselves up .... we dress kids up as ghouls and stuff ourselves with pumpkin soup and parkin. I used to love Mischief Night as a child and a week later was the Bonfire party.  Great!

Obviously this is a busy time for us all trying to get the garden ready for winter.  All our apples have been picked and the veg patch cleared.  The green bin has been filled to overflowing with things I have chopped back and I thought the place was looking okay ....

... yes, the grass could do with a cut but we still have a bit of colour about the place .... then a friend came round and gave me her view!  All she could see was the weeds and the moss on the paths and the untidy parts!  We have completely different ideas on gardening.  I don't do tidy gardening.  Everything has to muck in.  I don't have blue or pink borders: I see a space and fill it. Weeds survive in my garden because I don't see them in the chaos!  The path gets swept sometimes but this is outside so it doesn't have to be spotlessly clean. One of my neighbours is not impressed by my attitude either.  He likes to see neat shrubs with clear soil, or better still bark chippings, in between. I won't change.  Too many plants: too little space!

This sorry state of affairs is a small wooded road verge at the top of our lane.  I wrote to the town council last year asking permission to go in and plant a few bluebells.  They told me the land didn't belong to them so I should contact the Borough Council.  The Borough Council didn't own the land either so I should contact the Highways Department.  The Highways passed me on to Direct One (or something!) and the nice secretary told me my enquiry had been passed on and Mr ---- would be in touch.  I never heard another thing.


The brambles are as thick as my arm and saplings and shrubs are being strangled by ivy.  People dump litter and garden waste in there which just makes it worse.  I can't do the whole lot but I chose a spot in the middle and went in!

I cut back the brambles and rescued what I could (a couple of lovely red dogwoods now stand a chance).  There were lots of beer bottles thrown around one part and empty packets of tobacco but I was very surprised to discover a pair of stockings and black pants!  Someone is going to be disappointed when they see my handiwork then! 

Once my area was cleared I planted bluebells in the middle and some daffodills at the edge.  I have a few foxgloves and stinking hellebores to transplant from my garden and some spotted dead nettles.  I left piles of wood and dead leaves for the local hedgehogs to find and I think I will add an insect hotel before the cold weather sets in.  I don't want to make it into a cultivated garden, just a great space for wildlife that looks better than the mess it was becoming.

Part way there ...rubbish removed

Dead wood stacked at the back; nettles left in place; almost ready to plant spring bulbs.
In my working days I always wore heels and smart co-ordinated outfits.  I think I was viewed as being a sensible career woman.  Since my retirement I know my neighbours must view me as being slightly odd when I am still working in the garden even though the light has faded around me!  I must be "that mad gardening woman" to people who do not know my name.  This impression was confirmed when a neighbour saw what I was doing and laughingly told Andy, "She's as mad as a box of frogs, your wife!"