Also known as Bellflower, this really is the all round star of the garden. Look at how it has recovered from many bouts of frost! Although don't introduce it to you garden if you don't want a lot of it, as it does enjoy self seeding in all little nooks and crannies. Growing tips, well you don't need any, it just about grows anywhere!
Air below 0°C is defined as Air frost, measured at a height of 2m (6ft). Ground Frost occurs when the air at ground level is chilled below freezing point. Ground frost is measured at 5cm (2in) above the ground. Hoar Frost the fluffy deposit of minute ice crystals on grass and brickwork, occurs on calm, clear nights when condensation takes place after freezing. Black frost, as the name suggests, is a thin sheet of frost without the white colour usually associated with frost.
Sedum covered in frost - this plant is as tough as old boots!
Frozen Bird Bath - don't forget to make sure you leave unfrozen water for the birds!
MERRY CHRISTMAS ... WINTER WISHES ... HAPPY NEW YEAR
It is a special time for mistletoe and holly, it is an excellent time for laughter, a great time to be jolly!
Cheers everyone for taking time to read my blog, and for all the great comments left. I still can't believe how many great people I have met in such a short space of time!
Judith of Everything In The Garden's Rosy left the very first comment on my blog, which really set the wheels in motion, many thanks Judith.
Please keep in touch in 2008.
CRINKLY THE SWAN
Love is in the air for Crinkly the Swan, whos patch is at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Gloucestershire. Apparently he appears to be 'loosely' associating with another Slimbridge Bewicks swan called Taciturn, which is great news. Up until now, with his crooked neck and ungraceful flying, no other female has showed any remote interest in him, aah. Despite his disability, which makes him less aerodynamic, Crinkly has managed to survive seven migrations from breeding grounds on the Russian Arctic tundra which means that he has flown over 21,000 kilometres which in my book makes him the superhero of the swan world.
Swans fly back to Britain at this time of year because conditions in the tundra make feeding impossible.
Let's hope we can hear the 'flipper flapper' of tiny cygnets in 2008, with proud parents Crinkly and Taciturn looking on!
Today I saw my very first Song Thrush of the winter in the garden. I only just saw it, as it had been startled, making it quickly scurry under a bush. The Song Thrush has such beautiful spotty markings and colouring, I always think their paleness blends so well with the winter scenery, athough perhaps their brightness makes them easy prey to larger birds, would they be attacked by magpies or sparrowhawks? Song thrushes are sensitive to hard winter weather and winter territories are often abandoned during periods of severe weather, when many birds move southwards, even as far as north-west France and northern Spain. At present the Song Thrush is in decline, and is red listed as a bird of serious conservation concern. The cause appears to be a combination of lack of food and lack of nesting sites, brought about by intensive farming methods?
Like as the thrush in winter, when the skies
Are drear and dark, and all the woods are bare
Sings undismayed, till from his melodies
Odours of spring float through the frozen air
So in my heart when sorrows icy breath
Is bleak and bitter and its frost is strong
Leaps up, defiant of despair and death
A sunlit fountain of triumphant song
Sing on sweet singer until the violets come
And south winds blow, sing on prophetic bird
O if my lips, which are for ever dumb
Could sing to men what my sad heart has heard
Lifes darkest hour with songs of joy would ring
Lifes blackest frost would blossom into Spring
All I want for Christmas is this calendar! Did you know there is a website dedicated to this? Click on this link to take you to their somewhat politically incorrect allotment!
This could be J, he enjoys very few vegetables, me I could eat the lot!
I love to have a few pine cones, they remind me of time spent with my family growing up on a farm in rural West Sussex. I remember on the cold wintry days going out with mum to collect these from the hundreds of pine trees that surrounded the land my dad farmed on. I regret to say that a great majority of these trees were felled a few years back, no not to make room for housing but for a golf course of all things! We had an open coal fire in our sitting room and these cones really spat when we threw them onto the burning coals, not too good for Mum's carpet, although the rug in front of it took the full extent of the scorching and of course when out of the room we would always put the fireguard up.
A pine cone is a seed that comes from a pine tree. Pine trees are tall and straight. Pine trees don't lose their leaves in autumn and winter. They belong to a group of trees called evergreens.
I always love the opportunity to mention squirrels, I know they can be pests, but who could hate these lovely cute 'n furry creatures? My 'Secret' grey squirrel is still reeking havoc around the garden, he has knocked down a bird feeder yet again, with his acrobatic antics!
Squirrels are seed eaters. They favour pine cones, but also eat larch and spruce. Their diet also includes fungi, shoots and fruits of shrubs and trees, and sometimes birds' eggs. They can choose between good and bad nuts by holding them in their paws. Reds do not hibernate and store fungi in trees to eat over the winter months. When food is plentiful, they put on weight in the autumn to help them through the winter. This is important for breeding females, so that they are in good condition for producing young.
CYCLAMEN – Resignation, Goodbye
Many thanks to everyone who took part in the November poll, the results show that colourful Cyclamen has been voted most favourite winter bedding plant.
Rather fortunate really, as this is the winter bedding plant I have chosen for my drainpipe pots, the almost sorbet shades of pink do look so beautiful and full of colour, and seem to look good against the brick of the wall. I have them planted in homemade compost, and topped off with soil improver, which is made up of very small pieces of bark mulch, which makes a lovely foil for the beautiful markings on the foliage, which this variety have.
Make sure you twist off the spent flower heads as they turn to seed, doing this will help them to continue flowering over a long period of time.
Cyclamen, from the Greek, kyklos, meaning circular, a reference to the way the flower stems twist into spirals as the seed cases develop. Cyclamen were put to many medicinal uses during the first few centuries AD according to Pedacio (or Padanius) Dioscorides, a Greek military surgeon and naturalist of the first century.
Cyclamen received 50% of the vote, Pansies/Viola received 27%, Polyanthus/Primrose received 10% and Heather received 1%, I am so pleased one of you voted for poor Heather!
RED SKY AT NIGHT
This is what the sky looks like, today, late afternoon, down here in West Sussex. After a very mild, bleak, blustery and wet start to the day, it has cleared to become dry with a noticeable chill in the air. I passed through my patch today, just enough to put out my bin and box for tomorrow, to throw foodwaste and shredded paper into my compost bin and to take a photo of this lovely sky which looked incredible, as if alight, I like the skyline against the silhouette of the hedge.
What with one thing and another, (all of which I daresay will be revealed in my home blog in the very near future) and running another blog alongside this one, I have not been able to post a garden article for a while. I really must get off this computer and out into the garden today, so hopefully soon I shall have something to share with you. Don't forget to pop back in a day or two, or three!
In the meantime, I hope you are all working hard in your gardens and watching the lovely wildlife that visits.
Back indoors soon, Louise x
ROSEMARY - Remembrance
There's Rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you love, remember - (Hamlet) William Shakespeare. Rosemary is the herb of remembrance, and sprigs are often carried at country funerals or woven into wreaths.
I inherited this useful Rosemary plant from the previous owner, it is a hardy evergreen herb, and is still in little blue flower now in November! It likes dry soil and mine is more or less growing out of a paving slab, so that is how impoverished the soil is.
Rosemary is said to thrive in households where 'the mistress, not the master, rules', maybe that is why it thrives so well in my garden!
Rosemary Hair Rinse - Infuse a few stalks of Rosemary in hot water for several minutes, strain the liquid and allow to cool and bottle, this can be used as a final hair rinse, but always remember to keep it handy in the bathroom! This rinse will bring out the shine in dark hair, for fair hair replace the Rosemary with Chamomile flowers.
I remember as a kid my mum saying how much she disliked Statice in dried flower arrangements, so when a garden magazine was giving away freebie Statice seeds on the front cover I was in two minds about growing them, but I am pleased I did, I really like them. They are really easy to grow from seed, appear to be drought tolerant and flower for months on end, they are still in flower now in November. Established plants also survive in the ground over winter, the foliage does die down a little but they manage to spring back into life in the summer, well they do down here in the South.
The top photo is of plants I grew this year from seed they include some unusual colours such as salmon pink, orange-yellow, pink, carmine and blue, the blue being shown in the second photo.
The 'everlasting' blooms on strong wiry stems hold their colours superbly after drying. Pick when foliage is quite dry and flowers are well coloured. Tie in small bunches and hang upside down in a dry, well ventilated place until really dry.
My step-dad bought me this plant a few Christmas' ago, unfortunately that year all the developing flower buds decided to fall off! Last year the same plant flowered 'its socks off' with two displays of gorgeous blooms. Well you can see how well it is doing again this year, it is tight in its pot so I may have to repot it after flowering has finished?
I discovered some tips in a magazine of how to look after these plants, I didn't religiously follow these, but whatever I did do has produced good results.
January to March - resting period so water infrequently.
April to May - when compost begins to dry water well.
June to September - place outdoors in a shady spot but look out for slugs!
September - bring back indoors and keep compost fairly dry and cool until flower buds form.
Water frequently during the flowering period with rainwater.
I have four different ferns planted at the base of my Amelanchier tree, this is one of them. I love ferns and they are a great addition to any 'green' garden or to an area in shade. They were very popular with the Victorians and they displayed them beneath glass in 'ferneries' and also developed 'stumperies' where they planted ferns and other shade loving plants amongst tree stumps and roots, this is a great idea and this is a project which I want to undertake sometime soon. These have two purposes, one to look good and two to encourage lots of wildlife amongst the decaying matter, lovely!
NERINE common names include Jersey or Guernsey Lily and Spider Lily
I was given this plant by a friend who was dividing hers, and to be quite honest it hasn’t done a thing, up until now that is. The other day I had quite a shock to see it flowering as it had been relegated to an out of the way corner of the garden. I must say it is beautiful and is an added a splash of lovely pink, which when you think of it, a colour not seen in abundance at this time of year in the garden. I believe this is Nerine bowdenii, a bubblegum pink variety.
Nerine bowdenii, sometimes called the Jersey Lily after Lily Langtry.
Others just holding on to flower in my garden are pale blue scabious, sunflower stella, salvia black and white, sedum, white gaura, white osteospermum and purple campanula.
The other weekend when we had the rain showers and the gardens were full of glistening cobwebs I took this photo of my holly bush. When I uploaded the photo onto my computer I noticed what looked like a frog sitting on a branch, I went back outside to take a look but I couldn't pinpoint exactly which part of the bush I had taken the photo. I know on film you can sometimes get two pictures overlapping but this was on digital and my memory card didn't have any photos of frogs on at the time. What do you make of it, is it a trick of the eye and just leaf and stem, looking at it does freak me a little.
MORE BIRD FOOD
Thanks to everyone for their comments on my posting Cats & Birds, they made great reading, my conclusion being to carry on as I have been, for me to enjoy the birds but just hope the cats don’t get to enjoy them too!
With this in mind I couldn’t resist a pack of these Gardman Hanging Feeders for Wild Birds when we popped into B&Q over the weekend, I like these feeders as you can hang them individually or stack them together and for under £5.00 I think they are quite good value for money, I have had these feeders before but not this particular selection:
Thistle Seed to attract Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Coal Tits, Siskins and Bullfinches.
Robin Seed & Insect Mix to attract Robins, Blue Tits, Black Caps, Dunnocks, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Wrens, Finches, Thrushes and other species.
Blue Tit Seed & Insect Mix to attract Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Black Caps, Wrens and other species.
Saturday 27th October is National Feed the Birds Day, designed to encourage people to feed the birds in their gardens. It is also a good opportunity for regular bird feeders to increase their feeding regime for winter. Feed the Birds Day is timed to coincide with the clocks going back as this marks the onset of the long, dark winter nights, when life can start to get a little harder for birds.
Are there any caterpillar experts out there, does anyone know what this is? I think I have read that the hairy variety of caterpillar are moths? I discovered it clambering over my alchemilla mollis when I was having a garden tidy.
CATS & BIRDS
Oh dear, today I witnessed one of the neighbourhood cats just having caught a bird in my garden, I know it is all part of nature’s cycle but I still get upset when I see it happening. The dilemma of mine is I like cats and I like birds, so I don’t chase the cats out of the garden and I encourage more birds into the garden. I do my best to site all my bird feeders so as not to make it too easy for the cats to pounce but they will still manage to spring upon unsuspecting birds on the ground.
I always worry when the fledgling birds are on the ground in the Spring, they are so vulnerable and they really can be sitting targets for a passing cat, but this year I was fortunate and didn’t notice any dead birds around the garden or in a moggies mouth.
Not being a cat owner, do cats actually eat their catch or do they just enjoy toying with it?
AMELANCHIER SNOWY MESPILUS
The weather today has been lovely, take a look at that blue sky in the photo, and I spent about 5 hours outside in the garden, with quite a few tea breaks thrown in! I have accumulated debris enough for another trip to the tip, I do compost a lot of my garden rubbish, but I can only do so much.
Gardening should really be done in blinkers. Its distractions are tempting and persistent, and only by stern exercise of will do I ever finish one job without being lured off to another.
Amelanchier can be used as a shrub but ours has been left to develop into a small multi-stemmed tree. In Spring it has white flowers before these turn into berries, ripening from red to purple-black. The leaves change various shades of colour during the year until Autumn when they have this beautiful bronze leaf colour, it is deciduous but the bark gives character to the garden in wintertime. The blackbirds and starlings love the berries, adults and juveniles alike.
The blackbirds seem to have been hiding just of late, but this afternoon just as it was turning dusk, I noticed four having a great old scout around the garden, they really do look humorous as they run out from the undergrowth, hurriedly poke at the ground and turn over the leaf litter to find insects or earthworms and then hurriedly run back to find cover again. There is a lot in my garden for the blackbirds to feed on, plenty of earthworms in my soil, lots of shrubs with berries on, and I buy dried fruit especially for them, so they will never go short.
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye
Four-and-twenty Blackbirds baked in a pie
When the pie was opened the birds begin to sing
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the King
I would have only had to of seen another twenty and I would've had enough to bake a pie with, only joking!
Just in case you didn't know Autumnwatch is back on our screens on the 5 November, I really love it, and Springwatch too, I am afraid for the whole week I shall be glued to the screen at 8.00, so no blog postings then! I really like Bill Oddie presenting it along with Kate Humble, they make a great team. I wonder where Simon King will be this year, last year he was on Rhum with the red deer, it must be difficult thinking of another venue to top that, and remember the plight of the little baby seal, the supergeese and the lovely red squirrels. I can't wait to see what lovely little critters they come up with for this year.
picture from the web
Download Mini Oddie for your desktop http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/springwatch/minioddie/
The morning glory is native to tropical America. The botanical name Ipomoea comes from the greek, ips means worm and homois means being like, because of its pale, worm like stem.
No frost as yet so these two morning glory plants are still flowering, the pale pink is 'candy pink' and the cerise is an unknown variety as a friend of mine kindly gave me the seeds. If you leave them to go to seed they may become invasive around the garden, I don’t mind as I like them, but funny how I hate its common cousin, the dreaded bindweed!
Small quantities of substances similar to the hallucinogenic drug LSD are found in the seeds of some species.
HYDRANGEA - Thank you for understanding, Boastfulness, Heartlessness
At this time of year in my garden the hydrangea looks at its best, it seems to thrive with neglect, as it grows in the driest patch of ground and never gets watered, it lives on rain water alone, which I suppose this year it has had rather a lot of.
In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, or purple. In these species the exact colour often depends on the pH of the soil; acidic soils produce blue flowers, neutral soils produce very pale cream petals, and alkaline soils results in pink or purple.
A lovely day in the garden, so an ideal opportunity for getting my many plastic pots washed, graded, dried and even colour co-ordinated ready to store over winter in preparation for seeds and cuttings next spring. I always feel very satisfied once this job is done, although not a job I relish, as stooping over a bucket of soapy suds plays havoc on my back.
"This alchemists herb catches one single jewelled raindrop in every leaf and then exudes pearly tears along finely serrated edges long after the foam of lime-yellow flower has faded" - Val Bourne (Garden Writer).
I really love this plant, and today after frequent rain showers it was just the perfect time to take a photo of it. I have several little clumps dotted around where it has self seeded. If the plants look tired they can be cut right back and will soon be replaced with lovely new lime green foliage and when flowering has frothy yellow flowers, but do cut off when they go to seed if you don't want it all around your garden. They are known to like shade but mine do equally well in a sunny position.
Alchemilla mollis takes its name from the Arabic, meaning little magical one, due both to its reputation for having healing properties and because its leaves catch the morning dew. In the Middle Ages, the water collected from alchemilla leaves was believed to have magical properties.
I love hanging baskets but I am rather lazy when it comes to keeping them watered, so asarina (sometimes sold as lofos) is the perfect plant for me. This annual is really versatile, the first year I had them climbing, but for the last few years I have had them trailing out of hanging baskets, all you need is one plant for each basket as they really fill out, like surfinia does. Each flower is trumpet shaped and after flowering they develop a lovely seed head.
The plant flowers from June to October, they do need watering, but if you miss a day or two they will pick up again, although you may have to pick off a few crispy leaves here and there. I manage to over winter my plants under cover, they do die down but little shoots will appear again in spring ready to be planted out again after the last frosts, ready for the forthcoming summer.
On our recent visit to Jersey I was very keen to see more of our lovely native red squirrel, on our last trip I only saw one, but true to nature not a single one was to be seen during our whole break away. After telling myself I was not going to see one on this occasion, much to my surprise on our early morning run back to the airport I saw two in different locations, if you have never seen one they are much smaller than the grey squirrel and just like Squirrel Nutkin from the Beatrix Potter tales.
Unfortunately these endearing little creatures have found themselves on the UK endangered species list and without conservation could become extinct within the next 20 to 30 years. This is due to a combination of causes which include being under threat from the increasing numbers of the introduced American grey squirrel, the deadly squirrel pox virus carried by the grey and a loss of woodland habitat.
It is estimated that only 140,000 remain, compared to 2.5 million greys.
DOCTON MILL & GARDENS
If you are ever down Devon way take time to visit Docton Mill & Gardens which is situated in the Speke Valley, we visited in June and the garden was a delight, the day we visited the rain didn't let up but we didn't allow it to dampen our spirits. Highlights included magnificent herbaceous borders, a river walk with a superb bog garden, which incidently is described in Rosemary Verey’s book ‘Good Planting’ and a woodland walk, in fact every step you take from entering and exiting the garden you will come across something that will interest you.
Even if gardening isn’t really your thing you can still view the historic mill although it ceased working in 1910, simply because it ran out of business, its last big customer was Gifford the Baker, who is still in business today in nearby Hartland.
If all else fails there is a lovely tearoom which is situated in the house, they have a vast range of hot and cold food, our choice being warm scones, strawberry jam and lashings of clotted cream and a refreshing pot of tea, each! And, if you love dogs, you may see two Labradors mooching around the gardens too, and on exit there is a small plant sales area.
One final thing to mention, to get there you do have to drive down some pretty precarious country lanes, not really suitable for any nervous drivers out there.