Tuesday, 16 September 2014

GBBD – September star plant

The colour of the blue trumpets in the Gentian below is one I have loved for many, many years. Heather on the other hand, shown in the last photo of this post, is not a plant I am fond of in a garden setting (preferring to see it on hillsides).

As this blog celebrates flowering blooms in a small Scottish garden outside on some hillsides, fields and in some gardens, banners of ‘Yes’ and ‘No Thanks’ are being displayed. For those outside the UK, on Thursday the people of Scotland are voting on the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?". We will no longer be a part of the UK and Great Britain if the answer is ‘Yes’. This is a very scary week for everyone voting - both young and old.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day (GBBD) is an invitation to bloggers from Carol at May Dreams Gardens to share what’s flowering in our gardens on the 15th of the month. Its relaxing to browse the links to gardens around the world and a great way to discover new garden blogs and get inspiration for our gardens!


Back after a long absence, my September star plant - Gentiana sino-ornata.



Pre breakfast ‘Marmalade’ blooms from the Heuchera’s above wildlife pond.
It was a 7:30am GBBD camera dash yesterday morning before the rain came on.



A GBBD first – flowering plants from the new wildlife pond :-)
Penny Royal (Mentha pulegium) & Lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula).



Back on land, the borders are lush with green foliage. Rich, late season colour contrasts with the white blooms. Lots left to feed bees & butterflies :-)



Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' is a favourite feeding stop for bees & butterflies.
A fav plant at this GBBD garden, it is appearing in more borders each year :-)



Borage appears in borders all by itself which the bees will be happy about.
The delicate white borage spreads more slowly than the pretty blue above.



Red Campion (grown from seed with the Borage a number of years ago)
needs a bit more keeping in check as it can swamp the borders if left alone.



Bird's-foot Trefoil (grown from seed 2 yrs ago) was a childhood like. Its name refers to the appearance of the seed pods on their stalk seen above.



A Californian poppy was a surprise pop-up for this September GBBD.
It first appeared in the garden a few years ago as an annual seed sowing.



Winter losses a few years ago included a Jasmine. I doubted it could ever regrow but didn’t remove its roots. This year it has lots of sweetly scented blooms :-)



Bought solely to attract Bullfinches to feed on its spent flowers when gone to seed, Heather 'Peter Sparkes' has its first flowers in my basket planting.


A winter gardenwatching experiment is the plan for the heather above - any variety would have done. Getting the idea from a piece on BBC Two’s Autumnwatch/Winterwatch, two plants were bought 'in seed' back in January. We didn’t get a particularly cold winter to test them out. Perhaps the Bullfinches will find the heather seeds without the very cold temps that bring the larger groups of mixed finches into the garden :-)

Ooops… here I am mentioning winter in the garden when the leaves are yet to turn! Sorry about that… let’s rewind a bit… back to September where I would like to wish you a very Happy GBBD! Oh yes… one quick question for you before you go… what’s your September star plant?



Copyright: Original post published on http://blog.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk/ by blog author Shirley, September 16th 2014.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The timing of the Comma butterfly

Perched high up on the small, dense flower clusters of Verbena bonariensis, in my back garden back at the end of August, the Comma butterfly looked like an aircraft about to take off. It’s easy to see how nature could influence engineering design isn't it?



Tears filled my eyes as I looked through my camera lens taking record shots of this returning garden visitor. Three days after my Dad died, September 2012, the Comma butterfly was seen visiting my garden for the very first time. I instantly made a spiritual connection with it and dearly wished to see it return one day.

The timing of the Comma’s return really caught me by surprise. I was filling the kettle at breakfast, having thoughts of my Mum in hospital with a misbehaving heart after her hip op., when something caught my eye through the window… and there it was swinging high on the verbena!




Another surprise with the Comma butterfly was that it was seen feeding on the Japanese Anemones and Astrantias – I hadn’t noticed other butterflies feeding on these plants before.

Although… yesterday lunchtime during a bit of deadheading in my front garden I did spot a Red Admiral butterfly feeding on the White Japanese Anemone growing out there in the sunshine. All change with the butterfly visitors this year then ;-)




As on its first visit, the Comma was only seen feeding for one day. Last time it was seen in my front garden almost a month later in the year feeding on Sedum. I wonder if it will return to feed on the Sedums now they are coming into bloom.

We might suspect that the warmer summer of 2014 has been favourable for butterflies as we have seen the biggest numbers visiting at any one time in all my gardenwatching years (almost 8 now).

Buddleja ‘Buzz Ivory’ in my sunny front garden has been abuzz with Small tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, small & large White butterflies as well as bees and other insects. I’ve spent a few early evenings and lunchtimes just standing still, watching them. It's been very therapeutic at a time when I've needed it :-)




Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', a pretty big plant now, continues to flower its socks of in my sunny front garden attracting many butterflies. This has become such a garden favourite that I have added other plants in sunny spots around my back garden and it attracted the Comma to feed on this second visit too!

Regular blog visitors will know I love to capture video of garden visitors and the Comma butterfly kindly cooperated by showing where its name came from… the comma markings on its underside! I’ve added a screen grab below for those not able to view the video.


Short Comma butterfly video, 40 sec with background music, try HD quality.





The pause a comma adds in a sentence pretty much sums up my gardenwatching and gardening of late. It’s been in stops and starts. I keep hoping I'll get back to more regular blog posting too - apologies there :-)

Prior to my Mum’s op we were on a family holiday (some new sightings there). Post op I've had spells staying over to help her (she is progressing well now).

That’s what makes the timing of my Comma butterfly sighting all the more special… I was at home to see it. Who knows - perhaps it waited around for me :-D



Copyright: Original post published on http://blog.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk/ by blog author Shirley, September 10th 2014.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Opening the garden path into the border

Small garden border changes, be they made for practical or pretty reasons, can transform the sense of space and feel of an area especially in a small garden. Although I love to create hidden wildlife feeding spaces in my garden I love creating hidden/surprise garden views and plantings even more. This summer I’ve enjoyed making a few small changes.

Let’s take a close looker look below at the 6ft x 2ft path edge in question for today with its sprinkling of weeds, spent flower blooms, grass turf lifted from pond edge (in another small change) and a temporary resident (catmint seedling forgotten about). Note the two pronged garden tool – my new fav garden tool for getting weeds (and seedlings) from around the centre of plants.



Now, that’s better. We can see what we are working with but I’m worried about possibly forgetting I’ve allium bulbs planted there. Mmm… perhaps I could move the Betony (purple flowers loved by the bees) over to the left so the two plants grow together. That should work as the leaves of the allium should be gone before the betony starts coming into growth. We’ll see if this theory works next year ;-)

Ah yes... and I’ll move about the Bergenia plants so they act as an edge to keep the gravel out of the rest of the border. The plants are small here as I’ve been dividing them but they will become a great green wall all year long and give a bounty of spring flowers as they mature.



Okay, so two bags of North Sea pebbles were bought from the garden centre for this project. Although the original plan was to open up the path edge using them alone, it became clear that I needed a gravel base for this to work and be practical cost and weed wise. Let’s borrow some gravel from the other side of the path for now as time is short to get to the building supplier (since replaced).

Three rocks no longer in use after other small garden changes were available to complete the retaining gravel wall. Placing the pebbles took a few attempts and I suspect I will change them yet. As the pebbles get covered with plant growth I’ll move some into the pond as I choose the same smooth ones in there. Rocks and stone, in this case pebbles, never go as far as you think they will. The pile on the path below is the contents of one bag.



When working close-up in a border like this it’s easy to forget the other garden views of it. This is not the view I had in mind when I began this border change anyway. Lets’ step back a little bit.

Now, I don’t want to see the gravel and pebbles from the other side of this border. Ok, I’m pretty happy that the grasses (lifted from another border), the Bergenia and the Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' Wallflower ' will grow considerably making a screen from the lawn side so job done from this view :-)



Looking at this longer view the eye is drawn over to the Bergenia and pebbles at the corner edge of my new wildlife pond. This is exactly why I wanted to repeat use them on the corner edge of this border.

For a good few years now, I have gardened by carrying colours and plantings over and through neighbouring borders. I have a small garden and this way everything is connected and my garden space feels bigger. Now the pebbles have connected my wildlife pond to the garden borders :-)

Looking towards the path edge below, pond side, you can see the row of higgledy paving slabs. This was the reason for this small border change but not the view I was considering either. However, my surprise here was that now the higgledy path line blends in to the gravel (a bit) and doesn’t become the end stop any more in long and short views. My eye now skips over the path and I’m very happy about that :-)






So… to the reason for this garden border change… nope I wasn’t trying to do an Alan Titchmarsh type revamp to pretty up my border… not at all. My path edge, border change was a completely practical one – the step up from my under my Pergola on to my higgledy path. I needed more space.



This path towards our Arbour was in the garden when we came here. When our daughters were young this path headed straight to a wooden Wendy house. These paving slabs are old and very heavy and we’ve never really considered moving them. I lifted the gravel on the left to lay turf to connect the pond with the lawn and that has helped soften the path.

Not seen in the image above is my rotary washing dryer (whirly) which is sited on the grass to the left of the path when in use. When I planted the ivy up my pergola post there was plenty of space to step up on to my straight path but over the years the ivy has grown wider and wider!

This summer I finally had enough of being squished in to the ivy as I stepped up/down with a basket full of washing. I moved the first slab over to the left and the other two off centre with a pattern of paving bricks in mind to give an accessible open space for that rushed run to collect the washing when the rain comes on. Now on dry days, I take my time stepping up enjoying a garden view that I never considered when altering my path.



Perhaps it was fortunate that changes in UK law regarding paving  requiring it to be permeable (porous) to prevent flooding made me unable to buy bricks to match the lawn edge ones beside my pond. I was forced to change my plan and although I considered a few options including a mosaic pattern of pebbles (uneven surface, no good for running with a basket of washing) this simple one has worked a treat for me :-)

Yep… before, that path just wasn’t inviting at all…



It is now :-)



Coincidentally, fellow blogger VP posted a blog yesterday morning on inspiration between the paving with some great images and chat. I have always loved this way of planting too and admired many gardens with it especially the Japanese ones with moss as VP mentions. Lisa over at Greenbow posted on path edges too where she is recycling old paving. If I had made this post brief as planned I would have been able to join them :-)

Translating any garden style can be fun to experiment with and the inspiration we can get from garden visits and blogs gives us a great stepping stone. Ha-ha… or should I say stepping paving slab for this post ;-)


Copyright: Original post published on http://blog.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk/ by blog author Shirley, August 12th 2014.