Thursday, 31 May 2007

Scottish Gardening Show - this weekend

Gardening Scotland 2007 is a gardening and outdoor event which starts tomorrow June 1st until Sunday June 3rd. It is located at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh. There is ample parking but if you live in Edinburgh, or travelling by bus or train, you may wish to use the shuttle bus service which operates from Edinburgh's Haymarket railway station.

This year’s show will include Show Gardens, the BBC Beechgrove Theatre where visitors can meet Scotland’s gardening celebrities, dozens of exhibitors selling everything you could ever need to make your own garden grow and a huge Living Garden area, complete with fruit cages, hives and honey bees. The weather has been predicted to be warm with sunshine and showers - but rain won't dampen the spirits of the visitors one little bit!

At the heart of the Show lies the fabulous Floral Hall which will be filled with the colour and scent of hundreds of thousands of beautiful flowers. I have to say here that this is always my favourite part of the show. I love the buzz of the crowds, the beautiful displays by the Nurseries, the plant sales tables and most of all seeing the happy visitors carrying bags and bags of plants!

This year, in the Floral Hall, visitors will find ‘Gardening The Earth’, the most ambitious display ever mounted by the world-renowned Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Only to be seen at Gardening Scotland 2007, the exhibit is designed to showcase the organisation’s vital conservation work in more than 30 countries around the world. As well as plants at the show their are other attractions including an International Food Festival and Craft Marquee.

I have just watched a preview of the show and one garden caught my eye - the one by the College of Agriculture. I am looking forward to seeing this one finished - I particularly liked the colours of both the plants and hard landscaping. Inside the marque one of the Nurseries that I will always visit first will be Binny Plants. This is one of my favourite Scottish Nurseries located in Ecclesmachan, just outside Edinburgh. Binny has always a great range of more unusual plants and his display garden never disappoints - I always like the use of water, stone and metal sculpture too.

If you are visiting the show this weekend I would like to wish you a great time!

Last breaths

It is just after 10am as I begin to write this and at the moment there is a very sad picture in our Camera Nestbox. The last two remaining chicks are lying in the bottom of the nest cup on their sides. They are just breathing – I can see them move up and down with just the faintest of moments. They also have some company and unfortunately it is not the parents - there are two flies crawling over them. Perhaps the third last chick was not removed when it died later yesterday and has drawn the flies in.

The Camera in our Nestbox has given us a rare insight into any bird that builds a nest and attempts to raise chicks – there is so much more work involved than we ever imagined. I am in no doubt, as a gardener for many years, that the changes in temperatures this year with the hot dry April (very unusual for my part of Scotland) and the very cool wet May have had a knock on effect on the flowering of my plants and in turn the availability of food for our Blue Tits.

Nestbox Update: The Blue Tit female has just entered the nest and dealt with the flies – what a surprise to see her. I had no idea whether she would return at all now. I am very glad the flies are gone now as one chick is still slowly breathing. She looked into the nest cup at the chicks and briefly looked for other bugs beside them. I recorded her visit which lasted almost three minutes. As I wondered if she would return again – I have just heard her at the entrance calling to the male. I have to say in had been fascinating to see the communication that goes on between them. She has just briefly returned again and looked over and had a peck at the chicks. She then turned and looked to the entrance hole in a way that she has done before when she has looked for the male to join her to show him something. How amazing nature is.

I have considered that although this breeding season is over for our Blue Tits, they only have one brood each year, that on a more positive note other birds may have an extra brood. It will be very interesting to see the results of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2008 as I have heard many stories of other failed Blue Tit broods and unused Nestboxes. I have also heard that this spring fewer Blue Tits have been seen in gardens.

Nestbox Update: The Blue Tit female has just returned again and chased of another fly and I never saw that one! As she jumped about the nest she seems to have disturbed the chicks and I can now see that they are both moving a little. She has left and I can see another fly walking on top of the nest! I can also see the dead, third last, chick which will be attracting them. I know it is just a matter of time now. She returned again and removed another fly – I saw it in her mouth. I wonder how many more visits she will make and if the male will join her at any point. As I was about to publish this the male came in with a beautiful bright green caterpillar – he left with it calling to the female. I now wonder if they will visit together and if they will eventually remove the last chicks. I will look in again on the box this evening.

Selecting pieces of video has been quite tricky sometimes but I have many more clips that I haven’t shown. I will look through them all and perhaps over the weekend show some more of this wonderful insight into nature and a Nesting Blue Tit pair.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Still with us

It is almost 8am and the three young Blue Tits in our Camera Nestbox are still with us. I managed to get some fat cake last night - thank-you Tesco! I hung one in a tree and placed another on the secret feeder and this morning I have seen both the male and female find the one in the tree which is a start. I also bought a bag of RSPB Sunflower mix that has smaller grains in it which would be perhaps easier for the chicks – I know this is not ideal but both the male and female keep bringing seeds in.

The male has been in this morning and brought what looks like some sort of bug, as you will see above. However, he did appear a tad confused when the chicks were not too interested in it. They did open their mouths and he did pass it round them all to taste – he is good that way. He then left with his offering only to return shortly afterwards for a second try – he got no takers at all that time!

The female is also going out for spells this morning - probably to eat herself and also to search for food for the chicks. They both do try to get bugs first before going to the fat cake and the seeds – I can see their searches in my garden. It is another damp and chilly morning so the female will probably need to spend time in the nest cup again to keep the chicks warm.

A Starling and its chick have just found the fat cake in the secret feeder – ah well! There isn’t much space for them in there and perhaps only a few more will find it - I would imagine it could last a few days anyway. However, I have a third fat cake in reserve.

What else is still with us? Well if you are unfortunate enough to have already seen what is shown, beside the woodlouse, in the photograph above in your garden then you will know what it is. On the other hand, if you are worried about finding one in your garden and don’t know what to look out for this will definitely be of interest to you. The photograph above is of a New Zealand Flatworm found under a pot, a good place to find them first thing in the morning, in my garden during a tidy-up at the weekend.

Don’t despair if you find one in your garden. I first found the Flatworm in my garden around 10 years ago. Granted, I did get a surprise to see one at the weekend as I haven’t seen one for a few years now! I have already written a lengthy post on them about my experience with useful links which you will find here. My garden has survived with very few earthworms since then - if it is drier this afternoon I will go out with the video camera and film part of it.

What did I do with it? Well, firstly, as you can see, I got my camera out and photographed it. My daughter was watching from the window – but she wasn’t the only one! I had planned to put it in a jar of salted water to destroy it – you will see more on that in my other post. The blackbird who had been watching me had other plans for it – as I went inside to put my camera away he snatched it and run off with it! My daughter didn’t see if he ate it. I have to say that is the first time I have ever seen a bird take one. I cannot imagine the poisonous enzyme within it would be good for a birds digestion but experts suggest that they have not harmed the birds of the UK.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

One day on.....

The activity in our Camera Nestbox looks like it may end soon. Sadly we now have only three Blue Tit chicks left and one looks much weaker than the other two – not even opening its mouth when food comes in. The parents have been seen taping its mouth with a beak as I have seen with the other chicks they have lost. I have been watching the box for a while and very little live food has gone in – in fact the food deliveries even of the sunflower hearts have slowed down! Today has been cold and wet and I would have expected many more visits with food. At this moment I really don’t expect we will have chicks at this time tomorrow – I hope I am wrong.

The picture above was taken from our Camera Nestbox at 5.10pm today.

Monday, 28 May 2007

One week on…..

Last Monday I posted ‘Surprise, Surprise’ as I discovered four chicks in our Camera Nestbox. Later that morning chick number five hatched. What a difference we have seen in these chicks in only a week! They are slightly fluffier now, have wings developing, larger mouths and are making their presence known in the nest! They are definitely getting stronger and growing remarkably day by day! The female is taking longer to settle them at night now and is clearly struggling to get comfortable sleeping with them!

However, not all the chicks have grown at the same rate. The stronger ones are getting more of the food now and sadly the younger ones weren’t even lifting up their heads to open their mouths this morning. The size difference between the first five chicks and the other three was at its greatest today. My first impressions this morning when I saw the chicks in the nest were of serious concern for the younger three chicks. They lay near the bottom of the nest cup and I wasn’t sure I could even see the youngest one move much at all. When food came in the stronger chicks just climbed on top of each other and the smaller birds were pushed further down into the nest. I kept hoping the male would notice the younger ones as he seemed better than the female at checking on them all.

Sadly, I believe sometime during the afternoon and early evening we may have lost three of the chicks. It is difficult to count them all – but I am pretty sure that the younger ones didn’t get any food today so I cannot see how they could have survived anyway. When chicks die in the nest I believe the male or female will remove them to keep the nest clean for the others. I have looked and looked at the nest and I am not exactly certain on how many chicks we still have. I now have mixed feelings about switching on my PC tomorrow and looking in on the nest – although I have always been aware that not all the chicks may survive.

The picture above was taken in the Camera Nestbox this morning when I believe all eight chicks were still present.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Hiding Mealworms - tricky

The Blue Tit parents of our Camera Nestbox chicks appear to be finding it difficult to find caterpillars to feed their chicks. They are bringing in spiders and other bugs but they have also resorted to bringing in pieces of fat cake and sunflower hearts. I have tried to help them by putting out live mealworms – hiding them in places where I have seen them search for food. This morning it is windy and cold too so the parents will be aware they must feed them lots but the female will probably also need to spend some time sitting in the nest to keep them warm – so they will both need to work hard today!

Yesterday, we had a worry for one of the chicks. As we watched the female as she brought in a sunflower heart. She did appear to soften it first on the branch of a tree. She stood looking over her brood and to our horror put the whole heart in the mouth of one of the smaller chicks. She then left. She has done this before but this time the chick remained with its mouth open. The heart was stuck. Soon after, fortunately, she returned and looked at them all. We were talking to the screen telling her to take it out! She finally saw there was a problem and removed the heart then left again - but the mouth remained open. We were having difficulty seeing why. She then returned again and appeared to check on the chick. She then removed a very thin skin of the heart allowing the poor chick to finally close its mouth! Thank goodness – how clever she was to keep checking though. My next thought was how this reminded me of a visit to the Dentist and how sore the chick’s muscles must be after holding its mouth open for so long!

Hiding Mealworms has not exactly been successful as you will read below, but I am and will continue to keep trying. The problem is that the Blue Tit has to recognise them as a food.

The pot above is at the moment right under my window – beside the ledge that spiders can be found. The Blackbirds found these ones and still keep coming back to see if there are more! Their search is vain there now. I also hid this dish on the ground behind another pot but……. the blackbird found them too. So I won’t try these places again.

The hanger above, as you can see, is beside a peanut feeder hanging in an Acer tree. This is a popular feeder for all the Tit family and the Chaffinches. I didn’t notice if any were taken from this feeder but…… this morning it was lying on the ground below. It was lightweight and today is windy so I will go out refill it and secure it more thoroughly to give it another try.

The secret feeder above was the one I was most confident of. My small domed Acer tree has a small ground feeder underneath it. When the Blue Tits search on the ground for food they will often take it quickly away and jump up at speed into the inside crown of this tree. They will eat there in a little more safety. The way the branches grow out in the crown is the perfect framework to hold another small ground feeder. I put live mealworms there. They disappeared very quickly but I wasn’t confident it was the Blue Tit that had taken them. I suspected the Blackbirds had been watching me – as they often do!

I should have guessed that a bird that would mostly feed on the ground would find and really enjoy live mealworms. I would describe the bird shown above as an explorer as it skirts around the undergrowth of my plants. It is about the size of a Robin and I have often seen a Robin chase it around the garden and into flight. It is also quite timid and I have had difficulty getting a photo of it – so I am thrilled to get one on camera.

If you haven’t recognised the bird above it is a Dunnock. But, as you can, see it really likes the mealworms and one is not enough. This was not its first visit! I put some on the ground below the secret feeder, a couple on the ground tray and a few on the ground. It firstly found the tray ones and gingerly took one away. It then came back and took two away – that was the tray empty! It then returned and searched the ground and found some more. It must have thought he had struck gold. So again, more beakfuls of mealworms were taken away until the final trip on the ground that is shown above – he is getting greedy now! The ground was now cleared of mealworms.

I will be honest here and say that I opened my window to chase it away a few times and for once it was not timid! I thought that would be all he would get and the others were safe – silly me. On its next visit I got the biggest surprise as it jumped up right up to the secret feeder. How did it know it was there? Could it smell the worms? Well that was that. After a few visits it had cleared the lot! I will try this feeder again though but I won’t put any on the ground this time. This feeder still has sunflower hearts and I also plan to put a little of the fat cake there too. If the Blue Tit gets there in time perhaps by association it might just see the mealworms as food.

A ladder could be called for today. Looking out my window I have just though of another place I could try to hide live mealworms. I have just spotted the female resting on the very top of my small pine tree. It is opposite the entrance to the Nestbox. Perhaps this is a place I could try leaving some.

The photo above was taken yesterday of the male Blue Tit with a grub of some sort to take in to the chicks.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Springwatch Returns to BBC2

daily until FRIDAY 1st JUNE
with special Nightshift Programme at 12.30am

Bill Oddie and Kate Humble
present the third series of Springwatch
at Estate Farm in Devon.

Simon King will be in the Hebrides
and Gordon Buchanan will be in Glasgow
keeping track of urban foxes.

Perhaps all Springwatch followers in the UK
will be aware of the return of this very popular programme
but, just in case, I thought I would post a reminder.

This year the programme is being shown
later in May than in previous years and therefore
we should expect different birds and wildlife.

The warmer April has meant that
they will not have Blue Tits to follow this year.
However, there are Young Barn and Tawny Owls
in Camera Nestboxes to see live.
Kingfishers are likely this year
and urban foxes too.

I have to add here that not all Blue Tits
have already fledged in the UK,
we have eight chicks in our Camera Nestbox
that will be almost a week old
when the programme starts
showing that nature does vary throughout the country.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Eight hungry chicks

I have been a tad nervous about writing this post. At the moment we have eight Blue Tit chicks in our Camera Nestbox. They are tiny hungry little things and I am very aware that their chances of survival is reliant completely on the food in the beaks of their parents!

How old are they? Well I am not absolutely sure on the first four chicks. I spotted them on Monday morning which suggests they could have hatched then or on the Sunday – so we could guess that four chicks are now four or three days old. I watched one hatch on Monday – so number five is now three days old. Chicks numbers six and seven hatched on Tuesday so that makes them two days old. The final chick hatched yesterday so it is the youngest at one day old – it is easily spotted in the nest as its mouth is much smaller than the others. I never saw the last chick hatch but noticed it yesterday in the nest by the pinker colour of its body and its smaller size. In the picture above the youngest chick is on the right with its mouth open.

How do they look? Well they are similar to a new born baby with floppy heads and limbs that wriggle about with no particular coordination. Similar again to a newborn they respond to the parent’s voice but in this case it is a tweet which is a different sound than I have heard the parents use to call on each other. They have yellow banana-like mouths, as you can see above, tufty grey hair on their heads and a black band across their eyes. Their eyes are not open yet but their beaks are beginning to form. I would guess that the next stage will be a stronger neck so they can hold their head up.

Calling to the chicks is mostly done by the female when she has food. She looks over the nest, calls to them and they struggle to pull their heads up and open their mouths – some are too late as she quickly feeds and disappears again for more food. The male is usually quite silent when he feeds them and sometime stays looking over the nest for a while as you can see above - the second picture shows that the female came in and her look reminds him to get moving and he leaves! However, I have noticed that when he feeds he tries to feed all the chicks a piece of what delicacy he has brought in as you will see in the video below. The female on the other hand will sometimes feed only one or two chicks – is she feeding up weaker ones or already aware that some are more likely to survive than others and concentrates on them?

Blue tit Dad feeds chicks, video 0:42 with background music, try 480p quality.

The female still sits on the nest cup to keep her chicks warm and regularly dives in to clean up the ‘mess’ that the chicks are making now that they are eating. She mostly eats this mess but the male will also take his turn in cleaning up – but he takes it out of the nest and has not been seen eating it. Sometimes when she tidies up the chicks get pushed up and almost out of the nest as you can see in the picture below.

The menu for the chicks that I have seen so far has been a mix of caterpillars, spiders, small slugs and pieces of fat cake. I really don’t know if the fat cake is a good food but quite a lot went in last night – maybe the parents were trying to ensure their chicks survived the night. I am seeing less caterpillars going in and have heard about failures of other chicks due to lack of caterpillars in gardens due to weather conditions. Reluctantly I bought mealworms yesterday and placed them in three different containers hidden where I see the Blue Tits sometimes look. I don’t know if the parents will find them but for myself I know I have at least tried to help them. If any chicks do die they will be removed from the nest by the parents - hence my nervousness of the title of this post.

I contacted the RSPB yesterday to ask for any advice about the possible food shortages for the Blue Tits this year and about providing mealworms. Ian Peters, Wildlife Advisor, Bedfordshire replied:

“Unfortunately, the recent weather combination of cool and wet conditions is the worst possible situation for blue tits during the fledgling development stage. The caterpillars are there but they can be difficult to find and because the food demands for the growing brood are so high, they can quickly die even though they are still getting a little food. Longer periods of bad weather can mean almost 100% failure of nests across the country in some years, especially as blue tits have such a distinct breeding season. Fortunately, the temperature has now risen and some places in the country are experiencing drier conditions, which are perfect for caterpillars.”

He added:
“Mealworms are a potential solution for bad times but blue tits are so conditioned to looking for caterpillars that many individuals fail to recognise the food.”

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Incy Wincy Spider

Incy Wincy spider
climbed up the Nestbox wall,
Down came the rain
and made poor Incy fall,

The Blue Tit in the Nestbox
nearly missed her chance,
As Incy Wincy Spider
across the nest did dance.

Poor Incy Wincy spider
there were hungry chicks,
Although he was just tiny
he filled eight sets of lips.

Blue tit Mum eats spider coing down wall,
video 0:32 with background music, try 480p quality.

The video above was taken in my Camera Nestbox on May 23rd 2007.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Bottoms Up!

I have a short video of some of today’s activity in our Nestbox. I have taken many snapshots over the last two days and I will have some difficulty deciding which ones to use. For the moment I thought I would share the video below.

Blue tit Mum feeds chicks and does tidy-up after,
video 0:41 without background music, try 480p quality.

Hygiene in the nest is something I never really thought of. The chicks are eating now so… naturally this food has to go through them. Where does it go after that? Well, it can’t stay in the nest so the female removes it – usually by eating it! You will see this in the video above. She feeds the chick and then removes and eats a white substance from the chick’s tail end. She then can be seen diving into the nest cup to see if anymore housework is required before settling back into the cup and rotating the remaining egg with her feet.

How clever nature is – our female Blue Tit is a young bird yet she still knows how to care for her brood. I hope they all survive. It is difficult to get a picture at the moment that clearly shows all seven chicks and the one egg. I don’t know if the first few days are crucial for the bird’s survival – we will just have to wait and see. I have to be honest and say that tomorrow morning when I switch on the PC and look in the Nestbox that I will be a tad nervous - I hope I will be able to see them all. I also hope that the last egg will hatch tomorrow as otherwise the chick will be a bit behind the rest and perhaps struggle to get its share of the food at feeding times.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Surprise, Surprise!

Well what a surprise greeted me this morning when I switched on my PC and looked in on the Nestbox. The female was sitting in the nest cup and as she moved a little I spotted a brief flash of pink. I instantly thought we had our first chick and I missed it hatch!

The female settled down again in the nest cup and did her jiggle thing turning the eggs with her feet as she has done many times. She settled for a brief while - and I was willing her to get up to see the chick! She finally did and when the whole nest cup was visible I had an even bigger surprise!

Four chicks were in the nest cup – my first thought was where did they come from? Of course I know the answer to that – but when and how did we miss them? I expected one to hatch per day perhaps. I saw the eggs yesterday morning and her in the nest cup. I was busy in my garden in the afternoon but any time I looked in the box she was sitting sleeping or turning the eggs – noting appeared any different.

The weather was sunny and warm yesterday afternoon and early evening. This morning we have blue sky and sunshine - at the moment out Nestbox will be catching the warmth of the sun. It was positioned to get early morning sunshine and to avoid the sun later so it didn’t overheat. Perhaps this change of temperature has helped the hatching – I really cannot believe we have so many chicks so quickly!

Number five hatched as I began typing this! I wondered what was happening when the female was taking particular interest in one of the eggs instead of the chicks. Then I noticed a crack and it moving a little. She eventually pulled a piece of shell away to help the chick get out. We then watched as she ate this piece of shell. Eventually the chick broke completely free and she removed the rest of the shell from the nest.

The male has been very busy this morning bringing in caterpillars to the female who then feeds the chicks with them. She has also left the nest and comes back with food too. Funnily enough the male doesn’t always come in with the food if she is not there. I hear him calling at the entrance then he flies away!

How fascinating this is to watch but I must leave it for a while. I will post more photos and some video footage when I get good clear shots.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Chelsea Flower Show Preview

6.35 -7.35pm


Alan Titchmarsh, Joe Swift & Carol Klein
Present an exclusive preview of the
85th RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Perhaps all gardeners in the UK will be aware the BBC has a preview of the Chelsea Flower Show which is this coming week
but, just in case I thought I would post a reminder.

I am looking forward to watching it
and would like to wish all visitors this year a great time.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

All quiet now!

Earlier this evening as I looked out my window the trees and plants were still blowing in the wind. The light was fading fast and all was quiet – but what a noise was heard today in my garden. Squawk, squawk, squawk! I never heard the noise from inside but I did notice a bird through my window which I initially didn’t recognise. However when I went outside it was definitely not quiet.

What was this bird sitting on my pine tree? Well if you haven’t guessed it is a juvenile Starling! I have never noticed one in my garden before and today we saw four. They would sit squawking with beaks open waiting for parents to come and feed them – even when they were standing on the sunflower hearts! They even opened their beaks at a passing Blackbird – silly things. They were all very amusing to watch.

They waddled like ducks and when the wind blew at their fluffy feathers they even looked like large ducklings. However, they did have the instinct to drink and found all sources available and one even tried to have a bath. The bather acted even more like a duckling when it slipped down into the pond and had to skim across the surface to safety – more than once!

Poor parents were stalked by groups of their offspring who almost outsized them. It really was funny to watch - they even followed them in flight. I looked up my reference book and read that it is five weeks before these juvenile’s will be independent - poor parents. The video below captures one of many feeding moments.

Parent Starling feeding young, video 0:27 with squacking juvenile, try 480p quality.

When will the eggs hatch?

Today is a chilly, very windy day with rain showers and also day 12 of the female Blue Tit incubating eggs in our Camera Nestbox. The question now is - when will they begin to hatch? Well, this is Scotland and it has definitely been a much cooler May than last year. I have no records of my own to make estimates so I have referred to other Nestboxes on the Web. It seems hatching begins between 12 and 16 days so in day terms that would be between today, Saturday, and Wednesday.

My guess is now going to be for Tuesday as the weather has been so cool. I originally thought tomorrow might have been the day. The pictures above show the eight eggs and our Blue Tit female sitting in the nest cup at 9am this morning.

Hatching has a process that is really quite fascinating. It appears that chicks call to each other and to the parents from within the egg! This helps co-ordinate their hatching – although they won’t actually hatch together. They use a tiny ‘egg tooth’ on the bill tip to break the shell and then struggle until they push the two ends apart. So the process goes from cracking to forcing then to actually breaking out. I wonder if we will see any of this live on the screen – I hope so.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

The Yellow Book

Scotland’s Garden Scheme and the National Gardens Scheme (England and Wales) are gardens that open for charity in the UK. The gardens are almost all privately owned and it is an excellent way to get inspiration for your own! In some cases a village will open a number of small gardens and tea and home baking will be provided in the village hall. There are often plant sales too.

The garden owners make you very welcome and spend a lot of time getting their gardens ready for their openings and take time to chat to their visitors. I always feel sorry for them if the weather is unkind on the day. Children are made welcome too – especially in gardens where there are children. I would definitely recommend visiting the gardens - it is a great day out. I would also like to add that I took part a number of years ago with my own town and found it a great experience!

The Yellow Book gives dates, location information and instructions where tickets will be sold. There is usually a map supplied, with the ticket, to find the gardens and often coloured balloons are tied outside the gardens too. I have been known to go through the whole book, at the beginning of the season, circling the gardens I would like to visit although perhaps only visiting a few. This year I will try and plan my weekends better so I can visit more.

The book is sold at Garden Centres and perhaps some bookshops. Local Newspapers can also advertise the Opening Dates and posters are often seen in Garden Centres – usually printed on yellow paper. Of course if you are reading this you will have internet access where you can also get all the information you need. To see details of Scotland’s Garden Scheme click here and for England and Wales click here .

Happy Visiting whatever the weather!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Garden Bloom Day May 2007

May Dreams Garden is in Indiana, USA. It is a Gardening Blog/Diary written by Carol who shares photos and stories about her garden. There are many people throughout the world that do this – that is not unique. However she has introduced something through her site that is unique and I feel is such a brilliant idea.

What grows and flowers where and when – how many books are written on this? However, especially with climate change, stories from real gardeners can be invaluable. Carol has come up with an idea that tells real stories of how plants are thriving, or not, throughout the world. She has invited gardeners to share what is in flower in our own gardens on a particular day of the Month, the 15th, by posting plant lists and photos through Blog/Diaries. This is such a fun idea to see what other gardeners like to grow too – giving ideas to all and sharing valuable info.

To join all you need to do is post your photos and lists of what’s in bloom, perhaps what is in bud and what has just finished. It is up to you - it doesn’t have to be all photos but they are great for everyone to see. You then tell Carol that you have taken part by leaving a comment on her page here. This allows her and others to visit your page from the large list she will have there. If you are not able to take part this time you can still see the photos and plant lists by visiting May Dreams Gardens. Below you will see my contribution for May.

Photos above, from top, ALLIUM Christophii, ALLIUM Purple Sensation, Pink & BLUEBELLS, CIRSIUM Rivulare Atopurpursum, EUPHORBIA (Spurge).

The plants above are grown in my front garden with a quartz gravel mulch as they get baked in the sun there. They all grow well through grasses and over rocks.

Photos above, from top, GEUM, Candelabra PRIMULA, SAXIFRAGA variagata (London Pride), AQUILEGIA (not sure variety), BOWLES GOLDEN Sedge Grass, SNOWDROP (On tall stems -not sure variety).

The Geum above sadly is short lived but I lift and divide it to spread this sunshine orange colour about. My back garden gets more shade. It looks great with the striking pink of the Candelabra primulas and the ornamental grasses.

Photos above, from top, TULIP , VIOLA Labradorica Purpurea, AJUGA (not sure variety), PRIMROSE grown from seed in 2003.

These plants have some shade growing under my Acer tree and to the side of my pergola. I do love to see them in the early morning as I did today with it dappled upon them.

Photos above, from top, FRITALLARI (not sure variety), AQUILEGIA x2 grown from seed collected last year on variety Tequila Sunrise, RHODODENDRON x2 (will need to check varieties – have labels), POLYGALA Chamebuxus.

The plants above always add strong colour to my garden at this time of year. Most of these plants I have had for many years although they have not always been where they are now! I am well known for moving plants around.

Photos above, from top, NARCISSUS Poeticus Pheasant Eye, Lawn DAISIES.

I was quite surprised to see two lone narcisi in my grass today - all the other bulbs have passed over and at the end of June we will mow over this grass area again. Today the rest of my grass was in need of a trim - but then I would have missed the daisies!

Photos above, from top, CHOISYA Ternata (Orange Blossom), CHOISYA Aztec Pearl, WISTERIA Shiro Naga Fuji (Snow Showers) x2.

The scent of boths leaves and flowers of the Choisya are wonderful. My Wisteria has not quite made it into flower for this post but it really isn't far away. The leaves are now beginning to uncurl behind the flower buds which are getting longer every day. I must remember to feed it to get good strong flowers.

Photo above, BAMBOO Sinarundinaria Nitida (Chinese).

This perhaps looks like an odd photo to add to the list for today. Yes, and not too common fortunately. This is my Bamboo in flower - it is now setting seed and will die! I was very unfortunate that I had three good sized plants when last year was the one year in 100 that this plant flowered. Other Bamboos are once in every 30-40 years. I collected seed and will try sowing it - just as an exercise to see if it germinates. The plant I have in flower was spared one more year as I had divided it into another three before it came into flower last year. I have thrown out one, compost bin, and left another to see if it comes back to life in another three or so years purely for sentimental reasons as it was part of a Jungle garden I built with my daughter.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone that drops by this page a Good Bloom Day! I am now looking forward to visiting May Dreams Gardens to see who has been visiting there with garden photos today.

Update Wednesday 16th:
Sorry, I missed something in my post yesterday which may be of interest to you. I have had increasing enquiries to my site about New Zealand Flatworms after posting on them. Many are now coming from the USA. Click here to read about them.

All photographs above were taken in my garden on 15th May 2007.