Tuesday, 31 July 2007

July, Jungle and Juveniles

July will undoubtedly be remembered for rain, winds and more rain! However, today in my garden it was seen out with a bright sunny day. Although I had perhaps been a bit optimistic in removing the cover from our table and chairs for our evening meal!

A Jungle is a good description of some areas of my garden at the moment where the grasses, and other plants, have given their explosion of growth as they always do this month. My garden also gets a new kick of life at this time of year as I have a large percentage of my garden given to foliage plants which come into their own now. I do have some flowers but have chosen to grow large groups of the same flowering plant, and colour, as I feel it works better with the foliage and space I have. My penstemon cuttings are now all in flower in my sunnier front garden and beginning to come into flower in my shadier back garden. I will say no more of my plants now but will post some photos soon. Today I enjoyed a very industrious afternoon pruning and tidying up my garden.

Visiting juveniles - this has been the biggest surprise for me! I have a variety of birds that visit my garden but I have to say that this is the first time I have ever seen many of the young birds that are visiting at the moment. It has been delightful to watch and identify them all. I am thrilled they are visiting my garden and hope they nest close by next spring. I read that if you supply food for them now when they are young it is more likely they will return. I hope so. This has really been an eye opener for me – in all honesty if I weren’t writing this gardenwatch diary/blog I probably wouldn’t be putting food out at this time as I would have expected the birds would have plenty of food sources and wouldn’t need the feeders in gardens. What a lot I would have missed!

The photo above shows how popular the feeder is in my Acer tree. The branches of the tree are used almost for a queuing system and you can see the young greenfinch waiting patiently whilst the siskin and blue tit appear not to notice him. The photos below are a small selection of favourites from the many I have taken this month. Below the last photo you will see a video of how a greenfinch male was not keen at all to share this feeder. I don’t know if the young greenfinches were his brood but I suspect they may be – notice how fluffy the last one is.

The first set of photos below show a blue tit juvenile. They have been lovely to watch – they are so agile too as you can see. They do eat quite quickly so I find it tricky to catch them still enough for photos. The last photo was an even bigger treat - I was absolutely thrilled to see this great tit juvenile from my window and very gingerly leaned out to get this not so sharp picture!

Next, below, is a chaffinch juvenile and I am guessing it is a male by its colouring. I have seen a few of these in my garden but they do seem to sit back on branches and watch the activity at the feeders before joining in. They seem to like the feeders quieter. They also like to sit on sunny branches!

Choosing which young bird I have enjoyed seeing visit the most is tricky but I would probably think that the siskin would be in the top two with the blue tit. The two photos below show how alert it is - unlike the greenfinch it is seen with it in the remaining photos.

Today as I tidied the bed that this Acer tree is growing in I found, amongst the plants, a dead greenfinch juvenile. It is very likely to have been caught by one of my neighbours’ cats. I think I should move my CatWatch device to protect this area for a while! I have probably noticed more greenfinches being caught by cats than any other bird.

Finally, the video below was captured on Saturday and shows that, unlike the harmonious looking photos of the siskin and greenfinch above, when there is a group of greenfinches it can get a bit heated! Notice how the youngster fights back at the beginning of the video. Unfortunately when there is a lot of movement the processed video can be a bit pixelated but as it captured the action well I have decided to show it. Sadly the second bird the Greenfinch sent away was a diseased bird which had trichomonosis and would die soon.

Greenfinch video, 0:40 with background music, try 480p quality.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Buddleja, Butterflies and Bonariensis

Butterflies now seem to be frequent visitors to my garden at this time of year. It is lovely to watch them land and stay a while on my plants. This year I plan to keep a closer eye on them to see how many types actually visit my Scottish garden. So far, I have seen the red admiral and the small tortoiseshell butterflies.

Some garden plants attract more butterflies than others. Probably the most well known plant, in gardens and parks, is the Buddleja. It is also more commonly known, not surprisingly, as the butterfly bush. There are many varieties available at nurseries and garden centres but the one I have chosen to grow is quite a compact plant and I liked its silver grey foliage. The butterfly in the photo above is of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, in my front garden, thoroughly enjoying a good feed on one of my buddleja flowers.

Verbena Bonariensis has become a very popular plant in garden centres over the last few years as it is seen used by many garden designers in show gardens. However, it too is a strong favourite for the butterflies. I have had in my garden for a number of years now. I grew my original plants from seed. However this plant isn’t always hardy with me so I have found myself lifting plants and keeping them in my small, unheated, greenhouse over the winter. It is perhaps likely as a result of being moved around my plants have really never ‘bulked up’. Therefore, my flowering stems have been limited which also makes them more vulnerable to strong winds too.

A few days ago I spotted three very bulky, good sized, verbena bonariensis plants with a large number of flowering stems in a local garden centre. I instantly wondered how many butterflies could be counted on these plants when fully in flower and soon after found myself loading them into the car!

Garden centres at this time of year often have many plants that are pot bound. When buying plants it isn’t often obvious that a plant is pot bound when the plant appears healthy. My plants were fine but in need of watering so I watered them a few times before I went to plant them today. However, the leaves began to look dried up and droopy and it wasn’t until I took them out of their pots that I realised why. They were incredibly pot bound as you will see in the photo above. Often the advice in this case is to tease the roots out a little but as my plants were already distressed I didn’t do this.

Instead, I dug a bigger hole and added plenty of my good garden soil before laying the plant in the hole. I then removed the rose head from my watering can and, as Alan Titchmarsh a UK television gardener would say, puddled them in. When the water drained from my puddles I refilled the hole with soil around the plants and watered again. My plants were to have a gravel mulch so after this was done I refilled my watering can, replaced my rose head and watered high above the plant so the withered stems would get a good soaking. They got two full watering cans this time.

Now, I will wait a few days to see if the plants pick up again. I am pretty confident that they will - but if necessary I will take much stronger action and do a bit of serious cutting back! I am optimistic though and look forward to seeing many butterflies on these plants.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Sand Sculptures

Something different for a change! In my last post I suggested that perhaps a visit to the beach might be on the cards this weekend. For those with rain forecasted and those who are unable to get to the beach I thought I’d bring it to you. However, for those who can get out there perhaps a little inspiration for your trip?

Sand sculptures in the Netherlands, video 0:43 with background music, try 480p quality.

Do you recognise the location Yolanda, this one was for you! This piece of film was not taken recently nor was it taken in Scotland. I took it on holiday in 2002. The location was The Dolphinarium at Harderwijk - in the Netherlands!

The video shown above was taken in The Dolphinarium at Harderwijk, in the Netherlands, in July 2002.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Days out - with a camera

I wonder if the peacock shown below is the most photographed bird by tourists and day visitors throughout the world. Parks, Gardens and Castles are some of the places they can be seen. A brief Google search has told me that the Blue peacock is the national bird of India – I wasn’t aware of that. I have always associated it with historic gardens and castles and my memories are of visitors with cameras, often nervously I am quite sure, following them trying to get photos as close as they dare and not knowing which direction it will turn – and peacocks can move fast!

Since writing this gardenwatch, and using my cameras for it, I have found that I am much more observant of my surroundings wherever I am now. Taking photographs has made me look that bit closer and made me want to see more! I definitely recommend taking a camera out on visits and walks.

As the weekend approaches I’m sure beaches across the world, even in the rain, will have people drawn to collecting shells and searching for sea creatures. I know I am keen to get out there myself to see the wild flowers, that grip along the edges of any piece of soil, just as much as the walk along the sand looking for shells. When on holiday in Wales I gave myself a project to see how many different wild flowers I could photograph and identify – I secretly wanted to find something rare! I bought a book with good clear photographs – ‘Complete British Wild Flowers’ by Collins. On looking through the photos in the book I also recovered plants I remember from my childhood walks. It would be good to continue this project in my local area now – although it could see it could become compulsive!

On searching for my nominations for the previous post I discovered a blog that I believe many of my visitors who enjoy seeing photographs of birds, and nature, would also enjoy too. There are so many bird blogs on the Internet but I think this one is quite special. However this one is not actually a ‘bird blog’ it is a Wildlife Photographic Journal and that, for me makes all the difference to the reader. I particularly like the photos of garden birds, as you might expect, but I looked back the archives and in March 2007 there are photos of Hares and in October 2006 there are photos of Foxes. I could give you direct links to these posts but I will let you take your own browse around this site! Richard Steel is an Environmental consultant in the UK and you will find his blog here at Wildlife Photographic Journals and I hope you enjoy your visit.

Enjoy your weekend!

The photos shown above were taken in Bodnant Garden, in North Wales, on 2nd July 2007.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Bloggers for Positive Global Change Award

As I write this garden diary in the format of a blog it has taken me into the growing community that is blogging. Within this gardening community there are many bloggers who want to make a difference and in some cases they initiate awards to recognise particular areas. The award for ‘Bloggers for Positive Global Change’ is the brain child of Climate Of Our Future to commemorate blogger's efforts around the world to share their knowledge, thoughts and inspirations in making this a better, healthier, more sustainable world.

On my return from holiday I was thrilled to discover that Wildlife Gardener at Our Little Corner of Paradise had nominated me for this award – thank-you once again. It was interesting to look through her other nominations some of which were new to me.

This award works much like a pyramid so therefore you are unable to nominate someone who has already been nominated – I originally posted this incorrectly and would like to apologise for my mistake. My original nominations included Our Little Corner Of Paradise and Bliss but deservedly so, they have already been nominated!

Finding my nominations has resulted in discovering new sites that I haven’t previously visited which I am sure is what Climate of our Future intended. Therefore I am delighted to present my list of nominations below which, with the exception of May Dreams Gardens, are all completely new to me and I look forward to many return visits. Congratulations to you all - please keep up the good work!

Birds and Climate Change

The Woodlands.co.uk Blog

Mad about Herbs

My Tiny Plot

May Dreams Gardens

Meme Rules:
It’s easy to participate in this meme. At minimum, you can proudly display the BPGC badge (it’s available in two varieties: Transparent GIF and JPEG with white background) on your blog and bask in the glow of our collective good will. If you are sharing the kudos, however, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:
When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.In your post, make sure you link back to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.Optional : Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

Evening sun

Watching my garden and taking photographs in it has made me more aware of how it looks with differing degrees of light levels during the day. It is amazing how quickly these levels change and how the essence of vibrant colours lit by evening sun just dissolves in a second. Last night I was trying to capture some photos of the siskin juveniles that are visiting my garden at the moment but instead was drawn to photograph the siskin male that you can see below.

Juvenile siskins I have found quite tricky to get good clear shots of with both my camera and video camera. However I heard today, when I was out trying again, a bird call that caught my attention! I have to be honest here and say that I do not recognise all my visiting birds by their calls – although I’m sure in time I probably will.

I listened and watched the feeders and trees. A few birds dropped to the feeders. I then heard the bird call again and it sounded much closer. I then looked closer! The call was coming from a male siskin at a feeder with sunflower hearts and in a moment a young siskin joined him at another bar of the feeder! What was good about this was that I am now sure that I have siskin young visiting my garden as until this I was uncertain. I have to say though that I haven’t noticed any females visiting at the moment.

The photograph below shows a siskin juvenile visiting my garden yesterday but I hope to get clearer pictures with the male soon.

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on 24th July 2007.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Young visitors

I am hoping that all those who visit my garden diary/blog to see photos, videos and read about my garden birds will forgive my absence of posts on birds recently. The reality is that there was a lot of activity going on before I went on holiday and has been since my return but anytime I took my camera out it would rain or the winds would be too strong. Unlike photographing my plants I have to patiently wait for the birds to come up close or into shot where I set up my tripod. However, I am hoping that the long wait was worth it when you see the collection of photographs I captured this afternoon!

Blue Tits appear to have had a bad breeding year here in the UK - based on comments received and discussions on bird forums. We ourselves were fortunate to see it all start in our Camera Nestbox but sadly our pair were unsuccessful this year too. You can see the whole story by selecting the label Camera Nestbox 2007 and scrolling to the bottom to read from the start. However, I am thrilled to be able to report that some Blue Tit pairs were still successful in our area as I have spotted two young Blue Tits visiting my garden in the last few days as you can see in the photos below. You will notice how much duller in colour they are and how much fluffier their feathers look too. I have posted my clearest photos in this post but to see more photos go to shirls birdphotos .

Blue Tit young are not the only young that are visiting my garden at the moment - I will try and get better photos and perhaps some video of some of my other young visitors for another day!

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on 23rd July 2007.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Garden Bloom Day July 2007

For new visitors I ought to explain a little about this post. The photos shown below were all taken in my garden to show what is in flower at the moment. Garden Bloom Day (or Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day) is organised by Carol at May Dreams Gardens who is in Indiana, USA. Her idea is to share across the world what is in flower in the garden on one day of the month – the 15th. It doesn’t need to be shown with photos - lists or a mix will do just as well. To share my photos and see all the others I go to Carol's GBBD post and leave a comment telling her I have taken part. There I can browse the gardens through her comments list – which I have already done and I intend going back to look again! At the moment it looks like I could be her 70th comment and although I am a little late with my contribution I will still add it as I really enjoy taking part.

My front garden has the most colour at the moment. The photos below show my rose ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ still holding on to a few flowers. Now though, my rose has the backdrop of the penstemon ‘Etna’ firing up the whole border with colour glowing up and through grasses and alongside the violet blues of the nepata ‘Walkers Low’. Pink asters are tucked into corners and my small buddleia is creeping up through grasses now too. New for this year were the beans which are growing well in the last photo of this group. You will also see two allium christophii heads – the small photo shows a seed head but as the other grows in a shadier part of my back garden is only now fully in flower.

This area is quite small so I limited the colours and use bold and repeats of colour with grasses blending the whole thing together. I have chosen plants for vertical impact here with and the growth of the grasses really accelerates at this time of year – my miscanthus just heads for the sky! This year however it is the number of flowers on my stipa towering over the border like a giant umbrella frame that quite literally tops this border. Behind the stipa and growing through it are the deep reds of the cirsium flowers and in front coming up to meet it are drumstick alliums and verbena bonariensis which will be fully in flower in the next few weeks. This area gently moves with the wind and visiting bees but soon the butterflies will join the party too!

Over the fence, in my back garden there is a whole different world. There is much more shade here and the predominant colour is green with little bursts of colour dotted around. At this time of year my back garden is a very tranquil place – cool in the hot days and so lush and vibrant after the rain. It is now shared with my visiting birds which have dropped in numbers after my absence on holiday. I must refresh and move around the feeders to attract them back again. I have gardened for many, many years but only in the last 18 months have I realised that the garden is empty with out visiting birds – really quite empty.

In the first set of photos below you will see that the red campion is a favourite with the insects. To the right of this photo if you look closely you will see my gunnera is sending out its flower spike. Completing this set you can see my hostas are now coming into flower – another popular feeding station for the bees and other insects.

Next, the deep colours of the clematis look stunning as they are in partial shade and the little thyme, in the larger picture, looks so delicate. Geramiums and a rogue foxglove complete this set.

Dotted around my back garden delicate colours of flower heads emerge as you can see in this next group. The blue allium was part of a bulb set two years ago and was a surprise to find in flower all on its lonesome nowhere near where I planted the rest – which never emerged! The single stem is the start of my lavender showing signs of flower although they have a lot more growth to put on yet. The group of stems is my small low compact astilbe showing signs of flowers to come too.

Next, alpine strawberries are continuing to flower and fruits are developing. My last aquilegia flower is shown and the larger picture is a complete unknown – if I were to make a guess I would say it has perhaps has a likeness for an orchid. I have no idea where this has come from – perhaps the birds? Can anyone help with an ID here?

The last photo in this group is of my borage showing first flowers in a blue and white although it too has a lot of growth to put on – it gets quite tall and if you have children you should be aware the hairy stems are quiet prickly. I grew this from seed a number of years ago and I always pull it up again but it always finds a way to keep coming back! I do leave some depending on where I find it. Finally, the wind and rain took its toll on my campanulas as they now lie across other plants.

Seed heads are now appearing in my garden – I have to say I enjoy looking at them although they can be untidy. I collected many seeds last year but this year I will try sowing the fluffy ones like the celemisia, in the larger photo of the first set of photos below, fresh this year. I won’t try growing cirsium as I have no space for anymore – however after all the flowers have passed in a stem I plan to cut it completely to the ground as last year I had a second flush of cirsium flowers in December! The pods in the last photo hold white lupin seeds.

The second photo in this group below shows a seed head on my clematis ‘Miss Bateman’ and although I successfully propagated it from cuttings last year I think I will also try sowing its fluffy seeds too. For some reason an insect found its leaves of interest! The larger photo shows that my heuchera’s still have flower spikes – their foliage colours are looking great now too.

A bright splash of colour can be seen at my back door in a hanging basket as you will see in the next group of photos below. It looks well above my new silver border which at the moment has a small compact hebe now covered in white flowers as you can see in the second photo of this group. This border isn’t entirely silver in colour – some plants have silver in their name like the rose ‘Silver Anniversary’ we were given for our Anniversary which will have white flowers.

The paler blue meconopsis, grown from seed, is in a pot in a partial shady nursery area in my garden. The final flower spike showing with the start of small purple flowers is a new plant that is temporarily in my silver border to fill space for this year – I will find its label and update this with its name.

Finally the last photos show the very impressive, tall, yellow flowers of Ligulaia x palmatiloba which for the moment is the strongest colour in my back garden. They tower above me as I walk around this border - I had to use a small step ladder to take these photos!

Looking down on me as I was on my step ladder was a blackbird sitting on my, in need of a good trim, hedge! The blackbirds often watch and follow me when I am in the garden – just in case I put out some food and then they will come up quite close. I will get out and attend to them soon.

Next month my back garden should have more colours again but for the moment I am enjoying the many greens and textures of the foliage.

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on 16th July 2007.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Back in the garden

I am now back in my garden after being on holiday. I have to say here in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, July’s weather has been as equally disappointing as June’s – rain again! I was a lovely day yesterday but I was unable to find the time to get my camera out to take photos for July’s Garden Bloom Day post. Guess what – it’s raining again today! Perhaps this evening will be dry and I’ll get some photos then. I have to say that I find posting photos of what is in flower every month a wonderful record of my garden and it is great to see what is in flower in other gardens in other parts of the world too.

Holiday pics – well I may be seen as sad here! Despite the weather we still got out and about and I decided that seeing as I didn’t have my own garden to watch I would look out for wild flowers for a change. I do have a few in my garden but it is never the same as seeing them completely in the wild. So armed with my camera I found myself scanning the verges and cracks in walls for plants I didn’t recognise - coming across others I remembered collecting for my Mum in posies as a child. Now, of course, wild plants are protected here so I collected photos instead!

It was very windy as well as wet in North Wales so my photos aren’t as clear as they could be – but I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise. I could have taken many more photos but it was our family holiday! Although we are back now I would like to continue looking out for wild flowers when I am out and about. I will post on my photos after I have caught up on my own garden.

What is this in the photo above? Well I was surprised to come across this when I upload my photos to my PC. I don’t actually remember taking it! I can locate it though by the photos which come before and after it. I was taken close to Llanberis in North Wales along the shores of Lake Penllyn – we took a trip along it on a little team train. There was a stop at one end and I was able to take a few photos! What a lovely little trip it was – we passed so many areas of wild flowers en route too. I will come back to the rest of these photos again. The picture below shows the scale of the insect in the original photo – the top picture is cropped and enlarged from it.

So, what is this insect? I must be honest and say that I have absolutely no idea but I do know a man that may be able to help me. Peter, at When to Watch Wildlife, has an excellent site with a diary of what to look out month by month. I will mail him later today and ask him what I captured in my photo. The picture below shows the scale of the insect in the original photo – the top picture is cropped and enlarged from it.

I have to recommend a read through Peter’s site especially to those with school children off on holiday – what a great place the outdoors is and there is so much we can see out there if we only take time to look that bit closer!

Update on insect identification: Peter has suggested it could be a Soldier Beetle - thank-you Peter. I have looked up one of my two photographic links for birds and found a photo there that suggests that it looks just like it. To see a much clearer photo, by Steven Round, plus many others of birds too look here.