Friday, 31 August 2007

The Rose

The Rose is not a flower that, if you knew me, you would expect to see in my garden. However, I now have two that are competely at home with their surrounding planting. I smile when I see them in flower - partly as they are both eye catching and partly as they are both surprise guests.

Cardinal de Richelieu,shown above, was the second rose I bought for my garden. Many years ago I picked up Swan Lake, a white scented climber, shortly after seeing the ballet with a friend. Sadly this rose was mis-labelled and I removed it after it flowered an odd orange colour!

Cardinal de Richelieu was picked purely on a whim with the promise of the striking deep flower colour. I could easily picture it with my grasses. It was thorn-less and scented too – it just had to be a winner!

This rose didn’t disappoint with profusions of beautiful flowering scented flowers which looked fantastic with the evening sun gently lighting through its petals. Without a doubt I would recommend this rose. It flowered during June and July.

Silver Anniversary, shown above, was a gift - no prizes for guessing what for! I had previously posted on my silver border and this rose was chosen especially for it.

Not all the plants I have in this small area are silver – some have silver in their name like the clematis ‘Silver Moon’ bought at the Gardening Scotland show at the beginning of June. In the last week this rose has come into flower and what a beautiful flower it has!

I could instantly see why it was given its name.
It looks like it would easily belong in a wedding bouquet. However, my first were thoughts were of fondant roses on a wedding cake! I could easily be transported back into my kitchen with the smell of icing sugar.

I have made many fondant roses for special cakes for family and friends over the years. My parents Golden Anniversary cake thee years ago, shown in the photo above, was the last time I made them. I would also recommend both this rose and trying to make fondant ones!

The photo above of ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ was taken in my garden on June 20th 2007. The photo above of ‘Silver Anniversary’ was taken in my garden on August 31st 2007.

Hanging basket make-over

On Sunday I mentioned getting odd jobs done in the garden. The photo below shows one of these jobs – giving my summer hanging basket a make-over for the autumn.

Freshening up areas of the garden I always find rewarding and it really doesn’t need to take hours to do. This job took about twenty minutes. My summer hanging basket was looking a bit tired. Instead of waiting for it to struggle on until the first frosts I decided to empty it and start again with a completely different look and one that I will enjoy over the next few months.

Silver was the colour scheme in the border below so I lifted a piece of a plant from there, Stachys byzantina (lanata), to tie the two elements together. The stachys will be okay in the short time but I will need to pull some out when it gets too big. For a little contrast I chose a favourite grass of mine – Uncinia Rubra which I lifted from another part of the garden. I bought one new plant – Sedum Rose Carpet. This sedum will be the main event of this basket as it will soon come into flower and the bees and butterflies will be drawn to it.

To finish this basket I chose to top dress it with some slate chippings that I left over after refreshing another large pot that has my silver-green leafed Weeping Pear tree. The top dressing with the tree looks quite stunning now and this dressing will help also stop the soil in the pot from drying out.

Two small jobs done and I am very pleased with the results. My garden is not ready at all to slow down for the season - there is so much interest yet to come!

The photo above was taken in my garden on August 29th 2007.

Home produce

The plate in the photo below shows a sample of produce grown in my garden this summer. It looks good so it might be assumed that I have some experience in growing fruit and veg – but take a closer look as I am definitely not an expert in this area!

Have we enjoyed eating our produce? Yes, the Duke of York potatoes grown in pots were tasty enough and although we had a very poor crop we might try that again. The tomatoes we have enjoyed but we haven’t picked them quickly enough and many have split or have become rotten – oops. You can see a sample of them in the photo below. We would probably grow fewer plants next year. My daughter was keen to try growing them both. The tomatoes probably needed a lot more care than we gave them – we should have fed them!

Guinea pig food was the reason we grew carrots, beans and mini cucumbers. We never tried any of them. If you look closer in the photo, centre front, you will see my fine specimen of carrot! We were completely unsuccessful in growing them. Our carrots were planted in a border in rows alternated with calendula – the flower shown. I am guessing there wasn’t enough sunlight in this area as we have had very few calendula flowers either – although perhaps we should have thinned them out more! The beans and mini cucumbers have been enjoyed by the guinea pigs – but again we didn’t have much of a crop there either. As a result of winds and rain in July we eventually brought them, in their pots, into my small greenhouse but I am guessing now that was a bad idea. The onions look okay – I have them ‘dotted about’ borders. I don’t know if they will get much bigger – maybe they are ready to eat now. The tiny alpine strawberries looked pretty in flower but again we didn’t pick them quickly enough and I guess the birds got most of them.

I would like to congratulate all the vegetable and fruit growers of the world! It clearly takes some effort in looking after these plants and I am certain it is rewarding to see rows and rows of beautiful plants ready to eat. My excuse is that I only really have strong sunshine in my front garden and it is really too small for vegetables anyway. I do have sunshine along the main strip of my Leylandii hedge but the roots of it would take away any moisture in the soil. Pots were a good idea for us and I would definitely recommend trying it – but I would suggest that these plants do need fed and watered regularly.

The photos above was taken in my garden on August 29th 2007.

More Trichomoniasis

Last week I posted photos of a greenfinch juvenile that I suspected of having the fat finch disease Trichomoniasis . I received a comment to this post confirming my suspicions. Yesterday I saw another Greenfinch and Chaffinch with it and when I walked up close to them they wouldn’t move – another sign of this condition. I went for my camera. I would guess that not everyone reads the comments on my posts but in this case as this one is quite graphic I have chosen to highlight it as it accompanies very well my more graphic close-up photos of this condition.

Jan from West Wales wrote: Hi Shirl, sadly I would say that the finch you have photographed definitely is sick with the tricho. It has virtually wiped out all the greenfinches and a huge number of chaffs here over the past months. If you find their bodies, as I have done many times, they are skeletal, the feathers are just fluffed up. The tricho blocks their throats and they can't swallow, and they just starve to death. Its awful - takes them about 3 or 4 days to die. :(

Today is the last day of August and I have a number of short posts I want to get in before we move into September –quite a wide range too. I wanted to get this one out of the way first. Much can change in the garden during the month of September – unless of course the weather surprises us with a late summer!

The photos above was taken in my garden on August 30th 2007.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Wildlife 'protection' lists

Yesterday’s news reported that ‘Hedgehogs and house sparrows have been included on an updated list of species and habitats which need protection’. To read more on this article go to BBC News where there are other links that may be of interest too. If you have been following my gardenwatch you will know that in the last two weeks we have had a hedgehog visiting a feeding station I made for it. If you are a new visitor you can read all about these visits here.

House Sparrows are not a problem in my garden at the moment as you can see from the pictures above which were taken this morning. There were quite a group of them fighting at this feeder – mostly females but a couple of males too. The Blue Tits and Great Tits would dive in a take a sunflower heart away when the other birds were squabbling! Females are shown in the photos - they really are quite pretty despite their dull colouring.

The photos above was taken in my garden on August 29th 2007.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Ornamental grass seedlings

Last year I collected seed from ornamental grasses in my garden and saved them in small sealed brown envelopes which I have stored in my garage. Perhaps next spring I will try sowing some of these – as an exercise to see if they are viable after 18 months. It might be interesting to see if there is any difference in germination with seed collected this year. Although if you are familiar with growing ornamental grasses you may already know that there is another way of increasing your stock with very little effort at all.

Gravel mulches
on paths and borders are a great way of cutting down on weeding but very occasionally weeds do still germinate but they are quite easily pulled out. I have ornamental grasses growing in areas mulched with gravel in my garden and as the seed is so fine it can sometimes germinate in the gravel. I always find these plants a bonus.

Top dressing pots with pebbles looks good but there will still be pockets where seed can get trapped. I have a large pot of alliums in my front garden but I am not disappointed at all at the young ornamental grass seedlings that have grown up and through the pebbles I have top dressed this pot with. I spotted them after the allium’s foliage died down and have waited until now before lifting and potting them up as sometimes lifting young self sown seedlings can be risky. It wasn’t until I lifted these seedlings today that I realised quite how many were in the pot!

Square pots rather than round ones for seedlings or cuttings work best for me as I have a very small, 6ft x 4ft, greenhouse and space is an issue. I place six pots in and tray so I can move them around more easily. I also tend to place cuttings in the four corners with one in the middle giving five per pot. With grass seedlings I tend to put only two per pot and in opposite corners. I also place the pots in the trays in the same way so that they all get enough light when they have grown into larger plants as you will see in the photo above. The white in the pots is vermiculite which I added to the compost to help drainage. I don’t imagine these seedlings really need over wintering in my greenhouse but I have done this for a number of years now.

A closer look around the garden could reveal more self sown seedlings and not all I will lift. Sometimes I will let plants grow where they land – well for a little while anyway. It is like a treasure hunt where I don’t always keep the treasure!

The photo above was taken in my garden on August 28th 2007.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Odd job day

Today I plan to go out into my garden and get number of odd jobs done. At the moment it is a bright sunny morning - although a little windy. If this wind doesn’t pick up anymore we plan to get our hedge trimming completed later. We have never actually measured it so perhaps that might be an interesting exercise too.

Next weekend we will be into September - a time usually associated for the garden to get a good tidy up for the year as many plants will be passing their best. However, I am not quite ready for that and intend taking a different approach. Pruning is a great way to rejuvenate some areas in the garden – and this is a job that I really enjoy and never find a chore. Last week I began by pruning ivy and wisteria and they both look so much better for it - although pruning isn’t just about appearance. Pruning promotes growth and bushes out a plant but sometimes when a plant is small it perhaps seems a bit brutal - but it definitely makes for a stronger and healthier plant. If you are in any doubt about pruning your plants or when to do so I would refer to a book for this or visit a gardening website – I have a few links on the right column.

Before and after photos below shows the ivy growing at the top of my walkway – it is much nicer to walk through now and the smell of the jasmine in flower is wonderful – although I did have to trim some stems of the jasmine too as they were at eye level height.

Whippy growth on the wisteria is usually pruned back throughout the summer but I have to say that I have noticed much less of this growth this year. I did prune some last week and will keep an eye on it for more. I think the photo also show how beautiful the layers of wisteria foliage are too – I love the way it drapes over my pergola.

I have a few other thoughts on freshening up areas of the garden today but the day is never as long as you would like it to be and when you plan a busy day – something unexpected often comes along. I wonder how much I will get done.

The photos above were taken in my garden on August 20th 2007.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Hedgehog feeding station success!

For seven nights we have followed the progress of a hedgehog visit my garden. For five nights I have had a feeding station set up where I have experimented with foods to tempt it in. After a few days it looked like it was going in - but last night video footage confirmed this. It entered the feeding box only 15 mins after I put the food out! I saw its visit through a window and the camera caught it too. I believe it was probably disturbed with our voices inside and quickly left. The video below fades out when it fed in the dish of sultanas for almost 4 minutes. I have not altered the speed of this film.

Feeding station 1st, video 1:21 with background music, try 480p quality.

Would it make a return visit? I was pretty sure it would as on other nights every single sultana has gone.

Can I be sure it is the same hedgehog visiting? No, I have no way of measuring that even if I was to stay up all night watching the box. Perhaps there are more than one visiting at different times during the night.

Did it bring any friends last night? Well, by the condition of the box this morning I would say 'yes' and they had themselves a party too! Initially when I saw the box this morning I thought something else had moved it about - but then I spotted the ‘evidence’. I typed hedgehog droppings into Google Images and yes I can confirm that the party animals were indeed hedgehogs!

The photos below show the feeding box as I found it this morning. However if you are about to eat you may not want to scroll further down to the photos of the hedgehog droppings that I have very generously decided to share. As you will see they were in the food dishes too and most were squashed but I was left with one fine specimen! Perhaps you have also spotted them in your garden but didn’t realise they belonged to a hedgehog.

Are hedgehogs new visitors to my garden? After seeing the droppings I can confidently say ‘no’ to that question. I have seen these droppings on my grass before and wondered who they belonged to - but I never considered a hedgehog. I can also fairly confidently say that it has most likely to be the sultanas that I throw out for the birds that they have been enjoying as well as my slugs and snails and perhaps that is why they are not interested in the dried food.

What next? Well, I wonder if I will see more than one hedgehog come to my feeding station at the same time? Perhaps then my feeding station will be too small. Of course you could guess what I would really love to see visit one day – a hedgehog juvenile!

The video above was taken, just after 10pm, on August 23rd 2007.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Juvenile Greenfinches

We have been extremely lucky to have had a warm and sunny week – what a welcome change this has been. It is almost like we are having our summer now! Since watching the birds in my garden I have noticed that they enjoy the sunshine too – many finches choosing to sit on branches appearing to sunbathe.

The greenfinch juvenile, shown in the photos above, allowed me to get really quite close to photograph him earlier this week. I took a number of photos but I particularly like these ones as the showed how beautiful the layers of feathers on a bird actually are. Just before I took these photos I watched it pick insects off the leaves of my Acer tree.

I was concerned though later as I watched it drink water from pond. I was able to see its shape more clearly and wondered if it was possibly suffering from the finch disease trichomoniasis . I have noticed that birds suffering from this disease do seem to be seen drinking a lot too.

Sadly, I have also noticed that greenfinches seem to be the top of the list, in my garden, of birds caught by cats. I am not certain but I do believe it was one of the two greenfinch juveniles a saw leave my garden in the mouth of my neighbours cat the next day. Another I found on the ground and I also found a chaffinch dead on my bird table – I expect it died from fright. I believe my CATWatch unit had been faulty and it has now been replaced – clearly it has been helping to protect the birds. However, I have since wondered that if the birds that I saw the cat go away with did have the disease trichomoniasis - could it harm it? I wonder if any research has been done on that.

Hedgehog still visiting garden

It has been almost a week now since a hedgehog was spotted and filmed in my garden. It has visited every night since then. Last night I had my video camera out again but didn’t catch it on film. I’ve logged our visits purely out of interest – I have no experience whatsoever of hedgehog visitors. I approached this new visitor like I would do any new species of bird in the garden.

More information – I have a number of links on the right column of this diary/blog and I knew I had one for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society so that is where I looked. I browsed the site and found a list in ‘From our leaflets’ then selected ‘Autumn Juveniles’ . I have a number of juvenile birds I have been watching in my garden but I had no idea at all that from September to the end of November juvenile hedgehogs may visit too. If you are interested in reading further about hedgehogs I would recommend a visit to this site as there is lots of useful information including instructions on how to make a Hedgehog House . In autumn hedgehogs begin to collect material as birds would do for their nests but they need are building a home to hibernate in over the winter months. Nature really is quite amazing isn’t it?

What do they eat? This is always the next thing I look up when a new bird species visits my garden. Well, hedgehogs like slugs and snails so it really is the gardener’s friend - especially if you grow hostas, as I do, as the slugs and snails love them! Pet shops and some garden centres will stock dried mixes of hedgehog food and it is widely known that they also have a liking for cat food but the Society also suggests that they also like dog food too – it is the meat bases that they must really like. I decided to buy dried hedgehog food for them.

Night visit number two was raining very hard and there were puddles on the ground. Dried food would be no good at all. I had read on the BHPS website that hedgehogs may take sultanas – so I scattered a few on the ground. I was confident that they would not go to waste as the blackbirds and the song thrushes love sultanas in my garden! We watched from a window and sure enough the hedgehog came and very quickly cleared through the lot - then ran off into the garden.

Night visit number three is when I began my feeding experiment. I had read about feeding stations in the BHPS website – again this was completely new to me! But just as we put up our Camera Nestbox and waited patiently to see if it would be used I thought it might be fun to try this too. I bought a rectangular plastic box which was almost transparent and cut a hole at one of the shorter sides for an entrance – 13cm x 13cm as the BHPS suggested. Turned upside down the box was to be used as a tunnel so that a cat was unable to get to the food inside. I bought a cat feeding dish from a pet shop (sorry, I have to smile at that) and put water in one side and the dried food in the other. I placed the dish at the opposite end from the entrance. I then scattered a few sultanas outside and just inside the entrance with some dried food too to tempt the hedgehog in. If it did come in this would mean that on wet nights I would still be able to give it food. Again it visited and took the sultanas – but only the sultanas and didn’t enter the feeding box.

Night visit number four was when I reduced the number of sultanas outside the feeding box and added some in the mix with the dried food. I also scattered a few sultanas and some dried food in front of the dish. We never saw the hedgehog visit that night but in the morning all sultanas on the ground were gone. Inside the feeding box the dried food on the ground was crushed - it definitely looked like the hedgehog had been in the box. It also looked like it was only searching for the sultanas as the dried food in the dish had been disturbed and some food was out of the dish and also the bottom of the dish could now be seen. This was getting interesting!

Night visit number five and my daughter filled up the dishes, with dried food only on one side and fresh water in the other. She put sultanas outside the entrance only and once again they were taken. It wasn’t clear if the hedgehog had entered the box this time.

Night visit number six, last night, I cleared out the dish and dried out the side that had water in it previously. This time I filled the water side with sultanas only and the other as usual with the dried mix. I placed the dish half way in the tunnel and only put out five sultanas on the ground in a trail to the side of the dish with sultanas in it. Only one sultana was placed on the ground outside the box. I set up my camera once again and waited to see what would happen next. The picture below is a grabbed frame from my video camera last night showing the feeding station as I set it up for the hedgehog.

Disappointingly, I did not catch the hedgehog on film –but it did visit again. This morning I was very interested to see what had happened in my feeding box. The picture below shows no sultanas on the ground and all sultanas gone from the dish. It also looks like the hedgehog has searched through the dried food too!

Tonight, I think I will place the dish in the same place inside the box. I might try putting some sultanas in both sides and add a very small number of dried bits of food on one side. At the moment it looks like we will have a dry evening so I will set up my video camera once again. I would love to catch on film a hedgehog entering the feeding station I made especially for it. Oh yes, and I would also like it to bring a friend!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

The hedge and the hedgehog

August is a good month, in Scotland, for trimming hedges as the birds have now finished nesting. We began trimming our Leylandii hedge on the 7th but were unable to finish it as the weather turned wet. However yesterday evening we managed another couple of hours – but this morning it is wet once again! The final strip should take another couple of hours and is the one I appreciate the most as I look out on to it from my window. Once it is trimmed it recedes into the background and all my foliage plants can be appreciated much more.

This morning as I look out my window the birds are diving into and around my garden – I love to see them do this. Yesterday I refilled all my feeders with sunflower hearts and as it is raining I expect they will be empty by the end of the day! I have noticed that the feeders are always very busy on wet days. I have just spotted a wren and the blackbirds are now running around the ground too.

The blackbirds in my garden seem to have an adventurous palette. Earlier in the summer they were caught at a dish of hedgehog food we had put out for a hedgehog we spotted in the garden one evening. We would put food in the dish in the evening and by morning it would be empty - we were delighted as we thought the hedgehog was taking the food. It was only when I was up particularly early one morning myself that I spotted this early bird feasting from the dish! We eventually stopped putting the food out.

Cat food, funnily enough, is a favourite for the hedgehogs! I know of a lady who puts cat food specially out at her back door and has had up to five feed at the same time – babies too. She would see them at around 9.30pm and that is the time when we saw our visitor. I am guessing that is perhaps early for a hedgehog as I know of another wildlife garden that they visited at midnight – you can see pictures of that visit here .

Just before midnight last night I went out to return something to our guinea pig hutch – I had cleaned it earlier in the day. This hutch is kept in a sheltered spot at our back door. I put on the outside light and opened the door and immediately took a second take. There was something standing on the gravel in front of the hutch. At first glance it was the size and shape of a guinea pig. It wasn’t a guinea pig though – it was unmistakably a beautiful hedgehog. I shut the door, put out the light and ran for my camera.

Of course, the hedgehog was gone when I returned! Luckily it was a dry and mild night so I decided to give the video camera a try. I put up my tripod and set my camera on the 0 Lux setting – the image would now be black and white. I watched the viewing screen from inside for a while and then let it run unattended. It was late, so after a while I went out to bring the camera in. I opened my back door to find a hedgehog at my step searching for food at one of the tripod legs! It’s a good job I have a very sturdy tripod. It quickly ran away – but hey I did catch it and another visitor on film as you will see in my video below.

A garden first, video 0:44 with background music, try 480p quality.

Guinea pig food occasionally drops from our hutch – was this what had attracted the hedgehog? You will see in the video that the hedgehog stops and sniffs at something on the gravel in the centre of the picture. When I first saw it last night I had thought maybe it was attracted to the guinea pig food and as I had swept this area earlier I put some out on the gravel to see if it would take it. You will see from the video that it didn’t seem interested. So what was bringing it to my back door?

Recently, one very wet evening, I went outside to put the rain cover down on the guinea pig hutch and noticed some soggy bits of food on the ground that looked like had attracted slugs and snails. My thoughts were to clean it up in the morning – which I did. Of course - I should have remembered! It has been the slugs and snails that the hedgehog has been looking for – now I have a dilemma. Do I put out ‘hedgehog’ food in a dish to bring them back? As a gardener I am happy they are eating the slugs and snails and perhaps if I put out food they won’t look for them. Then again it might help them stay in my garden. Mmmm tricky one. Yes, I think I will put food out – if only to feed them up so they can survive their winter hibernation. I secretly hope though that they will munch their way through the slugs and snails in my garden!!

Finally, as I have been writing this the blackbirds have been busy again! They have now spotted the guinea pig food I put out for the hedgehog last night and have had a few nibbles at that. Another has passed by with some hedgehog food – a slug which it carried off into the border and enjoyed!

The video above was taken in my garden, just before midnight, on August 17th 2007.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Garden Bloom Day August 2007

I am delighted to be able to post my Bloom Day post on time this month. To view other gardens, across the world, to see what they have in flower at the moment browse the comments list on Carol’s post on May Dreams Garden . I have decided, for a change, to post a video of my flowering plants to show how they nestle amongst lots of foliage plants. For me the foliage plants are the stars of my garden at the moment and the flowers are giving spots of colour as you will see in my video below.

I have just been browsing myself and have enjoyed looking at the colours of plants of two gardens in the USA that I would recommend a look at:
Robin's Central Indiana garden and
Layanee's Northwestern Rhode Island garden .

I’m delighted that, through my comments below, someone has noticed that my black grass is in flower and has asked about it – Thank-you Carol. I hoped someone would as I think this plant is rather special - here in the UK is often referred to as a black grass but it isn’t actually a grass. Its real name is rather a mouthful!

Ophiopogon is actually a perennial giving this beautiful grass-like foliage all year through. It is in flower now as you can see at the end of my video above. The flowers are pretty little things but it’s the promise of what they bring that I look forward to – clusters of shiny black-purple berries! These plants can be quite expensive as they are slow growing but occasionally when I have a larger clump I will lift, divide then replant. They can also be propagated from seed when it is fresh. I tried an experiment in January when I had berries on my plants and they were beginning to fall to the ground. I gently pulled the berries off and pushed them into the soil as if they had fallen off and been covered. So far I have seen no signs that this has been successful but I will try it again – planted en masse this plant looks absolutely striking and it is a strong favourite at garden shows.

The photo above, showing berries, was taken in my garden in January 2007 and is the variety Ophiopogon planiscpus ‘Nigrescens’ (syn. Black Dragon) I bought my first plant at a Garden Open Day plant sale many years ago.

The video above was taken, early morning, in my garden on August 4th 2007.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Meteors tonight

Tonight, if we have a clear sky we will head out in to the garden at around 10pm, UK time, to see if we can see the annual Perseid meteor shower. I have just read on the BBC News online that tonight is a good night for the UK. You can see video of last years shower here .

In March we went into the garden to watch a lunar eclipse and I tried to catch it on video. The picture below shows a grabbed frame from the video. At the time I came across much clearer photos on another blog which you can see here here .

Happy stargazing!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Wild Flowers July 2007

Finally, I have completed my photo collection of wild flowers I took whilst on holiday in Wales. I have always paid attention to the road side edges as I pass by but armed with my camera it was quite a different experience.

In the photo groups below B2 and B3 were taken from a small, moving, steam train near Llanberis! I love to see collections of flowers colonising as they do in the wild giving such wonderful natural drifts – especially when they grow with/on stones and rocks.

I love to plant in drifts of the same plant, or colour, in my own garden – weaving through it and tying it all together. I find this works particularly well with a small garden. I have planted like that for many years – long before it became fashionable to do this. I also really love to work with stone – but that I will keep for another post.

Displaying my photos the way I do is quite time consuming but I really enjoy the creativity and feel it gives a fuller flavour or the colours and variety of the plants. If you are familiar with my photo montages you will have noticed I have added a letter and number index. I have added this as I have been struggling to identify my photos and would like to invite anyone to join me in identifying these plants. As I get suggestions I will list and acknowledge them.

Okay, so the photos above perhaps don’t look that colourful or interesting for that matter either! By the way I think B1 is a stone crop of some sort and B3 is saxifrage perhaps. A1, I also think is perhaps a small creeping cranesbill (hardy geranium). So it doesn’t look like I have much to identify?

Not much of challenge here then – true. I am very much aware that many of my readers are more interested in birds and I don’t want them to find me, see plants, and leave with a very quick click of the mouse! I have a lot of posts on my visiting garden birds, photos and videos taken in my garden as well as Camera Nestbox. Perhaps some of the gardeners would enjoy looking through them too.

Back to the wild flowers and the challenge - I am absolutely thrilled with my collection of photos especially when I could barely stand up with strong winds when most were taken! My photos have really only given a very small taster of how pretty they look close up and how striking the colours can be too. If you think about it they would need to be to attract the insects, in particular the bees, so they in turn will survive.

Sorry, I have kept you in suspense here - if you would like to see my collection of wild flower photos and take part in my challenge click here. By the way the index A1 actually goes to R3!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Pruning for second flush

Yesterday, I found time to do a quick 10 minutes of pruning that will ultimately give me some extra colour in my garden in a month or so – well worth the time! I’m sure the butterflies and bees will appreciate this too. Some plants if pruned after flowering can give a second flush of flowers in the same growing season. In my garden this has worked well for cirsium, nepata, and hardy geraniums.

Nepata, catmint, I have pruned successfully like this for many years now. In the photos above you can see the before, Right bottom, and after Right top. I will post a photo when it gets back into full bloom.

The larger photo on the left shows my verbena Bonariensis that was extremely pot bound when I bought it and did not successfully come back to life after planting. You will notice that new side shoots have begun to grow. I pruned each stem just above growth like this and I am sure the plant will kick into life now. It is now no longer wasting energy and water in trying to support dead stems. I hope to see it come fully into flower in a month or so too.

Soon my wisteria
will have long whippy new growth and my secateurs will be out once again! I really find pruning quite therapeutic and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

CATWatch Review – shirls gardenwatch

Writing this diary/blog I have discovered a high percentage of gardeners love their cats. However, not all do for a variety of reasons. I have to be honest here and say I am a gardener that doesn’t. Fouling is one aspect that bothers me especially when my children were young. Although much of my garden now has gravel mulches and a lot of ground covering plants, which does help, I still want to protect its young occupants – our visiting birds. The young birds are particularly vulnerable and in the last week I have found two dead greenfinch juveniles – hence my decision now to do my review of the CATWatch deterrent which I have been using for seven months now.

How does it work? Well, it is a motion sensor that claims to detect movement up to 12 metres away and emits a high pitched sound (silent to humans) specifically at a cat's hearing frequency. The visiting cat will then learn to avoid this area. It is placed via a spike into the ground and can be used with mains power or one 9 volt battery – I have used a battery. I have to add at the time I bought mine it was the only unit that the RSPB have tested and recommended.

What I have found is that in the winter when my garden is more open the unit appeared to work very well. Although in saying that, I was changing the battery after only a month – but it wasn’t the cats that were necessarily setting it off. As the blackbirds and other birds ran around the ground they set it off – it detected their body heat. I would gather from that any cats getting close would go no further – so no cats were seen. However, I did see a cat walking by the day after I put the unit out and it got a lot closer than 12 meters before it set the sensor off – a red light also comes on and I spotted it from my window. I know it states that it cannot work through solid objects but this area was relatively clear.

During summer when the plants are in full growth, as you can see above, the cats have more spots to hide and pounce so I have been moving my unit around. It is still a small area I am covering with this unit. Now I have found it is not so effective – as the dead birds will confirm. But then again I have a lot of young birds visiting and many are surviving too so I am still happy with my purchase.

I have used approximately five batteries since January. After I found the last dead bird I went out to check the battery and noticed although the light came on when I approached it was sluggish so I decided to replace it in this instance. When I opened up the unit I found wet earth in the battery compartment – more than usual. But that was not all I found as you will see in the photo below.

Common earwigs were crawling about the battery compartment – I had a very unpleasant few minutes tapping them out! There had to be about 25 of them. I looked up my book to identify them and it looks like debris from the feeders might have attracted them. This is the first time I have ever found them in the unit – it is usually in an area covered with bark chippings. When changing the battery I also noticed that the screen on the front of my unit has unusual break so I hope my unit is not faulty. It appears to be working fine.

The big question – would I recommend it? Well there are many deterrents like this one, less expensive too, but what I like about this one is that it is training the visiting cats to use another route. I also feel comfortable in using a unit that the RSPB both tested and recommends. From my windows I am unable to see many of the birds that are on the ground now. I feel sad when I see dead birds in my garden but in using this unit I do see fewer cats in this area, none in the winter, so I do feel it has helped greatly.

Update: August 22nd :
After finding a number of dead birds in my garden, with two greenfinch juveniles seen leaving in the mouth of the same cat, I felt my CATWatch unit has developed a fault. Yesterday I returned it to my local RSPB, where purchased, and it was exchanged with no problem. I feel much happier to have another unit working again. Unfortunately the cat in question was still on the prowl! I took one extra step – a trip up to my local garden centre for another product. ‘Silent Roar’ I used almost ten years ago. It is environmentally-friendly and contains no artificial chemicals. Silent Roar is pellets soaked in real essence of lion dung, dried and sterilised. As cats are territorial, it is claimed that even the bravest will retreat with the smell of a lion. I scattered the pellets under the trees and plants where I have seen the cat hide and also at entrance points to the area that has the problem. Today I did see the cat in the distance, near my hedge, so I hope my measures are working now.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

That time of year!

August, in my garden, is tidy-up time. I have very few bedding plants in my garden so deadheading flowering plants to keep them flowering longer is not really a job I need to keep on top of. However, pruning is one I do. No problem there though as I really enjoy pruning except for one particular plant - or beast as I call it! We have a Leylandii hedge on two boundaries of my garden and this is the time that we need to get the hedge trimmers out.

What a shame it has been raining. However, during early Saturday evening, after the wind had died down, we were able to make and start and finished one length. Although I hate this job the results transform my garden giving a wonderful solid backdrop for my plants. So really once we start, and see the difference, it helps us get through the job. Sunday rained so now we are only half way through the job. The longest and messiest of the two lengths still remains but now I am keen to get out and complete the job. When it’s windy my eye is drawn to the new growth flapping about which I am sure you can imagine looking at the larger photo in the group below. The small photo, right bottom, shows our trimmed hedge and you can see how the outlines of the plants show up against it now – that hedge now just disappears into the background.

Other plants that I trim back at this time of the year include the ivies that grow up my pergola. I don’t follow gardening books for this prune – it’s my eye that determines this one. Although I like to see and encourage wildlife in my garden I still like to keep a certain level of tidiness – most people perhaps associate wildlife gardens as completely wild but I think you can mix the two.

I trim my ivy firstly as it is growing out into the walkway below and although I like walking through plants we also eat at a table under this pergola so we don’t want to eat with it in our hair. Slight exaggeration perhaps! I want to keep the ivies growing in solid pillars. However my pruning in this case also helps the wildlife – in particular the birds. The more I prune back the ivies the more it grows and branches out thickening the covering over my pergola thus giving a great place for birds to make nests. This year blackbirds, for the first time, began to build a nest there although they didn’t complete it looks like in the future we could see nests in it. I have three pillars on one side of my pergola and a trellis on the other side where I have also hung up roosting pockets for the birds to keep warm on cold winter nights.

My cirsium had a few flowers last December and I believe it was due to little pruning I did to tidy some messy broken stems last year some time. So I have tried a little experiment for this year. After all my flowers were fluffy seed heads, on the last day of July, I completely trimmed the whole plant completely to the ground. This pruning has now given more light to the other plants in this area. However, I will watch with interest now to see if I have it fully in flower in December!

My new verbena Bonariensis plant that was struggling to come back after planting is looking a sorry sight as you will see in the small photo, right top, above. The other two plants have picked up and beginning to flower but this one, sadly, I will have to prune back for it to survive! I may still get flowers from it this year.

My penstemon cuttings have been flowering really well but now is the time to keep regular checks on the flowering stems and to prune them when they are going over so other stems can come up with their flowers. This pruning will also bush out the plants as well as extending the time these plants are in flower.

Nepata, catmint, also benefit from a good haircut at this time of year! Although I will be honest and say that I am later that usual with this. I often watch out for fading in its violet-blue flowers and then cut back these stems for a second flush of flowers but at the same time leaving the plant with some long stems so the change over is a gradual one and the plants are not left with the hedgehog look. I will post photos on this when I do it to let you see what I mean. However this is another pruning that is well worth it. In a month or so when I look at the gardens, with fading colours of bedding plants, around me my garden will be bursting with the fresh colours of my revitalised plants. I particularly like to see late colour in my garden.

Finally, I must add, when I chose the title of this post it was not intended just for the plants. ‘That time of year!’ also refers to exam results! This morning, in Scotland, the exam results will arrive by post. As a parent I am writing this now anxiously waiting on the envelope that will determine my daughter’s career options. Scottish schools, in our region, will be back next week. English schools get their results later in the month on the 17th and 24th. I would like to wish all pupils all the very best – you will be our future!