Monday, 31 December 2007

CONTENTS - December 2007

My blog contains a mixture of posts on garden plants, visiting birds and wildlife. I have resisted the temptation to write separate blogs. However, I fully understand that new readers to my blog may browse and miss posts that may be of interest. If you are browsing I hope the lists below will help given a full flavour of what has gone on in my gardenwatch during this month. All posts include photos and some also include short videos.


  • Frosty plants and spider's webs - Dec 22, 2007

  • Garden planting and tidy-up - Dec 19, 2007

  • Hard frost finally hits garden - Dec 17, 2007

  • Plants in flower during the middle of the month - Dec 14, 2007

  • Alliums in the garden - Dec 4, 2007

  • BIRDS:
  • Busy bird feeders including Siskins (videos) - Dec 30, 2007

  • Blackcap and Blackbird eating apples (videos) - Dec 22, 2007

  • Robin follows me working in garden - Dec 19, 2007

  • Partial Albino Blackbird eating apples - Dec 13, 2007

  • Blue Tit still roosting (video) - Dec 2, 2007

  • Further discusion and comments on squirrels - Dec 17, 2007

  • Squirrel obstacle course found on YouTube (video) - Dec 14, 2007

  • Decision made about feeding squirrels- Dec 10, 2007

  • Bats (video) - Dec 7, 2007

  • Grey squirrel visits garden (video)- Dec 6, 2007
  • Sunday, 30 December 2007

    Busy, busy

    This is a busy time of the year for family and friends but I have been very surprised at quite how busy the bird feeders have been in my garden! It hasn’t been too cold and we haven’t had snow or hard frosts. However the numbers of visiting finches really have increased greatly especially with the goldfinches but siskins are now coming to the feeders with them.

    Yesterday morning I put my video camera out at 10am to see what I could capture. Although it was dull at that time you can get still an idea of the activity at one of my three hanging feeders and all were as busy throughout the day! I also have a table, two small tray feeders, a caged feeder and a fatcake guardian as well as my apples on obelisks. When watching the videos I would suggest that you turn up the volume if you would like to hear the birds chatter.

    Siskins with Goldfinch & Greenfinch, 1:05 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The video above shows the Siskins with a Goldfinch & Greenfinch. The male siskin is yellow and the goldfinch has red on its head. The other birds are female siskins and you can see how much smaller than the goldfinch they are – and it is small too!

    Great Tit & Blue Tit video, 0:26 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The video above shows firstly a great tit and then a blue tit taking advantage of a quiet moment to dash in for a takeaway of sunflower hearts. Notice that the blue tit is tiny compared to the great tit and so much quieter too. I had never noticed the great tit chatter as it came to the feeders before.

    Goldfinch group video, 2:27 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The final video above shows part of the goldfinch group that is visiting my garden at the moment and as you will see they are not exactly harmonious on every visit! Again if you listen you will also hear the lovely tinkling sound they make when they fly away.

    January sees the return of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for 2008 on the weekend of the 26th and 27th. I will post more details on this soon but I do hope that I will have still have the siskins, goldfinches and blackcaps visiting that weekend to add to the bird count for my garden.

    All videos above were taken in my garden on 29th December 2007.

    Saturday, 22 December 2007

    Magical winter moments

    This morning is the third morning in a row that I have awoken to a seriously hard frost covering my entire garden. So my gardening once again has stopped for the moment. It is 8am as I begin this post and here in my garden in Scotland the day is just beginning – it is not yet dawn.

    Photos above: Bamboo (main pic), euphorbia and black grass.

    I can see white frost clothing my bamboo against the dark background of my hedge. I can just make out the blackbirds as they sit or run along the top of my hedge, my trellis and arch before they jump down and run along the ground. I am guessing that the sunflower hearts will be frozen so I will just go and throw some fresh ones out on the ground through my window.

    I can also just make out the distinctive shape of the robin as it bobs back and forth at the small feeder tray in my Acer. One blackbird has been watching me and has found the fresh sunflower hearts so before long the others will follow and some fighting amongst them is likely. If I have time this is my most favourite part of the day watching the early birds visit my garden as light comes up.

    On Thursday I went out into my garden with my camera to get photos of the frosted plants but it was the frosted spider’s webs that caught my attention! How beautiful they all looked dripping all over my garden. All along my hedge webs could be seen, hanging from the edges of my shed, pergola, arches and many plants too. I walked around with my camera and mostly just admired them – I took a few photos.

    As Friday morning
    had an even harder frost my garden was seriously gripped by winter now. I went out with my video camera to film the plants and frozen spider’s webs. I set up my tripod for this and as I stood behind it adjusting height etc my attention was drawn to activity at my apple obelisk.

    The apples I put out on this obelisk have continued to be extremely popular with birds feeding from it for most of the day! As I look out now I can see a male blackbird pecking away – I expect the apples will be frozen too. However it was a smaller bird I saw at the apples as I looked across from behind my tripod – it wasn’t a blue tit either. It was a darker bird. I then realised what I was looking at – the return of the Blackcap to my garden and I had my camera! I quickly switched it on and hit record.

    Blackcap video, 1:01 with background music, try 480p quality.

    A female Blackcap was eating apple from my obelisk. I had been hoping we might see them return in January as they came last year at this time. Some blackcaps, I understand, have started visiting Scottish gardens the last few years – not a usual place for them to be during winter. I have never seen them in the summer. I was really thrilled to see it again. It was the fatcake that they enjoyed the last time but as the Starlings did too I believe this bird probably didn’t get enough peace in my garden and left after a week! I wonder if it will stay longer this time.

    I cannot believe how quickly the blackcap finds its way around my garden. I have just seen her drink from the waters edge of my small pond (I’ll go out and break the ice soon). As I look out now she is eating sunflower hearts from my small feeder hidden in my Acer tree. For a bird that has great navigation skills I wonder why it has found its way to my garden rather than those in Spain or Africa where it should be!

    So far, I have only seen the female blackcap and I am not certain but there could be two. Unless you see the chestnut brown cap on the head they can at a quick glance look like the female chaffinch. The male has, not surprisingly, a black cap on its head and really is quite noticeable in the garden. It can also be quite a bossy boots chasing off the other birds – except of course for the starlings! I wonder if we will see it visit today.

    Blackbird video, 0:25 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The female blackbirds however, are still the most dominant at my apple obelisk but yesterday it shared time about with the female blackcap. I have noticed two apples get eaten at the same time. Perhaps if the ground gets softer I will put out another obelisk and place two apples on each and see what happens then.

    Looking out my window again I have just seen a young male blackbird chase off the female blackbird – I can see this feeding experiment is going to be the favourite winter feeding station of my garden. On a cold winter’s day what better to enjoy our winter gardens is there than to look out the window and watch the birds visit. Enjoy your garden this weekend – whatever the weather.

    Finally, I would like to wish all my visitors both regular and new a Merry Christmas and Health and Happiness in 2008. I am looking forward to another year in my garden and I wonder what new visitors 2008 will bring! I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing moments from my garden and would like to thank-you all for joining me.

    The photos above were taken in my garden on 19th and 20th December 2007. The videos above were taken in my garden on 20th December 2007.

    Wednesday, 19 December 2007

    A good gardening day!

    After my last post it may have seemed like my gardening year was over but today I spent a very enjoyable few hours out in my garden. What about our hard frost? Well, the next night we had no frost at all in my garden and today it was really quite pleasant. We even had some sunshine!

    Sale plants in Garden Centres are often a great buy especially at this time of year. I had a few plants in pots that I picked up last month and as we could get our frost back again at any time I felt the need to get these plants in the ground.

    Daphne mezer 'Rubra' was one of my bargain plants found in a corner of a garden centre with a selection of other sickly looking plants. However, I knew the three stick-like stems had the promise of purple-red flowers in February/March. The label read £16.99 but the sale ticket had dropped all the way to £4! I like to rescue plants from areas like this and today it became one of the latest additions to my garden.

    Drumstick alliums, Sphaerocephalon, planted in baskets and British Bluebells, Scilla Nutans, planted in small trenches were both bought half price and finally made it into my garden today too. I know I’m a bit late and that is why I got them at this price. However, I have planted bulbs this late before and if the soil has been warm as it was today they have been okay.

    Ligulaia x palmatiloba has towered over my pond border for a few years now with its wonderful bright yellow flat daisy heads. However this year I moved a small pine tree to this area and I now feel these two plants are in competition. So today I moved the Ligulaia to the border that backs on to my pergola trellis with the sulphur heart ivy and euphorbia - I think the yellows will blend well in this area. I even managed to divide one of the plants which will refresh it too.

    The Japanese anemone hybrida ‘Serenade’ with its pink flower replaced the ligularia in my pond border. I bought three of these as they were selling them at £2 each. They have been quite pot-bound as you can see in the photos above. You can also see the familiar sight of division too. I decided to tease apart two of the plants and got four plants from each. I left one plant untouched so I will definitely get flowers from it next year. Not all of the divided plants may flower next year but they will be worth waiting for!

    I cut back my grasses around my pond border and it is good to see the soil once again. After weeding this area I mulched it with the compost left in my pots. It looks quite refreshed and my pots are now empty! I will now be able to see the birds run around the plants which I always enjoy in the winter months.

    As I worked around my pond I happened to notice the familiar signs of decomposing leaves in the water - I had a few oily spots on the surface. There was a chance we could get frost tonight and the pond could get frozen over so I got out my net and a basin and went fishin’ once again! I filled my small basin with leaves and the, not so pleasant, smell told me that they were definitely giving off gases. I will keep an eye on it over the winter months.

    My greenhouse needed a little 'tidy' and I rearranged my trays of allium bulbs, that I have planted up in pots, on the benches. I planted a tray of grasses in front of my ligularia and kept one in the greenhouse. I also potted up one of my Pentstemon ‘Etna’ and have stored it in my greenhouse – just in case I loose some of my plants this winter. I also potted a blue and a deep red coloured one together in a larger pot as I am undecided where I will put them. So all in all I had a good gardening day! However, I did think about all my gardening friends with snow covering their gardens at the moment.

    Watching as I gardened today was the tiny robin adding a lovely splash of colour where he sat. He perched on my garden spade and on the branches of shrubs as I worked and the minute I walked away he bounced down and ran around the plants looking for food. Even as I tidied my greenhouse he decided to run along in there too! Sorry no pics of that although I did catch him on the way out as it jumped on to my blue ground sheet with potting soil. Isn’t he a beauty?

    Finally, tonight as I go to post this we now have a foggy and frosty night! Our grass is frosted and sparkling already and I have just looked at the car temp gauge and it reads minus 3 deg C at 10.30pm. I guess we are in for a cold night again!

    Monday, 17 December 2007

    Finally frosty

    The temperature has now dropped in my garden and this morning at 6.15am the car temp gauge read minus 7 deg C. It never warmed much above 2.5 deg C during the day and as you might guess I did have quite a covering of frost in my garden. It still wasn't what I would call a really hard frost but it was definitely on the chilly side here today. I took a few photos today but will just post the three flowers below which all looked quite different last Friday !

    Tonight it is very cold once again and as much of the frost of last night never melted I will not post my frosty foliage plants tonight as I am very likely to get better ones tomorrow!

    All photos above were taken in my garden on 17th December 2007.

    Grey tree rat eats birds eggs

    If you have been following my diary you will know that I had a grey squirrel visit my garden and after buying a squirrel feeder I reconsidered using it. During the time I was considering this I emailed a column (Craigie) of a local Newspaper (The Courier) asking if any readers had advice or experience they could pass on to others in the same situation as myself. I asked the question: “what damage, if any, does a squirrel do by visiting a garden?” I was delighted that last week I had a response to the article.

    Laurie Richards of Cellardyke mailed the Newspaper with a reply:

    “In answer to your correspondent who wonders if grey squirrels should be encouraged, she should be aware that their proper name is grey tree rat and, like most rats they are disease-carrying vermin.

    “Whether she wishes to encourage such in her garden is up to her, but she should make sure her nest box is squirrel proof, because there’s only one thing a grey likes better than a bird’s egg, and that’s a nice helpless nestling!

    “Reds, on the other hand, are vegetarians.”

    This column has published a number of my emails when I have had a wildlife story to share and it is known that I have a camera Nestbox. I have to say that although I had never mentioned bird’s eggs as a concern with the squirrel before I did think I had read something about this somewhere. This reader has now confirmed this but I had no idea at all that the grey would also eat the young! I also had no idea that the reds were vegetarians! Thank-you, Laurie for your reply.

    I would also like to highlight a comment I received over the weekend on my post Decision made . Thank-you Bella for leaving such a detailed account of your experience with squirrels in your garden and I am sure there are many more people who will be interested to read about it. Bella made her comment after reading the other comments on this post but as not everyone reads them I thought I would share hers here. Thank-you Bella this made very interesting reading indeed!

    Bella wrote:
    “I came across your site by accident today, but have been fascinated to read the different comments about squirrels. I've always been encouraging to wildlife in my gardens too, but never had squirrels until we moved to this present house which has a wood at the end of the road, only a few houses down from me.

    “I was told they used to come through these gardens anyway but once I started feeding the birds they came even more and I was foolish enough to put up a squirrel feeder a number of years ago to keep them away from the bird food, and to keep it replenished at least once a day. As anyone who has done that will tell you, all it succeeded in doing was encouraging more squirrels - and the silly things would all insist on coming at the same time to feed from it. You can imagine it was like a massed canteen full of teenagers who could only be fed one at a time! This caused mayhem since the top squirrel who got there first would be challenged by at least numbers two and three on the social scale and led to some bad and very noisy fights (sometimes early in the morning) and the more timid ones further down the rankings would still hang around the various bird feeders and eat all their food and stop the birds from getting any - and the ones who weren't eating at present often spent the time in my garden between feeds mating and thus trying hard to increase their numbers since they must have thought they never had it so good.

    “Eventually after polite mutterings from neighbours (all except one were very nice about it, and that one just doesn't like any wildlife or children whatsoever) and after even I became exasperated by them I stopped feeding them entirely from their own box and removed it. They had been so used to coming though that it took a while for them to get the message, but eventually the numbers trickled to the odd one or two a day. Now what I do when I see them is put out a very small amount of peanuts and sunflower seeds in a saucer just enough for him/her and that works just fine, and any time they attack the bird feeder I bring it in temporarily and the squirrel leaves in minutes when I can put it out again.

    “By the way, one of the benefits of once having had so many come regularly was that I saw at close quarters the differences in the greys (since we don't have reds in this part of Scotland) and could distinguish individuals in the population and I saw also both an albino and a black one up close. There was also one cute one who, if the feeder was empty, would come knocking on the bedroom window to waken me and let me know she wanted food - and that one still comes thankfully and still is friendly. Everyone is now happy, including me, for I like squirrels. Good luck with keeping yours, but keeping it under control.”

    Bella had exactly the same idea as I had about the squirrel feeder and I did suspect that might happen too and that is the main reason I returned mine. However if I had read Laurie’s reply first I would never have bought the feeder in the first place!

    So yes, my recent posting of the Squirrel on an obstacle course was entertaining but only that. I would much rather watch the activity in my Camera Nestbox and see our nestlings survive. So now, I may consider chasing the squirrel should it visit my garden again.

    Friday, 14 December 2007

    Garden Bloom Day December 2007

    December flowers are pretty thin on the ground in my Scottish garden but surprisingly I do have a few to share for this month’s Bloom Day post and for a change I am early! Carol at May Dreams Gardens must be delighted to have had so many participating blogs during this first year of her initiative in posting what’s in flower on the 15th of every month. I have really enjoyed taking part and look forward to browsing the other gardens through the comments on Carol’s December Garden Bloom Day post over the weekend.

    In my front garden I found a few surprises, shown above. My bright orange osteospermum has decided to open a few flowers - silly thing! The real surprise though was that I found a caterpillar inside it! We have yet to have a real hard frost so I expect that is why this plant still lives on. However I think I will lift them over the weekend, pot them up, and put them in my greenhouse. I might also try rooting some cuttings in water – I wonder if that would work. I have never grown osteospermum until this year and I have to say it has been a bit disappointing.

    The coral red penstemon has still a few bells hanging on there too and the pink aster also has a few clusters of flowers and some buds to open. The nepata has just the hint of purple blue on a few stems but I think it is perhaps time to cut it down as they are starting to die back. But in contrast there are a few new clusters of flowers emerging on my euphorbia. Ahh but the biggest surprise in my front garden is the leaves of allium growing up through the gravel. This I suspect is the pale pink flowering one shown in my allium post last week. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next with these young plants – they have seeded themselves so I doubt they will flower next year anyway or could they?

    In my back garden I had to look a bit harder to find flowers and this is indeed a mixed bag in the photo selection above but yet I still had a surprise there too. The very last photo shows a tiny alpine strawberry! Can you imagine that at this time of year - in Scotland?

    I found a few deep orange calendula flowers – again trying to open. The black grass ophiopogon was still holding on to a few berries butI will leave these ones to drop themselves. The fluffy seed heads of the ornamental grass Klein Fontaine catches my eye as I look out my window – I will leave them through the winter.

    The last white Japanese anemone flower is now finally on its way out – this plant has given a great show this year and I am about to add a few pink ones that I picked up as bargains at the garden centres in the last few weeks.

    Polygala, shown in the centre of the selection above, has probably given the longest flowering season by far in my garden and has been flowering since March with its cream/lemon and purple pea-like flowers. It has grown into a wonderful carpet in my rock garden. My sulphur heart ivy growing up and over my pergola has also had flowers on it this year which will provide food for the birds. I have to say I had never noticed these flowers before but there are quite a number of these cluster balls which actually look quite pretty.

    My sulking skimmia was moved earlier this year as it wasn’t showing berries. Now of course I cannot see it from my window and yes the picture above tells all - third row, first photo. Okay so let’s go back to the rock garden for another long flowering plant beginning back in April. These little white clusters of flowers are borne on short stems from mat forming cream splashed foliage and have lit up this area practically all year. I think this is perhaps a variegated arabis.

    So finally, this month’s selection is brought sweetly to a close with the alpine strawberry! Mmm I wonder what I will have for next month – perhaps some snow scenes?

    The photos above were taken in my garden on December 14th 2007.

    Squirrel obstacle course

    Tonight I have just discovered an absolutely brilliant video on YouTube of a squirrel on an obstacle course via a comment on the Friends of Nature Forum - thanks Chipmunk! I found it so entertaining that I just had to share it. Jane at My Urban Garden was considering making one - so here are a few ideas for you, Jane!

    The video above was not taken by me nor was it taken in my garden.

    Thursday, 13 December 2007

    Festive Cheer!

    Almost a month ago I put out apples on my obelisk to see if any birds would feed on them. A week later and I had video footage of a female blackbird eating them. Perhaps you are wondering if I continued putting apples out and if any other birds have taken interest in them. Well, the answers are yes and yes!

    Starlings have now discovered this food source but then again they are pretty sharp when it comes to finding food! I haven’t any photos of them yet although perhaps a video would be more entertaining with them. However the photos above were taken rather quickly through my window when I spotted a partial albino male blackbird being supervised by a female blackbird from the branches above.

    Partial albino blackbirds visit my garden every day and the one shown above I do believe has the whitest head of feathers of all those that visit. I would love to get photos of this bird from outside but it is very quick to fly off if I am outside. In contrast, I have noticed that the female blackbirds are quite happy to carry on feeding on the ground if I walk past them.

    Festive Cheer? Perhaps you are wondering about the title of this post. Well, I really enjoy receiving comment on my posts and often get told interesting and funny stories – I just had to share this one.

    Thanks, Wildlife Gardener for telling me about your experience in feeding apples to the birds: “It reminded me of when our boys were young and we had a surfeit of apples after Halloween one year. A flock of fieldfares flew down each day to the roof of the garage where we'd placed the apples. They gorged themselves and staggered about quite tipsy on the cidery mead :) “.

    I laughed when I read that - it had never occurred to me that the birds could get tipsy with the apples! Perhaps that was why the female blackbird was on watch above. Ahh but the ones she will really need to be on watch for will definitely be the starlings and if they do get tipsy I hope I catch them on camera!

    The photos above were taken in my garden on 12th December 2007.

    Monday, 10 December 2007

    Decision made

    Since posting on my visiting squirrel I have given great thought as to whether I should encourage these visits or not. So far most replies I received from the gardening message board gave tips on what to do to get rid of them like sprinkling chilli pepper around the area. I had no positive comments at all from there or on my original post . However, it was the comments about squirrels eating bulbs that finally did it.

    I am a gardener first and I am happy to share my garden with visiting wildlife. This autumn I have probably planted the most bulbs in one year since I began gardening. I have recently been picking up spring bulbs in garden Centres at half price and still have a number to plant yet! I have bought more Alliums which I am thrilled about. I am planting the bulbs in pots which I will bury in the garden to protect them from being dug up by me and this has taken some time. Therefore, why should I protect the bulbs from me but allow squirrels to eat or damage them?

    I put out peanuts in a dish and on the ground for the hedgehogs – in particular the juveniles. I will continue to do this but only in the evening and then early morning the blackbirds will get what’s left. So, as the picture above suggests the final contest came down to the Squirrel versus the Bulbs and the Bulbs one hands down! The photo below shows the squirrel feeder I bought which will now be returned to the shop – decision made!

    Finally, I have to add that I have been putting peanuts at the entrance to the hedgehog house I built in another area of my garden. The peanuts are now being eaten and this area looks like it has had some traffic as the leaves have been flattened. My video camera is out at the moment to see if it can record any activity - perhaps it is the squirrel who has found them or I wonder if we have a resident in our hedgehog house! It's a pity my camera is outside as at the moment I can see the wren at my pond edge! Mmm I am tempted to move my camera.

    Friday, 7 December 2007

    Missing Wildlife

    As expected, my post on squirrels has caused a bit of a stir but although this is my most recent wildlife visitor by no means have I shown all the wildlife that visits my garden!

    I have shown birds and hedgehogs but there have been other tiny visitors that are very difficult to catch on any kind of film – one being the field mouse. Sorry, I have no videos or photos here but I am tempted to try and video the next best thing – the cat that watches them in the dark! It watches like we would the tennis ball in a tournament match. Back and forth goes its head and in all honesty I would love to catch this on film. However, I am making a link here to…

    Bats in Zoo enclosure, video 0:48 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The Pipistrelle bat has been a visitor to my garden since we moved here. I have sat in my garden just before dusk and watched it sweep around the side of my house and along the length of my hedge with a quick turn as then it disappears out of view. I have to say I found them both fascinating and peaceful to watch! The speed and turn they have is absolutely incredible! Like the squirrel I am sure they too are not the most popular of visitors. The diet of this bat is insects but I still don’t like to watch them out in the open in my garden – I prefer to have a wall behind me!

    I bet you are impressed
    by the video above – that is if you think I have captured this in my garden! However, although I have sat many nights this summer, in my garden, behind my video camera I have not succeeded in capturing any footage that will process in any viewing quality – even in the 0lux settings I have used for the hedgehogs. I have to say showing video online is not as straight forward as showing photos.

    Berlin Zoo, July 2004, is where I filmed the bats above and I am finding it very difficult now to identify exactly what bats I have captured! However, I am thrilled to be able to share this piece of film. I had no idea at all when I took it that I would show it online over three years later! The Pipistrelle bat is really tiny but I love to watch in my garden especially when there are pairs as they fly around each other with such incredible speed and dexterity that my eye has difficulty following it! Isn’t nature amazing?

    Finally, if you would like to read more about the bat that visits my garden here are a few links:

    The video shown above was filmed by Shirl in Berlin Zoo during July 2004.

    Thursday, 6 December 2007

    Grey Squirrel hides peanuts!

    Well, once again wildlife has found my garden after I have put out food for the birds. The peanuts have done it again! Although I have feeders for the birds I usually only put sunflower hearts in them. I tend to scatter peanuts and sultanas on the ground often under the little Acer tree, at my back door and opposite my window, for the group of blackbirds that visit.

    The peanuts and sultanas I believe are what attracted the hedgehog visits to my garden although I haven't seen many visits recently. Okay, so the title says it all but I cannot resist telling a story with some captions for my pictures!

    Okay so I've found the peanuts - now where could I hide them?

    Mmm I'm thinking about it... perhaps nearby?

    Okay, a quick check to see if the coast is clear. Ahh the bird bath helps I can see a spot now. Mmm I'll be cool about it and not give the game away!

    Grey squirrel eating, video 0:54 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Aghh ... Caught on video the game's up!

    Yesterday, I grabbed a late lunch and as I was preparing it I noticed the squirrel above through my window. It was a very, very, windy day and it had rained in sheets for spells. I noticed the bird feeders were quite quiet but then again they are in need of filling up but I wanted to clean them first. I always throw food on the ground when this is the case and that is probably why the squirrel stopped on its way through my garden. In the last week we have spotted it on a couple of occasions walking on the ground and having a drink from any puddles then scurrying off.

    I opened the window and threw some more peanuts under the tree then quickly set up my video camera inside. With the rain and wind the sky was heavy and dark but I did manage catch it and although it is on the dark side and once again the processing isn't the best but it still captures the visit well. Did you notice the squirrel patting the ground after it had buried the peanut? It is always tricky deciding which pieces of film to use. On a dry day I can put my camera outside but then again it isn't remote control so I cannot follow any wildlife as I can from inside. So taking pictures from my video or digital camera do loose a bit in quality as they are through glass but I was still thrilled with them as this is another first for my gardenwatch.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the grey squirrel has observed the colour theme of my border that it has chosen to store the peanuts - it is my silver border! Okay I have to be honest now as a gardener and say as these plants are fairly young and I wonder if it will break or damage the main stems. I really wouldn't be happy about that. I also don't know if I would be happy if this squirrel took all the peanuts every day and if it brought friends! Mmm a tricky balance, but for now I am enjoying our newest visitor to the garden a I hope to see it return.

    The photos and video of the grey squirrel shown above were taken in my garden on 5th December 2007.

    Tuesday, 4 December 2007

    Allium accents

    At a time when thoughts are perhaps looking forward to next year’s garden I thought I would promote one of my many ‘favourite plants’ I have in my garden. If you are browsing the plant catalogues perhaps this post may just tempt you to consider growing Alliums. You may need to pour up a coffee for this post. Sorry, I just love to chat about plants and have enjoyed many planting schemes over the years in my garden and those of family and friends.

    Christophii, Purple Sensation and Silver Queen shown above, left to right, show why the Allium has become a favourite of many garden designers in show gardens for a number of years now. The globes of flower are great accents of both form and colour. Once plants appear in show gardens they often become fashionable. I have to say though it wasn’t a show garden that got me hooked. It was a visit to the great plantswoman, Beth Chatto’s Garden outside Colchester where I first saw this plant twelve years ago. In fact I found many of her plants and planting schemes very inspiring and would strongly recommend a visit there. She has written a number of books and also has a Nursery!

    Christophii was the first allium I grew in my garden. Its globes of star-like flowers are just fantastic as they open and then go to seed. I love to watch them through all the stages. The larger photo above, taken of my front garden, shows a deep charcoal grey pot on the right hand side which has a group planting. This really makes an impact at the gate entrance to my back garden especially with the dark wood stain in the background.

    Purple Sensation is the perfect scale of flower for my front garden and looks brilliant in drifts of planting as you can see in the photos above. By the time it changes to seed heads the grasses grow up to meet it and it looks like it is just dancing on top of them. It compliments the grasses so well.

    The opening flowers hold so much interest for me too as they all come into flower at slightly different times as you can see with Purple Sensation again in the main photo above. Perhaps as they have a gravel mulch the planting depth could vary and that is how I get this. The smaller photos show the bud of the Christophii and the Drumstick Allium and how it starts green and gets darker until it fully becomes a deep pink colour.

    I have given great thought to what photos to show for this post and in all honesty they took some time to find on my PC – I should sort my filing system. However although I have close-up shots with my new camera I felt they and those in the catalogues don’t given anywhere near a good enough feel for this plant as seeing them in a garden setting. So, although some of these photos are old I think they do the trick nicely.

    May 21st 2002, shown in the photo above, you can see how my plantings of Alliums were growing. Notice how they had began to self seed too through the gravel mulch. It takes a few years before they flower but a great way to get natural planting. This area was light and airy then and really has gone through many changes in the sixteen years that I have gardened here.

    Two years later on June 10th 2004 this area looks quite different as you can see above. The grasses had grown and I had a notion of planting large groups of Poppies and grew them and the Foxgloves all from seed. You can see how the deep dark Poppies complimented the purple sensation alliums. The purple blue flowers of the Nepata, having grown in size since then, added so much to this rich mix of colours.

    Two months on in August 2004 and again this area has changed quite dramatically as you can see above. The Nepata had been cut back so I would get a second flush of colour later in the summer and you can now see the small clumps of thrift in flower with tiny pink dots of colour. I added that especially to tie in with the Alliums. The Purple Sensation Alliums had now finished flowering and it is the turn of the Drumstick Alliums. The Poppies have finished flowering and the white Shasta Daisies now add their flat umbrella flowers lighting up any remaining Alliums. I think it is great how the garden can completely change through the seasons.

    Pale pink with more open globes are a few Alliums at my front door in another much smaller gravel bed with grasses and Euphorbia. They are very delicate as you can see in the photo and bud shown above but I’m afraid I’m not sure what they are – I will need to look up my labels box to see if I have one. The pale blue allium, shown above, was seen growing in my back garden all on its lonely – I must have moved another plant and taken it with it!

    Open and sunny is my front garden but behind the garden gate is another garden entirely. Partial shade is probably accurate for my whole back garden. This is where my Japanese Anemones grow very happily but so do the Alliums. They look completely different with the lush green and golden foliage as you can see in my final photos above. However they are still great accents of form and colour. When I have mentioned in my Garden Bloom Day posts that I have dots of colour I have meant exactly that!

    Finally, the small photo above showing two Christophii flower heads growing up through the Bowles Golden Sedge grass were the very first Alliums I planted. I planted three and two came up. I moved them with the grass and was left with one which now grows beside the Meconopsis at my back door. I had no idea when I planted these first three bulbs that I would enjoy this plant in my garden for so many years to come. You know, on reading through this post again I think I will get the plant catalogues out myself! Mmm I am thinking on making some changes in my back garden...

    All photos above were taken in my garden using a mixture of cameras.

    Sunday, 2 December 2007

    Still roosting

    We have a Camera Nestbox in our garden, put up March 2007, and have been delighted to see a Blue Tit roosting in it after we cleaned it out and put some wood shavings on the floor. We had no idea of this bird or others would continue to use our box. I am delighted to report that a month on it is still being used. I cannot be certain that it is the same bird but I am guessing that it is. I am also guessing it is the female who used this box in Spring this year.

    Tucked up for the night at 6pm tonight, you can see below, is our Blue Tit rooster. However, we did have a concern that our box was leaking two weeks ago. You can see the wet walls in the second photo below but it does appear to have dried up since then as the photo above shows. Perhaps the rain came in the entrance hole at a different angle and that was the cause. We will keep an eye on this the next time we have heavy rain. I don’t believe our Nestbox has had snow on its roof either so we will need to watch for that too. Perhaps we should brush any snow off from the window above. If the holes in the roof are covered we will not be able to see in it anyway to check on it.

    Dark, wet evenings of late have meant that I have been unable to catch any video footage of our Blue Tit rooster in our Nestbox when it comes in as it is only lit by natural light. However, back in the middle of November we were very surprised to see a Blue Tit in our Nestbox one sunny lunchtime! Again, I’ve no way of telling if it is the same bird but I can tell that I perhaps I put too much wood shavings in the Nestbox!

    Blue tit rooster on lunchtime visit, video 0:39 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The photos above were taken from our Camera Nestbox on December 2nd (with rooster) and November 20th (with wet walls). The video above was taken from out Camera Nestbox on November 16th 2007.