Thursday, 28 February 2008

February sunshine

Yesterday morning in my Perthshire garden you could be forgiven for thinking it was spring! The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and I found some time to do a few jobs in the garden. However before I started, something caught my eye at the end of my lawn growing with the crocus.

Narcissi planted in my lawn with the crocus had put on a lot of growth and now we have flower buds forming as you can see above. That was a surprise to see as I hadn’t even noticed them coming through the grass! The rate of growth that they have put on since I last looked at them would suggest that they will be in flower by the end of next week. I went for my camera and had a quick walk around the garden before getting on with a few much need jobs.

The morning sun in my back garden was just gently shining through the grasses showing once again what great value the ornamental grasses have in the garden at any time of the year. The heucheras too were looking great and adding their own colour and form to the borders – I love the way the light shining through them shows up the veins in the leaves.

On to the jobs in hand next and I brought out a few bags of bulbs that I had bought in a sale late autumn last year. Oops, they weren’t planted and they had begun to sprout! Not much of a bargain sitting in my shed so I went ahead and planted them. Now, I have to say that a few odd bulbs had shrivelled up but on the whole the bulbs were still firm so I have no reason to doubt that they won’t flower for me. I planted them in pots in my borders as I have done others in my garden last year which will also mean that I can move them about if I want to change things around.

A few plants were sitting in pots ready for a good day to plant and yesterday was the day. Unfortunately by the time I had finished these jobs the rain came on so I didn’t get any photos. I planted a few snowdrops to remind me of my recent snowdrop visit to Dalmeny and a hellebore that I picked up with my bargain crocuses. This hellebore is a beauty and I hope to get some photos very soon.

Garden bird photos have been missing from my posts recently and this is simply because it has been too windy or wet to get outside to get any! Even from inside it has been tricky as the rain has been blown to the windows. However as luck would have it yesterday I spotted our recent addition to the bird community of my garden. We still have one collared dove visiting and as I sat at my window, after I had finished my planting, it came and fed on the ground below. So once again these photos are through my window. It really is quite a pretty bird as you can see and I am very surprised how much smaller than the woodpigeon it is I always assumed they were roughly the same size. The collared dove is just a bit bigger than the blackbirds but it eats as fast as the woodpigeon!

My Nestbox is continuing to have a blue tit rooster every night and a different female and mate visiting during the day. I will try to get some more video footage over the weekend. I am also considering if I should empty the box of the wood shavings. The daytime female is certainly making this her home by the pecking she has been doing at the entrance hole. I cannot wait until all the nesting action starts in earnest! I do hope this year we will see the chicks grow and fledge successfully. Oh yes... and I can't wait to see if all the bargain bulbs I have planted will flower!

All the photos above were taken in my garden on February 27th 2008.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Colour blasts and bursts

Show Gardens are definitely a fantastic source of inspiration when it comes to using colour in our gardens. For this month’s topic, Colour in the Garden, at Gardening Gone Wild’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop I have decided to share some gardens/displays that have caught my eye!

Colour on walls can look striking as you can see above but I wonder how many ‘real’ gardeners are actually brave enough to do this. What I liked about the first garden above was the use of water with the strong colour. The pots also worked well especially the magnificent one used as a water feature. I liked the simple choice of plants with the bold design.

Colour on fencing and trellis well that’s a different matter and many of us will experiment with this. However, on saying that I was a tad nervous changing the dull brown on my trellis and arch to willow green! I am so glad I did though as it has looked bright on dull days. I quite like the use of two shades of the same colour for the fencing. The candles, well, I’m not sure about them but perhaps short chunky ones on a table – the colour once again catches the eye.

Colour in mulches – that one I am not keen on. The use of coloured recycled class is an interesting one but I would only ever go as far as a top dressing on a feature pot. But again it does blast a bit of colour and shows up the greens of the foliage very well. I like to see blue and green together.

Colour reflections, now that is an interesting idea. The first garden above shows a mirror panel which, at the angle I took my photo, has people reflected in it. However, from another angle it would reflect the colour of the cushions as well as the planting.

Colour on cushions in the garden I do like! What a great way to really splash blasts of colour and patterns with the plants. This summer, if it is sunnier than last year, I plan to add cushions to my arbour. Perhaps I could get a colour match to the flowers of the verbena Bonariensis planted at the side of it. Mm… I like that idea. Mm… stripes, I fancy stripes for this year!

Colour panels now that too is an interesting idea! They could be interchangeable, reversible or even with patterns. I like the way the strong colour once again is seen with lots of green and simple planting.

Colour tapestries in planting now that for me is such a feast for the senses. I remember standing for some time just gazing at the beautiful layout and colours of the garden in the second photo above. I just loved the use of colour and material in the fencing and the colour of the freestanding cushions worked so well too. This garden had burst upon burst of colour but the overall effect was so calming. I loved it!

Colour in foliage is being appreciated more and more now as being a very valuable source of colour in the garden. I just love foliage colours especially the deep purple/red hues shown above. Oh and the agapanthus just reminds me of why I love blue in the garden – it just so striking. I have already posted on blue in my garden.

Colour contrasts I am not so keen on, but colour is a personal thing and I cannot deny that the display with the bronze statue above did catch my eye! I did like the use of strong stone hard landscaping in this case and it definitely helped to ground the colours.

Colour echoes is a new term for me but I have been hearing it mentioned in many other garden blogs recently. I guess I would describe the planting above as blends of colour but echoes is a very good description. I like the way the colour is echoed through foliage as well as flower. Notice, there is more foliage colour than flower colour too – I like that.

Colour blasts - by that I mean you open your eyes to see a mass of one colour in one bold planting of the same plant shouting out at you. No interruptions just a pure blast to the eyes. Lovely, lovely! Now don’t grasses work magnificently with this kind of planting?

Colour bursts – by that I mean you open your eyes to see a panoramic view of plants then, every now and again, little bursts of colour just quietly dance in front of you. No shouting.

Colour in nature, well that has to be the best kind to have in the garden! Bees, butterflies and birds can be seen as little bursts of colour in my garden - it just wouldn't be the same without them! However, it is the greens in foliage, grass and hedging that blast through my whole garden. Ah… but there is one more blast of colour that I really enjoying seeing as I walk through my garden – a beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds floating by! Ah… I am dreaming of summer now.

The photos above were taken at Garden Shows with the exception of the last one. To see more Colour in the Garden go the the link at the top and browse the comments.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Photos of the Lunar Eclipse …

… much like the snowdrops were not to be taken from my garden during the early hours of February 21st 2008. However, I am absolutely delighted to be able to show a photo of the Lunar Eclipse that was taken here in the UK despite the cloud that covered most of the country.

I will say this probably time and time again, I am quite sure, that by writing this online diary I have come across so many people with particular interests that tie in completely with my own garden. Okay in this case, I am about to give a link to a site that has astronomy images. I can hear the question now and the answer is – Nestboxes!

Regular readers will know that I have a Nestbox with a camera. However, I cannot be sure that I can share with you a successful nesting season from my Nestbox so I have been looking for other sites that I can link to so that you can share in this amazing experience. I have links in my sidebar if you would like to browse there. However, nestboxes + wildlife + the photo above have all connected me to Jamie Cooper– thanks again Jamie for allowing me to publish your photo above.

Links, blogs and websites are infinite on the web. I love writing posts like this. I get comments from all around the world and one regular, Lisa from Indiana in the USA, has also posted with photos of the eclipse from her garden. Oops sorry Lisa, I am yet to comment on your photos - but I will soon. However you are in extremely good company tonight so I am sure you will forgive me!

The "Sky at Night" is a well known television programme here in the UK -perhaps outside too I am not sure. However, Jamie who took the photo above was invited by Sir Patrick Moore to join him for this eclipse – where he took the photo above and a few others. Ah, but the story doesn’t end there! If you go to Jamie’s site and you go to his link about me you will read that Sir Patrick Moore had been an inspiration to Jamie. However, if you scroll further down you may recognise a familiar face.

Rock & Roll + Astronomy + Sanity = Brian May of Queen. Now, I really am not ‘name dropping’ here but Bri says Jamie is his 'good friend' and has the same image on his site as I chose from Jamie too! However, I am absolutely fascinated with how one link on the web can lead to another and then another which you really don’t expect. Okay, perhaps this sounds a bit lame, but there is only one moon above our gardens and we can all watch it - famous or not! I could also get all ‘our planet’ here but I won’t. I will make just one more jump to Wikipedia who I searched for images to support this post.

Sorry, but this post could go on and on with links and I have just found one more for you. I have just discovered a few ‘interesting people’ that Sir Patrick Moore has met – you just must check this out!!

So finally, to end this post, I would like to add one more link back to Jamie who inspired this post tonight and who also has a Nestbox and videos for last year just as I do. Oh yes, and to every other Nestbox in a garden here in the UK or anywhere else in the world - good luck for 2008!

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

Photo montages - how to

I quite often get comments, especially from other garden blogs, about my photo montages. I do enjoy the presentation part of writing a diary/blog. Nan at Gardening Gone Wild had left one recently saying she really wish she knew how I did them – expecting that I had used photo editing software which I don’t. As Nan and the team at GGW share so much information and inspiration themselves I was delighted to be able to share something with her. I then looked forward to seeing her results.

I heard from Nan once again. She has told me that there is now more interest in the montages since she has posted one! I also had an email from another blog in response to hers too. Nan asked if she could pass on my instructions or suggested I might like to do a post with them.

As many of my visitors are outside this gardening blog community I have decided I will share this information through a post. The process I use is really quite simple. I use Microsoft Word and Paint to do my photo montages and the following instructions are of how I would produce the montage above.

1. Select three photos and crop to squares.

2. Open a word document

3. Copy and paste the photos over to the word doc. I would suggest you do one at a time.

4. Select a photo. Right click and select format picture, Layout=square, Size=6cm

5. Decide which photo you want to be the large one – sometimes when you move the photos around you can change your mind.

6. Change the size of the one you want to be the main photo to 12 cm. You will now see this format taking shape.

7. Drag the photos around until they line up and are almost touching. There should be a fine line between them.

8. Add border lines to divide the photos.

9. Select all photos together (or do each individually). Hold down Ctrl and left click them all.

10. Select format picture then colours and lines. Go to the line box where no line is selected. Choose a colour for your line – I use white as it suits my blog but if you have a white background you could perhaps select a colour that ties in or contrasts with your photos.

11. Next choose the thickness of your line. Go to weight – I set this at 3pts which works okay for a white line. However you may want to experiment with that as you may want it thinner using a colour line on a white/light background.

12. Now there can be a tricky part here. You should look carefully at the corners of the lines. Often one (or more) can look out of alignment. To fix this you must change the order of the photos. Right click, select order then try bring to front or send to back. You must then check the other photos as this can change another that overlaps. The answer is not to have too many photos in your montage.

13. Next the photos need to be grouped together so you don’t loose all the formatting.

14. Select all photos by holding down Ctrl and left click. Make sure you get all photos. Right click then select grouping then group. If you want to come back and make changes you just ungroup then group again. Sometimes a box comes up with a warning saying not valid selection. I usually close that warning down and the selection is fine. By now you will be able to sort anything based on any of the steps listed.

15. You should now be able to move your completed montage around. Next you need to save it as a jpg or bmp.

16. You must save your montage as a bmp to do anything with it. I usually copy the montage into Paint then save it as a bmp. I can now upload this bmp to my blog. However if I want to crop this some more I open this bmp with Photoshop, crop it and save it as a jpg.

17. You may use another program to save images as bmp or jpg this is just how I do it.

This process just takes a bit of experimenting and time. I am able to do them much quicker now than when I first started. Oh yes, I usually save the word docs too just in case I want to go back and alter any of the originals. I should perhaps also point out that many blog templates have different column widths and the measurements above are what works for mine. Again a little experimenting will sort sizes out and different layouts.

Finally, I have to say I find the time is well worth it when you upload the final montage. I felt the montages were a better way of showing comparison of images, colour and form as your eye sees it all in one go. Oh yes, and I do believe they help in reducing the space used to store these photos. One larger photo being better than three individuals as in the case above.

One final thing for those who visited overnight and never spotted this post – don’t worry it wasn’t here! I have deliberately back dated it as I want my Lunar Eclipse one to run a couple of days and then I plan to join the Design Workshop on GGW with a post on colour in the garden.

Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Toil and trouble

Today saw some very interesting activity at the nestboxes. If you have been following the story of our Nestbox that has a camera you will know that we have a blue tit roosting at night but another pair visiting during the day. Tonight saw some commotion in the Nestbox as our rooster had an uninvited visitor!

The rooster successfully chased the intruder out the Nestbox, through the garden and through a neighbour’s tree. I wonder if this was the female of the daytime pair. However this really did unsettle the rooster. It returned to the Nestbox entrance a number of times before finally coming in. A quick look around the box and a watchful eye on the entrance hole for a little while and then she quickly tucked herself in for the night almost like she was having a bad dream. I watched a while to see if the intruder returned but there was no sign.

Our Camera Nestbox was not the first Nestbox we have had in our garden. The year before we had a terrace box which we are guessing (without a camera) had a successful brood. Unfortunately the terrace box had three entrance holes and the silly, exhausted, blue tit tried to build nests in all three boxes which you can see above. I watched it as it gathered moss from our lawn and took it into all three units. Now this Nestbox got quite damp so we replaced it for the next year – when wasps moved in! We cleaned it up last autumn and added wood shavings just as we did in our camera Nestbox. Of course we cannot see what is going on inside this box so I have no idea if it has had roosters.

This morning I noticed something on the ground below our Terrace Nestbox. It looked like wood shavings. I looked up at the Nestbox to see more wood shavings falling out. Then I saw the head of a blue tit – now who was this? Could this be a new blue tit to my garden perhaps? Maybe the daytime female was checking out another Nestbox but she always visits with the male not far away and he does visit with her.

The Terrace Nestbox had one blue tit visiting two of the three units by itself this morning and boy was it busy!! I am guessing by the activity it was a female and looking at the video footage it does not have the markings of the Camera Nestbox rooster. So we now have a new kid on the block! I should have taken photos of the amount of wood shavings that this blue tit removed in a short time – it was fascinating to watch.

Which house was I cleaning, video 1:46 with background birdsong, try 480p quality.

I quickly ran out with my video camera and set it on my tripod. I have no idea how long the blue tit had been working but I caught 20 minutes on film as she went back and forward. I have not edited the short video above except for increasing the volume of the birds singing in the garden at the time. You can see how quickly she worked. Fog rolled in quickly over the garden tonight at the time a bird would go in to roost but I didn’t want to put my video camera out in the damp air.

Tomorrow morning I will sweep away the wood shavings to see if any more is removed during the morning. Mornings seem to be the time that this activity takes place. Oh and I wonder if the rooster will visit the camera Nestbox during the day to chase away the competition. This really is fascinating behaviour and I am thoroughly enjoying second guessing what will happen next!

The video above was taken on February 19th 2008

Garden Bloom Day February 2008

Posting on what’s in flower in the garden on the 15th of every month is great to look back on. Like many other gardeners I have enjoyed joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens with a post every month and although I am a bit late this month I still wanted to take part. I will now leave a comment on Carol’s post where I will be able to browse the other gardens through her comments.

Crocus is definitely the flower of the moment in my garden! The top row in the montage above shows the varieties growing through my lawn. They really are very pretty in the morning sunshine and there are many other bulbs that will join them soon. This has been a very successful place to grow bulbs for me as I am very unlikely to dig them up – ‘Shirl-friendly’ bulb planting number one.

Arabis is still showing its tiny clusters of white flowers as you can see in the second row above with a good sized clump of crocus which are growing quite happily in some forest bark. The crocuses have been undisturbed there, at the bottom of my hedge, as I had forgotten they were there! You can also see the fresh leaves of drumstick primulas which always make me think of Spring.

New growth is appearing on clematis too which you can see if you look closely on the right in the first photo of the last row in the montage above. Did you notice what else was in that photo? Yep, my tulip bulbs are coming up thanks to ‘Shirl-friendly’ bulb planting number two. I have planted these bulbs in square pots (four per pot) and staggered the planting of these posts so there are spaces between them where I planted more bulbs. My theory here was that when I go to dig a hole or hand weed this area with a fork it will hit the pots and the bulbs will stay safe – and I can report that this has worked. Now I just hope I got the planting depth right!

Drumstick alliums are also coming up, in pond baskets which have been planted in the border, as you can see in the middle photo of the last row. I wonder if they will all flower this year. The final photo is of another fairly safe clump of crocus which are growing under gravel in my front garden where they catch the sun nicely.

Crocus Pickwick is continuing to flower as you can see in the last photo above. If you remember this is the one I saved in a garden centre sale for 10p a pot – I’m well pleased with it! Now, next month I hope to see quite a different posting for Bloom Day.

All photos above were taken in my garden on February 17th 2008.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Snowdrops, snowdrops everywhere but…

…not in my garden! Okay hands up, I have been useless at planting bulbs for years. This is probably due to a few factors the most likely cause being that I move my plants around a lot. The bulbs then end up deeper in the ground and never see the light of day again.

Ah, but I have got around this now with two ’Shirl-friendly’ ways of planting bulbs – but I’ll keep that for my next post. Snowdrops are one of the most common bulbs growing in a typical Scottish garden and I do plan to try growing them again for next year. For the moment though I will share some images from outside my garden.

The Scottish Snowdrop Festival began on February 1st and continues until March 16th and this is its second year. However, my visit today was to Dalmeny Park in South Queensferry (a 45 minute walk from under the Forth Rail Bridge) which has opened one Sunday in February for many years now. I have been before although that was a few years ago now.

The walk from South Queensferry seemed a good idea at the start. It was a nice day. However I had not walked this route before and hadn’t realised how long it would take – nor how steep the walk would be! Yep, I really think I should have been in training for this walk. So… some time later I found myself walking past the cars that were queuing to get parked. Walking was a good idea after all – I found an extra spring in my step as I walked past the cars!

‘Suitable for agile walkers’ the sign with the arrow read when I finally came to the woodland path that led to the snowdrops. Up the path I went, as did other visitors although a few people perhaps shouldn’t have. The positive side of this walk today was that the ground was a little damp but not wet. Good job as I chose not to wear my wellies!

Gosh, I had no idea the climb lasted so long. I stopped a few times to catch my breath under the pretence that I was admiring the view – yeh right! If I hadn’t already walked up a hill to get this far it would have been quite a different visit. Oh I hoped this walk was worth it. Finally I came over the brow of a hill and there they all were! Thousands of tiny white bells greeted me by gently nodding in answer to my question. Yes, yes it was worth it! Lots of other people stopped for a moment too joining me in reaching for cameras in their bags and pockets.

Down then up again, twisting and turning the winding paths went. Snowdrops were above my head height on one side and below my feet and out into the distance on the other. Mossy rocks and branches added colour to the darker setting of the woodland with rusty brown leaves on the ground. Oh, I love woodland walks.

The lighting throughout my walk varied a great deal as the tree canopies above opened and closed. The woodland floor went from enclosed to open too creating a wonderful atmosphere which was also enhanced by the variety of people that were taking this walk too. The woodland was alive but not with wildlife but with the chatter of people out on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

I took a different route back to South Queensferry choosing to walk along the road by the River Forth. I walked under the Forth Rail Bridge and straight to a restaurant for a coffee and well earned seat by a warm wood burning stove. Ah yes, I really should plant wonderful drifts of snowdrops in my garden for next year – I really should!

All photos above were taken at Dalmeny Park on February 17th 2008.

Getting outside

This morning started off frosty but now we have blue skies and sunshine. As I sat writing my last post (I’ve a lot of catch-up posts to do) the birds enjoyed a new seed mix that has insects. I caught I few shots through the window. Photographing the birds through the window is less than ideal I know but it seems a shame not to miss an opportunity.

First thing in the morning it is the blackbirds that are most active in my garden. Although I have noticed that they are doing a lot of fighting between themselves at the moment. They often land on my Acer tree and look about thoughtfully before they jump to the ground below.

The female blackcaps continue to grab my attention when they are at the feeders and they are a lot more sociable than the males are. I am now certain we have two females visiting and this is the young one above. I love to watch them especially as I don’t know how much longer they will stay.

The Dunnock is a very quick bird but hey I managed to get it almost standing still this morning! It looks like it is enjoying this new seed mix too as are the robins.

Finally, I discovered a few shots of the song thrush on the camera when I went to upload today’s photos – I didn’t remember taking them! It isn’t a perfect shot above but it will give you a good idea now of what this bird looks like – it really is a pretty bird. By its markings I am wondering if this could be a bird in its first winter.

Getting outside with the camera is by far the best way to get photos and this afternoon that’s exactly what I intend doing! I have wanted to capture photos from this site for a few years now and today I am going to try. The only problem is that I won’t be the only person wandering with a camera. Today I am going to a garden opening in a woodland setting with thousands and thousands of snowdrops in different varieties. As I’ve none in my own garden I hope to share some photos of my visit later tonight.

All photos above were taken in my garden.

Blog Awards

There really is a very warm and generous community out there in the blogging world that I have found myself in. I have met such a wide variety of people with interests very similar to my own. However, it has been the exchange of information and experience in gardening, birds and wildlife that has really taken me by surprise. Of course, these exchanges have also come from outside the blogging world too through email and comments. I would like to thank you all for making writing a blog such a rewarding experience.

Last Sunday Jodi at Bloomingwriter left a comment on one of my posts to say that I had received an award and to pop by her blog where I could pick it up. She herself had very deservingly been awarded ‘E for Excellent’ so I was very flattered indeed that she in turn listed my blog in her list of nominations.

However, I was particularly delighted by her reason for nominating my blog: ‘Another blogger with a concern for living creatures in and outside her garden plot’. I thought I would in turn take that route for my nominations which are not listed in any particular order. Congratulations to you all!!

Fen Photography and Wildlife Photographic Journals where Mike and Richard both have excellent photos of birds and wildlife from their gardens and other areas in the UK. Their photos inspire an interest in nature.

Urban Extension where Jane has wildlife photos and video but also finds time to search out and record ancient trees in her local area. (UK)

Blue-Grey, this is new to me, where Doug has also a Nestbox with a camera, photos and video of birds and wildlife. He also has some excellent moon shots. (UK)

Wildlife Gardener is telling the story of how she is making a garden for wildlife with photos and video of visiting wildlife with words that match them beautifully. (UK)

Bliss where Yolanda has an ornamental kitchen garden which would inspire anyone to grow fruit and veg. Yolanda also gardens organically and welcomes birds and wildlife. (Netherlands)

Monarch's Nature Blog where a team update with excellent photos, video and stories from Allegany State Park and surrounding area. (USA)

Usually in turn it is suggested that you too nominate a few deserving blogs that you have discovered. However I know this is tricky. However, it is a great way of discovering new blogs too and also of introducing ones that you have found to others. There is often a graphic that goes with an award that you can proudly display – usually in the sidebar. By displaying award graphics you let others know you have been presented/nominated but this is entirely your own choice.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Nest Box Challenge 2008

Valentines Day yesterday was not only about the hearts, flowers and romance. It also saw the start of National Nest Box Week here in the UK which I mentioned last week . As you can see below, romance is also a juicy caterpillar for the female blue tit as she keeps her young chicks warm in our Nestbox in May last year.

If you already
have a Nestbox or are thinking about putting one up you may also be interested in the Nest Box Challenge which was launched last year during National Nest Box Week. I didn’t know about this until after the brood in my Nestbox failed last year. This year as I will have diary updates here anyway I will also add my Nestbox to the records for the UK.

A blue tit rooster has been in residence in my Nestbox since the end of October. I also have a pair visiting during the day. I have also spent a lot of time looking through video clips and snapshots from my Nestbox trying to ID the birds. It has been fascinating to see that some of the birds have unique markings!

The photo above shows the 2007 female making her nest - I have circled the area in the head that I am trying to ID between the birds. On her first sleep- over, top photo, back in April 18th 2007 she is in the right hand corner. The brighter, torch lit, photo was the first roosting sleep-over that we were aware of back on October 28th 2007 – same corner, was she back again?

Only two nights saw the rooster on the right hand side. It then moved sides to the left hand side – or did it? Looking at the photo montage above you can once again the 2007 female nest building.

The roosting photo was taken in January 2008 (with the use of a torch) and is definitely the 2008 rooster. I also watch it come in our Nestbox 'live' so I now know this bird quite well. I am taking a guess that our present rooster has been the same bird since the beginning of November 2007. You can also see she has a different marking on the side of her head.

So what’s going on in my Nestbox at the moment? Well I have a different Nestbox Challenge going on here! I wonder now who will in fact finally use this Nestbox for nesting. Let’s look at the ‘known’ contenders…

From left to right we have the daytime pair first. The male with the curl on his right cheek and the female who is much smaller. The black and white photo is of our female rooster (I am assuming she is a female) with her distinctive ‘v’ cut into her eye strip marking. Sorry, I am not a birder and don’t know the correct terms. I have also wondered if the daytime pair are the pair that used our box last year.

Let's have a look once again of the first visit to our new nestbox last year on March 2nd 2007 - only two days after we put our Nestbox up! Our box is only lit by natural light and shows colour only when light levels are good. The male comes in the box first and the light levels flicker as the female is at the entrance.

I have searched through video and I don't think the crown of the head of the 2007 male is the same as the 2008 male that is visiting during the day. I have some video that you can look through to see what you think. However, I find this absolutely fascinating and I can't wait now to see a nest being built in April - assuming that one will be built of course!

The next video is of our rooster a little confused with the Nestbox after we cleaned the damp wood shavings on January 12th 2008 after we repaired a leak in the roof. She is seen fluffed up ready to roost but she just couldn’t settle that night. She eventually did and returned the next night and has been roosting since...

Blue tit confused by clean woodshavings, video 1:13 with background music, try 480p quality.

The last video shows the female of the pair that are visiting during the day. She is first heard singing her little heart out! This was taken mid morning on January 19th 2008 and she followed her song with some housework. She removed the droppings left by the rooster! She did this for a few days but doesn’t always do this now. In the video I have repeated the sound through the rest of the clip...

Blue tit singing during housework, video 0:26 without background music, try 480p quality.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone who already has or is thinking about putting up a Nestbox a very successful season for 2008. Oh yes and remember to have a look at the Nestbox Challenge website too as there are lots of links there too.

All photos and video above were taken in my garden.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Almost ‘Wordless Wednesday’

A post from me without some chat I should say is probably not likely! I have never taken part with 'Wordless Wednesday' where only photos are usually posted – which is a great idea by the way. However, last Friday Nan at Gardening Gone Wild posted on white in the garden just as I was preparing photos to post on white too. Her post is excellent and has gone down a storm and there is no way I will attempt to compete with it. So, just for today, I will leave you to enjoy seeing white flowers from my garden. Ah… a calm and quiet post for change.

Nope, nope sorry I just can’t keep quiet! Garden designers are often heard decrying the use of white in the garden saying it must be treated with extreme care or completely avoided in some schemes. Well, yes if you are entering a competition perhaps or want the 'perfect' garden. However, if you are a gardener like me then you probably won’t let rules limit how and where you use a plant. I also move my plants around quite often too - that's the fun of gardening for me!

White is often seen as stark and a distraction to other shades of colour in the garden. However in my garden I have lots of foliage plants so I treat any flower colour as dots dancing amongst the foliage – that is the way I like to garden anyway.

The Shasta daisy and the Japanese Anemone in the first two photos show how beautifully white can blend with lighter shades of yellow/green. I love the different shapes of white flowers I have in my garden from daisy to double, bell to trumpet, globes, stars, clusters and garlands of the wisteria. I also love the perfume of the wisteria and choiysia and so do the bees!

Partial shade for me is the place I particularly love to see white flowers. In fact my earliest memories of plants are of the very humble tiny white wood anemones on woodland walks. I now have some under planting my small yak rhododendrons – they look just perfect there. I grew the wild flower white campion from seed and probably saw it on my woodland walks too as it self seeds pretty freely.

However, I have no early memories whatsoever of the beautiful bell flowers of the fritillaries. I love this plant. It is a bulb and I will have white ones which will grow through my lawn by April where it is mixed with smaller species daffodils including ‘paper whites’.

Ranging through shrubs, climbers, perennials, bulbs and annuals I enjoy white flowers in my garden. Some have pale tinges of other colours and I particularly love when green comes through the white flowers as it does in the clematis ‘Miss Bateman’.

Much is said about when the perfect white flower no longer looks fresh. My answer to that is the same as for the Hosta leaf that is full of holes after the slugs have been dining on it. I cut them out - after I take a few photos! The montage above shows one flower that can fairly quickly go over in my garden – the magnolia. However this to me is such a stunning flower that I completely forgive it – it is generous in replacing these blooms anyway.

‘Wordless Wednesday’ – no chance! The final photo above shows the tiny delicate white flower of the arabis which is still has flowers yet. I am guessing it began flowering last April so it will be interesting to see if it can have flowers for a full twelve months!

I don’t imagine for one minute that everyone will agree with my love of white flowers in the garden. But hey that’s what makes gardening interesting – we all have different tastes and see things with different eyes.

All photos in this post have been taken in my garden with the exception of two – can you spot them? Sissinghurst is world renowned for its white garden so I had to include a couple of photos in this post. I particularly love the photo of my daughter (age nine at the time) taking her own photos!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Not always pretty

This last week has seen quite a variety of activity with the birds visiting my garden. Sorry, I don’t have any new photos to share. Last Thursday we had a new visitor to the garden. Spotted feeding on sunflower hearts, that drop from the feeders, was a Collared dove! How pretty it looked and quite a bit smaller than the woodpigeons who were keeping a watchful eye on it. I have seen it visit a couple of times since. Well almost visit, as it looks over my garden perched on my neighbour's tree.

Song thrushes also made a return visit over the weekend – I was delighted to see them! They are also such pretty and graceful birds. The minute I spotted two running around the borders I quickly threw some sultanas on the ground to encourage them to come back again another day. I haven’t spotted them since but I do believe they will come back again. I just hope I can get out with my camera in time when they are here!

Focused on one spot (the birdfeeder hooks) my video was left on record a couple of times today. What was I trying to catch? Well, the title of this post probably gives you a clue. I was trying to catch the male Sparrowhawk - another new visitor to my garden. Despite its reason for being in my garden (which I still get bothered by) it is actually a handsome looking bird with its orange tinted breast.

The female, well she isn’t so pretty especially when she is sitting on the ground under the feeders with a bird like the one above in her claws. The woodpigeon who thudded into my window to get out of her way this morning alerted me to what was going on. I opened the window and she flew off with her catch – I couldn’t have her eat it under the feeders! Oh… the male siskin is such a pretty bird too as you can see in the photo.

Over the weekend we also saw part of a chase by the male Sparrowhawk but I am not certain how the whole chase went. What I did see was what looked like a crow or jackdaw dive at the Sparrowhawk as it was trying to catch a bird from the feeders. The Sparrowhawk went away with nothing that time. I wish I had seen the whole chase as it looked quite dramatic!

A pretty photo is what is now needed to end this post. Back to the plants once again and what a catch this was! I passed through the display benches at a garden centre today. Bulbs were bursting out the soil of small pots and the sign above read ‘Plants reduced’. Well, you’ve got to take a look!

I picked the pretty 'Pickwick' crocus (try saying that fast!) shown above a few hours later in my garden. Well you knew ‘this’ was going to have a happy ending! The bulbs, yes granted, are almost past their best but three pots at 10 pence a pot, what a great bargain this was. I can still enjoy them until the weekend too! Mm… I went looking for more display tables with 'pretty' signs above them.

Sedum ‘Carl’ was being sold for just £2 – I really needed a basket now. Oh… who doesn’t enjoy this kind of plant shopping? The poor plants may get thrown in compost bins if they don’t get sold – I feel I am saving them! Walking out to pay for my plants I passed by another bench with plants. Oh… wait until you see this one!!

The siskin photo above was taken in July 2007. The crocus was taken in my garden today.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The Floriade

Gardening to me is quite a personal thing and no different really than how we decorate the inside of our houses. We all use similar plants in different ways and I have found it fantastic to be able to see gardens from around the world through garden blogs. I would like to thank you all for sharing your gardens!

Jim at Art of Gardening has visited many gardens throughout the world and shares his photos and stories on his blog. It is great to be able to see gardens we may never see. I asked him yesterday if he had visited the Floriade. When he said he hadn’t I thought I’d share some photos from my visit with him for a change! Although I'm sure he won't be the only one now interested in this show.

Floriade is an international exhibition of flowers and gardening in The Netherlands. It is held every ten years and the location varies. We went for the second time in 2002 when it was in the region of Haarlemmermeer.

This event runs for six months. We went during July and spread our visit over two days as the area it covers is quite large. It rained on both days but the sun did manage to come out from time to time too. There is always a theme for the show and in 2002 it was The Art of Nature’. I would say without a shadow of doubt this was the best show I have ever been to.

The scale, numbers of plants and planting schemes are what I was blown away by at this show! However, despite this scale it flowed like a garden park. I don’t know if I am quite painting the picture to you as I saw it. All planting schemes could very easily be transferred to our gardens. It was the feel of this garden that I won’t forget. It appealed to me at that time and still would today.

The site was split into different areas and my favourite by far was the lake area. I don’t have a large number of photos as I took lots of video – which I can’t really show successfully here. The area with the hostas and violas (the first photo) I tried to replicate in my own garden – scaled down of course. I also like the blending of the same colour in foliage detail with flower too. Oh… I could ramble on and on but instead I’ll just show a few more photos.

The next Floriade in 2012 will be held in the Venlo area with the theme ‘Be part of the theatre in nature; get closer to the quality of life’. Now, that sounds to me like a show not to be missed! The terrain chosen for this event also differs from previous years, being located in South-Eastern quarter of the country and not on drained land to the West. Oh... I’m looking forward to my next visit already!

Update Monday 11th February: A comment to this post (thanks Pam) raised the question of what happened to the gardens after the show. I wasn't sure so I emailed a contact from the website for the next Floriade. I had a feeling some bits were being kept and I asked specifically about the lake part that I had enjoyed so much. This morning I was delighted to get this reply from Jan Willem Griep:

"Your post brings back memories! I worked for six years as CFO at Floriade 2002. In 2003 I was resposible for returning the Floriade to the Haarlemmermeer municipality. Today you can still bring a visit to the park and especially the lake part. The part in the middle, Big Spotters Hill can also be visited. The participants have left of course but what remains is still quite nice and free of charge. The pavillion of the Haarlemmeer municipality is still there with a splendid view at the lake, ."

All photos shown above were taken at the Floriade in July 2002.