Monday, 25 August 2008

Search and Rescue...

… of the sad plants past their season. The sad plants that have remained unsold in the corners of garden centres until they look almost dead. The bargain corners that everyone walks by. Don’t get me wrong I like to search for a bargain the same as the next person however I am more drawn to rescuing the plant - especially if it is one that I like or one that I would like to try propagating from.

What about these other sad plants found in supermarkets tucked in displays beside the brightly coloured cut flowers? Because of the artificial lighting they always look washed out. Their greens can look grey and their branches limp. However at the moment, here in the UK, small packs of plug plants growing in gel are being sold there. I spotted some a couple of weeks ago that caught my eye.

They looked relatively fresh so I decided to rescue a pack of 24 small plug plants. I potted them up into larger pots putting two per pot in opposite corners as you can see in the photo above. They are quite happy now in my small greenhouse.

Then I spotted the same plant again in another of the same store - and rescued another pack! I like to plant big drifts of the same plant/colour flowing through adjoining borders. I potted them up and then yesterday would you believe it? Yep... I was compelled to rescue another pack which you can see still in the gel above. Mm… I think I have perhaps done my bit now for this plant.

Pottering in the garden or greenhouse really can be a great way to unwind or to take your mind off something – like the daughter out learning how to master the art of driving round roundabouts in the next town before she can sit her test! It wasn’t long before I was completely in the zone of plants. I had filled my pots with compost, popped the plugs out and positioned them ready for planting.

Space is always at a premium in the greenhouse but when the greenhouse it is small you really want to pack as much in as possible. I have found that square pots work best for me.

A few years ago I made a birthday request for 100x 11cm pots that I had seen after an internet search. I had calculated that this was the best size for the greenhouse staging that I had. I then found that by placing six of these pots in a standard seed tray I could then move them about in my greenhouse so that all plants could get good periods of light. This worked so well that I then ordered another 100. They have been a great buy.

So what were the plug plants that I bought? Well, I have a soft spot for violas (I don’t like pansies though) and when I saw the deep red colour on the packaging it was a winner for me. I also liked the little yellow faces of this viola and with the name ‘babyface’ it just made me smile.

I always find myself smiling when I walk by my greenhouse when it has lots of new young plants in it. It really is like a nursery to me!! It is at this time of year my tiny greenhouse really gets the most use as I begin propagating. I love the challenge in making new plants from the ones I have.

After planting up my plug plants I was really in the zone. Next I thought I would try to increase my stock of my white Japanese Anemone (not sure which variety). My original plant, and now stock plant, could be seen from my greenhouse. It has been flowering since the end of July which is unusually early.

Dividing a Japanese Anemone is often unsuccessful however if you tease away young plants that are growing around the main plant this seems to work. I had noticed a few when I passed the other day so with my hand fork at the ready I began digging to tease away any possible new plants. Once again, I was in search and rescue mode as these plants as would be unable to grow properly there anyway as they were tucked under my Acer and grasses.

Gosh, I got many more than I bargained for! However as there were tree roots from my Acer in this area some of the plants broke near the root. I took them all to my greenhouse and began potting them up. I so love making new plants in this way.

However, what should I do with the ones that had snapped at the root? I decided I would still try to propagate from them in much the same way I would do a cutting. I have absolutely no idea if this will work but I thought I would give it a try.

I planted the plants without roots into my pots. I removed most leaves and cut any larger ones in half. I watered them. Often it is suggested that to keep a cutting from drying out you can put a clear plastic bag over the pot and fix it securely with an elastic band around the pot. Last year however I found an alternative to this method.

Instead of putting the bag over the pot I put the pot in the bag! Not just any bag though – a zip and seal bag. It really worked a treat and had the added bonus that you could open it and look inside to see how the cutting was doing. It was getting dark by the time I finished as you can see in the photo above. A job well done and my daughter had returned with a job well done too!

Looking at the photo above of this wonderful Japanese Anemone flower, taken last September, you can easily see why I would want to spread it around my garden. Usually these new plants can take up to two years to flower but some can flower the next year. They are very much worth the wait especially when I know I searched around the bottom of the main plant and rescued them!

The photos above were taken in my greenhouse unless otherwise stated on August 25h 2008.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

shirls pondwatch

You don’t really need a garden to relax by a pond like the Oriental short-clawed otters in the photo below. However with all the heavy rainfall we have had recently the idea of sitting at the water's edge on a summer’s day watching the wildlife that visits seems a distant one.

Looking back to July 22nd and I can remember one such day. We were on holiday in Norfollk and had visited Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. It was a very warm sunny day and the butterflies were out in force - so out came my camera! However, as with my own garden, it is always an enormous treat to capture images I wasn’t looking for.

Common blue damselflies (top row above), Downy emerald dragonflies (middle row above) and Club-tailed dragonflies (bottom row above) more than caught my eye that day – they transfixed them! I was looking for plants and water birds at the edge of one of the large ponds and became aware of a slight movement around me. I am used to the midge (infamous tiny biting insect in Scotland) so to be honest at first I didn’t pay too much attention. Then I noticed the flash of blue.

My eyes scanned the reeds and grasses and once I tuned in to them I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. What a beautiful sight as the damselflies and dragonflies almost danced from stem to stem. I had never seen them before or probably what I should say is that I’ve never noticed them. My photos aren’t too sharp as they were so quick and slim but I thought I would share them anyway. They certainly capture that moment for me.

As my family sat on a bench one blue damselfly landed on the ground at the feet of my husband. I quickly passed the camera to him and he captured the photo above. It looked so out of place on the ground! I returned with the camera to the water’s edge again and some movement caught my eye again. This time it was at my feet. Below the delicate dancing insects sat a toad – I wonder how many more were in this area. I have to say that with every post like this I am becoming more and more fascinated with wildlife.

So what is this last photo about? Well, it was taken last night, with my roving night cam, at the edge of my tiny pond. What was I hoping to catch sight of? Ah… we have a toad around our tiny pond! Two nights ago when I went out after midnight to feed our guinea pigs I spotted it in the water on one of the wood poles I put in to help wildlife out. I wonder if it is using any of the rock caves I built below the surface and around the edge.

Okay, a toad is perhaps a pretty ordinary sighting but I found it there when I replaced the original liner a few years ago. I got the fright of my life when I scooped it up in my bucket as I emptied the water. I am wondering if this is the same one – it looks bigger now. We so seldom see it and I did build the caves to encourage it to stay.

We've had very heavy downpours of rain in the evenings so I am wondering if this has any bearing on my sighting. I am also wondering if the hedgehogs may not be around as much on nights like this as I haven’t seen them visit in the evenings recently. I am guessing they are still visiting in the early hours of the morning as the food is being taken from my feeding station.

This toad sighting got me thinking. Have you ever wondered what visits your garden, park or village ponds at this time of year? What about rock pools at the beach? If so, I wonder if you would like to share with us what you see.

If you have a blog you might like to join me with a posting – even just a photo of what you see. If you don’t have a blog maybe you would like to list what you see. Just leave a comment so others can see/read about your sightings. I thought I’d suggest a time period rather than a day for a change so there is no rush. I am hoping that in that time I might just catch something interesting around our pond – either during the day or in the evening. This could be fun – I hope you can join me!

Finally, it really doesn’t matter what size your pond is. If you have large wildlife ponds it would be wonderful to see what wildlife visitors you have. However, if like me, you have a tiny pond it can still provide a home for wildlife like my toad. You can see that in summer my pond is quite shaded and I have such wonderful moss growing on the rocks there now.

You can see how small my pond is in the photos above. I put a garden fork across it to give you an instant guide to scale. I also got the tape measure out. It is approximately 33cm deep (just over 1ft) and the surface water visible measures 1 metre (just over 3ft) long by 50cm (just over 1½ft). You can see how my pond started back in April 2003 with the liner. After leaks I replaced this with kidney shaped moulded plastic one. I then had a stronger surface to play with rocks making hidden pools and caves. I have a small pump.

The photo of the otters was taken at Edinburgh Zoo on August 11th 2008. The photo montages from Pensthorpe were taken July 22nd 2008. The night cam shot of my pond was taken on August 21st 2008.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Garden Bloom Day August 2008

August is an interesting time in the garden for both flower and foliage. Last Friday (the 15th of the month) saw Garden Bloggers Bloom Day time once again. I thoroughly enjoy joining in with Carol and many other garden Bloggers to post on what is in flower in my garden on that date. Although I don’t always post on the fifteenth I always take my photos or videos then. Last month I only posted photos but this month I have loads to chat about!

So what are my garden impressions for August 2008? Well, perhaps the very first photo of my first montage below gives you a clue. Yep… August in my garden has seen lots of insects visit my plants. I am particularly delighted to see so many bees this year especially when there are worries about their declining numbers.

The drumstick allium sphaerocephalon shown in the first two photos have been very popular with the bees and me! These were quite inexpensive bulbs as I bought them last year in garden centre sales at the end of the season. It was perhaps past the ideal planting time for them in the garden but I planted them up in pond baskets and sunk them into the ground. I only planted them in baskets so I wouldn’t disturb the clumps as I often move my plants around and forget where the bulbs are.

The photo on the right of the second row above shows some flowers from one basket clump which are darker in colour as this is a more shady area. I had hoped they would grow more upright but they have grown to the side looking for light and some flowers are completely hidden. The next dry day I plan to lift the basket and replant the whole clump directly into the ground in another part of the garden where others are already growing. Good sized plantings of the same plant work well in my small borders.

The hosta flower in the centre photo is another that attracts the bees and although I really grow this plant more for its foliage it is great to see that once again it suits both wildlife and me! As I have a small garden I sometimes like to experiment with bold colour in my predominately green garden.

The deep orange red of the candelabra primula ‘Inverewe’ I have really enjoyed but was really quite surprised to see it flowering in August. I was even more surprised to see not one but two different hellebores with single flowers – this is a spring flowering plant! The other plants in the montage above include the wonderful tiny purple flowers of a Thalictrum delavaya 'Hewwitt's Double' and the small purple flower spires of Stachys monnieri 'Hummelo' from a Piet Oudolf collection.

Green was the colour for Chelsea 2008 but I had chosen to add darker deep burgundy colours to my garden this year. I think they look great with the greens. I have adored the dark penstemon growing in my front garden! This is a new addition and I definitely plan to take cuttings of this plant to increase it for next year. Penstemons are great for late colour in the garden and do keep the bees supplied with food at a time when it is in short supply. I had penstemon ‘etna’ in flower all the way through to December and into January last year.

Foliage colour is also something I always look for and this year two heucheras caught my eye. Heuchera ‘licorice’ shown above is looking great in my front garden growing alongside the penstemons and I always find it surprising that its tiny flowers also attract the bees!

Kein fontaine is an ornamental grass that is coming nicely into flower in my front garden. I planted this one a few years ago and as you can see in the first photo of the bottom row above it has a burgundy colour too. This year I actually managed to successfully grow some sweet peas directly into the ground (another surprise) and the variety ‘Cupani’ as you can see had the deep colour I was looking for too. I've been pleased with them. I'm not sure if the bees are interested in them.

Mm… but if there is one strong favourite for my new colour theme it has to be the Chocolate Cosmos astrosanguineus shown in the last photo. What a fantastic almost velvet looking flower it is! This plant is also new to my garden for 2008 so we shall have to see how it over winters. I have read that a deep mulch might help but mine are planted in gravel. I may consider lifting one and over winter it in my greenhouse. I could then try and take cuttings in the spring if the others don’t survive.

Penstemon ‘Etna’ shown above with its deep coral red tubular flowers I planted in my garden three years ago. I took cuttings that year and a staggering 54 rooted - I allowed for losses! It has had a long flowering season still giving flowers up to December and an odd one into January too. I have admired it and the bees have just loved it! This plant has been dotted all around my garden and has gone to family and friends too! I really hope the new dark one is successful with cuttings too - I must find the label but I think this one is the variety 'Raven'.

You can see that my pink aster is in flower too and that the Allium ‘Christophii’ is going to seed now. Black seeds are already visible on Allium ‘Purple sensation’ and I should cut these seed heads down soon and put them in paper bags to dry out and collect the seeds.

The black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ is also in flower now. I added a few plants of this to my front garden this year to tone in the new deep burgundy reds. It also blends well with my dark charcoal grey pots and blue grey pebbles. The black does good in the sun.

Last year I added the clematis ‘Picardi’ to my front garden and it is probably the driver in my thoughts to add more of this deep colour this year. It looked great amongst the bamboo, borage and grasses and has flowered well this year. I really should pay more attention to dead heading it though - note to self for next year!!

Sorry… I am making up for the lack of chat last month! This next montage shows the variety of foliage shape and colour as well as flower. The first row starts with the tiny yellow flowers forming on the feathery foliage stems of bronze fennel. This is followed by my second new heuchera introduction for 2008 ‘Georgia Peach’ which is also in flower now - it looks great with the dark leaves of the grass uncinia ‘rubra’. ‘Silver Queen’ thyme is also in flower now and I am sure insects are visiting this plant too.

Sedum ‘Rose Carpet’ has been a great success in the hanging basket at my back door arch. I have been looking out for more of this plant all year. Finally, at the weekend I was delighted to plant up another three baskets with it to hang in my front garden. I hope that the bees or butterflies will discover them there. The tiny white flowers of my alpine strawberries always make me smile and the tiny blue ones of the Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ always make me take a second look! I love the leaves of this plant and the flowers are like the icing on the cake. The red bracts of new growth on my Pieris were a surprise when I took my photos – another I associate with spring. Mm... that's a few plants flowering or behaving out of season now.

Back we go to the bees again for this next montage above. It would be a tossed coin to decide between Nepata (catmint) or borage for the top flowers for the bees in my garden. Blue or white flowers the borage is just buzzing with bees!

Nepata ‘walkers low’ is in its second flush of flowers after I cut it completely back after its first flowering in the middle of July. It always amazes me how quickly it re-grows at this time of year and can be seen with another 'plant sale' plant from last season sedum ‘carl’. I am looking forward to seeing the butterflies visit ‘carl’ soon. This wet weather we’ve been having is not helping the butterflies visit although I have seen a few small tortoiseshells this year so far.

The stalky spires of lamb’s ears Stachys byzantina and the delicate spires of lavender are also popular with the bees and hover flies too. However, the big surprise for bees and other insects have been the spiky teasel flowers. I have grown this plant with only one purpose this year – to take photos of goldfinches feeding at it! Sad but true. I have never grown this plant before and had no idea how tall it would get or that so many insects would be interested in its flowers!

This next montage is dedicated to the butterflies, old and new, that visit my garden. Verbena Bonariensis leads the field for butterflies in my garden towering above all other flowers at the moment. These plants over wintered okay in the ground but I will take cuttings to ensure I have new plants should we get a hard winter ahead. It has just come into flower where Buddleja (the butterfly bush) is almost finished flowering. Stipa gigantea (the giant oat grass) is now flowering well now too and I have noticed the butterflies do rest a moment on their way to the flowers in this area of my front garden.

My sunnier front garden is the best place to see the visiting butterflies. Sedum ‘Carl (centre photo, bottom row) is now showing its wonderful pink heads of tiny flowers. I cannot believe how well this plant is looking now compared with how I found it in the garden centre sale quite dead looking last year. I love to save plants like this. I recognised the variety as being a good one and with it only being £2 it was well worth taking home! I am sure the butterflies will think so too.

Cone flowers are also a new addition to my garden for this year. The pink and white ones (on either side of ‘Carl’) were bought on holiday in Norfolk this year after seeing butterflies visit them on the staging at the garden centre! I think they will be happy in my front garden and I plan to look into how I can propagate from them soon. I have mislaid a bag of labels so I can’t name my cone flowers for the moment but will update this post when I find them.

My partially shaded back garden holds completely different favourite flowers for me and top of the list here is the Japanese Anemone. The first flowers were budding for my July Bloom day post and opened about ten days after. Not only are the flowers early this year but my original plant is budding with more flowers than I have ever seen on it. It must be a good year for Japanese Anemones! The insects love this plant too.

White flowers aren’t always popular with gardeners when they go brown and look marked and worn. I expect that perhaps mine fair fresher a little longer as they don’t get too much sun on them. You can also see the Shasta daisy looking fresh at the moment too in the montage below – another popular flower for insects although they don’t last as long as the anemone.

My small silver border started well last year and had loads of promise but the Stachys byzantina in flower is falling all over the smaller compact hebe and hosta and now none are seen to their best. It doesn’t look natural – just messy. So it’s time for it to move to another spot where it can do its own thing. Mm… there's a problem there. Where have I room for it?

Clematis 'Niobe' is passing its best now but I think I will try taking cuttings from it this year as it has such a wonderful deep colour especially when planted in partial shade. I enjoy the challenge of cuttings. This time of year that I tend to get out my propagation books to see what plants I can take cuttings from.

August is the month for cutting the largest planting in my garden – our Leylandii hedge! Not at all a job I look forward to but it really does need to be kept under control. We didn't plant this hedge and it was already mature when we moved here. You can see in the first photo above the new growth that will be trimmed away. Before and after photos below show our first section completed – we worked on this last Saturday. We will now need to wait until this weekend and hope it stays dry at least part of the time. This is the shorter of the two lengths of hedge we have!

Ivy growing up my walkway also got a trim and this will promote thicker growth. Oh.. the jasmine growing beside the ivy was growing up and out of my walkway and I would never see or be able to smell its wonderful white scented flowers. I pulled stems through the trellis and under the top supports and what a difference that made. I hadn’t realised it was flowering! I also spotted some red campion (pink flowers) in this more natural area growing up through the gunnera leaves. Between these and the hosta flowers this would be another popular area with insects.

This is a post on flowering plants so why have I shown photos of a hedge being trimmed? Well, once trimmed the hedge is darker in colour and it recedes into the background. It then acts as a wonderful living backdrop for flowering plants to shine out! Yep… there are lots going on in garden during August – it is an interesting month.

All photos above were taken in my garden on August 15th 2008 escept for the hedge ones which were taken on August 16th 2008.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Third time lucky?

Today has been a very pleasant warm and sunny day. Mm… perhaps I should have taken my Bloom Day photos - tomorrow is to be rainy once again! Like many parts of the UK this summer has been a bit of a wash out with the hot summer days seeming a distant memory at the moment. I expect many garden projects have been delayed – even the smallest of ones.

The garden project I mentioned in my last post was a small one but has been a very big part of my garden and this garden blog. We had some very heavy rain last week and into the weekend. So the box that was delivered earlier on in the week had to wait… and wait! This was a very special box and I am hoping that it will be third time lucky and not just for us!

So why have I taken so long to post on this? Well, I am a sentimental soul and with this new box we are moving on. Our new box isn’t just any old box. It is a replacement Nestbox with a camera. Lionel and Peggy at Camnest have very generously sent us a one of their new designs. We had issues with our roof leaking last year and this new design has a different roof. It looks like this roof might let in more natural daylight too and I can’t wait to see our first visitors.

A winter rooster around the end of October is the most likely first visitor we will get. Oh… but the lovely clean floor - I know it won’t be quite so clean after! Mm… but I do remember last year feeling so pleased to hear the tapping of a bird as it moved around our Nestbox on a cold and dark night. I knew that the winter rooster (a blue tit) would be warmer there that in trees and hedges. I knew that we were helping it survive the harshness of winter. I put some wood shavings on the floor last year and I will likely do the same again this year – although just one handful this time!

The last photos taken from our original Camera Nestbox have shown that there are two chicks still left in it. I had no wish to share these images. I don’t relish opening this Nestbox to remove the nest either but I can’t leave it there. I am returning my original camera Nestbox to Lionel and Peggy so they can see first hand how it survived the most extreme weather of all their customers so far. I do feel quite sentimental over this and can still remember the thrill of seeing the first visitors (a blue tit pair) just two days after putting it up!

The first photo from our new Camera Nestbox is shown below. As with our first Nestbox – we did the finger test as we put it up! So once again we are now in the wonderful position of having a clean new Nestbox with a camera sitting in wait to provide a dry winter home and nesting place for a pair visiting our garden. Thank-you Lionel and Peggy - I am sure the birds will appreciate the upgrade too!

I have absolutely no doubt that the first tapping sounds we will hear through the computer speakers, hailing the arrival of a bird inside, will be just as special as before. Although we have yet to see a successful brood survive to fledge the whole experience of seeing the tremendous hard work that goes into nest building and feeding chicks has been fascinating. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing this too.

Fingers will be crossed next spring that our Nestbox location will be successful for a third year. Fingers and toes will be crossed that we can share a Nestbox story once again but this time all the way to fledging chicks!

The photo above was taken on August 10th 2008. If you are interested in reading my nesting diary from the last two years see 2007 and 2008.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Comings and goings

There has been plenty going on in my garden recently but with the school holidays there has also been plenty going on elsewhere too! Time at the PC has been short and sweet so I do apologise for not answering all my mail and comments or visiting my favourite blogs – I will soon. Oh… and I have so much I could post on too.

Hedgehog visits to gardens at the moment are just so special when you see them that I just have to start with them! This post is entirely dedicated to this wonderful night time visitor. It has seen a decline in numbers here in the UK in recent years which is most likely due to loss of habitat.

The photos above were taken last night and I do believe this is a new visitor to my garden by its timid behaviour. I don't usually put out sunflower hearts but when some spilt I added a few more on the ground. This hedghog was very keen on them and didn't even look for any other food. I put more out tonight and guess what - this hog came back for them again. He did go to the entrance of the feeding box but it didn't go in.

So how do you know if a hedgehog is visiting your garden? Well, perhaps you could look out for its droppings in your borders, lawn or garden paths. They are usually black as you can see in the photo above and much larger in size than those of garden birds. I haven’t seen any hedgehog droppings since the end of May but even so at the moment I do have regular hedgehog visits to my garden. I’ve seen and heard them! I know my regular visitors from America won't see or hear this so this post is for you too.

What noise does a hedgehog make? If you were to stand quite still outside on a quiet evening once it gets dark you might hear them shuffling through dried leaves, grasses, ground cover plants and shrubs. You might also hear them make a snorting sound as they forage for food. I will be honest here and say I have never heard this in my garden - so far. However, they can also make a much, much louder noise.

What is the loud noise a hedgehog makes? One evening last week I went outside and completely stopped in my tracks. Initially I didn’t associate the loud scrapping noise at all with the two hedgehogs I eventually noticed in my garden. I walked quite close to them. To my surprise it was coming from the larger of the two hedgehogs – I think. My first thoughts were that it was being territorial and was warning off the smaller hedgehog that regularly visits my feeding station. I was expecting a fight. Oops… I was well of the mark there!

Since then, I have discovered it was more than likely that a male hedgehog was attempting to mate. Now, I have to say I am not sure which one was which now. The larger hedgehog repeatedly took a few steps backwards and forwards towards the smaller one from the corner edge of my house. The smaller hedgehog moved around the larger one before finally walking away into the night. It seems that this behaviour can sometimes last hours - without success as the female hedgehog looses interest and leaves. A cheeky comment is so very tempting here!! Anyway moving swiftly on I wonder if the female was the smaller hedgehog? Oh… I really wish I had gone in for my video camera that night. Since then I have been watching and listening but alas no sightings – but hey I’ve a few more videos and photos to share.

What about a feeding station? Oh… I have to say that I have found this a great way to feed and see hedgehogs. I love to watch them walk in it especially on a wet, windy or cold night. I have made mine by turning an almost clear plastic storage box upside down. I cut out an entrance at one end (13cm x 13cm). I have a standard double pet dish with crushed peanuts and sultanas in one side and water in the other. The dish is positioned opposite the entrance. I also have a second dish and on dry nights I put it nearby so we can get a better view of them outside too.

Where to put a feeding station? Mm… I have put mine near my back door where I first saw them visit. It seems to have worked for me. I have noticed that they do appear to remember where the food is and go straight there. I have also experimented by putting food nearby on the ground outside the feeding station. I have a basic infra red camera fixed to an old tripod which I position around my garden and we have watched these visits. I have noticed that although there is food outside the feeding station the hedgehogs will often follow the edges of my house wall and go straight in the box and not bother looking outside. I guess it probably feels safer in there.

How do you get the hedgehog to go in a feeding station? My method is really pretty simple. I just leave a little trail of food outside and they eventually follow it in. There are at least two that visit mine but just in case any other hedgehogs pass by one evening I still put a trail outside the entrance. If the hedgehogs don’t take this food by morning the blackbirds, dunnocks and robins will. The trail I usually make is less than shown in the video above. There was a little wind that night and the skins of the peanut blew about and for a while one stuck to the hedgehog’s nose! I love the way it slide along the ground trying to get rid of it.

What do hedgehogs like to eat? Insects, beetles, worms, slugs and snails are most likely to be what brings the hedgehogs to forage for food in our gardens but water may attract them too. Also I would suggest that if you have hanging feeders for birds it is quite likely that peanuts and sunflower hearts that drop on the ground below may also attract them. However, the slugs too are also attracted to the sunflower hearts as you can see from the photo above taken last night!

What food can you put out for hedgehogs? Well, they do enjoy meat based dog and cat food however in my garden I have continued to put out the foods that I first discovered them feeding on – sultanas and peanuts (not salted). I did try dried dog food and dried hedgehog mixes last year but they weren’t too interested in them. However, recently I put out some pieces of broken and whole digestive biscuits and they have been popular too with both the hedghogs and slugs!

Mm… now for a moment let’s go back to the end of May for the next video. There is an interesting story behind this one which I mislaid until recently. I had placed a hanging lantern-style bird feeder on the ground under my small Acer tree after Starlings had practically emptied it of live mini mealworms in a few hours. This feeder was put out to help our single Blue tit Mum feed her chicks. There were mealworms left at the very bottom as the starlings couldn’t get at them. I thought perhaps the smaller beaks of dunnocks could try so I put it on the ground where they looked for food.

What I didn’t expect to see at the feeder was the nose of a hedgehog trying to get in it! I was alerted to the noise it was making outside my window as it knocked it over and pushed it along the ground. The feeder rolled a number of times before it jammed against a small rock. It was completely unbothered by my presence with the video camera. It almost licked the paving clean! Clearly these mini mealworms were tasty enough to warrant a challenge on this feeder.

Watching the wildlife in my garden has been a challenge for me too! In order to post about my videos and photos it often requires some research first. For the last week or so I have been collecting pieces of video and photos. I have also been most surprised by what I have seen and heard. The next photo is no exception.

I originally thought the hedgehog above had sunflower hearts in its spines until I looked closer. Then I remembered something I had read on another website about hedgehogs spitting on themselves:

"Yes, hedgehogs do spit on themselves, but nobody really knows why. Hedgehogs will lick a rock or a piece of wood to start the saliva flowing. Then they swing their heads back and forth, spitting freely. Hedgehogs use their tongues to coat their spines with the spit. This startling behavior may continue for twenty minutes.Some animal experts have ideas about the spitting. Some say the saliva the hedgehog produces may drive away predators. Others believe it attracts hedgehogs during the mating season. Still others say the saliva works against parasites (PAR uh syts)—usually ticks, fleas, or small worms—that feed on a hedgehog’s body."

Incredibly I had just taken a photo of spittle on a hedgehog! I really must say once again that in writing this online diary I have discovered some fascinating facts about what goes on in my garden. I am now certain we have two smaller hedgehogs taking the food I put out and at least one larger one. I wonder what the chances are of seeing very young hoglets at some point. I'll finish off this post with photos of the smaller hedgehog (that enjoys the sunflower hearts) during its visit tonight.

Wishing you a great weekend in the garden. We have an interesting job to do this weekend so fingers crossed the rain stays away for a little while.

All photos and videos above were taken in my garden. The photos were all taken through a window with outside lights on. I also used the manual focus setting on my camera to reduce the time the flash was used.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Hedgehog visits and links

This is our third year of watching hedgehogs visit the garden and what a treat this has been! Knowing not everyone is able to see this wonderful wildlife visitor it has been a delight to share our visits both through photos and video.

All captures are watched live and that's what makes them so special. I use night cameras outside feeding stations and inside our new for 2009 Hedgehog House. I also just stand in my garden with a video camera. You may be interested in building a hedgehog house or a feeding station. I have certainly had fun building and experimenting with mine.

Numbers of hedgehogs are in decline.If you don’t have hedgehogs or are not likely to ever see them then I hope you enjoy the ones that visit my garden.

VISITS 2009:

  • Sleepy hedgehog wakes up in Hedgehog House (video) - Sept 12, 2009
  • Rainy night visits to Hedgehog House, tick spotted (5 videos)- Sept 6, 2009
  • First visitor to new Hedgehog House (5 videos) - Sept 3, 2009
  • Early evening stroll around the garden (colour video) - Aug 9, 2009
  • Lunchtime visit (colour photos) - Jul 29, 2009
  • Breakfast visit worry plus details of Hedgehog House and camera inside. Lengthy garden update posting including videos of newly fledged birds being fed plus photos of garden blooms - Jun 30, 2009
  • Hedgehog photo (fav)plus first image of new hedgehog house in situ - see last Bloom video. House moved to new location since - Jun 16, 2009
  • Looking for clues to hedgehogs visiting your garden? (colour photos and video)- Jun 9, 2009
  • Eating supper (colour video). Introducing the new homemade Hedgehog House. Lengthy Spring watching update with lots of video and photos including wrens fledging - Jun 2, 2009
  • Hedgehog Manor (first House) in new location. Scroll down Bloom posting - May 18, 2009
  • Hedgehog drinking at ground bird bath (colour photos)- May 10, 2009
  • Hedgehog first 2009 visit spotted at feeding station (video) - Mar 21, 2009

    VISITS 2008:
  • Hedgehogs using hutch (3 videos) - Nov 23, 2008
  • Introducing the hutch feeding station - Nov 12, 2008
  • Looking in the 2007 hedgehog house - Nov 6, 2008
  • Hedgehog update on cold night - Oct 29, 2008
  • Hedgehog looking for food at log pile (end of video) - Oct 14, 2008
  • Hedgehogs feeding on ground and at dish (videos) - Oct 9, 2008
  • Hedgehog and cat (video) - Sep 1, 2008
  • Regular visits again (4 videos) - Aug 8, 2008
  • Young hedgehog spotted (video) - Apr 24, 2008
  • Infra red at feeding station (video) - Apr 10, 2008

    VISITS 2007:
  • Juvenile hedgehog worries (video) - Nov 12, 2007
  • Making a hedgehog house - Nov 1, 2007
  • Hedgehog noisy eater? (video) - Sept 12, 2007
  • First photos of hedgehog - Sept 3, 2007
  • Hedgehog eating peanuts (video) - Sept 3, 2007
  • Feeding station used (video) - Aug 24, 2007
  • The feeding station experiment - Aug 23, 2007
  • First sighting of hedgehog (video) - Aug 18, 2007

  • Photo above of hedgehog droppings.

    OTHER BLOGS showing hedgehog visits and video:

    British Hedgehog Preservation Society
    HogWatch - Record your hedgehog sightings
    Tiggywinkles - The World's Busiest Wildlife Hospital