Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Almost there

Can you believe it? March is almost done! You’ll see in the video and photos below that despite odd cold spells, the second half of the month has had many sunny blue sky days too. Activity in the garden (by plants and visitors) has gone up a notch or too with the warm sunshine.

Today, we’ve seen the start of the rain forecasted. If it lasts a few days as suggested then our plants will put on wonderful flourishes of new foliage and growth. Being honest, I find myself smiling more at the new growth with the anticipation of what’s to come. I’d guess I’m not alone there.

For those new to my blog, I don’t usually cover the month in the way I have this month, with March. It’s just the way it’s worked out this time. I’ve not been as busy in the garden as I would have liked too but with longer hours of daylight my gardening year is about to really kick off.

Yesterday morning, I saw the first signs of nest building from my garden as a female Blackbird went away with material from the base of my Brunnera Jack Frost plant. I noticed one take it from there last year too. Let’s have a quick reminder of mid-end March to look back on….

Note there is light background music with this video.

For those not able to watch the video
it began with the female blackbird and her beakful of material. Then we’ve a pair of blue tits visiting our new nestbox (although they didn’t go in), a Collared Dove sunning itself on a windy branch (a pair are regularly visiting just now), a Song thrush taking a break in the open on top of my Leylandii hedge and then we end with crocus sunshine faces (growing in my lawn) waving in the breeze.

Let’s move on to what else has caught my eye in the last two weeks. The crocus, I just had to include as their time is almost over :-(

I love to photograph the crocus and we have really enjoyed the colour they have brought to the garden. Being a gardener that always has plants on the move my decision to plant them in informal drifts in my lawn was one of my better ideas!

Snowdrops still in flower near my back door. Acer leaf buds forming.
Blue tits food at the buds, they are regularly visiting them.

Drumstick Primulas catch the early morning sunshine.
Many are fully out now but I love this stage.

Meconopsis x cookei, new young plants
that flowered out of season last August. Early this time.

New fresh green, fern fronds - say that quickly ;-)

New fresh green... weeds! Bird seed that has germinated :-)

Tidy-up gardening (last night) to remove bird seed weeds.
Re instated Ceramic Bumble Bee Nester. Bees seen scouting area.

First butterfly spotted (MAR 23) small tortoiseshell,
just over front garden boundary. Neighbour's border.

Front garden tidy-up… disturbed a 'loveliness’ of ladybirds
whilst cutting back Stipa gigantea. Just discovered that’s
the collective name for ladybirds... brilliant name :-)

Crocus clumps in borders catching early morning sun.
Summer flowering Carex morrowii 'Fisher's Form'
is flowering in March. Anyone else seen that?

Colourful mass planting of crocus in lawn. A hedgehog’s view…
no sightings of hogs this year. Food out, watching night cam.

The crocus bow out in the lawn, can’t wait for this to flower now!
Thrilled to have the cuckoo flower in my lawn… so excited!

Small variety of narcissi replace the crocus in my lawn.
Soon cuckoo flower will open then Fritillaries. Love this area.

Stunning out of the sun too… Ice Follies.

Oops… Brunnera in leaf and forming flowers.
Hellebores in various stages of flower opening.

So why the ‘Oops’ with the Brunnera? If you look closely above you’ll see (after being lifted last autumn) it still hasn’t been divided and planted. Out of the ground this past cold winter… this plant definitely deserves its AGM (Award of Garden Merit) by the RHS! Respect to you, Jack Frost. I’ll get you planted later tonight :-)

Respect also has to go to the oldest known UK breeding female Osprey who has just returned to her nest in Scotland for the 21st consecutive year. However, the SWT Reserve near Dunkeld in Perthshire looks like it is set for interesting speculation already. Two other Ospreys have also arrived. If one’s a female… the story begins.

Wishing everyone following the story of the ‘Lady’ at Loch of the Lowes much to see this coming breeding season. Here’s hoping she holds on to her nest for one more year and has a successful brood :-)

Wishing everyone else enjoyment in your gardens and getting outdoors when you can. This really is a great time of year. What have your March favourite bits been? What are you enjoying in your garden right now?

This post was written for shirls gardenwatch at .

Monday, 21 March 2011

Phew! Flying past... the middle of the month with ‘Boofle’ in birthday cake form, sunny mornings, blue skies, first flowers opening, a snow covered garden, flattened flowers, grey skies, heavy rain, an invasion of Finches, recovering flowers, new shoots through the ground, a lengthy visit from Mr S. and short ones by Jack Frost . The cameras have been recording…

However, this post would never upload if included all the images that I’d like to share. Plants, birds and wildlife are all kicking into action for 2011... and the outdoors beckon us.

Here’s what’s been going on in my small Perthshire garden. I'm going to try and keep this brief so you've got time to view the videos and I've more time to visit you :-) Note there is background music with all videos.

By special request I made my daughter’s 18th Birthday cake – I should say it was a tad scary when I stood in front of a six cakes high tower and made my first cut!

It was also scary that our youngest was 18 and how much snow we had covering the garden the next day. Earlier that week we had seen plenty of sunshine and warmer temps.

On the positive side of the snow covered garden the Bramblings returned with good numbers of Goldfinches and Chaffinches. There were Siskins and Greenfinches too. However, the food kept getting covered so I opted for putting some under shrubs.

My Snowflakes were covered in snowflakes as were the first flowering Crocus. I was especially sad to see the tight, deep pink flowers making up balls for the drumstick Primula’s completely covered. Signs of Spring were temporary cancelled.

The next day, it was all change in the garden again. You could be forgiven for thinking we were having April showers. It rained and rained.

You would never have believed there had been a good covering of snow the previous day except for sights like the first crocus flowers... flattened to the ground...

However, the Crocus in my lawn that hadn’t opened their flowers looked quite happy in the rain. The Snowflakes looked so shiny new that they almost looked like plastic. I took these photos (with a flash) at the end of that day when the rain finally stopped.

Allium leaf crowns looked like quite tropical on the ground as did the Hellebore flowers. Regular visiting birds like the Blackbirds finally managed to get to the feeders then too.

That rainy Sunday was even busier for the bird feeders than the snowy one… not possible you’d think? Well, as they say… expect the unexpected… especially when gardenwatching!

March the 13th was definitely not an unlucky day in my garden. It gave way to a sight I have never seen before. It was fascinating to watch. I had no idea where to look at times. Lol… it wasn’t raining men… it was raining Siskins ;-)

For those that don’t see Siskins, the short video below shows a female on a peanut feeder on the snowy day and a group of male Siskins at a feeder on the rainy day. They are tiny little birds although quite feisty too.

Now… the tree in the next photo below is one that has appeared on my blog a number of times. It is a very large mature tree that I can see from over the hedge in my garden.

The last spectacle from this tree was groups of Waxwings back on the 13th of November. The number 13 doesn’t appear to be unlucky in my garden it seems ;-)

As you might expect, later on in the day at this time of year, the sky was dull. The image of the tree isn’t the best but was taken for reference. The silhouette shows the dots (which are Siskins) on the top branches.

Now… take a look at what happened next…

View full screen to see action more clearly

For those that can’t view the video above, the Siskins leave the distant tree singly and in good sized groups and make their way to my garden and feeders. I’m guessing since my neighbour has just pruned his Cherry tree my garden is more visible from a distance.

Oh… what a pity the Cherry tree wasn’t pruned at the time of the Waxwings visiting the area. There are other mature trees to the left of my garden and between the two I’d take a guess that there were a good 100+ Siskins leaving them.

Once a few Siskins took flight, others joined in and the large group began flying together. With the group becoming big and the space in my garden where the feeders were quite a narrow (being between the House and our Leylandii hedge) the birds were having trouble landing at times.

They then began to circle above my garden and house. With every loop they circled it got wider and then more birds joined in. It really was fascinating to watch. I failed in following the groups moving in the sky and opted to set the tripod (at my window) on one position and crossed my fingers.

I was lucky and managed to capture the essence of this wonderful sight – they did land eventually too! Wonderfully, this sight lasted a few days although I was getting a tad worried about my neighbours possibly getting bothered by this. The birds were quite vocal too.

I’m guessing you’ve spotted Mr S. below. A few days later and once the very large group moved on, but there were still a good number of finches visiting, and the rain returned… Mr Sparrowhawk made a very polite appearance.

Screen grab from video below

He stayed in the same spot for over 10 minutes too – on the Arch holding the bird feeders seen with the male Siskins above. It was raining quite hard. He gave his head a good shake on a few occasions to get rid of the wet. I’ll let you take a look…

Once again, I found this a fascinating sighting in my garden. I was particularly transfixed by those eyes of his. He didn’t dine in my garden on this occasion :-)

A few days on again and it was all change once again and we had a few frosty mornings. The montage below was taken on Friday morning just after I had topped up the bird feeders.

Over the weekend I thought we’d see our first daffodils opening their flower buds. Odd tete a tete ones have now opened but I’m looking forward to the return of Ice Follies :-)

I’m also looking forward to the return of hedgehog sightings in my garden in the evenings (food now available at Hedgehog Manor) and more daytime visits to our new nestcam box for 2011. You can see it in the photo above.

You can also see that we have boarded up or original nestbox that had a successful brood of Blue tits fledge last year. Now… that’s another story :-D

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March 2011.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

End of month view, Feb 2011

As promised, it’s time to reveal progress with the new wildlife pond build at the end of the month. However, the last day of February 2011 was a glorious one and my camera was drawn to other areas of the garden first ;-)

Front garden: Narcissi ‘Ice Follies’ with sunlight revealing flowers inside.

Front garden: Sedums forcing fresh growth through gravel mulch.

Front garden: A lone yellow crocus, radiant like a buttercup in summer.

Front garden: A few stragglers along the boundary edge – bird planted ;-)

Front garden: Crocus 'Pickwick', a small clump by some rocks.

Front garden: ID unknown, near Pickwick, nice colour contrast.

Front garden: Escaping out in the open, pretty and delicate.

Front garden: A warm welcome awaits at the garden gate.

Front garden: A welcome sight, a ladybird sunbathing on the fence.

Back garden: Behind the garden gate, shy hellebores, flowering soon.

Back garden: Beneath the walkway, a curve of Narcissi ‘Ice Follies’.

Back garden: Pieris with a few blossom bunches, flowering soon.

Back garden: First of the deep purple crocus, opening very soon.

Back garden: Heucheras, catching the sunlight, wonderful foliage plant.

Back garden: Native Primrose, leaves bulking up, flower buds growing soon.

So, how is the progress of the new pond build? Ahem… well, I won’t lie. There’s been none… no spade has been lifted and no stones lifted or turned. Being honest, it looks a tad neglected as you will see below.

Nope… no sore backs during February here! In fairness, the weather hasn’t been in my favour until now. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it ;-)

Sticking to the plan in my head for this pond build is another matter entirely. It keeps changing. My OH keeps suggesting detailed plans, but I need to get outside and walk around the area looking at it from every angle and at different times of the day.

Taking lots of photos does help but that still isn’t the same. I tend to use only the very basic of sketches especially when I have a good number of irregular and non-matching stones to work with. Basically, I like to build as I go and have great fun doing it that way.

Looking last night at the photos I had taken, I realised that perhaps I should lower the stone dyke/wall at the back. I am concerned about the light levels here. This area loses sunlight at around 3pm. I’m hoping this isn’t going to be a problem with algae.

Back garden: The new wildlife pond in waiting, top view as it is now.

I’m also trying to blend this area out/in to it’s the surroundings. I have a grass mound to the right of my arbour which could be mirrored at a smaller scale on the pond side. I like the idea of bringing the grass over too but not necessarily going into the water as an edge.

You can roughly see this idea in the lower images below yesterday’s progress photos where I’ve used Photoshop to copy the grass area over to see how it looks. Don’t laugh now, but I’m seeing small sand dunes (golf bunker style) with a mix of lawn grass and ornamental.

Back garden: Looking towards the new pond area, top view as it is now.

The larger round, light coloured rocks that I have to relocate will nestle in the grass and on beach like sand strips that will go into the water as a shallow first layer ledge deep enough for birds to drink and bathe.

Rocks will also need to be positioned so that any passing wildlife that takes a drink can get out if they slip in. Hedgehogs can swim but they will need a good ledge to get out of water otherwise they will drown. Really don’t want that to happen :-(

Vision over, I do hope someone is getting it with me. Oh yes, low growing wild flowers will be in the mix too. Dare I say… suggestions are welcome at this stage? Moving swiftly on…

It’s been Patient Gardener, Helen’s idea of looking at garden views at the end of the month. She has invited others to join her by leaving a comment on her post with a link to your post there. Lol… so I blame her when I’m embarrassing myself with my slow progress ;-)

Until the next time … oh dear, has someone moved my boots ;-)

Window view: Snowflakes catching sun’s rays, planting in partial shade.

Finally, just in case anyone missed my last post on snowdrop visiting, if you are planning a trip, you might like to browse the links there.

All photos above were taken in my garden on 28th February, 2011.