Monday, 30 May 2011

Help please - seeing red in bird bath

Has anyone else seen water in bird baths/small ponds turn a red colour? I’m guessing this isn’t good and I plan to clean and refresh mine.

Perhaps someone can explain why this has happened and what it is? I’ve never seen this until recently. There appears to be a red sediment too. I’m sure there are others interested in this too. I know I won't be the only one with this problem.

One bird bath is on a pedestal and made of stone. The other is a large plastic plant saucer with a few stones in it and sited on the ground with planting around it. Chatting to a friend with a small pond today I’ve discovered she has this just now too and her pond has only been recently filled with fresh water.

I guess my next questions are how do you stop this happening again after cleaning and refreshing the water and can this harm the birds that bathe and drink from it. Could the birds even have brought this in?

Finally, for everyone looking forward to the return of BBC2’s Springwatch tonight I hope you enjoy it. I’m looking forward to it myself especially as my garden has been short on nests to watch this year. Oh yes... and I'm very interested to hear about the Beavers :-)

This post was written by Shirley for

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Meconopsis Day, Branklyn Garden, Sunday 29th May

Windswept, lying on the ground, the elegant beauty of the Meconopsis caught my eye once again at Branklyn yesterday. It was down but it was definitely not out to me. Oops... I should add that there are plenty of Meconopsis still standing. This is a sheltered garden :-)

Having visited this garden before I was making a quick dash to a path that I knew was edged with this plant to get a couple of photos. I was short on time. This was the garden I first spotted the wonderful yellow Meconopsis that I have been enjoying in my garden.

A brief chat with head gardener, Steve McNamara was what I was hoping for on this visit. I recently discovered (through RHS Member booklet) that there was to be a Meconopsis Day and that Steve was doing a Garden Tour. For any Meconopsis fans that could travel to this garden I had to share this :-)

Branklyn Garden is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and, in my opinion, really is quite a little hidden gem of a garden! Back in 1922, Dorothy & John Renton bought a small area of Orchard, built a house and began a garden (which increased to two acres) for shelter and privacy. I’d say they achieved that very well indeed.

As visitors/commuters/residents of the local area pass along the main A85 road going in and out of Perth most probably have no idea of the quite different world that is above the high perimeter wall of the garden that edges the road.

Hands up, for many years, I passed the Brown Tourist signs for the Car Park for Branklyn Garden as I drove along the main road below it and never ventured up. It was only when we had membership for the NTS with our family that I discovered what a plants person’s paradise this garden is! Now with my RHS Membership giving me free visits to this garden I really should pop in more often :-)

This week has seen wonderful new plants at the 2011 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and medals for designers. However, back in 1954, Dorothy Renton herself was awarded an RHS medal! For her work introducing/cultivating new plants they awarded her the Veitch Memorial Medal.

Yep… expect a wonderful collection of plants at Branklyn… from all over the world. Oh... and I really should add that plant hunters such as Forrest, Ludlow and Sherriff helped the Rentons with their seed collections! That maybe paints a bigger picture of this garden now :-)

For gardener’s in Scotland next week is the main show here with Gardening Scotland at The Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June 2011. I’m looking forward to that! I’m delighted to have just discovered, Scotland too awarded Dorothy Renton a medal.

Back in 1960, the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society awarded Dorothy Renton the Scottish Horticultural Medal. Okay, I should add here that John Renton too had a hand in this plantsman’s garden ;-)

John Renton saw himself as the garden designer and his wife as the real gardener. Lol… whatever way it was seen and awarded, when it comes to the cultivation of rare and exciting plants both Dorothy and John Renton were regarded as foremost.

To this day, Branklyn still has the feel of a Private Garden with a wonderful collection of trees, plants and a trickle of winding paths through it with many features to discover. I’m not going to show any more photos this time. This is a garden to be visited and this time of year is my favourite time to visit :-)

Finally, before I add some details for the Meconopsis Day, the most exciting thing about this garden now is that the National Trust for Scotland are continuing with Dorothy and John Renton’s vision. Branklyn Garden will continue as a plantsman’s garden.

Gardeners of all levels and interest will be met with inspiring plants and planting/colour combinations. I’d like to add a Congrats to head gardener, Steve McNamara on recently receiving collection status for the Meconopsis. The garden has 5 species and 25 cultivars. Oh yes… and Branklyn also features national collections of Cassiope and Lilium :-)

This really is a garden to lose yourself in! Perhaps I better give some directions then :-)

Branklyn Garden is at 116 Dundee Road, Perth.

SAT NAV: Ordnance Survey Ref: OS Ref: NO125225
or postcode PH2 7BB.

Road: A85, over Queen’s Bridge, turn right and look for sign to car park on the left. From the N, via A90, follow signs to free car park in Fairmount Terrace. This is about 100yds walk from the garden entrance. The car park is well signposted from the Dundee Road (A85). I'd like to add that there is a small steep hill down from/back up to the free car park. There are limited disabled spaces at the garden entrance.

Bus: Stagecoach (No 16) stops 200 metres from garden

Train: Perth station, 25 minute walk

Cycling: can be accessed from nearby cycle trail, see route 77 Salmon Run Pitlochry – Dundee

On Meconopsis Day, Sunday May 28th, visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the grounds with head gardener and horticultural expert Steve McNamara. The tour begins at 14.00 and visitors will be invited to enjoy refreshments on the patio.

Just one final (important) thing to add… there are some plants for sale! I had my eye out for a trillium but didn’t spot any. Oh… but I did grab a quick chat with Steve before I left the garden yesterday. Lol… just after the very helpful lady at the small garden shop/plant sales tables at the entrance had gone planting hunting for me in the greenhouse! Yay… she came back with the last young trillium plant :-))

Enjoy your garden and visits over the weekend. If you do go to Branklyn tomorrow enjoy the feast of flowers out now. After my battery running out when I took the bright red poppy photo in the montage above I’d advise you take spare batteries for your camera and a notebook for plant names (or photograph plant labels as you go). You won’t be the only one capturing the beauty of this garden :-)

This post was written by Shirley for

Sunday, 15 May 2011

GBBD: And the colour of the Meconopsis is...

‘Mixed’ read the label on the young Meconopsis plants I picked up three years ago. Already being very fortunate in having the stunning Blue Poppy already happy in my garden I was hoping for red or yellow flowers.

Ungrateful gardener then when the first flowers were the colour so many would love to have… Blue! However, a second plant was producing a different cluster format of many more flower heads. I’ve had my fingers crossed and just a few days ago the first one opened… to yellow. I am quite delighted :-)

Meconopsis flowers.

Don’t you think that yellow is stunning? The only problem for the moment is that this flower is facing away from my window and I can only see it from my lawn pathway. It’s worth walking out for though. Now… I can’t wait to see how many flowers will open at the same time :-)

The montage above also shows it in its surroundings within the border with the new Blue. Funnily enough, these plants are a lot earlier to flower than my existing plants. They have kept in leaf throughout the winter too unlike my existing ones which die down.

The border above also shows some small species tulips along the lawn edge and the buds of Cirsium growing up through an obelisk which gives this plant support in the wind. Knowing how much the bees love the deep red thistle flowers of Cirsium I like to help them last as long as they can.

For those that don’t know GBBD is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. On the 15th of the month, Carol over at May Dreams Gardens invites all bloggers to share what is flowering or about to flower in our gardens. If you want to join in just head over to Carol’s post and leave a comment there then enjoy browsing gardens around the world.

May montage of flowers and buds.

Above you can see that in my Perthshire garden we have tulips just hanging in there (Carnival de Nice) and others going over (Princess Irene). We have one main Rhododendron left in flower and the bees have found it. Some Alliums are now open and many others are ready to follow.

The delicate flowers of Red Campion (which are pink) are beginning to open and soon they will grow tall too as will the Cirsium. My Wisteria looks like it might have a few flowers buds in the making but once again (as last year) I feel the winter cold has spoiled some flower buds and I will see fewer flowers again this year.

Clematis Miss Bateman on the other hand, is soon to open its flower buds and is gearing up to have the best show it has ever had. I think this might be more to do with my pruning though. Miss Bateman belongs to Group 2 for pruning and I think I should take a good look at exactly how I should prune this plant. I also think I’ll take cuttings again as they have been successful in the past.

Rather than go through many more montages and close-ups, this time I’d like to share some longer shots. This first one below is one of my favs at the moment. This is the top section of my Gunnera border that I’ve been working on recently.

You can see my Broom is flowering well just now and the wind blowing through the fence spreads is scent into the garden. You can also see there are two levels. The top area is now level and this will making trimming the corner end of the hedge much easier.

Top section of Gunnera Border. Clicking on images below will enlarge them.

Standing at main entrance of Gunnera border.
This area will change dramatically through summer.
Looking forward to Foxglove Milk Chocolate first flowers.

Behind Gate cool Ferns add drama for now.
Primroses, Cuckoo flower and Hellebores past.
Tiny blue flowers of Brunnera Jack Frost.

Front garden, Stipa gigantea will add drama and Nepata flowers
about to bring wonderful purple/blue here.
Also Red Campion flowers opening and Cirsium to come.

Wisteria bed with Alliums, Euphorbia, Red Campion,
Bluebell, Woodland Strawberry, Tulips in pot
(Queen of the night & Black Parrot) all in flower.

Pergola border with orange Geum, purple perennial wallflower
and Saxifraga London Pride in flower.
White Campanula bells and purple Aster flower buds.

So that’s it for May GBBD 2011. Just as the Drumstick Primula opposite has past its flowering time, I’m just a tad late in time to post this for the 15th here in the UK. HOwever, I’d still like to wish everyone a very Happy Bloom Day.

Now… can I keep my eyes open long enough to do some Bloom Day garden browsing? Perhaps it will be tomorrow now… but I’m looking forward to it :-)

This post was written by Shirley for

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

More food please… keep feeding the birds

Although we are into May and the snow and cold are almost a distant memory our garden birds need us to put out food more regularly now than ever. In reality… if they could ask themselves I’d say they’d request more please :-)

Pre blog I really thought it was just during the cold months they needed the extra food at our garden bird feeders and tables. However, after a few years of watching the garden I now know to expect to go through a lot more seed at this time of year when nesting is in full swing.

Photo through window. Birds move so quickly.

Yes, and I guessed Blackbirds would be the first to collect seed in beakfuls! I have seen at least two different males take advantage of the most popular food to go in my garden… sunflower hearts.

Having a fast growing, noisy crew back at the nest it isn’t surprising that Blackbirds (especially the males) can get quite aggressive over their finds of food. I tend to put out smaller amounts of food in a few new/different spots so there’s enough for everyone. Hope that helps :-)

Video shows seed beakfuls in action. Note second clip with bird still.
Guessing a Sparrowhawk was about. Gentle background music.

Just as the new arrivals of Blackbird juveniles arrive in the garden (where they will still demand to be fed for a little longer yet) I expect to see the Starlings going away with beakfuls of sunflower hearts for their even noisier crews back at their nests.

House Sparrows can’t be far off bringing their chicks to the feeders too. They will give them sunflower hearts too but I have seen them favour the other energy rich food of fatballs too. I’ve just spotted one looking at my cage for them.

I should probably put fresh fatballs out and mix up the arrangement of my feeders to spread the birds arriving at them out as that helps in periods of high demand! It also gives new birds passing by a new chance to see them too. However, the regular birds can need time to adapt to the new arrangement but I’ve a feeling they will do so very quickly just now.

Screen grab from video.

Also looking out just now I can see that it’s time to refill the ground feeders for today. Being honest, I’m looking forward to the arrival of the new 2011 Blackbird arrivals. I do have a soft spot for them. I wonder how long they will be in coming here.

Being equally honest… I can’t say I’ll be looking forward to the Starling arrivals. However, they can be quite entertaining to watch. Of all the parent birds that visit my garden, I’d award the Starlings the medal for effort in parenting and without a doubt they really need the extra food to help them with their chicks.

I’m guessing there are chicks already arriving in gardens in other parts of the country/world. Which ones are arriving in your garden just now and who would you give the parent medal to?

Finally, regular blog visitors might be wondering about a Blue tit diary for 2011. There isn’t yet a story to tell for this year but it doesn’t look likely. However, I have found with my gardenwatching for the last few years. It’s not over… until it’s over :-))

This post was written by Shirley for

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Hedgehog Awareness Week

The photo of the hedgehog dropping below may not be pretty but it’s my contribution for Hedgehog Awareness Week which The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is currently running until May 7th.

If you’d like to know if hedgehogs visit your garden and spot a dropping like the one above on a path, your lawn or in your borders then you have clear evidence that they pass through your garden.

I might suggest you put out food where you spot the droppings as I did with the sultanas but during dry spells I’d take a guess that hedgehogs will enjoy a dish with water even more. Our dry weather is due to break tomorrow so tonight I have food outside my feeding station to tempt passing hedghogs back to that area.

However, as yet, despite putting my night cam in a variety of positions in my garden I have yet to see any sightings of hedgehogs this year. I was thrilled to see the dropping above at the weekend! Now I know at least one has recently been here :-)

Sitting in the garden at dusk, especially on a warm dry evening, can be a good time to listen out for a hedgehog rustling through undergrowth and plants. You could easily hear a hedgehog eating too – they are noisy eaters.

I sat out on my arbour last night at the location of the dropping listening but alas nothing. Bats circling around the garden entertained me as I waited. I have noticed with hedgehog visits in previous years that they often follow a regular route so that’s something to look out for in your garden too.

Searching for info on the Hedgehog Awareness Week I stumbled across a BBC page with a few short videos. Of course I had to watch and share them :-) I loved the illustrated way they show how the hogs go around gardens.

Apologies, to visitors outside the UK if you are unable to view them. You can see a video with a hedgehog in an evening stroll around my garden in this past post.

The videos shown below are presented by Chris Packham and are part of a short BBC TWO Series The Animal’s Guide to Britain which examine Britain from an animal's point of view. Each week Chris encounters an elite group of five animals each of which senses the world in a very different way.

Tonight, BBC TWO 8pm, it is the turn of Woodland Animals and the Goshawk will feature with yours truely... the hedgehog. I’m guessing the footage below will feature in the programme. I didn’t realise when I posted this in the wee small hours last night that I hadn’t missed this programme. I’m delighted to update this post :-)

Next week (May 12th, 8pm) Chris looks at the grey seal and the Manx shearwater. I’m sure they will be interesting programmes too –just programmed them both record! I’m sorry I missed previous episodes now. I’d absolutely recommend this series to be a must watch :-D

My garden is in a tidy-up state at the moment so perhaps not favoured by hedgehogs in some areas. However, my ground covering plantings in other areas more than make up for it.

Tomorrow, the expected rain is going to be most welcome. Yes, the plants really could do with some refreshment. Mm… but the weeds that I’ve not pulled out will head skyward. Not so good.

My evening and weekend gardening, that has kept me away from the blogging world, has been more one of maintenance and repairs. With fine weather for so long, we were quick of the mark this year and have made good progress.

However, the race has been on the get the fence repairs done before Broom came into flower, Ferns unfurled and the plants put on too much growth… especially the Gunnera.

My Gunnera border has been well trampled but one side of our fence is looking fresh and new again at last. I’ve very thoroughly been removing one particular plant that became too invasive here.

Fresh gravel topped up the paths and the trellis is ¾ the way through its fresh staining too. I like the warm, dark brown with the shady woodland plants. There’s been much up and down ladders and I didn’t appreciate the attention from wasps to my paint pot at one point.

Ah… not getting out into the garden for a few days because it’s raining is not a bad prospect right now. We’ll get time to step back before we complete the last stages. Lol… then of course, it will be on to the next job… replacing some paving.

I’m delighted with the way the Gunnera border is taking shape and looking forward to seeing how it will be in full summer too. Although small, it’s my favourite area at the moment. I'll share it soon :-)

Although, I haven’t had the energy to blog late in the evening (as I usually do) last week I uploaded all but the last photo below. Now the alliums are opening, the tulips are out (loving Princes Irene, Carnival de Nice & pot of Queen of the Night/Black Parrot).

Meconopsis are still in different stages of growth and Clematis Miss Bateman has the most flower buds ever! The tiny vibrant orange Geum flowers are opening now too, Primroses are still in flower in the shade and the rhododendrons are looking great.

Last week the open delicate pink flushed flower above was the stunning cerise pink flower bud in the photos above it. Hard to believe :-)

This is my definitely my favourite time of the year for the garden… now all we need is hedgehog sightings. What are you enjoying in your garden just now?

This post was written by Shirley for