Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Garden update, June 2011

Increasing numbers of hedgehog droppings and begging juvenile birds on the lawn, cats hiding in explosions of foliage in borders... garden watching has been busy! On the gardening front… there has been much weeding, dividing and replanting of plants too.

New juvenile birds are being spotted (and heard) daily in the garden. Writing this earlier, I spotted a Great tit outside my window. Although, having had Blue tits use nest boxes in my garden (see 2010 Blue tit Diary) they will always be a favourite :-)

As you can see in the photo above my arbour has become a favourite sunny morning bird watching spot for neighbours' cats. How relaxed they look. I didn’t have the heart to chase them - this time :-)

We’ve had lots of juvenile Blackbirds, Starlings, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches. Counting the Goldfinches when they arrive with the parents (especially on a rainy day like today) can be tricky when they are so small and they land on plants around the feeders. However, I’d guess they take the top spot for now.

As for silly places for juveniles to explore, top spot goes to a couple of Blackbird juveniles (newly fledged I’d guess) that found themselves stuck and calling for food from my small greenhouse. Yes, the door was open a little but it doesn’t face a flight path the birds use and is tucked away in a corner with access that is limited even for me!

Needless to say, I spent some considerable time removing and re-adjusting items presently stored in my greenhouse to encourage them to leave. They did eventually and were seen later being fed by parents :-)

Feeding on Nepata Walker’s Low (Catmint) and Alliums a variety of bees have been spotted. I love to watch them busily make their way from flower to flower collecting pollen. I often stand with my camera but they don’t hang around for long. Butterfly sightings are a little more scarce at the moment but I expect the wet and windy weather is keeping them away.

Come wind, rain or shine – you can’t hold back the growth on plants at the moment! In one month the garden has changed quite dramatically. Catching the late evening sun last night was the new golden oat-like flowers of the ornamental grass Stipa gigantea emerging from stems that are reaching for the sky. Some staking is required here at the base to support the stems on windy days.

The wonderful pink dots of wildflower Red Campion attract a variety of insects. I guess not really seen as a front garden plant but I love it here. It is growing with another tall plant Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' which is a magnet for bees. However this planting is a bit too high to get photos. Oh yes... and below the Stipa (skirting the ground) is the Catmint shown with bees above :-)

Hugging around the base of a golden stemmed Bamboo in my shadier back garden is a wonderful display of Heuchera fully in flower. These tiny flowers also attract bees which I am delighted about as I love this plant and keep dividing the ones I have to give greater carpets of ground cover which lasts throughout the year. This is the last spot to get the evening sun in my garden and it always makes me smile to see it.

Also flowering in my garden at the moment, are a few dark Clematis and the wonderful (white with green markings) Miss Bateman. She has put on her best show ever this year! However, two years of hard, cold winters have taken their toll on my Wisteria and I’ve had few flowers there which is such a shame.

There are flowers on woodland Strawberries, Chives, Thyme, Alpine Asters, Celmisia , Campanula, Dianthus, variegated Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride) but most of all there are many, foliage plants and shades of green in my garden at the moment which I love.

Hidden among ferns behind my garden gate, almost out of sight, there is one absolute treasure of a flower that I am particularly enjoying just now – the common spotted orchid. It has only been in my garden a year but I moved it from my grass mound when it emerged this year as I felt in drier weather it might not be so happy there.

Unfortunately (but quite luckily) the small plant split in two when I dug it up. As there was root in both parts I planted them apart and wonderfully now I have two flower spikes this year! I’ve divided many plants over the years but this one was a very successful accident :-)

Update: Just spotted a post on wild orchids at Orchids, Nature and My Outdoor Life. I always enjoy seeing David’s posts on his walks with the wonderful scenery and plants he sees en route. Add to that he has orchids that have arrived in his garden all by themselves! Just brilliant :-) Perhaps you might want to see David’s latest orchid post too.

So that almost sums up the garden watching in my garden at the moment. I am still (slowly) working towards the point that I am able to put a liner down for my new wildlife pond. I probably won’t do this until September now as during August/September (weather depending) our Leylandii hedge will be getting its annual trim and I don’t want bits to blow down into the water.

Last time I mentioned a new nest in my garden and a bird that is new to me. It wasn’t until I took video footage that I was able to ID this bird. Lol… the swallow was a red herring that I’ll come back to next time! High above my front door under a roof eave we saw the start of a House Martin nest.

We had no idea if it would be completed with a number of birds seen flying back and forth between at least four houses beside ours. What a spectacle they made. Some evenings Swifts could be seen and heard flying with them too.

So did they finish their nest? Yes they did! They were pretty quick about it too and I captured some great video footage which I’ll share sometime soon. The nest is cup shaped with the entrance high to one corner so it’s difficult to see much going on. Rain has prevented further video footage to get a closer look. Oh… I should say that our neighbours also have nests too. At least five houses and some have two nests!

Now then, with House Martin eggs (usually 2-5) being incubated for 15 days and the image above taken on June 3rd it’s possible that in this nest of pellets of mud, lined with feathers and grass (collected in the air) made by both the male and female may have eggs inside at the moment. I wonder. Needless to say, there are no cams in this nest ;-)

I’m also wondering if this is a particularly good year for pairs of House Martins nesting. This is certainly the first time our street has seen so many. Interesting, has anyone else been seeing this too? Perhaps you’ve another new nest in your garden this year. Please do share in a comment below.

Now… I wonder if you’ve seen swallows recently… they really are a delight to watch ;-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Hedgehog Street & visits

What a great idea to ‘Gang up to make where you live hedgehog friendly.’ With numbers in decline, making small changes to our garden boundaries can create wildlife corridors that will benefit the birds and wildlife that visit our gardens.

Chatting to neighbours about this is a good place to start. It would be brilliant if we could quite literally turn things around for the hedgehog :-)

Screen grab from video below

Hedgehog Street was mentioned in the BBC Springwatch programme on Thursday and in a blog post. This morning I watched my recorded episode. Great timing then when the first video footage from my garden earlier this week is sitting (already uploaded to YouTube) waiting to be posted. This website looks an interesting read with lots of info.

Fortunately, for the hedgehog, I have long strips of hedge without any restricted access. However, a couple of years ago one of my boundary neighbours had a ‘garden make-over’ and replaced an old fence that I’m guessing had gaps. Since then, I can confirm I have had less/almost no sightings of hedgehogs in my garden. I guess this stopped a route to my garden where food was available.

If it got enough support, I could see that Hedgehog Street (which is a new collaboration between the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People's Trust for Endangered Species, funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund) has a realistic chance of making a difference for the hedgehog’s survival. I hope so :-)

As you can imagine, after waiting some time, I was thrilled to finally see our first Hedgehog visitor for the year on May 30th & 31st. As regular blog visitors will know droppings have been seen in the garden which gave me a clue that they were around. With the second dropping I spotted being outside my window I knew I had a chance of getting some colour video footage.

So… come dusk, sultanas, unsalted peanuts and water was put out. The night cam was set to watch the area and I was set ready for a quiet, quick run to switch on the outside light. At the window, my video camera was charged, lens cover open, on the tripod, focused on the food and waiting to record! I did this for a few nights.

LOL… like on all occasions like this when you think everything is covered… expect the unexpected! Well, I guess it wasn’t that unexpected really. When the hedgehog in the video footage below arrived and the outside light went on (which doesn’t disturb it) there were three other sets of eyes watching the direction of the hedgehog.

Our family of guinea pigs were running around now excitedly too. To them, the light on might mean I was coming out and maybe grass was on the menu! It was around 11:30pm so they were out of luck there.

Eventually I was out of luck with the first clip in my video too as the hedgehog (after eating) waited still for some time for the noise of the excited guinea pigs to go down. It then walked towards the hutch and round the side of it and out into the night again.

The second clip in my video was taken the next night and a marking on the hog tell me it was the same one which is great news. It also told me why some stones have been moving around my pond edge as this hedgehog walks on to the first reservoir of water for my pump running. I’ll have to make alterations there :-)

Note gentle background music with this video.

Yep… timed well for Springwatch, we too have some wonderful wildlife to watch again in the garden. Yay! We have been watching some unexpected nest building from a bird not mentioned in my garden before too. The video has been running – fascinating stuff!

Sorry, in true Springwatching fashion I’ll just tease you with that as I need to sort my footage out for this and collect some info. I just wanted to quickly post today after John at Midmarsh Jottings reminded me about the RSPB Make Your Nature Count which is running from now until 12 June. The RSPB say:

“find out how garden birds are doing. We’re also keen to know if you've seen other animals including badgers, bats, snakes or frogs.

The survey is quick and fun to do. Don't forget to submit your results! We’ll use them to build an important snapshot of summer wildlife in UK gardens. We’ll find out which species are thriving and which might need our help.”

Thanks for that John, I missed this with other stuff that has got my attention at the moment. I’ll tease you a little there too… it does involve the RSPB and Springwatch… but it doesn’t involve the BBC :-)

Wishing you a great weekend of wildlife watching. Mmm… I wonder if you’ll see any swallows :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Gardening Scotland 2011, June 3-5

Photos below of the ‘Best in Show’ Garden at Gardening Scotland taken last year suggest Garden Shows are just for Gardeners. However, just as there is variety in blooms at a show there is also a variety of exhibitors. There are often play areas for children too so they can be a family day out.

Yes, there are usually floral halls or marques with plant groups and nurseries but there are usually food stalls and demonstrations there too and not all are local either.

However, from experience, if you are a gardener going armed with a notebook, camera and children it’s good to have another adult with you to reduce restlessness in the troops ;-)

Looking back to images from a visit to Gardening Scotland 2009 you can see there are some fun things to catch the attention of people of all ages. However, for the gardener that is going for inspiration there is much to be found at a Garden Show.

‘Reinforcing Nature’ was the Gardening Scotland 2011 Gold Medal & Best in Show. Carolyn Grohmann of Secret Gardens was the garden designer and it was built by Water Gems. I loved this garden. It was my favourite and getting close to take photos was a tad tricky. I could looked at this garden for ages. Let’s walk around it…

I loved the planting, use of materials, shapes, rhythm and that cave style seating area on water with wildflowers overhead. Oh yes… and I loved the structure going through the water too. Can you just imagine this with a sunset and the fire pit glowing… wonderful :-)

Looking for information on this garden, a year on, my searching took me to Carolyn’s website:

“Sam Lowndes of Water Gems formulated the intricate and sensitive design of the garden last autumn. It then took five months to prepare the four and a half tonne Rebar structure which had to be craned onto an articulated lorry and escorted to the showground by police outriders.”

Like me, I’m sure other Gardeners will be very interested in more details of the planting companions:

“The use of a biodiverse wildflower matting in the garden was complimented by drifts of Stipa tenuifolia, Astrantia major Ruby, Ranunculus aconitum ‘Pleniflorus’ and Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’. Rodgersia pinnata ‘Superba’ combined with Carex buchananii, testacea and comans ‘Bronze’ to mimic the colours of the Rebar while one of the most popular borders of the garden contained a dreamy mix of Paeonia Claire de Lune, Sanguisorba and Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’. The excellent quality of the plants themselves was down to the skill and experience of fellow exhibitor, Billy Caruthers of Binny Plants, who supplied the plants.”

I’d like to add that Binny Plants really has a wonderful selection of plants if you are able to visit the nursery. It’s been a while since I’ve been there but I’ve nice memories of visits when my daughters were younger. Owner, Billy is very chatty and knowledgeable. Alternatively, you can also buy plants from Binny online.

“Carolyn explains, ‘I used the wildflower matting to problem-solve some of the trickier surfaces in the garden and then selected the cultivated plants to mimic the wildflower effect. Overall, though, it was the meticulous attention to detail and a true sense of team spirit which made this show garden so particularly special.’”

I’m looking forward to my visit to Gardening Scotland 2011 and wish you a good visit if you are going. You can find travel details here. I’m also looking forward to a particular Springwatch event at the weekend - this will be a first for me! Perhaps I should be giving this a mention now but all will be revealed – after the event :-)


If you’d like to view like some live cams
on nature here in the UK the cams on BBC Springwatch (that is running on BBC2 at present and for the next three weeks) you can. It appears that the tech guys have made it so! You’ll find a picture link at the top of my blog sidebar but if you are reading this from a reader then go here. The live cams run daily from 4am-Midnight UK time. Enjoy :-)

Next time… some Springwatch from my garden :-)

This post was written by Shirley for