Friday, 29 July 2011

Top 10 UK Garden Birds 2011

Results for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for 2011 were published back in March. The graphic way the RSPB have chosen to illustrate and compare the stats makes it a good read too. You can get the full PDF list here. Although a tad late, perhaps this is a good time to be posting this :-)

Since writing this garden, bird and wildlife blog I have taken part with a count. On posting the results each year, I now have stats for the last five years of this survey which you can see below. I’ve always found the comparisons interesting and perhaps you might too. But first, do you feed birds during the summer months?

Since March our garden birds have paired up, nested and brought their young to our gardens. Back in January, everyone was being encouraged to put up bird feeders prior to the count - held annually on the last weekend of January.

Now, with us in full summer (although it doesn’t always feel like it) leaves on trees and shrubs can make seeing the birds visiting our gardens a bit more tricky. In reality many parent birds will be hiding their bedraggled look of worn feathers at the moment.

However, birds are still visiting our gardens and will definitely appreciate food at bird feeders during this time of year too to get them back to full health again. Some birds do have more than one brood too.

Feeding young is tiring work for the parent birds and if food at feeders is not suitable to take back to their young than it certainly will fuel these hard working parents so they can find some.

I’d take a guess that our summer bird feeders do contribute greatly to numbers of garden birds in counts for the RSPB and in other surveys. If yours is packed away in the shed until winter, do consider getting it out again :-)

I have mentioned this before, but pre blog I really didn't think birds needed feeders during the summer. I was wrong.

Since continuing to feed the birds in my garden throughout the whole year I have definitely had the reward in seeing an increase in birds and species to my small garden. There's also the bonus of seeing so many newly fledged birds which is both a delight and fun to see.

Okay... to the stats! In summary first, during the last 5 years the Top Ten garden birds counted for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has had the same nine birds with 10th place seeing the most changes. So this is how the 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch went…

Top 10 Garden Birds 2011

1. HOUSE SPARROW with an average of 4.16 per garden
2010 – (1) with 3.77 per garden
2009 – (1) with 3.70 per garden
2008 – (1) with 3.60 per garden
2007 – (1) with 4.40 per garden

2. STARLING with an average of 3.91 per garden
2010 – (3) with 3.13 per garden
2009 – (2) with 3.21 per garden
2008 – (2) with 3.44 per garden
2007 – (2) with 3.67 per garden

3. BLACKBIRD with an average of 3.27 per garden
2010 – (2) with 3.28 per garden
2009 – (3) with 2.84 per garden
2008 – (3) with 2.45 per garden
2007 – (4) with 2.26 per garden

4. BLUE TIT with an average of 3.16 per garden
2010 – (4) with 2.58 per garden
2009 – (4) with 2.45 per garden
2008 – (4) with 2.29 per garden
2007 – (3) with 2.82 per garden

5. CHAFFINCH with an average of 2.35 per garden
2010 – (5) with 2.19 per garden
2009 – (5) with 2.01 per garden
2008 – (5) with 2.15 per garden
2007 – (5) with 1.9 per garden

6. WOODPIGEON with an average of 1.93 per garden
2010 – (6) with 1.91 per garden
2009 – (6) with 1.85 per garden
2008 – (6) with 1.53 per garden
2007 – (7) with 1.53 per garden

7. GREAT TIT with an average of 1.56 per garden
2010 – (8) with 1.39 per garden
2009 – (8) with 1.40 per garden
2008 – (9) with 1.25 per garden
2007 – (8) with 1.37 per garden

8. GOLDFINCH with an average of 1.51 per garden
2010 – (10) Goldfinch with 1.29 per garden
2009 – (10) Long-tailed tit with 1.34 per garden
2008 – (10) Goldfinch with 1.16 per garden
2007 – (10) Greenfinch with 1.20 per garden

9. ROBIN with an average of 1.46 per garden
2010 – (7) with 1.49 per garden
2009 – (9) with 1.36 per garden
2008 – (8) with 1.26 per garden
2007 – (9) with 1.26 per garden

10. COLLARED DOVE with an average of 1.34 per garden
2010 – (9) with 1.33 per garden
2009 – (7) with 1.44 per garden
2008 – (7) with 1.43 per garden
2007 – (6) with 1.56 per garden

It’s great to see the House Sparrow give a good increase in numbers this year. You can see from my stats above that this bird is creeping up towards numbers back in 2007 which is brilliant news for a bird that is on the endangered list.

The House Sparrow has continued as top bird seen in UK gardens. In fact the top six species of birds seen in UK gardens this year has remained unchanged except for a swap around with the Starlings and Blackbirds for 2nd & 3rd place.

Starlings, another species on the endangered list, have returned to their 2nd place slot which they have held for 4 out of the last five years. However, once again the really good news is that their slowly decreasing numbers over the last four has seen a significant increase this year!

Starlings have actually shown a bigger increase in numbers for 2011 than the house Sparrows… aiming for top spot for 2012 maybe?

Sadly, this year we didn’t get any Blue tits nesting in our boxes with cameras. That was a shame, especially when I was testing out a new one for someone. Although on the positive side we have seen a young family arrive at the feeders and now see them regularly.

Wonderfully, last year we saw our first brood of Blue tits survive (via nestcam box see diary with pics and video here) so I’m particularly thrilled to see a good increase in numbers of Blue tits this year despite them holding on to the same 4th spot that they have held for four consecutive years now.

As you have seen, I have chosen to illustrate my list to show where a bird has been placed over the last five years. Perhaps I should explain what’s going on with the Goldfinch entry – it’s all about 10th place which wonderfully for the Goldfinch it is no longer in :-)

The Goldfinch has charmed its way up to 8th place this year! It has been outside the Top Ten for two of the last five years and taken 10th spot in the other two years. I have added who took 10th spot for the years it didn’t make the Top Ten. Sorry, if this has been confusing.

My garden has seen many Goldfinches visit this year and throughout the winter. One brood of young has come and gone at feeders with many becoming regular visitors. I’m pretty sure more than one family has visited too. I am expecting more new broods to come so it is no surprise to me at all that this bird has moved up in the stats.

Jumping back up to 5th place in the 2011 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and we have the consistent Chaffinch which has held 5th place for the past 5 years. That’s its UK place, but here in my part of Scotland it takes top spot again. That doesn’t surprise me either based on my garden visitors.

I’ll not go through all species in the list above but will end with 10th place and a mention of the Collared Dove. Although it has only dropped from 9th spot last year back in 2007 it was in 6th place so it’s maybe one to keep an eye on.

The date is already set for the 2012 Big Garden Birdwatch as Saturday 28th/Sunday 29th January. Until then… enjoy feeding and watching the birds that visit your garden :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The bag lady

That’s what I am just now… are you a bag person too? Do little brown envelopes await filling with seeds collected from your garden just now? I, (and others I’m sure) would love to hear about your seed collection & storage system if you’d like to share it in a comment :-)

Perhaps you sow seeds fresh… which plants do you find the most success with?

Hands up… yes, I am a filler of little brown envelopes with seeds from my garden. Being really truthful, I also find myself quite OTT with my collecting once I start!

Oh yes… I do know I’ll not likely sow all the seeds I collect but find myself relishing what I can collect. Relishing, what my garden has given me back for free too :-)

Mm… I also know some seeds won’t be viable… but I keep them all anyway. I’d take a guess that I’m not alone there either. Mm… maybe I should look into tests for seed viability. Perhaps I should consider seed exchanges too :-D

Oops… and I am partial to buying seeds when I see an offer too… 50% off and I’m picking up seeds as maybes. Lol… I like the thrill of what I could grow. A hopeless case I am, I know… I hear you laughing… does this sound familiar to anyone?

Okay... although I do love my little brown envelopes for storing seeds I came across a blog last year on seeds being stored in spice jars by fer at my little Garden in Japan. It’s great that through comments we discover new blogs/bloggers isn’t it?

Anyway, I thought this a brilliant idea… you could see the seeds in all their different shapes, colour and types. I liked that idea a lot too. fer kept hers in a picnic style basket which you can see in her post. Do take a look :-)

Coming back to those home packed little brown envelopes of seed… you have to be careful where you store them. A dry place is essential. Keeping the sealed envelopes in a tin or plastic container is worth considering too but only if your seeds are completely dry. I wish I had.

Last winter, prolonged snow on my shed roof made its way into my shed and to the slim cardboard box my seeds were kept in. A big mistake on my part… but I liked this box, there was sentiment behind it. So… the box got soggy… and so did my envelopes. Seeds lost :-(

Coming back to the bags for collecting larger seed heads that need to dry before releasing their seeds (like alliums) what kinds do you use? I tend to use completely paper but they are not always easy to find in shops I know. Where do you find your bags?

In response to the comment in my last post: “Okay, million dollar question! Where did you get the paper bags for the seeds?” asked by fellow Scottish blogger Janet, I got mine in a small stationary/print shop in the City of Perth. Danscot is at 6-8 Kinnoull Street, Perth although they also have a larger trade unit at the North Muirton Ind Estate.

In previous years I have picked up standard brown and white paper bags at this city centre shop. However, earlier this week, I was delighted to find bags with handles which will be much easier to hang up and out of the way while the seeds dry out. Bought singly at just 10p per bag I thought it a bargain too! I was also pleased with my little brown envelopes (sold as wages envelopes) at £1.25 for 50 :-)

Now… I’m all set for a dry day or two of seed collecting… are you?

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

July garden work, Blooms & Butterflies

Blooms, we have a few. Butterflies, sadly we’ve seen fewer. Rain, well that’s a plenty and not exactly helping progress in the garden and butterfly visits in a count for the big butterfly count going on here in the UK at the moment.

Clematis Picardy & Niobe are adding a wonderful depth of colour in some areas of the garden. It is especially appreciated in an area under construction at our back door where a paving ‘move around’ has been necessary after winter damage.

Replacing all paving would be wonderful but quite costly so we are opting for (twice the work) lifting paving that matches in age from under the pergola. We will replace that with new ‘more of the same’ paving which will brighten that area. At present both areas are quite muddy with covers coming on and off to try and make some progress.

We also made a decision to remove an arch that is no longer in the right place due to different use in this area. Ah… have memories of our daughters on their small bikes riding through it when they were little. That was pre wheelie bins and guinea pig hutch of course. Clematis Miss Bateman is waiting a new location as she had to be removed too.

We have taken this opportunity to expand (just slightly) this area which will ease access to shed etc during winter. That’s’ the plan anyway. Re possible new arch and home for Miss Bateman, we will decide on that when the paving is completed. Perhaps a tall metal obelisk would work better.

During some rainy spells I’ve taken the opportunity to clean pots and trays in my greenhouse. I’ve plans for seed sowing and taking cuttings there soon. With the arch away the eye is drawn to the greenhouse so it’s time to tidy up and have a bit of a re-org there too.

For Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, I did try to get out with both video camera and still camera to capture the blooms we do have but rain/wind in the times I could get out didn’t make it possible. When I finally could get out many were a tad worse for wear. The plants above caught my eye.

My July Bloom Day flowers included (front garden) Catmint, Borage, Heuchera, Knautia, Cranesbill Geranium, Stipa Gigantea, Hemerocallis, Rose, Red Campion, Cirsium (going over to seed) and seed heads of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ & ‘Christophii’.

My July Bloom Day flowers from my shadier back garden included Marsh Orchid, Thyme, Heuchera, Wisteria (odd ones), Campanula, Borage, Red Campion, Cranesbill Geraniums, Cone flower, Perennial Wallflower ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, Honeysuckle, Yellow Meconopsis (further down stem) and a few others that I need to find names for.

Fav flowers at the moment are red campion and heuchera. I love to watch the bees feeding on the tiny heuchera flowers and was thrilled to finally get a photo (see first montage). I'm loving the heuchera foliage just now. Oh… and there’s a special new rhododendron with its first flowers… Rh. SANGUINEUM spp DIDYMUM. I love it!

I have also loved my yellow Meconopsis and I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of collecting seed from it and sowing it. I plan to sow some fresh and keep the rest. So…yesterday I went shopping for paper bags.

I was looking for paper bags big enough to also store allium seed heads until they dry and let go their seeds. I also picked up tiny brown envelopes to store the seed in too. I found myself wandering around the garden later (like a child in a sweet shop) with a pair of scissors cutting the dry capsules from Red Campion and the allium seed heads that had fallen.

Finally on the flowers… it’s just July but September is charming us already! The Anemone ‘September Charm’ had its first flower of the year on July 17th. Today I can see another two about to open. I do love the Japanese Anemones. I’m wondering if this is a tad early for them to flower.

Finally to the butterflies, I am delighted to say I’ve seen a small tortoiseshell butterfly in my garden. It spent quite a while feeding on my perennial wallflower, resting in the sunshine on leaves of a shrub before returning. It was a little difficult to get photos and video but I’m delighted with my captures. I have also been thrilled to see so many bees visiting my garden this year :-)

Unfortunately wet and windy weather doesn’t help butterflies as few sightings then suggest. I’ll wait for a dry sunny day for my 15 minute count. I tried to help further by setting up a feeding station beside the flowers that were popular. I made up a nectar solution and placed sliced banana out too but, as yet, no sightings. I’ll keep trying :-)

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

Friday, 15 July 2011

What’s wriggling in my pond?

Could it be mosquito larvae? Can you help ID the larvae in the screen photo or video below? They were absolutely tiny and were seen floating and wriggling just under the pond’s surface last night. They also appeared to be almost snorkelling which might suggest they were mosquito larvae.

It was suggested to me by blogger Victoria (Victoria’s Backyard) on twitter last night that if so the species likely to be seen in Scotland would be Culiseta morsitans or Culiseta annulata.

Victoria also added they could be midge larvae if I saw any red ones. I had been looking for that. I could see no red in the larvae. She asked if I had frogs or fish as they could eat them. To that my reply was sadly no.

A non-stop sprinkling of water on the surface of my pond could prevent female mosquitos from laying more eggs in my pond was another helpful suggestion by Victoria. This sprinkling of water could also prevent the hatching larvae to pause on the surface for their wings to dry too. I didn't know they did that.

I never considered that more eggs and larvae could be added to the large number seen in my pond already! However, I have been wondering why bats have been flying quite so close to my window during this last week!

Interesting info from Victoria indeed - especially as my pond pump hasn’t run at all this year. It’s faulty and we haven’t worked out what the problem is yet. A job to move up the list for this weekend then ;-)

Worrying for me (kitchen window nearby) and the guinea pigs in hutch nearby too, some larvae were seen diving as you will see in my video suggesting they all might do this soon. Mm… I slept on the problem ;-)

A quick fishing trip was my short term and immediate response this morning. Should I really have done this before breakfast though… no surprises… the answer is no.

In the absence of frogs and fish to control the high number of larvae in my tiny pond I considered that perhaps ground, insect feeding birds like Dunnocks or Wrens would fancy a tiny bite or two.

With my net I scooped along the surface area of my pond as a start. I left the contents of my net on paving nearby so other pond creatures could crawl back in my pond. I then repeated this deeper in the pond and repeated the whole fishing trip half an hour later… after my breakfast!

The bird 'breakfast buffet' did get a few more ingredients to attract as many birds as possible to it. My mosquito muesli had a sprinkling of sunflower hearts, fine breadcrumbs (so birds would search more) and the secret ingredient… grated cheese (left-overs from last night’s salad). Blackbirds were there instantly running away with cheese :-)

Tonight’s watch will be on the night cam then… for local pipistrelle bats hunting female mosquitos in my tiny pond! I’m not expecting to catch ‘the catch’ but I might see something albeit a bit blurred :-)

For all my fellow garden blogger’s today (being the 15th of the month) is Bloom Day with Carol over at May Dreams Gardens. You’ll get much nicer photos over there as everyone shares what’s flowering in their garden today.

I think to re address the video balance I should video my flowers today. I’ll be back… with pretty pictures later. Meantime, you might like to catch the Open Garden tour in my last post. Enjoy your weekend and Happy GBBD everyone :-)

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

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Open Gardens: Montrose

Sat Nav was set to the Town Nursing Home. The familiar yellow Open Garden banner along the outside wall told us our man ‘Tom’ had successfully got us to the ticket buying/map collection point. We could see many others had just arrived too and the buzz of a town with Open Gardens could be sensed before we even parked the car.

Purely by chance and very fortunate timing we were in Montrose. We had just returned from holiday the night before and catching up on recorded gardening programmes with Breakfast last Sunday morning I got a bit of a surprise!

Scotland’s gardening programme Beechgrove Garden featured one of the gardens that would be open. I liked this garden a lot, but that wasn’t the real reason I quickly made up a picnic and woke my daughter to see if she’d like to come with me :-)

Ticket/Map bought from the friendly ladies sitting at their table in the sunshine, we could hear music playing from a marquee. They were playing for the visitors enjoying the teas. Not taking a drink with me, the plan was to get a coffee here first… mmm… and some home baking too :-)

It’s been some time since I’ve added a coffee cup warning for a chatty post but perhaps you might want to pour yourself a cuppa :-)

The Nursing Home had opened its gardens too. I have to say I thought it was lovely to see some of the residents enjoying the sunshine, music and the extra buzz of people.

Okay, browsing my map over coffee we had a planned route. I knew where the garden that I wanted to visit was so we were sorted there. Off we went... although initially in the wrong direction. Fortunately a local resident told us this and give us a few pointers. We met others and told them too :-)

Personally, I think the great thing about Open Gardens is the wealth of ideas and inspiration to be found there. For new/first time gardeners I would suggest they are better than Garden Shows especially if you are new to an area. The Open Gardens show you what will grow in that location which will generally save on losses of plants not hardy in the area.

As is often the case, unfortunately we didn’t manage to get round all the gardens open this day. I do have a pang of guilt when I don’t get to the ones a bit further out as was the case here. Having been in that position myself (a few years ago) I know how disappointing it is when visitors don’t reach you. My apologies now to the gardens of Hillside that we missed.

I’m guessing a deliberate move by the organisers not to give descriptions for the gardens on the maps ensured that all gardens would get visitors and all visitors would get a surprise on the style of garden they entered. I’d say that worked.

However, for my post I am concentrating on the garden that took us to Montrose this day. I should add that I asked permission to take photos at this garden. I recognised the owner from the television programme… oh yes… and her name from somewhere else ;-)

Let me take you on a town garden tour… to a long thin garden plot with a path to a vegetable/kitchen garden at the end. There’s a wall along one side, fencing on the other. Oh… and there’s a shed in the back corner. Mm… that doesn’t sound that inspirational though does it? Let’s take a closer look…

Yes, there were bold flowers like poppies in this garden. There were also delicate flowers and a wealth of wonderful foliage. Of course, being a foliage fan I was happy ;-)

Yes, the kitchen garden was hidden at the back of the garden but what a delightful area this was. It definitely didn’t need to be hidden. A productive space with healthy neat herbs, vegetables and fruit this area had a lot of attention from visitors reducing my photo opportunities.

On entering the kitchen garden through an open gate on the right, a quick scan around left to right clocked the tall fennel, full working greenhouse (I say that with envy as mine is being temporarily used for storage at the moment) and a main rectangular bed with veggies up the centre (width wise).

A grey garden shed in the back right corner was facing the gate/entrance. Dull corner? Oh yes… and there were spiders webs too… honestly… no dusting done for visitors then?

Lol… I smiled broadly to see the bug house tucked in the corner under the shed roof with webs covering part of it… spiders in residence then? What a brilliant place to put an insect house! Location, location, location :-)

A green shed roof had everyone smiling. It also had me suffering a little (green) envy once again as this is something I have toyed with myself. From the views I was able to get from the ground this was a very successful planting too. Mm… this is back on the list for possible garden projects :-)

Fishing creels (guessing to protect the young plants underneath) drew my eye right along to the back path to the left hand border. Fruit was trained up the back and side fences and seen in a small fruit cage. Lilies were flowering in a corner, grey paddle stones with young box hedging were growing in patterns under a tree (maybe apple?).

The creels, insect houses and a shiny, scarlet red garden seat facing the gate (which I missed when my eye was drawn to the smaller detail of webs on a bug box) show the gardeners here don’t lack imagination and flare for detail. Sorry, Gardening Scotland, something I felt missing from your show gardens and floral marquee displays this year.

Yes, from the minute we walked into this town back garden, the creativeness and skill of the gardeners behind it sang out! Admittedly, I had an idea of the plants, layout and scale but often photos or television views leave us disappointed when you visit a garden for real. Not in this case though!

A quick question... how many times have you heard gardening programmes suggest breaking up a long garden with a zig-zag path and placing plants so you don’t see the garden all at once? This garden executed that idea… and some.

Being absolutely genuine here, in my opinion, at a garden show this garden would take a gold medal and best in show. Again sorry to say, Gardening Scotland, this garden is way better than your show gardens this year. I was quite disappointed with them.

Let’s continue our tour by taking a walk through the kitchen garden gate and on to a slightly raised, decked walkway that zigzags to the back of the house and where we entered the garden…

The scale and planting combinations of this this garden absolutely captured and delighted me. At a glance the mass tapestry of beautiful planting wows you but even in darker smaller corners the planting sings out. Expect to stop a few times en route ;-)

The feet just showing (bottom right) in the photo above, show my daughter taking a stop while I’m taking photos. She is sitting on a bench seat to a wonderful, heavily styled dining table that is under a fabric sail canopy.

What a wonderful place to sit, relax and entertain. I can imagine this being well used. A tree fern takes main stage in the small corner of shady plants behind the table. I had one of these once upon a time until I decided one winter I'd try and harden it up by giving it less protection... bad idea!

I didn’t manage to get a photo without people sitting or looking here. This area is completely hidden from view from the back of the house. You can get a sense of the number of plants in this view.

Above, one of the path-side views that stopped me in my tracks had me going a tad green also. I absolutely loved the tiny white flowers of the sea kale, Crambe, against the white bark of the birch trees. Oops… thinking about this I’m a tad green on the birch trees too… that’s something I’d love to have a group planting of too.

Crambe, I did have in my garden at one time. It never really performed well enough where I had it and I was never lucky enough to see the wonderful frothy flowers like this. Guessing not enough sun was my problem, and perhaps the fact that I moved it around my garden.

On the positive side I successfully took root cuttings. On the negative side something found the leaves tasty and I was left with ugly spiders webs of leaves. My plants were shown the garden gate… and live in another garden now :-)

So, above, waist height in front of me here was a froth of flowers with Crambe and Astrantia as a backing choir to the large, dark poppy flowers. My eye was drawn to the colour detail here of the pink edges in the Astrantia echoing the poppies. I also loved the blue/green tall foliage here which was in strong contrast to the planting on the other side of the path...

Taking a closer look at the planting at my feet now, I smiled to see a Tiarella planted with Heucheras. Being a Heuchera fan, this year the Tiarella has caught my eye in garden centres. I fancy adding it to my garden especially when I have so many shady areas. I see it can be propagated by division just like the heuchera... excellent!

I also smiled at the almost hidden water feature with water gently flowing over a steel/mirror orb. I am certain there were many more details that I and others may have missed in this garden. Let’s take a longer view…

Above, we can get a feel of height and scale with another tree and a visitor taking a closer look at another water feature that all visitors were enjoying…

Wonderful ripples of water ran down a steel/mirror vertical slab which also reflected the purple/blue flowers that skirted around and in front of it. I thought it a great touch to use a blue flower here as if to continue water into the planting area. Maybe that wasn't the plan but that's the way my eye saw it and shows a garden is no different than a piece of art when it comes to intepretation.

Meanwhile, above on the other side of the path, a bit more subtle but just as inspiring a beautiful deep red/orange peeling bark on the tree growing through the Heucheras tied them together. Lovely detail there especially with the sun backlighting the bark ribbons just as Heuchera leaves can be lit with sun too. Nice touch :-)

Let’s change direction now and look at a couple of planting combinations at the beginning of the zigzag path…

Did you spot the sculpture in the 2nd photo above? Once again a hidden treasure and a wonderful colour too. I do believe there were others that matched in colour and style in other parts of the garden.

As I said earlier, there were so many details to this inspiring garden… many just took a closer look to find them. I like that about a garden and try that a little in mine too :-)

I admired these plantings as I waited for an opportunity to chat to the lady behind this garden. Yep… I was now converted to bringing back some poppies in my garden for next year. Also after much chat about adding Astrantia every Spring for the last few years it must happen now!

Oh… and those unusual blue flowering stems of Cerenthe… perhaps it’s time to look at what conditions they like. Yep… visits to Open Gardens also give reminders of what plants we have loved, lost and would love to have again as well as new ones to add to our gardens :-)

So, it was a glorious day all round, the sun was shining and I was wearing a hat especially for the occasion! There was a reason for this ;-)

Once the lady of the garden was free to chat, I tilted my hat quite squint to the one side… “Hello there, Janet” I said with a big smile.” I’ve worn a hat especially for you today”. With that Janet smiled broadly back… telling her husband who I was. Wait a minute though, we had never met…

Ah… remember when your cuppa was warm at the beginning of this post and I said that I got a surprise when watching the garden shown on the television programme. It wasn’t the garden that I was surprised at but the lady showing the presenter around… I thought I’d recognised her from a photo.

A quick rewind on the programme and I caught her name and then I was sure… Janet is a blogger I know!! Her garden was open and I could get an opportunity to see it and meet her too. I left her a comment on her blog suggesting I might come :-)

We had a nice chat, but knowing it wasn’t fair to keep her to myself when others wanted to chat to her too I smiled broadly, before asking the big question… can I take photos and blog on my visit?

Her husband turned to her and laughed suggesting this would be fun to see her and her garden as subject for a post. I looked to her tilting my hat again to persuade her a little ;-)

Poor Janet has waited a week for me to get time to do my visit to her garden justice. The anxious wait now will be at my end as I await her response to my post.

I do hope you and she has enjoyed my lengthy chat and photos of her garden and that others will read all the way to the end of this post to find out this was a Scottish Bloggers meet too :-)

In all honesty, I’ve not ‘bigged’ this garden up as Janet is a blogger. I really did enjoy her garden immensely and it is so nice to have a real face behind any comments/mail we exchange from now on. Janet blogs at Planticru notes if anyone wants to pop by to virtually visit her her to chat about her garden :-)

Oh... wait a minute, here's a late update... I've just disovered that another blogger, Hanni at Sweet Bean Gardening, has posted a before and after post on Janet's garden. Very interesting. I enjoyed seeing these photos and hearing a bit about the progress :-)

Would you believe it... I'm now adding a second update! I've now discovered a post with photos of the transition of Janet's garden on her blog. Great stuff. I love to see these sort of photos. Take a look here :-)

That’s me all chatted out now… phew… I hear you say! Spookily I am posting this at the time we arrived in Montrose last Sunday all set to see this garden! Enjoy your day :-)

This post was written by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch in July 2011.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

July: Butterfly count & Parks week

Butterfly visits have been a bit on short supply in my garden this year so far. I’ve heard others mention this too. However, bring on a few warm, windless days in July and fingers crossed they will start to appear - although the short-term forecast isn't too promising.

If you have been enjoying butterfly visits to your garden or seen them when you’ve been out and about please do share them in a comment. We’d all love to hear about them :-)

Here in the UK, Butterfly Conservation would love to hear about any sightings you see for their 2nd big butterfly count that’s running this month - 16th-31st July 2011. 15 mins is all it takes and you can get details on their website. I hope I manage a count this year.

Interestingly enough, last night as I mowed our lawn I disturbed a number of small moths and what looked like a small heath butterfly in grass I am allowing to grow uncut on a mound I built last year. What a surprise I got there!

I’ve never seen that butterfly in my garden before. I didn’t get any photos for a proper ID as it was about to rain and after being on holiday I wanted to get the grass cut again.This year we didn’t use too much on carbon footprints for our holiday choosing to stay in Scotland.

We headed to the West coast where we enjoyed a great location which overlooked a river. I found myself doing a river watch with a couple of ID mysteries. One in particular, had me stumped for over an hour in a bookshop! I finally used my phone to send my query to a bird forum where I got my ID based on a description only. Video and stories to follow soon :-)

Emails on my return included one on the Love Parks Week which is organised by GreenSpace and is a registered charity which works to improve parks and green spaces by raising awareness, involving communities and creating skilled professionals.

Being honest, I don’t suppose I consider parks much at all in the area I live. I guess this is partly due to the fact I have considerable green spaces to enjoy here. I also have my own personal green space that is my garden which I know I am lucky to have. I also visit larger gardens like Edinburgh Botanical Garden (shown in photo above) that I see as park-like.

Love Parks Week is “aiming to get one million people out into their local park. From Tai Chi classes to jazz nights, urban street games to teddy bear picnics”. You might even want to organise an event yourself.

Not being a park user I can still see that parks really have a strong community focus especially when “91% of people believe that public parks and open spaces improve their quality of life”. A park is not just for walking the dog at the weekend… it’s for everyone and hopefully for forever! That's provided it gets support it needs.

Award winning garden designer and TV presenter, Chris Beardshaw is passionate about green spaces and giving his support to Love Parks Week:

"I spent most of my youth outdoors and I think exploring a local park is a brilliant way to get children thinking about their surroundings and the community they live in. Britain’s parks are an invaluable legacy from the past - many are more than 100 years old – but they are an important part of our future.

There is so much evidence now on the positive impact good green spaces have on our lives, be that our health and well-being, our social fabric, even helping the economy and reducing crime rates and the evidence is continuing to grow.

By visiting a public green space and witnessing the passion and enthusiasm of those who create and maintain them, you can enliven the senses and help keep these spaces alive and vital.”

Of course, butterflies can be spotted in parks too and the big butterfly count welcomes sightings from parks and woods as well as from gardens. I should also add (quite important too) that if you see no sightings at all in your count that result is valuable too so please send it in.

Being a nationwide survey, the big butterfly count is aimed at helping assess the health of our environment. “Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators.

The count will also assist in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. That’s why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.”

That’s a lovely way to think of a butterfly . Wishing you a good weekend with many sightings of butterflies and enjoyable visits to parks :-)

Oh… and do enjoy any Open Garden Visits you make. I visited some last weekend and that’s up next followed by a swallow tale and my river watch on holiday with an update on our House Martin nest fitted in somewhere. Hopefully it will be dry over the next few days to get my video camera out for a closer look at what stage the nest is at now. Gosh… I’ll need another holiday after all this :-)

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