Thursday, 31 May 2012

End of Month View - May 2012

My intentions are always good when it comes to joining other garden bloggers with longer garden shots and notes at the end of the month. I like this idea which was started by Helen at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog .

Spreading (lifting/dividing) small compact Geum around borders just now.
Mixing the Geum with dark Heucheras, becoming an orange fan :-)

One way or another, be it bad weather and no photos or lots of photos and times issues, disappointingly I keep missing this one out. I’ve been on a major garden catch-up during this past hot spell. Last year, parts of my garden saw little attention and I am rectifying this now.

Never tire of Alliums, this two are the larger Globemaster.
Have been moving other smaller disturbed Alliums around – fingers crossed there :-)

This past two weeks, plants have been travelling around my garden as I tweak one area of planting and it goes on to affect other areas. I find these mix-ups are what gardening is all about for me. I love the creative play with plants.

Red Campion in mixed borders works for me.
Need to be quicker in catching the seed pods before they burst though.

Weed level is where I’ve been at. My trusty, rusty wheelbarrow that travelled from my very first garden has travelled all around my garden paths and through borders ferrying plants to new locations and weeds to the green waste bins – I filled two!

Looking forward to sowing more grass mounds to edge pond and surround Arbour.

Yesterday morning, I went out to grab a few photos (seen on this post) with the intention of getting more border shots later. That didn’t happen and today we had a day of much needed rain – Yay!

So, my only end of the month view is of my new wildlife pond area which (all going well) should be completed by the end of next month. Perhaps this view is quite apt for this month as it will see the biggest change. I’m getting quite excited about this now.

Delighted to see the Acer (moved back in Autumn) is happy in its new location
and that division of a large golden grass looks like it has been successful.
Great news on the Wisteria flowers – lots about to open :-)

Other borders have seen significant change too and once all the plant moving is over I’ll grab some more long shots to compare them at the end of the June too. After chatting about my garden’s bird and wildlife visitors for the last 5½ years it has been great to reconnect to the gardener within again.

As per usual, my midnight(ish) posting is leaving it a bit late to head over to Helen’s post to read it now (browsed pics earlier) and see posts of others that have joined in/left comments there. I’ll enjoy browsing over breakfast tomorrow. Gosh, is really Friday tomorrow? Gosh, we’re into June too!

This weekend it’s the main Garden Show here up in Scotland. Gardening Scotland runs from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd of June. We’ll probably take a trip along at some point. I'm not too fussed to see the Show Gardens but I do like to see different planting combinations there and in the Floral Hall. The plant sales tables from nurseries in other parts of the UK I don’t get to visit is a bonus too.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend – enjoy. Rain or shine I’ll be out moving plants and come night fall I’ll be keeping an eye on the cam in Hedgehog Manor which has also seen a change of location recently. Tonight it has been both busy and boisterous with two hogs in at the same time and one bulldozing the other into a corner. Four hedgehog sightings were seen tonight.

Happy gardening and gardenwatching :-) Oops... I nearly forgot... for those joining events in celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee... have a great time :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Monday, 28 May 2012

What is the white stuff on my box plants?

I’ve Googled images and queries and I can’t be sure – the closest I can get is mealybugs but I can’t see them when I look closely.

I’m seriously hoping some of my gardening friends can help out here. I’m taking a guess that our recent baking hot weather that these plants have endured in pots at my front door might be a factor? Can anyone tell me what I should do here - I'm hoping my plants aren't doomed.

Why is a bird sitting outside in a sunny spot with its mouth wide open and its wings outstretched? That’s a question some gardenwatching people might be wondering just now. I’ve been seeing this in my garden too.

Like us, birds struggle in the heat too. Not having sweat glands, a bird’s way to stop its body temperature from going too high is through the membranes lining the mouth and tongue – hence the open mouths.

Even young chicks in a nest have worked this one out. Back in 2010 our nestbox got the very early morning sun (until 10am) and as you can see above they too had open mouths and this wasn’t a ploy to get food from feeding parents. Our chicks did survive as our warm spell didn’t last too long. However, if a nestbox is placed in an area that gets a lot of sun the chicks would very likely die during hot spells.

Is my Wisteria going to flower? Well, that’s a question I asked myself for years before the first buds opened. It was a momentous day for my garden! If you are looking for flowers on your plant then the image from mine this morning shows a few different stages might help.

Usually Wisteria leaves follow the flowers so if you have leaves out already then most likely you won’t see a flower this time. My tip for now (even if you don’t have flowers) is to keep your plant watered during dry spells – I do believe this makes a difference in flowers. A high potash feed is supposed to help too.

Our glorious spell of warm weather may be ending soon, truth be told, I’m not too disappointed as I’ve be trying to claim back an area of my garden that the weeds thought was theirs when my back was turned doing other things. It's been hard going in the heat!

Oh yes… and someone else has made an appearance at my feeders when my back was turned…

My daughter spotted the antics of the grey squirrel. My camera was sitting on its tripod, she grabbed it quickly took the shots above before my husband chased it away to stop it damaging the feeder. Just brilliant… gardenwatching goes on even when I’m not at home :-)

Hope you, your garden plants, birds and wildlife have been surviving the heat. Guessing blogland will be quiet just now as our gardens and the outdoor beckon. Happy gardening and wildlife watching!

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday – Meconopsis ‘plastic wrap’

Today’s border stunners!

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9/Effects/Plastic Wrap

This post was published by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Windows of Chelsea

Many moons ago, a children’s television programme (Play School) featured different shaped windows that took the young viewers on a journey somewhere exciting. My gardenwatching window has taken my daughter and I on a few journeys since a school project with ID’s to our visiting birds.

Over the years, Flower Shows have taken gardeners on journeys through quite different windows with imaginative show gardens, new planting styles, colour themes and trends that we take back to our gardens. I love the anticipation of an upcoming Garden Show.

Thousands of visitors attend, or sit at home watching through their television window, The RHS Chelsea Flower Show which is expected to inspire us all and take us through the journeys that the garden designers have chosen. I wonder where we will all be going next week.

The images above are from The RHS Tatton Park Flower Show back in July 2003. From memory, this display was about framing rather than windows but it caught my eye at that time. I thought I’d use some artistic licence here to link to windows with flowers that are also seen during Chelsea week...

”Chelsea’s world class alternative floral art show is back with a bloom for 2012! In its 7th year, Chelsea in Bloom will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and all things British with stunning fresh flower displays lining the streets of the royal borough. Chelsea retailers will again compete to create the most imaginative and creative display formed with fresh flowers and plants.

Chelsea comes alive for 6 days (21st – 26th of May) with an array of colour, fun and excitement attracting visitors from across the globe. Chelsea in Bloom is a gateway to the Flower Show and the ideal way to enjoy Sloane Square, Sloane Street, and Duke of York Square and the surrounding environs while strolling past the show-stopping floral installations and enjoying the world class shops and restaurants.”

The images above are not mine but I have been permitted to use them. They show the fun and diversity of window the Chelsea window displays that have been seen in previous years. This looks like a fun wander for families.

”Chelsea in Bloom takes place from 21st – 26th May and there is a whole host of entertainment, such as a pop up maze in Sloane Square, a Poliform Maxi Bug installation outside the Saatchi Gallery and even free Rickshaw tours of the area.

Official RHS Judges will put the retailers through their paces and judge the participants on creativity, flair, use of fresh flowers as well as their take on the traditional theme. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favourite People’s Choice Award for the most popular and eye-catching display by visiting Chelsea in Bloom.

For the duration of the week, Sloane Square will be transformed into a stunning custom-made Maze for visitors to explore and enjoy. After this they can head to the neighbouring pop-up bar, to pick up a luxury picnic box. Visitors can also leave their own personal stamp on the Poliform Maxi Bug installation outside the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York Square, by drawing their own floral tribute on the over-sized furniture installation.”

There are tours with guides en route so visitors don’t miss anything. Until a few years ago (when I began getting press releases on this event) I never knew Chelsea Flower Show fever was on the streets of London too for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Whatever, you are doing this weekend I hope you enjoy it too. To everyone building gardens and displays for the Chelsea Flower Show and to everyone visiting the 1st RSPB Scottish Birdfair at the weekend – fingers crossed for some nice weather :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Subdued for May GBBD

The colours in late evening photos are intense yet soft. The flowers in my garden are for the most part subdued. Subdued has a beauty too don’t you think. Here’s my garden highlights for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, May 2012…

Above, Brunnera Jack Frost enjoying a new shady spot, it has coped with the move well and is flowering freely.

As gardens in England move up a gear with brighter colours in blooms, my Scottish garden is still holding on to Spring for a bit longer.

Above, Helleborus orientalis going to seed, Euphorbia giving that zing that they do so well. Yak Rhododendron in stages of buds, open flowers and last flower standing (the purple/blue one). Last Cuckoo flowers, new Broom flowers and primroses still performing well in shadier corners.

Some plants punctuate my garden, causing me to stop and stare. These plants have been with me a good few years now. However, the anticipation of these opening flowers never wains… Wisteria buds starting to grow, Mecopopsis showing the teensiest hint of blue, Cirsium flowers nestling in foliage near the ground ready to go skywards and last but not least, the Alliums…

Above, the intense orange of my little (tidy ground hugging foliage) Geum is just starting to show. I have lifted and divided this plant many times and it is spreading its orange cheer around now.

In contrast, the purple blooms of the perennial wallflower, Bowles Mauve has never stopped flowering since last year, thanks to our easier winter. I added some Heather earlier this year (sentimental reasons) and I hope the bees have enjoyed it. The photo above the heather is blossom from a weeping silver pear.

Capturing photos of birds in garden borders where a flower is in bloom is always a bonus… these drumstick Primula flowers should really be cut back but I’ve been enjoying seeing the juvenile blackbirds tottering through them.

My tiny pond gives so much pleasure at this time of year when the trickle of 'waterfall' is running. Newly fledged birds make straight for it – what fun it is to watch them. The Blackbirds have certainly been keeping us entertained!

The tiny colourful Siskins have become pretty regular drinkers from here too. I think they could be allowed into the blooms for this Month. They’re not too keen on sharing this ‘now favourite’ spot with each other though. However, the tottering Blackbird juveniles make their presence known and the finches take flight.

So that’s it for this GBBD. To see other blogs taking part in sharing what’s in flower on the 15th of the month – head over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

My final photo (taken rather shakily from my phone) just had to be included here as a link to my last post. I split coffee over my PC keyboard, and this new replacement one was sitting on the windowsill. Then, on the outside windowsill, along came a…

Yes, you can see… a tottering juvenile Blackbird! It was looking straight at me, as I slowly picked up my phone to get this image. Perfect timing it was too as I was tweeting about the Birdfair ticket draw! Needless to say I tweeted this pic suggesting the Blackbird was looking to email me to enter ;-)

Congrats go to David for winning the Birdfair tickets. To my garden blogging friends – Happy Bloom Day :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Friday, 11 May 2012

RSPB Scottish Birdfair – not just for birders

Garden Shows are really my thing. I feed the birds in my garden and through taking photos & video I’ve enjoyed the challenge of identifying who visits. As I have experimented with bird feeders, locations and foods a wider variety of species have arrived. It’s been fun to see and blog about and I enjoy taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Would I visit a Birdfair though? I wasn’t sure.

When a surprise email came in from the RSPB offering me tickets for the 1st Birdfair in Scotland I took a look through the website. If it wasn’t something I would go to I could use these tickets as a competition on my blog. I looked through the Exhibitors, Workshops, Talks and Events. To my surprise, a few things caught my garden watching eye.

I mailed the RSPB back saying ‘yes please’ to their offer of tickets. I am now looking forward to going to an event I probably wouldn’t have considered going to. I also have a competition first for my blog!

Two tickets for either Sat 19th May or Sun 20th May 2012 at the RSPB Scottish Birdfair at Hopetoun House is the prize. One winner gets a ticket for themself and a guest.

I’m making it easy to enter as I’d like other garden watching people to go too. If you are a birder, that’s good too! Please only one entry per household. To enter just drop me an email with your full name and which day (either Saturday or Sunday) that you would like to attend before 3pm on Tuesday 15th May.

A comment on this post about your experiences at other Birdfairs or what you would like to see/do at this one would be great but not essential. I’ll put all email names in a plant pot and get my (usually patient companion on my trips out) daughter to pick out a winner. I’ll email the winner on Tuesday by 6pm. Good luck!

Okay… now back to this blog… I’ve discovered some interesting stuff through collecting links for this post that I think regular blog visitors will enjoy hearing about and seeing too.

Armed with my video camera, this week, I’ve seen some controversial mammals living here in Scotland (hunted to extinction 400 years ago). In complete contrast I also discovered a new Android/iPhone App that I think is a fantastic idea - showing smart phone can have really smart uses in the natural world.

Back at the end of March, when out in the garden, I heard a commotion overhead. A group of three birds of prey were soaring together and a crow was noisily harassing them. You can see my photos are poor and when it comes to identifying birds outside my garden I’m pretty poor there too. Can anyone tell me what birds they were? Buzzards?

There are WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY Workshops on the Sat & Sun at the Birdfair and RAPTOR & WADER IDENTIFICATION Workshops too. They both caught my eye as I’d like to get better bird & wildlife photos when out of my garden. I’d also like to be able to ID the Birds of Prey that fly over my garden and ID Waders when out on beach/coastal walks.

Pre blog I never set out to plan/plant a garden for wildlife. I selected plants and planted in a way that was pleasing to my eye. As gardeners, we do change/adapt ideas as our gardens mature/suffer winter and wind damage and our interests/circumstance as a whole change.

Now, I am quite focussed on flowering plants for bees when buying new plants. However, my ‘not really seen as wildlife friendly’ plantings of Heucheras, Hostas, Meconopsis and Alliums all do have bees feeding on them and I only properly became aware of this when out getting photos of my plants for blog posts. I already had a garden for wildlife and it wasn’t wild and untidy. Now I am adding natives and keeping featured areas of long grass.

There is a GARDENING WITH WILDLIFE Workshop on the Sunday of the Birdfair. When I looked at the website for the Plant Centre running this I discovered that Emma had a Gold winning garden at last year’s Gardening Scotland Show "aimed to show keen gardeners that you don’t need to have a weedy, untended looking garden in order to attract wildlife. Many beautiful, non-native species are suitable for attracting bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, as well as a wide variety of birds and even mammals such as hedgehogs.” Right up my street there – I wonder what plants she will use.

Through watching birds in my garden (most of the time through my window) I have realised that birds appreciate garden feeders all year round and not just through the cold winter months. When you feed birds at this time of year you are helping them feed chicks and get the added pleasure of seeing them do this in your garden after the birds fledge.

Garden watching has also alerted me to the need to keep bird feeders regularly cleaned to prevent the horrible disease trichomonosis causing birds (mostly finches) to starve to death in a few days. More pleasant looking views of birds from my window are the ones using the water trays to bathe and drink in.

When it comes to sound in the garden, I have yet to learn the calls and songs of all my visiting birds. I know some and my favourite is the tinkering of a charm of Goldfinches. However one day, whilst gardening, a sound that I thought was a distant car alarm finally alerted me to a good sized group of Waxwings (many more than in the photo above). That was a first!

It is fair to say my garden has never stopped surprising me with what I can see in and from it. Last year we had House Martins nest under our roof (another first) and in this past week they have returned again and have been heard chirping from last year’s nest. I must look out the video footage of them building it last year – it was fascinating to watch the beaks of mud build it.

If you enjoy garden birdwatching and have a pond (or perhaps water feature) with a small stream of water running you might just see newly fledged birds find their way there. I don’t know if they follow the sound but it is fun to watch them. There is a GARDEN BIRDWATCHING Workshop on the Sunday of the Birdfair. If you enjoy taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch you might be interested in the survey the BTO do.

Sorry, I am chatting on a bit – making up for my last Wordless post ;-) I’ll speed things up for you now. As you will see if you follow the exhibitor’s link above, there are many organisations for bird lovers from magazines, clubs, societies to optics. The ones that caught my eye were the Bat Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife Scotland and Gardening Scotland 2012.

Apologies to Bo Beolens (aka the Fatbirder) for placing his image above a muffin. Honestly, it just fitted that way! I’ve absolutely no idea to the shape of this gentleman, I’ve never met him. However his website was one of the first I added my blog to and I have been thrilled at the placings my blog has had in his Birding Top 1000 considering I blog about other stuff as well as birds. He entered my blog into his pages on Scotland some time back and I was delighted.

Bo clearly has a sense of humour with this image on his website and the title of the talk he is going to give on the Sunday at the Birdfair - THE A-Z OF BIRDING according to the Grumpy Old Birder. I just have to go along and say hello ;-)

Another talk by Naturalist and Writer Sir John Lister-Kaye on BIRDS AND BEAVERS on the Sunday caught my eye. Listed as “Topical content following the Environment Minister’s decision to allow the accidental reintroduction of beavers to the River Tay catchment. Sir John, Vice President of RSPB, will explain the benefits to wildlife from the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland”. This is controversial issue and not exactly popular here in Scotland.

Prior to the small reintroduction of Beavers at Knapdale in Argyll (Scotland) I had no idea there were beavers across on my side of the country. None at all. The Scottish Wild Beaver Group is working at raising the profile of the Tay Beavers and say there is now thought to be 120 individuals living in the waterways of the Tay. This story is getting heard now.

Wondering if it would be at all possible to see and capture video footage of a beaver, I made contact with Paul & Louise Ramsay at the Scottish Wild Beaver Group and asked where I could see them. We took a drive to meet them and they very kindly took myself and (patient travel companion) daughter to Bamff Ponds. Our evening wait paid off…

Walking through a wood back to the car, we saw piles of cones nibbled by red squirrels at the bottom of trees – brilliant. We saw some tree nibbles by beavers - amazing. We saw beaver dams on a smaller pond which was fascinating and an unbelievable sight in Scotland 2012.

Shortly after on our late evening drive home, small groups of roe deer crossed the road in front of the car a number of times. I can’t deny that then my mind then went back to the beavers that we watched across the pond and my feeling was - they looked like they belonged in Scotland in the same way as the red squirrels and the roe deer did. I understand it’s not as simple as that.

Only just getting the hang of identifying some butterflies – moths I don’t find simple at all. I don’t really go out in the evenings to see them butI have noticed them on my ivy clad pergola and tiny pond. I haven’t a clue what the ones above are despite having books. Has anyone any suggestions?

You might guess that a talk on the Sunday morning of the Birdfair caught my eye: WHY STUDY MOTHS? Surely they are brown, boring and nocturnal! Then I remembered that I’d seen something about organised Moth nights in previous years. I searched for links and found Moth Night 2012 will take place on 21 – 23 June 2012. I also found an interesting recording techniques page with instructions on making a wine rope to feed moths. I wonder if they fly straight after ;-)

Browsing through links to exhibitors at the Birdfair I discovered Birdtrack has new Android App. Looking down the page to see the selection of apps from ‘users who installed this also installed’ I found the Android Conker Tree Science: Leaf Watch. It caught my attention and I looked to see if there was a Conker Tree App for the iPhone too. You can see above there is. I uploaded it and intend adding any sightings I see.

The Universities of Bristol and Hull track the spread of the horse-chestnut leaf miner moth with this simple, intuitive app. I think making the App free is a fantastic idea. So many people have smart phones and take them out on walks and reports will contribute to the Conker Tree Science research project.

My simple watercolour above represents all the bird and wildlife artists that will be at the Birdfair. I don’t draw that much so will enjoy seeing their work and I am not a watercolour artist this is the first one I’ve done (although have shown it on my blog before).

I hope you’ve enjoyed my lengthy spin on what has caught my garden watching eye from the Birdfair website. Maybe by following some of the links I have given (check out the Children’s Tipi) this might be a visit you would enjoy too. There is so much more I could add but I’ve probably marinated this one too long ;-)

Finally, I’ll slow things down with a snowdrop walk through the grounds of Hopetoun House for my gardening followers. Oh no, the snowdrops are gone now but I didn’t get out snowdrop walking to share this year so this is a late treat. These grounds have seen many events.

I’ll just add one final thing… with your ticket to the Birdfair you can get half price entry into Hopetoun House – want to take a sneak peek inside?

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Saving the Ladybird Spider

Help Buglife save the Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus).
Stunning image ©Ian Hughes.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2012.