Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Bye bye 2015

You’ve been a strange year in many ways – as a blogger I’ve been a bit of a stranger too.

Lazy, garden hours wildlife pond watching have been in complete contrast to longer, hard-working gardening days. Tiny, delicate lace wings of large red damselflies in complete contrast to thuggish weeds invading the gravel path nearby.

After nine blogging years the garden/blog balance changed this year and my garden reclaimed me. It’s been good :-) An organised potting shed makes working in the garden such a different experience! I can totally recommend it.

Garden Blogging, I can also recommend. I’ve missed it. Will year 10 at shirls gardenwatch slow this blog down further? I hope not. Like the 30ft tall Kelpie Sculpture, Duke, above I’ll try to keep my head down when at the PC and hopefully see you there. Like the heads up Kelpie, Barron, when I am outdoors I plan to enjoy sunny days gardening, wildlife watching, taking photos and video.

Wishing all blogging friends and visitors to this blog a very Happy and Healthy 2016! Thanks for popping by during 2015. See you in 2016 :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in December 2015.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

GBBD: Gunnera standing tall

A torch during tonight’s night garden walk in the rain revealed soggy flowers from Japanese Anemones and Astrantia - their white, pink and deep red flowers are fading with each day just now. Osteospermum ‘Stardust’, the hardy geranium ‘Rozanne’ and Gentiana sino-ornata all had one folded flower nodding as if asleep in the rain.

The level of the wildlife pond has swollen with the heavy rainfall of late. Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ is trying to flower around its edge. Almost black berries from Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' are nearby. Deep purple berries on the recent planting of Liriope muscari 'Royal Purple' are shrivelling away. At the same time the intense red berries on two small Cotoneaster trees are proving too tempting a treat for Blackbirds and Woodpigeons – how long will they last?

Meconopsis and White Campion not flowering in my garden today.

Odd white flowers are like tiny bright lights in the night garden. An upright variety of Campanula hides in a sheltered corner away from the winds, a Jasmine scrambles up through a trellis and Bacopa 'Snowflake' tumbles down from a container. Out in the open, flat caps of pink Sedum flowers are fading fast - no butterflies or bees will feed from them now.

Holding on a bit better, this dark November Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, are the flowers of Lavender, Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve, Hardy Fushia ‘Mrs W P Wood' and Field Scabious. Catching the rays of light from tonight’s torch were the tiny, pretty pink flowers of the heather ‘Peter Sparkes’ (planted to attract Bullfinches).

The star of tonight’s night garden stood tall in almost defiance of the rain and wind. Not your typical GBBD flower style either. The two flower spikes of a Gunnera looked in perfect condition and in complete contrast to their wilting, soggy leaves falling to the ground around them – a strangely surreal sight tonight.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2015.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Lilyturf

Liriope muscari 'Royal Purple'

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in September 2015.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Alternative companion planting

Silver Anniversary Rose with a scattering of Confetti (Mix)

Confetti for this wedding related rose wasn’t a planned companion planting.
It was only in reviewing photos I realised this fun, accidental spin.

Virginian Stock ‘Confetti Mix’ seeds sown direct in border back on May 23rd.

Confetti mix was intended as summer filler in area of limited planting depth.

Traditional companion planting is much more practical. Growing French marigolds near tomatoes is the first planting that comes to my mind here. I have childhood memories of my Mum doing this (the strong smelling Marigolds were believed to be good at repelling greenfly and blackfly). Ha-ha... the Marigolds certainly repelled myself and my siblings from touching the growing fruits that's for sure!

Companion planting is all about creating plant communities which have mutual benefits to each other. It can be an organic way to protect your crops from pests or it could help improve pollination of fruit and vegetable crops. Although there is limited scientific research surrounding companion gardening, many gardeners find it extremely beneficial to their plant’s performance. In this article we’ve put together the best known partnerships in flowers, herbs and vegetables to help you improve the health of your garden plants without needing to resort to pesticides.
Companion Planting Guide, Thompson & Morgan

Combining your plants in the right way can be good for their health and growth, as well as from an aesthetic point of view. This guide explains which species can work together and what the key benefits are.
Companion planting, Gardening guides, BBC

Planting combinations for pollinators can be seriously rewarding for the gardener too. This year our small front garden, main border above, has been an absolute joy to see grow and become a-buzz with bees, butterflies and other insects. This area was given a raised path edge earlier this year and has become everything I hoped it would be and more.

Last year’s plant residents enjoying this sunny spot (Buddleja ‘Buzz Ivory’, Drumstick Alliums, Sedum, Foxglove 'Milk Chocolate' & Acanthus) have been joined this year by new edging strips of Lavender & Thyme, a white Echinacea (Coneflower), Verbena bonariensis 'Lollipop' and Aubrietia cascading over the rocky wall edges.

August just had to bow out with a few more images to look back on. The next sunny evening we get, I’ll take a seat out here and sit with my cameras… that will be my reward for the hard work in removing a tired but well-loved, well-behaved bamboo that has given up a prime sunny space for plants to attract pollinators.

Lucky iPhone capture of small tortoiseshell butterfly :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Look out for Painted Lady butterflies in 2015

What a surprise to see you yesterday – just as I was leaving the garden.
(runs for video camera) 52sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.

Yay… early evening and we meet in the garden again (runs for still camera).
It’s been 6 yrs, last sighting in 2009 during mass migration year here in UK.

“The painted lady migration is one of the real wonders of the natural world.

Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30mph, these small, fragile-seeming creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year, even though none of the individual butterflies has ever made the trip before.”

You look so small on the sunny rock, but with a wingspan of 6cm you are one of the largest butterflies here in the UK (shame your friend was camera shy).

Buddleja ‘Buzz Ivory’ has arrived in the garden since your last visit, a tasty evening drink (all Buddleja’s are a great food source for bees and butterflies).

Your circus act of hanging upside down looked like a practical solution in breezy conditions (loving the eyespots and marbling of your hindwings, so pretty).

Ta-da… you beautifully demonstrate that a real butterfly is a much better wall decoration than ornamental ones. Thank-you for decorating my garden
last night (wishing for more sunny evenings to see you again).

Catching sightings of butterflies for surveys like the Migrant Watch by Butterfly Conservation can be tricky as you need the right conditions for them to be out flying (best chance in sunny days without wind). Catching sightings in your garden is also based in you being in it to see them too. By providing food plants for butterflies you help them survive and have a better chance to enjoy their beauty in your garden.

So could 2015 be a good year for the Painted Lady butterfly? Will we see it visit in good numbers here in the UK? Well, seeing two in my Scottish garden yesterday might suggest so. If I had read a few news items, then I would have known to be on the lookout for it (British butterfly bonanza could see 'painted lady summer and Fluttering back to Britain, millions of painted ladies: Distinctive orange and black marked butterflies expected to arrive from North Africa within weeks).

Perhaps other garden blogger’s have posted on this (sorry missed it) but I thought I’d give the thumbs up on looking out for the Painted Lady butterfly this year just in case you hadn’t heard and would like to see it. I also wanted to share my excitement at seeing it again by sharing images from my garden :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Welcome back, americana...

(Honeysuckle) Lonicera x americana

How pretty you look now - just how did I forget about you?

Flowering in morning sunshine - you'll grow up to overlook the pond :-)

Admired at Gardening Scotland a good few years ago, this impulse buy didn’t really have a proper place back in the garden. How familiar does that sound? Gail force winds knocked down its first home (a small, flimsy arch) and it was given temporary accommodation next to a free pole on a pathway garden structure.

The sulking climber was pruned after moving in an effort to encourage new growth but then it was promptly forgotten about. Again, how familiar does that sound in a garden full of other plants seeking the gardener’s attention?

Winds and persistent rain haven’t made for easy garden photo captures this summer but last Friday (with GBBD in mind) I got out with my camera in the early morning sunshine and what a surprise I was to find! Americana was flowering, looking healthy and attracting pollinators! Hoverflies were feeding and I suspect bees have been here too.

Welcome back, americana – you are clearly telling me you have found your own permanent home in my garden and I am very happy to have you stay :-) Although I love it when plants thrive on not being fussed over, I will try to keep a gardener's promise to look after and admire you - for a few years anyway ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Haze of yellow Ragwort on sand dunes

When choosing a family day out on a sunny day here in the UK, if it's within driving distance, many will choose the beach. Wildlife moments can be found by rock pooling but sand dunes are also a great place for wildlife discoveries - taking gardenwatch on tour again :-)

Just as in our gardens, once you start looking more closely there’s so much to see and you wonder how you have missed it all before. Ragwort was the big surprise for me.

Mid-August 2015, gardenwatch location: Along the grassy dunes of Kilshanny Beach, Tenstmuir Forest just north of St Andrews. Subject camera was looking for: Dragonflies and the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth. Success: No to Dragonflies, water strip sightings seen previously were overgrown. Yes to caterpillars, although only odd ones spotted in area of the dunes searched.

Bees were the success story of this location - they were everywhere feeding on a huge haze of waist height, yellow Ragwort flowers! This was a very bright, sunny day and the sight was quite mesmerising. On a dull, wet day it would have been quite different.

The small copper butterfly has always been too quick for my camera on previous visits at this location. However on this day, it too was out enjoying the sunshine and feeding on the ragwort. I was delighted to get a proper look at this pretty little butterfly with its wings open as it is usually almost invisible with its wings folded resting on the sand.

Yay… the return walk back to the car saw a yellow and black striped cinnabar moth caterpillar playing hide and seek with me! Clearly it had few friends as the plant was looking very healthy. Yep… you’ve guessed it… ragwort is a food plant for cinnabar moth caterpillars. Since seeing great numbers feeding on this plant last July (stripping it almost bare) I always find myself taking a closer look.

A Small tortoiseshell butterfly was spotted feeding on ragwort last year when I had my video camera out trying to capture the caterpillars moving about en masse. I’ve a great clip that looks like the butterfly deliberately knocked away a caterpillar that had spent ages getting to the top. I must take a search for that and upload it :-)

The shot of this trip has to be the absolutely stunning Peacock butterfly below which looks like I have photoshopped it on to a background of ragwort! It too was feeding on the ragwort and I had never seen this on previous visits. It’s brilliant to get surprise sightings when on tour ;-)

As much as I love seeing ragwort along the sand dunes of our family favourite beach, I cringe a little when I see great swathes of it in roadside fields as a drive around countryside roads.

Joining all its wild, weed friends Ragwort (Senecio spp.) is seen growing happily in uncultivated ground like roadsides, railway embankments as well as grassy sand dunes. It isn’t seen as a problem in gardens but the story is a quite different one for farmers of cattle (horse owners too) as it is poisonous to these animals and a serious issue as it readily pops up in grazing fields.

As a gardener, when adding wild flowers to my garden plantings, I try to consider what is reasonable to grow in a small rural garden and pick locations within my garden that don’t go near boundaries so my plants don’t seed in my neighbour’s gardens. If ragwort ever found its way (over my hedge) into my garden I would be diligent in removing it and wouldn't encourage wildlife gardeners to grow it.

Wildflower, Bird's-foot-trefoil growing pond side in garden, mid-June.

Ragwort gets much discussion here in the UK but as with all wildlife, when a food plant is eradicated completely it does have a serious impact on the survival of a species and that's not acceptable either. Farmers and horse owners need support in finding a solution - good luck to them. To a degree, it's possible habitat loss on both sides.

Oh dear, this was supposed to be a light, sunny post on a rainy Friday night! Returning to sunny thoughts with blooming gardens full of food plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects - tomorrow is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day! Yep, it’s that time of the month when Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites fellow bloggers to post on what’s flowering on the 15th. Happy GBBD to all taking part :-)

Wishing everyone a great weekend for gardening, wildlife watching and getting out and about! Do remember though… if you go down to the beach this weekend... you’re sure of a big surprise for every ragwort that you might see… there’s sure to be… much wildlife having a picnic ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pond dipping video camera films again!

There was a deep inhale of breath as the tripod toppled and the video camera entered the water in the garden pond! A quick arm’s reach to catch a tripod leg stopped the whole camera going fully under water. Okay, so I have been secretly wishing for an underwater camera to see all that's living in my garden pond but this just wasn’t going to work.

Today's simulation of the near garden and pond watching disaster.
A huge thank-you to my very capable assistant for not repeating the incident.

After a seriously brief, stunned moment looking at my wet video camera, I quickly removed it from the tripod head and shook it frantically in the same downwards motion in an attempt to get any water out of it. I stood shaking the camera over my pond until no water came out and walked indoors confessing to my careless mistake in not stabilising the feet of the tripod in the gravel path edging my wildlife pond.

My garden visiting companion daughter suggested putting my camera in a box of rice as we did for her sister’s mobile phone after a water dipping event of the bathroom kind. I seriously doubted it would work and feared this year’s pond action filming was over before I had even started to share it here on my blog.

Camera sat on rice in closed box to draw out moisture seen on lens.

As per this blog title, incredibly, my video camera survived its water adventure and did work again to film another day - just five days later!

Short 31 sec video showing close-up and fast movement of water
with salmon leaping. Note background music, try HD quality.

It was a surprise to see Salmon leaping up at Ossian's Cave, The Hermitage, Perthshire on July 29th. I didn’t expect to see them there at this time of year. I carefully held my camera tripod filming the salmon whilst holding an umbrella overhead to keep water spray off the newly working (dry) video camera again. Ha-ha… my companion daughter pointed out that if the camera fell in this water there was no retrieving it… she would be correct there ;-)

When the video camera fell in to my pond, disappointment was a serious understatement. Recent video captures of mating large red damselflies laying eggs under plant leaves in my wildlife pond were sitting waiting to be edited. Many interesting clips with pond skaters and other pond wildlife sat in folders with plans to start a whole series on the wildlife that a pond can attract. Yay... I can still do that :-)

This is an evening posting with just under 30 minutes to go until the predicted best time to see this year's Perseid Meteor shower here in the UK. It could be a bit cloudy over our garden but we’re off outside to see if any meteors are to be seen. Enjoy the skies if you go out, and do remember there are special cameras that work underwater for garden ponds so take extra care with yours :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Holidays – taking gardenwatch on tour

When choosing a UK holiday, we tend to pick countryside locations. Since writing this gardenwatch blog, I’ve found myself looking out many a holiday cottage window at the birds flying around. I began wishing I had packed some bird food with me although, realistically, would they find it if I did? So, a few years ago, the holiday bird feeding experiments and gardenwatching began in earnest.

This year, easily packed in the car boot was the unpacked, impulse buy of bird feeder pole*** that was found in this summer’s potting shed clear-out/reorg. A basic peanut feeder was filled, bagged and tucked to the side of the suitcases.

May 2015, Holiday location: Outside the village of Risplith on the edge of the Yorkshire dales in the North of England. Experiment success: Yes, two Blue tits within 10 mins of putting feeder up!

The two Blue tits above (probable nesting pair in May) were rewarded by helping me choose the location of this first successful feeding experiment. Opening the floor length curtain behind the front door on the first morning revealed Blue tits bouncing through a shrub looking for food. This shrub cover worked well to site a bird feeder nearby and it never moved for the duration of our holiday.

Blue tits, Blue tit juvs, Great Tits and House Sparrows were seen when we were in the cottage but other birds may have visited. Jackdaws were seen jumping along the higher boundary wall like they were considering how they could negotiate it - I wonder if they did.

The peanut feeder pole can be seen to the left of the door, it was pushed in the ground away from roots of plants and outside weed suppressing fabric membrane. I was conscious of being respectful to the cottage owner and would never have taken a mixed seed feeder or fat balls as food spillage to the ground had the potential of germinating and leaving weeds.

Gardenwatching from inside was easy too with the door having windows. The door was also at the bottom of the stairs so everyone walked by it going to rooms on either side. Initially my tripod was positioned here. At times I found myself sitting in the quiet room on the right where I swapped over the chair and footstool so I could sit with video camera while reading there. I was hoping to see a Nuthatch (not seen up my way) but no joy there.

There was a steady flow of traffic on the road outside the front of the house. Over the road, dairy cows casually grazed in complete contrast to the starlings running around the ground and the swallows swooping across the fields. We had glimpses of sunny weather on this week but it was one of strong gales and heavy rain.

Round the back of this holiday property, we overlooked a farmer’s field and rolling countryside. This was where the most bird species could be seen but with extensive weed suppressing membrane on garden borders I wasn't able to consider my holiday bird feeder here. Birds seen included the usual ‘home’ suspects of Blackbirds, Robin, Blue tits, Wren, Goldfinches, Collared Doves, Starling, House Sparrows, and Jackdaw. Flying over the fields were gulls, swallows and bats.

Perhaps, it may seem sad packing bird feeders for a holiday but I love the challenge of attracting birds and other wildlife to a given space. I surely can’t be the only one can I? Please tell me someone else reading this has considered it... no? I’ll just quietly head out to the garden with my coffee and watch my pond then ;-)

Wishing you good weekend with fair weather to enjoy your garden :-) I'm hoping to count butterflies for the current survey that ends tomorrow, the 9th August.

***I completely agree with the comments in the reviews of this product suggesting the plastic adapter connecting the bird feeder to the pole should be available to be bought separately. If even slightly overtightened it can break or the threads get damaged. Having very disappointingly split one many years ago, I was in two minds to try this again but I’m so glad I did as it made a great holiday feeder. Spares of fixings like this would be very welcome for all bird feeder products.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Look to the night sky

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Heating vent perch for smart Magpie

A tripod with a video camera on a stair landing, while packing for a family holiday earlier this month was a bit in the way, it has to be said. Capturing video footage was a distraction to the job in hand too, but the amusing view out of the stair window kept catching my attention.

The rain was heavy (much heavier than the video below has shown) and a soaking wet, young Magpie was clearly showing why this corvid species are regarded as highly intelligent birds. It found my neighbour's warm, central heating vent tucked under the overhanging house eaves and sheltered out of the rain!

This young Magpie was perched here for some time, only moving when my movement past the window going up/down the stairs caught its attention. It would always return though. So who was actually watching who then? The Magpie won that... I had a packing to do after all and gardenwatching wasn't on my long to-do list with too little time to do it in ;-)

2x clips, 57 secs, no background music, note the closing eyelids of this bird.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Song Thrush and black berry surprise

Ivy flowers on the garden pergola have been discussed in a previous blog post back in November 2011. Black ivy berries to follow have been suggested in other blog comments as food for the Woodpigeon too, further suggesting the promise of Bed and Breakfast for a pair of Woodpigeons that nested there last year.

As for the black ivy berries, nope I’ve never noticed them. Well, not until Day 1 of BBC Springwatch (Monday of this week). So, it was a sunny Bank Holiday Monday and the garden awaited weeding but at the same time there was ironing in the basket and a washing in the machine waiting to go outside, but... the Robin nest video footage had me glued to the PC monitor!

Walking away was hard, nesting activity is addictive viewing you know, but domestic duties called as did some time outside in the garden and in the sun. Expect the unexpected and all that, but as the washing machine door was opened, movement outside caught my eye that I really wasn’t expecting...

Song Thrush video, 50 sec with background music, try HD quality.

On top of my ivy clad pergola, a Song Thrush was moving about. That, in itself was a nice sighting as they are shy visitors. A quick dash for the video camera ensued and then on zooming in… yep you’ve guessed right… it was eating black berries on my ivy! In May... really?

“In autumn, ivy flowers attract insects, which in turn provide food for robins and wrens. When the black berries appear in the middle of winter, they're devoured by everything from thrushes, waxwings, starlings and jays, to finches and blackbirds.”
Top 10 plants for birds by Gardener’s

“Calorie-rich ivy berries are loved by birds, including the song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing, blackbird and blackcap. Although the berries appear in November, birds don’t tend to eat them until around now – shorter-lived berries such as rowan and hawthorn are eaten first, leaving the longer-lasting ivy berries until last. According to the RSPB, ivy berries contain nearly as many calories as Mars bars, gram for gram.”
English ivy: berry good for birds by Kate Bradbury, February 19th 2015

Video grab of Song Thrush eating black ivy berries, May 25th 2015.

So, all these years as I’ve watched and watched with great anticipation for my Wisteria to flower towards the end of May, over on the other side of the pergola, there has been something going on that I never knew about until now. My ivy has been feeding the birds! Seeing is certainly believing :-)

Wisteria flower buds (flower opening almost there) May 26th, 2015.

Wow... this week has seen two firsts for my garden (the other being our Robin nest having chicks being fed). It's almost midnight and Mr/Mrs Hedgehog has just popped by... so its time to say good night from us both :-)

Hedgehog in feeding station, May 26th, 2015.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Phew... all is well at Robin nest

After last night’s worry, mentioned in this morning’s post, a variety of wriggly food continued to be delivered into the Robin nest this morning… by both parents! Phew… Mum isn’t missing after all.

Apologies are in order too, Mr & Mrs Robin, I can see now that you do keep a clean house by removing the fecal sacs from your chicks! Oh my… your chicks must be getting a good size by the size of the poop parcel below... keep that wriggly food coming!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

BBC Springwatch tribute weeks

Last night BBC Two Springwatch returned to our screens with seasonal chat about nature at this exciting time of the year. Story developers follow live cams (many on birds nesting) 24hrs throughout the three weeks of this show. Oooo… now that’s a seasonal job that would suit me very nicely ;-)

Last week’s Chelsea Flower Show tribute week (still more to come) was such fun that it would be amiss of me not to give Springwatch the same treatment. After all, it captured my attention when I began this gardenwatch blog. Regular visitors will know this blog began just as a temporary thing (a broadband friendly way) to send images of the Eurpoean Robin to my homesick friend in Australia back in 2006. Sadly, she died in a tragic, freak accident and won't get to see this :-(

For the next three weeks I’ll try to keep up with Springwatch, posting snippets from my own garden about the birds and wildlife that find their way here as well as footage and images from out and about. Lots of old video footage and stories are sitting just waiting for their moment. This could also be fun and a great gardenwatch update for me too. There will be an interval or two back to Inverewe Garden to complete the Chelsea tribute and the Gardening Scotland Show which is on this weekend too.

In my story developer role, I’m delighted to update on our garden story of the Robin pair that frantically built a nest in an open fronted nest box sighted in my ivy clad Pergola. Did the noisy neighbours (woodpigeons and hedgehogs) scare them away? No they did not, we came back from our hols and they were still in residence :-)

This Robin nesting story has since moved on a bit, yep, last weekend the male was seen visiting the nest more often… now with wriggly food in his beak! Although there isn’t a camera in the nesting box, my basic video camera on a tripod below it has captured a more detailed look of the food deliveries - not for viewing at mealtimes perhaps ;-)

1min 46sec, compilation, Robin pair bring in wriggly food, no background music,
try HD quality. A cheeky Blackbird landed on the camera at the end!

Just like the Springwatch story developers, I sat watching my many clips of video capture on my monitor looking for one thing (food going in) and observed a piece of random behaviour with a fly. Clearly the female Robin knew it was coming and was on alert and she very efficiently dealt with the situation. It was such fun watching the footage not knowing what was going to happen next.

2 mins 11sec, 2 clips, Female robin chases away fly,
with background music and pair in nest without music, both leave.

As I’m the only story developer here, not able to gardenwatch every day, I couldn’t guess at how old the Robin chicks are. However, some seriously big food deliveries were made yesterday morning with a quick exit by the parent birds. Having previously been the story developer for a successful Blue tit nest with a nest cam, I might say the Robin chicks are a good size already!

Appreciating that not everyone has time to view the short videos above, as per usual, I've captured a few video grabs to give you a flavour of the varied menu the Robin chicks having been served. Notice the female sitting at the back of the nest in the first image with a juicy green caterpillar – a few caterpillars went in this yesterday (when all footage this was taken).

In my story developer role, I have observed that the Robin is a way more cautious bird to approach the nest than the Blue tits were. In the image above of the male with the wings open, he landed but quickly left again so he was clearly unhappy with something around him. He did return as can be seen in the video. Note in the video that the female is leaving the chicks alone for spells but brings them back a food delivery from her trip out :-)

The Robin doesn’t appear to be removing the Fecal sacs (chick poop bags) as the Blue tit did either. From the views seen of the female on the nest, she doesn’t appear to be doing the diving into the nest cup to keep it clean but then again my view is limited. Sadly, my time as a story developer with this Robin family might be limited too and just as I was getting into the swing of it.

Last night, I was outside just before dark and heard a Robin calling again and again. In the low level of light, I could just see where it was perched and it was a branch I’ve seen the male use many times over the weekend. It was a pretty persistent call of a kind that I’ve not been hearing from the Robin in my garden. It was quite eerie seeing his silhouette too.

Perhaps the male robin was just calling the female out telling her the chicks can be left alone now. Perhaps, he was calling the chicks out to fledge. But then again, I have heard an eerie, persistent call like that from a Blue tit female when she had chicks to feed. The male Blue tit never returned and the female was unable to find enough food for her chicks and they died. Oh dear… has something happened to our Robin Mum!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Small garden from Inverewe to Chelsea

Inspiration for a small garden space is more likely to be found in the categories of the Fresh Gardens and Artisan Gardens at Chelsea Flower Show. Here will be found a quite different level of creativity with the balancing of plants and hard landscaping elements telling a story. Attention to every small detail is what counts here and Chelsea designers seldom fail to deliver.

My guess is that visitors to Chelsea want to be wowed the large show gardens and wooed by the smaller ones. The mood and feel of these smaller gardens seems to us to be more achievable to take home to our own gardens. A false sense perhaps, but non-the-less we will find inspiration with a more ‘home garden’ scale of planting blocks, climbing structures, hard landscaping and paths.

Inverewe doesn’t fail to deliver in its creativity throughout the whole garden and it too has small garden areas within it. My best in show on my visit back in August 2014 has to be the Small Pond Area near Inverewe House (not open to the public).

Perhaps no surprises I picked a water garden, but it was the surprise ‘deck’ in this woodland setting and the scale of water to planting with rocks in the water that both wowed and wooed me! This was a little show garden you could take home with you :-)

Okay, this might be a little tricky to build but it does give inspiration for sure.

My approach to the area from a lower path, note plants hide the artistic feature.

The guide book doesn’t say the idea behind this ‘deck’ shape – a snail’s shell?

Tiny frogs swimming in the rock circle (front left) were fun to watch.
The guidebook lists this a spawning pool.

Plants include Iris forrestii, the North American ostrich fern, candelabra primulas from China, skunk cabbage, groundsel (Senecio smithii) from the Falkland Islands.

Very surprisingly there was no mention of the stone circle island with carnivorous plants in the guidebook which I thought was the star planting of this small garden area. I love to see rock islands in a pond and loved the moss covered one in the background. If you read my post yesterday you might guess why – it’s all about the reflections in water for me :-)

It’s back to the walled garden for my people’s choice area of Inverewe next time. I better get my vote in for my Chelsea pick before midnight first! I do hope you’re enjoying the snippets from this garden so far. I do think this small garden area would get a medal at Chelsea – Silver perhaps as the judges wouldn’t be happy with the brown edges on the hosta ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Reflections from Chelsea to Inverewe

Water is a tricky feature to get exactly right in a show garden and the designers at Chelsea seriously push the boundaries on creatively using it. Yesterday was medals day at Chelsea Flower Show but medals aren’t the only focus for this show, it is also about giving inspiration for our own gardens.

This week, horticulturalist, broadcaster, designer and writer Rachel de Thame has been showing television viewers how to bring a bit of Chelsea back home to our own gardens. I was delighted to see that earlier today her topic was all about water and what it can bring to our gardens with ‘movement, sound and a play of light’.

She chats about how water sets the mood in a garden and I couldn’t agree more. My tiny pond from my gardenwatching window doesn’t have much of a surface for light reflections. However, its small waterfall spout made from a broken roof tile (matching the sandstone rocks around it beautifully) turned upside down works a treat. I love to see the movement from my window and the sound as I walk by it to my larger wildlife pond.

In completely contrast, my wildlife pond is absolutely all about reflections. Ha-ha… I had a vision for my pond build and I am delighted to say it has almost been met (chat about that another time). I did spend some of my pond budget on a pump but it wasn’t to be used as a fountain or waterfall but to give ripples over the surface like a shoreline.

Sitting on the arbour seat beside the wildlife pond, the stillness draws you in and it has become the most tranquil place in the garden. A place to dream and a place to completely clear your head. It has also become a place to leave the water be… so the pump has stayed in its box for now. I now can’t imagine my garden without this source of light and its cloud reflections over the surface. ‘A play of light’ it is indeed!

This week, in keeping with my Chelsea Flower Show tribute, I’m posting images from one particular garden visit to the NTS garden, Inverewe on the edge of Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, Scotland. This time I’d like to share The Pond Garden which has been dammed from the Wet Valley with a stone wall and has drainage seepage from the old peat bog which maintains its water level.

My approach looking towards the glorious, end of August, colours of Rodgersia.

The path view looking across the pond from the Rodgersia side.

Jaw dropping, Rodgersia reflections – I can't be the only one that thinks this?

Blue sky, tree trunks, and the bamboo screen also reflect in water pockets.

White waterlilies look stunning on black peaty water, note the willow sculpture.

Willow sculpture hidden away just like the resident palmate newts in this pond.

Inspired to add water to your garden? Perhaps you already have a pond or water feature, if so, please do share where you got your inspiration in a comment. My pond was also built for wildlife as well as to please my eye and soul. I lose all sense of time standing by the pond edge watching pond skaters, backswimmers and beetles dive up and down! I really can’t recommend having a pond in the garden enough :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.