Mild or bitter?

Red Admiral on the wing in Mid December UK

Red Admiral on the wing in mid December

I too am jumping on the “It’s way too mild in the December garden” bandwagon.

Flies are still (annoyingly) about, the occasional bumble bee burbles by. Two Pippistrelle bats were out hunting two nights ago. This Red Admiral butterfly was on the wing last week.

OK, you might expect the odd primrose to be flowering fitfully and possibly daffodil Rijnveld’s Early sensation to be in flower already, plus a sprinkling of early periwinkle flowers and some tentative winter flowering jasmine.

Last year’s Iris reticulata Cantab are flowering early in amongst a scented leaved geranium left outside which should have expired by now. Iris Katharine Hodgkin is also in flower but looking a bit weedy and scruffy – should have stayed underground until February m’dear!

Frost hits tender plants 23/11/15 UK

One hard frost on 23rd November 2015

Tenders like Solanum rantonettii which dropped their foliage overnight after a hard frost in November are now re-sprouting. The hardier Impatiens tinctoria is pushing juicy shoots above ground again. Nasturtium seedlings are germinating in the flowerbeds although the parents were zapped by this frost. The large tree-like plant is the dead top growth of Dahlia imperialis which has now been dug up and the tuber/s put into storage.

The first tentative yellow ribbons of Witch Hazel Westerstede have unrolled from brown fuzzed buds. New growth is appearing on vulnerable plants such as fuchsia and hydrangeas, some bitter weather and – ouch!

To be fair I’ve had a very extended period to get tenders into the greenhouse, I only dug up assorted abutilons yesterday, the leaves of which haven’t so far been touched by the few frosts we’ve had.

… but what happens if we get bad weather Jan-March? And if we don’t and things continue as they are spring will have been fast forwarded, what will there be left to delight us in February? Although the snowdrops are sort of where I’d expect them to be, perhaps just a little more up than usual and most of my daffodils are still underground.

Stormy weather

Much wind and rain over the last few weeks but not as much as Northern Britain this time. It’s winding itself up again tonight as I shut up the chickens, the garden is due for another southerly battering. The wind is soughing through the fine top branches of the nearby oaks accompanied by the brittle rattle of desiccated hornbeam leaves in the hedges.

This morning it’s more full-on there’s a great roar of wind and trees – just waiting for the lashing rain to begin. A day to sit and plan.

Gaining momentum

The gardening mojo is starting to return. There are times when I don’t want to think or plan or garden particularly. I can’t bear to look at garden books or catalogues – now the excitement is returning.

The ragged garden I look out on this morning with its unkempt grass because it’s been too wet to mow but in this mild weather keeps on growing, transforms into the luxuriant abundance of summer in my mind’s eye. But before then there are borders to tidy, weed and mulch, seeds to be considered, purchased, sown and nurtured, soon the new growing year will begin in earnest!

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Not so quiet

Dahlia Karma Choc

Karma Choc

And unseasonably warm. I was going to post in October about the becalmed weather we were having interspersed with cruel north easterlies – it didn’t happen.

Today we’re getting a pummelling from the first ‘proper’ South Westerly winds and splattery rain of the autumn season, this’ll bring leaves down and scatter the pools of dead leaves which have been quietly accruing under the apple and hazel trees.


What fabulous autumn colour this year! Some trees in particular lit the landscape with vibrant rich butter yellows including a large Quaking Aspen up the road. Cherries including the wild cherries of the roadside provided rich emberglowing highlights.

The ‘fall’ hasn’t all happened at once, the Horse Chestnuts went early (the leaves not so moth eaten this year), the ash dropped very quickly, then apples, hazels and birches started, now the oaks are finally letting go too. The Bramley apple trees have been unburdening for weeks it seems, the thud of falling apples startling me on still days, crossing fingers none were too close to the greenhouse.

Love me tender

We had a couple of frosts in October but nothing to dampen the spirits of still rampant nasturtiums, I’ve had to start pulling them up as they’re swamping other plants stem rooting as they go. The Dahlia flowers have started to moulder on the stem but again have not yet been felled. Karma Choc from Sarah Raven has been a favourite.

This warm descent towards the shortest day does mean that I’ve had longer to take cuttings of tender plants and am stilling moving tenders into various winter hideaways. The trumpets of a brugmansia still outside are being blown horizontal by the wind as I write.

Salvia concolor

Salvia concolor

Salvias picked up as autumn advanced and cooler moister conditions prevailed. Salvia concolor looks healthier than it did all summer, the furry purple tails of S leucantha add vibrant colour still but the shrub is slowly falling apart under its own weight section by section. I’ve had to curb Hot Lips which was romping over Iris Gingerbread Man and other lower growers. The orange spiked S confertifolia will probably be downed by this wind.

Dahlia imperialis is at least 10 feet tall now but no flowers again this year, maybe if we’d had a less gloomy August it would have been different. Lovely fluffy grass Pennisetum Red Head is already shutting its leaves down, the flowers are there but not coming out, again maybe because of August?

Winter prep

The first Iris sextylosa flowered last week the violet flushed white flowers pristinely beautiful until bruised by rain. The winter flowering jasmine appears to be early this year? I’ve seen a number in full flower already.

Recently planted Anenome coronaria are putting up fresh leaves and Arum creticum is unfurling leathery leaves. Crocus speciosus is doing its collapsy all over the place thing, but I think I shall add more. Nascent catkins are already showing on the hazels.

I guess I shall have to continue the slow soggy retreat of plants into the greenhouse (which I should have tidied better before starting to put the plants in). I’ve enjoyed Thunbergia gregorii this year with bronzed fluffy flower buds and seed pods and really zesty orange flowers which are still appearing intermittently – I’d like to try and keep it going. Picked two of the last white gladioli Bangladesh to go with the tail end of the dahlias last week.

I had such a lovely show from Digitalis trojana earlier in the year but all the plants are now flowered and dead so have departed to the compost heap which’ll leave space for the lavender to breathe. I must sow seed and start again but where to put them?

Another plant I really enjoy is grass Molinia caerulea ssp. arundinacea tall growing airy arching fronds weighed at the tips by long lasting flowerheads all summer. It will soon die back now but has put on autumn colours of tawny yellow.

This spring we put a bat box up which as far as we know has no residents, in late summer we finished the new timber clad extension and 2 bats moved into the gaps between boards and cladding within weeks of the roof going on (winter or summer roost? Only time will tell). The moles have found all our newly created flower beds and the lawn is like a water bed to walk on we’re so riddled with tunnelings – hey ho!

And on a final note: hats off to Dobies seeds for their re-think on how to present seeds in their recent catalogue – I may not have bought but enjoyed the read!

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So many swan songs

Dark Brown Bush Cricket early September UK

Dark Brown Bush Cricket early September

I’m looking out at the garden on a dull and intermittently rainy Monday morning. The green of the grass is particularly vibrant in this light.

Even when the sun comes out the zizz and zuzz of the grasshoppers and crickets in the field is less. The swallows soon will be on their way, during the week there must have been 30 or 40 arcing overhead at one point.

Pale rosy-lilac Buddleja Beijing is one of the last buddleja to flower (although Orpheus is just coming to an end now), it played host yesterday to Red Admirals, a Comma and a few Whites. Speckled Woods still flicker amongst the brambles. On Friday a Humming Bird Hawk Moth was working Verbena corymbosa (should have been V hastata, that’s what it said on the packet! Never mind.)

Tomatoes Gardener's Delight, Costoluto Fiorentino, Big Rainbow (yellow), Gypsy (greeney)

Tomatoes Gardener’s Delight, Costoluto Fiorentino (crimped), Big Rainbow (yellow), Gypsy (greeney)

The tomatoes in the greenhouse have started to turn finally, the flavour is not so intense though and soon they’ll be making way for incoming tender plants (must do something about the whitefly). Seeds of Italy and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

I’ve pulled up the first few courgette forests, Lungo Bianco has lost its mojo, Striato d’Italia has a bit more life left. Enjoying the somewhat late planted gladdies in the veg patch that I got on sale from Sarah Raven in spring, pristine white Bangladesh and ruffled Green Star.

Must try harder

The woodbed has been a bit of a washout (more correctly dryout!) this year, the dryness which may be exacerbated by mole runs saw no astilbe flowers in summer and the Cimicifuga doesn’t look as if it will perform this year either.

I’m ashamed of the bad dry soil in one of the raised beds I found as I was digging things out yesterday. All summer some (but not all) plants have struggled. The now enormous Kniphofia northiae must have dug deep.

K caulescens has been excavated from under the aforementioned Buddleja Beijing and is displaying some buds, K rooperi also excavated has yet to flower. And Crocosmia Emily Mckenzie just coming into flower has been freed from shade as I cut down the Purple Moor Grass earlier this year.

Been poking about looking for the colchicums I planted last year, only one in evidence swamped by Salvia Kew Red. This salvia is an intense red but apparently no longer considered good enough (so says the latest edition of The Plantsman).

I’ve been taking cuttings of tenders (a bit late as ever) and am starting to shift tender plants from garden back to pots. Also planted out wallflower Vulcan raised from seed sown in June. I’m always amazed at what a small root system wallflowers can survive on.

Only one brugmansia has flowered this year despite feeding. I have remembered to collect some Nicotiana alata seed this year. In spring some of last year’s fabulously night scented white tobacco plant had self sown in one of the brugmansia pots so I carefully pricked them out and potted them on – an easy bonus!

All this year’s dahlias went in very late, Karma Choc (first flower now) is certainly an amazing colour. And I forgive White Honka which has stayed in the ground for two years it’s so far performing more vigorously than the more propeller petalled Yellow Honka.

I’m re-reading Frank Ronan’s selection of Christopher Lloyd’s pieces for Country Life ranging from the 1960’s to the 1980’s and enjoying the liveliness, opinions and observations – mostly less arch than some of his writing.

Spotted Woodpecker fracas yesterday, one has been declaring its territory from the top of the Lawson’s Cypress and on spotting another it pounced on the rival and saw it off. The owls can now often be heard around 6:00AM but still not as close as they used to be. It was nice to see a Goldcrest pair still around working an ex Christmas Tree at the end of the garden.

A squirrel has just gone off stage right (now appeared again going off stage left into the other border), the lawn is pocked with holes from the continued frantic nut burying.

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Oops… there went the summer

Spangle Grass just coming into flower in the woodbed

Spangle Grass just coming into flower in the woodbed

There’s a most definite nip in the air.

Some of the more tender plants including salvias are starting to look past their best never having really got going in this relatively dull summer. I was hoping to finally propel Dahlia imperialis up to a giddy height and into flower this year, don’t think so somehow although she’s a good 8 foot at least in height now.

A late capsid bug attack is very evident, Fuchsia Lady Bacon is only flowering at the very bottom where the bugs don’t appear to have had a go.  The heliotrope flowers have soldiered on although the top leaves appear a little chewed such are the attentions of capsids.

The epiphyllum produced another smaller flower this week which matured and opened much faster than the earlier one, I presume something to do with day length? I’ve started to bring some of the sundews back into the conservatory, D regia a South African, was looking decidedly battered after the last few weeks of rain and lowering light levels.

Saw my first and probably last Humming Bird Hawk Moth on Tuesday when cutting back the late flowering buddleja Beijing to release some plants into the light that they were benignly swamping .

This morning I think it may have been our odd starling which has been lurking under the eaves all summer was by itself sitting on the TV aerial, glossy breast feathers burnished by the sun, 4 starlings flew over,  jinked when they saw me watching but then landed on the aerial briefly before all 5 flew away – a gathering of the clans, our local murmuration building?

True colours

The primary colours in the garden this morning looking down the main border are yellows and purples. Rudbeckia triloba and R laciniata to the left and on the right the last of the lily Black Beauty, empurpled angelica (seedlings from A sylvestris Vicar’s Mead which people say is perennial, I would say on-balance A sylvestris is biennial). And an unknown big pompom dahlia which survived in the ground from last year. In another bed the large strongly yellow rayed flowers of Helianthus Gullick’s Variety (coarse foliage and a terrible runner) soar into the air way above my head.

The asters (they now have a new horribly complicated name I’m not attempting this morning) have yet to kick-in, all are still tightly budded.

The flick of a squirrel tail disappearing into the main border just now means we’ll be awash with hazel seedlings next year. This year horse chestnuts came up everywhere, presumably they like them less than hazel nuts but conkers were plentiful last autumn so they felt duty bound to bury them.

Lying in bed one morning half asleep it occurred to me that I didn’t know where i’d put the Bessera, these tender mexican orange bulbs add a late flash of colour – yesterday when looking for a terracotta pot I found the small mouldy bulbs in the bottom of one pot – obviously I forgot to get round to potting them up this spring – oh dear.

More neglect. The top growth of white Thunbergia fragrans from Crug Farm Plants collapsed completely with the first whiff of frost last year. I took it into the dark but above freezing lean-to last autumn, dragged the pot out again this spring and stuffed it in an out of the way corner and forgot to do anything further with it.  It’s now engulfed a camellia and is a mass of flowerbuds all of which are yet to open.

This glamourpuss is Phymosia umbellata from Pan Global Plants.

This glamourpuss is Phymosia umbellata from Pan Global Plants.

As ever I’m way behind, so many cuttings yet to be taken including this tenderish mexican shrub from Pan Global Plants – Phymosia umbellata – it’s getting late, it’s getting late!

Last regular Dan Pearson article for the Observer today – that’s my gentle sunday morning reading gone.

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A green tomato year

Queen of the Night in Flower

Epiphyllum oxypetalum flowering for the first time a few weeks ago.

A funny old summer. A couple of blisteringly hot energy sapping days interspersed with temperature plummeting days of solid rain and normal english summer weather in between. Today it’s raining heavily again, on Saturday it was warm, sunny and humid, a couple of flashes of lightning on Saturday night.

The tomatoes in the re-sited greenhouse aren’t ripening very quickly as we shift into autumn gear. The greenhouse is more shaded than previously, it used to get full-on south facing light most of the day. One Gardener’s Delight today is displaying a faint blush, Costoluto Fiorentino and Big Rainbow are still in various shades of pale jade green, Gypsy is a darker green altogether with even darker green shoulders.

I was hoping to do some gardening today – forget it! The oceans of Fat Hen that came in with the cow muck will have to await uprooting and the cutting back too. I’m not in the mood for being showered and slapped by sodden and rotting foliage. The hornbeams should be trimmed – but not today.

I also need to start taking loads of cuttings, maybe this afternoon i’ll retreat to the leaky potting shed and commune with the spiders whose webs festoon everything. Miss Havisham would be proud. My auriculas also go un-repotted

Late summer flowers and produce

As I look down the rainy garden border blobs of doubled white Shasta Daisy Beauty of Droitwich catch the eye, then on to the downward belled Galtonia candicans towards the cloud of golden daises of Rudbeckia triloba. Dots of blue agapanthus add a more subtle eye line down the front of the border.  In the rose bed Lilium Black Beauty (in reality dark ruby and white) rear over 6 feet up out of the surrounding foliage, heads bowed by the rain.

The courgettes have started sulking with the dull cold weather and maybe i’ll get two squash out of 3 plants this year? This morning a Lungo Bianco courgette presses against the greenhouse glass palely looming out of the shadows, maybe the last at this rate!

Epiphyllum oxypetalum in bud

Epiphyllum oxypetalum in bud – very Little Shop of Horrors but she doesn’t sing

The new greenhouse position has suited Epiphyllum oxypetalum, the Queen of the Night, a great gangly grower with paddle bladed leaves, she rewarded me after quite a number of years of sulking with a huge white heavily scented flower a few weeks ago. The flower did stay open into daylight but certainly darkness triggered the dramatic opening. There is another scaly maroon bud on its way but I may have to move her back to the lighter conservatory which may upset things!

An abundance of empurpled golden Victoria Plums  plop to the ground from overladen branches where legions of flies are enjoying the harvest but seemingly few wasps. One can only eat so many and the jam is a bit insipid attested to by the fact I still have jars from two years ago lurking in the back of a cupboard.

No hornets so far are seen to be taking advantage of the somewhat smaller apples this year which are littering the ground unchewed, tipsy Red Admirals are few and far between.

The fruits of the Merryweather damson whose leaves were damaged by a heavy infestation of aphids earlier on are just turning (the aphids were also in the hazel trees, sticky honeydew rained down on my washing annoyingly for a couple of weeks and left sooty streaks on the polygonatum leaves before presumably nature balanced things out again). The Greengage decided not to flower this year and the Quince flowered with no set. Whichever critter likes the Early Rivers plums whipped them again, one minute the sparse crop was there, next day gone.

Brambles are aggressively thrusting their way out of the hedges, putting on it seems inches daily in another push of growth and the honeysuckle which has been cut back a number of times tries yet again to envelop bordering plants.

Self-seeded and planted Wild Angelica add a fuzzy froth of off-white to mauve flowers to the late summer streambanks and wood margins. The flower heads appear less defined en masse than some umbels, the supporting branches held aloft on sturdy stems complemented by broad leaves.

Thunbergia gregorii

Thunbergia gregorii

I’m enjoying Thunbergia gregorii bought from Hill House Nursery earlier this year. Huge orange flowers emerge from rusty furred pods. It’s only slightly behind a Morning Glory in the race to the top of an obelisk.

Crickets, blues and hobbies

Last weekend in the parish field a number of Common Blue butterflies (I think) were shut up for the night each having attached itself high up on a browned grass stem, and amongst the grasshoppers Dark Brown Crickets chirred. The Speckled Wood butterflies have emerged and occasional Peacocks and Commas dodge the showers. A new crop of Cabbage White caterpillars is steadily chewing it’s way through the rampant self-seeded nasturtiums.

The swirling Tree Bee activity stopped a few weeks ago. Our odd Starling is still it seems living in the nest under the eaves emerging in the morning and in the evening. We thought we saw a Hobby pass by a few weeks ago with its distinctive Swift outline. The Sparrowhawk has come crashing through the shrubs in the main border twice in the past week.

A mole is as usual taking advantage of the softened clay to go earth swimming, some plants in the newish (not as shady as I thought it would be) border are continually being uprooted by one of the many velvet coated pests which infest the garden!

The honeyfungus issue is still vexing me, I’ve lost a Stachyurus suddenly as well. How does a manky old plum tree survive? And honeyfungus must exist in a woodland environment so how does that work? Do other fungi compete with it and lessen its impact?


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Fabulous foxgloves

This part of the garden is only a year old.

This is the south facing area which was a tatty lawn in May last year, we dug it out and the other half got busy with the pine sleepers and paths. I’m particularly pleased with the Digitalis trojana, these plants were grown from seed from an original plant bought from The Botanic Nursery. They have remained in flower for weeks and are just starting to look tired now. Reportedly perennial.

The picture also shows how good some plants are for adding fast height even if you ditch them as slower growers come into their own, including the silver atriplex and Sphaeralcea Newleaze Coral from cuttings taken in Autumn 2013. Some grasses can also give quick height and screening.

Bunium bulbocastanum

Bunium bulbocastanum above from Special Plants Nursery seed sown last year is a neat smallish umbel with mats of leaves from which the flower stalks emerge. Said to be perennial.

Falcaria vulgaris

Another long-lasting pretty airy umbel this year is Longleaf,  Falcaria vulgaris, a biennial rare in the UK I think, the seeds came from France. This is growing in dry semi-shade and seems to be happy.

Pests and diseases

I have a number of umbels growing in the cottagey part of my woodbed. I’ve also planted a few shrubs in this area over the last couple of years, 2 tree peonies, a dogwood and a lespedeza. The dogwood failed and I thought it was because of the conditions (it’s very poor dry soil in which an aster, lungwort and Cyclamen hederifolium seem to thrive). Then suddenly a couple of weeks ago the lespedeza collapsed as did the two peonies this spring. On digging up these plants I diagnosed honey fungus, although I’ve never seen the fruiting bodies (the mushrooms), the roots were black and riddled with white mycelium. Someone had mentioned in passing the previous owners had had trees down because of it but not where. I only hope it’s really just this area that’s heavily affected, we have trees all round us which seem OK.

There are quite a few instances of fasciation this year although I’ve often seen it on Linaria purpurea others affected include Digitalis ferruginea and Veronicastrum.

Along with continuing mole issues i.e. going round and under rootballs and starving plants of water (it’s found its way into the newly re-positioned greenhouse borders. Only baked solid clay is preventing it from getting into the new raised veg beds). I say it, but actually we think there is more than one at work. Plus a rabbit digging in the borders and an occasional deer passes through delicately browsing the roses. One chicken is broody so has protected the eggs from marauding Magpies for the last few weeks – the respite will be over soon.

Owls and other birds

We’ve seen a Barn Owl sweep across the parish field a couple of times over the last few weeks at around 10:30 pm but any Tawny activity is a way away unlike previous years. The Sparrowhawk young are testing themselves as their calls have been more prevalent again the last couple of mornings accompanied by incessant Blackbird alarm calls (the manic screeching peaked in mating season in early April)

Butterflies so far are mainly Meadow Browns and Skippers. Tiger Moths have been quite prevalent, you just catch a fluster of red and black from the corner of your eye. We went looking for glow worms last night by the canal, we counted 8 females with their lamps lit, mainly in the mown grass. Some sites have already recorded up to 80 – Wow!

Philadelphus mexicanus x palmeri

Philadelphus mexicanus x palmeri

Picked the first sweet peas of the year a couple of weeks back, I bought a red, white and blue mix in a sale, only the blue Lord Nelson appears to have a scent sadly. The main scent now is Lonicera halliana and Lilium regale with a bit of heliotrope stirred in. The evening scented Zaluzianskya are also just coming into flower along with Brugmansias.

We have a fabulous Philadelphus from Pan Global Plants with the most amazing scent which was in flower a couple of weeks back. It also has small leaves and is pendant in growth so altogether lovely! (We’ve since been up to PGP and Nick Macer tells me he’s now named it Casa Azul (the Blue House) after the Frida Kahlo Museum (as this Mock Orange has Mexican roots).

We’re waiting for rain today but whether it will grace us I don’t know, otherwise I’ll have to continue watering.



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Nightingales with megaphones

Posy of June flowers  Garrigue

Freshly picked from the Languedoc garrigue in early June

How time flies! Two weeks ago I was staying with a friend who runs a chambres d’hote in the Languedoc. The house is in the garrigue. Garrigue is not just low growing shrubs and plants like rosemary but also comprises trees including pines, juniper and evergreen oaks interspersed with the occasional vineyard. The stony golden earth is home to a rich flora.

The highways people have been stripping areas back from the road of scrub (presumably a fire thing?), and other plants have taken advantage of this. Clematis flammula was growing in fresh dark green humps over the ground, the small white flowers just coming out (lost mine this winter along with a C rehederiana – why?). Lonicera etrusca with fine spidery scented trumpet flowers is covetable for the garden, the stem appears to pierce through a series of twinned cupped leaves. Phlomis lychnitis is definitely something I’d seek out for the drier garden as well. Low growing with silvered furry leaves and clear lemon flowers. An odd tightly growing little shrub with small cream flowers was Daphne gnidium.

Some grasses and other plants were already dried, a form of wild oat? bleached almost white looked gorgeous in the lowering evening sunlight.  Various helichrysums were also just coming into full-flower, tuffets of silver leaves topped with pale yellow bobbles. Also very close to home I found a splendid Lizard Orchid over a foot tall which the French call Goat Orchid as it apparently smells of goat.

Nightingales with megaphones
Nightingale song could be heard not just at night, they seemed to be everywhere and were even more noticeable over the Spanish border in the area around Girona. Whilst it can be lovely it’s also LOUDER than anyone else too. I also heard hoo, hoo and fleetingly saw the chestnut back and a glimpse of the raised barred crest of a Hoopoe. It flies like a Woodpecker in short dipping bursts. Also I heard Cuckoos – on their way back to Africa from elsewhere or local and staying longer? The sound of newly emerged Cicadas was also being added to the soundscape, the temperature had got high enough to trigger their hatching.

Meanwhile in Languedoc gardens
Oleander was in full flower in many colours, used mainly as hedging. In one town we passed through a really intensely dark blue Morning Glory tumbled over a gateway and in another a Caesalpinia gilliesii cockily strutted its stuff.

Very jealous of Dan Pearson who wrote about his visit to Annie’s Annuals in California in last week’s Observer. And shame on Joe Swift for not embracing the hanging basket ethos fully on Gardener’s World this week.

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Moving on swiftly

Iris Gingerbread Man

Miniature iris Gingerbread Man

Yesterday was sunny and blustery after the previous two weeks when we had frost every day followed by skirling winds and rain. I looked up into a cloudless blue sky when I heard the scream of swifts and above me in a layered cloud the underwings of the lower birds flashing as they caught the light, over 50 Swifts, 30 seconds later they had gone. I presume they’re coming in on the south westerlies.

In the last week the world has become more 3D as leaves have been filling out trees and hedges, all is at its brightest green. The first big iris, Katie-Koo is in flower, English Cottage is close behind. The first rose looks like it will be R Devoniensis the rest are still immature green buds.

The greengage hasn’t flowered this year but the rather forlorn quince has loads of pink flowers. The only wisteria of those planted last year with flowers is Prolific.

The starling babies calls are becoming deeper as they grow. The magpies are becoming a nuisance again raiding the hen house and gashing holes in the eggs. Last week they had enough time to get one out, I found a crushed shell in the chicken pen.

I was going to dig out a bit of Bergenia ciliata and brushed back some old leaves, there in a mossy cup a single wren’s egg, I tucked the leaves back but can’t think it will last long on the ground.

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A hare is a very fine thing

Blackbird's nest

Newly built Blackbird’s nest in the cold frame

A few weeks ago one evening contemplating the emerging shade loving plants in the woodbed I saw a rich brown something making it’s way down the byway to the side of the house, at first I thought it was a small terrier but it moved oddly – a hare was making speedy but not rushed progress along the road.

This morning at 7:30 in the parish field in front of the house a brown shape I thought it a small fox at first, but no the hare again. Seeming to be aware it was being watched it ambled around the field at one point up on it’s haunches the silvered ears swiveling to catch any sound, and then spooked by something it was off, streaking through the new fence. Gone the large quite bulky creature, transformed into the streamlined hare.

The new parish field fence has also allowed us to discover a badger path. Yours disgusted Mr Brock soon dug a scrape under the annoying fence to allow him on his way. Whether its a nightly ramble or an infrequent path we’ll soon find out.

Last weekend seems to have been au point for many birds. I discovered a beautifully built nest in the cold frame still heavy with wet mud built in the three days I hadn’t visited to water. Eschewing the nice new home we put up the Starlings have gone under the eaves again. After a screeching courtship last weekend they’ve settled down to nest building. The finches are hogging the sunflower seeds, Greenfinch is at the top of the pecking order (5 of them this morning) then a Bullfinch pair, the Goldfinch occasionally and the Chaffinch pair flutter around on the edges. Having not seen the woodpecker for months he (we presume) is drumming everywhere, a very old abandoned nestbox in an apple tree was a perfect amplifier to break the stillness yesterday morning.

I seem to have peony wilt on at least one P Rockii and a bit of die-back on another cultivar which is a pity if I have to abandon tree peonies. Two aquilegia I bought from a garden centre last year also started off well but looked dodgy so they’ve been burnt, I hope that doesn’t transfer to the other aquilegia.

After a warm and sunny few days the plum blossom has broken.

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Let’s hear it for the crocus

Crocus chrysanthus Herald

Crocus chrysanthus Herald

I can boast two daffodils out in the garden on St David’s Day, but a whole lot of crocus embraced the sun in the spring weather a whopping 11C. A few bees were seen out and about on their travels.

The copse, spinney, bit of wood at the end of the garden is a wash of snowdrops which are just over au point, spring is quickening.  I noticed two richly coloured violet flowers out, no primroses yet, but I’ve seen them palely loitering in the hedgerows already.

Crocus biflorus Blue Pearl

Crocus biflorus Blue Pearl

A rainy squall has just passed through putting paid to any thoughts of gardening. The season is already hastening away from me, weeding to be done, seeds to be sown, the last muck to be spread, too wet, too tired, no time.

It’s also the time of year when plants that look as if they’ve toughed it out against the frost simply don’t have the energy to jumpstart themselves into the spring thing and reveal themselves as dead or on the way. The jury is currently out on the Beschorneria but one Coronilla glauca Citrina has had it.

At Bath Spa station yesterday I sat staring up from the south facing platform into the wooded cliff that rises across the river. How many times in how many seasons have I been on that platform and looked into it in over 16 years? On this early spring day the many browns of twigs and branches were at their best, smudged here and there with the yellow of hazel catkins. One loses a sense of scale, it looks intimate and close, until a small, small buzzard lazily drifts up into the sky a long way away and a tiny flashing grey dot of a pigeon passes across the canvas and disappears. Then its seems vast and special so close to the centre of this city.

Jackdaws have rediscovered the bird food fatballs now thoughts are turning to nesting, three are currently sitting in a sumach tree, one balancing precariously on the wire tube stretching out a balancing wing. Earlier the sparrowhawk was on its rounds diving into the honeysuckle after a tit but missing.

Crocus Orange Monarch

Crocus Orange Monarch

The sun is out again now golden highlights against a grey sky. We’re 43 minutes away from sunset.

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