We’re on the spring roll

Tulip David Tenniers spring-morningMid April and most of the tulips are already open. The golden globes of Tulipa sylvestris were pipped to the post by a lone T kaufmanniana in March, but only just. The daffodils are mostly gone over now. Plum blossom drifts gently to the ground when there is a whisper of a breeze, the next wave of cherry and pear blossom have taken centre stage with the clotted Blackthorn in the hedgerows.

I have two double tulips this year, David Tenniers and the yellow Monte Carlo both from Broadleigh Bulbs. I’d put David Tenniers on the mauvey rather than reddy colour range Anthraciet was more reddy blackcurrant. Maybe one day I’ll have beautifully co-ordinated pots of tulips rather than a random mix, with in this case, the last of the highly scented Narcissus Sweetness interrupting the overall look.

A swathe of Narcissus poeticus planted by previous owners seems more abundant than last year,  a lovely wash of white running through the wilder woody bit at the far end of the garden. This is the woodbed at 6:30 this morning the chickens having complained loudly enough to be let out to get me out of bed.

Saw swallows in Melksham last week and a lone swallow yesterday over the garden. Nature’s Calendar is showing them starting to emphatically spread up the country over the last few days. The weather is cool but sunny which is I guess ideal.

Two ducks are running a creche in the still waterlogged field opposite. The drakes are starting to bother them and one little fluff ball got left behind temporarily yesterday while mum shrugged off the drake’s attentions, you can see just how vulnerable they are to predators.

On Friday I came home to a dead Carrion Crow by the chicken fence, it had a bloodied head and a small scattering of feathers, did it hit the electric fence, did something attack it? I don’t think our elderly cat would have taken on such a bludgeoning beak.

Tipping out old pots left behind by the previous owner yesterday I find I’ve been harbouring vine weevils but also found a large gold toad behind the pots.

More seeds to be sown including squashes and watermelon.

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For James in droughty Singapore

Frost yesterday morning, relatively warm but mostly grey today with more rain on the way.

Lathyrus vernus

Lathyrus vernus

weeds-water

Celandines, Nettles, Meadowsweet and Alkanet

Spring Chicken - Percy the Blubell

Spring Chicken – Percy the Bluebell

Snake's Head Fritillary

Snake’s Head Fritillary

Peony rockii and self seeded hellebores

Peony rockii and self seeded hellebores

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That’s better

Rip van Winkle

Narcissus Rip van Winkle

Wonder of wonders, the sun is shining again today. Saw my first Brimstone butterfly on Friday and a Peacock woken from its slumbers yesterday. I should however have started my border clearing and weeding earlier as now I risk damaging emerging plants.

Daffodils nod in the sun demanding attention as the last modest snowdrops retreat for another year. I’ve planted mostly smaller daffs like Rip van Winkle although I’ve ended up with quite a blary trumpety one in one border, ho hum.

The Crocuses are getting their chance in the sun this year, honey bees have been rolling in the open cups especially C tommasinianus Whitwell Purple (this website noted that last year they were a month later). Another sign of spring, primroses flowering in hedgerows and a Gold Laced Primula in the garden. Not up to show standard but pretty nonetheless.

Gold Laced Primula

Gold Laced Primula

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Written in March (really)

frosty-morningSmall clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

From Written in March, William Wordsworth, 1802

Sadly the rain hasn’t gone, but here we are, it’s March! Yesterday dawned frosty, sparkly and sunny. Today grey and windy, another dose of rain is on the way.

Yesterday everything had that extra glamour spring sun brings,  flickers of soft sheened rooks and crows lazily taking off and landing as they poked about in the fields. The calling of Buzzards as they wound higher and higher in the warming air. And in the conservatory it got to 31C, huge temperature swings, the Eryngium ebracteatum has started to germinate but it’s not a great environment for seedlings with these swings.

Outside Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is still pumping out scent from pale pink flowers. Pink new growth the colour of young rhubarb and the buds on the Paeonia rockii look horribly vulnerable, yesterday bowed down to the ground by the frost, today perky but wind battered.

Some of the seeds sown a couple of weeks ago in the unheated greenhouse are already up, and all the sweetpeas are now showing. Some of the umbel seedlings outside particularly Laser Trilobum are coming up now too. A shy and retiring umbel from Marina Christopher at Phoenix Plants, Jellito lists seeds, apparently it’s called Horse Caraway (horse in a plant name normally denoting it’s not worth much), but apparently it possesses some sort of beneficial essential oil.

The Sparrowhawk is active, last week it came round a low hedge a foot away from me at waist height, then up and over the lean-to shed homing in with speed and stealth on the bird feeders. Sometimes it sits in the bird feeder tree just looking around. Yesterday while I was out it had struck lucky I think,  I came back to a scattering of fresh small black feathers on the lawn, not sure who bought it yesterday!

scoot-housemk2The mole has been horribly busy working the ground we moved the chickens off, running just under the surface lifting the chicken grazed turf in lines, loops and dead ends. It’s odd to think that pesky little creature can heave it’s way so easily through such packed earth.

This is Scoot House Mark 2 it’s just missing a flag on a wavy pole. As the new chickens don’t care much for nest boxes and prefer to make nests by tearing up newspaper and rearranging the wood shavings, its just flat inside. The idea is that we can move them round the garden more easily whilst keeping the electric fence on. The fox (or a fox) still shows up sporadically on the wildlife cam.

I’ve just looked up the Wordsworth poem after I wrote the above – this website quotes from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal. Apparently the poem was written on Good Friday, 16th April 1802 (not March) as William and Dorothy walked from Ullswater to Ambleside over Kirkstone pass…

“The view above Ambleside very beautiful. There we sate, and looked down on the green vale. We watched the crows at a little distance from us become white as silver, as they flew in the sunshine; and, when they went still farther, they looked like shapes of water passing over the green fields.”

Some things change little.

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Feeling the lows

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Feeble old continental high can’t push out the Atlantic lows, rain, gales, rain, more rain and guess what more rain = flooding. I saw the sun and a snippet of blue sky about an hour ago and now more driving rain. The groundwater is way up to the top of the holes we bored in the ground.  I feel very sorry for people who have been flooded by both sea and fresh water. On a sort of plus side the temperatures aren’t too bad.

The wildlife cam has confirmed the fox is still around. I also saw what looked like landing prints in the mud by the stream. At the moment we only catch him or her on camera at night. The chickens are still behind electric fencing, sadly the free ranging days are over.  These chickens seem to graze more than the previous lot and the grass is getting bald on the main patch. We’re looking at building a house on wheels (a scoot house) we can move around the garden.  The garden is in better shape though. Gawky chicken got out last week and wreaked a trail of destruction Bergenia ciliata took a battering and is a shadow of its former self.

And although its somewhat early,  the mild weather is bringing plants on and I’ve made a start on clearing and mulching the main borders. I may yet be rewarded for my efforts  with a cold snap.

The bullfinches all tricked out in fresh attire have been dominating the seed feeder fighting the tits various off for over a week. The Long Tailed tits seem to prefer peanuts anyway as does the Spotted Woodpecker. A Blackcap has been grazing on honeysuckle berries.

Poking around in the woodbed, Hellebores various are out or lifting their heads including H purpurascens and I was surprised by the posies of the Chrysosplenium’s flowers, very dainty (from Pan Global Plants).

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Waiting for the sucker punch

Hazel catkins

Hazel catkins

Most of us wish January away as fast as possible. This January has generally been mild and wet, (very wet). Guess what? Today it’s raining again, squelch!

Yesterday the sun shone, the Crocus tommasinianus opened, Iris Katherine Hodgkin flirted with the breeze, catkins waved, and snowdrop Brenda Troyle’s large  flowers bobbed (she’s the first snowdrop properly out). Daphne Jacqueline Postill was allowed to release her scent in the warming air.

Suddenly in early afternoon a front whipped through, we only got the tail, a wild, mad westerly flinging down hail. Putting a sudden end to the prospect of gentle potter in the garden. We’re not out of the woods yet on the path to spring, February can still bring snow and plummeting temperatures.

The starling pair are back grackling away and excavating their old nest site under the gutter which is not ideal. The birds generally are putting on their best plumage, pairing up, and singing lustily. Last week we saw two hares in a field just up the road, one was gilded in the lowering sun.

We’ve had the webcam out since the chicky birds were taken by a fox at Christmas, nada, nuthin’. But it pays to stay vigilant, I thought I smelled a faint whiff of fox last weekend. Was it a fox passing through pushed by flooding? Or like BBC’s Winterwatch which featured a dispossessed fox on a tramp. A Brighton project has shown fox Fleet (Fleet Foxes geddit!?) did a 195 mile round trip in 3 weeks Dec /Jan when his son pushed him off home territory – whereabouts now unknown as his tracking collar dropped off.

I’ve been on an internet search for what I thought was a squash, turns out to be a watermelon, Moon and Stars, which I saw in the french Baumaux catalogue last year but couldn’t find online. There might be a UK supplier of the seed but I didn’t find one, I found a US company Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri, although many US suppliers won’t ship outside the US, I’ve got my seeds. Will I achieve watermelons? Depends on the summer as much as anything I think.

 

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New birds on the block

New birds

New birds

Maybe we wouldn’t have got any new birds after the fox attack for a bit, but Percy the remaining bird seemed a bit lost without company. So yesterday we went to a different supplier and got two more Speckledys although the laying one is a bit dodgy, as in not quite pukka (main pic), but she’s already laid an egg. Tonight had to get all three in as Percy having been fine with the modified fox porch to the hen house and normally the first to bed in the hen house was found falling asleep under a wheelbarrow (she’s mid pecking order so that doesn’t seem to have been the issue).

We’ve had fox cam out for the last few nights and nothing has been picked up so far focussed on the run it was taking on the attack day. Obviously still full of Black Rock and Speckledys.

Frost before the storm

Frost before the storm

Otherwise a frosty day and calm before more wind and rain.

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The tide is high

9:00AM Christmas Eve

9:00AM Christmas Eve

Well not exactly earth hard as iron territory instead very windy and lashings of rain (and since I started writing this even more lashing wind and rain). The stream has been up and down pooling at the bottom of the garden and running up the mole tunnels making the lawn spongy and walking unsteady, it hit the highest yet overnight into Christmas Eve.

We’ve gone past the shortest day and are now officially in winter. One of the hazels is already displaying quite long catkins. The Prunus subhirtella is scattered with white blossom. I’m glad I picked some holly when it still had berries the trees have now been nearly stripped.

1:00PM Christmas Eve

1:00PM Christmas Eve

Last week I planted some bare root trees from Buckingham Nurseries, Small Leaved Limes to replace two that didn’t grow, and when dug up had made no root growth at all although one had tried to sprout from the bottom. These limes are supposed to be able to cope with soggier conditions. And have since been under water!

In the conservatory the Brugmansia have dropped all their leaves and are displaying ridiculously large trumpets still. The sad looking heliotrope are also providing some scent. The Geranium madarense Alba are certainly enjoying the conditions with fresh new growth, one of the only plants in active growth at the moment.

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An expensive Christmas dinner

Greedy Beak or Queenie

Greedy Beak or Queenie

The sorry tale started on Monday. I’d dropped piece of clothing from the washing line which was out on the lawn overnight,  in the morning  I retrieved it and went to open the chickens up and noticed a strong foxy smell. The piece of clothing also had a muddy pawprint on it and a stench of fox. Finally we had been found out,  12 months fox free, but no more.

wibble-fox

The old Black Rock

 

Yesterday battling the outcome of the torrential rain we ran out of time and tried our best to shore up the chickens as we were away overnight. Today we came back at 1:00PM to puffs of feathers scattered down the garden. As we approached the henhouse there was a lone worble. Percy the witless had somehow survived. Wibble the old Black Rock and the two Speckledys are no more. This appeared not to be a wanton destruction but a take and stash somewhere. We know the culprit,  the wildlife cam picked foxy up at 2:00AM this morning then at 5:00AM,  at 6:10AM something triggered the camera but the slaughter wasn’t captured. Poor chicky girls.

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What a grey day!

Conservatory December 1st

Conservatory December 1st

I sense a grey theme is developing in the recent posts. Today, December 1st, dawns grey and damp, typical English run up to Christmas weather in fact.

Wrens are busy in the garden, unlike my old garden when I only heard their loud rebuking tchiking, here they are more apparent flitting round the various climbers and pots. Delicate flashes of rich brown. Other birds are coming in to the garden again including the red faced Goldfinches just now on the bird feeder. Starlings in constantly shifting groups are enjoying the large pools that have developed in the pony field again. Although the drip, drip of the land drains into the stream continues the pools remain.

The last trees to lose their leaves are the oaks and hazels. The birches have been shedding golden arrowhead leaves for a while, which can be found migrating down the hall, into the kitchen, living room and elsewhere. The seasonal advance of ivy up various trunks is also apparent, I was stripping some away from one of the old apple trees which revealed how rotten the main trunk is. A pity as its blossom in spring at the end of the garden is very attractive. Do I grow a rose up it (which could look too fussy) or replace it?

A cut of the lawn was done yesterday after the frost lifted which has neatened things up, I can see the chickens again as they roam about.

Yesterday was spent shifting more pots into the unheated greenhouse and into the conservatory where I hope to keep the temperature just above freezing. Poor old worms have been evacuating drying pots, I even found one who had sadly expired in the window frame. The picture shows a mish mash of agave, Melanoselinum decipiens, Geranium maderense Alba, Olive, a phoenix palm, abutilons, solanum and other odds and sods. I still need to find room for more if the weather gets harsh in Jan/Feb. I excavated last year’s Amaryllis from the back of the greenhouse and potted them on, they’re now in the conservatory.

I kicked the pepper plants out of the unheated greenhouse to make room for gingers dahlias and fuchsias.  Some of the dahlia tubers may survive. I probably could still have had fresh green peppers up to Christmas. One was trusty Seeds of Italy bullhorn pepper Dulce Italiano the other smaller pepper was T&Ms Taste of Italy Friggitello.

There are no pickings for vases to be had at all from the garden now apart from the white Schizostylis. I must remember to pick some berried holly before the birds finish them off.

Pelargonium Holt Beauty

Pelargonium Holt Beauty

This is Pelargonium Holt Beauty in flower at the moment, alongside heliotrope and the last knockings of a big datura.

My “grow an acacia to flower in spring” scheme hasn’t progressed as fast as anticipated,  the largest A retinodes is about 1 foot tall from seed sown in the summer (they are all in the conservatory). Last year a 5 foot A dealbata kept in a cold draughty spot at one garden centre was £45, I wasn’t going to pay that even if mimosa is one of my first favourite sniffs of spring.

 

All bulbs apart from some of the alliums were finally planted in pots last weekend.  The old pots tipped out, resident bulbs from previous years sorted through, some re used and some chucked and refreshed with new plump bulbs (particularly the tulips). I’ll now forget what is in which pot until I re-discover them in spring. Tulips include the golden double Monte Carlo, Margarita, Queen of Night (mixed with some of last year’s Ronaldo) and a Parrot. Narcissus for scent, Sweetness and Martinette and some hyacinths. Early Iris including Sheila Ann Germany and Harmony added to the “getting more mixed up” survivors from last year.

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