I’m a bit late to the party, (and missed the link up) but I’ve wanted to write another post for some time but haven’t had the material to do so. So, Hawthorn’s scavenger hunt for spring is perfect. I’ve spent the weekend doing some maintenance in the yarden and have noticed lots of signs that spring is on its way.
Here’s a collage of the gorgeous blooms that are signalling the arrival of the best of seasons.
With the weather warming up this week (and the days finally getting longer), I took the opportunity to have a wander around the yarden to see how the plants had fared over the cold winter. Sadly my fuschia isn’t looking it’s best, but hopefully it will pull through, as it’s a great autumn flower.
Throughout winter the herb rosemary has flowered it’s delicate blue flowers and I noticed its colour was joined by flashes of purple and yellow from the crocus and the green leaves of perfumed hyacinths, which I thought had been overshadowed by an azalea. I even spotted the leafy promise of bluebells that will hopefully flower in April/May. I’ve two hellebores, one I thought was being swamped by a dwarf rhododendron and cotoneaster, but I noticed it’s purple and white flowers bending in the breeze. There are also an abundance of buds on the star magnolia and camellia.
The pond also seems to have braved the frosts and the oxygenating plant within, is still vibrant. Hopefully we will have lots of aquatic life enjoying our tiny pond this year.
Calls from the visiting birds has also changed in recent weeks. The goldfinches have moved on from the winter chatter to their now playful chirp and waggle of their tails in the hope of attracting a mate.
Day 20: For today’s Throw Back Thursday I will be returning to the theme of planting for wildlife as I did in 2015. 2016 saw me celebrate the summer solstice. In 2017 I showcased bees and in 2018 I walked alpacas.
Planting for wildlife can be so rewarding. My little yarden is five years old and has some wonderful plants for birds and insects.
Such as ivy, polemonium, crocus, salvia, hellebore, red campion, passion flower and delilah.
What flowers do you grow for pollinators and birds?
This Friday was Candlemas – Festival of light.Candlemas has many connotations. For the Christian’s, it represents Mary’s presentation of the young Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. To others it’s Imbolc, a Gaelic festival signalling the beginning of spring, and since 1886 the day has also been known as Groundhog Day. Whatever your beliefs, the season of spring does seem to be close at hand.
For the past few weeks I have been looking for signs of spring. Thanks to the Woodland Trust‘s Nature Detectives, I have spotted my first blooming willow catkins and snowdrops.
Snowdrops (Candlemas Bells)
However there seems to be many superstitions regarding this time of year between the Shortest Day and the March equinox. Of the Christian saying:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, Winter will not come again.
This belief means that if the day of Candlemas is bright and sunny, then superstition would determine that winter hasn’t ended for the season. This is also the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. If, (groundhog) Phil see’s his shadow (on a sunny day) then the poor rodent, will predict another six weeks of winter.
This year, both Candlemas was a sunny, fair day here in the NW of England and Punxsutawney Phil (in Philadelphia, U.S.A) did indeed see his shadow. Meaning there could be another six weeks of winter.
I on the other hand don’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t ignore nature. There is so much blossoming around me. From Hellebores and irises, to daffodils (in parks) and crocuses in my yarden. Even in the grasp of winter there is life, all around.
Riley and Daffodils
This weekend I have also spotted the visiting chiffchaff to my yarden. He/she is always spotted around this time, flitting about the yarden. This year I was amazed at how brash the chiffchaff was, fluttering at the dinning room window and landing in the window boxes. I’ve managed to get some new footage of this seasonal visitor. We tend to only see the chiffchaff around wintertime.
So whether you think spring is around the corner or six weeks away. Spring will be here in no time, and then fast on its heels will be summer. The seasons of the years go so fast. We need to savour the passing of time.
Enchanted Forest Mug
While I was watching the wildlife outside my window. I enjoyed a cup of tea from my recently bought mug. It is of the same design as my Enchanted Forest plates. I love it!
My total miles for the week has been a very reasonable 34 miles. If you have signed up for the challenge, how are you doing?
A Year in Books:
I spent most evenings this week reading and finishing A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. Unfortunately I did not enjoy the book as I had hoped. It seemed that every new chapter, the characters were cracking open a bottle of alcohol and the end was rather disappointing. There didn’t seem a reason why the protagonists were being ‘haunted.’ It wasn’t a very satisfying ending if you ask me. Have you read this book? Perhaps you enjoyed it more than I did?
A Parliament of Rooks
We may be in the grip of winter but there are many signs of spring. The hellebore in the yarden has been blooming since mid December. I think the flower heads are so pretty!
Looking ahead to summer and The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild, I’ve recently purchased an illuminated mini beast centre to help in my exploration of the insect world this June. I’ve not tested it yet but the solar powered light looks bright enough to attract some moths. Hopefully!
Illuminated Mini Beast Centre
Enchanted Forest Plate
While doing the weekly shop I could not help but buy this beautiful new dinner set from Asda. It was only £15! The design is of an enchanted woodland and indeed the pattern is imaginary! The martens have antlers and the foxes have crow wings!
Today has been a gorgeous, bright winters day here in the NW, so David and I took a leisurely 1.6 mile walk around Festival Gardens.
Well week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.
With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.
Day Fifteen: Thursday.
Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!
So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!
I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.
The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?
Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.
Day sixteen: Friday.
All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.
The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!
If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.
Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!
Day Eighteen: Sunday.
Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!
Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.
Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?
Day Nineteen: Monday.
Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.
Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.
Bumblebee on Dahlia
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Some pollinator friendly plants are:
Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?
Day Twenty: Tuesday.
I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.
The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
Prefer simple, open flowers.
Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.
Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.
The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.
Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.
Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.
I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.
Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.
Ingredients (makes one small mug):
I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
Strain and drink.
I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.
The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.
What is your favorite herbal drink?
What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?
Standing firm against the gales of storm Henry, Artie and I ventured out into the back garden while the winter sun shone with the promise of longer, warmer days to come. In fact today was quite mild, dare I jinx it and say the whole season has been wet, windy and mild?!
It may have been just a brief half an hour that we were outside, but it was time well spent. At present I am feeling rather cooped up! So today when I saw the sun shining I knew that I should spend my lazy morning tending to my spring shoots.
The first thing that catches the eye is the white and purple flashes of Hellebore flower heads. I love Hellebores, or Christmas Roses, they are such good growers and always a welcome colour in the more shaded areas of the garden.
With Goldfinches squeaking at me to leave the garden, so they could have their breakfast of sunflower hearts, I noticed many tips of green shoots breaking through the damp soil! There are a number of tall Tulip bulbs sprouting and I think I have some welcome Snowdrops (they never grew last year), but they seem to be getting eaten by something so I never get to see them bloom!
The Hyacinth has been going strong since Christmas and has a twin growing along side it now!
I managed to replant the sad looking Lavender. I took it from its patio pot and placed it where there is some space in the main garden area. In front of this I also replanted some seedlings of the Poppy seeds I had growing. I hope they take to their new home and flourish!
Lavender and Poppy relanting
With all this replanting, I have made space now for five patio pots to be free for when I attempt to grow some vegetables later in the year.
Last year I bought seeds for Spring Onions, Green Beans and Peppers. I have not attempted to grow my own vegetables before so I wonder if any of them will survive?
Have you ever attempted to grow your own vegetables? Did you get much harvest? Have any tips?
I’ve not written since Easter when Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was voted no.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame. (N.B. I did not vote for it!) Since then I have been pottering about the garden and seeing how things are growing. I am quite proud with the plants I have, all, whether new or old are flourishing, so much so that I thought I would share some pictures with you.
The tulips have all grown from their bulbs and the rhododendron and hellebore give much colour/definition to the shaded area of the garden.
The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!
Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!
I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.
This Saturday I went to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green and bought another coriander. As this herb is only an annual I am having to buy it every year, but I will keep the seeds and hopefully be able to grow it again next year! In addition to the coriander, I went a bit ‘mad’ and bought a camellia. I have seen some recently and thought they were beautiful, though they are not great for wildlife, I bought one to see how it fares in my garden!?! I also bought a fritillaria which looks bizarre and smells even worse!
My mum kindly gifted me with some lovely orange lilies the other day, which I planted alongside the other newcomers to the garden!
I have seen my first bees of the season flitting though the blossom of my mum’s tree next door and I took some lovely photographs of a visiting common wasp happily pollinating the laurel bush.
On Saturday I had a visitor from a ‘Hover fly, or Drone fly, (true fly)’ who flew about my dining room before trying to exit from my kitchen window (which I opened). I am rather saddened to say that I was hoping it would be something more ‘exotic’ like a solitary bee, but I guess a fly resembling a honeybee is something unique as well.
Hover fly, or drone
I was listening to podcasts of Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM the other day and he said something I thought was profound. He said, ‘half the fun in gardening is anticipation, looking forward to things coming out, rather than them being there all the time.’ I agree with the statement wholeheartedly. These past few months while awaiting for bulbs to grow and other plants to awaken from winter has had me peering out of the windows daily.
I have Lily, orchid and gladioli bulbs planted so come summer I will be continuing to peruse my garden to see what has stood the test of nature!
Today I managed to venture out into the garden! It was warm enough that I could stay outside for over an hour without being frozen to the bone! The garden was in much need of attention. There was a lot of dead material to remove and I wanted to assess the toll winter had on the plants. Sadly the Phlox did not survive the mould blight and I had to dig that up!
I was pleased to find that the Cat Mint which I thought had died was in fact thriving. The Honey Bees will be happy! I cut away the dead branches and exposed the new growth. I also found that my Honeysuckle had lots of new leaves on and that the Hyacinth had flowered.
I planted some bulbs while David tidied up the Passion Flower, which had grown wildly over winter. I planted Ornamental Lilies, Orchids and Gladioli. I just hope they flower. Talking of bulbs. The most successful of the ones I planted last year seem to be the Bluebells. I have counted 15 in total, though all there are at the moment are leaves.
There has been no sign of the snowdrops, maybe next year?
I was worried a little when designing the garden about the shaded side as it gets very little direct sunlight. I needn’t have worried as my Hellebore is blooming with some 10+ heads open/opening!! I also discovered that the Aubrieta was looking very green and the Aquilegia which I thought would not appear again is also sprouting through the soil!
The plants in the garden still have a lot of growing to do, but I look forward to the lengthening and warmer days to come. I am positive my garden will soon be awash with colour, and that the bees and butterflies will once again enjoy my flowers!!
It’s now the 15th day of Dry January, and I have not touched a drop of alcohol in that time. I have also had two very generous donations to my Alcohol Concern fundraising page and I am most thankful!This past week has been rather difficult. Not because I have needed a drink, (although on Friday I was thinking, ‘it would be nice to have a glass of wine to wind down into the weekend’), but because my depression has reared it’s ugly head again. I hate January/February (as do most)! My life always seems so much bleaker in the darker months of winter. I am really looking forward to March/April and the warmer months so I can enjoy the sun/warmth and my garden again!
There are some new signs of life sprouting in the garden at present. The bulbs I planted in September are now poking through the soil. Come March-May I will find out if they are Snow Drops or Bluebells! My Tulips are also growing, so hopefully soon my garden will be awash with colour again! My Hellebore or Christmas Rose has lots of buds on it but the flower heads seem too heavy for the stems so all are bowing down to the ground!
Trying to overcome the negative thoughts, I keep reminding myself that I do have lots to look forward to in 2015! I have booked to see The Theory of Everything at the Liverpool Philharmonic as we had such a nice time on Monday watching The Imitation Game, we even had tickets for one of the boxes! The Philharmonic has an organist, Dave Nicholas who plays before the film and as the only working Walturdaw cinema screen in the world comes up from beneath the stage. It is quite a sight!
Film at the Philharmonic hall
I have also booked for the Valentine’s day concert, Mahler’s 2nd in April and A Mid Summer Night’s Dream at the Everyman! During the summer, I also hope to have a day out to Birmingham to see the Big Hoot, visit Norwich to see Go Go Dragons, and Bristol to see Shaun in the City! Whether these day/nights away will come to fruition time will tell, but they are some events to look ahead too!
So I am trying to shift my depression, look ahead with optimism and value what I have in my life.