Update on the Garden 2- Pests!

I noticed in the garden this week a Scarlet Lily Beetle, apparently it is a pest that feeds on lilies and fritillaries. The picture below was taken on a fuchsia but they only lay their eggs on lilies and fritillaries. I have lily bulbs growing (well hoping they grow) so will keep a check on any larvae activity!

Scarlet Lily Beetle

Scarlet Lily Beetle

On Saturday, as the weather was nice I got out into the garden with my sheers and chopped the dying flowers from the Cat Mint and also decided to give the Wallflower a much needed trim! The bees won’t be thankful to me but they at least have the Siberian Bell-flowers to feed on!

I also chopped the leaves of the lilies that were infested. I managed to work around the larvae that cover themselves in their own excrement (nice!).

Some of my plants have not looked so good this summer (as last year). The Coriander I bought in spring is looking really limp and withered. This year I have put the annual herb in a pot but think I shall have to put next years plant in the ground! It grew so much better last year and the hover flies loved the tiny flowers it had!

Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers

Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers

However this years best grower and filling the void that the Coriander has left is the Fennel. Another herb, but this time a perennial. Last year it was overshadowed by the Coriander but this year it has grown almost three foot! Its brown feathery leaves have flower buds developing. These attract not only Hover Flies, but Lacewings and other insects too, though I have not seen any as yet!

Fennel flowers

Fennel flowers

Another flower that isn’t looking so fine is my Michaelmas Daisy. It has shot up in height but now has powdery mildew on it’s leaves. I have sprayed the leaves with vinegar in the hope that it will work better than the milk solution I used on my, sadly now demised Phlox. However it does not look so fantastic a day after spraying!! The poor Daisy is not looking too good and now has an infestation of Gastropods!

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During the week I have been saddened to have missed most of my wild poppies flower. They only seem to last less than a day! However, Thursday morning, I spied the red blot of not only one but two poppy’s so I, (still half asleep) clutched at my phone and snapped the below photo! 😀

Wild Poppy

Wild Poppy

I was also happy to see that my Passion Flower has started to bud, so much so that there are literally hundreds of buds on it (and more growing every day!) I wish it would all bloom at the same time, what a sight that would be! We shall have to be content with just four this time! 😀

Four Passion Flowers!

Four Passion Flowers!

 

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30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!

30 Days Wild…Week One.

It was another WordPress blog: Sunshine and Celandines that alerted me to The Wildlife Trust‘s, 30 Days Wild, an initiative where you do something wild each day for the month of June. I quickly signed up, printed out the wall calender and got ready to immerse myself in ‘wildness’!

Actually, there wasn’t much immersing going on, what with it being a long week at work, but I did attempt to enjoy the nature around me – as I usually try and do! I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool so it is amazing that there is so much wildlife about!

Monday:

Going to work, I could hear the ‘merry’songs of Blue Tits, Dunnocks, and Black Birds that populate my area, and while in the office I could hear the rich sounds of a Robin and the alarm calls of Great Tits. David said he saw, all too fleetingly a colourful Jay on his way home from work.

Tuesday:

We watched the resident Blue Tit parents coming to and from our garden sourcing food for their brood. Last year I put up a bird feeder, (the second as mum kept the first in her garden next door!) I have feeders with sunflower seeds, fat balls and normal bird seed and in a Laurel bush I have a fat block. The Blue Tits like visiting the sunflower seeds and fat block, but they are so swift that I was unable to get video of them. The parents have become so dishevelled looking as they care for their young who constantly call out for food!

Wednesday:

With the weather slowly warming up for a very short lived ‘heatwave.’ I managed to pop out into the garden to see how the plants were coming along. The Scabiosa is starting to flower and has many heads on it and the Honeysuckle, which is a great grower is covered in flowers.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Thursday:

Today was the ‘hottest day of the year,’ for the NW of England! It was warm but not too warm and the sun lasted up until 5pm when a bank of cloud ruined any plans of a BBQ. It was my ‘short’ day at work, ‘thankfully,’ and I managed to rush home to spend at least an hour in the garden.

Something Blue - sky blue

Something Blue – sky blue

En route home I popped into Wilkinsons for David who only wanted grit for the indoor aviary but I ended up spending £18! I bought flower seeds in the hope they will grow into Teasels for the visiting Goldfinches and also dried mealworms for the Blue Tit parents, (though they have not seen them as yet!)

I enjoyed the hour outside. I felt the sun’s heat prickling my sunscreen covered arms and sipped cava while Artie basked in the shade and hunted flies. As silhouette’s of the visiting Swallows could be seen flitting overhead, I took pictures of the insects visiting my Wallflower. A Tree Bumblebee, Mason Bees and a beautiful Golden Mint Moth!

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Friday:

I discovered today that my Cotoneaster has little white flowers on it! (I planted it last year and it’s taken a year to become established.) I am hopeful that the flowers will become pollinated and that it will develop berries! Fingers crossed.

Cotoneaster flower

Cotoneaster flower

Saturday:

The warmer weather seems to have been but a dream as it was cold and windy today. David and I, after doing the ‘weekly shop’ went to Bents garden Centre. I was in search of Borage and Alliums and David wanted a bird box. I came home disappointed, I’ll have to make do with seed Borage and try and grow it myself, but David managed to get his bird box and at £2.99 it was a bargain! However, I did not leave empty handed, I got myself a bee log which I hope will be shelter for solitary bees like the Mason Bee! I hope it will be more of a success than the still vacant Insect House!

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The journey home took us along the East Lancs Road, which cuts through arable fields. Alongside the road we saw not one, but three birds of prey hunting. I identified them as being Red Kites! Here’s a picture from David’s Flickr page of Red Kites from Gauntlet Birds of Prey in 2011!

Red Kite

Red Kite

Sunday:

Today we put up the bird box and bee log in anticipation of future visitors!

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All day we have been aware of a Blue Tit fledgling sitting nervously in the Laurel bush. It’s parents keeps visiting periodically so it has not been abandoned. He is concealed by the leaves and seems content.

I also noted that I had up to at least five bees in my garden all enjoying the Wallflower, Cat Mint and Honeysuckle and saw my first baby Goldfinch of the season but could not get footage of him!

Garden Bumblebee

Garden Bumblebee

It’s been a busy week for the nature in my area. I don’t know how I am going to better the sightings I have already seen, but here’s to week two of being ‘wild’! 😀

Update on the garden 1

It’s been a busy few weeks back at work so I have not had much chance to peruse the garden, well not as much as I would like! The weather has not been so great either… I am sure last year’s weather was much better than how 2015 is turning out! I am waiting for the sun to shine and the mercury in the thermometer to rise to 20° as I want to invite family around for a BBQ! As it is I am still waiting!

David today commented that he liked the ‘purple flowers in the shaded area of the garden.’ I informed him that it was the aubretia, it has spread substantially in the past few weeks, threatening to overcome the dwarf rhododendron, but I will cut it back once the flowering has ended.

Aubrieta

Aubrieta

Other news in the garden… the tulips have faded and all 15 bluebells have flowered, they look lovely! The scabiosa is flourishing for a second year and the wallflower has bushed out so much it is swamping the beautiful pink blooms of the azalea and shadowing the French lavender that has many more buds on than last year!

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The honeysuckle is once again covered in flower buds, (it has always been a good grower). I have more bulbs sprouting… could be the orchids I planted? They are amongst the gladioli and lilies so it is just a waiting game as to what flowers.

Last bank holiday Artie and I were outside in the garden. Artie was chasing flies and other insects and I was weeding the garden, when a familiar buzzing passed by. ‘It’s a bee!’ I cried, but Artie had also seen it and darted at it, pinning the poor creature to the garden wall. I threw Artie off and watched as the poor bee, a Hairy Footed Flower Bee, staggered about. We gave her (for it was a female solitary bee) some sugar solution and let her rest. We did not find a carcass so I hope she was only stunned and managed to fly on her merry way, otherwise a passing bird could have snatched her up. I prefer the former suggestion. I shall have to keep Artie out of the garden come the time the cat mint blooms or he will have a field day with the Honeybees…who I hasten to add, sting!

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary…

…how does your garden grow?

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.

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The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!

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Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!

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I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.

Bluebells

Bluebells

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!

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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.

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

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

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!

Bulb gowing

Bulb gowing

Thank you Public Sector Workers.

While some people were picketing and marching to Downing Street. I was enjoying one of the best days I have had in such a long time! 😀

David went to work as usual, meaning I had the whole day to myself! I did the obligatory laundry before 10 am and then entertained my mum for two hours with coffee and shortbread biscuits as she shortened two dresses for me! One I hope to wear at the weekend! 😀

The sun came out mid morning. According to the BBC weather forecast the North West of England was a sun sandwich! I’d rather be in the centre than be in the cloud and rain! The sun boosted my spirits even more!

After lunch, I with secateurs in hand took to attacking the Cat Mint that had overrun the garden! I chopped and hacked at the Apple Mint and tidied up the Coriander and Wallflower. The poor bees were confused as they came flying into the yard to find no Cat Mint flowers! They had to settle for the blooming Salvia! 🙂 While pruning I managed to capture a strange looking spider. A Comb Footed Spider from the same family as the Widows!

Comb Footed Spider!

Comb Footed Spider!

After 2 pm, warm with the sun glowing overhead I poured myself a small measure of wine and settled down to listen to my favourite actor, Jonathan Firth in a radio play, Farran at Bay set in Jerusalem before the British lost their control of the region. I really enjoyed the production, though it was about a rather sombre event and Jonathan had the most air time, which is always nice to hear! 🙂

Afterwards I continued with the wine while listening to Classic FM, and in bikini sunned myself in the yard before David came home.

The garden

The garden

It’s back to work tomorrow, but it’s only for one day! I raise a glass to the coming weekend and hope it’s an enjoyable one! 😀

Longer Days are Coming…

The nights are drawing out and the clocks have not gone back yet! However we have had a few ‘spring like’ days in the NW of England recently and whilst on my walk to work I have smelt the promise of warmer weather and longer days. Even the birds are getting ready for the new season, as whilst I was standing at the bus stop on Friday a Magpie flew overhead with nesting material! Spring is such an exciting time as the world slowly awakens from the cold grasp of winter.

This weekend I have been busy hunting for more ‘spring’ flowers for the garden with insects in mind.

David took me to my favourite garden centre Lady Green in Ince Blundell and I spent over £50 on plants! In my defence half of that was on a Magnolia, ‘water-lily’ tree, I just hope it grows. I have had two other Magnolias before and they have both died. 😦 Third time lucky I say!

Amongst the purchases I bought an Erysimim which I found out was a Wallflower and an Anemone which is a kind of Poppy! I went shopping with a list and came away with everything other than what was on the list! I just followed the RHS sign of ‘Perfect for Pollinators’

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The weather forecast for the UK this weekend was supposed to be warm with sunny spells. It did not feel like that on Saturday, it was cold, grey and miserable. So I have planned to plant my purchases tomorrow. Hopefully Sunday will be a brighter day?

Whilst pottering about the garden today I noticed my Sedum has sprung back to life! That was a plant which was covered with bees and butterflies last year so I hope it will be the same this year!! My Cat Mint and Oregano has ‘spawned’ again as has my Aquilegia, which is such a prolific plant! This will be the second spring it has reseeded itself!

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Amongst others, David’s Acer has started to re-bud and my Hellebore has grown, I have high hopes for that next winter. My Jasmine, though it looks a bit twee seems to have survived the wet winter and my Passion Flower has grown astronomical! I hope there are flowers this summer, it will look beautiful!!

Things are slowly awakening and hopefully once the warmer days are upon us, the garden will start to have the buzzing of insects and the chinking of wine glasses! I can’t wait to sit and enjoy my outside space. I have been stuck inside for way too long! Fingers crossed there will be at least as good if not better summer than last year ahead! We can but pray!

Christine xx