Sunday, 31 March 2013

End of Month Review - March 2013

Crikey March has been cold, very cold.  There has been snow, some sun and cold and snow.  Apparently it is the coldest March since 1962, this is a much quoted fact now.  I can certainly say it has been and remains cold.

This time last year the garden was full of colour.  This year is rather different.  Looking back to February the garden seems to have hardly moved on.  The year feels on hold, just waiting.
As I write this the snow has almost gone, it snowed last weekend but it has been so cold it has taken it over a week to thaw.
The snow lurks in the shady margins, even on a sunny day it is not really moving.
Last year the magnolia was in flower at this time, but then last year it did get frost damaged so I wonder if by flowering later it will not have that fate.
In the front hedge the forsythia is starting to flower, also later than last year.  I know some people can be a bit sniffy about forsythias, they are ubiquitous and therefore can be considered common.  Well I like them, maybe because they are common I feel a garden lacks a little yellow without one.
The front garden is looking ok, there are some bulbs starting to come up through the gravel and I am hoping it will look ok when they flower.  I did not remove the bulbs when I redid the garden last year, so I might have to think about how they look and whether they should still stay.
Moving to the back garden it still looks rather sparse, but the signs of Spring are emerging.
The red of the peony shoots against the cardoon leaves I think looks rather fine.  Of course this is totally planned (well, maybe not), but anyway, it is a great colour combination this time of year.
The red of the Rheum palmatum, (red rheum, red rheum), is also a welcome sight.  I planted several of these when I first moved in and I have slowly removed them as there were too many, they are rather large after all; but about three remain and I love the size and architectural nature of them.
In the Pond Border the tulips and day lilies are showing, giving promise of glory to come.
The Spring Border is getting increasingly Springy
The daffodils are finally starting to flower and the pulmonaria.
I am expecting a good show from the camellia this year, it has enjoyed having sufficient water last year, in previous years drought has led to bud-drop.  (I might glue them on just in case...).
Looking across the Prairie Borders the grasses are still looking good, they need cutting back really but I have been waiting for the cold to go.  Who knows when that will be?
The amalanchier is getting ready to flower.
We are also now on 'Quince-watch', I am almost holding my breath to see if I will get blossom this year.
The wild garden has had some planting this Spring.  A Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai' in the background and a Griselinia littoralis in the fore-ground.  The Griselinia can look a bit like a bit of dull-ish hedge, but in my mind it is has the potential to be like the 'Dancing Tree' in the Gwyllt at Portmeirion, it is a magnificant specimen and who knows, one day my twig might reach that greatness.
The snowdrops are still in flower, they seem have to lasted weeks this year, the cold is not necessarily a completely bad thing after all.
I am hoping for great things from the beech pillars this year.  Can't you see them?  They are the twigs, but one day and in my head they are pillars.
The Woodland Border is still looking sparse,
but the snakeshead fritilleria are starting to get ready to flower.
The teasel patch is still looking wonderful, but I will probably cut it back fairly soon to let the new crop grow.
Another new patch of planting is the Four Sisters.  One sister has been there a while, the Carol Klein acer, now it is joined by an Edgeworthia, a Philidelphus Belle Etoile and a Clethra.  I hope they are all happy together.
I look along the Long Shoot and think that the grass will need cutting soon.
The veg beds look sparse.  The potatoes are chitting in the conservatory, I should get them out side really but the ground being frozen solid is not a good thing.
The greenhouse is filling up a bit, some plants just keeping warm for a little longer before I can put them outside.
I rarely if ever show this border, its the unnamed unloved border.  It is a small island in the funky retro crazy paving.  It contains a scrubby bamboo, my beautiful Cistus that moved with me from my last house and flowers for about 10 months of the year, a nice hellebore, a clematis the previous occupant plonked there for no good reason, a Manx fuschia, a failing hamemelis and a lot of nettles usually too.  Oh and a rose that was meant to be Gertrude Jekyll but really isn't.  Every now and again I think I will dig it all out and start again as it is actually the border I can see from the kitchen window.  Maybe this year it will get some attention, maybe.....
I end as usual on the pond, currently with a light sheet of ice covering most of it.  I worry about the frogspawn, will it survive being frozen?

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.  Let's hope for a nice warm Spring in April!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Mouse Wars

Last year I went into battle with a mouse, well it might have been more than one mouse, but I went head to head with ninja-mouse who was on a mission to eat all my seeds in the greenhouse.  The situation was resolved when ninja-mouse ate one seed too many, namely a ricinus seed and then he troubled me no more.

Until now, until son of ninja-mouse, the sequel.  Yes, again I sowed my vegetable seeds in the greenhouse and again, overnight, ninja-mouse junior ate the lot - even the chilli seeds.  I was not pleased.  I now knew that plastic snakes and moth balls had no effect.  I still am in the position that I will not use a mouse trap that kills and I am not that happy with the 'humane' ones either as I think there are several mice and I am not taking one for a drive in my car.  So I had to find another way around this problem.

I seriously considered having a cat flap put in the greenhouse, if the cats could get in the greenhouse then maybe that would solve the issue.  This is not ideal though as the cats will sleep on anything that looks comfy so my seeds my not be much better off.  I went to the internet for help and found a sonic mouse-scarer.
This device is primarily targeted at people who want to scare cats from their gardens.  It has a sensor and emits a sound that only animals can hear.  It said on the adverts that it could not be heard outside of the greenhouse so it would not disturb my cats as they wander around the garden.

So I installed it in the greenhouse and sowed some peas as bait.  The next day I eagerly went to check the results.

The peas were untouched.

Now over a week later the peas are starting to germinate.  So now I think I can sow my seeds in the greenhouse in safety.  Well, if the snow ever stops and it ever warms up that is.

I can switch it off when I want to work in there as that will save the battery and it will also allow Chesney to keep me company in the greenhouse as it does deter the cats too.

Best of all in the evening when I stand at the kitchen window I can sometimes see the blue light of the sensor setting off.  This is brilliant, it makes me feel like Dr Evil from Austin Powers with a 'lazor', you have to say it like Dr Evil does in order to get the full effect.
This is my cat Austin, who is named after Austin Powers, she is totally oblivious to the mice.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The teasel feast

It snowed again, just when Spring had officially begun and just as it felt that it was time for things to start growing again, it snowed.

I have done quite a bit of my Spring cutting back in the garden, not everything is cleared away to allow for the new growth, but the majority has been.  I am never quick to tidy up the old growth in the garden, I see it as a way of protecting the new growth whilst the worst of the frosts and snow are around.  I also see it as a great place for hibernating insects and potential food for birds.  I am also just not that tidy.

I have mentioned before that I love growing teasels.  They are a good all-year plant, they have architectural growth, bee-friendly flowers and then great seed heads that stand proud all winter long.  I have cleared away some from garden but the thicket in the wild garden remains and a few in the conservatory border remain as to be honest I like seeing them still giving the garden some height before the new spring growth really kicks in.  Today I was glad I had not rushed to clear them.
I might even have been almost as glad as the goldfinches.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The amaryllis in the spotlight

I have been growing amaryllis for many years.  I can remember my first one, I was astounded by the huge bulb and then the huge flamboyant flowers that followed.  I grew some from seed and I found them to be a great plant.  Then through a few house moves and various twists and turns in life I stopped growing them for a while.  About six years ago I saw one online that had a really pretty flower and I decided it was time to re-awaken my love affair with this plant.  It was duly bought and then pretty much neglected if truth be told.  This is a plant that refuses to give up, it flowers every year no matter what I do (or don't do) for it.  This year in particular it seems to be flowering magnificently, so it seemed worthy of a starring moment:
 
 
 
 
 
It might feel more honoured by its starring moment if I had made a note of its name, oops.  I make no claim to any real success with house plants.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Another bee pot

I have visited  Whichford Pottery previously so when I saw they were hosting a Chris Beardshaw talk there I decided it was time I visited again.  I thought that the talk looked interesting and I did think I might have to buy another pot as well, I am very fond of the Armscote bee pot I bought on my first visit.

The day arrived, (in truth it was postponed, rearranged and then finally arrived, but I quibble).  I drove down and had a nice few minutes drinking tea and pot spotting before the talk began.  The talk itself was excellent about the Furzey Garden, the Chelsea Flower Garden that was made last year and how they all linked together.  It was a fascinating and informative talk that made me wish I had known the back-story to the Chelsea garden before I saw it last year.  It also made me think I would like to visit the Furzey Garden one day as the gardens look interesting and the work they carry out there is worthwhile and important. Being a dull sort of soul I did make some notes during the talk and things that were mentioned will be looked up and probably turn up in future posts at some point.  It was a talk that caught the imagination.

Anyway, talk over and I had the 20% discount voucher that was pressed into my hand as I arrived burning a hole in my pocket.  I had done some research on the internet before setting out as I wanted to think carefully about what I might buy.  I wanted some quite shallow wide pots as I am lacking this shape and like it a lot for growing primulas and pansies in.  I also thought I might buy a cat pot, I had liked them last year when I had visited.  Also on the website is a Green Woman planter, now I like a good green woman, they are something I have liked for a long time and I have been looking for a  stone/terracotta one for quite while.  There are several resin ones you can buy, and if that is what you like then that is fine; I want a stone/terracotta one that will age and be something from nature as a good green woman should be.  However they did not have any available which means (oh no how will I cope?) I will have to visit another time when I have saved up again.

So - the pot purchase comprised of:

Two seconds wide shallow pots (bargain - does happy bargain dance)
One Armscote bee pot,  I looked at the cat pots but I love these bee pots.  One day I will be able to afford a larger one, one day.....
oh and Valerie, the mermaid jug with the wayward n*ps as she quickly became known.  Why Valerie, well, she was wayward, then she became winwood and that led to Valerie.

She is rather wonderful.  However in terms of wayward n*ps I think she is a mere beginner.
as usual I spent a bit of time coveting the dalek pot,
well, it is a dalek or n*ipple pot (crikey this post has a bit of a theme.....)  If I ever win the lottery and move to a huge garden that would have room for such a beast of a pot I will definitely buy two of these.  I love it it to bits as every day I would walk past them and smile.  One day......