Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review - Moorland Wildlife and Garden Wildlife by Villager Jim

When I am not obsessing about my garden and reading gardening books, I obsess about photography and photograph books so when I was asked if I would like to review these two books from Villager Jim I was happy to do so.  I was sent these as review copies, as ever whilst I have not paid for the books, my opinions remain my own.

I admit to being unaware of Villager Jim as a name, but when I read through the books I realised I had seem some of his photos before.  Villager Jim is a pseudonym and he (or maybe she) is anonymous.  These two hardback books have good quality paper suitable for the quality needed to reproduce the photographs well.  Jim introduces himself and his approach to photography in the books, explaining that he likes to be up and out an hour before dawn on most days.  Jim also gives some extremely good tips for if you want to take wildlife pictures of your own.  I am not a good reader of introductions (I know, its a flaw, but I tend to want to get on and into the book) but I found these introductions interesting and useful.
The Moorland book focuses on the animal world out on the Peak District National Park.  There is a wide breadth of subjects from pheasants to lambs to hares and deer.  The photographs are extremely skillful and very beautiful.  Jim labels each photograph with either a short description or a short witty caption.

The Garden book is based around Jim's garden and follows the same format.  The photographs of garden birds are some of the best I have ever seen and other wildlife are also present.  This book made me want to visit Jim's garden, the glimpses of it are tantalising.

The best word for both of these books is 'charming', they have a real charm about them that makes it hard not to smile whilst flipping through the books.  They retail about around £12 and they definitely suitable as gifts for birthdays and Christmas and other gift giving opportunities.

Villager Jim's Moorland Wildlife and Villager Jim's Garden Wildlife are published by White Owl

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A Portmeirion Pause

As regular readers will know, Portmeirion is my favourite favourite place.  I usually holiday there every two years apart from when I go inbetween that.  This year turned into a big family holiday with more of us going than usual which made it rather a special holiday.  The weather though decided it would not be kind.
We awoke on Saturday morning to Storm Brian.  He was really quite a storm, hitting the Welsh coastline with some ferocity.  We holed up in our cottage, lit the log burner and waited for it to blow over.
By the afternoon the rain had almost stopped so we went for a wander.  There is nothing I enjoy more than wandering around the village.
Particularly if those wanderings take me into the Gwyllt.  Wandering this woodland is just the best thing.
There are some truly awesome trees in the Gwyllt, I spend a lot of time standing back and staring at them.
The light filters through the canopy as light should.
Such was my tree-quest on this visit that I might, only might, have climbed a steep path too many to get a closer look and then might, only might, have slid back down on my bottom.  Well, it was all incredibly slippy from all the rain.  I can however confirm that the leaf mold under the trees is fantastically soft and deep.
The glories of this woodland, which is a fine blend of being well-managed but also growing as it should, it that some trees are a bit curvy.
The curves are good and the peeling papery bark is stunning.
It all feels old and, well, woody.
and there are many viewpoints to look back to the village.
or out to Borth y Gest and Porthmadog. 
It rained quite a bit, but thankfully it was also fine and quite still at times.  As this is always a time when I go to pause and recharge, the weather made little difference to us.  It was the first time in many years that I have visited in October and as ever seeing the seasons change in the Village is a wonderful thing.  
It also meant that I could enjoy the sunrises without having to get up too early.  When the sun appeared it did so with style.
We left, as ever, making plans for our return, many happy returns.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

A tree mood

It turns out I am in a bit of a tree mood at the moment.  I love trees at all times of the year but there is something about the last gasp of autumn that I truly love.
I have planted quite a few trees in the ten years I have lived in this garden.  Some are probably too close together, some will definitely get rather large, but I tell myself I will deal with these issues when I have to.  For now I look at the red of the Euonymous europa, glowing behind the Catalpa aurea, and I smile.
This view in the Wild Garden shows the Magnolia Leonard Messel looking still a vibrant green.  The flame of the silver birch is rather special. I have written previously that I plant a silver birch at every garden I have lived in since the birth of my son, it is his tree.  This tree, which was no more than a stick when I planted it, is now getting tall and the bark is turning silver.

The Liriodendron tulipifera is showing its turning leaves.  This is a very favourite tree of mine.  I hope that I will get to see it flower one day, my joy when it does will know no bounds.
The king tree in the garden is the horse chestnut.  It gets badly affected by the leaf miner disease but it still struggles on.  It had always been my ambition as a child to live somewhere with a horse chestnut tree.  I always considered it the prize amongst trees as I loved conkers so much.  I still have childish glee at the sheer beauty of a freshly shelled conker.
The garden is over-seen by the massive poplar tree next door.  Having had issues with a black poplar tree that just behind my garden at the other corner, I view it with some worry at times.  It is however a magnificent tree and I cannot imagine the landscape without it.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Review - the wildlife gardener by Kate Bradbury

I was asked if I would like to review a copy of Kate Bradbury's new book 'the wildlife gardener' and I was very pleased to say yes.  I therefore have not paid for this book, but my opinions as ever remain my own.

This new book tells you just about everything you might need to know about gardening with wildlife in mind.  It is subtitled 'Creating a haven for birds, bees and butterflies' which has to be a good thing to want to do.  I cannot imagine many gardeners who would not want some wildlife in their gardens; though we might like to be able to choose which ones are welcome.
The book is a nicely sized paperback made with good quality paper.  This means that the photographs by Julie Watson are able to perform to their best ability.  I do despair a little of books that contain really good photographs but then use dull rough paper that spoils the finish.  Thankfully there was no need to despair of this book.

Kate starts by telling us how to create wildlife friendly habitats.  Kate explains that we need to consider of aspect of where we live, so if we do not have lots of sun we might not get so many bees and butterflies, but we might want to tempt hedgehogs to set up home in a corner of the garden.  Kate also tells us that we do not have to let our gardens become messy to be wildlife friendly, we just have to think about what we want and then how to do it.  For instance: just growing a few pollinator-friendly flowers can make a big difference.
Once Kate has established where and how we might want to attract wildlife to our gardens, she then takes us through the who we might want to encourage.  from birds to insects to bugs and creepy crawlies.  Kate even talks about those we might not really want to encourage, such as rabbits, but how we might learn to live with them/keep them out of our gardens.  I was particularly fascinated by the description of harvestmen, who  particularly seem to like to live around my front door.  Whilst they look like spiders they are not.  They do not build webs and have hooks on their legs to catch things.  They also have fangs and can chew food.  (which gave me a shudder as I pictured a spider-like thing gnawing on a fly).  They can release a foul smell if feeling threatened and have the ability to shed a leg or two if they need to escape.  I shall look at them with a bit more respect next time I see one.

There is a comprehensive section on plants, and this is a vital part of the equation.  I am someone who allows (I say allow, I am unable to stop) nettles from growing in my garden.  I know that insects love them but I had not realised that birds also enjoy eating the seeds.  Apparently it is also best to grow them in a sunny spot, which is good as mine certainly love growing in the middle of my sunniest borders.

The book ends with a trouble shooter section and this section is rather special.  It is full of very good questions and answers ranging from 'help I've seen a rat' to 'where have all the birds gone' and 'I've found a bat on the ground, does it need help?'  (to which the answer is probably yes).  Each answer gives some good practical advice including who you might need to phone in certain circumstances.  I learned a lot from this section.

I really liked this book, it is a great mix of interesting, useful and pragmatic information.  Kate recognises that we will not all want to the do the same things or encourage the same wildlife, but gives us the information in order for us to make our choices.  This book is a useful guide to new gardeners wanting to attract wildlife and a useful addition to more practiced gardeners who want to ensure that wildlife have a welcome space in their gardens.

the wildlife gardener is published by White Owl 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Irritating Plant of the Month - October 2017

Stand up Dahlia Waltzing Matthilda, you are this month's irritating, nay, really annoying plant.
You have been flowering really well, but then just when I need you to be in flower....
........you were tightly in bud.
So I cut some stems and brought them into the warm of the house to see if that would encourage you to open.  You did a bit better and so you did make it into my daughter's wedding bouquet.

But only one bloom,
and you were not really noticeable.  You should have been the star of the bouquest, but you let the others take over.

You only have yourself to blame.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Bridal Flowers 5 - The Wedding Day arrives

The long awaited wedding day arrived in mid-October and not only did the flowers have to be ready, but I had to be able to make them up into the required bouquets and buttonholes.  This meant that practice was needed.  My friend Karen arrived one evening with buckets of flowers from her garden so that none of my precious flowers would be wasted.
We spent a happy couple of hours drinking tea, practicing making bouquets and buttonholes.
Lots of good advice was given and I was left feeling more confident about the task in hand.

A couple of weeks later and it was time to get started with the picking.
There was lots of picking.  I picked just about every flower it was possible to pick.  My garden looks like it had been ravaged.
I picked the flowers on the Thursday evening so they could rest quietly over night.  Then on the Friday I set them out in the kitchen ready to set to work.
I made two distinct bouquets to try and reflect the different brides.  My daughter's bouquet included a Portmeirion rose and a Ballerina rose, both of which are special to her.  There was also a Dahlia Waltzing Matthilda, her favourite dahlia.  For the other bride the hoped for tiger lilies failed to last long enough, much to my annoyance.  I did manage to include roses and also some perennial sunflowers that were as close to daisies as I still had in the garden.  Several dahlias were used in both bouquets and astrantia provided the frothy understory.
I was very pleased with them when they were completed.  They were put into the cool utility room to have a nap until they were needed.
Then the buttonholes and the corsages needed constructing.  I did a corsage for myself and the mother of the other bride, foolishly I did not photograph them but they were rose buds with astrantia, some heather and a small perennial sunflower.  I was pleased with them.

The buttonholes were made of fuchsia foliage, astrantia and verbena bananarama.  Attached to them was a Warhammer 40k space marine.  My daughter and her wife are very keen Warhammer players and I wanted to do something that would be personal to them.  I was quite pleased with myself for finding the right type ready-painted on eb*y.  I did not tell them that I was going to do this, I wanted it to be a surprise.
On the day they were a good surprise and everyone seemed to love them.  I was chuffed.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  We arrived in Nottingham in good time and waited by the lions (the left lion) for Rose and Naomi to arrive.  It was an unusually warm day for the time of year  but it was a little breezy and I was scared that the flowers would get damaged by the breeze.  I popped them onto the plinth behind the lion to shelter them from the wind.
The ceremony was held in the Council House and it was all very lovely.  I managed, just, not to cry.
Rose and Naomi looked stunning and the flowers behaved themselves by not starting to shed petals until the ceremony was over.  I was so proud of Rose and Naomi and totally overwhelmed with how special the day was for them.  A definite proud mum moment.

My final flower task was to make up some small flower posies for the tables when we went for our meal.
I arranged carefully (plonked) a few of the left over flowers in some small vases and they looked rather pretty.

It was truly the most wonderful day.  I owe great thanks to Karen for her help and support and to Georgie Newbery's book.....
......which I read often and was the reference book of choice.  I can fully recommend it if anyone is thinking of growing wedding flowers.  It is sensible and calming, two very important things.  I was also helped by lots of twitter friends, who gave me lots of good advice, even met with me to talk me through what I needed to consider, and generally were like my virtual cheerleaders encouraging me at every step.
The day, most importantly, was Rose and Naomi's, I wish them both a long and happy marriage.

The Bridal Flowers 1

The Bridal Flowers 2

The Bridal Flowers 3

The Bridal Flowers 4

and for those interested in sewing there is the dress I made for me to wear to the wedding on my sewing blog Neytorin Sewing Exploits

Wordless Wednesday - nasturtium

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The end of Summer

Summer has been a flibbertigibbet this year, here for a while, gone for a while; back for a short burst and then disappearing again.  As we reach mid-October, when autumn should be really getting into gear and the fear of first frosts is feeling reasonable: out comes summer again for one final hurrah.
The rich colours of autumn are taking hold.  The deep red of the Prunus Kojo no mai is a delight.  This one is particularly a delight as it was a) a gift from a good friend and b) still alive.  I have managed to own and kill a few of these trees and I had given up with them due to my 'three strikes and your out' rule.  To see it live through nearly a full year and have such vivid autumnal hues is just sheer pleasure.
Elsewhere in the garden the roses are still flowering, the always favourite 'Sir Clough',
The Fighting Temeraire which has flowered for months this year.  I bought three of these rose bushes and they are maturing well.
and let us never overlook Gertrude Jekyll, always a good doer.
The asters and the fuchsias are still giving good colour,
and the odd welsh poppy still flowers.  The fuchsias are doing what they do best by threading themselves in and around other plants.  This fuchsia is a magellanica, it is the Manx fuchsia where there are hedges of it all around the island.  It is tough as old boots and has a great arching habit.
This hollyhock started flowering late but is now flowering well.
and the Mina lobata has been so late this year I thought it would never flower.  It is a cliche to liken it to flames.......... it looks like flames.
Best of all the mild weather means that the bees are still plentiful,
they love the open flowers of the cosmos, which have been the best I have seen them for years this year.

This is all good and on such a warm day as today I am enjoying the mildness of the weather; yet I know it is this mild because it is related to the storm that is on its way.  The warm air is being pushed ahead of the gale-force winds we have been warned of.  This storm is declaring a definite end to summer.