Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Seed Dreams and Schemes

What's the difference between planning a garden and day dreaming?  I can spend hours browsing through pictures of beautiful borders then looking at my patch and imagining the potential!  I can decide that shrub has to go; that colour combination would work there and that climber would smell divine next to that gate!  So what's the difference?  Hard Work!

I have forgotten where I read it but apparently it takes 15 years to create a garden.  It needs planning and time to grow then time to dig up the bits you don't like and re organise then grow it again.  Well this year I made a start.  I organised the paths at the back of the garden so I can get to the greenhouse ,,, I now want to move the greenhouse!  I planted two cherry trees but one of them is now where I plan to develop a vegetable patch.  I think fifteen years is an understatement!

This year I intend to put some THOUGHT into the planning ... I need to decide what I want from the garden.  Do I see it as just a flowery place round the house; can I improve it for the wildlife; how do we actually use the space; is the shed in the right place....? Once I have got my head round why we have a garden then I might stand a chance of planning one that won't need to be reorganised every year!

In the mean time I will continue to dream about flowery borders and colour combinations by browsing the seed catalogues from the the comfort of my armchair ... it's much too cold and wet to go outside!

Here's a few links you might find helpful if you want to join my Seed Dream Team:

Now does anyone know a friendly bank manager ...?!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Gambia

"If we go to Gambia a week later than planned we can save a fortune," he said.  "The return flight will only cost £24. What do you think?"
It was a good price.  A six hour flight for £24!  An amazingly good price! 
I wasn't tempted at all. 
The flight was on Tuesday 25th December!
I wanted to wake up on Christmas morning and open presents round the tree, eat too much at dinner and fall asleep in front of the telly with my family not sit on a plane.

We went on a birding trip: a few days at the coast then up river to Tendaba then cruise on to Janjanbureh (once known as Georgetown) before travelling back down to Lemon Creek.

Well, the Gambians were the friendliest people I had ever met, the chimps were cuddling each other in the trees and the hippos yawned at us from the water.

The men kept referring to me as 'Lady Boss' implying the women tell the men what to do.  In the rural communities the women worked the fields in the heat of the day; the women and children carried the water and washed the clothes and swept the dusty yards.  Men tended the animals and went fishing.  There seemed to be hundreds of children.  They pay for boys to be educated but girls can go to school for free - this is to encourage parents to educate the female population so perhaps in future years the idea of Lady Bosses will be a reality!

The tourist hotels and lodges had beautiful gardens but the local people are too busy growing crops to spend time on flower gardens.

We walked through huge rice fields and 'allotments' filled with sweet potatoes and tomato plants.  Here we complain about slugs damaging our crops.  There they have to chase the monkeys away!

Here we forage the hedgerows to make our wine.  There they stick bottles in the palm trees to collect the sap .... sixty feet up! The things some men will do for a drink!

The birds were colourful, wonderful and plentiful.  Andy recorded over 230 species - over 50 in the hotel garden at Lemon Creek.  

At Passport control on the way home the smiling official stamped the page and told us he expected to see us again next year .... we told him he had a date!

Visit Cock of the Rock for bird photographs from the trip.

Friday, 30 November 2012

End of the Month View - November 2012

The heating is on full blast and the coal fire is lit each evening ... I don't mind the cold outside as long as I have a warm house!

I should have planted more bulbs; I should have collected more of the fallen leaves; I should have turned the compost but I didn't.  Does it matter?  Will anyone complain?  No!

The garden is looking frosty and bedraggled but the bird feeders are full so the visitors are quite happy.

Ice white Cyclamen and Frozen Ivy ........

 .............  Cold Roses .........

................and a  Cool cat.

 According to Sarah Raven my Hydrangea flowers should have been picked in October, dried, painted and hung off the mantlepiece.  The roses should be part of a pot pourri by now and my Christmas cake should be swimming in brandy.  Well, tick the last one!

Visit The Patient Gardener for more End of the Month views.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Dukeries - Clumber Park

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire,  is owned by the National Trust and open to the public but it used to be the ancestral home of the Duke of Newcastle.  Guests arriving in 1790 would travel through the park gates and down an avenue of lime trees (over two miles long it was the biggest in Europe) before reaching this bridge and catching sight of the fabulous mansion for the first time.

"The house has a dining-room 60 feet long, 34 wide, and 30 high, and contains many rich works of art; and the park has a lake in front of the house, and is about 11 miles in circuit."

1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales

It was so beautiful it was described as a place "to paradise the mind" by a guest in the 1790s.  Unfortunately it suffered a great fire in 1879 and had to be rebuilt.  A second fire in 1912 followed by the First World War and The Depression led to the house being demolished in 1938.

Well, today we enjoyed a stroll round the Duke's estate, photographed a few birds and had tea and scones in his back garden.

Nuthatch Movember!

"I can see right through your nose!"

Andy took the photographs of the Nuthatch and the Mute Swan - I don't have to tell you that I took this one!!!  I tried!

On the way back to the car this Mandarin Duck was splashing about in the river. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

I'm dreaming of a warm Christmas ...

I'm SO excited! 
I'm getting a greenhouse for Christmas!
(Well, after Christmas actually!)
Of course it won't look anything like this one ... we haven't won the lottery yet!  No, mine will be small but beautiful.  Between the back door and the garden is a sunny path big enough to accomodate a lean to. It's a neglected part of the garden as we very rarely use that particular door.  I have tried to make more use of the area but a small table and chairs there weren't very comfortable and cold frames placed there tended to be left unwatered! A greenhouse will be the perfect solution.

A simple aluminium frame with plastic glazing will set me back about £300 and will be quite easy to maintain. On the other hand a wooden frame with glass will look better, cost more and will need treating over time.  Not much to think about here: it will be attached to the house and visible from the back window so it has to be aesthetically pleasing.  The wood wins hands down.  A few years ago I opted for wooden window frames over plastic coated ones and curse the decision every time I have to revarnish them but I don't regret it the rest of the year!

Books recommend positioning the greenhouse so the roof ridge runs east to west.  This enables one long side to catch the sun all day.  Well, luckily, that is the direction of my path.

Its proximity to the house means it will be easy to get water and electricity fitted eventually.  It will also mean I can put the cold frame back in that area and it might have a fighting chance of not being neglected in future.


Have you noticed Jupiter tonight?  It is incredibly large and bright.  If you look through a telescope or binoculars you can see the stripes and 4 of its 50 moons.

Jupiter is 318 times bigger than Earth - so big it can cause tidal effects throughout the solar system apparently.
We are very close to it at the moment so it is only about 628,743,036 million km away!  As both planets travel in elliptical orbits we will be getting further away again in a few days.

Here's ten interesting facts about Jupier.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A flying visit

Look who we bumped into on the way to the supermarket!
They let us get really close.

Waxwings have been arriving in large numbers in recent weeks.  I wasn't as lucky as Shirley at Shirl's Gardenwatch who spotted two from her window.  We were on our way to Asda when Andy took a detour to check out a possible sighting and there they were waiting for us.  We had driven through plenty of open countryside with hedgerows filled with berries but these birds seem to prefer built up areas.  I have only ever seen them in the middle of housing estates.

This one was having a bad hair day!

While this one had attitude!
Some local residents popped out to ask what we were looking at: they were delighted to discover these beautiful visitors. 
Visit Shirley's blog to see a great video of  Waxwings feeding from the hand.

Photographs by Andy Mason

Friday, 23 November 2012

What a great start to the day!

It was so windy yesterday morning these three Little Egrets couldn't fly.  They had to rest up in the middle of the field.  I felt cold just looking at them .... One tried to walk over to the shelter of the hedge but he was almost blown off his feet.  He wandered about like a drunk but once he reached the long grass he was too wary to actually venture in.  They didn't stay long.

It was a lovely surprise to wake up to ...  a proper "Where's the camera?" moment. 
This was only our second sighting from the house in twenty years.  Numbers in the UK have risen since the early 1990s but before that they were a rare sight.  According to BTO records there was only ONE sighting of a Little Egret between the three winters 1981 - 1984.  The first confirmed breeding record was in Dorset in 1996.  They are now regular visitors to over 400 sites across the UK with The Wash recording over 600 Little Egrets during the autumn months 2011. 

They have jet black legs and yellow feet like they've paddle in paint.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Day

It just seems like a practice run for Christmas Day to me.  The turkey population gets depleted; families get together and the shops are shut.  Lovely.  But then they do it all again four weeks later! 

It was the first President, George Washington, who organised the first national Thanksgiving in 1789.  Before that it had been celebrated but on different days in different places.

Well, with only four weeks to go towns and cities are switching on the lights and opening up the Christmas markets.
Soon we will have gardens filled with reindeers, fat snowmen and glowing santas and the electricity companies will be rubbing their hands with glee!
Aldi are selling a selection of outdoor lights for £10 this week: I bought some two years ago and they are still in working order.  I have checked them for damage to be on the safe side, we plug them in inside the house  and we have a power surge protector in place as a safeguard.
If you are buying new lights then check they are definitely made for use outdoors.   Measure the area first.  Trees and bushes need about 50 lights per foot of height, then you need enough cable to reach the plug.  Think about how you are going to hang them.  Will a line of lights be best or a mesh?  Do you want one colour or lights that change or flash? It's no good just going to the shop and trying to decide once you get there ... like I did!  Go on line and see what's available and plan what you want then you won't come back empty handed ... like I did!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Easton Walled Garden

Easton Walled Garden near Grantham is open for free on Sundays through November and today they had a Christmas Craft Fair so we had a wander round in the sunshine.  We certainly intend to go back.  What a beautiful place!

The garden is 400 years old.  Until 1951 there was a large house to go with it but the house was used by the armed forces during the war and suffered severe damage apparently.  It seems such a shame ...

Surely a building like that could have been saved!

Well too late now!  They demolished it! 
The steps and a bridge over the river survived; the stable block was also salvaged because the demolition equipment broke down!

If you look carefully at the photo on the left above you will see two well cut hedges - these became the yew tree avenue/tunnel pictured in the final photograph of this post. 

After 1951 the estate was abandoned for fifty years: the garden was neglected and nature took over. 
Until 2001 when the family decided to save it.
They now have a thriving kitchen garden providing food for the cafe and inspiration for visitors. 

Why can't I make my allotment look like this?

                                                                   Next year perhaps!

There are rose gardens on either side of this yew tree avenue but they were a bit bare looking today.
You could get a real sense of history wandering up here though ... it was easy to imagine an Elizabeth Bennett travelling through those gates in a carriage.

Snowdrop Week is 16th - 24th February 2013.
Marked in my diary already.