Sunday, 30 November 2014

End of the Month View: November 2014


This is the sorry state of my garden today.  In amongst all that wreckage there are a surprising number of small flowers.  The two delphiniums are still blooming but looking very sorry for themselves; a few periwinkles have appeared and the japonica has decided it must be Spring.  This is the view from my greenhouse showing how it got this way through 2014:

Visit The Patient Gardener for more End of Month views.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Grey Seals at Donna Nook

We drove through the rain, drizzle and fog yesterday to see the seals at Donna Nook.  This is one of four thriving UK colonies of Grey Seals (also known as Atlantic Seals).  Britain has about 40% of the world population of these creatures: the other colonies are at Horsey, Blakeney and Farne Isle.

They spend most of the year in the sea but this time of year they pull themselves onto land in order to give birth, argue, mate, shout at each other, sleep, eat and fall out!

Seal count 24th November 2014:  Seal count: pups 1,220, cows 1,314, bulls 516. 

We thought we would be the only people there .... Thursday on a miserable, wet day .... the car park was packed though! There was even a school trip!  The hotdog stalls were doing a roaring trade!



Monday, 24 November 2014

Starling Murmuration

All over the country every Autumn and Winter Starlings flock in their thousands and perform superb acrobatic displays at dawn and dusk.  It is called a murmuration and it is really incredible to watch.
The light was great; the sky was pink and golden as the sun was setting over the empty lagoon. 
We were surrounded by the sounds of geese and starlings gathering for the evening roost.  Every available spot on the pylon was taken but flocks continued to arrive. 
There have been flocks of seven or eight thousands recently.  The display began with a few hundred and grew as more birds joined the dance. The flock became a living creature moving as one being across the sky then suddenly dividing and meeting up again, rolling and diving, changing colour as they changed direction, seeming to disappear altogether at one point.  Breath taking!
Perfect evening's viewing!
The Starlings settled in to roost and the swans and geese arrived with the darkness. 

 The noise was deafening as they greeted one another and the empty lagoon was filled.

Andy took this one .... I'm sure you can see the difference! 
Head over to Cock of the Rock for more brilliant Murmuration pictures.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Christmas Decorations for the Garden

I was reading Landscape magazine and saw a simple idea for making a tree decoration using twigs and string.  We have a bare fence running up the side of the drive to the garage and I immediately thought this would look great.  I can't show you the magazine but I found these photos to give you the general idea.  We have some long branches to be cut up for fire wood that I could use; I have dried poppy seed heads and dried honesty for decorations; there's colourful berries in the garden and teasels on the lane so plenty of stuff to use .... and if it turns out looking as brilliant as my attempted willow obelisk I can always pull it down again!!

While I was looking for these I came across a few more ideas for a festive garden:

Follow this link to see how to make a Mistletoe (or Kissing) Ball:
Click here to make a pine cone wreath:

Or make your own version of this by using your garden canes:
My garden won't be full of lights and plastic Santas but I hope it will be oozing Christmas spirit. 
Andy was asked to take photographs at a flash mob event yesterday so I went along too.  It was in the middle of a busy Tesco.  People with shopping trollies suddenly started singing along to the piped music - it was Nottingham Sinfonia Chorale  and they sounded heavenly (follow the link to listen).  It was really good to be "in the know" ... I could enjoy the singing and watch the reaction of normal shoppers. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Our name is on the deeds but ......
Spotted this little hog scurrying across the lawn and disappearing into the Crocosmia leaves.  I was so pleased to see her. She stood very still when we approached, hiding in full sight!  I put a trail of cat food towards the hedgehog box ... hopefully she will move in.  It is still very mild though so I don't think she will be hibernating yet.  It is such a small hog it will need a few more weeks of good food to survive a harsh winter.  Good supply of cat food at the ready .... hope the cat doesn't mind!

The sparrows have gathered into a large flock of about 40 in the hedge. They roost in the ivy growing up the house on the wall near the warm chimney.  There is a steady supply of food in the garden and on the lane.   They sound really cheerful as they squabble over access to the fat ball nets.  They can be quite vicious at times.

We can't keep up with the demand for fat balls. At 10p - 15p each it gets expensive when you hang out 6 or 7 at a time but the view from the window makes it worth it. We could make our own fat balls using seeds and kitchen scraps in melted lard but it doesn't work out that much cheaper and they tend to fall apart more quickly.  The nets are positioned so that the birds are not in full view of the sparrowhawk or kestrel that patrol the field.  That sounds a bit mean towards the predators but we know they are clever enough to survive without our assistance.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

GBBD: November 2014

The front gate is swathed in ivy (must remember to hack it back tomorrow!) that forms a tunnel as it intertwines with the holly tree.  The ivy is smothered in flowers and my flower arranging neighbour is eyeing up the holly berries.  We have a wall covered in Cotoneaster berries at the back and Pyracantha at the front so the birds, bees and wasps are colourfully catered for at the moment.

It is a grey, damp day today: the garden is looking rather dismal so I was surprised at how many blooms I found.  The Fuchsias have to be the star of the show.  I got a number of free fuchsias from Gardens' World last year and they are all still flowering and we have a bush growing next to the French door: it manages to flower for weeks and weeks every year. I have taken cuttings that are now flowering in different parts of the garden and plan to cultivate some for growing along the side of the lane.  The branches bend so beautifully and any vehicles brushing against them won't be scratched (I had thought of hydrangea bushes but ....)

As I wandered round I found lots of buds preparing to open.  My carnations are smothered in them. While other plants have given up for the year.  The Peony trees are covered in soggy brown leaves.  A monster of a Nasturtium (that appeared in the middle of a border after I scattered some home made compost about) has succumbed to the frost.  On the other hand two Delphiniums have decided to flower.  The garden seems completely confused ... "Am I coming or going?"

She's not confused.  She's still here!

My son moves into a new apartment this weekend so I was helping by taking some stuff up to the tip.  Whenever I go there I always come back with "somebody else's rubbish" according to my husband ... but he had to agree that this pot was worth salvaging. I thought it was a 'blooming' bargain.   Not sure Jack and his girlfriend were impressed with me scurrying round the tip rescuing junk though!

I have linked with May Dreams Gardens for the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Welcome Visitor

For weeks now I have been chasing the neighbour's chicken out of the garden.  I don't mind it coming in to hoover up the dropped seeds below the feeders but I object to it scratching up the Saxifrage and digging up the lawn and I hate the piles of poo on the doorstep.  She spends hours in our garden but Heidi gets the eggs!  When she arrived for the first time I thought she was lovely ("How quaint to have a chicken in the borders ...").  When she disappeared for a few days then reappeared with three cute chicks in tow I was over the moon.  The novelty wore off though. Now when she appears I have to chase her round the lawn for a few minutes before she lets me pick her up and take her home.  She no longer struggles or complains, she goes quietly ... I just wish she would remember not to come back!

Well, this visitor was in the chicken's usual spot today.  He has been around for about three years now.  I call him The Beautiful One.  This year I have seen four different males in the field but this is the only one with white stripes on his head.  Like the chicken he too was feasting on the dropped grain and, no doubt, he also defecated somewhere but I bear him no ill will.  Last winter we had seventeen pheasants in the garden one morning ... I was very happy to see them.  So what is it about that poor chicken? Why do I accept one visitor but not the other?  It doesn't make sense.  Perhaps it is because the Pheasants are wild birds.  There is no one managing them; no one is breeding these birds to shoot them; they look after themselves. The chicken, on the other hand, has its own garden to go to; it gets fed every day; it has no reason to be in my garden. I sound like a candidate for Chicken UKIP!!  I really do have a serious problem don't I?  SO....

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bingham Garden Club: November 2014

Last night we met Pam Tatam from Hall Farm Garden.  Her talk was entitled 'Combinations, Underwear and Suspenders'.  She married a Lincolnshire farmer some thirty five years ago and they inherited the family farm.

She set about building a successful nursery (which closed in 2011), developing a garden covering three acres of land and bringing up her kids.  The slides showed how much work had gone into her plot.  The plant combinations were beautiful ... shame I don't have access to her slides.  I was particularly taken by a border filled with Calendula, Dahlia David Howard (orange with dark leaves)and Salvia Lady in Red.  She had placed a blue Salvia near by to complement the warm colours. It really worked well.

Another one was bright pink Cleome, against the dark red leaves of Ricinus and Geranium Ann Folkard. The pink was a great match for the red leaves but the purple near the ground set it off.

She had lots of Fuchsias and roses, honeysuckle twisting round clematis, Golden Rod mixed with Crocosmia Lucifer and Red Hot Pokers and masses of Nasturtiums. I envied her the three acres of stunning gardens ...but not the hard work!  Altogether an inspiring evening.

The Bingham Garden Club chairwoman and the committee do an excellent job when it comes to getting interesting speakers.  They have a special evening with Pippa Greenwood planned for next March. We had Martin Fish last month.  I read his column in Garden News every week but it came as a surprise when he started talking about growing up in Blidworth near Mansfield ..... that's where I taught for over twenty years.  Sure enough he was an ex-pupil of my old school and had fond memories of a number of my old colleagues. 

Garden Club meetings are held September through to May when the summer garden visits are organised.  There are seven meetings with speakers; the AGM takes up one meeting and the Christmas social the other. We get all this for a mere £10 per annum! A real bargain by anyone's account BUT it also entitles us to cut price seeds!  The committee organises orders from Thompson & Morgan at a 50% discount.  I put an order in for £70 worth this month and paid £35.  So I have met some lovely people, I have been inspired and educated and I've saved money! Brilliant!

Saturday, 8 November 2014


Elaine has posted about her Bonfire Night memories at Ramblings from Rosebank and took me back to mine.  Proper Yorkshire Parkin (ginger cake to you!) and Toffee Apples; the fire on the green that had to be protected over Mischief Night or neighbouring kids would make off with the wood; boys throwing bangers about and making the Guy a week before so you could ask strangers for money for fireworks.

I have some really quite scary memories of Bonfire Night.  As a little girl (under 7) I was given a firework to hold! It had a plastic handle for the purpose and I remember I was wearing blue woollen gloves.  I held it well away from me but the flames were still hot and seemed to last for ages.  It obviously frightened me because I remember it so well.  How dangerous was that!  Fancy handing a child a firework to hold! It was all part of the fun back then.  Boys threw bangers about the playground and Jumping Jacks were designed to jump about at your feet!

Another memory was building the fire in a neighbour's garden using her metal washing pole as the central support.  It seemed like a great idea until ten minutes in when the pole started to vibrate.  The rain water inside began to boil and suddenly spurted into the air like a volcano and put the fire out!  Thankfully no one was hurt and we all had a good laugh and went to a different house to continue the celebration.

As a teenager I attended school in Huddersfield.  One dark afternoon we had a brilliant spectacle as a fire destroyed the Standard Fireworks factory across the valley. Rockets shot into the air; multi coloured lights covered the grey sky; it kept us amused all afternoon. It was wonderful from our view point ... not so wonderful for the workers!

We are far more safety conscious these days thankfully!

Well, Bonfire Night here began last Saturday - 1st November - obviously there were some celebrations on the actual night but the main event is tonight.  Fire, food and fireworks at the local sports ground.  Hopefully it will have stopped raining by then!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Grey Partridges

The flock of partridges in the field this morning had orange heads.  Andy spotted it at first glance.  We usually have eight Red Legged Partridges but these were Grey.  They were a fair distance away and only really noticeable when they moved but we counted a group of eight and another group of six.  A new species for the field list.

The resident Pheasants didn't seem pleased with the new arrivals, nor did the Magpies.  They flew closer and eventually the flock took refuge in the hedge but they stayed around.  Hope they stay all winter.  They are on the RED conservation list so it would be nice to think we can help them through the cold weather.

These are not the only new species I have seen over the last few weeks .... we have been visiting Cornwall and the Scillies.

We stayed on St Agnes at Lower Farm.  This was my fourth holiday there .... friends lived there so we were luck enough to spend a couple of Christmas/New Year breaks on Agnes when the kids were younger.  Fancy dress is the norm in the Turk's Head pub at New Year so I have lovely memories of my lads dressed as the Blues Brothers one year and decked out in blankets as Peruvian Pipe Players the next.  The bar was packed out with men tied together with red ribbon on one of the nights: a couple were dressed as Black Friars; another as James Bond etc as they had come as a group representing the London Underground!

Birding was the first priority but I got the chance to visit Carreg Dhu Gardens on St Marys and the Abbey Gardens on Tresco.

The Shell House is gorgeous!  How long did it take them to collect all those shells and glue them in place? However long it was worth it!

I saw the Golden Pheasant and the Red Squirrels ... not sure about them introducing the latter as there is no natural food source for them.  They have to be fed by humans all year round so they may have a safe environment but they can never live naturally. 

There were plants EVERYWHERE!  Even the walls were beautiful!  Obviously I came home with a few Agapanthus bulbs and a couple of succulents ... well it seemed rude not to!