Robin, I thought we were friends until …

Kniphofia Tawny King
The tawny bed after rain, Kniphofia Tawny King and Digitalis laevigata

… you ate all my fruit.

OK, so the fruit is not in full production but in holding pots awaiting a proper home this autumn. So far you’ve had the Gloire de Sablon pink currants, the one ripening All Gold raspberry, and between yesterday and today all 6 red not quite ripe Whinham Industry gooseberries. Plus I found you had been into the living room and pooped on the sofa – not nice. It’s all very cute looking at me with your limpid round black eye, all speckley feathered, teetering on the edge of a plant pot with those dainty little feet. And I saw you this morning cheekily taking a bath sitting on a waterlily pad, but this take, take, take, will have to stop! Well actually apart from the blackberries you’ve already taken the lot!

We’re surrounded by young birds various at the moment trying to make their way in the world it seems. A young Carrion Crow tells the young Magpies where to get off when it comes to first dibs on the bird table, although the cheeky Magpies were teasing (not mobbing) the crow just now in one of the trees,  the crow eventually flapped off in a huff. We’ve got a plethora of robins, and at least 1 wren still feeding fledged young, Bullfinches various hold court on the sunflower seeds. Gangs of Long Tailed Tits can be heard and sometimes spotted, the Starlings and Jackdaws though appear to have taken themselves off into the wider countryside. Saw a Barn Owl swoop low over the field in the dimming light last night and the Tawny Owl babes are still calling loudly and testily for food.

We’ve had rain today, and hail and thunder and everything. The rain has been missing us for days but today a welcome downpour,  the temperature has dropped somewhat.

The picture above shows Kniphofia Tawny King which in the last garden didn’t support itself terribly well, but standing to attention here. The Digitalis ferruginea is now in flower, the bees busily clambering aboard each lipped landing platform. (22/7/14 Actually I think I must correct myself, D laevigata was first in flower and shown above although I do have D ferruginea but he is brown lipped, D laevigata has a pale lip).

Brugmansia Grand Marnier
Brugmansia Grand Marnier

The Brugmansia is doing it’s thing, the scent is just starting to ramp up for the evening, vying with Lonicera halliana and Nicotiana alata. It’s unattractively festooned with Bioline packs to try to combat spider mites.

Beware fried toads in empty ceramic pots. Sadly a few weeks ago I found a desiccated toad which had somehow climbed into an empty plant pot and then couldn’t get out. On Sunday morning, drowning not waving a toad was seen stretching up trying to get out of another empty pot as the sun warmed up, needless to say it was released.

Feeling the lows

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum
Chrysosplenium macrophyllum

Feeble old continental high can’t push out the Atlantic lows, rain, gales, rain, more rain and guess what more rain = flooding. I saw the sun and a snippet of blue sky about an hour ago and now more driving rain. The groundwater is way up to the top of the holes we bored in the ground.  I feel very sorry for people who have been flooded by both sea and fresh water. On a sort of plus side the temperatures aren’t too bad.

The wildlife cam has confirmed the fox is still around. I also saw what looked like landing prints in the mud by the stream. At the moment we only catch him or her on camera at night. The chickens are still behind electric fencing, sadly the free ranging days are over.  These chickens seem to graze more than the previous lot and the grass is getting bald on the main patch. We’re looking at building a house on wheels (a scoot house) we can move around the garden.  The garden is in better shape though. Gawky chicken got out last week and wreaked a trail of destruction Bergenia ciliata took a battering and is a shadow of its former self.

And although its somewhat early,  the mild weather is bringing plants on and I’ve made a start on clearing and mulching the main borders. I may yet be rewarded for my efforts  with a cold snap.

The bullfinches all tricked out in fresh attire have been dominating the seed feeder fighting the tits various off for over a week. The Long Tailed tits seem to prefer peanuts anyway as does the Spotted Woodpecker. A Blackcap has been grazing on honeysuckle berries.

Poking around in the woodbed, Hellebores various are out or lifting their heads including H purpurascens and I was surprised by the posies of the Chrysosplenium’s flowers, very dainty (from Pan Global Plants).

Waiting for the sucker punch

Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins

Most of us wish January away as fast as possible. This January has generally been mild and wet, (very wet). Guess what? Today it’s raining again, squelch!

Yesterday the sun shone, the Crocus tommasinianus opened, Iris Katherine Hodgkin flirted with the breeze, catkins waved, and snowdrop Brenda Troyle’s large  flowers bobbed (she’s the first snowdrop properly out). Daphne Jacqueline Postill was allowed to release her scent in the warming air.

Suddenly in early afternoon a front whipped through, we only got the tail, a wild, mad westerly flinging down hail putting a sudden end to the prospect of a gentle potter in the garden. We’re not out of the woods yet on the path to spring, February can still bring snow and plummeting temperatures.

The starling pair are back grackling away and excavating their old nest site under the gutter which is not ideal. The birds generally are putting on their best plumage, pairing up, and singing lustily. Last week we saw two hares in a field just up the road, one was gilded in the lowering sun.

We’ve had the webcam out since the chicky birds were taken by a fox at Christmas, nada, nuthin’. But it pays to stay vigilant, I thought I smelled a faint whiff of fox last weekend. Was it a fox passing through pushed by flooding? Or like BBC’s Winterwatch which featured a dispossessed fox on a tramp. A Brighton project has shown fox Fleet (Fleet Foxes geddit!?) did a 195 mile round trip in 3 weeks Dec /Jan when his son pushed him off home territory – whereabouts now unknown as his tracking collar dropped off.

I’ve been on an internet search for what I thought was a squash, turns out to be a watermelon, Moon and Stars, which I saw in the french Baumaux catalogue last year but couldn’t find online. There might be a UK supplier of the seed but I didn’t find one, I found a US company Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri, although many US suppliers won’t ship outside the US, I’ve got my seeds. Will I achieve watermelons? Depends on the summer as much as anything I think.

 

Rain stopped play in the garden (temporarily)

Early June lupins and foxgloves
Early June lupins and foxgloves

Some big showers moving through at the moment. Pity I didn’t get more plants in this morning. There’s more rain tomorrow so onwards in a minute. Now it’s tomorrow (Sunday) and the predicted rain is now splashes rather than downpour, I was rather hoping for some effortless watering-in of plants. The top layer of this clay based soil is lovely to work when wet and warmed by the sun.

On Friday I built a large squash/courgette bed. Made out of lawn turf and filled with well rotted horse manure. Surrounded on all sides with string and bamboo to stop the chickens scratching it all out. Very few brandling worms in the manure so presume their work is finished and they have moved on. Hopefully come the autumn I will break it down and it’ll make a nice mulch for the borders.

A wicked wind has been blowing from the south for the last few days, trees debris everywhere. My bargain Lady’s Slipper Orchid has been getting a hammering, her fat bottom lip is browned where its been hitting the leaf below.  Yesterday the wind briefly abated as the rain came through. Today is grey but the wind has died down, hooray.

One part of the woodbed planted 2 weeks ago - work in progress
One part of the wood bed planted 2 weeks ago – work in progress

I have built two slightly raised beds for woodies in the shade, unfortunately the squirrels have buried nuts in the ground underneath so there are confused squirrels and minor excavations in many places. Its interesting to sculpt these mounds a bit to create pockets and change the moisture levels rather than just planting on the flat. The soil isn’t very woodsy at the moment so some plants may be a bit touch and go. I also discovered a very small earth brown toad in my diggings and plantings.

We caught a young red deer on camera one morning, must have jumped the stream to investigate the edible potential of the garden, it took a small mouthful of Rosa Kaznalik and appears to have moved on. We did see it ambling through a neighbouring field again last weekend.

The other day a mole broke cover in daylight and ran across the lawn, I presume the resident mole had faced it down and forced it up into the daylight.

I don't pop my bud for just anyone you know - Eshscholzia
I don’t pop my bud for just anyone you know – Eschscholzia

We got a turf cutter in on the late May Bank Holiday so the main borders are all cut out and planted up with a fair amount of plants. The first bits of the borders to be planted in January this year are filling out. Lupins, foxgloves and hesperis are making a show, the first eschscholzia and nasturtium Milkmaid are coming out. (I start eschscholzia seeds in pots rather than direct sow and then move them on in clumps rather than trying to prick out individual seedlings.)

It’s fabulous to see the amount of growth my bare root roses from Peter Beales have made, Great Western in particular is full  of buds. Some of the roses I have hoicked around in pots also seem to be recovering. The inherited roses here so far are generally pink and not very scented, the only one I know is Handel. Although I do admire a classic hybrid tea rose shape,  generally I think they are a bit stiff in a garden setting, but great for cutting.

I fear the hibiscus and peonies that came with the garden may also be pink which isn’t a great fit for the blue/white/yellow bed where they currently reside. An ordinary philadelphus is filling the garden with scent at the moment, so will stay.

Maybe the dull day should be used to pot on some buddleja who do not have a designated home as yet in this garden.

Rain

Last night a tantalising shower, water trickling into the  empty water barrel making an echoey plink plash sound. This morning dark clouds and now rain, the greens of the trees  look super saturated.

Mown grass has been browning off as if it is high summer although farmers have been busy making silage over the last week.

The only down side to rain is the legion of snails and slugs who have been waiting their chance.