Photo of the week – Long-tailed Tit

I was just going out of my back door and I saw this lovely long-tailed tit in my rambling rose. Fortunately my camera was in the porch so I grabbed it and managed to get a few shots before it flew off. It’s not brilliantly in focus, but I’m happy having managed to get it in the frame, as they move so quickly!

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Photo of the week kindly hosted by htpp//teamlloyd.com/ Why not pop over there and see lots more photos?

Team Lloyd

Thoughts on a Big Project

One of my last projects for the winter was to strip out the shelves and wallpaper in my kitchen pantry and redecorate it the same colour as the kitchen. But then I started this blog and, ever since, every spare minute has been taken up trying to get to grips with WordPress! My learning curve has been, and still is, vertical!

At the end of April I will be retiring (yippee) so I will be able to put some real time into my Big Project, the garden.

22 years ago, when I had all but given up hope of finding a place where I could keep my horse at home,  I found my dream cottage through a friend.  I was in the right place at the right time and I could just afford the mortgage on this little ‘attached’ cottage with stables, outbuildings and a turnout paddock. Luck was on my side as I found a buyer for my house the day after I had placed the ad in the paper and in just over six weeks, my horse, two cats and I moved in.

Luckily the garden was a blank canvas, with only a few fruit trees and  shrubs. Over the next 10 years I toiled hard creating flowerbeds, planting hedges and shrubs.. It wasn’t on a par with the Lost Gardens of Helligon, but it certainly felt like it!  I planted over 60 old roses, and constructed a rose tunnel and trellises for them to climb through. The perfume on a summer’s evening was overwhelming.

Just a few images of my garden 12 years ago…

Garden 2000 Buff Beauty

Garden 2000 C

Garden 2000 D

Garden June 200

Cottage garden 2000 A

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That is what it looked like in its heyday.This is what it looked like last year…

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Clematis viticella

As you can see the roses have all, but a few, died. They are high maintenance. They need to be sprayed for greenfly and against blackspot, fertilized and dead headed regularly. I just didn’t look after them as I was too busy going for long rides on my horse. The garden was neglected for too many years. The black spot gets into the stems, the leaves all fell, and the roses died. So sad. I had worked so hard on getting my old rose collection established, then I neglected them. Sad too, that now I’m going to have time to look after them, I can’t replant new roses where the old ones were. That is, not unless I replace something like two cubic metres of soil for each rose. This would just not be feasible!

Luckily the Cecile Brunner and the Rambling Rector, on the other side of the garden have survived. Can’t think why because they’re planted next to my neighbour’s conifers that take all the moisture out of the soil. They are beautiful…

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So, the challenge is, what to plant in all the gaps!

Green shoots

A few years ago I was given a Garland electric windowsill propagator for Christmas and from that point on, I have grown all my vegetables from seed.  Am so pleased with it as within a few days, the seeds germinate. Takes away all the worry about whether they will germinate or not.

After a blog-searching expedition a few weeks ago, I came across a gardening blog and read a post from a member who had already sown their tomatoes, in an unheated greenhouse.

Not wanting to be left behind, last Friday I sowed some of my tomato seeds. Gardeners’ Delight, a cherry tomato, which is an old favourite, very prolific and beautifully sweet.  Ailsa Craig, a sweet, medium-sized tomato that I have never grown before and …. marigolds.

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The marigolds germinated very quickly – I could see them coming through on Sunday. The tomatoes were showing on Tuesday. Brilliant, eh?!! My other tomato seeds, an Italian beefsteak tomato, will be sown in a few weeks time.

The novice veg grower may well be asking why the marigolds? Well, several years ago my greenhouse was plagued with greenfly, the seedling’s greatest enemy! They suck sap and the seedling will die unless drastic action is taken. It was devastating. I try to grow my crops without using chemicals, so I had to douse everything with soapy (Fairy Liquid will do) water which should kill the little perishers. Remember to search on the underside of the leaves though, as that is where they love to congregate.

Hearing about my greenfly problems a colleague recommended growing marigolds among the tomatoes in the greenhouse. I’ve done this ever since, and haven’t seen a single greenfly, so it obviously works.

Since sowing my tomatoes I have found my notebook from last year and I noticed that I sowed them on the 7th March ! Oh dear, will just have to pray that the freezing nights are a thing of the past. They say that seedlings will survive at 10 degrees and above. Oer, think I have been a bit premature.  Might have to sow some more in March, never mind.

Next job? Clear out all the geraniums from the greenhouse, into the spare stable and give the inside of the greenhouse a good clean …. then prick out and pot on the seedlings.

 

 

Where have all the birds gone?

The weekend before last my garden was teeming with birds – long-tailed, great and blue tits, dunnocks, greenfinches, chaffinches, blackbirds, collared doves, wood pigeons, a lesser spotted woodpecker and a robin! Brilliant I thought, that goes well for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on the following weekend.

So, last Saturday, horse, cats and chickens fed and let out, I settled down with my breakfast to watch the two bird feeders in the garden. Nothing came. Ten minutes later, still nothing. Where have they all gone? Had they been ‘stuffing themselves silly’ before I arrived at the window? All the feeders were full, the cats were asleep indoors, so where were they?

After another 10 minutes, and 1 great tit, 3 blue tits and 2 wood pigeons later, I gave up. Perhaps they knew it was the Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend and had flown off to another garden ? Maybe the fact that one of my cats (grrrr) had caught a blue tit and my one remaining robin *sobs* during the week, was keeping them away. I’ll watch out earlier tomorrow I thought, when they were would be stocking up after a cold night.
To my amazement, when I awoke Sunday morning and looked out of the window… all the snow had gone! I had never known it to thaw so quickly. I soon discovered that the barn and the greenhouse were both flooded, but no damage fortunately.

Oh, how lovely it was to stride across the yard without fear of going A over T. Not having to take geriatric little steps. I must have looked so funny bundled up in my five layers of clothing tottering about the place ! Good job nobody could see me.

The sun shone down from a blue sky and the wind blew fiercely scattering all my flowerpots and stable tools all over the place and slamming gates into my groin. Ho hum, when will we ever get the weather we want? Must be positive, at least the sunshine and the wind will help dry the ground, which had turned into liquid mud!

Had to chuckle when I heard somebody on the radio recommending making lots of snowmen before the snow went, to cut down on the amount of snow thawing all at the same time. Wonder if anybody followed their advice?

Jobs done I made a cuppa and settle down to watch the birds… What birds? Perhaps they had all gone on holiday to warmer climes? I gave up after another 20 minutes with a paltrey total to load onto the RSPB website. Wanted to say that I usually have four times as many birds, but there wasn’t a box for that 🙁

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Still, have to be grateful for small mercies, the chickens on Saturday finally came out to peck around in the last of the snow and enjoy some boiled rice I gave them.

Maybe I will have better luck with the Big Garden Birdwatch next year!