Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Who's Bean and stolen the string?

Well what a lovely weekend for working in the garden. They had predicted rain but none fell until sunday night. I managed to get a fair bit done not least mowing the lawn. I hate mowing the lawn although it always looks good when it's done (for about a day!). A friend of mine in Milton Keynes has astroturfed his, now there's a thought.

Amongst the tasks I completed has been planting my beans out. I like planting beans as it gives me a chance to be creative with bamboo and string.

Many years ago I worked in Bart's medical school in London. There was a retired professor attached to the department who was to say the least frugal. Each year about this time he would turn up in our lab with something that needed wrapping, this would require huge amounts of string (tape was offered but always rejected!). Off he would go really pleased with himself and we would know it was Bean planting time.

As I said the rain held off until Sunday night and yesterday and when it arrived it was really welcome as everywhere has been really parched.

The results are that everything is really coming to life, all the rape fields around the village are in full bloom. Oh to be in England's yellow and pleasant land.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

'May all your weeds be wildflowers,

Firstly let me say I stole the title of this entry from a sign I saw on another blog,, sorry but I can't remember whose.

As well as all the garden plants coming to life at the moment, the weeds are doing well too. Here are a selection from my garden.

Urtica dioica (Stinging nettle)

Stinging nettles are great plants, really interesting and useful. They are one of the few plants in the UK that show sexual dimorphism, that is have male and female types, the photo is of a female. You can tell the difference as the females have the flowers and DON'T sting..honest try it. They also taste good when cooked and make fantastic liquid compost.

Taraxacum (Dandelion)

Dandelions are beautiful, if they didn't spread like mad I think people would grow them for show. Of course the problem is that this lovely flower turns into this:

Taraxacum (Dandelion)

One of the most efficient dipersal system in the plant kingdom, but also one of the most beautiful and amazing ones.Which gardener out there can honestly say they have never picked one and blown the seeds off it?

Galium aparine (Goosegrass or Common Cleavers)

Now this one is evil, it grows like mad climbing through everything. It also sticks to you when you touch it. If it goes to seed it is even worse, they stick to everything, especially cats. I have spent many evenings getting scratched is I have pulled them out of fur!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What else is in flower

After my comments yesterday about it being nice to see more flowers coming through to replace the bulbs. Well I have had a wander round the garden and here are a few more. All where photographed last evening.


This is still in full flower at the base of the walnut tree. The flowers tend to merge into the background of the foliage but when you look at them in isolation and close up they are fantastic, one of my favourite flowers.

Lithodora ( Forget-me-not)

These have self seeded all over the place which is not a problem as the splash of colour is electric at this time of year,

Primula veris (Cowslip)

I found these cowslips growing wild in the lawn last year, I decided then to leave a patch at the bottom of the garden unmown to try and encourage more wildflowers. It seems to have worked as I have more plants this year. I have also sown the area with a wildflower mix hopefully this will bring results later in the year.

Juglans regia (Walnut)

The Walnut is also breaking into leaf and is covered in these male catkins, the female flowers form on the ends of twigs, I couldn't find any female flowers I presume they form later to prevent self pollination.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English Bluebell)

My bluebells are also just beginning to flower. these are English bluebells not the Spanish bluebell that is slowly taking over the British countryside, the anthers in the Spanish variety are blue rather than the cream colour of our native.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Geraniums and snakes

Geranium phaeum

This lovely little geranium has just come into flower in the garden, now that the spring bulbs are largely going over it is great to see the start of the early summer flowers.

The wildlife in the village has also been picking up over the last few weeks. We have had an influx of Yellowhammers this year, they must be one of the most attractive birds we get in the garden. I always think they look like a sparrow that has been dunked in yellow paint. Sorry about the quality of the picture but it was taken through our kitchen window on a pretty dull morning.

The warm weather last week also stirred up the reptile population, this grass snake was basking next to a neighbours pond, probably feeding on the frogs.

Grass snakes are harmless but they can eject a very smelly liquid at anyone annoying them. Chris whose garden it was in found this out, when he tried putting this one in a bucket while he was waiting for me to get round to his to photograph it.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A bit of fire juggling.

Victoria of Victoria's backyard wanted to see a picture of yours truly fire juggling. This one was taken about 3 years back, I haven't done any new ones as it is quite hard to press the autotimer and get into position. It looks scary but it is actually quite safe as long as you remember to catch the right end!

The picture was taken in my old garden in South London where most of the neighbours thought I was raving mad . The way I see it you always need a fall back career these days.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A busy Easter weekend

Well a Bank Holiday weekend and I just couldn't put it off any longer, time to clear out the potting shed! Actually it wasn't too bad mainly old plastic flower pots and empty compost sacks. they were soon sorted and some new shelves put up.

I still need to get power into the shed so I can put a light in there. I also want to use it for some of my close up photography as the other shed that would make a much better studio gets converted into a bar over the summer (not a complete waste I suppose!).

Anyway after a couple of hours work I think it is looking much better. It still wasn't got the smell I associated with garden sheds. When I was a kid in the 60's I used to help my dad on his allotment. There was an allotment hut on the site where you could buy fertilizers etc (most of which have now been hopefully been banned ) The smell of these combined with 30yrs of pipe smoke and wet tweed jackets is the one I remember.

It wasn't just the shed that got cleared out this weekend.
As part of the preparations for the "in Bloom " events a
group of us cleared the Reed Mace out of
one of the village ponds. This plant is really invasive and
will fill the pond choking everything else.

As you can see it was getting quite bad. Anyway as you can see from the second shot Karen, Phil, Peter and I manged to clear most of it leaving the yellow flag iris space to do it's thing over the next few weeks

Easter sunday is a bit of a blur, it started well with an ester egg hunt for the village kids organised by the village hall. This of course meant the bar was open, the village doesn't have a pub so this is always an important event. Anyway lets just say the beer was very good and also cheap.

Whilst at the bar we were invited to go and see some new born lambs by one of our neighbours and also the large pond they are building. So we went up there yesterday. We got there just after one of the lambs was
born which was really nice, we all stood around waiting
for it to take it's first feed. We also saw the new piglets
they have just got, needless to saw it is not a good idea to get too fond of them as they won't be around that long :-((.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Rain, birds and rare plants.

We had some rain overnight, the first for about 10 days, not a lot but enough to dampen the ground. It amazes me how fast the grass and other plants green up after a shower. The other thing I have noticed in the pastis how seeds will germinate after rain when they don't seem to after days of using a watering can or hose, has anyone else noiced this?

I spent an hour last evening constructing this cage to protect the Kale (Brassica oleraces Var acephela) that I have planted. I decided that this year I would be mean and not share my crops with the pigeons and the caterpillars as I have done for the last couple of years. One of the local farmers who shoots pigeons on his land was telling me that at this time of year they taste of cabbage when you cook them due to the amount of oil seed rape they eat.

On Sunday I drove over to Northamptonshire to visit the rare planr fair at Evenley Wood gardens. It was really good but a lot smaller than the ones I used to go to in London. The setting was a lot nicer than the hall in Clapham were I used to go, the stalls where laid out in woodland and surrounded by magnolias in flower.

I bought a few things including Prostanthera rotundifolia the Australian Mint bush, the scent of which is amazing, Ancathunus mollis Hollands gold which has golden yellow leaves not the usual dark green. I also got a ebony leaved Angelica and a lovely poppy called Papaver 'Louve'.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Small is beautiful

Tortula muralis

This lovely little moss is growing on the wall outside the front door, it is very common but also very beautiful.

Ok, as you will see from the comments on my last post you shouldn't use cat litter in your compost. I actually only use my compost on my flower beds to try a breakdown the clay. I use well rotted stable manure ( I have a very good source) on the veg patch.

Spring is really here now and I am really happy with our spring flower display.

Of course the problem now is how to keep the colour going through the rest of the year.

Is anyone going to the Rare Plant Fair at Evernley Wood gardens on Sunday? I may well have a drive along the A14 to see if there are any bargains or must haves.