Archive for 31/03/2016

Gardening with Children

The RSPB has launched the results of their 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch, during which a staggering 8,262,662 birds were counted, the top ten birds were:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Chaffinch
  8. Great Tit
  9. Robin
  10. Long-Tailed Tit

The House Sparrow remained at number one, around 4 House Sparrows were spotted in each garden, the Blackbird was the most widespread garden bird appearing in 88% of gardens, the Long-Tailed Tit was a new entry in tenth place, the RSPB commented that ‘January’s mild weather meant more smaller birds had survived the winter, and although natural food sources were plentiful, it’s clear these birds still rely on the food we put out in our gardens’.

We were fortunate to spend the Easter Weekend at Silverdale, whenever we go on holiday we always do our own Bird Species Count, the Silverdale area is ideal for birds with mixed habitats including, woodland…

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That Bloomin' Garden

I love shade gardening. Its my refuge to a garden full of wonderful foliage plants. You see after flowers finish, the foliage of plants remain. It’s wise to chose plants with either great leaves, bark or berries to have interest all year round. This week I am planning what I will plant in the front shade garden. This month the garden is getting lots of sun as the trees are bare of leaves, with signs that the leaves are not far away. In early spring this garden is full of colour.

Planning Colour for the Shade Garden

Under deciduous trees is a good place to plant spring bulbs and early bloomers such as Primula. Primula like the shaded conditions the trees provide later in the season but enjoy the warmth of the early spring sun for its blooms. The moist soil in spring is what this plant loves. Once they finish blooming they put their energy…

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Hellebores coming to an end...

Hellebores coming to an end…

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

So, as usual, I’m feeling guilty at all the jobs that are lining up and my failure to make much of an impact on them. Still, I was heartened by Monty Don’s comment in last week’s ‘Gardeners’ World’, when he said: ‘Now’s the time to divide and move herbaceous and other perennials’; phew, at least I’m a little ahead of the game on that score!

However, I do seem to be behind in digging over the borders and getting seedlings going, amongst other things. I got round to planting out some (leggy) ‘cut and come again’ lettuce the other day (under cloches), and yesterday I potted up some other trays of early seedlings. At the same time I started to clear out the greenhouse- of trays of not very successfully overwintered pelargoniums, and the more tender exotics…hopefully a cover of fleece will see them through the remaining cold weather.

Potted up and ready to go- Scabious 'Nana', Geum rivale etc.

Potted up and ready to go- Scabious ‘Nana’, Geum rivale etc.

The little bit of digging I have done was very satisfying, having finished cutting back all the dead growth from last year and raked up the remaining fallen leaves from the borders. The daffodils are well into their stride – mine seem to have behaved much as normal as far as flowering time is concerned, unlike other parts of the country, where the abnormally mild winter has brought many species out earlier than ‘usual’. And the tulips are starting to show their colours. I also gave the grass its first real cut of the year at Easter Weekend and that always makes things look a little tidier.

I’ve continued to dig out the new Pond Garden and also- thanks to a gift from Blickling- set up a lowish rustic fence. in front of this I’ve planted a couple of lines of Yew cuttings (which will, I hope reach a reasonable height to form a hedge in a few years time). I’ve also slotted in an evergreen, variegated Jasmine (the variety escapes me), pink Clematis and a Belgian Honeysuckle; these three should nicely clothe this fence and leave some peep holes into the pond garden.

Grass has had its first real cut...

Grass has had its first real cut…

I’ve firmed up my plans for this new area and have decided to follow a ‘Crescent’ theme- you’ll recall that I cut out a crescent (or arc) along the top of the Laurel hedge that bounds this new garden? I plan to repeat this motif in other features; e.g. a crescent-shaped wall of rustic poles to hold up the embankment behind the rustic bench, and a series of rope swags which will form a nice rose and clematis-clad pergola feature over the bench. I’ve also got a rather fine arc of an oak trunk which will look good placed in the garden and have ideas for some ‘rustic arc sculpture’ to also pick up the theme. However, I’ve looked back at my letter to you about this time last year and was horrified to see that the pond excavation was underway then- so a whole year on and not much to show for it!

I’m using the spoil from the pond excavation to create a mound overlooking the fields and church beyond; where another bench can be placed as both a feature and somewhere different to sit- not that I seem to do much of this these days!

Mound under construction with the view across the field to the Church

Mound under construction with the view across the field to the Church

Along side this the woodland garden I set out last year is starting to fill out nicely, with several types of spring bulb beginning to form flowers. In due course I’l extend this to enclose the new bench mound.

The woodland garden starting to fill out..

The woodland garden starting to fill out..

As I write this the remnants of Storm ‘Katie’ have just passed and so I’ve been out with the pressure washer to try to clean up the paved areas of the terrace and around the house. It was hard work and a few hours later it looks better, but retains a lot of algae. I’ll give it a coating of patio cleaner and another go with the pressure washer tomorrow. I also divided up the two main patches of snowdrops the other day, but there is plenty of other plant moving and dividing to do. Along with digging over, mulching, preparing the ground for my ‘first early’ potatoes and so on…

Getting cleaner- the terrace after it's first pressure wash

Getting cleaner- the terrace after it’s first pressure wash

The other big digging job that I’ve just begun involves taking out some cotoneaster shrubs and the roots of the ivy that grew up the front gable wall of the house. I hope that once this is cleared we can get the old paint removed  to reveal the original flint facing and at the same time get the roof flashings repaired to, hopefully, overcome our water penetration problems.

The front border is being dug out to remove ivy roots and a couple of old Cotoneaster plants- these will be relocated to the new pond garden

The front border is beign dug out to remove ivy roots and a couple of old Cotoneaster plants- these will be relocated to the new pond garden

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I’m pleased to say that more time is now available as the Garden Design course I ran at Blickling has just ended. I think that this went pretty well, though some elements need to be tweaked. The last session involved the participants going into the Walled Garden at Blickling and doing a practical exercise in setting out and preparing the ground for planting etc. Though pressed for time, I think that they found this useful and I’m grateful for Project Manager Mike’s help in this.

Garden Design course participants getting to grips with a setting out exercise in the Walled Garden at Blickling

Garden Design course participants getting to grips with a setting out exercise in the Walled Garden at Blickling

This is the time of year that is full of promise in the garden- stems, flowers and foliage are sprouting, bringing back a welcome splash of fresh colour. My hope is that I manage to get all the preparation done before it’s too late to tread on the ground- and all this this alongside the other big projects in both house and garden!

All the best to you and Lise,

Old School Gardener

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