The extra bits...(Under construction).

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Wildlife Garden update .....

     A very good afternoon peeps and I hope that everything is well in the blogosphere with you all. I admit to have been staying under the radar a tad of late, just having some time to collect my thoughts and what better ways to do this than gardening and walking where dark thoughts seem to slowly melt away as nature caresses your soul...

   So has there been any progress within the size challenged Wildlife Garden of mine I hear you ask with baited breath? Well just a tad, with some more plants added, more plants bursting forth, a small increase in the amount of visiting fauna and some construction work going on. Firstly then the construction work. If you, by some strange miracle read my previous post you would be aware of the pile of detritus extremely useful material that was recovered when I cleared out the area to the side of the house....


     .... well I told you that clearing out my workshop will enable myself to start some projects off and I've now started to divide what will the hard standing area for the terrible twosome to come and go without me worrying about them taking a swim or chewing plants from the garden, oh and it'll also be where 'big' projects can be done. So this is what it looked like t'other day....

Not exactly a defined boundary for the TT's yet

     .... and this be what it looks like today....


     So part of that pile of debris has been cut down and sized enabling me to make a start on the garden divider and the only cost to me was of some decent wood preservative and two post holders. Still a work in progress but when finished there will be trellis right to the back end of the shed making the garden far more private. It certainly will not be left as bare trellis either as I would like it covered with plants. With this in mind there was already a purple leaved grape vine clamped to the corner of the small 'sun room' that, to be honest I thought had passed away, but it looks as if there may well be some life in it yet. Taking it off the corner revealed the probable cause for its ailments as it was held on by pipe clips which were restricting growth. I have laid the main part of the vine which can just be seen as the lifeless looking branch at the bottom left of the trellis. Also I have once again had some 'plants for pennies' from the local 'un-super market' which included a Wisteria and Clematis Montana which together with the vine, all being well, will spread rapidly along the trellis over the next few years giving cover for an assortment of fauna. Nearer the shed I am thinking of planting a third 'plant for pennies', a Honeysuckle, to add to the variety of flora upon the trellis. Hopefully in years to come the blooms of this will provide a rich food source for Bees etc. though in truth my main reason for acquiring the Honeysuckle was for the gorgeous fragrance it gives off, especially of an evening.

     As for other new plants? Well as I am always repeating this 'Wildlife Garden' of mine is one of many compromises as it has to perform several tasks and please not just myself but my partner G. If I was to just have a garden for wildlife then my task would be simple...I would level the whole plot removing any rich top soil, into this I would dig a large-ish pond fed off the house gutter and then I would simply sit back and let nature take her course over the years. After all nature did not require our help before we landed and she certainly does not need it now. But unfortunately this is not 'practical' gardening for many humans as we all require different results from our 'outdoor rooms', so hopefully my approach in such a small space will show how gardening with wildlife in mind can be achieved to a point and encourage others to take small steps into turning our gardens, or at least part of them, into mini nature reserves.

      So back to the garden, again from my last post I referred to Bug Woman's blog and was inspired to order some seeds online. The seeds in question were Red Dead-nettle & White Dead-nettle, also ordered was some Sweet Violet/ White Viola seeds (seen on the post's walk) all of which have arrived safely and been sown within the last couple of days. A visit and garden raid to the aged parents yielded this little box of goodies....


     .... Amongst the plants 'acquired' were these ....

One of several 'old fashioned' Primula, this being my all time favorite

Bergenia or Elephant's Ear

Lungwort

I'm not sure but I think it's a form of Dead-nettle?

Inspired by the last walk, Lesser Celandine

Michaelmas Daisy (Aster), good source of Autumn nector

    I already have the majority of these plants in small amounts but the extra are always welcome. Leaving the aged parents we called in for a coffee and walk around a local garden centre where thru gritted teeth my wallet was prised open and some more plants and seeds were purchased....

Erysimum, Perennial Wallflower

Polemonium, Jacob's Ladder

Tagetes Patula, French Marigold

Ranunculus

Selection of 'Bee Friendly' seeds

     So compromise dictates a mixture of planting although I always try to lean towards insect encouraging plants. Oh one plant from Mother's that I forgot to mention is a Rose that she reckons must be around a hundred years old as it's been passed down the family. I have no idea of its name as I've always known it as 'Grandad's Rose', it's old fashioned, beautifully pink and has the most wonderful scent imaginable. I've badgered Mother countless times for it and unbeknown she has grown for me one from a cutting of the original, which I have now just planted along with three other scented Roses of various types.

Grandad's Rose

     I've also added a couple more plants from the edge of people's gardens where plants have self seeded into what I like to call 'the free plant domain' ( see pirate)...

Forgetmenot

Aubretia

     Plants in the garden now seem to be coming thru thick and fast with two of my favorites showing signs of life....

Solomon's Seal just pushing up through the Crocus'

Water Hawthorn's first leaf of the year in the small pond

      I've noticed that visits from Bees are becoming less rare, Butterfly sightings are rare still but a Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterfly have briefly flitted into the garden  and a large Hoverfly seems to be a permanent resident around the Acer bush. Not enough nectar rich plants yet in flower but we're getting there. Oh and finally two Beetles to add to the list of species in the garden....
Poplar Leaf Beetle


Ground Beetle?

     The Ground Beetle is a welcome predator to a garden whilst the Poplar Leaf Beetle may not be as it feeds not just on the leaves of Poplar trees but that of Willow too (my new hedge for instance) but as I've said before I'm trying to attract nature as much as I can and let her do most of the fauna management, so the little bugger is welcome. Also it's a beastie I've not heard of before so its educating myself at the same time.

    Sorry if this post was a tad long winded, til the next time take care,

John

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A busy day....

      Bloody hell fire am I glad to take the weight of my feet today! I am absolutely well and truly knackered and aching in places un-ached in before. The day started off easily enough with the usual getting the terrible twosome out and fed, then a sit down with a brew catching up on your wonderful blogs. With the Sun out and the temperature actually rising I decided to have an easy 'potter' in the garden, that's when the trouble started.....

     Firstly I planted my freebie 'Tumbler' tomato seeds. The plan is, hopefully, that I'll have enough for three hanging baskets on the shed giving me some tasty fruit to chomp upon in the Summer...


     After this I finished laying the extra floor layer in the shed to make it easier to brush out and to strengthen the existing floor...

Ahh enough room now to swing a cat-o-nine tails...

The view from the shed window

Bear likes the tidier shed
   
     Then it was time to get dinner on the go and slam in the lamb...

They just live in hope

     Whilst the lamb was slowly cooking to perfection (even if I do say so myself) we decided to make the most of the Sun and headed to the small country park at Cefn Mawr. I'd never been there before and was pleasantly surprised, especially when we got to park under the shadow of a wonderful piece of Victorian engineering...



      Built in 1846-8 and designed by Scottish engineer Henry Robertson the Cefn viaduct was constructed to provide railway access to the local area. It stands 100 feet high and has 10 arches and more information about it may be found here.

     The short circular walk follows the viaduct and then along the river Dee before climbing to a small 'farm' which has a selection of animals and events for educational purposes. I have to mention my despair and frustration at this point of the lack of even basic knowledge amongst many of the families of things that as a child I took for granted...a cockerel was loudly identified as a turkey, a couple of ducks were "geese or maybe they are swans?" and so on. What chance do we have of educating children to preserve our wildlife when one adult was trying to prise the lock off an enclosure of pigs for a closer look telling his child that "yeah it's ok to feed him your chocolate bar wrapper", for fecks sake! Sorry ranting a tad, moving along, on the walk more signs of spring were showing including my second Bumble Bee of the year and a Small Tortoise Shell Butterfly, and no I didn't get pictures of em cause I'm like a bloody elephant when it comes to getting close to Fauna.

     Having said that I did take some pictures of stuff that moves far more slowly than moi...


Lesser Celandine

Wood Anemone

Colt's-foot

Willow (I think)

Hawthorn

Mahonia


Primrose

     There were a couple of flowers I struggled to identify...

Perhaps not a wildflower?

Now I first though Gunnera but now I'm leaning to Butterber?

Yes I know it's a fungus but that's as far as it goes..

     After the stroll we returned home to consume the lamb dinner with much relish and enjoyment, it were bloody delicious in fact. But then I had the idea of clearing the area to the side of the house in preparation for the building of my storage lean-too which led to a surprising amount of reusable materials....



      All this from a surprisingly small space in which I can now start building my storage space complete with a living roof....


     Oh and whilst leveling the ground I unearthed some interesting glass pieces which I will investigate further when I have cleaned them up..


     And of course whilst I was running myself ragged the terrible twosome supervised from afar...



     So there we have it, a busy day indeed not to mention writing this drivel and looking up the various plants. Oh and one last thing, I have started a handwritten journal for the wildlife garden and for the walks. Todays entry (the first entry) is simple enough telling me I planted the tom seeds, pruned the roses (did I not mention them!), only two different avian visitors to the garden today - Chaffinch & Sparrow and when pottering around my third B.Bee of the year and second one in the garden. Do you keep a journal to help keep track of things?

Til the next time, take care..

John

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Wildlife Garden, 'weeds' .....

      Good evening gentle folk of the blogosphere and I hope the weekend has started well for you one and all.

     Tis a funny old thing is perspective, you know the way that you approach life, tasks, work, relationships etc. Take gardening for instance, not too far in the dim and distant past a garden for me was one of straight & raised borders, plants bought only for their looks, everything formal and easy to look after with a decent layer of bark to prevent weeds from taking hold and running riot, ample use of insecticides and herbicides to help keep the unwanted 'weeds' and 'pests' away, a formal pond with ornamental fish and I thought that I was helping nature.....pah!

     But perspectives and viewpoints can be changed with a little education and if the mind is willing to learn. Take the term 'weed' for instance, so many of our native plants are called weeds by many gardeners these days yet what is a weed? To be honest it covers any plant you do not want in your garden and many gardeners take drastic action in the removal and prevention of these 'alien invaders' from their precious patches of perceived heaven. Indeed I was one such person, although never much of a gardener I tried to keep the garden 'just so' and devoid of weeds. I hadn't really thought about how far my view point and my gardening has changed until reading a post from a fellow blogger just the other day. The blogger in question is Bug Woman and her wonderfully informative blog is to be found here. Now Bug Woman posts are about the wildlife to be found in London and her scribing is accompanied by some wonderful photography. Now I was reading her most recent post (at the time of writing that is) in which every Wednesday she posts her 'Wednesday Weed' spot and as usual it was beautifully written, very informative and enhanced by her excellent pictures. The post was about a plant that most gardeners would dig up dismissing it as a 'weed', Red Dead-nettle, post to be found here. Yet, by the time I'd finished reading I knew that I had to introduce this annual and its perennial cousin the White Dead-nettle to my small patch, indeed a far cry from my perspective of yore. I commented on the good lady's post about the dilemma she now posed being as I refused to take from the wild unless something is in serious danger of being killed. She replied and mentioned perhaps that the t'internet could be a last resort answer. Last resort for moi? more like first stop off point, within minutes I'd found seeds for both and also had ordered Chicory and Red clover, these two for the developing meadow under my allotment Cider trees.

      As I seem to mention on all my posts about the wildlife garden it is a compromise and having to serve several purposes certain plants have to excluded or controlled, such as planting a solitary Nettle that had attempted a one plant invasion in a large container instead of allowing it to run riot or destroying it. So my garden will never be truly wild due to the compromises but it certainly is a million miles away from the way that I used to garden, I've allowed Dandelions to gain a small foothold but compromise dictates that they will be deadheaded before seeds are set, Welsh poppy is in abundance around the boundaries and again they will be deadheaded although some seeds will be allowed to form and then spread around here and on the allotment, Lady's mantle has found her place, Wood Sorrel was in evidence before we even took over the garden, Lily of the valley was planted last year although it hasn't shown itself yet, what I think is Herb-Robert seems to be in residence, Perennial cornflower has been welcomed, Common Lungwort has just started to flower, Common violet is peeping from under the Honeysuckle, Common Solomon's-seal arrived last year from mother and there is a solitary piece of Common Duckweed in the pond though how on earth that arrived I have no idea. Many of these plants would have been uprooted and binned without me missing a beat but now? No these plants are welcome additions and bring far more to a garden than I once believed possible. 

     Yes compromise dictates that these plants will be managed but there is no such thing anymore as a weed as far as I am concerned, just beautiful plants to be admired and that repay me by adding diversity and providing sanctuary for all manner of wee beasties. There is still a long way to go for me and this garden, What was the small lawn, now a mudbath after a Winter of been trodden, dug and excreted upon by the terrible twosome, will this year have an fishpond in its place, but with Rudd not Goldfish or Orf in residence and will be surrounded by a mixture of native and cultivated plants. The lean-to that is planned will definitely have a living roof of mosses and other moisture loving plants and will be served by an automatic watering system from a reservoir of rainwater that I'm working on and hopefully the garden wall that borders one full side of the garden will be a 'living wall' this time next year. I have a tremendous amount to learn about wildlife gardening and achieving a compromise that achieves a good balance but everyday spent in the garden I see something new from a unidentified plant to the change in the frogspawn and everyday these small things inspire me to do my very best and hopefully I will be able to inspire others to open their eyes, minds and hearts and begin changing their perspective and their gardens for the benefit of wildlife. Just one last thought for you, have you ever considered how much land our gardens would cover if added together? It would make a sizable nature reserve would it not?

Til the next time, take care my friends,

John

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Testing, testing, one, two, three ....

      After more than one comment upon my blog about posts being difficult to read being past by a certain Mr. Gray, have I spent many, many hours today adjusting, checking, realigning, searching for the perfect balance between readability and presentation and doing it all over time and time again to ensure that Mr. Gray is completely and utterly satisfied and content with the radical new presentation and hard worked at aura of sublime bloggeness? Errr no, not really cause I couldn't be arsed as I have a hundred and one other things to do so I have just spent marginally over two minutes changing the font and font color a tad so I hope he is able to at last read my posts without giving himself a headache.

      So who is this mysterious Monsieur Gray who dares to cast aspersions upon my most excellent (or not) scribing you ask? Ask you may, truth be told I have known John, and thats Mr. Gray to you mere mortals, for some considerable time now and a nicer person you are unlikely to find. But if you were to find him it is extremely likely you'd mistake him for some scruffy, getting on a bit, vagrant, with a weakness for scotch eggs and a patina of chicken poo decorating what may be loosely described as his everyday clothes. I have had the pleasure of meeting John and he is a true gentleman in every sense of the word and has the  most wonderful of blogs "Going Gently", found here. His own profile blurb sums it up very well....."Going Gently is the continuing story of my rural existence in a tiny Welsh Village. A former care nurse, I now spend my life with a patient husband, a houseful of dogs, a field full of animals and Auntie Glad's scones!".


     His insight and writing are truly a joy to behold at times and his blog is a must add, I feel, to anyone's reading list. If he doesn't write a book soon about his life in the close knit village of Trelawnyd it would be a sin as it would be certain to be a best seller. So if you haven't already paid his blog a visit then shame on you, it's like a ever creeping  fungus .....it grows on you.


    Just hope he can bloody well read this post and will now stop complaining about me poor old font.


Till the next time take care,


John


Interlude ....

     Well good evening ladies and gentlemen and I hope that all is well with you and yours. I have a small admission to make and that recently all has not been quite so well with myself as the Bitch has bared her fangs a tad and caught me out just when I was beginning to let my guard down a little, guess I should have known better than to forget about her. The upshot is that I've taken some time away from the Fun factory, an interlude if you will, and also had my medication reviewed with the result that things are feeling much calmer in my mind at the moment. To stop myself from succumbing totally to the Black Dog I've keep busy even though unable to face a return to work just yet and together with support from my partner G., my friend Mr. Jones and not forgetting the terrible twosome I am avoiding falling any further.

     So just to show I am not yet a couch potato here is a brief catch up of the past couple of days. With regards to the wildlife garden and the compromises that have to be made I've decided to add a few more edibles to the patio area, as if I haven't planted enough tubs already! It was started when shopping in our local super-market (still don't know what is so bloody 'super' 'bout em) and I made my usual cursory glance over the cheap plant section where a solitary packet of one ragged Asparagus lay in the bargain section priced 50p, so being ever the pirate and tight fisted git that I am when finally reaching the checkout I asked, tongue very much in cheek, if I could have more discount on the Asparagus being as it looked dead and it was the last one? The Norse goddess of a girl behind her till just laughed and put it in my bag without ringing it through, you see I might be getting on but I've still got it (although what 'it' is escapes me). 

     Damn thing is once home and eager to plant this freebie I realised that this may not be quite such a bargain as first thought as I then had to go out again and by a suitable terracotta pot, compost and some sand to mix with said compost to give me a free draining potting medium, bugger. So then I finally get around to potting up my Asparagus together with some trailing Lobelia to add even more Summer color to the patio, then I noticed some Parsley and Chives that had been donated to the cause last year and both were horrendously pot bound so these got to be repotted too. All these plants fit in with the wildlife garden compromise as they are edible for moi, the Parsley and Asparagus have lovely foliage and the Chive when flowering will be Bee heaven, so a good result me thinks...

All this because of one chuffin' Asparagus....

The culprit ready to be covered...

Ta daa, job done

Repotted Chive....

....and repotted Parsley.

     Other time has been spent at Mr. Jones's motorcycle workshop where I've been helping out and generally making a nuisance of myself, although it is always good to be there with a good friend and although working, not feel any pressure. Also my E-Bay shop has now turned from being somewhere from which I used to 'comfort buy' to a place where I'm actually selling a few items, and as such is actually quite rewarding in a doing something constructive kind of way.

     I think I have touch upon the state of my workshop in the past and you'll be pleased to know that nothing had changed, in fact it looked considerably worse when I ventured to open its doors this morning.....



     ....so today has been spent on clearing it out properly, laying a second floor layer and burning a mountain of crap which I had amassed upon my nomadic travels...



     Unfortunately there are no 'after' pictures as it started pissing persistently raining as I was doing the final clear up of detritus. There is still a lot of work to be done but it is at least now a man cave and can but used to help me with the myriad of jobs that always seem to be waiting for me. But this keeping busy has been good and now I cannot wait to watch the garden mature.

     So that's about it for now, a right mish mash of a post and I hope I have not bored you too much. Til the next time take care folks..

John