snowdrops

Mid February 2024

Ah some sunshine at last but still not quite spring yet.  The garden is awfully soggy, as are most of the pots on the patio.  The snowdrops are multiplying and making carpets of white in the stumpery and the raised bed with a few small clumps elsewhere in the borders.  The hellebores have popped up with some in flower but most are just in bud.  The white ones flower first but their flowers are still facing down just now.  There are a few flowers still on the witch hazel but they are going over now.  The flowers of the viburnum are in little clusters of pink, starting deep pink and fading to almost white.  It had a good cut back last year so there aren’t that many flowers on it yet.   Winter honeysuckle is never that showy but the tiny flowers are lovely and have a nice scent too.  The flowers are a bit sparse on mine but they do attract any early pollinators out and about in the late winter sunshine.  Today I cut back the miscanthus grass seed heads and the evergreen ferns that were looking rather bedraggled.  I also gave some of the plants a good tug as I went past just to check they were still held in place by their roots.  Often if there are vine weevil grubs about eating the roots you may not actually notice anything is wrong but if you tug the plant and it just comes away in your hand then you know there is a problem.  I did this with the patio plants and the heuchera came away in my hand so I checked the soil, lo and behold lots of vine weevil grubs.  The birds had a nice wee feed.  I usually mange to keep on top of the vine weevils using nematodes but I was late in spring last year as it was a very dry spring and you should really apply them after a good rainfall,  and  I forgot in to apply some in autumn.

I was gifted an Amarylis at Christmas and it shot up very quickly and now is over.  I had a good show of flower heads but only 2 tiny leaves.  I have now cut the flower heads off and will let the leaves keep growing and see if I can keep the bulb going.  Talking of bulbs the purple crocus in the conservatory and now in flower and the cyclamen are still flowering away.  It will soon be time to give the cyclamen their summer rest. The daffodils are up and in bud so it won’t be long now until we get a nice splash of bright yellow in the front garden along with the gorgeous scent of the mahonia.  Lots to look forward to.

pink flower cluster of viburnum bodnantence dawn
Viburnum bodnantence Dawn
pinkish buds and flower of hellebore picotee
Hellebore picotee
purple buds on hellebore
Purple hellebore buds
white drooping flowers on hellebore
White hellebore flowers facing downwards
snowdrops
Snowdrops in the raised bed
fluffy seed heads of the miscanthus grass
Fluffy miscanthus seed heads
small white flowers on the winter honeysuckle
Winter honeysuckle flowers
orangey-red flowers on amaryllis
Amaryllis bulb flowers
purple crocus and red cyclamen flowers
Purple crocus and red cyclamen
cream coloured vine weevil grubs
Vine weevil grubs
The garden in January 2024

Happy New Year 2024

Well, what a year 2023 was with it’s very dry spring and roasting summer, to the very wet autumn and winter!  The garden is ever so soggy right now with the amount of rain we have had over the last couple of months.  There is moss everywhere, which I actually like but it is dangerously slippy when it is down the ramp and on the paving slabs.  The mossy stones around the pond however look great, as do the mossy logs dotted around the garden.  It is at this time of year that you can see all the weeds at the back wall so they are easier to remove.  The plants in the pond itself looks a bit bedraggled and need some attention.

moss covered stones around small wild life pond
Moss covered stones

I haven’t been in the garden much at all during November and December and I miss pottering around checking on the progress of the plants.  I didn’t find much in the way of fungi this year – was I just not out at the right time?  I hate the cold and damp as it really gets into my bones and I just feel miserable spending all my time trying in vain to stay warm.  Now that we have started a new year my hopes are up for a splendid spring.  Even though we still have a couple of cold months to go I feel optimistic when I see all the spring bulbs beginning to grow.  Some of the snowdrops are already in bud and the earlier narcissi have poked their shoots up.

snowdrops in bud
Snowdrop buds

There are a few flowers to be seen at this time of year: some on the witch-hazel (Hamamelis inter Diane), a few sporadic flowers on the Hebe pink paradise, a few tatty flowers on the Viburnum X Bodnantense Dawn  in the raised bed.  Some of the evergreen shrubs have flower buds waiting for their chance such as the Osmanthus burkwoodii and the Erica arborea ‘Estrella gold’.  I do like having the evergreen structure in the garden to look at during the bleak winter months and a few of the ferns have quite a bright, yellowy- green colour which brightens the place up.

sporadic flowers on hebe pink paradise in january
Hebe pink paradise flowers in January
Erica arborea buds
Eric arborea buds
evergreen seelction of plants
Evergreen dark, bright, and purple.

I did spot one job that we will have to get to grips with as soon as the weather gets better and that is the harling on the right hand front corner of the patio.  When the rain gets in behind it and that water then freezes, the harling cracks and gets pushed off.

Broken harling on patio wall
Broken harling on the patio wall.
The garden in January 2024
The garden in January 2024.

From a rather cold and damp Edinburgh garden: Happy New Year!

oxalis palmifrons succulent plant with white flowers.

Beginning of October in the garden.

I know that I am forever going on about the weather but we have been having quite a bit of rain just now and all my small plants in small pots are waterlogged.  I have been trying to keep them under the table during the worst of the rain but then we had the strong winds so I had to turn the plastic table upside down so it wouldn’t blow away.  Then I put them under the bench with a sheet of black plastic over the bench, with large stones holding it in place, and that helped a bit.  They are still waterlogged so I really want some nice sunshine and gentle breeze to help dry them out.

I do like how the garden looks after a rain shower though and there is still plenty of colour around.  We did get a few nuts from the tortured hazel tree (corylus avellena contorta), the squirrels missed a few, and there were plenty berries on the elder (sambucus nigra ‘Black lace’).  The newly planted crab apple (malus sylvestris ‘Evereste’) has a few tiny, orange crab apples on it,  the rowan (sorbus hupehensis ‘Pink pagoda’) has loads of deep pink berries and the variegated holly ( ilex aquifolium ‘ variegata’) has a few berries too.  We trim the holly to keep it in shape so we can get past it without being jagged, but that can mean we don’t get many berries.  We tend to leave them all for the wildlife.  You can tell it is autumn by the huge number of spider’s webs about that catch the mist and look fabulous.

rowan berries with spider's web
Deep pink rowan berries with spider’s web
hazelnuts from contorted hazel tree
hazelnuts from corylus contorta (contorted hazel)

The astrantias are still looking good in pots on the patio although the dark red one is turning purple as it is going over.  The pink one is a seedling from a white variety ‘shaggy’ and it is quite a lovely pink shade.

dainty pink astrantia flowers
Dainty pink astrantia flowers.

After the rain the view from the patio is quite nice.  I don’t like the very white garage so I cropped it out, maybe one day we will get it painted  a nicer colour (except the house is also bright white so maybe not).

view of the left of the garden from the patio
View of the left of the garden from the patio.
view of the right side of garden from the patio.
View of the right side of garden from the patio.
view of the garden from the patio.
View of the garden from the patio.

In the conservatory I have planted a few purple crocus and some tiny narcissi for some colour in late winter.  My cyclamen have had their summer rest and are staring to flower now.  one in particular is in full bloom while the others have yet to catch-up.  The oxalis palmifrons is looking lovely just now.  The little bulbs were planted just a few weeks ago and they are flowering now.  I love how the flowers untwist.

Single white oxalis palmifrons flower
Single white oxalis palmifrons flower.
oxalis palmifrons succulent plant with white flowers.
Oxalis palmifrons

The small unnamed cactus has had a few fluffy buds on it for the last few months and despite food and water they have failed to open.  It did have a few that opened into fabulous large white flowers that smell divine earlier in the year but not these ones.  I will leave them on and see if they do something next year.

Fluffy buds on a small cactus.
Fluffy buds on the small cactus.

I found some damage on a couple of plants during my checking and watering of the plants.  It is good to catch things early so any diseases don’t get passed onto other plants.  One poor little lithops has damage at the base of a leaf but I don’t know if it is slug damage or perhaps there was a bit of water sitting there.  I probably don’t need to worry about that as these leaves will wither and it will produce new leaves after that.

Lithops damage caused possibly by slugs.
Lithops slug damage?

There is something on one of my Christmas cactus cuttings that I think might be botryosphaera dothidea that causes a kind of canker.  Just in case it is that I binned the plant, washed my hands, then checked all the other seedlings and plants in the conservatory.  The good news it that it was only one plant that had it.

possible botryosphaera dothidea infection on Christmas cactus
botryosphaera dothidea ? on Christmas cactus

The conservatory attracts many pollinators into it but sadly some of them can’t find their way back out again.  I have seen loads of different hover flies, bees, wasps and other insects happily buzzing around the flowers but this  male (I think) twin-spot centurion fly (Sargus bipunctatus) caught my eye with its metallic colours.  It has gorgeous metallic  green, copper and blue on its body and iridescent wings.  In the first photo I was trying to capture the colours in its wings.  The second photo it had sadly died and the wings were apart revealing the beautiful colours on its body.

Sargus bipunctaus fly iridescent wings
iridescent wings on Sargus bipunctatus.
Sargus bipunctatus metallic green, copper and blue colours on body
Metallic colours on the Sargus bipunctatus.

It is now getting colder so we are getting fewer insects in the conservatory, although it wasn’t plagued by the usual greenfly this year.  I have to remember to water more sparingly now and I still need to check the plants daily for any signs of disease.  Slugs are still coming in so I also need to check underneath the plants.

view of the garden from the patio

Moving plants around in the garden.

If a plant is struggling to cope with the conditions in its allotted area it is better move it to somewhere it will thrive rather than just survive.  So I have moved a clematis over the to the far side of the garage wall where the roots will be in more shade but the plant itself will be in the sun for a good part of the day.  In its place is a more vigorous clematis which should cope with the conditions better but I will put something over the root area to protect the roots from getting too hot.  The periwinkle which was way too overgrown was removed as I have loads of periwinkle around the garden.  The blue centauria has now gone as I was sick of it being covered in mildew.  It is a shame as the bees loved it, but,   I will find something else for them to enjoy, although in the mean time I have put a colourful fern in its place.  The fern was originally over by the wall and although it did like it there  it was hidden from view by the foxgloves.  I have dotted some erigeron seedlings (left over from the plant sale) in various places that looked a bit bare.  Now then, the dark leaved hardy geranium is a conundrum – I have two planted about a foot apart and only one is mildewy and the other is just fine.  I think I will dig up the sick one and give it some TLC on the patio.   Both the red astrantia and the pink one are looking great just now as I dug them up from the garden and put them in pots on the patio where they are less likely to get damaged but the huge slugs.

Red astrantia in a copper pot
Red astrantia Gill Richardson group
red astrantia single flower
Red astrantia flower

There is still a lot of colour in the garden – the Japanese anemones are out in their full glory, as are the persicaria, purple cyclamen, fuchsia, and the phlox.  Still going are the heuchera, erigeron, gaura, oregano, sellinum and there are sporadic flowers still on the roses, hebe, viburnum, and low growing campanula.  The grass flowers of the miscanthus ‘Red chief’ are just coming out and they look great next to the deep purple of the acer palmatum dissectum.  In the pond the purple loosestrife is just going over and there are still some pink water-lily flowers, blue pickerel weed and some yellow monkey flowers.  The deep pink berries of the rowan are looking splendid and the deep purple – almost black berries of the elder will soon be picked off by the birds and squirrels.  The dark purple foliage of the cotinus, heuchera, elder and acer really stand out amongst the greens and golds of the other plants and for bright highlights there are the silvery leaves of the snow in summer and the wormwood.

Gaura with one white flower
Guara lindheimeri The bride
view of the garden from the patio
From the patio

Indoors there are still flowers on the stephanotis and a few of the sempervivums.  There is one indoor cyclamen which is in full flower while the others have yet to get going.  I have one little flower on one of the lithops which is exciting as I didn’t think I would get a flower so quickly.  I also found a couple of bright pink cactus berries this year on the Old lady cactus (Mamillaria hahniana).  Apparently the slugs like the berries – I took one berry off to photograph it and the next day it was almost all eaten.  The colour scheme indoors reflects the garden colours with the deep purple shades coming from the foliage of the sempervivum chocolate kiss and the aeonium voodoo.  The variegated leaves of the cheese plant, spider plants and mother-in-laws-tongue  bring some brightness and the echivera have a lovely pale silvery aqua colour with a soft pink tinge.  Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Dorothy Brown’ may look boring to some but I love the hairy green leaves tinged with brown.  Of course you can add more colour with your containers too. Upstairs during the summer I need to keep the blind closed to prevent the room overheating so only plants that do well in shade can cope so they are all the dark green foliage plants like Dracaena fragrans and Dypsis lutescens, the peace lily copes well too.  My air plants do get a day light as they wouldn’t cope at all in the deep shade.

stone plants with a little bud showing
Flower bud in a lithop
a lithop (stone plant) in flower from above
Lithop 1st flower
lithop (stone plant) flower from the side
Lithop flower side view
fluffy spiky cactus with a pink berry on top
Mamillaria hahniana (old lady cactus) with berry.
pink cactus berry - seed pod
Pink berry (seed pod) from Old lady cactus
green furry succulent with brown tinges on the leaves
Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Dorothy Brown’
green succulent plant in a colourful plants pot
Crassula ovata cutting in a bright colourful pot

Just now the tiny baby frogs are all around the garden so before doing any work in an area ii is best to just ruffle the vegetation before cutting or digging anything up.  They are so well camouflaged and so very tiny!

tiny baby from camouflaged on a rock by the pond.
Tiny baby frog on a rock.
Tiny baby frogs beside the pond.
Two tiny baby frogs by the pond.

And to finish August with a lovely butterfly.

Red admiral butterfly on a rose leaf
Red admiral butterfly.
Holly blue butterfly on golden oregano flowers

End of a very wet July 2023

This July has been rather dreich:  not very hot, not very sunny, but pretty wet and grey and a few unpredictable ninja showers.  The weather forecasters often told us we would be getting thunder and that was rarely correct, and even the showers never quite happened when they said they would happen.  I wouldn’t want to try and predict the weather – it is a thankless and difficult task.   We did get quite a bit of rain, but not as much as was forecast, and I would say it has been rather chilly for July, it has felt much more like autumnal weather.  Mind you, I would rather be here than in any of those countries that are experiencing floods or wildfires as they are horrendous for all concerned. Lives, homes, wildlife, and habitat can all be lost in the devastation.

I am trying to rescue some cuttings I had prepared for the Duddingston Kirk’s Garden Club’s Bring and Buy plants sale that is coming up in August.  They have been out on the patio table and got thoroughly drenched in the ninja showers over the last couple of days so I have put them on trays on the conservatory sofa to try and dry them out a bit.  The other cuttings that I didn’t haven space for on the sofa have been put under the patio table for the time being.

I have gone round the garden having a good look at what is thriving, and what is not, to see if I should make some changes.  Well, there are a few plants that consistently get covered in mildew and never look attractive because of it so I may dig them out and just dispose of them.  Things like the variegated honeysuckle that loses most of its leaves due to mildew in the spring, despite me keeping it watered in the dry weather, then it picks up a little by the end of July but it still looks pretty straggly.  Then it loses its leaves during autumn and winter and it hasn’t flowered at all.  Instead I may put Clematis Montana Freda there as it should be able to scramble up the trellis and cover the whole wall eventually and not require much, if any, pruning.  I have put some cuttings of Nepeta junior walker along that border so hopefully in summer it should look attractive, and during the autumn months there are cyclamen all along that border with beautiful leaves as well as colourful flowers once the nepeta has gone over.  In the raised bed I am going to hoick out the rose Zephirine Drouhin by the arch as it has never really liked being there.  It is looking awful this year.  I have fed, watered and sprayed and pruned it over the last few years and it has only sometimes looked ok.  There is a honeysuckle growing up the other side of the arch so that can stay as it is only a year old.  The Centaurea Montana in the stumpery always gets mildew in the spring and although the bees love it I might get rid of it this year.  I often chop it back after the first flowers go over and I get new foliage and flowers that look ok if that area stays moist.  I will have to move the Athyrium niponicum  ‘Silver falls’  fern again as it I still haven’t found the ideal place for it.  I put it in the stumpery at first but it got a little too much sun and the fronds turned brown, then I put it in the shady border next to the ramp but it is too damp there and yet again the fronds turned brown, so now it is in a pot on the patio on the shady side to see if I can get it to look a little happier.

The only gardening I have done really this July is chopping back the astrantias and astilbes and some of the hardy geraniums, and pulled out some weeds.

The good news is that we had the tree surgeons to cut down a large diseased sycamore in the golf course that overhung the back of the garden, and they raised the canopy of the ash trees either side of the sycamore.  This should allow more light and more rain to some of our plants at the back of the garden and prevent the larger branches of the ash breaking off.  You can’t really tell by my photo though.  I do wonder however, if my little rowan has ash die back as it has a couple of branches at the top that have died back.  We were advised to cut them back and keep an eye on it.  I hope it is ok and that it is just some natural die back as I don’t want to have to dig it out.

the trees in the golf course at the back of the garden
Golf course trees

I did get a couple of quick photos (using my phone again as Harry has borrowed my camera) of a few little critters.  The frog hopper (Philaemus spumarius) adults remind me of when I was a kid as I loved just touching them on the backside and seeing how far they jumped.  Their nymphs are what make all that spittle (cuckoo-spit) on plants hence the name of spittle-bugs too.  I also used to find the caterpillars of the Grey dagger moth (Acronicta Psi) on a tree in my childhood garden and I used to put them on my face (don’t know why but I did). I found a few on my rose bush on the patio under the cherry tree.  And I managed to take another picture of a holly blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus), this time a male I think, on the golden oregano.

beige and brown adult frog hopper bug
Philaemus spumarius (common frog hopper)
grey dagger moth caterpillar which is stripy with a black spike on it's back.
Acronicta Psi caterpillar (grey dagger moth)
Holly blue butterfly on golden oregano flowers
Celastrina argiolus (holly blue butterfly – male

Well hopefully we shall see some nicer weather in August.

Mid July, flower combinations that work.

You often hear that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but within the garden there are certain plant combinations that work better than other.  I happen to think that if there are too many different textures, colours and shapes all together then you can lose the overall effect, they all battle for your attention.  I usually have a picture in my head of what the overall effect should look like when I pace my plants together and sometimes things workout the way I had imagined them and sometimes they don’t.  For example I planted a purple leaved cotinus behind a pink climbing rose and a white astrantia: the flowers of the astrantia have a pinky/purple colouration in the centre when young  and the zephirine drouhin rose is a nice pink and these should look great against the purple leaves of the cotinus.  The dog had other plans and crashed around behind the cotinus and broke a few branches and it is still only about 30cm high.  The rose doesn’t appear to like that spot and is struggling.  I will replace the rose with a honey suckle to grow up the arch instead as it has purple tinges to it’s leaves but has vibrant flowers which should look good against the cotinus (once it does get going).

The pale pink climbing rose Generous gardener looks good against the purple leaved Sambucus nigra ‘Black lace’ and picks up the pink of the flowers too, but I will have to make a decision soon of how high I want the sambucus to grow as I don’t want a huge tree.

Generous gardener and Sambucus nigra

The relaxed habit of the moss roses go well with the rather straggly foxgloves in the woodland stumpery, and the purples look good together.  The purple of the moss roses fades to almost lilac as the rose goes over.

Moss rose William Lobb with foxgloves.

The dark purple of the Munstead wood rose is picked up in the verbascums (possibly Raspberry ripple) behind it.

Rose ‘Munstead wood’ against Verbascum ‘Raspberry ripple’.

By the patio I have a pink combination that works well.  I did have a struggle to get the Cistus parviflorus to thrive as the rather heavy wood pigeons kept trashing it.  That area is quite heavy clay that holds the water well and these all thrive there now.  The rose Gertrude Jekyll is still quite young but I do like the way that even though they are all pink flowers – all the pinks work together as the flower shapes are different,  and each plant has a very different habit  and leaf shape, so it keeps the combo interesting.

Gertrude Jekyll, pink astilbe and Cistus parviflorus combo.

Beside the ramp into the back garden is a shady,  damp corner.  The front of the corner gets a bit of sun and the cowslips enjoy that area.  Being yellow they add a bit of colour in what could be rather a dull area.  They go well with the ferns.

Primula sikkimensis with Osmunda regalis ‘Purpurascens’ and other fern.

As you wander around the garden your eye should travel easily along as the colours repeat themselves on the way.  I have dots of deep purple in every bed, pinks, and blues with highlight plants with white or yellow or gold.  It doesn’t matter if the colours are in the foliage or the flowers or even the containers or background.

Colours working together around the garden.

It goes without saying really that this applies to the pond too.

Purple Lythrum salicaria with Thalictrum flavium Glaucum yellow.

I just had to show a few other photos of plants that caught my eye this month.

I planted this fern (Dryopteris erythrosa ‘Brilliance’ or Japanese Rosy Buckler fern) a couple of years ago but the shrub along side it grew right over it so I moved it last year.  It has taken a while to get going but I just love the vibrant copper colour it brings to the shady woodland area. It really shows up against the predominantly green background but goes well with the purple/bronze  shade of the heuchera in the front.

Dryopteris erythrosa ‘Brilliance’ (Japanese Rosy Buckler fern)

In the conservatory it is the flower spike of the Sempervivum Mint marvel with the white flowers with reddish/purple centres  that stands out amongst the pinky/peach colour of the other sempervivums.

Sempervivum ‘Mint marvel’ flower spike.
White and reddish/purple flowers of Sempervivum ‘Mint marvel’

Wildlife I have spotted in the garden (and managed to get a photograph of) in the last couple of weeks include: a seven spot (?) ladybird larva, a mottled grass hopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) and a few meadow brown butterflies (Maniola Jurtina).  The photographs are not great (taken quickly with my phone) and I have yet to see a meadow brown on an actual plant – I only see them when they have come into the conservatory).

Seven-spot ladybird larvae (Coccinella septempunctata)
Myrmeleotettix maculatus
Maniola jurtina (female I think)

Now it is back to rain, rain, and more rain so not much gardening happening just now.

stephanotis floribunda flowers

House plants and cuttings update.

Some good and some sad news about the cuttings I took back in April.  I will start with the sad – the lovely big Easter cactus was in a very sad state, it did bloom but the leaves were never turgid and just got more flaccid as time went on.  I took the plant out of its pot and it still had roots but the main ‘trunk’ was very damaged so it has gone in the bin.  I had taken a few cuttings and they looked like they were doing ok and had roots but a couple didn’t make it.  I have one cutting left that looks ok and I stuck a few leaves into a pot of compost so we shall see if they survive.  I am upset that I couldn’t keep that large parent plant alive as it was one of Stephanie’s plants (who was terminally ill when she gave me it and has now very sadly died).  Kate’s petrocosmia is not doing well.  I removed it from the pot and could see a material-like pot surrounding the plug plant (from the nursery).  The roots had not been able to penetrate that and had been trying to go over top of it.  It also didn’t have any roots coming from the centre of the base.   I took this material away and tried my best at re-potting it in a way that the remaining roots could reach the soil.  I am not hopeful though.

The good news is that  Stephanie’s palm is doing well, and my attempts to propagate Kate’s echveria have all been successful.  I tried a few different propagation methods:  taking heads off and planting them, taking the middle part of the long stump that was left and laying them sideways on damp compost,  leaving the cut stump ends in the pot to see if they would grow again, and single leaf cuttings.  The stumps are all sprouting, and one of the leaf cuttings is sprouting, a few of them have roots but are not yet sprouting.   The heads are all thriving now and have put down roots.  Some of the leaves look a bit shiny but should soon get their coating of farina on them to give them that soft matt look.  The farina gives the plant protection from the sun and it also repels water to help the plant avoid rotting.

echeveria hybrid cuttings
echeveria hybrid cuttings
middle part of echeveria hybrid stump laid on its side to make cuttings from sprouts
middle part of stump sprouting
echeveria hybrid sprouting from old stump
echeveria hybrid sprouting from old stump
echeveria hybrid sprouting on old stump
echeveria hybrid sprouting on old stump
echeveria hybrid leaf cutting
echeveria hybrid leaf cutting

Also, I  saved another of Kate’s plants recently  that no-one else had wanted, and it is doing well.  I was reluctant at first to take this one on as it is a stephanotis floribunda and it can be tricky to give it the correct situation all year round.  I have been waiting for weeks for it to open it’s buds and now it is creating a glorious scent in the conservatory.  I will have to move it from  the conservatory during the winter as it will be far too cold there so it may come into the dining room over winter.

stephanotis floribunda flowers
stephanotis floribunda flowers

And here are some of my own succulents in flower and about to flower.

a collection of sempervivums in flower
collection of sepervivums

This sempervivum Chocolate kiss doesn’t look like it is going to flower yet though.  It is such a great colour as it is.

deep chocolately/ purple coloured sempervivum 'chocolate kiss'
sempervivum ‘Chocolate kiss’
loch with trees and wetlands

Listening to the garden and woodland birds.

When I do get time to relax in the garden I love listening to all the birdsong around me.  I can identify a few of them but every now and then I hear something different and wonder which bird is calling so, when I heard of event nearby about the ‘Language of birds in gardens, woodlands and waterways’ I jumped at the chance to go.  Chris Macefield was our guide and we met up in Jock Tamson’s Gairden one lovely Thursday evening a week or so ago.  We thought that we would just be going around the garden but when we were asked if we wanted to go into Bawsinch nature reserve  (I have always wanted to go there)  of course we said yes.  I thought that Chris meant that we would be going to the northern shore accessed via a road but actually he meant the southern shore.  We said great, but we hadn’t really anticipated the terrain  – we were told we would be going through a wild flower meadow then along a track to a bird hide.  That all sounds do-able we said as Harry would be pushing me in my wheelchair.  Well, crossing the wild flower meadow was ok, then the initial track was ok but quite bumpy, then came the narrower tracks with all the tree roots, hidden boulders, steep walls with ferns along them until we came to the hide.  Lots of nettles along the way and some of the gaps between the walls were so narrow that Harry had to tip the wheelchair on it’s side to be able to navigate through them.  When we got to the hide, I was lifted onto the area in front of the slit of a window   to get a view of Duddingston loch.  The scenery was  fabulous in the calm, balmy evening light.  We listened to different warblers,pigeons, swans, covids, wrens, blackbirds, blackcaps, chiff chaffs, woodpecker, tits, goldcrest and a few others that I can’t remember.  Then we went further towards the loch through the  reed beds with lots of yellow flag iris, this track was even more precarious as to either side was often still ponds which I really didn’t want to end up in.  There were little bridges over some of the still water ponds and streams which were easier to negotiate than the narrow tracks.  It was so lovely to go through that landscape with all the reeds, iris,  trees, ferns and dead trees all around us and it was so quiet that you could not believe we were in the middle of Edinburgh.  We came to the end at another hide that I couldn’t really get a view from.  Then we had to go back through it all again to get back to the road (although we took a detour after the wild flower meadow to we wouldn’t have to tackle the narrow gap between the walls). Wow what a great chance to get to experience all of that and it is right on our door step.  If you get the chance I would recommend going.  However, in you are a wheelchair user you need someone who is strong enough to push you over very  tough terrain and a word of caution – these motorised third wheels would be more of a hindrance than a help.

My photos from my phone don’t do the reserve justice.  Thank you Chris for your knowledge and patience and, the hand out at the end is a great help, and thanks Harry for all that pushing.  It is such a shame that it isn’t more accessible for the wheelchair using, bird watching community, but I realise there has been a lot of work already done to the reserve to maintain it, and it would take a mammoth effort and pots of money (not impossible) to make it more accessible.  I am so thankful that I did get the opportunity to be there on the southern side of Duddingston loch to enjoy it on such a lovely evening.

Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with trees and wetlands
Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with trees and wetlands, Arthur's seat in the back ground
Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with trees and wetlands
Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with wetlands and trees
Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with trees and wetlands
Bawsinch nature reserve
loch with trees and wetlands
Bawsinch nature reserve
picture of the slit window in a bird hide on Bawsinch nature reserve
Slit window in the Bawsinch nature reserve bird hide

A few links for those interested:

British Trust for Ornithology

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Scottish Ornithologists Club

Edinburgh Natural History Society

 

 

What is flowering in June for the pollinators?

Thanks to my wonderful physio Nicholas, I have been able to get back into the garden again to catch up on a lot of jobs.  Harry has been helping me to dead-head and move a couple of things, but I have been able to do a lot more now, although I will have to be careful how I move the heavy pots on the patio.  I haven’t taken many photographs so quite a few plants have gone over like the hebe, syringia,  rhododendron, aqueilegias and weigela.  They had been absolutely covered in bees, but now the deutzia and philadelphus are in full bloom along with the geraniums, foxgloves, cirsiums, clematis, catmint, centaura, candelabra primroses, heucheras, Lady’s mantle,  and astrantias, which are great for the bees and other pollinators.  The astrantia again have been a mixed bag where the slugs/snails are concerned.  The white ones don’t even have a nibble whereas the dark red one (Astrantia major ‘Gill Richardson Group’) is almost entirely eaten.  I am going to dig it up, put it in a pot on the patio and hope it survives.

white astrantia in shady corner
white astrantia in shade
astrantia on patio in the sun
slug/snail damaged red astrantia

In a corner of the stumpery where it gets a bit more sun than the rest of that area I have planted a few different plants to see which one likes it there the best.  The erigeron was good there last year, the little red mossy saxifrage are ok, and the dark leaved geranium is now happier than it has been in the last couple of years. I am still undecided.  The rogue foxglove will either come out once it has flowered or I will transplant it.

deciding which plants stay

The seedlings from the golf course trees get absolutely everywhere in the garden and you really have to weed them out when they are tiny.  I have to get right in amongst the plant to fish them out.  Once the roots get hold when they are in the middle of the plant they are much harder to remove.  The ferns especially are a nice moist spot for them to survive.

tree seedling nestled inside a fern

I am going to have to invest in some more plant supports for the bushy plants that hand over the edge of the path.  I love how they soften the edge but it often means that I have to roll over them with my wheelchair to get past.  I missed the boat again with the large Patty’s plum poppies and the keeled over in that very heavy rain we had just a day or so ago, and all the petals fell off.  The roses have just started blooming now so I should get some pics very soon.

bushy Lady’s mantle over the path

I am disappointed with a couple of plants that I bought for the pond a couple of years ago.  The dwarf bulrushes died, and the variegated yellow flag Iris not only didn’t flower last year but it failed to flower this year too, and is not variegated.  It looks like it might be the tall yellow flag iris which will be too vigorous for our pond.  Grrrrr!

this iris should have been the smaller variegated yellow iris

I do love sitting on the patio relaxing with a cuppa but I tend to just see all the things that I need to get on with.  U have hardly done anything in the front garden so it is a monument to weeds and the yellow irises are now past their best.  I had been rethinking the front garden and have not come up with any ideas yet.  I was going to take up a few more slabs but that was when I had a garden help and they were going to help keep the weeds under control.  I may just take up all the slabs and just have keep the border but add a couple of drought tolerant plants.  I just don’t know – something to think about while I sit on the patio in the sunshine.

view from the patio

Quiet time in May.

Usually I am rushing around in May keeping the weeds down, clearing the duck weed from the pond, scraping in between the slabs on the patio, front garden and back garden, sowing seeds, taking cuttings and photographing the changing scenes in the garden as spring turns to summer.  However, this May I was laid low with pain.  My whole back, shoulders, upper arms, neck and head were all far too painful (despite painkillers)  to do much of anything.  I saw an NHS physio and followed their instructions which didn’t help AT ALL.  Just the other day I saw a private physio who released some of the very tense muscles and gave me different exercises to follow so I am hopeful that I can soon be as pain free as I can to carry on gardening.  So in the mean time here are a few quick snaps of some of the wildlife I found when I did get into the garden. I still haven’t seen the newts so Harry took the newt photo in the evening.

The ladybird was sitting in the little notch of an indoor cyclamen leaf.

ladybird sitting in the notch of a cyclamen leaf
peek-a-boo ladybird
two newts

I found a few of these tiny pea clams (fingernail clams) Sphaerium corneum in the pond and that is the first time I have seen these.  The photo is just taken quickly when I put it on a towel on my knee before I returned it to the pond.

pea clam found in our small pond
Sphaerium corneum

I know this is a very poor photo but I just quickly snapped this holly blue butterfly while I was watering the patio plants.  I have seen a few of these this year flitting around the holly bush.  I think this one is a female.

holy blue butterfly on holy bush
Celastrina argiolus