"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spring flowers at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I paid a very fleeting visit to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens earlier this week. Although the snowdrops have finished there was a lot of colour as more spring flowers are coming into bloom.

The very pretty flowers of Bleeding Heart

Espalier fruit tree starting to blossom

These plants - Fritilliaria Imperialis Aurora Crown Imperial - are stunning and when the flowers have finished blooming the seedheads are very impressive too


There were plenty of daffodils in flower

North Orchard

Outside the main walled garden there were some dandelions flowering

Last year I was thrilled to find a display of Snakeshead's Fritillaries all around the West Pond and they are just starting to flower again

South Pond, wooded area and stumpery

Lesser Celandine

Marsh Marigold - we seem to have lost the few plants we had around our pond at home so it was nice to see a clump of kingcups in this pond

A view along Holly Walk towards the Summer House. This 170 metre long path hedged with variegated holly runs all the way across the Garden from the Green House to the Summer House. I read recently that these holly hedges are possibly the oldest cultivated bushes in Britain.

Finally, a clump of primroses

I failed to see any butterflies but there were plenty of blackbirds, great and blue tits, robins, magpies, crows and wood pigeons to keep me company as I strolled around.

The Summer Season at the Gardens opens this weekend for more details of the gardens, opening hours and admission prices please visit:


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mallard on the garden pond

I had a surprise yesterday afternoon when I looked out of a window and saw a female mallard on our garden pond.

Although we haven't had visits in the last 2 years, from 2004 until 2008 a pair of mallard regularly visited the pond at this time of the year. The pair which appeared in 2004 stayed around for 9 weeks - one of the neighbours assumed they were pet ducks! My daughter used to feed them with bread daily and they would come waddling up to the back door on a regular basis. I got that worried about their unhealthy diet that I bought a sack of proper duck food which they refused to eat!!

We initially assumed they were looking for a nesting site although there was never any sign of one being made but in subsequent years my husband came to the conclusion that they were visiting the pond to feast on tadpoles.

I couldn't get a photo yesterday as I'd got the wrong lens on the camera and, although I tried to carefully approach the pond, she flew off. So here is a couple of photos we took in 2004. If she or, indeed a pair, return I will try and get some shots of them - the telephoto lens is now back on the camera in readiness!

One other piece of garden news - a wren is taking nesting material into ivy on the patio. I am not sure if it is a male who is making one of several nests for the female to choose one or if it is a female who has made her choice of nest and is making the finishing touches. The female blackbird is still incubating eggs on the nest built in the bamboo.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Encounter with a Hare

I've visited a location fairly local to me several times during the month, where I have seen hares in the past, in the hope of witnessing "boxing hares". I hadn't seen any sign of hares until this afternoon when I spotted one lying still in its form only about 100 yards from the road.

I stopped the car a little further along the road at which point the hare went "haring off" (sorry, just couldn't resist!) only stopping when it was about a quarter of mile from the car.

I took some photos but even with the 70-300mm telephoto lens it was a waste of time -if you click on the photos to enlarge you can just make out the hare as a brown shape in the centre of the pictures. I spent about an hour looking for other hares with binoculars, without success, and hoping that the original hare might return a little closer but it remained lying quietly in the same position. It was a real treat though to get a glimpse of this mammal and know they are still in the area.

Distant views of the hare - even cropped you can hardly see it!

Whenever I see hares it always reminds me of a fascinating children's book called "Masquerade" by Kit Williams that was published in the late 1970's.

The author created a beautiful 18 carat gold filigree piece of jewellery shaped like a hare containing precious stones such as ruby, moonstone, citrine, turquoise and mother or pearl. This was placed in a ceramic hare-shaped container (to prevent it being found my metal detectors) and buried in a secret location somewhere in Great Britain.

The book formed a type of treasure hunt and contained all the clues to lead the reader to the buried hare. I used to spend hours poring over the beautiful illustrations trying to solve the puzzle - I did manage to find a clue about Catherine of Aragon and a hill. The jewelled hare was actually buried at Catharine of Aragon's Cross at Ampthill which cast a shadow at a certain time of the year pointing to the burial place.

Does anyone else remember the book?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Moths and First Nest of the Year

Friday night turned out to be the mildest of the nights I have put out the moth trap so far this year and I managed to trap just a few more moths. The species trapped were common quakers, Hebrew character (a pretty moth named after the black mark on its wings shaped like the letter Nun from the Hebrew alphabet) and Emmelina monodactyla (one of the plume moths).

Hebrew character

Emmelina mondactyla - a very lively micro moth and I was lucky to get a photo

Summary of Moths Trapped Friday, 25th March

Minimum temperature 4.8 degrees centigrade

6.45 p.m. until dawn

2 x Common Quaker
2 x Hebrew Character (new for year)
2 x Emmelina monodactyla (new for year)

Total species in garden 2011 - 7

(As always if my id is wrong I would welcome any corrections)

Garden Bird Update

Today we saw a female blackbird sitting on a nest located in a thicket of bamboo. I hadn't seen any signs of nest building but the nest is towards the top of the garden and not visible from the house.

A pair of chaffinches is still feeding daily so still hopeful they may stop around to nest. I saw the female great spotted woodpecker on the feeders this morning - I haven't seen her for weeks although the male visits most days. I may not be so pleased to see them when and if the blue tits start nesting after last year's experiences! We have put a stronger metal plate around the nest box entrance this year.

Plenty of nest box investigations still ongoing by the blue tits and just like last year one of the pair shuffles round in circles on the base of the nest box pecking away and removing small pieces of wood. The nestbox with camera is one of the best things we have bought - the pictures provided endless entertainment last spring.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Spring at Packwood House Gardens

It was a beautiful hot, sunny day yesterday and I decided to visit the gardens of one of the local National Trust properties. But which one? Baddesley Clinton with the lure of a second hand book shop or Packwood House which has a great display of daffodils at this time of the year. In the end the daffodils won and I decided on Packwood.

Arriving at the car park to be greeted by blossom and forsythia.

The daffodils didn't disappoint - a beautiful display of waving yellow heads by the house entrance and along the road which passes the house.

There are a lot of sundials and clocks around the House and outbuildings

Packwood House

There were several varieties of hellebore in flower in a range of colours - purple, pink, cream.

I visited the Carolean or South Garden first - this is a photo of one of the four gazebos situated in each corner of the garden.

The Sunken Garden which will be full of flowers come the summer

More hellebores and a lungwort in flower. I bought another one of the latter before I left - a different variety to the one I purchased at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens last year. Bumble bees are really attracted to their purpley flowers

When I visited these gardens last September the renowned Yew Garden and Terrace Walk were closed as Gardeners World were filming there but today both were open.

The Yew Garden represents the Sermon on the Mount with the yew trees in the lower part of the garden representing "the Multitude". Further up 12 large yew trees represent "the Apostles" with the four largest trees in the centre called "the Evangelists".

The first yews were planted in the 1650's and some reach over 15 metres in height.

At the top of the Yew Garden is a mound with a spiral pathway surrounded by box hedges leading to the top. Here is a photo of the Tree known as "The Master" or "The Pinnacle of the Temple" surrounded by a bench. My children used to love it here when they were small.

On the south side of the terrace walk there are 30 niches in pairs called bee boles which housed bee skeps.

Meadow and lake - there is also a lot of parkland around the House and Gardens with some lovely walks.

Terrace Walk

West Court

Magnolia close to the house will be in flower soon

Masses of forsythia flowers

Another hellebore

Euphorbia with ladybird

I was thrilled to find a stone carving of the Green Man particularly apt at this time of the year as it is a traditional pagan symbol representing rebirth and growth each spring. They were often used in the past as a decorative sculpture in churches and houses.

The Kitchen Garden

I want one of these for my garden!

I didn't see many birds just a few jackdaws and carrion crows and blue tits flitting in and out of trees. There were lots of bumble bees but no butterflies. The hedgerows in the Warwickshire countryside are full of lesser celandine flowers.

Apologies for the long post and I have got a bit carried away with amount of photos :D.