"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

Monday, 28 April 2014

Garden Nesting Activity, Moths, Wildflower Meadow, Seedballs , Flowers and Colombines

Blue Tits

As mentioned in previous posts we are fortunate again this year that a pair of Blue Tits has chosen the nestbox with a camera installed. The first egg was laid on 14th April and she continued to lay an egg a day. Here ten on the 23rd April

and eleven here on the 24th April which proved to be the final total. This is the highest number of eggs laid since we had the nestbox camera 4 years ago. Although the female roosts in the nest box whilst laying she does not begin incubating until the clutch is more or less complete. She began incubation on 24th April. The chicks usually hatch after 13 - 15 days so hopefully we shall have a "happy event" around the 7th May or just after :)

A view of the nestbox situated in a Whitebeam tree. Notice the metal plaque round the entrance hole - the first year we installed the nestbox we had problems with a Great Spotted Woodpecker trying to break its way through the hole to eat the young. On that occasion the situation became so dire that we had to put chicken wire completely round the nestbox with holes big enough to allow the Blue Tits access but not the woodpecker. Luckily that year this worked and, after many nailbiting moments, the young fledged successfully.

Garden Moths

Moth numbers are low at the moment and due to overnight rain (and lack of moths!) I haven't been trapping so much recently. All trapping sessions with a 15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Saturday 12 April

Min Temp 5.5

Oak Beauty x 1 (Biston strataria)

Thursday 17 April

Min Temp 1.9

Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) x 1

Friday 18th April GMS week 8

Min Temp Minus 0.3!

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) x 1
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) x2

Thursday 24th April GMS Week 9

Min Temp 7.0

Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta) x 1 New for Year
Knot Grass (Acronicta rumicis) x 1 New for Year

Shuttle-shaped Dart

Knot Grass

Wildflowers in the Garden

Plants are growing well in the wildflower "meadow" in the garden although this year unfortunately the couch grass problem seems to have worsened :(

Red Campion is starting to flower in some areas - some plants are far ahead of others!

Cowslips and Bluebells

Ribwort Plaintain

D bought me a tin of wildflower seedballs (the Butterfly Mix) for Mother's Day. It really is a clever idea each seedball is a mini ecosystem comprising wildflower seeds, chilli and clay (to keep off predators) and peat free compost and all you have to do is scatter the clay seedballs where you want the plants to grow. All seed is responsibly sourced from within the UK

I've decided to grow mine in troughs on the patio and there are still a few seedballs left to scatter round the garden. The Bees Welcome sign was a present from my daughter. I've placed it here temporarily but will probably put it up in the widlflower "meadow".

For more information please visit www.seedball.co.uk

Rearing Caterpillars

I'm rather pleased (to put it mildly) that we have caterpillars in the garden nettle patch. The larvae have constructed tents by pulling the edges of the nettle leaves together with silk. I am pretty sure they are Red Admiral caterpillars although occasionally Small Tortoiseshell also construct a larval tent from the leaves. The caterpillars are tiny at the moment and only emerge their heads in the evening to feed so I should be able to confirm the species when they are a bit bigger.

I haven't raised caterpillars since the children were little so am looking forward to rearing them this year. I managed to get hold of a large sweet jar from a local olde worlde sweet shop which seems ideal.

Garden Flowers

Honesty has spread itself all around the garden - the flowers are popular with bees and butterflies and I dry the papery seed cases to use in dried flower arrangements.

Marsh Marigold is flowering in the bog garden by the pond. I think I may have mentioned this before but the flowers have some wonderful country names - Kingcups, Golden Knobs, Water Goggles, May Bubbles, Bull's-Eyes and John Georges

The rockery behind the pond is looking more colourful by the day.

Bleeding Heart or Dutchman's Breeches!

We planted lots of Colombines in the front garden last year but they failed to flower so I assume they are biennial as this year they are full of flowers. The name Colombine comes from the flowers reminding people of a flight of doves and comes from the Latin "Columba". The genus name is Aquilegia from the Latin word for Eagle because the base of the flower resembles an eagle's claw. The country name for these flowers is Granny's Bonnet which is the name I prefer. At a certain stage of flower development they really do resemble an old lady's bonnet.

Friday, 25 April 2014

A Rather Special Organic Garden

I had a day out yesterday with a friend. It was a beautiful day - warm and sunny and we decided to revisit Ryton Organic Gardens as it had been quite a few years since our first visit.

Ryton Gardens which cover 10 acres are home to the UK's leading organic growing charity - Garden Organic (once called the Henry Doubleday Research Association). In 1985 the site was a bare paddock containing a riding school, barn and farmhouse. It took a year for a team of gardeners to clear this area and make a garden to open to the public. A mile of rabbit proof fencing was erected around the perimeter, a wildlife pond installed plus an underground irrigation system and 5000 hedging and tree saplings were planted, gardens were set out and paths laid. The gardens finally opened in July 1986. Since then the shrubs and trees have matured, wildlife has moved in and the orchards are fruitful.

I particularly liked the way wildflowers are planted among the various cultivated species.

Here Red Campion

Euphorbia's were attracting bees

Ryton consists of many different gardens and areas each with a different theme.

The Cook's Organic Garden contains many unusual vegetables, fruits and herbs. Each plant has a part or parts that is/are edible.

My friend rescued this female Orange Tip from a summerhouse as it was fruitlessly fluttering against the glass.

It didn't seem to want to leave her hand but eventually flew off to a nearby flower. The wingtips of the females are black rather than the orange tips shown by males.

The Growth Therapy Garden promotes gardening for people with disabilities or those recovering from illnesses. The beds are all raised.

The Memorial Garden has been designed as a sensory garden for the blind and partially sighted. It is also a memorial to the founder of Garden Organics Lawrence D Hill and his wife Cherry who both suffered failing eyesight in their later years. The plants here are chosen for their attraction to wildlife, bright colours, interesting textures, scent and sound/movement.

The Apple Orchard

This sculpture was wonderful and features a seat at the rear!

The World's Largest Flowerpot

The Herb Garden contains over 200 plants with a variety of culinary and medicinal uses. It is at its best later in the year when its just full of colour.

Rolypig Composter!

My favourite garden was the Bee Garden - I just wish I could have picked it up and transported it back home with me. It was such a delight with a mixture of plants mainly in blue (forget-me-nots, borage, bluebells, grape hyacinth) and yellow (cowslips, "marmalade" and yellow "allysum") with a few purple (honesty) and white (dead nettle) plants interspersed. The garden is six-sided to reflect the hexagonal shaped cells of a honey comb.

The Kitchen/Allotment Garden

The All Weather Garden which demonstrates how you can grow a selection of vegetables all round - this area was undergoing redevelopment.

Everywhere you looked there were trees full of blossom.

The Small Organic Garden was originally made for Channel 4's "All Muck and Magic" series and shows how even a very small garden can be productive and attractive and wildlife friendly - this seemed to be another garden that was being redeveloped/restored.

The Paradise Garden which is a tribute to Geoff Hamilton (who inspired millions with his tv programmes and books) is split into 2 parts - a town and country garden.

Great Bee Houses and Insect Hotels

Finally!!! - sorry I know there are far too many photos!

The Exotic Garden which demonstrates food crops from around the world that can be grown in the UK - interspersed with some beautiful cottage garden type flowers

There were several other areas that we didn't have time to visit and several gardens that are closed as they are in the process of being redeveloped but it was lovely day out. Thanks for your company J - I hope you enjoyed the visit as much as I did.