Category Archives: Gardening

What is this life…

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

“Leisure” – W H Davies

I have, as I have said recently, been seeing more butterflies in the garden this year. It’s not due to good weather or better plants, just that I’m finding more time to stand and look at our garden. For the last couple of years I’ve hardly seen it.

I was reading a copy of Garden News from last month as I waited for Julia to leave work this afternoon. The head gardener from Helmsley Walled Gardens makes a good point towards the back of the magazine – make time to sit in your garden, consider improvements and enjoy it. She also suggests not over-gardening, but letting nature do the work for you. That’s my kind of gardening. I like her approach.

There’s a useful bumblebee ID chart on the garden website, though it’s slightly confusing that a buff-tailed bumblebee  has a white tail, as does the white-tailed bumblebee, and the garden bumblebee and heath bumblebee.

I have to ask about the wisdom of calling something white-tailed when it’s a common featureI also feel slightly cheated that the early bumblebee has a red tail, an ID feature it shares with the red-tailed bumblebee.

Anyway, enough of that, I’m going to sit and stare, at ebay, as W H Davies, may have said if he had lived longer.

Though I’ve just noticed Cockneys vs Zombies is on. It’s not the finest work Richard Briers and Honor Blackman ever did, but it’s not a bad film, and it’s streets ahead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If only Jane Austen knew, she’d be emerging from her grave…

 

 

A Painted Lady Comes to Call

I’ve had a few problems with WordPress today, including the complete loss of a post. This was annoying as I’d spent a significant amount of time looking for links and photos.

Julia picked plums in the early afternoon and saw a Painted Lady in the garden – another first for the garden. Added to the Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk Moth we saw earlier in the year it’s all coming together nicely.


When we left home to do some errands this afternoon we spent a few minutes watching the front garden and were rewarded by two small brown butterflies hustling past in the swirling wind, then a larger one, which proved to be a Painted Lady. It took some photographing, as it was quite skittish and there was a stiffish breeze once it left cover.

We’re not doing too badly for butterflies in the garden, partly due to looking a bit more than usual and partly due to a good showing of Red Valerian. We’ve also had Mint Moths on the marigolds, which is a first, as I’ve always seen them on mint or oregano before.

As for the plums, Julia has picked over 200. As usual, it’s a case of picking them when ripe and then using them quickly before they start to go over. We’ve given some to Angela Across the Road, who gave us figs and tomatoes in return. We’ve also given some to the Young Couple Next Door, because they give us cake.

I’m going to make sure we feed the tree properly next year, and ensure the pruning is done properly. I’ve been a bit slapdash with pruning recently and it’s turning into a biennial bearer. This is my fault, not the tree’s. If the feeding works it should fruit moderately next year, which will take some of the vigour out of it for the year after. If not, it looks like I’ll have to remove fruit buds two years from now.

I think this all started about six years ago when we had a bad spring that killed all the blossom. The next year was a bumper year due to all the stored energy and the one after that we didn’t harvest any fruit at all. I should have got on top of it when we had the first bumper year, instead I added neglect to the problem by letting the pruning slip by.

We are having Plum and Apple Crumble for tea.

All in all this has been a good day.

Raindrops Keep Falling

I was wakened around 5am by the sound of rain, at which point my bladder became rather more active than I was and forced me reluctantly from my bed. A little later, around 6am, I was roused by a small, sharp elbow and the question: “What time do you think it is?”

The answer did not seem to meet with her approval.

“There’s no need to use language like that. If I could see the clock I wouldn’t need to ask you.”

I really don’t think she needed to ask me anyway. That’s why I set the alarm on the phone. If it isn’t sounding, you don’t need to know.

At 6.45 it was much the same again, a huge sigh followed by: “I might as well get up now, I can’t get back to sleep because of the rain.”

I indicated that I too was suffering from a broken sleep, though I had no intention of showing myself to a grey, wet morning before the alarm went off.

By 7.45 we were in a queue on the ring road (there are always queues when it rains – I’ve never quite worked out why) , and shortly after 8.00 we were at the garden. Julia had not been able to clear up the glass on Thursday as the Scenes of Crime Officer had not finished until it was time for her to go to her evening shift at the Leisure Centre.

We hadn’t been able to get access on Friday before she had to go to the other site and she has been busy since then. Nobody, not even the Monday Group, who were there all day yesterday (as the name suggests), has bothered to offer a hand with the cleaning up.

While she went to find the caretaker for the keys (he has fitted a new set of door handles for her) I was sent to ASDA for cleaning equipment. They have a special offer on – dustpan, brush, squeegee, washing up brush, scrubbing brush and sponge for £4, compared to £3 just for the dustpan and brush. The fact that I feel the need to report this indicates that I am turning into my father, who often came back from shopping with a “bargain” whether he needed it or not.

I did a bit more shopping on the way round (there were some good offers on) and rolled up to the cash register to find that my debit card wouldn’t work. I only had £10 in my pocket so stuck to the cleaning equipment and stationery. (It worked fine when I used the ATM on leaving the shop, so despite the implications of the lady on the till, I did have enough funds to cover a £17 bill).

We had to break the remaining glass, which was more difficult than it sounds. Glass never breaks when you want it to. I gave it a sharp tap with the edge of a hand gardening fork, because I just wanted to break the remaining half pane in two. It was a good plan, but glass rarely cooperates. Instead,  it bounced the fork back at me, coming perilously close to hitting me in the face.

So I tried again. Harder. With predictably perilous results.

Obviously I’m not going to be bested by half a pane of glass, so I tried a trowel next.  A good hard tap from the trowel, which wasn’t as springy as the fork, produced a result. Well it did if you define result as “explosion of glass splinters”.

With hindsight I should have allowed for the extra rigidity and not hit it so hard. Or had Julia standing there with a bag to catch the bits. In my own defence I would point out that I had asked for tape to put on the glass to hold it together, like the blast tape on WW2 windows. Unfortunately we didn’t have any tape.

Anyway, all the broken glass is cleared and swept away. This is fortunate because it’s still raining and they will be wanting the container today.

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Acanthus, or Bear’s Breeches.  No, I don’t know why.

 

It’s still raining now.

However, as a Dyno-Rod van is working down the street I can confidently say that someone is having a worse day than me.

 

 

Hope and Plums

In all the wedding cake, hope is the sweetest of the plums.

Douglas Jerrold

Despite the temperature and wind, a lone Peacock toughed it out in the garden this morning. I’m sure there would have been more if we’d had more time, but we could only manage a flying visit. Julia was taking a group for someone else at the main building and we had to be there for nine.

While Julia had a word with the school caretaker I took the chance to take some photos. These include the fruit and some of the beds. I took the fruit because it’s a nice thing to photograph (and some of it is just starting to ripen). The beds are quite good too, with some of the grasses now starting to show well.

I’m taking them as reference shots to help Julia with her garden planning. Now the mint has been cleared by one of the volunteers (too soon in my opinion) they are looking a bit bare, and devoid of pollinators. Apart from that I’m doing nothing – Julia can work out what happens next.

It’s going to be very interesting as the seasons come round, as we need to see what bulbs are planted.

In truth nothing much needs doing as it’s a well established garden with plenty of provision for wildlife, but there’s always something needing to be done. They look white and green from the photos but there is lavender in there and a few remaining orange lilies with scattered evening primrose.

Soon we will be picking fruit and collecting manure for the rhubarb beds. The rhubarb has been a bit week this year, a sure sign it needs feeding as it’s always known as a “hungry crop” by ancient gardeners leaning on spades.

When we fed the rhubarb on the farm we ended up with a rhubarb jungle, so watch this space for further news.

 

The Day gets Better

I’ve just been adding photographs to the post about the attempted break in. As you can see from them, we had a CSI van and beautiful blue skies. I don’t usually go to the garden when people are there but I thought Julia could do with a hand this afternoon. She normally has to travel through town on the bus with two bags of kit as she travels from one job to the next but I thought after the trials of the day she deserved a lift.

I am such a gent. I am also currently unemployed so it seemed the least I could do.

While I was there in the morning I forgot to tell you that Julia had spotted a beautifully marked Green-veined White. I could only get a distant photo with my phone, so I have nothing to show. It’s a common butterfly, but it’s a new one for the garden list and that’s always good.

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Willow arch

Yesterday we had a good few hours, with Bill from Men in Sheds bringing his battery powered saw to help cut up pallets. We now have all the bits cut to make three new benches.

He also  brought four nest boxes in kit form so the group can put them together and paint them. Even better, he’s going to do another 20 for us. This will let us upgrade the existing boxes and leave some to sell towards funds.

Despite the break in it’s been a good week, and the fruit is looking good. All we need to do is stop people stealing it.

 

I would have taken more photos, but the batteries ran out. (These were all taken on Wednesday morning, though the post is written on Thursday.)

We were also given a perfectly usable set of 5-a-side goals the school was throwing out, or fruit cage frame, as we now call it.

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The new fruit cage

 

 

 

The Wasteland

No, not the poem, just a judgement on the remains of our old Butterfly Garden. We had a look while we were visiting the farm on Friday to visit Men in Sheds.

There is nobody in the centre or kitchen anymore, as things didn’t work out. This is a shame as they did a lot of work and it has presumably cost them a lot of money. It may still be costing them money if they signed a lease.

Sadly, without our (free) help, the farm appears unable to maintain the place.

Standing and looking at the place we spent five years working you half expect a tumbleweed to roll past, or a loose door to creak in the wind.

The willow work is out of control, the buddleias are going mad and the log xylophone has been torn out.

In other beds the shasta daisies, the borage and the oregano have all been ripped out.

As a result we didn’t see many as many pollinators as we should have been and there were no brown butterflies, which used to love the oregano.

 

It’s seven months since we had to close down (or were evicted, to be more accurate) and the negative feelings are gradually fading as we move other things.

It’s also time to re-evaluate the title and content of the blog, as it’s clearly no longer the story of a Nottinghamshire Care Farm. I’ve been thinking of this for a while, and putting it off as it seems so final.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Do you recall me mentioning Hummingbird Hawk Moths a couple of posts ago?

Well, by coincidence, on my return from shopping this morning, I noticed something large flitting about in the red valerian of the front garden. I’m pleased about this as we didn’t see any last year.

You don’t see much red valerian in Nottingham, and I’m not sure where this came from. The nearest patch is about 400 yards away, around the corner. After that the nearest is over a mile away, and I don’t know where the next lot is. Ours just started growing one spring, sprouting from cracks between the paving in the garden.

In Northamptonshire it sometimes seems to take over entire villages, but the south seems to suit it better. Despite being here since the 1600s it is really a Mediterranean plant. Ours has shifted colour over the years – it was all a deep wine red originally but about half of it is now a lighter red. I’m told it can be invasive, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. I’ve been expecting to see more of it in the street over the years, but ours doesn’t seem to have much in the way of territorial ambition.

I may have to help it along.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

The pictures are not good, but they give the general idea.

The bees and hoverflies were about too, though not easy to photograph as the flowers were in the way.

Later, having got the food in the fridge I went shopping again, and sat in the car watching the wildlife when two butterflies came by. The Small White dawdled a bit, sampling flowers, but the small blue one hardly paused. I’m tentatively identifying it as a Holly Blue as there’s holly and ivy around in the gardens. The Common Blue likes grassland and there’s not much of that around here.

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Bee on Red Valerian

It’s not going to solve the problems of Global Warming or bring about World Peace, but it was nice to see and cheered me up.