I’ve been giving it a helping hand whilst the weather has been so dry and hot as it gets full sun for most of the day. I watered it every other evening and cut down to every third. I know, natural wildflower meadows have to survive no matter what, but I was late seeding this meadow and I’m encouraging a few flowers to appear before autumn.
It will have to survive as nature intended now though as a hosepipe ban will be enforced in just over a week.
The Jackdaws have had no respect for the fledgling meadow. They learnt how to balance on the bird feeder quite a while ago. Their technique is to take turns in flying at it, bashing their beaks into the openings for as long as they can hold on whilst the others grab the seed that has fallen. The squabbling and scrabbling that ensues means bare, trampled patches under the feeder.
It also means we have a few random sunflowers throughout the meadow! I spent ages on the internet carefully looking up the flowers listed on the wildflower meadow seed packet, to see what these tall, fast growing flowers were (I’ll put the pictures of my research up on my next post). Nothing matched! I was puzzled. Then Roger said, “They look like sunflowers to me”. Of course!!!
Anyway…progress pictures…at 5 weeks after seeding…
The weekend just gone was the 8 week seeding anniversary…there’s plenty of Ribwort, one buttercup and some poppies about to pop..
The front garden was always going to be a surprise over the summer as I guessed there would be plants appearing between the shrubs. I don’t think I was ready for the rate of growth and outright abundance that arrived!
When we moved in mid December the front garden was in a bit of a sorry state and needed a good tidying up.
I soon got to the cutting back and weeding, which left it looking a bit bare. This exposed the picket fence between us and next door. Unfortunately it was falling apart and as it was our boundary, it needed replacing.
As if I was heard by the German shopping gods, the next time we went to buy our weekly groceries, Aldi had picket fence for sale! You don’t get a second chance, so the first weekend in May was spent painting picket fence before replacing the old one.
Painting picket fence
Old Picket fence
New picket fence in place
I knew there was plenty of Crocosmia as I’d had to clear away the remains of last year, but I hadn’t realised quite how much if it there was. In May it started to sprout up everywhere, between the stones and through the heather. It had the company and competition of unforeseen Spanish Bluebells. I was a bit sad to see these as I’d planted native bluebells in the small bed at the bottom of the drive but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it’ll be an impossible task to remove all the Spanish Bluebell bulbs and that nearly every other front garden along the road has them too.
Crocosmia and Bluebells growing through everything!
I have to admit they are beautiful, not as delicate or as deep a purple as the native ones and they cheered me up every morning as I went down the steps to work.
The task of digging out both the Crocosmia and Bluebell bulbs was quite a mammoth one. I wanted to leave a patch of Crocosmia and dig our as much of rest as I could. Once the the Bluebells finished flowering, I also dug out as many of these as I could. There are many left that I couldn’t reach, which will return next Spring. You need much longer and stronger fingers than I have to persuade the bulbs out of the recesses between the stones.
This is the front garden after the Crocosmia cull.
It’s mid July now, the Cocosmia has just started flowering and I’m still finding stray ones poking through the other plants and shrubs.
Once I’d cleared and weeded I planted two Lavender and one Rosemary bush – just before we had the scaffolding put up.
Newly planted Lavender
Newly planted Rosemary
I wasn’t thinking ahead! The poor Rosemary did her very best to survive being trampled by the builders but eventually gave up and died. There is still a bare patch in her memory, which is a good thing as now Roger is rebuilding the steps outside the front door (I’ll post pics in an update, once it’s finished) so anything planted there would still have to have survived being trampled and covered in cement dust.
The Lavender at the back is thriving, the Lavender at the front didn’t cope with the hot dry weeks we’ve had. Perhaps I should’ve remembered to water it!
I will be adding more Lavenders to this tier. The smell was gorgeous as I weeded around this one at the weekend. And, of course, the bees and butterflies love it.
So what have I been doing in the front garden since May?
Mostly battling it out with the Bindweed.
I knew it would be a problem when I first started on this garden as the weed suppressing membrane is rotting and underneath are bindweed roots, which I’ve pulled out by the bucketful. It’s such a shame it winds it’s way through the plants and strangles them as I like to see it in flower in the wild – those big beautiful white trumpets.
So now, almost weekly, I’m out there carefully pulling up the roots, feeling immensely satisfied when I can pull a long, long root up without it breaking, and disappointed when a root snaps. The problem is the stones. The bindweed is very clever and roots behind the stones where I can’t reach it, so all I can do is break it off as low as I can on the stem. For as long as I live in this house, I will be out there collecting bindweed.
I noticed clover leaves gradually appearing as I’ve been gardening in the front. I left them to see what would happen. Huge great clover flowers that are loved by the bees and butterflies is what happened. These will be staying and allowed to spread themselves around!
Since May, I’ve also planted three Thymes in the second from bottom tier. These have done so well, I brought five more at the weekend. This will be my Thyme Tier. I love how they smell and can’t resist brushing my hands over them.
Finally, in my absence from blogging, the Laburnum tree has flowered. It looked lovely for a very short period of time and has now returned to ugly hanging pods. I’m not at all sure I like this tree.
But, best of all, one of my Honeysuckles, that I planted in February, has one flower!
After my enthusiastic start on the front garden in February, progress has been slow, mostly due to frozen ground, high winds and snow.
February saw me clear the bed at the bottom of the drive, order some woodland plants and plant them. The snowdrops made a brave attempt to flower despite being covered in snow several times. One Snakeshead Fritillary flowered beautifully before losing it’s lovely purple colour after the last covering of snow. But the remainder are definitely growing, as are the bluebells, but I’m not sure I’ll see any flowers until next year.
Brave Snakeshead Fritillary
At the same time as working on the woodland bed I started at the very top of the main front garden, which is on a steep slope and tiered. My plan is to tidy all the tiers up, see what pops up over the summer, add a couple more shrubs and plant some herbs.
One of our first jobs when we moved in was to clean the windows. Not an easy task with the house on a steep slope as it’s difficult to find safe places to put up ladders. Even the local window cleaner refused! So, the shrubs at the very top of the garden needed cutting back to allow a ladder to anchor into the soil.
I can’t wait to see the twiggy one come into leaf, there are plenty of small buds. It looks like it has an amazing colour in the autumn, if not the summer too.
A few days later I was able to get out into the garden again. Now those two shrubs were cut back I could tackle the weeds underneath them.
Whoever created this tiered garden put in a lot of work. Each layer has a weed suppressing membrane covering the soil with a few inches of bark on top. It must have been done many years ago as most of the bark has decomposed and the membrane just tears when it’s touched. Needless to say, the weeds are growing through. It soon became apparent that as much of the membrane as possible needed removing in order to dig out the deep weed roots. It was going to be a slow project.
I now have a process – weed the top layer and then move it to a cleared section. Pull up the membrane (which rips away in small bits) and dig out the weed roots, then put the top layer back. Much to my surprise, it’s very satisfying!
Whenever I needed a break, I pulled out all the old Crocosmia leaves. I like Crocosmia very much but it does spread everywhere. This is the case in my new garden, so I’m digging out lots of Crocosmia bulbs with the weeds, on purpose!
Once I’d weeded around the top two shrubs, I moved down to the next tier and ended up with a bare patch, crying out for another plant. So off we went to the garden centre, returning with a Mahonia. I love it’s spiky looking leaves which contrast well with the more regular shaped leaves of the other shrubs. Next winter I should have some beautiful yellow flowers to match the yellow in the leaves of it’s neighbours.
Then came the “Beast from the East”. Twice!
No more work on the garden until last weekend, when the sun came out and I got warm enough to strip down to a T-shirt!
The poor Mahonia looks a bit worse for wear, with browning leaves. I think it may have winter burn. It hadn’t had chance to properly settle in. I’m keeping an eye on it and hoping it’ll recover.
Continuing my process – clear top layer, pull up membrane, dig out roots, put top layer back – I ended up with another gap. I had two small lavenders and a rosemary waiting to be planted out. So in went one of the lavenders. Although the soil is quite heavy, it’s very well drained, due to the steep slope, so I’m hoping any lavenders I plant will thrive. Next door has quite a few, which look a bit sad after the snow but they were lovely in December when we moved in.
Sitting on the wall to admire my work, I realised there were lots of bees in the Heather. I was sooooooo happy! Bees and Butterflies, the name and inspiration for this blog. I want to attract wildlife into both the front and back gardens, especially bees and butterflies. And here were the bees!!! Unfortunately no matter how still and patient I was with my iPhone camera, I couldn’t capture a photo of any of the bees.
Bee hunting in the purple Heather
Bee hunting in the white Heather
Then came another first for this year.
The gardening tools were put away, and the motorbikes came out. A ride out into Derbyshire to enjoy the sunshine, the never boring scenery (no matter how many times we see it), spotting new lambs and getting a bit chilly at the top of Snake Pass which had only been reopened a few days ago. There was more snow up there than I expected and the small lake/mountain pond was iced over.
What a lovely day. Here’s to many more beautiful days ahead, sharing my time between gardening and motorbike riding.
Last week I placed my first plant order for my garden. Some woodland plants, inspired by a walk through local villages and seeing the snowdrops and crocus in front gardens. I returned home, determined to have my own woodland garden.
With my intention to attract wildlife, I searched the internet for a wild flower supplier. Naturescape caught my eye and I’d soon placed an order. They arrived on Friday, perfect for a weekend planting!
I soon found out what the hedge was at the foot of this raised bed, a hawthorn. It made it’s mark on my arms as I trimmed it back into shape! I’m looking forward to the tiny buds bursting into life and seeing the berries towards the end of the year.
I’m not sure what the tree is (I’ve added a pic at the bottom of this page). It has bean-like seed pods, of which there are many still attached, but even more were all over the drive and path. Sweeping these up filled much of the green bin. I’m hoping this tree is a beauty so that cleaning up after it is worth it.
There weren’t many weeds to be dug up, and not many roots hiding below the surface. I know this might not be the case once the earth has warmed up a bit. What did need to be removed were various sized stones, pieces of wall stone and old mortar. The raised retaining wall around this bed needs a little bit of work where some of the capstones have become loose or completely detached. I was surprised at how much difference forking over the soil and removing the debris made. Now, I was ready to start planting!
I eagerly began with the Snowdrops, at the lowest front corner. The bulbs are “in the green”, meaning they have just flowered and still have foliage. The instructions said “plant 10cm deep and 10cm apart”.
I don’t think I’ll see any flowers this year but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year, and a stunning drift of them in a couple of years.
I then calmed down my excitement to actually think about where I should plant the rest of my box contents. I needed to start at the back and work forwards to avoid trampling on freshly planted bulbs. I had two Wild Honeysuckle which were to grow and spread across the boundary fence.
There were plenty of roots when I gently lifted them from their pots, so I have hopes of a fair amount of growth in the next few months and a few beautiful fragrant flowers to greet me as I enter my driveway in the summer.
The Bluebells went in front of one of the honeysuckle and behind a small shrub with strange, but lovely, curly red/green leaves (pic at the bottom of the page). Again, these were “in the green”, so there might not be any flowers this year. Like the Snowdrops, they were planted “10cm deep, 10cm apart”.
In front of the other honeysuckle, I planted the Snakeshead Fritillary, another “in the green” bulb. I’ve been fascinated with these beautiful flowers since I first saw them a couple of years ago. I can barely believe I’m growing them in my own garden.
The strange squashed round tubers (a thickened underground stem, like a potato) of Wild Cyclamen went in front of the Snakeshead Fritillary. The instructions said “plant very shallow with shoots uppermost”. Most didn’t have shoots, so I took a guess by comparing with the ones that did. Let’s hope they’re the right way up and I get some leaves and flowers.
As advised, I soaked the twig like rhizomes (continually growing horizontal underground stems) of the Wood Anemone before planting them along the front side of the bed in front of the little Pieris Japonica. If you’re wondering how I know the name of this shrub it’s because it still has a label on it!
There’s a couple of gaps. I love hellebores and might just buy a plant or two from a garden centre. Or I might just scatter some forget me not seeds around in a month or two. Or maybe add some Oxlips or…
All that’s needed now is a bit of patience whilst the plants, hopefully, get used to their new home and become established.
It’s taken two muddy measures in the rain, lots of viewing through various windows and a few false starts getting it down on paper, but at last, I have a front garden plan (back garden plan is still in progress).
This is how it is February 2017 (although I’ve added leaves to some of the shrubs that don’t have them at the moment!) and there’s probably some plants yet to wake up and show themselves.
I was hoping to get out there this weekend, do a bit of weeding and tidying, and to get up close to the plants I can’t identify. But, this morning was driving sleet and freezing cold. Instead, I’ve had a delightful few hours with some watercolour pencils, keeping warm in the conservatory listening to the rain and letting my imagination run wild.
A bit of research on the internet and I’ve come up with some preliminary planting plans.
On a lunchtime walk this week, I saw so many signs of spring in the front gardens I passed. Lots of snowdrops, primroses, crocuses, leaf buds and catkins. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from winter blues (I do suffer from motorbike adventures withdrawal though!!) but my spirits are still lifted and I can’t help smiling when I see spring is on the way. I made up my mind to get some of these things into my own garden.
So, the small bed at the bottom of the drive is to become a woodland garden; Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Snakeshead Fritillary, Bluebells, Wild Honeysuckle and Wild Cyclamen. And yes, I have placed my order! With Naturescape, a wildflower specialist. Some of the plants will be in the green, so this won’t be their best year in my garden but I’m hoping the woodland garden will improve over the years. I might scatter some forget-me-not seeds in a few months, to help fill in the gaps.
To become my woodland garden
Woodland Bed Plan and shopping list. I should have flowers for 9 months.
I’ve noticed a few small birds flitting in and out of the hedge, which has a few berry remains and birds like berries! This has made me consider making the bed to the right at the bottom of the drive, a bird garden. I can hang some feeders in the tree and put up a bird table and a bird bath. As birds like the seeds from thistles and I’m a thistle lover too, I’m going to try and grow some here. It might not get quite enough sun, but I’ll see how it goes.
Bed to the bottom right of the drive
Bird garden plan and shopping list
The main bed in the front garden is tiered and runs from the front of the house alongside the steps to the drive. It already has quite a few established shrubs, some very pretty white and purple heather, as well as lots of Crocosmia (which needs a good cutting down to allow the new shoots through). Next door successfully grow Lavender and Rosemary in their corresponding bed, two of my favourite perennial herbs, so I’m assuming that the front garden is as well drained as the back, despite the water that makes it’s way down from the fields at the back. I’ve already purchased two potted Lavender and one Rosemary. They’re waiting for their new home on the steps in the back garden. I’m gradually going to pick up pots of other herbs such as Mint, Sage, Thyme and Chives to fill any spaces.
Shrub and Herb Garden part 1
Front steps next to Shrub and Herb garden
Shrub and Herb Garden part 2
Herb and Shrub plan and shopping list
As I don’t know what the hedge, two trees and most of the plants are, I will be posting close up photos with the hope that you can enlighten me. Any comments on my plans are also very welcome.
We moved in 6.5 weeks ago! All the boxes are unpacked and everything (almost) has a home. Christmas and New Year have come and gone, with all they entail. The never ending list of jobs to do around the house has been started but, what about the garden?
Before we moved, I came across a book whilst browsing round the shop at Chatsworth House which I decided would be the inspiration for my vague ideas of creating a wildlife friendly garden – The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy.
I’ve glanced through and been excited by the brief glimpses of the pictures and few words I’ve actually had chance to read. Definitely a good place to start.
Emma recommends “Drawing a Plan”.
First, to plot what already exists in the garden, which will be a work in progress as new surprises pop up throughout the year.
Second, to note where the shady parts and sunny areas are.
Third, to plan what I want to keep and what I don’t as well as what I want to add. This will also be a work in progress, for many years I imagine!
I love plans and maps, so this appealed to me very much.
Putting on my new sparkly blue Hunters wellies (I’ve had a birthday since we’ve arrived too) I patiently waited for Roger to finish his first foray with the Karcher pressure washer (not a birthday present!) on the slimy stone paving around the conservatory. He could then hold the end of a tape measure whilst I squelch around the garden making rough sketches of both the front and the back gardens.
Note: the paving has cleaned up beautifully!
I now have two slightly wrinkly (it was damp) A4 sheets with a barely recognisable map of the garden, all drawn out in biro. But give me a while, and hopefully I’ll have something that looks like a garden plan, inspiring me to get out there, tidy up, discover, complete a few projects and ultimately attract wildlife visitors.