Garden Progress

MIA Catch Up 2 – Bluebells and Crocosmia

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.

Part of Front Garden
Shrub and Herb Garden part 2

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Crocosmia under control, Bluebells not yet
Crocosmia under control, Bluebells not yet

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.

 

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!

Lavender in July
Lavender in July

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.

Bindweed :(
Bindweed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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!

Glad I left the Clover
Glad I left the Clover

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.

Thyme Tier
Thyme Tier

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.

Laburnham
Laburnum

But, best of all, one of my Honeysuckles, that I planted in February, has one flower!

First flower on the Honeysuckle
First flower on the Honeysuckle
Garden Progress, Wildlife Insights

MIA Catch Up 1 – Birds and Bugs

It’s been 7 weeks since I last posted here and looking back at my last couple of posts, soooo many things have changed. Nature (and Roger!) works fast.

In that time we’ve been incredibly privileged to have a pair of very busy blue tits successfully raise their babies in our next box.

Blue Tit emerging
Blue Tit emerging, taken with my iPhone through the eye piece of a spotting scope

On my quest to find out about how we could make our new garden wildlife friendly, I joined the RSPB in January. I’d forgotten the gift for joining was a bird box, and was very happily surprised when it arrived in February.

Lovely surprise from the RSPB
Lovely surprise from the RSPB

The beautifully made box sat in the conservatory for a couple of weeks, as we couldn’t decide where the best place was for it. Then I read somewhere that it was time to put up bird boxes as prospective residents would be scouting around for a good home, so it went up in the easiest place to put it, next to the bathroom window.

 

It was then forgotten about as we carried on with our garden and house plans.

Just before the scaffolding went up, Roger mentioned that he thought he’s seen a bird go into the box. I spent ages on the raised patio staring at the box, but I saw nothing. We thought if there were any birds looking at the box they would be scared off by the men that would be working from the scaffolding.

 

Some windows were replaced, all the fascias were replaced, then the roofer started on the chimney and roof repairs. “Did you know you have Blue Tits nesting in your box?”

We saw those busy parents constantly in and out the box from then on, sometimes taking a brief rest on the scaffolding. More men came to take the scaffolding down, the Blue Tits just carried on parenting.

I spent hours just starring in wonder. Roger bought me a spotting scope so I could get a close up view, as the parents got more and more bedraggled and the babies got noisier and noisier.

Watching the Blue Tits
Watching the Blue Tits

It wasn’t long before we saw lots of little faces keep appearing at the hole. They were getting ready to fledge. One morning, looking at the box, I had a feeling today was the day. On my return from work they were gone. No dead baby birds under the box or in the garden. My heart went to them, wishing them all the best for their futures.

***

So, back to the beginning of June…the upper tier of the back garden had a new retaining wall and had been de-turfed and seeded with a wildflower meadow (written about in the previous post). What to do now?

On of our favourites local places to go on our motorbikes is Carsington Water, a beautiful peaceful place. It has a small RSPB shop which we always visit before having a cup of coffee looking over the reservoir. We loved this magnificent bug hotel they had for sale.

Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop
Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop

Luckily it wouldn’t fit on the back of a motorbike, so Roger got thinking and turned a few packing crates into a beautiful one of our own.

As you can see, not all the floors are ready for inhabitation! We need to go on a walk to find pine cones and other interesting bits and pieces before winter.

But, now Roger had an urge to build more houses! I’d been trying to get his son to build me a bird table since we moved in, he’d now lost his chance. When I next came home from work, there was a bird table. Not just any old bird table, a delightfully crafted one.

I’m very happy, the birds are very happy.

***

We have a friend, actually we have two! A pair of robins. They appeared whilst the Blue Tits were mid parenting, so they either didn’t have a nest or lost theirs. They are incredibly inquisitive. We’ve done more work on the garden (or rather, Roger has) which I’ve still to write about, and they’ve been there every step of the way, keeping all of us company as soon as any of us stepped into the garden.

One was very brave and followed Roger into the conservatory! He did panic and needed a gentle coaxing out.

Over Friendly Robin
Over Friendly Robin

That’s the bird and bug news, wild flower meadow news still to come!