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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scaffolding in place
Bird Box roof in a better condition than our roof
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.
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.
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.
Beautiful Bug Hotel by Roger
Bug Hotel next to the plastic tool shed which is now a composter
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.
Beautifully Crafted Bird Table
Bird Table Close Up
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.
That’s the bird and bug news, wild flower meadow news still to come!
Yesterday we sowed a wildflower meadow in our back garden. Which sounds very simple but it’s been over a month of hard work in preparation. At the same time we had scaffolding put up around the entire house for new windows, guttering and fascia boards as well as some chimney and roof repairs. A busy household of men who were powered by sugared tea (we ran out of sugar!).
Last time I wrote here, we were getting ready for a delivery of two tonnes of reclaimed stone, to build a stone retaining wall which would replace the log one already in place. The stone was delivered at the bottom of our very steep drive on a sunny morning in early May. I moved it, a couple of stones at a time, off the public path to a few metres up the drive, Roger then wheelbarrowed it up to the back garden. It was very hot work.
Reclaimed stone delivered at the bottom of the drive
Reclaimed stone laid out ready for building – a large jigsaw puzzle!
Roger then had fun creating a giant jigsaw, choosing stones from the spread on the lawn to build a wall. He did a dry run first, before cementing anything in.
Roger had booked a week of “holiday” from work to build the wall and prepare the garden for the wildflower meadow. I started a new job the day the scaffolding went up (not on purpose, it was just one of those things) which added to the mayhem, so it was all down to him. Hardly a rest, and he’d also declined an offer of a week on the beach in Spain! The weather here was the best we could ask for, so the hard work continued.
The wall looks fabulous, even better the the original stone retaining walls throughout our front and back gardens. But that wasn’t the end, next on the list was removing the uneven turf. Roger hired a petrol driven turf cutter but it was still incredibly hard work due to the incline, unevenness and compacted clay soil. We decided to keep the lower lawn and will try to revive it into something that actually resembles a lawn! [Our original plan was to make this into a low growing wildflower meadow that would only need cutting about every 3 weeks.]
Turf removed – left side
Turf removed – right side
Now it was time to lay some stepping stones through the meadow to the raised bed at the end of the garden. It was another job very well done.
Next job…to turn over the hard compacted soil to remove the remains of the turf and weeds, and as it turned out, glass, rocks and old brick wall! I was able to help with this by the end of the week. Back breaking!!! We eventually finished it Sunday morning. I then raked it over as level as I could. Finally, it was time to sow the seed.
First I divided the area into equal(ish) sections. I couldn’t find my metre stick or any string, so I used a broom and a ball of wool.
I’d ordered native wildflower meadow seed for clay soil from Meadowmainia. It contains 21 wildflowers and 7 grasses. It’s a bit late to sow this year but I’m sure something will come up and we can expect a better meadow next year. I’m excited to see it developing over the years. I’m prepared to add plug plants if necessary. Best of all, it only needs to be strimmed/mowed twice a year.
I had 12 sections marked out. so I divided the seed into 6, then 12, in the conservatory. A red damselfly joined me!
Wildflower meadow seed for clay soil
Dividing up the seed for sowing, supervised by a damselfly!
I tried to sow the seed as evenly as I could but it was harder than I expected. I may well have a patchy meadow! After sowing I trod over each section. This was also harder than I expected and took a lot longer than I thought it would. We were expecting rain. The BBC said 1pm, then 3pm, then 7pm, then 11pm. So I soaked the area with the hose, to encourage germination, late evening as the rain didn’t look like it would arrive. It did eventually rain very lightly but barely anything. Only a few miles miles away, it rained hard and places became flooded. How lucky are we this week and this weekend?!
This is how our back garden looks now.
We are very happy!
The neighbours have been very complimentary.
Which leaves today, Bank Holiday Monday, free for a motorbike ride.
In a week or so, stone to match the front face of all our retaining walls is being delivered. Before then we need to make some preparations in the back garden. We had a good few hours trampling around in the muddy soil on the 8th April and I’ve done a few hours this morning. So…what are the plans?
At present the small retaining wall holding back the upper part of the back garden from the lower part has a front face made of large stacked logs.All the other retaining walls, front and back (the house is built on a very steep slope) are stone.
Upper lawn -left
Upper lawn – right
Roger has removed some of logs and laid a foundation for the new stone wall. Once this is built, the space between the new wall and the remaining logs will be back filled with concrete. Heavy rain turns our back garden into a beautiful (and disturbing, at the same time!) large water feature, as it flows from the field at the back, through the drainage already set in the garden and walls, down the steps, around the back door and into the drains built into the driveway. Which means, it’s probably a good idea to add drainage pipes within the concrete as a precaution against any random fountains appearing in the top lawn!
Whilst this was going on, I decided to tackle the overgrown corner at the top left.
After some extreme pruning, I found a fern tucked up at the back, waiting for the right time to unfurl and some purple shoots, which I now believe is a peony.
Two weeks later, the peony is thriving.
The sunshine this morning called me back into the garden. Once the stone wall has been completed we plan to hire a turf cutter to remove the top layer of grass/weeds/moss. The grassed areas are very uneven, as well as sloped, and a mole moved in a few days after we did. It can never be a manicured lawn.
I put forward my idea of a wildflower meadow on the lower lawn, seeding it after removing the current grass. It would only need strimming down once a year and would attract lots of bees and butterflies. My proposal was accepted…and developed.
We have now decided (although all plans are open to discussion and change!) to sow wildflower meadow seeds on the upper area and sow a low growing wildflower lawn on the lower area, which will only need mowing about every 3 weeks. Anyway, watch this space to see how we get on.
But, getting back to the point, what did I do this morning?
I trimmed back the neglected bushes along the fence and weeded all around them. They all looked a bit sad, so I’m hoping, now they can breathe, they will be much happier.
I’m finishing with pictures of leaves appearing on the lovely apple tree (I will learn how to look after it), the beautiful magnolia next door and a glass of well deserved wine, in the sunshine, admiring the progress so far. Cheers!