Monday, 27 July 2009

Silver shadows

The loch was in a decidedly mystical mood today, all rippling pools of mercury meeting stormy, grey rain showers. I would not have been surprised to see an arm or two rising up, waving magically enhanced swords.

Gormless Update

My poor scalded fuschia is recovering from its encounter with the detergent. Mum informs me that it was my Great Gran who used to treat plants that “misbehaved” with dishwater and it was definitely soap flakes, not detergent in those days. Apparently Lux is the stuff you want, mixed into a very weak stock solution, so that it looks a bit like wall paper paste. This is then diluted 1 in 10 with water to make a hand spray. I’ve tried it on roses, surfinia and fuschia, with assorted pests, and it works a treat. Doesn’t seem to kill the plants but washes the greenfly off and so far they haven’t re-established.
While we’re on the subjects of surfinia and fuschia tubs and baskets, for the second year, mine are very slow to bloom. They’re looking green and lush but putting out flowers does not seem to be on the agenda. This happened last year with petunias and pelargoniums. I thought I had just over fed them, encouraging them to put out foliage rather than flowers. So I was very careful this year, they had some slow release food at exactly the manufacturers recommended amounts when planted out and nothing since. I bought them as well established plugs, potted them on and they grew vigorously, so they haven’t had a set back. Now it’s nearly August and still nothing from the fuschias or pelargoniums and while the surfinias are definitely blooming, you could hardly describe them as trailing. I used to plant tubs and baskets in Tilly that would have been a riot of flowers by now. The climate is milder and wetter here, but we have had a fair amount of sun in May and early June. Does the slight difference in sun levels really have so much effect?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

One sunny day and now it's raining again. In fact I think I will make that the default setting of this blog. If I don't specifically mention the weather assume it's wet (and windy). I was originally going to call the blog, "Wild, Wet and Windy" but thought that might get mistaken for a special interest site. It's amazing how many short term hits my post with "blue tits" in the title brought in. Speaking of birds, the weather has brought the chaffinches back in droves. I tried to count them but they move constantly, so all I know is there were well over twenty just around the feeders. My little siskin was in there, giving them welly, but eventually sheer numbers drove her off. They are going through the feed at a rate of knots. I will have to ration them, I can't afford this.
I shouldn't complain about having just one sunny day as it did bring the butterflies out. Numerous whites, all green veined as far as I could see but they never settled long enough to take a pic. Meadow browns, again just passing through and small torotiseshells. This tortie was feeding on the hebe which has almost finished flowering but had just enough blooms to make this fellow pause.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Ever felt you're being watched?

I was pottering round the garden this morning, admiring this beautiful, double-flowered campanula when something made me look up at the rowan tree.
I think it was a form of silent nagging. The tree was full of chaffinches, waiting for me to move so they could descend on the table.
There was even a greenfinch
and a robin in on the act.

It all gets a bit hitchcockian round here sometimes.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

This evening in the garden

I'm not sure who was looking the most moody and enigmatic, the loch

or the cat.

Only one white butterfly passed briefly by but didn't stop. At least this hover fly appreciates the potentilla flowers.

Some prickly things developing. I don't know what this is but I like the punk style of the partially open globe.

This sea holly seems very happy, it struggled in a pot in Tilly. I planted it out last Summer and it has flourished. I guess the clue is in the name, the sea holly likes a martime environment.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The weathered look

Well, the wind blew through yesterday with torrential rain showers and flattened my beautiful mallows. Yes, I suppose it was a gormless place to plant them but I thought, they're summer flowering annuals, they won't be around for the worst of the weather, surely a six foot high fence and an enormous pampas grass will provide a sufficient windbreak. Lesson learned, pick the right plant for the position.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Bright spots on a wet day

The weather has been appalling all weekend. Torrential showers and now it is windy as well. Despite this, the sun occasionally breaks through. I nipped out to get some fresh air during one short dry spell and saw this tired bumble bee on the Bidens golden star.

Some tomatoes are almost ripe, amazing given the lack of sunshine in the last week.
A self seeded lobelia. I planted some plugs last year but was disappointed by the lack of growth and flowers. They must have done enough however to leave seeds for this year. Maybe the butterflies will find it.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


I've heard about robins and blackbirds becoming very tolerant of human presence, entering houses and even feeding from hands. My siskins seem to be developing a similar relaxed attitude. This little one didn't even wait for me to move after I'd put out the kibbled peanuts. She flew straight down to the tray and started tucking in. I could have reached out and touched her. There was nothing wrong with her healthwise, as a few minutes later she took exception to another siskin feeding on the table and started a fight.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

A tale of two mallows

I don't know what I did to this tree mallow. Pruned it too hard? Planted it in the wrong place? Something very gormless no doubt. That position is the most exposed in the garden and does get blasted by the wind when it howls up the loch. I guess I'm just going to have to find something tough to grow there. I wonder if one of the burgandy elders would survive. It's a pity. I planted the mallow last year and it grew vigorously through the summer producing masses of pretty white flowers with rosy centres.
In contrast this annual mallow, Lavatera Mont Blanc, is romping away, coming through just as the foxgloves and verbascum are dying back. It's buds, when tightly furled, are blush pink but they open into masses of intense white flowers that gleam like spotlights in every corner they are planted.
The only problem is the butterflies and bees are paying no attention. I thought because lavatera are always present in wildlife seed mixes they would be a good souce of nectar but perhaps the white variants don't look or taste as good as the pink ones. I should have gone for the cosmos. I'm just a sucker for tall spires covered in bell like flowers. I've a hankering for some hollyhocks but have a strong suspicion that they would only get covered in rust in this climate. I shouldn't complain though because what I miss with the cottage garden plants is more than made up for by the spring show of rhodies, azaleas and camelias which love the wet, acid conditions.

A purpose for the pampas

It looks as if I am going to have to forgive the pampas grass for being a big, ugly, bully of a garden plant. The spugs love it. I was watching them today instead of doing the washing up. They are feasting on the seeds and hopping backwards and forwards chirping with excitement. A line of them sit on a frond, then another arrives and the whole thing sinks down, a bird flies off and it springs up again, so the fronds are constantly seesawing up and down like a giant sparrow amusement park. Daft, isn’t it to get excited by a sparrow? It’s just that last year I had one solitary male visit occasionally. He came back in the spring with his missus. I don’t know where they nested but they have brought a sizeable brood to feed at the table and another adult male has joined them. I counted eleven on the grass today. When sparrows are in “catastrophic” decline elsewhere in the country it’s lovely to see them thriving here. This bbc article suggests that sparrows are most successful in gardens tended by “useless, lazy gardeners”. That’s definitely the case here and long may my gormlessness continue if see-sawing sparrows are the result.

moody blues

The loch is constantly changing from shimmering cobalt blues, through patchworks of azure and aqua, to pools of silver and grey.

Friday, 17 July 2009


In case there is any confusion, I should explain this is an evil slug eating my beautiful courgette. The courgettes are the first veg I've grown apart from tomatoes and salad leaves. I know they're really easy and generous to even the most feckless of gardeners but I am very proud of them. They are beautiful and green and luscious and have cost practically nothing. The plants were seedling freebies from a friend, so all they have cost was the little bit of compost to plant them in. I'm counting on them to provide free food through the summer (and winter, if I freeze what I can't eat). I object strongly to slugs, who have plenty of food elsewhere (including my pansies and violas), joining the banquet uninvited. So grrr grrrr grrrrrrrrrr. The only good slug is a dead slug.

Butterflies in the garden today

Another meadow brown, there were several flying in the paddock behind the garden. This one had frayed wings. I don't know if it was damaged by the heavy rain we've had this week or if it's nearing the end of its life.

I think this is a green veined white but it's markings are much less distinct than the ones that were flying in May (see pics below, click to enlarge).

It's not a large or small white, as they both have a single dark spot on the under wing, so a process of elimination suggests green veined.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The blue tits are my pride and joy this year. For the first time a pair of birds has nested in a box I put up. I had two nest boxes in the Tilly garden that were never used. I put this one up last Spring but too late to attract nesters. It’s on the wall of the summerhouse facing the leylandii hedge. I thought it would be sheltered there, protected from predators and have lots of nearby vegetation for the chicks to fledge on to. It seems the blue tits agreed. I saw them inspecting it early in the year but once the leaves are on the weigela, you can’t see the box from the house. I didn’t know they were definitely using it until May when it was warm enough to spend some time on the summerhouse decking and there I could see the blue tits flying in and out carrying caterpillars.

The chicks fledged in June, and were brought by their parents straight to the feeders. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, as they may not learn to hunt for themselves but all the wildlife sites recommend you continue to feed through the Summer.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The birds

For me, birds and gardening go together. I wouldn’t want one without the other. I’m lucky with this garden; there was already a well established population of residents and visitors when I arrived. The chaffinches dominate in the winter. Flocks of twenty or thirty individuals come dipping and chattering in, to sit in the rowan tree and fight over the feeders and bird table. The starlings are always around. They resemble a crowd of rowdy bikers, zooming into the garden with their black feathers gleaming like studded leather jackets. They screech to a halt at the table, toss whatever is on offer around and then rev up and leave at high speed for the next garden. Despite this bad boy image they are devoted parents and have successfully reared two large broods this year. The pic shows an adult with part of their first brood at the table in May.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Forget the hobnobs...

...the gooseberries are ripe mmmmmmmmmm crumble.

Learn to love a slug?

"Learn to love a slug." That's what one of the wildlife sites advises. Give it plenty of organic debris, like fallen leaves and flowers, and it will clean up your garden for you and be too busy to chomp the plants you value. Hah! My garden is not tidy. It is a morass of vegetation, some dead, some dying, some springing to life. At the moment there are foxglove flowers littering the ground everywhere. Do the slugs help to tidy them up? Do they weecht. No, they prefer to munch on my lovely violas. I have had one success though. I have been growing salad leaves in small troughs by the kitchen door. In an effort to deter the slugs I've been emptying the used coffee grounds into the troughs and around their rims and bases. The salad seems to grow quite happily through the mulch of grounds and the slugs have left them alone. Unfortunately so have I and now they have bolted everywhere. I should have let the slugs have 'em. Salad pah, you can't even deep fat fry it. If only chocolate hobnobs grew in tubs of compost.
(BTW I have only just discovered if you click on the thumbnail pics they'll open in to a larger image.)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Pretty things

Posting these pics I took yesterday because it's raining today, so I sat down to do some filing and organising of my finances and of course immediately started multi-shirking on the computer. I'm loving the lush greeness in the first tier at the moment. Another surprise rose has popped up. This time a scarlet show-off that clashes magnificently with the crimson rose from earlier in the week. The pansies have recovered from the slugs' attentions. They have been flowering steadily since March (when not acting as a slug salad bar). And finally a delicate clematis just starting to open at the steps to the second tier.

The view

I’ve mentioned the loch several times but it’s been like a silent character in a radio play, only there because I have spoken about it. So here it is, the view from the top of the garden and from the summerhouse.

In the garden this weekend

Let’s get back to the important things like birds, bees and butterflies. I think the first pic is a meadow brown on the hebe. It moved very quickly and I couldn’t get a look at the uppersides of its wings. There was also a red admiral around and a small tortoiseshell (2nd pic) but again neither stopped to feed for long. There doesn’t seem to be enough to make them want to stop in the garden at the moment. I think next year I will plant some cosmos and lobelia which, in my Tilly garden, used to attract hoards of tortoiseshells, whites and red admirals.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The third tier

The last post was far too long and boring so I’m going to gallop through the rest of the garden. Up the steps to the third tier, summerhouse on the right, which is slowly being stripped to the wood by effing wasps looking for nest building material; a decking area, perfect for sitting in the sun watching the loch; red gravel area, don’t know what the original purpose was but I was thinking of putting in raised veg beds, only problem is the salt wind which, when in the mood, blasts across the top of the garden. On the left, lawn and a higgedly-piggedly line of conifers whose burnt brown patches show they are not at all happy with the salt wind. Up another small flight of steps, more lawn on the left, small stream in upper left corner surrounded by nettles and brambles, more conifers. To the right a mossy flat, a large stand of hebes in the corner and a hugely overgrown leylandii hedge marks the right boundary.