Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bud and his buddies

I decided to practice close-up shots on the rhodie buds yesterday.
The results were not happy.

I was using a tripod so it's not shake. The camera kept fixing on objects behind the bud. There's no alternative, I am going to have to take the cd out of its plastic wrapper and read the camera instructions.
I got so fed up I decided to name the robin Bud and focus on him instead. He often follows me round the garden. He sat in the weigela, turning his head from side to side watching me. I hadn't realised the adults retain speckles, or is he one of last years juves?

The blue tit is always fearless and kept noshing on the remains of a fat ball even though I was only a couple of feet away.

The blackbirds are usually shyer but this one landed on the bank and didn't realise I was standing beneath him until he looked up and met my eyes.

It's getting lighter in the mornings so we're not seeing such colourful sunrises but, to compensate, the evening skies have been beautiful.

Took some more shots of buds today just hand held and they looked better..... the boss approved anyway.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

winter dreams

The loch is in a grumpy mood, grey waters whipped by squally winds and flecked with rain. We haven't seen the sun today, just layers of cloud in a permanent grey twilight. The cat, like the loch, is in a strop. There have been strangers in the house (joiners measuring the office), so she has retired to bed and will only open one eye when I speak to her.
We're both tired of Winter and dreaming of Spring.
Smudge is dreaming of wall watch and the dozens of fat mice she is convinced live in the mossy crevices under the bird table.

I am dreaming and drooling over my rhodies, azaleas and camellias. I was worried these plants would not survive the hard frosts. This is rhododendron blue peter, a gift from Mum and Dad last year.

I thought he was going to drop all his leaves but Mum assured me this was just a survival mechanism. He seems to have bounced back.

I hope those big buds haven't been frosted, in a couple of months they should produce clusters of frothy, spotted, lilac which remind me of orchids.
This camellia is a favourite.
It was in the garden when I bought the house, so I don't know its name. In the summer the leaves stick out horizontally like lots of little saucers. It wouldn't look out of place as a plant prop on the set of a 1960s sci fi series.
Here it is at Christmas. I hadn't noticed the leaves curling up like that before, another clever plant way of hunkering down and surviving the cold.

It seems to be recovering, look at all those buds. Come on spring, come on, come on, come on.

New plants. Rhododendron nova zembla, a Christmas present from my lovely nieces, arrived by courier with its compost frozen in a solid block.

I don't know how many days it had been in transit but it must have been in some very cold vans. I didn't think it would recover but it went in the garage, by the window, for a couple of weeks until the temperatures rose and I think it has come through OK. At least it hasn't dropped its leaves, although some are a little frosted. I think I will plant it here, in front of the pampas, above Peter, if the soil is deep enough. It will produce deep red trumpet flowers with dark spots inside, which I hope will complement and contrast against Pete's frothy girliness.
Mum and Dad gave me this camellia sasanqua tanya, an autumn/winter flowering variety.

It produces, small, pink, single flowers like a dog rose and will provide a romantic hint of colour when all else is muted browns and burnt greens in this garden. It is low growing so I think I'll plant it in the gap between this old tree stump and the log edging and hope to train it down over the rock.

Great minds, because I had bought Mum and Dad this camellia sasanqua papaver and (of course) one for myself.

It's another Autumn flowerer. This time a bush plant and supposed to be scented, a thing I miss from my Spring camellias. The flowers are similar to Tanya, a bit larger, softer, pale pink single booms. I'm not sure where to put mine. It prefers a sheltered site with warmth and light and well drained soil. Ho hum, not easy when all you have is a vertical bog plonked in the middle of a wind tunnel. I've been gormless again. When will I learn to buy plants for position not prettiness? I left both papavers outside over Christmas and they froze solid to the ground. I couldn't move either of them, so Mum and Dad had to go home without their present. Amazingly both plants seem to be OK. They did drop some leaves and others are looking a little burnt but they each have healthy looking buds.

I think I have been luckier than I deserve. I should have looked after my newbies better.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Nordic invasion

Never had one of these as a garden visitor before, in either Tillicoultry or Argyll. He arrived three days ago and since then has been continually rousting every other bird in the garden. He is indiscriminate in his bullying, little dunnocks, finches, thrushes, blackbirds, all are sent scurrying away. He seems to do it for pure devilment, as they know better than to approach him or try to nick his apple.

He's a fieldfare, a migrant from scandinavia and very Viking in his habits, plundering, roistering and scaring the natives. I've decided to call him Thaw. So, when I shake my fist and scream, "Thaw, you effer," through the kitchen window, I accomplish two things. I'm scolding him plus giving the garden instructions.
I was blaming Thaw for all the apples disappearing. I seem to be going through three a day now but then I noticed him sulking in a corner.

At last, a native bird who wasn't scared of him. I put the apples out for blackbirds and I suppose this hoodie qualifies, he's a bird and he's black, though he seems to think I'm running a takeaway service.

I'm so pleased to see the song thrush, in fact, there are two visiting. They are usually far too shy to come to the feeders but for the last two weeks have been busy tucking in with the chaffinches and blackbirds.

I thought I'd lost the cat. I realised I'd had hours of peace, no one mithering on and on and on......... why can't you make it warmer outside........ why is the conservatory door closed........what do you mean it's too cold it now........immediately.........jeez it's cold in there.....why have you got the conservatory door open.......don't you know old cats are susceptible to cold.........why hasn't any fresh food been put down in the last 15 minutes..... oh you have put something down.......what is this rubbish........are you a cat poisoner...... don't you know cats only eat strawberry yoghurt licked from a dessert spoon........what's that in the oven......hmmm fresh roasted chicken breast.........who said cats only ate strawberry yoghurt....are you mad.

Like I said, an unusual period of quiet aroused my suspicions. I thought she might have sneaked through to the bedrooms when I wasn't looking and was either curled up under my duvet, or expressing her disgust at the inclement weather with her signature activity. Luckily all was quiet and clean. Then I started to worry. People have fallen and frozen to death outside, she is an old cat and a bit wobbly on her legs, it is very icy and we'd had more snow. I had visions of a sad little pile of orange and white fur slowly stiffening by her favourite compost bin. Outside and up those icy, snowy steps I went. I searched the garden from top tier to bottom tier. No Smudge.
You're right. Of course, she hadn't stuck so much as a whisker outside. Instead she'd found a new bed, with extra insulation, in this old box.

Monday, 4 January 2010

outside the garden

The garden looks out over Loch Gilp, a small inlet of Loch Fyne. At the head of the loch the water is shallow and low tide exposes mud flats that support dozens of wading birds and gulls. Dad and I stood at the head of the loch this week, just as the sun was setting, and watched the birds moving out at low tide.

It was a cold, but beautiful, still afternoon. The birds were roosting on the shore of a small spur of land.
There were oyster catchers, curlews, blackheaded gulls, dunlins redshanks and a very grumpy, cold looking heron hunched up at the back.

As the tide went out they started to wake up, preen and move off into the water.

Within minutes the water was studded with little black figures wading or treadling with their feet to bring up worms and shell fish.
You might, if you were driving past, think those black blobs off the spur were just seaweed beds exposed by the low tide but they are actually birds moving out to feed.

It was too cold to stand for long, so as the sun set over lochgilphead we headed back, stopping only to watch this redshank delicately tiptoeing along the icy shore looking for razor clams.