Monday, August 31, 2009

Bank Holiday Rose

The Lady Emma Hamilton Rose has rebloomed beautifully with a dozen fragrant apricot coloured blooms.
Its bank holiday today and the weather is forecast for wind and rain.
I'll be sleeping for most of it before my last night shift.
I hope to get into the garden when im off work. Its the first of September tomorrow, autumn is nearly upon us...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Rose

The last Rose that had not bloomed is now in flower. The very fragrant Margaret Merrill. The plant looked a bit sickly for weeks before putting on a growth spurt with one Rose bud.
The sky is blue this morning, and the Goldfinches have been on the feeders.
It was cool last night though, Summer is slowly drawing to an end. I saw leaves being dropped from some deciduous trees already...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Snug As A Bug

The sun is shining today but the rain continues to fall. One of the birds Sunflowers was beginning to open today. I took a photo and discovered an insect nestling within the folds of the petals. Pretty much snug as a bug in a rug!
He will get to taste the nectar within the flower and stay dry.
I spent five hours at the plot yesterday clearing the back edge and the front edge. There is still twenty feet left to clear.
Once the mammoth clearance has finished I can then try to plan the layout of the beds and the position of the shed, compost bins, and water butts....
My hands have been callused, blistered, and I have sweated lots. I try to remember that clearing the allotment is the most exhausting part of the process. The fun is planting, tending, harvesting, and finally eating the Veg.
I'm back to work today so the clearance stops for five days now. I will admire the garden between night shifts with a cup of coffee in the morning before bed.
The camera has begun to get a bit dodgy with the mechanisms sticking and not moving properly. I will have to start looking soon for a new camera. The camera is my eye to the garden for this blog...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Raindrops And Gladiolus

The Gladiolus covered in raindrops. It has been raining heavily since yesterday. I was at the allotment untill 4pm when the dark clouds came over. It poured down with rain and stopped my days work.
I'm glad my hands have a day to recover after 11 hours in total over three days.
The clearing is continuing slowly but surely. I cleared most of the back along the dividing path between my plot and my neighbours.
The plan is to dig along the two sides untill they meet in the middle. Tomorrow is forecast for sunshine so I can get one more days clearing before I'm back to work.
The garden is still full of colour, and the plants love the rain. I need to do some trimming of our large shrubs and trees.
Some have grown unchecked for years and now impinge on each others space. The garden is developing slowly. this year was looking at what grew where, and what was pretty.
The fencing and swings need taking down, and some new raised beds constructed.
We are growing Carrots, Onions, a few Cabbages, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Strawberrys, and Beetroots in the two raised beds.
They have been very successfull. The allotment can grow staple things like Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, and Cabbages...
I want to try to grow Corn next year as it is all around the allotment. Plants bred for the English weather.
Rain drives you back indoors and makes you think about next years growing season. I can see the Sunflowers and Gladiolus from the window as the rain falls.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Labour

This is the first Rose I photographed at the David Austin Rose gardens and plant centre. Its called Generous Gardener, and I love the soft pastel pink colour.
I walked to the allotment today to keep on doing the clearing. Two feet by twenty feet took me about three hours.
I have some nice calluses on my hands now, and a more tanned colour.
It has been slow progress as the plot was left wild for a few years. My plot was not topped off, but left overgrown.
As others are planting things, putting sheds up, I'm trying to clear the top growth off.
As slowly as im clearing it the annual weeds are germinating behind me. My few plants look a bit scraggly. Cabbages, Leeks, Courgettes, Squashes, and a Pumpkin..
The Rhubarb we cut has been cooked and frozen ready to make Rhubarb crumbles for Sunday dinner. We collected Blackberrys and Apples from the garden and made Apple and Blackberry pies, and an Apple pie.
I'll take the camera to the plot to mark my progress of clearing it. I am thinking of four foot wide beds with paths running between them.
The Shed base needs laying down once I have cleared a place for it. The pallets have been turned into a three sided compost bin. I think I need some big black compost bins for transferring between the open one to finish composting in the Black ones.
The shed will be used to store the tools, netting, pots, etc. The roof can channel water into water buts to save a trip to the open water hole halfway across the allotment.
I hope its dry for the next few days so I can continue clearing the plot. I will sleep well tonight after my days exertions.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Golden Celebration

The Rose Golden Celebration in flower at last. I grew it on in a pot from a one pound Rose at Hampsons.
I have six days off to do the garden, and to continue the clearing of the allotment.
I know it has grown more wild but work has been busy.
The Rose has a nice scent like a Rose should have. The only Rose that has not bloomed yet is Margaret Merrill....
I will get to the plot soon...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunflower Summer

The Sunflowers in the race have all grown really tall, despite the dry stony soil. The middle Sunflower is eight feet high. Cats on the left has flowered first. Mine on the right has still got to develop its flower fully.

They look beautiful. They are so easy to grow, and after they finish flowering they are garden bird edible the seed heads.
I do not know why the centre circle is to the right. The Moulin Rouge is also flowering. Smaller ones are growing where the birds have dropped them.
Its nearly the third week of August. The sun is coming up later, and setting earlier. It is getting chillier at night too.
The Sunflowers will bloom hopefully untill the Autumn...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Feelgood Garden

My favourite part of the garden is where the bench sits under the retaining wall. The newly dug border has filled out with flowers and is always buzzing with bees and hoverflys.
The birds have dropped some Sunflower seeds which germinated.
The sunlight comes through the garden and illuminates the leaves and makes the flowers appear like jewels.
I cut the grass yesterday which blistered my hands. It was so lush and thick that the mower struggled to make an impact at the wilder end of the garden.
I read an article that says Gardens give people a feel good factor, and help their health and mental well being. The research was done by the national trust.
I love going out into the garden daily, to see whats growing, and sometimes just to sit down. This is my favourite place to sit in the photo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blue Angel

The Fuschia Blue Angel in bloom..I have just finished another set of four night shifts. I have three days to relax, and photograph all the gardens flowers.
I love the warm summers days, watching the Bees, Butterflys, and Birds in the garden.
My Roses are blooming, as is the Casa Blanca Lily....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Everlasting Flower

I rescued some seeds from the old house. Mum had given me seeds for everlasting flowers. I sowed them and they grew spectacularly.
I have seven plants growing with these paper petalled flowers.
They open when its sunny but keep closed when its cold or raining.
They keep their colour once they are dried out and make beautiful dried flower heads for the house.
I cannot find their proper name. does anyone know what they are called?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lost And Exotic Birds

This baby Greenfinch seemed to have lost its parents. He was happily feeding on the sunflower hearts even when i was taking his photo.
He was not disturbed by me at all. He then flew onto the fence and sat all fluffed up sleeping.
Our two weeks of holiday are up now. We went around Pugneys and Newmiller Dam one day, and down to David Austins Rose Gardens and plant centre another which will get their own posts.
We saw some exotic birds including a rare Kingfisher at Pugneys. We never got a glimpse of one at Fairburn Ings but walked into a hide, and one flew low over the second lake and held onto some grasses. Just out of Camera range. I will have to try again to photograph a Kingfisher.
We saw a Heron and Crested Grebe at Newmiller Dam on the same day too...
Our last exotic bird was a Peacock that walked upto the David Austin Cafe window and was peering inside at the cream teas..
When you want to see a certain bird (ie Kingfisher) you cannot, when you least expect it then it flys in front of you.
Our garden is full of garden birds. House Sparrow, Starlings, Goldfinches, and so on. They are a daily spectacle to observe from the kitchen.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pleasure And Pain

I am the subject of the photo today, taken yesterday at the allotment.I was planting the Leeks that have been growing on in pots for months.
It was so hot that I drank two litres of Dandelion and Burdock, a fizzy soft drink.
The plot needs clearing as it is overgrown with a few years worth of weeds and grasses.
I got nettled, stung by Thistles, and sun burnt. The sweat poured out of me yesterday.
I found Rhubarb Crowns, two large Globe Artichoke plants, and lots of Raspberry Canes from the last person to use the plot. I planted some Red Cabbages, Italian Courgettes, Squashes, and a Pumpkin plant.
I made a three sided compost bin yesterday from wooden pallets. It is slowly getting filled up.
The rest of the year will be spent clearing the neglected plot, and getting a shed. I want to have drainpipes on the shed, directing rainwater into butts, like the three we have in the garden.
The nearest water is in the middle of the allotment.The clearing has generated a lot of plant material so that will be rotted down then returned to the soil.
The Butterflys were out in force yesterday. Cat collected a large tub of Blackberrys. Her fingers were stained purple yesterday from the Blackberry juices. We will make some Apple and Blackberry pies later. The allotment has brambles running the length of it by the lane and we seem to be the only people interested in harvesting them.
I read in the news about an elderly lady who has taken over her late Husbands plot in Newport, Wales. She got a letter from the council saying she must grow Vegetables, as she has been growing flowers down there. They want her to clear her allotment garden that she can see from her kitchen window.
I saw Sunflowers, Dahlias, and Sweetpeas yesterday at the Walton Allotments growing alongside the ususal Cabbages, Potatoes, Courgettes etc. As long as she is growing something I do not see what the problem is.
I know from yesterday how much energy is used up clearing and digging over an allotment plot. I will be back there on Sunday if its dry..

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ladybird Poppies

The Ladybird Poppies from the plant stall have flowered now. They were small plants when I got them. They have been grown on, then planted in the right hand border.
They have lovely red petals with black spots in the middle of the petal.
The garden has lots of flowers. Roses, Gladiolus, Geraniums, Violas, Pansys, Cleomes, Snapdragons...
Its going to be nice today so I am going to the allotment. To plant some Leeks and do more clearing of the grasses and weeds.
We are planning on visiting the home of English Roses, the David Austin Rose centre near Wolverhampton.
That will hopefully be on Saturday when its forecast dry down there. Its going to be good..

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fairburn Ings

We went to Fairburn Ings on Monday. This is the RSPB's nature reserve in the lower Aire valley. The site is 286 acres, and was developed from the mining and industry areas. Subsidence has created large lakes, and several smaller bodies of water. It has many different habitats like flood meadow, wet Fenland, reedbed, woodland, and scrub.

They have recorded the most species at any nature reserve (274). This was a Black Swan we saw at the feeding station. It was a walk through a carpark and across a boardwalk. The children could feed the Swans and Ducks food bought from the shop. They come en masse to get the food.

The sun was shining and the Ducks quacked away..

I have never seen so many Mute Swans in one place. They are so beautiful, despite their size.I love the webbed feet powering away under the water. They look serene and regal moving through the water to get some food..

There are three trails around some of the reserve. A lot of the reserve is not accessible to the public. I think the reserve manager leads walks around the closed parts of the reserve occasionally. There are a handfull of bird hides around the reserve, all facing onto the water.

The trails had some beautiful grasses, wildflowers, and masses of Butterflys. They were fluttering all over the open reserve areas. The coal tip areas were being turned into rich meadows, grassland, and marsh areas.

This was the dipping pond. You could hire nets and a box from the visitor shop to dig into the pond. They gave a card with how to identify the pondlife you had scooped up. A female duck sat at the far end nesting in the reeds.

She let the Ducklings out and they swam across the water to feed on the insects on the pond surface, and to dive below the water. Their little orange feet were flapping under the water, as they looked like fluffy pearl divers. You can see how soft they looked in the photo.

This was the view behind the Kingfisher screen. They are the jewels of the reserve. We did not see any. We will have to go back to see if we can see a Kingfisher. They are the brightest bird in the UK, but are quite hard to spot. I guess this slow moving water is ideal for fishing. The shop says you must report any sitings of Kingfishers to the reserves staff.

The river Aire runs along the edge of the Reserve. This is some water that moves from the Sluicegates, and feeds into the big Loch.

The Woodland trail was full of Mushrooms and mud. It has been the wettest July and the mud trail had been churned up. It was high up between the Loch and the River. We heard a few birds but did not see many.

The other stars of the reserve are Dragonflys. These look like biplanes when they buzz past you, then do acrobatic turns. They are very hard to photograph. The bodies and wings look like jewels. This one was sunbathing or resting for a while.

Near the visitor centre were feeders hung up. We saw Blue Tits, these Greenfinches, and a Bullfinch. We sat drinking Cafe Latte and saw a Grey Squirrel come onto the bird table and sneak off with the nuts.

The Ducks decided to sit under the Bird Feeders behind the Feeding Station. This was a hive of Activity. A board of wood hid the visitors away from the feeders. You look through the cutholes. The visitor centre had a whiteboard with what birds had been sighted and where they were seen on the reserve.

The final photo was looking Eastwards. We walked around the western half of the reserve. There is a second Car park with a further trail. We need to go back to Fairburn Ings soon.
The staff were lovely and helped us get three 13 kilo bags of bird food back to the car.
It shows how an area once damaged by heavy industry/mining can be reclaimed, and nature restored slowly. It is a very calm place, and was packed full of wildlife.
Schools visit every day during the week so the next generation is being educated about conservation, the Rspb, and nature...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Night Time Visitor

I did the RSPB big garden watch survey before, and one of the questions was how often do these creatures visit? Foxes, Cats, Badgers, Frogs, and Hedgehogs. I answered none for all of them untill last night. I saw a shadowy figure moving along the grass on the raised part of the garden. I moved closer and thought Hedgehog...

The photos were taken in darkness, only the Camera flash illuminated the nocturnal slug/snail muncher. She just pressed herself into the grass. I got Cat to come out and see my wildlife discovery. We sat watching Mrs Tiddywinkle quietly breathing, with her stripey spines rising and falling.

After a while she lifted her nose up and I went to get a saucer of milk. My Mum used to leave milk out for our Hedgehogs in Cheltenham. I cannot remember seeing any of them there, but I did see them near a residential area that had a long patch of grass.

she never drank the milk, but continued her night time foraging. I heard the grass rustle and the sound of crunching slugs and snails in her little sharp teeth. She went along the fence into the Vegetable patch where I left her.
The rain has made the grass wet, and the Slugs/Snails come out in force. The garden was a gourmet banquet for our nocturnal visitor. If i had not gone outside we would not have seen her.I know we attract at least one Hedgehog.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sun Lover

The Moulin Rouge Sunflower in Bloom yesterday. This is only about five feet high. The Single Giant Sunflowers are all around seven feet and growing slowly over the garden fence.
The Sunflower (latin name is Helianthus Annuus) is one of the oldest cultivated flowers. Originally from the Americas the Incas used the flower to worship the sun god.
The Spanish went back to Spain with Seeds, and Golden Sunflower statues.
It is grown commercially for sunflower oil, its seeds for peanut butter alternative, and a rye flour. It has been used to clean decontaminated soil near Chernobyl.
I love how the Sunflower bloom follows the Sun from sunrise to sunset. Heliotropism this is called.
I am going to the allotment today to do more clearing. The growing season is coming towards its end now.
There are eight more Sunflowers growing in the garden, two more Moulin Rouge, three giant singles, and three that the birds have dropped which have germinated.
They are happy flowers to grow in gardens, and who can not enjoy having a Sunflower race. Growing a seed each and labeling it.
My Sunflower is in third place, trailing behind Cats and Toms in the lead..

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday Sunshine

I woke up this morning to see a House Sparrow sat on my empty fatball feeders.He was looking at the empty cage, and then at me, before flying off to the top of the tree.
The sun is shining and there are no rainclouds in sight.
We are going to Fairburn Ings, the local RSPB reserve on the site of an old mine.
The camera is ready to take photos..This photo is of a Baby Goldfinch I photographed the other day. He is so fluffy with his downy feathers.
He was unafraid of me after all the others flew off. He sat in the tree chirruping for his parents. His facial markings are not present yet, but the yellow wing bar is.
I hope we can see some birds today at Fairburn Ings.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sunflower Saturday

This is the Sunflower Moulin Rouge yesterday nearly in flower.I sowed some seeds for the Walton Plant Stall and brought three home with me. They are half the size of the Giant Sunflowers that are growing tall in the garden.
They have beautiful flowers, and afterwards the birds get to eat all the Sunflower seeds. I found another two rogue Sunflowers growing near where the Bird feeders are.
I love the dark brooding colours of this Sunflower. It keeps on raining outside. There was only brief sunshine.
Apparently Staycation is a new word for people who stay at home whilst they have holiday from work. We have planned a few day trips out to local attractions like the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and the gardens at Nostell Priory..
Sunflowers are always cheery, what ever the weather is like. I'll photograph the open flower today for blogging. Its the first of August.