To the garden and beyond!

Bee on sunflower
Today we went on a wildlife hunt in our garden but the only luck we had was getting a snap of a bee on our sunflowers. Not to be discouraged with finding so little besides the bee and our usual feathered companions we took the search further even looking for those pesky slimy plant munching pests aka slugs and snails, the idea being that we could see who found the biggest but my boys soon lost interest.

Venturing beyond the garden we took a walk to our local loch, bread in hand in hope of seeing the pair of swans which frequent it alongside the ducks. After trekking up to it battling endless hills (my town is built on hills and I’m sure everywhere we seem to go is an uphill climb) then having a little break to play in the local park we finally arrived at the loch ready to see some wildlife at last but the swans weren’t there!
Moorhen on loch
Thoroughly disappointed we threw the bread in anyway. My boys looked as downcast and downtrodden as the photographer next to us who must’ve trekked all that way for a picture to leave empty handed. The reason for the swans’ absence is perhaps the amount of dog walkers around because our local swans aren’t too keen on dogs at all.
Young moorhen chicks
Not wanting to see my boys so unhappy I decided we were not leaving until they got to see something… anything! After carefully explaining to them to get comfy, stay still and stay quiet we all waited patiently. It wasn’t long before something started moving among the reeds then ventured out for a nose, my boys were delighted! It wasn’t the swans but a collection of wee birds (I think it could be a moorhen and maybe it’s young?) we watched them run along the water and were rewarded with one of them coming up for a close look at us.
Butterfly on flower
Finally my boys were happy and we set out for home managing to get a picture of a lovely butterfly on the way. Tired from our wildlife hunt we reached our gate and were just about heading upstairs to our house when my neighbour shouted us. Curious we followed her into her garden and my boys kneeled down to look where she was pointing. Lo and behold there was a wee toad! Needless to say it made their day and ended our adventure with me thinking that maybe we should’ve just asked our neighbour for a look round her garden instead!Wee toad in neighbour's garden

Nicole

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Mysterious Garden Thief

What's left of one of my onionsThere’s a thief at the bottom of my garden, and who it is I haven’t a clue. Something has eaten all my onions from one of my willow planters and the lettuce. The other planter hasn’t fared any better with the culprit starting to eat those onions too and the radishes! It isn’t only my veg that’s going missing but the foliage on some of my bulbs has been nibbled at.

Two months ago something ate all the heads off my bearded irises and I thought perhaps it was a one off but these recent thefts have the same tell-tale signs although I haven’t got any idea what the thief could be. I can dismiss the birds because my veg has been protected by netting and it doesn’t look like bird damage. I’m considering the possibility of slugs/snails but again the damage doesn’t match what they’ve done to my hostas.
Flowering bulb
This leaves me thinking that I have a mystery on my hands because I’m certain that the neighbourhood cats do not eat veg and I’d surely notice them at it. The onions have been eaten from the top down, along with the foliage on the bulbs and the radishes have been nibbled at around the edges inward. I have no idea about the lettuces because they have vanished! No sign of them can be found anywhere much to my disappointment.

Do you have any idea what it could be? Any help identifying this pest would be much appreciated.

On a brighter note I’m happy to say that my French beans are doing surprisingly well when I had almost given up hope they are actually developing some pods, not enough to feed my family of 4 but still it’s better than nothing. The runner beans are now developing too and so far none have been pinched by the wee blackbird that checks up on them daily. I’ve still to harvest the carrots after deciding the miniscule one I pulled up meant they needed to be left a little longer and they are completely pest free so the coldframe idea has worked quite well.French Beans

I just have to discover who this mysterious garden thief is before any more of my plants go AWOL!

Happy Gardening, Nicole :-D

Garden Therapy

The gravel patch nowMy garden is my very own kind of therapy, my little refuge and my link to the outside world. I haven’t mentioned this before but I suffer from an anxiety disorder which really makes me struggle to get outside. Before I was bitten by the gardening bug I was quite literally housebound which no amount of encouragement from family or friends could change. The anxiety knowing no bounds prevented me from even taking a little walk to the shop at the top of our road or venturing to sit on my doorstep.

Now a few years later after being infected by this gardening bug I find myself often winning this battle of wills with my anxiety. It’s still a struggle at times but my garden has the uncanny ability of getting me outside and enjoying every moment.
The day the fuchia went in and the gardening bug bit
I still remember the day the bug hit; I was watching my hubby from the safety of the window laying heavy duty weed membrane down on our front part of the garden and laying stones on top of it. After slugging away at it for hours my husband came in for refreshments and we both stood looking out the window to the finished product below. We both agreed that the stones looked very bare and needed something to add character; my husband suggested a plant then he went up the town to buy one. He came back with a fuchsia and planted it on the top part of our new patch of gravel. Needless to say I thought it looked rather lonely so soon started scouring the net to buy more plants to keep it company.

On the day all the new plants arrived my husband was gobsmacked and set to work making holes in the membrane to put them in. I hovered at our door giving the occasional bit of advice until he got thoroughly fed up and told me to do it myself. Concerned about the welfare of our new green leaved investments I left the safety of the house ignoring as best I could the anxiety of going out and planted them up myself. Well I think you can guess what happened next; I enjoyed it so much that the rest is history.
Nicole in the garden
Nowadays I’m actually eager to get out into the garden, anxiety and all. My therapists are so impressed by the change that they have made a point of making my task so far to get out into the garden as often as I can. I cannot emphasise enough how big a difference gardening has made to my life; my children and my husband have reaped the rewards. I happily wander about taking photos of the plants we have and any wildlife I happen come across. I even benefit from the exercise that digging, weeding, planting etc. brings. My children and I embark on little gardening projects together and I’m sure they enjoy having their mum outside with them instead of watching from a window. My garden has helped me more than anything else I’ve tried and I’m looking forward to embarking on a new type of therapy when I’m brave enough: an allotment. But, until then, my garden will do.

Take care,
Nicole

Window Gardening

Mini meadow for creepy crawlies‘Tis a strange thing, this gardening bug: I find myself constantly thinking about the garden and what needs done in it, what plants I could add to the collection, as well as spending hours pottering about when the weather gives me the chance to get outside. I’ve also found that I frequently stand at my window looking out to the garden contemplating which project to undertake next.

It was during one of these ‘window gardening’ sessions that I saw a little drama unfolding by the mini pond. As mentioned in previous blog posts, our mini pond is frequently used by the birds in our garden and yesterday must’ve been bathing day because they all wanted a go at the same time! The larger female blackbirds chased the little ones away every time they landed to have a drink/wash until eventually the blackbirds just gave up and carried on bathing regardless of the little onlookers.
Birds at mini pond
It was a complete delight to watch the blue tits flutter to and fro the archway with honeysuckle on it, to the escallonia then sneaking their way to the pond. I’m sure I spotted a little wren amongst them but unfortunately the zoom on my camera didn’t capture it in time. It seemed to be enjoying itself, getting lost amongst the tall plants in our mini meadow which is bursting into bloom. The house sparrows kept their distance from the drama sitting happily on the fence observing what was going on.

I was so engrossed watching all this happen that my husband ended up looking for me and finding me gazing out of the bedroom window onto the garden. He just walked away shaking his head. I reckon he needs to be bitten by the gardening bug too, but then again he does do the hard graft so maybe he has it a little. I was pleased to see that the seeds recently sown in the willow planters for veg have germinated so I’ll be thinning them out soon. I noticed one of the female blackbirds eyeing up my runner beans then making herself comfortable on our bench looking up to the window feigning complete innocence so if any of the runner beans vanish before I get the chance to pick any I’ve got a pretty good idea who the culprit could be.
Bird on bench in garden
Do you have any ‘window gardening’ sessions where you witness little dramas unfolding in the garden? I can guarantee that I’ll be having more and will be investing in a better camera to share what I find with you all.

Happy gardening!

Nicole :-)

Cutting Sweetpeas in a Thunderstorm

Fog starting to lift on distant hills
I was woken up earlier than usual the other morning by the rumbling of thunder and crack of lightning. Daring a peek outside, I was greeted by the sight of a torrential downpour. The sky was darkened by thick grey clouds and an eerie fog had settled over the distant hills creating a rather gloomy atmosphere. I reckoned that it was far too early to get up, being 6.30 AM. Plus, the weather wasn’t exactly good for gardening, let alone pegging out the washing, so I headed back to bed.

After finally dropping back off to sleep with the sound of the rain lulling me into a deep slumber, I was rudely awoken by something bashing off my blind. Reaching for my specs, still half-asleep, I got up to investigate. Upon moving the blind out a little to look I found myself face to face with a little blue tit. I don’t know which one of us was more shocked – my squeak of fright was drowned out by a loud chirping.

I closed the curtain over sure I was dreaming and had another peek; nope! There was definitely a wee bird inside my bedroom sitting on my window ledge! Leaning over slowly so I didn’t scare it I lifted the latch and let it outside watching as it flew away to the shelter of the trees. I think it may have come in during the bad bit of the thunderstorm and the poor thing couldn’t get back out. I’m relieved that it didn’t injure itself and I didn’t dare try to take a picture because I think it would’ve scared it more than it already was.
Thunder clouds forming over my garden
Who needs an alarm clock when the wildlife pops in for an early morning visit? I was now thoroughly awake so I decided to venture outside regardless of the weather. My back garden was waterlogged so I didn’t bother trekking up it to check on my roses and butterfly bush which from the window look like they’re blooming; I’ll check those when the risk of my shoes getting stuck in mud is gone. The word ‘quagmire’ may be more appropriate to describe the waterlogged mess that is my garden at the moment.
Sweetpea experiment - a complete flop
I was happy to notice that the sweetpeas are blooming and were ready to cut although my experiment of growing a dwarf variety in a two-tier planter is a complete flop. Next year my sweetpeas will be grown in the traditional way, climbing up a support instead of hanging down! Despite another rumble of thunder and black clouds rolling in I nipped inside for my pruners and cut some to put in a vase. If I can’t get out to garden then what the heck, I might as well bring some of the garden indoors to brighten up my living room on yet another wet and washed out day.

My cut bunch of sweetpeas

I noticed that the carrots are almost ready to harvest so I’m hoping that they have remained pest free in the coldframe but we shall see. There’s not a lot that I can do in this weather so I think it’s a great opportunity to start planning things for next year, time to get the plant catalogues out!

Happy gardening!
Nicole