Birds and Roses

This is a video of my woodpecker eating me out of peanuts at a rate of knots. Clearly it’s not “my” woodpecker – I’m sure it will visit other gardens and  there must be more than one of them – otherwise based on the fact that I am filling up my squirrel proof peanut feeder daily rather than weekly, it wouldn’t be able to get airborne!  The RSPB site leads me to believe it is the greater spotted variety of woodpecker as the lesser spotted woodpeckers are smaller than this one. I know they are very shy birds (although not put off by the squirrel) – this is one reason the video isn’t very good. I was trying to maintain a steady hand while moving  across my terrace like a sumo wrestler crouched behind the mahonia. Mind you a sumo wrestler wouldn’t want to be anywhere near mahonia – too prickly!

Another bird siting this week you might like to see – not in my garden but in the grounds of a nearby country house hotel. A duck has been nesting in one of the flower beds for the last month. She was only spotted once early on when she hissed at a passer by. That is until Last Thursday, when she set off with her little brood to find the nearest water – it would have been quite a journey!
Am I living up to my name and rambling too much? Talking of which, how are your roses doing this year? On Friday night Monty Don said it has been a difficult year for roses. Some of mine are looking the best they ever have.

However one is not fairing so well. It started life as a cutting from one that climbed all over my my parents’ front porch. The buds are being attacked by something – I think greenfly or whitefly – I squashed a few I found crawling on them. The buds go a bit hard and misshapen …
and open out a grubby colour.
I have another cutting in a different part of the garden – this is how the flowers are supposed to look. The bee is a bonus!

Help – I think I’ve got thrips!

I decided to try to be thrifty earlier this year and grow some cosmos from seed instead of buying from the nursery. At first they looked to be doing quite well, if a bit stunted. Then I checked them one morning to find one was just a cut off stalk – I blamed snails and sprayed with my eco friendly snail deterrent.

Then as the flower buds started to open I noticed the petals were either missing or very ragged round the edges. There was no sign of snails. Having donned my specs I caught sight of minute flying insects scurrying about on the soil. This meant war! I Googled and decided these were thrips. I rarely use insecticide but having read about these beasties I decided there was no alternative if I wanted to save my plants.

Insecticide instructions are very suspect –  “spray between 7-9 am and 6-8pm when bees are less active”. Bees do not conform to these time-frames. I took my seedlings into the garage to spray them and left them there for 24 hours before allowing them anywhere near the bees. They look a bit better and some almost complete flowers are in evidence. The still don’t look anywhere near as robust as the ones I bought from the nursery last year though …

Gardening and me

For me my garden isn’t just about having something beautiful to look at – it’s a friend. When I need to, it helps me switch off from life’s trials and tribulations.

When I lost my beloved dog Pebbles in March 2014 I spent hours out there finding jobs that needed doing and some that really didn’t. Although it hurt to be in the garden without her and I wept so many tears that I didn’t need a watering can, it seemed somehow better than being inside the house without her. 

In 2016 my sister and I had to take matters into our own hands and find a nursing home for our much loved mum. Her Parkinson’s and associated dementia had reached the stage that made it impossible for my 83 year old dad to cope with the demands of caring for her. The first home she went into was the only one we could find with an immediate vacancy. It soon became clear that the staff were not geared up to caring for her needs and we found her in some distressingly undignified situations on a number of occasions. When I returned home from visiting her I would go straight out into my garden and work on it. It helped me take my mind of my grief because it did feel to me as though we were letting her down. After 3 months we got her into a nursing home dedicated to the care of patients with severe dementia. The staff are wonderful carers but it doesn’t take away the feeling that I have already lost my mum. She loved gardening. When I sold my parents house I transplanted some of her plants into my own garden, including some forget-me-nots. They reliably reseed each year and remind me of the warm, capable mum and granny she once was – never to be forgotten.

In May 2015 we took ownership of our new puppy Lily. I spent a lot of time in the garden with her but not much gardening got done that first summer! Close supervision was required. She thought it great sport to chase fledglings who hadn’t quite mastered the art of getting airborne on the first attempt – thankfully she never caught one. She tried to eat every plant and I spent hours scouring the internet to identify whether what she had munched was poisonous to dogs – most seemed to be. Miraculously she didn’t come to any harm. She also found wasps and bees fascinating, despite my attempts to teach her to leave them alone. How she has never been stung remains a mystery – she would pounce on them and bat them with her front feet until the tiny body no longer moved. Fortunately she has grown out of eating my garden, other than the odd blade of grass when she wants to make herself sick. I have not been so successful in deterring her from chasing insects but I do my very best to protect the bees and butterflies. Other than the risk of a sting, I don’t feel so inclined where the wasps are concerned, even though I know they are good for the garden too!

My next door neighbour Victoria also likes gardening. We chat endlessly about our plants and how they’re doing. We share cuttings and seedlings but frequently can’t remember their names and text each other later after a Google. A couple of years ago Victoria and her husband Albert (affectionately known as the Royal family) replaced the rickety old fence between our gardens. The new version ended up being so high that we could no longer see each other over the top. We still spoke to each other through it but it wasn’t the same, not being able to see a face. Last summer  Victoria’s  son made us a fence hatch with a little hinged door. It makes us howl with laughter every time we use it. It’s known as the natter-hatch.

I don’t profess to be an expert gardener – far from it. I have made many mistakes over the years but I just try things and often they do work, to my great surprise. Mine is not a manicured well planned garden, it’s simply a mishmash of the plants I love. When I am indoors I like nothing better than to settle down in front of the TV with a glass of wine and Monty or Alan.