Friday, 30 September 2011

Tales of the Riverbank

When I pop into the local market town on a Thursday to do a bit of shopping I always stop on a particular bridge over the River Welland to check the wildlife.  I am always amazed at just how much you can spot right in the middle of town. 

Yesterday was no exception I spotted a Water Vole, swimming for all he was worth to reach the bank.  As you probably know wild life preservationists are doing all they can to bring Water Voles back from the brink, so I felt really honoured that I had spotted one - unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with my camera, so I have borrowed this photo from google images
Standing at the very same spot a few weeks ago I got really excited to see a Grass Snake swimming upstream
I wasn't sure what type of snake it was at first, but noticed that it had an orangey-yellow band across its neck.  I was on my own and desperately wanted to share my discovery with somebody, but no one stopped when I said out loud "Oo look at that" so I felt a bit stupid.

The river must be really clean for such creatures to take to the water, in fact by another of the bridges there is a bed of watercress, a plant which definitely likes clean running water.  Except for the odd supermarket trolley that finds its way in there, there are plenty of Mallard, who congregate on the grass outside Sainsbury's and plenty of small Brown Trout that collect in shoals in the same spot as I saw the other creatures.

The level of the river is pretty low at the moment, but in winter I have seen it as a raging torrent carrying all sorts of debris in its wake.  The council have been giving all the Willows a haircut recently so they look a bit strange and bald, but come next spring they will push out plenty of new growth and grace the riverbank once more.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Lazy Hazy Days

As I rode up to the allotment this morning
there was a hazy mist
above the fields
silhouetting the horses grazing
The Cosmos planted around the edge of the plot
their petals dappled with shade
accentuating the purity of
the white Cosmos
a mixture of flowers that have
grown together of their own accord
the Sunflower heads getting
smaller and smaller
still with plenty of flowers to come
the mint is in flower
attracting hoverflies and bees
and a beautiful pale lilac Zinnia
completes the  picture

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Early Morning Mushroom Ramble

The best morning of the year so far I reckon, bright warm sunshine and heavy dew, just a hazy mist - so I decided to go for an early morning ramble to look for Field Mushrooms.  By 7.30 I was up and running, well not quite running, but you know what I mean.  I didn't have to look too far - the horsey field next door to ours was full of them, glinting white in the early morning sun.  I came back home with a good haul, and excited by this I went into the field behind our house to check that out as well.  Only  a few Horse Mushrooms I'm afraid - and they were fairly old. 

Once I start mushrooming I tend to get a little greedy for more, as (I may have mentioned before) they really are my favourite free food.  So if the weather holds, I shall be out again tomorrow - before anyone else cottons on.
Mushrooms on toast here we come!
Pop over to my other blog
to see more about the fungi I found whilst on holiday.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Season of Mists ...

Today was the first of misty autumnal mornings, the leaves are beginning to fall, and cobwebs are woven inbetween the plants like little parachutes.

We had a wonderful day weather-wise yesterday and I was able to make headway into all the jobs that had been piling up.  I planted out five containers with bulbs and pansies, with more to come, then I began clearing debris and cutting back plants that were past their best and transplanting foxglove seedlings that have popped up in all the wrong places.  They have all now been grouped together with some new hollyhock plants to give a good display next year. 

Hopefully, once the mist has burned off, I should be able to carry on weeding and mulching and putting everything to rights.  Putting the garden to bed for winter is one of my favourite gardening pursuits, once all the bulbs and wallflowers are planted I can sit back and think 'good job done' nothing left to do till next year.
Then I can clean all my tools, store them away oiled and protected, but not for a while yet - there is still work to be done.
Photo source:  Pinterest

Monday, 26 September 2011

Autumn Round Up

It rained heavily overnight, a rain which was very welcome, now the sun shines and the garden glows in the morning light.  The flowers are making a last push before winter sets in -
The white of the double Feverfew in its second flush brings a bright spot of relief to the otherwise dying foliage all around it -

The Erysium, bowed down with the weight of water droplets, has performed brilliantly all summer and looks set to carry on for a few weeks yet.  I have already taken a few cuttings which have taken root, but I will take a few more whilst the weather is still warm.

The Nasturtiums are just hanging on although they are looking a bit moth eaten now, I have been collecting seed to ensure an equally good display next year.

The Pelargoniums are past their best now and will be replaced with bulbs, but not before I have taken plenty of cuttings for next years' display - sometimes the cuttings don't make it through the winter in my cold greenhouse, but I will give it a go anyway.

And finally, my little apple tree has bravely hung on to its fruit, it needs re-staking as the winds have taken their toll, but as it is quite a young tree, it is still quite pliable and will straighten without any trouble, I hope.
I bought a new Crocosmia whilst I was away, there was no label on it, but I just loved the darker markings on the flowerheads, I also bought some Asters -

Again, no label, but a very pretty pink, don't you think?

Also a more compact Aster which won't need staking.  There are plenty of unopened buds on this one, so plenty to look forward to.  This is practically the sum total of colour in my garden at the moment except for Dahlias which haven't had the best year.

Bulb planting is next on the agenda, mainly in containers, but last years bulbs will be put into the garden proper, then if they don't amount to much it won't really matter.  I like to give them a second chance, then if they don't perform - out they go.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Pensthorpe Prairie Gardens

Last week, whilst on holiday in North Norfolk, we visited Pensthorpe Nature Reserve - a beautiful place with lakes full of ducks, woodland walks and gardens that bloom at different times.

The Millenium Garden, designed by Piet Outdolf, is a glorious example of prairie gardening.  At this time of year most of the flowers have gone to seed, but there are still great swathes of different grasses, swishing in the breeze.  The garden is built on a slope and gives various views through the plants till you reach the bottom, then you are eye to eye with the low-growers.
This is a view of Geraniums that you wouldn't normally get unless you lay on your stomach.
We have been to Pensthorpe at different times of the year, in March the plants were being split by the gardeners and it was very bare.

In June it starts to come into its own , but by the middle of summer it is in full swing and takes your breath away.

These are the tall grasses - I don't know the variety - that sway and whisper .

Double Japanese Anemones
There was still plenty of autumn colour in the form of Anemones and Asters - planted the way plants should be in large drifts.
If you are a nature lover, plant lover or any other sort of lover then Pensthorpe is well worth a visit - if only to see the sculpture in the Bug Garden.
There is a breeding programme for red squirrels who scamper around in wire tunnels in the tree tops

And beautiful Stilts and Cranes in enclosures with pools and reeds and  running water in an environment as close to their natural surroundings as possible - this particular enclosure would be my ideal garden.

Even though there are lots of visitors - the place is so vast that you hardly encounter anyone else whilst walking round.  You can understand why the 'Springwatch' programmes took place here - there is so much to see, we have visited when the television crews were there, and everywhere you went there were cables and the car park reserved for the BBC was full of outdoor units - and it makes you realise that a helluva lot of people are needed to produce a programme like this.

If you get the chance - it is well worth a visit at any time of year.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Golden Season

I though I would start with this image, it isn't my garden, I hasten to add, just to prove to myself that an autumn garden can look good.  This morning the weather is a bit grey and it's starting to rain - why can't the weather stay the same for two days running?
The Rudbeckias in the cutting patch are starting to look a bit sorry for themselves, they are getting a bit droopy and ragged now, but they have been a really good bright spot of colour for weeks, so I musn't mind too much.  The rusts and yellows always seem more appropriate at this time of year, than the pinks and blues, I really must try to inject the garden with more next year.

The Sunflowers are still flowering well, despite the fact that the are all leaning at dangerous angles, and they are still pushing out plenty of buds.

Even though we have hardly had any rain, and I haven't watered them since they were seedlings, they have survived the harsh treatment and neglect.

These self-seeded Antirhinums have also done well, why is it that self-seeders seem stronger plants than those that we plant out.  Is it because they decide where they want to grow, and choose the best spot?

Finally, a picture of the Phaecalia, green manure, that I sowed in the empty potato patch - I love this plant for its fuzzy flower heads - and it's great to know that it is doing a good job as well as looking pretty.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rabbits in the Mist

Image source Pinterest - I think this is a hare not a rabbit, but I liked this picture
Some years there are plenty of rabbits about, coming into the veg garden and causing havoc, digging crops up, nibbling the rest and generally being anywhere they shouldn't be.  At my allotment garden they build their warrens under my old goat shed.  The paving slabs in front of the shed have sunk due to their burrowing.  What you might call a bloomin' nuisance.

Other years we hardly see any - myxomatosis - killing them off (a rabbit with this disease is a terrible thing to see).

This year is a good year for rabbits and a bad year for humans.  On my way to town this morning, every few hundred yards, there was a squashed rabbit on the road.  I don't know whether drivers aim for them or not - but the rabbits timing crossing the roads, leaves a lot to be desired.  Of course this outcome is good for the crows and magpies, who stand in the road enjoying the carrion, flying off with the rabbits entrails to eat in comfort somewhere a bit safer.

On a more pleasant note - as I was walking through the market place, I heard the sound of some rather excellent music.  Following the sound, I came across three buskers playing a splendid jazzed-up version of 'Sweet Georgia Brown'.  A violin, double bass and guitar - making the market sound like a French side street or something.  I don't know about you, but when I hear street-music it brings a lump to my throat and makes me very tearful.  I get even worse at Christmas when groups stand round singing carols.

google image
Of course, I dropped some money into the violin case - as they had made my morning that little bit more special.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Laid Back or Lazy Gardening?

At this time of the year the garden wants a right-good seeing-to, as they say in Yorkshire.  Most plants are past it now, and are on their last-flowering legs.   They have flopped over - sprawled out and died back.  The weather has been prohibitive these last few days and not much has been done that desperately needs doing.  No excuses I know - but when it gets to autumn, I feel all gardened-out.  Should I just leave it to Mother Nature to sort it out, she's been doing it without our help all along, after all?  If we left our lawns alone, would they automatically become a meadow?

 Shall we let the seedlings seed  where they will, the result will probably be far more natural than with our manipulations.  What about no pruning - bushes and shrubs left to run riot to be covered in flowers next year ... I'm all for that.  Should we pull out the plants that are struggling, they will never come good however much tlc you give them, and replace them with wild flowers that will flourish.    Are you getting my drift?

I'm all for a natural-looking garden, that looks as if it's meant to be there, that is what I try to achieve, but which is quite difficult to do. I should think most gardens have plants that originated from  all four corners of the world, how different they would look if we just used native plants, but these are what we call weeds - so that will never do, would it?

 But then we wouldn't be gardeners would we - we would just be caretakers, standing on the sidelines watching, whilst Nature takes her course.  Maybe a little tweeking here and there would be enough to keep the garden looking good.  Of course, come next spring, when I have my gardening head on again all this laid-back attitude will be gone out of the window and I will take charge and force my will on the garden.  Oh well - it was just a thought!

see the latest post at my new blog

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

An Autumn Walk

As we are in the midst of a 'mini' hurricane at the moment
gardening is almost impossible
so I ventured out into the autumn sunshine and decided to walk the
length of the Saddington Tunnel.
This  tunnel has the distinction of being the longest narrow boat tunnel
in Europe at 808metres long.
The tunnel was opened for boat traffic if 1797 and the original
towpath carries on over the top of the tunnel.
In the days of the horse-drawn boat the horse would be led
over the top whilst the men lay on their backs on top
of the boat and pushed it through the tunnel with their feet
on the ceiling.
I saw lots of signs of autumn
Fungi in the leaf litter
Elder leaves turning into beautiful shades
Mysterious symbols set in stone
The canal strewn with leaves
Make-shift bridges on the tow path
Secret pathways
Old Bridges
And finally journeys end.
The view from the top of the tunnel.
The  Saddington Tunnel was a great feat of engineering
and has provided modern-day narrow boaters
with an exciting part of their journey on the Grand Union Canal.

(see the latest post on my  blog
'The Wild Woman of Exmoor'