How to go Veggie? Click this link

Want to go veggie banner

Monday, July 27, 2009

Billy and Martin's Garden ~ Part Four

I'm still working hard in Billy and Martin's garden. Hubby's been helping out too, so we're making good headway. He's putting a fence up at the bottom of the garden as it's never been fenced in, and I'm still clearing away the overgrown greenery and disposing of the debris that's been uncovered...... an array of odd pans and lids, a bakelite light switch, an assortment of cutlery and even some old toothbrushes! I put everything in a pile near the door and old Billy said he'd have a look through it to see what they want to keep! :O)

Amazingly, they know the whereabouts of every plant and object in the garden, despite the plants, etc. having been shrouded in weeds for decades. Martin pointed to a spot in the garden and said there's a statue there. All I could see was dock weeds but sure enough, I found the grecian maiden exactly where Martin said she would be. That's her in the photo, along with the original chimney pot that was built on to the house in 1886. I also uncovered a beautiful porcelain Belfast sink.

And there are still gems of plants thriving...... roses, peony roses, mahonia shrubs, blackcurrant bushes and an apple tree that was totally covered in bindweed! It's amazing that they've still continued to grow. Maybe now that more light and air surrounds them, they will flourish and reach their full potential. Martin told me that the apple tree hadn't fruited since their mother died in the 1960s and assigned it to some supernatural reasoning. I think it's more likely that the tree being draped in bindweed prevented any bees from being able to pollinate it! However, I didn't want to shatter Martin's philosophy and, who knows, it could be a combination of both for all I know.

A lot of the clearing has been done now, a fence is being put up and the hedges on either side of the garden have had a trim. It wont be long before some planting will get done. It's satisfying to see good results after our hard work.

The grecian lady and 1886 chimney pot

This photo is from our own garden. I've been waiting for weeks for this artichoke to flower. It's maybe not the prettiest of blooms, but I love the purple florets which seem to be luminous. There are also some flower heads that are at the right stage for cooking...... but I feel queasy about chopping them off! I can't bring myself to do it!

This exotic looking flower is an Asiatic Lily. Despite its sultry appearance, it is such an easy plant to grow. It grows from a bulb and as long as it is placed in a sunny spot in well-drained soil, it will reward you with its sumpuous beauty.

And here it is in full splendour

The Lily by Mary Oliver
Night after night
enters the face
of the lily
which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse
of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there
in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language
some small words
we can’t hear
even when there is no wind
its lips
are so secret,
its tongue
is so hidden –
or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience
of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon
becomes the golden sun –
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn’t it,
the perfect prayer?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frogs and........ haiku.

My seed trays come in very handy for making a comfortable resting place. When he left, there was a small frog-shaped indentation in the soil. :)

Speaking of frogs..... here's a beautiful haiku by Japanese haiku master, Basho:

old pond........
a frog leaps in
water's sound
(Basho ~ a long time ago)

Only a few words but it creates a scene vividly. So I wrote my own haiku about a frog......

a sudden movement
hops across my patio

a lovely fat frog

(Lesley ~ March 2005)

The syallabic count for haiku is fairly structured and I know mine doesn't quite fit perfectly but it's so enjoyable thinking up these 'picture poems' without worrying about strict form.

Here's one I wrote about one of my favourite creatures, the snail......

moving forward
by faith, one step at a time
quite fast for a snail
(Lesley ~ March 2005)

Near where I live there's a big old house surrounded by rusty iron railings. It's particularly pretty in early Spring when the grounds are covered in drifts of aconites.......

drifts of ochre
Spring's firstborn jewel

the Aconite

(Lesley ~ March 2005)

That year I was clearing a neglected garden for somone when I encountered a tiny flower thriving amongst the overgrown grass.......

amidst the debris
old rusty cans and brambles
one golden crocus

(Lesley ~ March 2005)

We had heavy falls of snow that March, hence this tanka about the little crocus........

it's lost now
in games of hide and seek
under the snow

syllables gone awry

brain numbed with the cold
turn a blind eye

(Lesley ~ March 2005)

(Haiku: Japanese short poetry of 17 syllables with the syllabic pattern of 5-7-5
Tanka: Japanese verse form of 31 syllables ~ five lines with a syllabic pattern 5-7-5-7-7)

I haven't kept any of my writing either before or after these, so I must have thought they were quite acceptable..... despite the undisciplined structure. :)

One of my favourite drawings by our daughter

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Garden Work ~ As Viewed From Heaven

I came across this on the internet a few years ago and wanted to share it.

Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the world is going on down there in the U.K. What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colour by now. All I see are patches of green.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass

God: Grass? But it is so boring. It's not colourful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and worms. It's temperamental with tempertures. Do these Suburbanites relly want grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparantly not Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it.. sometimes two times a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight.... they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the Summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis:
You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the Spring to provide beauty and shade in the Summer. In the Autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the Winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis:
After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid movie about......

God: Never mind - I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis!

(Author unknown)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goings on in the garden.

I'm not in the habit of indulging in voyeurism, but when it comes to snails I can't help myself! The photograph shows a pair, on one of our garden steps, in the act of reproduction. Foreplay in the snail world is a lengthy process. It can take up to twenty hours or more! I once began watching a couple of Giant African Land Snails engaging in the lovemaking process late at night. When I got up the next morning, they were still at it! However you feel about snails, it's a gentle and tender act to behold as they kiss each other delicately all over each other's 'necks'..... er well, I've included a link that will go into the matter in more detail.

And here is the outcome (see photograph below). On repotting my fuchsias, here is where one snail managed to lay its bundle of eggs. Each egg takes the snail 15 to 30 minutes to lay. Seeing as it lays up to about 60 eggs, the process can take from 20 to 30 hours!

Whenever I come across a freshly lain bundle of snails eggs I marvel at how like freshwater pearls they are, shiny and opaque and beautiful. Even though they are not sticky, they seem to hold together in one wobbly mass. I wonder what it is that makes them stick together when they're not sticky?! And please don't worry about the pair of snails reproducing on our garden step; I very carefully removed them intact to a place of safety where they wouldn't get squished by our three large dogs!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Billy and Martin's Garden ~ Part Two.

As I've been clearing the growth I've come across dozens of these moths with their beautiful opaque feathery white wings. It's the White Plume Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla). Their habitat is dry grassland and wasteground so Billy and Martin's garden was just perfect for them. I'll set aside a part of the garden as a mini-meadow and the White Plume Moth wont have to move home. They lay their eggs exclusively on Bindweed and the caterpillars feed on that also. I'm sure there will still be some Bindweed left behind for them. :)

Chopping down the tall grasses, nettles and docks I came across this young oak tree! It was a real surprise as it had been completely hidden.

A small pink rose bush peeping through the Brambles. I managed to cut round it leaving the rose intact.

And here's the work done to date. About a third of the garden is partially cleared. When all the unwanted growth has been cleared, I'll prune the shrubs at each side and then hubby will go over it with a petrol lawnmower a few times to, hopefully, leave a smooth finish. That's the plan anyway! It looks like straw and hay just now but as the light and rain fall on it, it should start to turn a lovely mid-green. The clump that I've left is where I disturbed a bees nest. I'll work round it and the bees should settle down again until they're ready to leave in the Autumn. I'm also leaving the Brambles down one side of the garden (but I'll prune them into shape) as they provide lots of food for bees..... and for Sooty, the cat, to play under. Besides, I've promised Billy and Martin to make some Bramble pies! Oh lawdy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Sparrowhawk visits our garden......

I was all set for a happy and productive day but a visiting Sparrowhawk has put paid to that. Working on my computer earlier it crashed, so while it was rebooting I wandered over to the window to look out on the garden. There was a Sparrowhawk furiously plucking the feathers from a small bird. I couldn't make out if it was a Sparrow or a Blue Tit or maybe some other small bird.

Frozen to the spot I was mesmerised by the Sparrowhawk's splendour but horrified at watching what, to me, was a scene of horror. After less than a minute, the large bird must have spotted me watching it and it flew off with its tiny prey.

Sadness overwhelmed me because I felt as if I'd let down the unfortunate small bird. I felt like I hadn't offered it enough protection. What could I have done to prevent its death? Maybe I should have sited all the bird feeders nearer the house..... or if I'd hung the washing out this morning instead of leaving it in the washer, the Sparrowhawk might not have spotted his prey!

I suppose hunting and death goes on all the time in the garden whether it's a blackbird with an earthworm or a blue-tit feeding on aphids. It's just that it doesn't seem so obvious as the Sparrowhawk in the middle of the lawn with a small bloodied feathered bundle.

Meanwhile I need to try not to dwell on what I think of as a sad event and instead imagine that the Sparrowhawk was flying off to feed a family similar to the one in the photograph (courtesy of RSPB).

How do you feel about this? Can you tell me anything to make me feel better?

Align Center

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Billy and Martin's Garden ~ Part One.

This is a photograph of my friends' garden. My friends are two elderly gentlemen (brothers) who live in the same street as us. In fact it's a similar view to the one we have. The pointed roof is the Methodist Chapel that we can see from our garden too.

They're unable to manage their garden now because of physical ailments that include arthritis, amongst other things. Previously, they kept the garden productive and beautiful, and I'd like to restore it for them. In the photograph, it may look like a wilderness but in amongst the weeds there are some pretty dog roses and various shrubs..... and who knows what other botanical surprises I might find!

There are two outcomes I am aiming for as I work on this garden. The first is that I want to make it an attractive place that my friends will enjoy relaxing in. The second is that Sooty, their cat, will need hidey-holes and mini jungles because as it is now, it is an absolute paradise for a hunting feline. I don't want to spoil it for her!

This garden will take me a while to put in order because I like to work manually. I dislike barging in with strimmers and rotovators. Although rotovators dislodge many weeds, many more are simply torn away, leaving the roots behind in the soil. To me, the only way to rid weeds from the garden is by constantly digging out the roots. And weedkiller is a definite no for me. I like to work thoroughly but kindly.

There was a heck of a lot of hard work put into our own garden but we were able to do it at our leisure. For Billy and Martin's garden, I'm setting myself a target of about six weeks so that by mid-August they will be able to enjoy their garden as the Summer tapers out into Autumn.

Billy and Martin are over the moon that their garden is being tackled. I have to admit that the pleasure is not one-sided. I still do some work in our own garden, but to be given the chance to create a new one from scratch is fantastic. My adrenaline is really kicking in and I probably wont sleep tonight thinking of all the ideas I can put into practice!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is there a Botanist in the house?

I've always had an abundance of blue flax (Linum usatissimum) growing in the garden because the seed is one of the ingredients in some packets of wild bird seed. It's such a pretty plant. Then I discovered that there is a white variety and, being fond of white flowers, I sent away to Chiltern Seeds for a packet. They're very pretty too but what struck me as unusual is that the pollen on the ends of the stamens is blue! I've never come across a flower with blue pollen before. I thought it was always yellow.

The top photo is one I took of a white flax flower showing the blue covered stamens. This photo is the last in a long line of attempts to get a proper close-up! When I was photographing outside, the flower is so delicate that it fluttered in the slightest breeze so I had to pick one to take inside. Even then, the closer I got the zoom lens kept prodding the flower! Eventually, this photo didn't turn out too badly and you can just see the blue on the stamens.

The gorgeous photo beneath it (courtesy of Bienenwabe at shows the common blue flax and it too has blue pollen! All the years this little flower has been growing in my various gardens and I've never noticed this feature!

This is Bacopa Snowtopia, a fantastic trailing plant we have growing in baskets and containers. I took this just to illustrate my previous misconception of all flowers producing yellow pollen. This was what I took for granted all white flowers looked like until I encountered the flax flower.

I wonder why the flax should have blue pollen. My thoughts turned to the bees I've seen with yellow dusted bodies as they visit flowers for nectar and I realised that I've never seen a blue- coated bee, which led me to thinking that bees musn't visit the flax flowers......... which in turn led me to think that other insects must pollinate them and, if so, which ones? And is that the reason for the blue pollen? Because it's designed to attract a particular insect? Where's Columbo when you need him?!

I will now be watching the flax flowers constantly for visiting insects (unless it's our garden fairies going round with a paint brush during the night), as well as doing lots of googling and possibly emailing eminent professors at universities throughout the U.K.! Unless you already know, in which case I would love to hear from you.

Just when you thought I'd finished, there's a second mystery I've been pondering on. I took quite a lot of photographs of the flax plants in the garden. Look at the flower in the centre of the photo below. Those aren't spots on the petals but tiny holes, perfectly formed with no ragged edges, and one on the tip of each petal! I just noticed it this morning so I haven't had time to look for others with similar perforations, but will do so.

Unless those fairies have been up to their tricks again, there must be a logical explanation. This time I can't even hazard a guess. I'd love to know if anyone can come up with any possible answers, no matter how bizarre the speculation!