How to go Veggie? Click this link

Want to go veggie banner

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tribute to Charlie

Charlie (left) and Meg, who I used to dogsit

After I had a break from blogging, I didn't want one of my first posts on my return to be a sad one.  Now I feel the time is right to post about our Charlie.   On Tuesday, 24th May he passed on.  That day began as a normal day in our household.  There were no signs to let us know that things were about to change.  The dogs carried on with their usual routine, Charlie included.  Tea-time came, hubby filled the dogs' dinner bowls.  Bob stayed on his bed in the corner like the old gentleman that he is, Benji's nose sniffed the air and his tail wagged with pleasure while Charlie dashed around excitedly like the clown that he was.  Hubby had no sooner put the bowls down when Charlie let out a howl and flipped over on to the floor.  We rushed to him.  He lay very still.  I immediately telephoned the vet, while hubby comforted Charlie..... but there was no time to do anything else for him.  Within minutes he had gone.  Speaking to the vet later, she told us it sounded like he had a seizure.  In some ways, we're glad that he didn't have a long illness and didn't appear to have suffered at all...... he was his usual self right to the end.  In another way, it was difficult for us to accept the suddenness of his going.  We weren't prepared at all and kept saying we couldn't understand or believe that it had happened.  We've accepted it now though.  Charlie was nearly 16 years old; he had a long and happy life and it comforts me that I can still still feel the essence of him all around our home. 

I found this lovely story at Simply Me's blog.  Permission granted, I'm re-posting it as a tribute to our Charlie.

Dog's Purpose from a 6 year old  

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''
The Six-year-old continued,''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''
Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently. 

I daresay we all have our own doggy lessons we could add to this list. :)

Thank you Charlie for your companionship and all the funny things you did that made us laugh.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More wildlife in the greenhouse.....

Once Jack had vacated the greenhouse, I got down to some serious potting on.  I picked up this pot, which had been lying on its side, to find a beautiful baby toad inside..... all grubby brown from probably burying himself in the dirt and with gorgeous bronze-tinted rings round his eyes.  It made my day to see him because there were lots of frogs and toads in our previous garden, and we hadn't seen any at this one..... until this little fella turned up. 

Yeah I know you're not daft..... but....

To give you an idea of what size he is, the circumference of the pot (at the lowest point) is 6 inches (15 cm) and the diameter is just 2 inches (5 cm).  I would compare him to the size of a peach stone!  I put the pot carefully back, so he could settle down again.  I'm not surprised he likes it in our greenhouse, as I'm always finding snails and slugs on the pots..... and it's not watertight either so there's always an air of dampness.  It's a wonder I get any plants to grow in there at all. 

The almost-empty bag of compost the pot is sitting on, is one I brought in from the patio.  As you can see, it's sodden wet after being left out in the rain for days.  There's also the remains of straw that had been in the pot that Jack used to shelter in overnight.   I never have been a tidy gardener, just the way the wildlife and I like it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jack's gone 'home'.

 I feel like I should be setting off fireworks to celebrate what I thought would be a momentous occasion, but it all went off very smoothly and with little fuss.  Last night, during the early evening, I told hubby that I thought Jack would progress much quicker without the confines of the greenhouse.  Most of his time was spent getting excited when he saw the other birds, and trying to figure out a way to get to them.  As Jack was fluttering about and knocking himself against the sides of the greenhouse, hubby agreed with me.  For a couple of days, I had been feeling as if we were keeping Jack a prisoner, instead of caring for him..... especially as he was now feeding himself.  So, as it was still light and a pleasantly warm evening, we opened the greenhouse doors and went off to watch the second episode of Corrie.  After the programme had finished, we looked in the greenhouse and there was no sign of  him.  Well, that's it..... he had gone.  I sent a little prayer out into the universe for him and went on to think of the highly charged and emotional words that I would put together for this farewell post.

Funny Bird

I went to bed quietly confident that we had done the right thing........ only to be awakened by hubby excitedly running up the stairs at around 6 a.m.

"He's still in the greenhouse!"

Jack had just settled himself down, in a well-hidden place and hadn't left at all.  However, we left the doors open thinking that, now it was daytime and he was alert, he was bound to make a bid for freedom.  Wrong.  All he did was continue to peck seeds and chase off any other sparrows that dared to venture past the doorway!  We watched him for what seemed like hours and, not once, did he attempt to step outside.

I decided that he needed a little encouragement, so I went into the greenhouse and quietly began to tidy up and move some plants around.  Jack didn't like this as he now saw me as a threat.  After a while of dodging me, it wasn't long until he snuck out the door and round the side of the greenhouse.  I smiled and thought, "Yay, he's free."  I continued to potter about while discreetly watching to see what he would do.  Realising that he was in the open air, he paused momentarily and looked up at me with what I intrepreted as a bewildered look.

Then he hopped off into the hedgerow.  I went indoors for a cup of tea and came out to the greenhouse later to do some badly-needed potting on.  Lo and behold, there was Jack having a dustbath in the soil under the hedge.  As I worked, I watched him with the other sparrows, pecking up seed and crumbs of bread.  So much for his infant diet of cat food, seed, baby dinner and suet pellets!  He's attached himself to a group of sparrows that shelter in the leylandii hedge at the back of the garden and they don't seem to have any objections. 

I'll leave the doors of the greenhouse open tonight...... just in case he needs a warm place to lay his little head, but I somehow don't think he will take me up on the offer.  Now that he's in the big wide world, there's no going back.

Rock on little Jack Sparrow!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flora ......... and, er, um.... little Jack.

 Frilly Blackcurrant Poppies

 Crocosmia 'Lucifer' ~ the wasp, whose bottom you can see, was sitting on my hand as I took the previous photo :O)

 Young, fresh nasturtium leaves and buds ready to burst into flower ~ This is Nasturtium 'Alaska' with its distinctive mottled/variegated leaves

 The Strawberry Patch ~ the little blue pansy grew there all by itself ~ the photo can't convey the wonderful sound of buzzing bees and hornets

A Nasturtium flower at close quarters ~ art at work in nature

........ and this is the one you've all been waiting for.  Come on, admit it!  Here's the little boy himself, only not so little now.  A few days ago, his wildness was becoming more evident and he refused to let me feed him.  He's now feeding himself all the time.  I've transferred him to the greenhouse where he can have some space to grow stronger and exercise his wings until he is able to fly off in safety.  Don't worry, I've got the windows open so he doesn't cook! The windows are closed at night to protect him from cats.  Jack's safe in there for now, but he avidly watches the comings and goings of the other sparrows and cheeps excitedly when he sees them.  I'm glad to say that my earlier worry about him becoming imprinted on me is now forgotten, as his natural instincts are developing daily.  I am absolutely amazed at the difference in him now since a couple of weeks ago when he toppled from his nest.  I'm looking forward to the day when I can take a photograph of him sitting on the fence with all the other sparrows.  Way to go Jack!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Hey, whatcher lookin' at?!"

We anticipate the little fella will be leaving us within a week or two.  He's been pecking at the bottom of the cage - whether he's actually been pecking up seeds or not, I'm not sure, because as soon as I turn to look at him he freezes, stops what he's doing,  and studies me as closely as I'm studying him!  But he's on the right track.  He's also beginning to exercise his wing feathers, so that's promising.  I put the cardboard inner tube of a kitchen roll inside his cage and he's sheltered in there now..... yet he seems to know when he needs food and makes himself conspicuous.  Whoever coined the phrase 'bird brain' was so wrong!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Too late for rehabilitation?

Little Jack's chances of survival are looking good, so I've been thinking about how I go about rehabilitating him back into the wild.  After googling it, some people say that it can't be done as the bird will have become imprinted on the human carer and wont be able to care for itself or socially interact with its own species.  At this point, I am beginning to slightly panic.  Others say it can be done, with great care and correct timing.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I'm going to put him outside in a clear container so he can see the outdoors and hear natural sounds. I'll bring him indoors at night.  Thankfully, I haven't been handling him much.  I haven't even lifted him from the box to feed him, but reached down towards him with the food.  I will have to try hard to resist the urge to keep peering inside his box.

I also have the telephone number of a wildlife organisation which I'll 'phone tomorrow to ask their advice.  If anyone else has any advice, I would be glad to hear from you. 

Update 26th July
I rang the telephone number I had for a wildlife centre only to get an answephone message that they were closed for two weeks due to illness.  So I googled for wildlife rehabilitation centres and telephoned an RSPCA one for advice.  They gave me a contact number for Durham, who in turn gave me Hilda's phone number!  Hilda is the Mrs. Doolittle of the North and lives only a few streets away from us.  

Anyway, I explained the situation to Hilda and told her how worried I was about little Jack possibly not being able to be rehabilitated into the wild.  She told me that, once they're in the outdoors, they will recognise their own species and soon forget their early encounter with humans and that he would have as good a chance as any other baby bird - possibly better considering the regular feeding he's been getting.  I told her what I've been feeding him on and she said that sounded fine, but to reduce his feeds to hourly instead of half-hourly.  I have to encourage him to peck at seeds by dropping them in front of him and attracting his attention to the seed.  Once he is able to peck food for himself, then that is the time for him to go.  Hilda says she'll help me with that.  There's a wildlife area at the nearby allotments, away from lots of people, but close to a number of bird feeders, so it will be a relatively safe place to conduct his release when the time comes.  I feel a lot better now since speaking to Hilda and, since she has raised and released many young animals and birds, I have faith in her.  Once again, why didn't I go to Hilda first!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Just checking in to let you all know that........

.......... little Jack Sparrow is doing well.  That's not birdie poo in the photo, by the way.... it's baby food and has since been removed. :)  I think he wanted a lie in this morning.  I got up ready to start feeding him at 5 a.m., but he wouldn't accept anything till about 6 a.m.  He gave me scare.  I thought, "Oh no, the beginning of the end."  It was such a relief when he began tucking into his breakfast shortly after.  He's also been taking very small amounts of water off the end of my finger.  His menu today is:  baby porridge, baby Sunday dinner, soaked dog biscuit, crumbled up suet pellets and a small amount of seed.  Thank goodness for my wooden manicure stick.  It's the perfect implement for 'spoon feeding' tiny sparrows.  This is his fourth day with us - I'm just beginning to dare to hope.......

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not about sparrows this time. :D

I took some photographs today just to prove that I have actually been doing some gardening over the past few months!

 Our resident duck

The apple tree ~ its first year. 
I don't really like those perennial cornflowers.  They were already there and I intended removing them until I saw a pair of goldfinches return to them time and time again for the seeds.  

Bob peering through the front gate, one of his favourite past-times

Benji participating in his second favourite past-time, sleeping.  His first is eating.  Hubby's in the photo too.  Can you see him?

Always blessed with fairies!

There are strawberries in there somewhere!

Bob being handsome

Bob being extra-handsome!

Come on in
Look, hubby's managed to get himself in the picture again!

It took a long time for me to settle in this house, but I'm glad to say that it now feels like home and we're happier here than ever.

p.s. I didn't take any photographs out the back because the grass needs cut! :O)

p.p.s.  Couldn't resist a small update.  Saturday, 23rd July ~ eating well and gaining strength

Update on baby sparrow

Well, so far so good.  First of all, I understand everyone's concern about not interfering with nature.  I believe in leaving baby birds for their parents to care for, but....... (there's always a but!)....... in this case, this little nestling was too young to be out of the nest and I thought that, even if its parents did find it and continue to feed it on the ground, it was too fragile to survive the drop in temperature through the night without the body heat of its siblings.  So I've got it in a little box filled with lots of pieces of ripped up kitchen roll, and the box is on top of a hot water bottle.  I've been feeding it every half-hour (since 4.30 a.m.!) and I'm glad to say that its feeding well and seems to be a strong little thing.  I found this website with lots of good advice on caring for baby birds.  I realise that if it does survive its ordeal and gets stronger, it will be totally dependent on me for another two to three weeks.  I really hope that it's not too long before we're releasing it back into the wild where it belongs.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What to do? Urgent advice needed please!

It's happened again.  Yet another nestling has fallen out the nest from under the eaves of the roof.  Luckily it is still alive, as we created a softer landing stage for them and amazingly it worked.  I spotted the tiny bird shuffling about amongst the grass and cuttings.  Now what to do?  I'm in a quandry.  I googled caring for nestlings that have fallen out their nest and some people say that you should make a makeshift nest in a box and tie iton a tree or somewhere near to the nest, so that the parents will know it is there and continue to feed it.  But what if the parents don't see it?  What if they're too busy feeding the ones in the nest to notice the missing one?

I've already given it a tiny drop of water and sugar, placed on the outside of its beak and it accepted that.  I have baby food I can feed it too.  I know it would need feeding ever half-an-hour up until dark and then from sunrise in the morning.  No easy task, but I'm prepared to do it if I have to.  So what do I do...... place it in a box directly under the nest and risk the parents not finding it..... or do I try my best to care for it myself?  Any advice would be gratefully welcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I don't understand......

I don't understand why house sparrows have to nest so high up.  They're nesting under the eaves of our roof and on most days, I find a dead or badly injured baby bird on the ground below.  As a fledgling cannot yet fly properly, the first venture from the nest is going to be fatal when the nest is situated at such a height.  Why do they do it?  I'm getting so upset and angry that it's happening.  I feel like buying a few kiddie's trampolines and placing them directly below where the nests are..... or breaking up the concrete path with a mallet, getting rid of it and replacing it with grass to cushion their fall.  Hubby said when the nesting season is over, he'll seal up the space so they can't nest there next Spring...... till then, there's going to be some more fatalities. :(  Does anyone have a rough idea when we would be safe to do this?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hoping to be back soon.....

Hello everyone,
Sorry about my prolonged absence.  We've been having some family concerns which has laid me a bit low.... then my internet connection went down.  I'm waiting to be fixed up with a new subscriber, so it shouldn't be too long now.  I'm making some progress with the garden as we've been having some lovely weather over the past few weeks.  Looking forward to getting back with you all and catching up with all your news.
Lesley xxx

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This is what you call a 'blank canvas'!

Here's a corner of the back garden.  With the flooding we've had, I've been turning the lawn over.  I think it will be easier to pave this bit, while the dogs are still with us, rather than struggle to restore the lawn to an acceptable condition.  It's heavy and hard work though. 

I'm trying to think of this scene a year from now! :O)

I haven't a clue what this plant/shrub/climber/triffid is.  Most of the plants round the fences have become old, tangled and overgrown - some of them have just given up and the clematis in the photo' below.

Lots of prunings to take to the council tip..... and this isn't all of it!

But at least we have some snowdrops.... in amongst the fungi.

You can see what fun I have ahead of me, in between decorating the house..... or should I say, decorating the house in between doing the garden! :D  I have to admit to having been feeling very sorry for myself, as I clean all the clods of muck off the carpets that the dogs are bringing in, despite wiping their feet - wiping 3 sets of paws at regular intervals becomes tiring after a while...... then I read an article from Pan Magazine ....... and I realised I have the 'stuff of stars' on all my carpets. :D

"A teaspoon of living soil contains a million bacteria, 20 million fungi, 1 million protozoa, and 200,000 algae - a stupendous reservoir of genetic materials that have evolved continuously since the dawn of the earth.  These micro-organisms are busily engaging in photosynthesis at the surface.  They fix nitrogen to roots.  They bury carbon that is then released back into the air through the transformation of organic matter into carbon dioxide, a process known as soil respiration. 

The soil is active.  The soil is alive.  The soil is a life related to our own life.  And our very sustenance comes from the soil.  Billions of years ago, the same carbon that is in our bodies today exploded from a supernova, became the stuff of stars and helped give rise to the planets."

(excerpt taken from Pan Magazine, Autumn 2005 - Pan Magazine is published by the World Pantheist Movement)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Save Our Forests!

 The British Government is planning on selling off our publicly-owned forests.  Since organisations such as The National Trust, etc. will not be able to compete with property developers, the forests could end up being replaced by holiday resorts, golf courses and adventure playgrounds.  It would be an environmental disaster.

I am joining forces with the many other bloggers who have already brought this to our attention.  Act now while there is still time.  Follow the link below to sign the petition to save our ancient forests.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My mum...........

For the past year my mum, who is now 86, has been in decline.  We visited mum and dad today and I came home with mixed feelings.  She smiled and laughed today for the first time in a year.  Depression and indifference seems to have been all she has known as the ageing process takes a stronger hold - yet, today, her blurred thoughts and confused mind somehow caused her to forget what she's been depressed about, and she chuckled and smiled.  It was good to see....  yet sad also, to look on this little old frail woman who is my mum - the person that gave me so much of what is good in my life.

Both my parents love plants and the garden my older brother and I grew up with was a joy.  There was something in it for all of us.  Mum and dad had their rose garden.  Together, they would choose some new roses from a catalogue on an annual basis, and they would let Ian and I choose one too.  My dad didn't do things by half..... he used to test the soil for its acid and alkaline content, add various organic materials to it so it would be perfect for the roses which he would prune at just the right angle and at just the right time.  He even got to be quite an expert at grafting them too.  He laid pipes under the soil to help with the drainage and he especially liked to take care of the lawns by carefully edging them, mowing them and then going over them with a roller.  

Despite the attention lavished on the garden, it wasn't a show garden.  My dad made a mini putting course on one of the lawns, complete with holes and markers.... and we were always having picnics on the grass, especially when joined by members of the extended family.  We were never told to keep off the grass or not to pick this or that, etc.  It was a garden that was enjoyed by the family.  Against one wall was the rabbit hutch and run that my dad built.  One day mum got in a panic because she thought I had disappeared with my friend, when all the time we had snuck inside the rabbit hutch along with Candy, Floss and Titch!  On one of the borders was a section that was given to me, where I learned to grow my first seeds..... radishes.

Mum always had a vase of cut flowers in the living-room, taken from our garden and when I gave birth to my eldest son in hospital, dad brought me a huge bunch of roses, mixed with other garden blooms - the nurses admired them so much that he brought a bunch for them at his next visit.  

I remember a navy cord jacket that mum wore when I was a child.  To me, it seemed to smell of plums!  Then, one day when I was much older, I was walking beside the river and I could smell that familiar scent. After a while,  I realised it was coming from the Himalayan Balsam that was growing alongside the river...... the scent was just like mum's jacket!  So now, the scents that I associate with my mum are plums, Himalayan Balsam...... and most of all, her favourite perfume - Coty L'Aimant (which has nothing at all to do with gardening!). 

I'm so glad that my parents were not only such keen gardeners, but that they allowed my brother and I to enjoy the garden without the fear of 'spoiling' anything in it.  My love of the outdoors has been gifted to me by my parents, but not only that - my faith also, for it was in the outdoors that I found it.  I love you mum and dad.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gathering Moss by Dr Robin Wall Kimmerer

Gathering Moss - A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
By Robin Wall Kimmerer

I've had this book for some time now and dipped into it numerous times.  It's a book I will never tire of and new bits of information stand out with each reading.  Robin Wall Kimmerer is  Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  

This is not just a book on identifying mosses - it is much more than that.  Dr Kimmerer writes beautifully and passionately with a scientific mind and also a mind that has come to know the environment intimately through her native american heritage.  She tells the story of mosses in language that does not necessitate the need for being a botanist to understand - how these amazing plants "live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings."  (quote from the back cover) 

Robin Wall Kimmerer

"I think it is this that draws me to the pond on a night in April - tadpoles and spores, egg and sperm, mind and yours, mosses and peepers - we are all connected by our common understanding of the calls filling the night at the start of Spring.  It is the wordless voice of longing that resonates within us, the longing to continue, to participate in the sacred life of the world."  Robin Wall Kimmerer

An excerpt from the chapter, An Affinity for Water, pages 39 & 40:-

"Watch a drop of rainwater fall on a broad, flat oak leaf.  It beads up for a minute, reflecting the sky like a crystal ball, and then slides off to the ground.  Most tree leaves are designed to shed water, leaving the task of water absorption to the roots.  Tree leaves are covered with a thin layer of wax, a barrier to water entering by absorption or leaving via evaporation.  But moss leaves have no barrier at all, and are only one cell thick.  Every cell of every leaf is in intimate contact with the atmosphere, so that a raindrop soaks immediately into the cell.  

The leaves of trees are uniformly flat, to intercept as much light as possible, and spaced far from one another to prevent shading.  But light is of less concern to mosses than is water.  Therefore, the nature of moss leaves is entirely different from trees.  Each leaf is shaped to make a home for water.  Lacking roots or an internal transport system of any kind, mosses rely entirely on the shape of their outer surfaces to move water.  In some species, the flow of water is accelerated by the wicking action of minute threads, or paraphyllia, that densely cover the moss stem, like a blanket of coarse wool.  The shape and arrangement of some moss leaves collect and retain water, a concave leaf holding a single raindrop in its upside-down bowl.  Others have long leaf tips, rolled into tiny tubes that fill with water and channel the droplets to the leaf surface.  Leaf overlaps leaf, closely spaced, creating tiny concave pockets, a continuous conduit for water moving among them."

Dr Kimmerer's book is a joy to read and would make a wonderful gift, either to yourself, or to someone you know who is fascinated by these wonderful plants.
From the preface:- 
"In indigenous ways of knowing, we say that a thing cannot be understood until it is known by all four aspects of our being:  mind, body, emotion, and spirit.  The scientific way of knowing relies only on empirical information from the world, gathered by body and interpreted by mind.  In order to tell the mosses' story I need both approaches, objective and subjective.  These essays intentionally give voice to both ways of knowing, letting matter and spirit walk companionably side by side.  And sometimes even dance."

Go here to read more about Robin Wall Kimmerer

For anyone interested in studying mosses and even growing them, go here for a fantastic download.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seeds is a synonym for joyful promise

During the month of January the weather can be a bit hit and miss.  Some days you can get out into the garden to work, most days you cant.... whether it's because of rain or a hard frost, like today.  One of the activities I enjoy at this time is all the extra feeding of the garden birds and watching them from the warmth of the house..... another is planning on which seeds I'll be sowing.

I'm particularly fond of Sweet Peas and I've got some different ones to grow this Summer.  This one (above) is Royal Family mix. 

This one (above) is Air Warden

Above is Old Spice Starry Night

Sweet Peas are so obliging - their germination rate is excellent, they grow well with very little attention, they come in colours to suit everyone and, best of all, the majority of them are scented.  Furthermore, the more you pick the flowers, the more they will send out new blooms..... so, throughout the Summer you can have cut flowers for the house and flowers in the garden right up till Autumn.  Perfect!

Hyssop officinalis - blue

Hyssop is an evergreen bushy herb that can be used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.  The list of its health benefits is endless.... everything from digestive problems to treating wrinkles - think I'll be making myself some hyssop oil this year!  I especially want to grow it because it looks pretty and I love the shade of blue of its flowers.  I've also got some seeds of the white variety to try as well.  I've got a small section of the garden set aside for herbs - it will be growing in amongst lemon balm, parsley, rosemary and angelica.

Borago officinalis

Borage is another herb with pretty blue flowers.  It's sometimes referred to as Starflower because of the shape of the flowers.  You can make an infusion with the leaves - it has a subtle cucumber taste and makes a nice refreshing drink for hot Summer days. Both the flowers and leaves can be used in salads and if you pop a flower in each of the ice cube compartments, they make a healthy addition to your drinks.   Borage contains a host of vitamins and minerals and is particularly helpful to people with respiratory complaints.

Cichorium intybus

Chicory is a perennial herb.  The roots, when ground and roasted, make a healthy substitute for coffee and is said to cleanse the blood and improve the health of the liver.  The young leaves can also be used in salads.

 Sweet Pea Help for Heroes

The seed and plant company, Mr Fothergills is donating £1 for every packet of Sweet Pea Help for Heroes that is bought, to the charity of the same name.  Go here to buy your packet.

I found this lovely poem about the joys of seeds.

He Knows No Winter

He knows no winter, he who loves the soil,

For, stormy days, when he is free from toil,

He plans his summer crops, selects his seeds

From bright-paged catalogues for garden needs.

When looking out upon frost-silvered fields,

He visualizes autumn's golden yields;

He sees in snow and sleet and icy rain

Precious moisture for his early grain;

He hears spring-heralds in the storm's ' turmoil­

He knows no winter, he who loves the soil.