Posts

Half way to #30DaysWild

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  I've tracked something every month of the year so far, from my diet through to screen time. This month it's the turn of the Wildlife Trust's 30 Days Wild initiative and I'm having a great time adding a bird's foot, plus a little drawing of what I've observed that day to my tracker. I also get a daily email packed with information and ideas and seeing we're half way through the month I thought it would be fun to convert some of my little pictures into a Nature Spotting Sheet as suggested a few days ago. Five of them are from my garden, two are from going to the archery field (hare and poppies), one is from the Donkey Field (Meadow crane's-bill), and one from Tuesday's day trip to Blenheim (orchid). How many of these have you spotted this month? You can construct your own spotter sheet here , or simply use the ones provided on the activities section on the Wildlife Watch website. Great fun!

Let's hear it for Citizen Science

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  Regular readers know I'm a bit partial to taking part in citizen science initiatives such as the annual Garden Birdwatch and Butterfly counts, as well as one-offs such as Flying Ant Day. These are a great way of gathering huge datasets over a wide area that are simple to do and repeatable. This year I've upped the ante by becoming a monthly  Riverfly monitor for my local stream, Hardenhuish Brook. This scheme is designed to survey the key freshwater invertebrates which are more sensitive to pollution and also taps into my Masters degree. The wider the variety and number of these found each month gives an idea of the water's quality. In the photo you can see me assessing the stream for those invertebrates usually found in the more urban locations by kick sampling the stream bed for 3 minutes and then having a look at what I've caught. March's net had a bullhead fish as well as plenty of little wriggly things to identify! It's been great to use the skills I ac

Chelsea Sneak Peek: The Flood Resilient Garden

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Let the Flood Resilient Garden's build commence! My friend  Naomi and the rest of the team are on site at Chelsea today, so now all the dreams and plans are set to become reality. I'm getting really excited as I'm working on the build just before the show! Hopefully there will be time to snap a few quick pics when I'm there so you can see what's happening. In the meantime we'll have to make do with the sketched design - as you can see there's a lot crammed into a small space. FloodRe - the garden's sponsor - have an interactive version on their website which allows you to explore the garden's features thoroughly - both in terms of the various habitats and planting - which are also chosen carefully to help with flood resilience, as well as the more engineering aspects to the design. As a result I'm currently pondering whether we can have some extra wide guttering installed on our house as we have real problems with overflows on an increasingly r

Bulbalicious!

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We had a lovely welcome home from the garden in the shape of these bulbalicious hyacinths greeting us at our front door when we returned from Italy. It was a serendipitious moment as I'd originally bought them to decorate our kitchen when Helen  came to stay back in February. However, our cat Skipper was paying them far too much attention, so I moved them to the hanging basket out front. The cooler weather there meant they've only started to bloom recently, and most welcome they are too. Once flowering is over, I'm taking a top tip learnt from my time at West Green House and planting them out in the border. I have a plan to revamp the front garden after last year's box demise and these will go there alongside a couple of ferns I have languishing in pots out the back. Waste not want not as they say. These are not the only bulbs I've been chatting about recently. Over on Insta I'm celebrating the pictured  poet's daffodil  posing on my windowsill as one of m

Postcard from Italy

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We're just back from a fabulous time in France and Italy in celebration of significant birthdays and anniversaries. We particularly loved the higgledy hillside clinging buildings we discovered in Genoa and its surrounding coastal villages of Camogli, Portofino , Nervi and the Cinque Terre . I've chosen a photo I took in Camogli to illustrate the perfect combination of bright ice cream coloured buildings, bobbing boats and Mediterranean vegetation we found in many of the villages. Look closer and you'll see many of the buildings have designs painted on them in a technique called sgraffito - one layer of paint or plaster scratched through to reveal a second colour below. Talking of ice cream, the rich dark chocolate fondant flavour was declared our holiday winner. You're probably familiar with pesto and focaccia already - some of the typical regional (Ligurian) cuisine we sampled along the way. Homemade and freshly made that day took them to another level. It's be

Chelsea 2024 sneak peek #1: Clematis

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One of the highlights of the recent Garden Press Event was the Guernsey Clematis stand where they showcased their two clematis due for launch* at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. If you're unfamiliar with the company name, then I'm sure you know of the lovely Raymond Evison , who is the breeder behind these two new plants. * = if they're launching them at Chelsea, then it looks like I've let the cat out of the bag 😉 On the left of the photo we have 'Lindsay' with 'Guernsey Flute' on the right. Both have been selected for their plentiful blooms across the entire length of their stems, flowering from May through July with a second flush in September. They grow to around 6 feet in height (90-120cm in metric) and are good candidates for a large pot as well as the more usual site in the garden. 'Lindsay' is the one for sunshine and 'Guernsey Flute' for the shadier side of things - as is the case with most white clematis. Unlike its forebe

Primroses and The Flood Resilience Garden

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I've spotted primroses popping up in many places on my walks this week and it's a welcome sight to see them. I found the pictured ones in Old Hardenhuish Lane on my way to Lidl* yesterday. They're in a patch on the edge of damp woodland next to Hardenhuish Brook and I've also seen them close to the River Avon right in the middle of Chippenham. They're a timely sighting as I'm thrilled to be working with FloodRe's The Flood Resilience Garden team in a small way during the run up to Chelsea Flower Show. I'll provide the written content for their Plant of the Week spot on the garden's Instagram account over the next few months. It just so happens the primrose is my first entry this week - you'll find snowdrop, birch and dogwood there already, as provided by Naomi , the garden's designer. My primrose finds show they're an excellent fit with the show garden's ethos which is to demonstrate simple choices in design and planting can help a

Bumblebees on Blooms

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Regular readers know I do love a good citizen science project and I'm happy to announce the latest one is launched by The RHS/Bumblebee Conservation Trust today. What can be better than watching bumblebees bothering our flowers on a sunny day and help science to boot? From today until 31st May we're asked to submit our sightings from our gardens and parks around the UK. Why is this important? Well, bumblebees are a vital pollinator for our garden flowers plus crops such as apples, tomatoes and peas. When the weather starts to warm - even on the odd warm late winter's day - queen bumblebees emerge from hibernation to find nectar to help fuel themselves and gather pollen to feed the hungry larvae of worker bees back in the nest. Finding out the exact situation in springtime is particularly important as habitat loss/climate change may be affecting the availability of springtime flowers, which in turn will affect the successful establishment of bee colonies at the start of the

Hurrah for the NGS!

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This image makes my heart sing and is why I love the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). It doesn't cost much to visit a garden tended by an enthusiast, yet see how all those entrance fees can grow into something life changing. My visits are going to start early this year with a trip to Westcroft  next month, a Wiltshire garden near Salisbury which is stuffed with snowdrops and so is opening happily as part of the NGS's Snowdrop Festival. See you there Helen !

Season's Greetings

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As you can see, Chippenham's Knatty Knitters have once again cheered up the town with their postbox toppers. This one greeted me outside our main sorting office when I went to post our Christmas cards and there are more to be found elsewhere; some familiar from previous years, others are new like this one. We're in the process of changing our Christmas plans as my BIL and wife have tested positive for Covid, thankfully with just mild symptoms but we thought it best for them to concentrate on getting back to full health for now. We plan to meet up in New Year for jolly times, so we'll have a quiet Christmas here instead. Thank goodness we'd already bought our own turkey! Have a healthy, peaceful, and wonderful Christmas and New Year wherever you may be.