Spiral trunk bay trees

A guy came down the drive with these, I just had to have them.

What he really wanted to sell was his van of outside furniture, but then I saw these and we did a great deal.

I have lost bay trees in winters before, so I’ll take better care of these two beauties.  Hopefully I can keep pruning them to look more alike over time, though I don’t need them to be exactly the same – its a garden and this is nature.

Spiral trunk bay trees

Spiral trunk bay trees

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A lovely patch of spreading cowslips

Here’s a patch of cowslips that are spreading happily in the wild area on my heavy clay soil, probably initially planted around 3 years ago, moved from elsewhere in the garden.  I find them growing in the lawn too and dig them out and plant them around the garden ready to make further patches of light yellow heads bobbing in the breeze.

When moving some today, I saw similar-looking leaves, but darker and with small spikes on them, these are teasels, loved by birds in the autumn/winter.

cowslips

cowslips

Dig a Dandelion Day

Its got to be done, dig those dandelions up, and now is the best time in my view.

Most haven’t flowered in my garden and those that have, haven’t yet set seed – the ground is damp so digging down is easier, so its an hour on my hands and knees digging up the little blighters.

Its perhaps a little odd, I don’t have a bowling green lawn, nor an aim to have one, and I have no problem with clover, actually like daisies in the garden and also have various other plants (some would say weeds) and even moss in the lawn – but dandelions are just so ugly.  Of course, you can make wine, dandelion and burdock to drink, you can eat the leaves in salads (some say they have great medicinal properties) and you can feed them to your favourite rabbit/Guinea pig/mice/goat but, I just don’t want them, OK?!

The problem is that the tap roots are so long, so I have a thin and long trowel that I use, I tend to dig next to the root, then do the same from the other side before prising it up – you don’t want to hear a snapping sound because, uh-oh, that means you’ve left some of the root in to grow again.  Yes, sometimes it is inevitable, but I’d rather dig up more than I need, perhaps a complete circle of grass with the dandelion in the middle, pull it apart with my fingers to get to the root and replant the grass.  I do this together with a bucket mixture of grass seed and 66% sand:33%compost that I will put into the hole before placing the grass back on the top, and shuffle along to the next one.  ONe mistake, I should have worn a glove as I pushed down with the palm of my hand and a glove would have spread the pressure more.

Just to depress meDandelion Roots, you could think its all rather pointless, as we are surrounded by around 100 acres of fields mainly with horses and sheep on them there will be flying seeds later on in the summer ready to plant themselves for next year, however I think I am winning overall, I think I remember that in previous years there were more than now.

Of course, you could use glyphosate, but I’d rather not use chemicals if I can help it (especially with frogs, toads and newts living here), and if you do – make sure you use a weedkilling pencil and not a spray as the spray is bound to kill the grass around and you don’t want a bunch of holes in your lawn, believe me, not a good look.

The photo is just of a few of my victims to show you the depth of the roots, even for those with small tops, get down deep – it IS worth it, honest.

Rhododendron flowers early, as usual I am underwhelmed

Sorry guys, but I just find you rather dull.  Yes, I’ll admit it, I am not keen on rhododendrons.

I’m not talking about the fact that they are invasive in some UK woods and forests taking over from the native plants – though that’s clearly a problem.

I have been to some places with huge lines of them on both sides of a road – I guess that’s when they are supposed to be the most impressive, but they seem to flower for such a short amount of time, petals from some flowers already falling off (or just going soggy and green) before others are out and I want to shout out “Is that IT?  Is that all you can do?  How much space do you take up with your tedious glossy leaves hanging down, slow-growing habit and for 90% of the year you are just a bit of a mess.”

So, last week one of ours decided to flower earlier than usual and you’d think that in Spring I’d be pleased to find a splash of red amongst all the yellow, but somehow I just can’t get excited.  Yes, I’ve given them a bit of love and attention and fertilizer for acid-loving plants, but still, but still, sorry guys – you are just drab.

OK, architectural – well a bit.  The other one is taller and budding now so perhaps I’ll have a change of heart in a couple of weeks or so – but I think I should move them,  somewhere where they are just the backdrop to other plants, somewhere where they don’t have to do much to earn their keep and during the few days (nearly typed weeks, but honestly days is probably more accurate) where they do flower, we can be pleasantly surprised.  The other option would be to put them in the hedge, I’ve no problem with mixing different plants in the hedge…. there’s another option I guess, if I get really fed up, they can go to the village fete and someone else can have them.  Just don’t buy me any for a present, OK?

Sorry guys, I feel bad typing this

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

– better get a cup of tea and walk around the garden for a bit.

 

Quick Tip: Encouraging grass seed to germinate

Now is the best time to reseed the bare areas of your lawn.

Like everyone, we have dead spots, areas of moss, places where I have dug out weeds, bare patches where the birds (and ducks) have trampled the grass down below feeders.  We also have prowling foxes and cats that dig along mole or mouse runs, throwing the grass around in their wake.

The books say you should keep watering any new grass that you seed and that would be fine with a simple small area of lawn and large patches to seed, but with 2 acres and little areas, I’m never going to remember everywhere to water and anyway carrying around a watering can is just too much effort.

However, I like to give the grass seed a quick boost.  So a week ago, I mixed seed with sand and a small amount of compost and threw it all in a bucket, filling the bucket up with water.  So, for five days or so, the seeds start to swell as they take in the water and begin their growth in the warmth of the greenhouse or garage.  Yesterday, I went around and planted the resulting mixture, giving them that extra boost of water for a few days, reducing the effort on me and hopefully they’ll get to grow before the birds come along and eat them.  Easy really, just thinking ahead.

And here’s the least interesting photo on my blog – my reseeding holes in one of the rows that the foxes have been digging.

Grass reseeded

Grass reseeded

Oh-uh, is my strawberry tree dead?

I have an arbutus unedo, or at least I did, maybe that’s not true any more.

I love the strawberry tree – with its grooved red bark, pale bell-like flowers and red berries and about five years ago I planted one in a row of ornamental trees that include the tulip tree, handkerchief tree and a liquid amber.  This winter hasn’t been too harsh, but sadly as each day passes I have to accept that we may have had a death in the family – the strawberry tree is not looking well at all!

However, I’ve had plants that seem to have died and yet come back to life in the past, perhaps it will sprout from the bottom or perhaps it has been knocked back by a hard frost and will drop its existing leaves and send out another lot shortly.  So, don’t be too quick to consign a previously-loved family member to the compost heap or throw into a wood pile – it might just be having a hard time.

Even if it is dead, the angled growth and bark could be put to good use, perhaps I can grow something up it that could do with the support – just think of the options of beautiful climbing plants before doing anything drastic.  Still, I’d prefer the strawberry tree to resurrect itself and keep my fingers crossed that some time in the next few weeks it will waken from slumber and rise again.

I guess I’ll give it until the Indian Bean Tree starts to deliver leaves, then look at the best climber for some summer or autumn interest.

My strawberry tree is unwell

 

 

Nature, red in tooth and claw

When some friends come to visit they are surprised to see the number of birds of prey seeming to hang in the air before swooping down for dinner.  Usually, they are hunting in the fields and roadsides and I rarely see them in the garden itself, but the other day when pruning the trees there was a huge rise in the noise level and it seemed that every bird in the neighbourhood flew into the air at once, well they probably did, at least all but one as a sparrowhawk landed on one of the other apple trees just a short distance from me.

Meanwhile, all the sparrows, blackbirds and even the magpies flew away to a safer distance, even next door’s doves either hid in their dovecote or flew away for a while, and they’re not usually the fastest of birds.

After a short while the sparrowhawk flew away, but I guess it had reconnoitred and seen what he wanted to – the next morning I was greeted with the end of one of the doves, squeamish readers can look away now (sorry, if its too late).

In a couple of days, this bird of prey caught and killed two more of the doves and that may make you think badly of the sparrowhawk, as there it was attacking, killing and eating next door’s pride and joy.  However, this is nature – the sparrowhawk is a beautiful and native bird and here’s a great entry from the RSPB that helps put any emotions in balance.  Next door were sanguine about it – it is nature, red in tooth and claw.

R.I.P. Dove