Saturday, 12 December 2015

Birds, birds, birds

I do not have the patience to photograph birds!
I deliberately placed a feeding station outside the living room window so that I could watch the birds and see what comes and goes, usually I forget to even bother until I happen to pass the window and see a blur of colour as a bird flies off.
Yesterday though I thought I'd drag up a chair and hide behind the curtain and see what happens along. How boring???
The Blue tits are brilliant because they're not at all shy and couldn't care less how much movement I make nor do the Robins but the Finches are so ridiculously skittish I had to hide behind the curtain and just point and shoot while guessing where they were.
It kind of worked and I was really pleased to see the greenfinches have returned to the peanut feeder this year.

This pic was taken a couple of weeks ago.

I'm not entirely sure what this finch is. It has the same wing colouring but is brown rather than green - maybe a female or a youngster?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Well that was a quick change

Wow, is it ever cold out there lately! What with that and the rain I'm keeping off the garden as much as possible. Thankfully I'd done a fair bit of filling the new sleeper beds with topsoil and compost before the naff weather hit though I do still have a fair bit to go.

Luckily I have plenty more soil available and thanks to my daughter bringing me home about 200 Wallflower plug plants I can fill it up for winter to stop the cats using it as a toilet.

I'm thinking we have a slight land drainage problem

When we first moved here 3 acres or so was completely plastered in awful gorse bush. We wasted way too much time and money trying to clear it without researching the correct way to go about it, this resulted in us simply regenerating new growth. We finally decided to pull all the gorse out with a digger, scrape the whole land with a digger and then literally go round pulling up all the little bits of roots that we could find. We now have land that can be mowed but we still haven't resolved the gorse problem - it really is a tenacious plant that isn't even destroyed by fire - we tried!
We can live with it though because the mowing will prevent it gaining any height and we thought it eould eventually stunt the overall health of whatever was left.
No such luck!

See all that dark green stuff? That's gorse and it's decided that if it can't grow up it will make a lovely prickly carpet instead.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Summer is nearly here!

OK so maybe the headline is a great big porky pie but it sure beats the truth - Winter has us in its grasp!
So keeping with the summer theme here's a few reminders to warm the old cockles - I have no clue what that means but I hear it all the time.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Autumn colouring and garden help

Wow, there's been a sudden change in the weather hasn't there! The layers of clothes needed to be out in the garden are greater by the day, though I admit I've become a bit of a wimp when it comes to the wind and I avoid it at all costs, I've been utilising those days to get the polytunnel cleared out ready for bringing plants in pots in for the winter. I hadn't quite realised the degree of mess in the PT though nor the amount of plants I actually have to bring in - despite me planting seemingly hundreds of plants every year I always seem to have an increase in young plants waiting to go out the following year.
I've been filling the new sleeper beds but this task is becoming more and more difficult due to the garden 'helpers'.
I put this cardboard down to smother the grass while I fill the bed with compost but I never seemed quick enough and every time my back was turned Huntly decided that the cardboard was obviously for him

This is a wooden crate I made years ago to grow something in that needed containing, I was supposed to be removing it but Kasa has decided it's more comfy than all the beds she has indoors - I felt awful kicking her out.

I manage to get Huntly out of the area I need to fill only to find that Atlas has moved in. These dogs are absolutely no help whatsoever but for some reason I feel awful moving them lol.

With my back to the sleepers this is the area I currently have to work on.

Despite the weather change I was pleased to see this plant flowering away outside - I forget the name of it but I have it in both red and pink. Always figured it would be too tender for being outside here but I guess not.

Choisya always looks good this time of year doesn't it! A plant I don't make enough use of and I'm determined to correct that in the new garden next year, I love this Autumn/winter colouring.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Garden sleepers and sand cuttings

I've been making the most of the mild weather we've been getting here. It's extremely unusual for the wind to be as absent as it has been for the past few weeks and I dare say we'll soon return to the usual windy conditions but until then I'm making the most of what we have.

I had promised myself that I wouldn't make a start on any more hard landscaping until I had caught up and cleared the rest of the garden which has been neglected all year but I couldn't help myself, I have hundreds of plants waiting to be put into the garden and want it all ready for them in spring. These poor plants have been housed in pots for too many years now and they're beginning to show signs of stress so it's important that I make them a home ready.
With this in mind I decided to build a retaining wall out of old old railway sleepers, these sleepers have seen better days to be honest but I have heaps of them and I needed a retaining bed to add some height for the shrubs I want to plant in there.
I've only managed a small section so far - these things weigh a ton and have to be reinforced at the back to prevent them falling - but once I have them all in place I will board the fences behind the sleepers and then fill them with top soil.

I haven't made the border too wide once it's filled because a) I had to consider the amount it would take to fill and b) I'm only putting shrubs in there.
The ground in front of the sleepers is going to be dug out and curved so that I can plant perennials and then I'll put a decking or patio to the front of that.

The fence to the right of the wall is an aviary so I''l grow some honeysuckle up that but that back fence will eventually be replaced by a solid wall so I have to make sure any soil retaining boards I put up can stand by themselves until the wall is built.
I also have to add approximately another 4 bays of sleepers to the top left as it's a large area.

A job even more tedious than digging in sleepers is the cleaning of this decking. All those small harling chips are well and truly wedged, I tried to convince myself that I didn't care but I couldn't live with the look. Besides the decking needs sanding and re-treating so I have to keep at it a bit every day - it's soooooooo boring.

There are two plants in particular that I have never managed to propagate with any success - Cornus and Philadelphus. I'm not sure what I do wrong, I've followed instructions to the letter and yet no matter what method I have used the years of trying have totalled 1 Cornus and 2 Philadelphus. Last year I tried a technique of shoving cuttings in sand but after I did them I damaged my back and completely forgot about them. When I emptied the bucket though all the now dead cuttings showed obvious root growth so a few months ago I gave it another go.
I basically filled a tub with very damp sand, shoved Cornus and Philadelphus cuttings in, tightly packed, then inserted the tub into a large white bin liner, tied it up and left it.
2 days ago I decided to turn it out and see what had happened, I knew they must have rooted because everything was still alive but I was amazed with the results - out of approx 20 cuttings of each I lost literally only 1 or 2.

Suffice to say I am really happy with the results and will most certainly be doing alot more next year with many other types of plants.
Now I just need to add them to the hundreds of other plants desperately needing to lay down roots in the garden.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A day in the autumn garden

I finally have some control back of my garden.
We've had scaffolding around the house of late while Mr TG did all the harling to the house and it meant that I had to watch as my lovely borders got trampled and damaged and the grass was used to store all sorts of buckets, spades, wheelbarrows etc etc.
I had resigned myself to the damage pretty early on in the year and accepted that I wouldn't be able to do much gardening this year other than any structures that I wanted to build.
It's all go, go, go now. While half the house still needs harling the actuall garden area is pretty much finished, the scaffold is down, the base of the house has been cleared and Mr TG even sorted drainage out for me on the grass.
So for the last couple of days I've been taking stock and looking to see what has been damaged beyond all help (just 1 Fuchsia Genii by the looks of it), clearing debris away, digging over the beds and attempting to clear up the decking. All those tiny harling chips have wedged themselves between the decking planks despite us using poly to keep the area clear and it's taking me an age to get them all out.

Despite Autumn being here the weather has been very mild, in fact we've had nicer weather over the lastcouple of weeks then we had all summer - the wind has been non existant which is a very welcome relief as it's usually a constant here.
My garden doesn't have much autumnal colour and literally no winter appeal - something I intend to rectify - so I've been out catching the last of the colour that is hanging on.

I'm not sure what the colour wheel says but I'm thinking that these are two colours that wouldn't necessarily be deliberately put together. I did though and to be honest I quite like the bright orange of the Crocosmia and the pink of the Fuschia 'Tom Thumb'. In fact I like it so much I'm going to do more of it next year.

Another view of that Crocosmia, Fuschia and a blue Hydrangea in the foreground (Zorro).

It's so nice to finally have pretty background walls in the photo and because this is south facing this area is going to be a lovely hot area next year. I've got as much as the clay soil out as I can over the last few years so plenty of things are happy to grow here, including all those in the above pix. I'm hoping to add Cordylines or Palms to this area.

The pond lillies are still flowering away.

This is my favourite Fuschia of all time! I've had this particular one for years, in fact it's the one I slipped a back disc a few years ago trying to pick up and move. This year I've fed it religiously and have spent a ridiculous amount of time dead heading - obviously worth it as it's still flowering like this.
Despite it being my favourite Fuschia I have forgotten the name of it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Garden destruction and a secret club

A whole month since my last post :(  But it's no wonder because I haven't done anything in the garden to post about.
Mr TG has been harling the exterior of the house so literally half of my flower beds and my entire patio/decking area has suffered - it looked so pretty last year too.
The walls are almost finished so I will soon be able to get stuck in and renovate before winter sets in and I'm sure most of the damaged / trampled plants will recover next spring.

Even the Adirondack chairs I made were utilised as scaffold stackers.

I'm not worried though, all will come right next year :)

Now, I found an amazing little garden club called 'The secret gardening club', I'm not sure how many of you are aware of it but I came across it and I have to say it's brilliant.
Once a month a plant business in Yorkshire offers plants at very low prices while they are available and the postage is free - even to the Highlands of Scotland which is most unusual.
I bought 6 plants last month - 3x yellow crocosmia and 3x grasses and I have to say the packaging was absolutely brilliant. I expected below par packaging due to the cheap cost of the plants (I paid under a fiver for all the plants and don't forget free postage) but nope, the packaging was actually the best I have ever recieved.
As for the plants themselves - well I was expecting small plug plants to be honest but what arrived was astounding - all the plants were full and a good height and exceptionally healthy.
So, if you want to see what is available head over to the secret gardening club and register for free, you will then recieve a link to this months offers.
If you choose to you can become a premium member which you subscribe to each month. I chose to this month and it cost me £1 though I'm not sure if that was an offer or not. The bonus to becoming a premium member is that you get offers weekly instead of monthly, you get alot more offers and you also get other  garden related offers all with an extra 10% off. This week there are 21 premium offers and ALL include free delivery :)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

How to love your garden

I love joining gardening groups on FB, my favourite being 'Friendly gardeners' and this year I've noticed alot more posts from people feeling frusrated with their gardens, whether it be because they don't seem to have the motivation to get out there, they compare their gardens to other peoples and find their own lacking or just because they never seem to be able to get on top of the weeds enough to actually have the time to create new areas.
Over the last few years I've blogged many times about my own lack of motivation, my own frustration that my garden just never looks good enough (in my eyes) and that I've seriously considered just giving the whole thing up and letting it run to seed and do as it will. The problem with that solution was guilt, I felt guilty that I'd considered giving it up, guilty that I wasn't motivated to be out there and guilty that I just couldn't get it to look how I wanted.

I don't know what happened this year but I suddenly have a different outlook on the whole thing - it started when I made a comment on a FB group that I hated my garden, while many people were understanding and going through the same thing so many others were actually quite short, sharp and to the point and comments varied from "Get a grip", "Well I wish I had your garden" to "Think yourself lucky, at least you can get out to do the garden".
It made me think. What was my real issue with the garden? Once I had those questions in my head I decided to find a solution to them and the solutions I came up with really surprised me.
  1. No motivation to weed: So don't! Simple as that, don't do it! One year of no weeding is not going to turn the garden into a jungle of unimaginable horrors and if it does, deal with it next year but for this year don't weed and just see what happens and what grows.
  2. My garden has no appeal to me: Once I'd thought that one through I realised it wasn't that I didn't like my garden it was simply that certain aspects were not what I had envisioned - such as THAT pond. Once I realised this the solution was simple, keep the things I liked and change the things I don't. The pond is now exactly what I had in mind when we began it a few years ago.
  3. My garden is boring: I figured out that the boringness came from a lack of structure which is easily sorted. I won't buy wood for garden structures but I have heaps of pallet wood and scrapwood so I built the gazebo and am building columns for gargoyles to sit on. I've made plans for solar lighting and have garnered enough battens off Mr TG to build another 3 or so obelisks - the ideas are now flowing and with no weeding to do I have the time to do them.
  4. I have too many gardens to cope with: Sounds ridiculous doesn't it - too many gardens lol. But it's true, we have 3 acres here but I have several areas dotted around that need tending - none of them connected so it's all a bit haphazard. The solution was really quite simple - don't worry about fruit and veg in the PT this year, they take too much time to tend and never really produce much. The tunnel now houses tender plants and a few cutting flowers and takes a bit of watering and that's it. The greenhouse area has a garden that was once a masterpiece (as far as I'm concerned) because it was the only garden I had, this year I've adapted the greenhouse (more a shed with extra windows- DIY) for the hens and the garden is their territory - no tending needed. I have another area next to the natural pond that I've been attempting to renovate and make look smart but can never get it to look right, this year I've left it. The weeds are head high but I don't care I just don't look at them when I pass it lol.
  5. Gardening is pointless because no one ever sits in it: This was the easiest solution of them all - get a grip woman! Who cares if no one sits in it, seriously? This year I've taken time to sit in it myself (which I never do) and I've really enjoyed it. A year ago the weeds would have done my nut in they just don't now, all I do is take some scissors cut the flower heads of and go back to my book. Who knew it was so nice to sit in a garden!!!

I think the best thing about this new found garden freedom is that the plants seem to be growing better without my interference. Yes, there's weeds everywhere but they're green so they blend well lol. and let's face it, some of them are prettier than the rest of the plants.
Taking the time to relax in the garden ahs also helped me to watch the garden through the season and see what's working and what isn't - I have alot of Day lillies in the wrong place and are reluctant to flower, roses that aren't getting enough air and are looking mildewy and a Buddleia that isn't looking too healthy due to it's damp position. These are all things I can improve for next year.

St Johns wort? Certainly self seeded whatever it is.

Stag Horns Sumach - despite it's tendency to migrate and sucker everywhere I have wanted one of these for years. I grew this one from seed and was surprised to see it doing so well as I didn't really think it would survive the winter here.

There's Thalicturm in flower in this image of you look close. I grew it from seed and planted them out last year whereby they did nothing! If I'd been weeding this year I would have dragged them out but luckily I didn't weed and they've now flowered. Can't say they do much for me though and certainly won't bother with them again.

In amongst the weeds Roses bloom. The pink one was due for ripping out this year as it never flowers, now it decides to flower. The white one is my favourite - it doesn't do well after a shower, the blooms rot but it's now about 9ft high and has been plastered with blooms this year.

So lazy have I been this year a wheelbarrow didn't get emptied on the muck heap and not only did I find this Pink growing but also a most amazing poppy and a lovely Lily. Both the lily and the pink will be saved and I'm garnering the seeds from the poppy.

So you see, learning to love your garden doesn't necessarily mean producing the immaculate instant garden that we see on TV. Often times it's about not stressing, accepting your garden as YOUR garden and learning to relax in it. If you really don't fancy gardening this year - don't! It's certainly not going to do you or it any harm and you never know it may just make you fall in love with what you've got all over again.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Octagonal pergola and lazy people

This weather continues to astound me. It's now the height of summer and yet I not only needed to wear a thick fleece when I was mowing the lawn on the ride on but I had to have the hood up and tied tightly to keep it there! I have never known summer to be so naff in the 12 years I've lived here - I understand the North East of Scotland is never going to be tropical but seriously, it feels like Autumn right now.
The garden has taken a serious battering and has been neglected for a while now because I've been getting on with building projects instead - weeds can wait lol.

I decided I wanted to build a gazebo as a walk through where the formal part of the garden meets what will be the new unformal part of the garden (once I've done it) but it couldn't be any old gazebo. Me being me I decided to go for an octagonal one and me being me again decided I could mash it together without plans.
The first few attempts were diabolical - I built the panels in the workshop (and even made a mistake on those that still exists because I'm too lazy to change it) and then formed the structure in situ. The problem is I'm one of those people where if there's a quick way and a right way I'll choose the quick way and every time I do that something goes wrong - as it did here.
I just could not get the angles right and couldn't figure out how to do it. In the end I sucked it up and asked Mr TG what I needed to do to get the angles correct, unfortunately this meant doing the job the long slow way and required me to build a square frame and work measurements out - booooooooring!
I have to admit though that the structure went up much quicker and easier once I had the frame to go by and used scaffold poles to hold things in place instead of attempting to hold everything level and drill at the same time - yes, that it how lazy I am.

 Stage 1 - after several attempts at getting these level upright I had a tantrum, pulled them out the ground (even though I had blisters on my hand from digging holes for the spikes) and threw them on the ground. Yes, I had a paddy!! and there they stayed for a few days.

Stage 2 - Mr TG told me how to get the angles correct and how to keep them level while I worked on the structure.

Most of it's up here. It's not perfect but then neither am I so who cares!!
Do you see the mistake on the panels I mentioned earlier? I must have measured 2 of them from one end when putting the cross sections in and two from the other end because two of them have an extra piece at the top - two don't lol.

The tedious job of painting it. I also weeded the bed to the right and planted Bamboo and a climbing rose. The rose is tied to the vertical wires I added to the side gaps as an afterthought.
The bed to the left is in dire need of weeding but it will have to wait.

Gras mowed makes a huge difference. I also completed the base inside the gazebo. It involved loads of cement and plenty of mess - those bricks and shingle are going nowhere!
The bricks sit just proud of the lawn on this side because the ground is lower here and I used the other side as a reference for height. The bricks are level but I will be adding a small step this side so there'll be no tripping over bricks.

I bought the compass slab a few years ago and have never used it until now. Mr TG set it in concrete for me but I didn't realise until it was done that he has the North pointing the wrong way. I did give him instructions as to where it needed to be - everyone here knows the sea is directly south lol- so the North should have pointed just before where the East currently is. Mr TG did offer to rectify it but tbh I like the quirkiness to it now and it's typical of all my projects - there's always something not quite right lol. I like it!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Weird trees, floods and weed growth

Mr TG and I ususally take our holidays during the winter months with the idea that it would break up the long winters here in Caithness and give us that Vitamin D boost when the daylight levels are so low here. We also figured this Vitamin D boost would set us up for the following spring and keep SAD at bay for us both, I now realise this hasn't been the case - the Vitamin D would always be depleted by the time spring or summer came so I would usually be well on my way to a bout of depression by the time the gardening months rolled around.
Having just spent 2 weeks at a friends place in Los Lobos, Almeria I've decided that this is the best time for holidays - we've returned rejuvinated and ready to tackle what is now an extremely over grown garden and land.

I've also noticed that all the things that would normally have bothered me in the garden and set me on a downward spiral are actually not bothering me at all - novel! Everything suddenly seems doable and what isn't doable right now doesn't matter - its not going anywhere.

Faced with these weeds I would normally run, hide and possibly cry at the thought of the work, it's not bothering me at all though, in fact I saw it and smiled.

Initially I took the shortcut to the polytunnel but was faced with this and had to go the long way round - honestly there's a path in there somewhere and I found the weeds amusing.

I got to the polytunnel and was faced with a river of water both outside and inside. We definitely need to get the drainage sorted this year because this area tends to hold water the longest and it makes the flower beds in the tunnel too soggy to grow anything.
On the upside instead of having to fill a watering can for some plants that had dried out I just put the pots in the water for half an hour.

This is inside the tunnel after I'd swept most out. The left hand bed is fine as it's a good 18" high but the right hand bed is only about 8" high and you can clearly see how wet it is compared to the one on the left.

While out in Spain I was surprised to find a lack of flowers anywhere. I figured anyone living in such a warm climate would have lovely plants growing. Maybe the fact that every day was over 40 degrees makes it too hot to garden so most places were filled with Oleander in flower and Aloe Vera.
There were these wonderfully weird looking trees though - I wonder what they are!