Friday, 16 February 2007

The light shining through the Miscanthus in the grass garden looked quite ethereal earlier this week, so it was with mixed feelings that I cut it down to make way for this years growth. This is the time of year when there is much tidying up to do in readiness for visitors coming back to the garden in March. With such a mild winter, some of the herbaceous plants have not died back. Lungworts are flowering already, the hellebores hang their dusky maroon heads and the giant snowdrops, Galanthus plicatus, are the purest white. A ladybird was walking amongst the dead leaves, woken by a warm day on Tuesday.

Each year, Alan Todd, a local birdwatcher carries out a bird count which is displayed in the shop. It shows what birds have been seen in each month and is a fascinating record. This winter he has spotted up to a dozen brambling (or maybe more) feeding amongst the beech leaves and flying over the garden. As they have been uncommon this winter in Northumberland, word got around and a few birders have visited Chesters to tick them off their year list! He was particularly excited to see a Hawfinch (the 1st record at Chesters) sitting in a beech tree near the shop and preening itself for about 20 minutes in the drizzle. This is quite an unusual bird and is described in my bird book as 'extremely wary' so it is not that easy to see despite its huge beak and head. With all the leaf raking (this is the downside of the sheltering woodland), I have been followed around by two robins and a female blackbird, quite the tamest blackbird I have ever known who comes right up to my feet. There's never a day in this garden without something of interest when it comes to wildlfie.

I submitted my new book to the publisher, Ergo Press, along with the drawings I have made of the herbs and work has already begun on the layout. It will hopefully be out in early April if all goes to plan. It was good being able to write it from a personal point of view, drawing on the things I have learnt over the many years of gardening here. The cover looks wonderful with Tom's studio picture of parsley falling into a bowl. It will be out in time for Easter at least; between now and then is lots of hard work in the garden!