Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Every year a pheasant raises a large brood of chicks in the garden; although this is not particularly popular with the gardeners - dust bathing amongst vegetable seeds is a nuisance! - it is always a hit with the visitors. Many people have been photographing her and her wandering, chirping collection of mottled chicks as they dive in and out of the borders. They are quite comical as they crash land off low stone walls or bump into each other. Yesterday I decided to take my own photographs for my blog so this is her appropriately looking out from amongst the foliage of Aster 'Star of Chesters'.

I next tried to photograph the chicks - not an easy task as they are constantly rushing about! I managed with the one you can see on the right and was taking this, aware that by my elbow was another chick... as I pressed the button I felt a fierce flutter of wings and a sparrowhawk snatched the other chick from right next to me in a precise movement and flew off to the yew tree. She had been so entirely focused on grabbing the chick that the sparrowhawk seemed to have completely ignored me, even though her wings almost brushed my arm. This single mindedness doesn't surprise me as I had a similar experience some years ago when a sparrowhawk took a baby wren from right in front of me.

The Thyme Bank is in flower early this year - almost by a month - and many other plants seem to be flowering before their foliage has achieved its usual height. The garden looks wonderful though and as we are growing more and more late perennials, I don't worry about it running out of steam. Particular delights are the double Ranunculus aconitifolius known as Fair Maids of France, the many alliums and nectaroscordums, the multicoloured rows of chives including 'Pink Perfection' and 'Black Isle Blush', the fresh yellow of perfoliate alexanders and the first flush of hardy geraniums. We have an Organic Day planned for Saturday June 23rd, with free entry to the garden to celebrate organic growing and wildlife - more on this in my next blog...

Monday, 7 May 2007

spring herbs

This is such a wonderfully fresh time in the garden with so many herbs looking brightly coloured in their new foliage. Golden varieties such as golden lemon balm and marjoram will lose that intense colour when they start to put on flower spikes, so I value them most at the moment. The lemon balm seen here is growing at the base of one of the old espalier apple trees, its gnarled, tightly pruned spurs starting to put on palest pink flowers. Golden balm makes a pool of brilliant colour at the base of the tree, alongside vibrant yellow Welsh poppies and the equally glowing tops of the perfoliate alexanders, Smyrnium perfoliatum. I first bought this self seeder from the Chelsea Physic Garden years ago and I love its yellow green bracts mixed with the blue flowers on the lower branches of a rosemary bush. Blue and yellow is a perfect spring colour combination.
The tulips have been much admired, not just my favourite red Apeldoorn, but the large drifts of yellow and red striped tulips that were a mistake! I ordered something completely different but visitors have liked them so much that I even had someone mentioning them on the phone from Glasgow. They are planted in the sandy soil of an old greenhouse base where later I hope the newly laid out fox tail lilies will send up their elegant flower spikes amidst the delicate daisies of Erigeron karvinskianus. I say 'hope' because nothing is ever guarenteed in gardening, the weather and the wildlife all playing an unexpected part.
Speaking of wildlife, the thrushes have been feeding newly fledged young all over the garden - I think there are three separate familes and everwhere I go I can hear the tap-tapping of brittle snail shells being pounded against brickwork. The long tailed tits that are nesting deep in a bamboo come out and do aerobatics amongst the tall curving plumes of a pampas grass. I took round a party of 37 from a horticultural society and the long tailed tits put on an excellent performance on cue. Next Sunday, the garden is open for the National Gardens Scheme and the entrance money for the day goes to this excellent charity.