Friday, 31 July 2009

A handful of pheasant chicks

Pheasants are not the cleverest of birds and, as usual, this is a tale of maternal incompetance. Every year a female pheasant (a different one each time, of course) lays eggs in the garden, somewhere hidden in a border despite all the visitors, (that bit is clever), hatches out a large brood and then proceeds to lose most of them. One year a pheasant hen led them to the pond and three drowned, another let them get scattered all over the lawn attracting the attention of the sparrowhawk and more than once they have been left on the wrong side of a wall. (See previous blogs May & July 07)

That's what happened this year again; the pheasant, having reared up the young in the garden, flew over the bottom gate and expected her brood to somehow rejoin her. Some had made it and others hadnt! It was a visitor who alerted me to their predicament, and her Australian friend, Christine Harris, managed to photograph three of the chicks hopelessly trying to squeeze through the wire on the gate. I scooped up all three at once (see Christine's second photograph) and popped them over the gate with the mother who was clucking every now and then from under a fuschia. All's well that ends well, this time....

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Pot marigold, the wonderful Calendula officinalis

I wrote in an earlier blog about how I lost an entire line of pink lavender in the late winter (except for 4 plants). I deliberately hadn't pruned the old flowers off last year to give the plants more protection in the winter, but even so, the frosts that we had in the late winter were enough to kill all the lavenders. Making a virtue of a necessity, We replanted the space with a long line of that wonderful healing herb, pot marigold or Calendula officinalis, thinking it would look good with the different tone of yellow from the golden yarrow. I'd given a week's worth of work experience to a lad from the Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham and showed him how to lay out the seedlings in a staggered double row, seedlings which had all self sown from a previous lot of marigolds that I had let grow by the side of the drive. In the vegetable garden we grow Gertrude Jekyll's favourite marigold, 'Golden King', as a companion plant for beans and other veg, but these paler, buttery flowers are also very lovely.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The garden's future?

It is so sad to be at this point after 23 years of working this wonderful, wonderful garden, day in day out, season by season, but the garden will have to close by May next year. This makes it the last time that anyone can see it in summer and autumn which is why I wanted to let everyone know and the response from the media has been hectic, a media storm albeit it regional. Headline of the Journal on Saturday (must be rare for a garden to take the front page, next to Andy Murray), filmed for BBC Look North on Saturday, live radio on Sunday and filmed for Look North again on Monday (in the pouring rain this time!). The garden has been busy with people coming to see, to give their commiserations, to enjoy it while they can and I have to face other people's sadness as well as my own.

My principal worry is where I can go from here, how to save plants that I have loved and nurtured for years and which tell stories of the people and places they have come from. To help others as well as myself, I have a book of 'Garden Memories' which anyone can contribute to in any form. The garden gives so much pleasure to so many people, has been written about worldwide, been in every national newspaper, most gardening magazines, in books and frequently on television. We have supplied thyme plants to Prince Charles, had visits from famous people, won awards, been in cookery programmes, you name it! The wildlife is amazing, the soil is unique, irreplacable, and the atmosphere that has been created is very special. I'm afraid that is all I can say for now at this stage but I just wanted to write something personal on my blog.... Susie

Saturday, 4 July 2009

They've fledged!

It would happen on a day when I wasn't in the garden but I've just heard that the great tit chicks have flown the nest, negotiating their way out of the cupboard! One was perched, cheepily, on the back of the bench in the greenhouse, another was on the vine and the third flew out of the door which I had left open last night as I was sure today would be the day (hunch correct). The parents were adept at coming and going through the grille above the glass but I thought this might be too much for the youngsters. What a relief after the panics (see previous blog entry) and all the toing and froing of visitors including a couple of coach parties. It's amazing what birds are capable of when they get used to having people around the whole time and although I shall miss seeing them nipping in and out of the cupboard when no-one was looking, I'm glad that they've made it!