Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Best Buddleja's and Open Gardens Raise a Storm!

Hello All,

Wow! A whole summer has just whizzed past! Where did that go!!

Isn't it amazing how time goes by and all those great plans that we have for our gardens seem to fade into another year! Well having said that we have had quite an interesting summer and I intend to share my summer garden with you by looking back over the last five months since my last post!

As I always say 'if I'm not posting on here it's a good thing as I'm out in the garden!'

So where do I start?

I thought that in this post I'd start by telling you about opening our garden for chairity for the first time.

Yes that's right in true Higgy style I somehow nominated myself to the task of opening my own garden when I suggested to my wildlife group that we should work in partnership with our local horticultural society by opening up a selection of  members gardens that are designed purposefully for wildlife. This was accepted as a great idea and I was promptly nominated to be part of the committee that would make this happen!

PANIC STATIONS!!! This is the only way that I can describe knowing that I literally had a couple of months to get my own garden in a fit shape for showing to members of the public who were also keen gardeners themselves! Anyone who has opened their own garden will know exactly what I faced: a lot of hard work!! And my hard work was doubled as due to my hip replacement last September the garden hadn't been properly managed or maintained for more than a year!!

Although still proving attractive to wildlife my garden was in no state for opening to the paying public. The wildlife made the most of stripping berries and seeds from my neglected plot!
As always I soon found that despite looking out on good weather whilst sat in work, come the weekend when I desperately needed to get in the garden it innevitably rained and generally on any other occassion when I had time off work!!

Undefeated by the weather, painful hip and stacks of hard work I'm pleased to tell you that we did manage to get the garden in some sort of acceptable state to open it. Unfortunately on the day of the open gardens we had torrential rain all afternoon!! I do wonder if someone was trying to tell me something!

At this point I just have to say a massive thank you to those of you who braved the weather to still make the day a great success and contributed to over 100 visitors to the garden who all really engaged with the concept of gardening for wildlife! Even better as a collective of 14 gardens we raised over £1500 for our local children's hospice so it all ended very well indeed! :-)

Here's a few pictures of the garden back in early summer to demonstrate what visitors ended up seeing...

When you first enter the garden you come onto the raised deck and the area where I grow a few tropical/jungly type plants and where we sit to eat...

Your eye is then drawn down the garden and out to the view of the fields beyond which we created by cutting the trees at the bottom of the garden into windows to frame the view...

You then walk down into the area where we grow these big leaved tropical plants but at the time of these pictures they aren't very big!...

Through the archway...

 ...and into an area that is planted with perennial plants for pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies. Quite a transformation from where you have just come from! On a hot sunny day these plants are literally buzzing with life!...

I'm going to leave your garden tour here and pick it back up on my next post as this will encourage me to post again soon and there is another project that I'm working on in the garden that I wanted to tell you about...

Buddleia - Buddleja

As you will all know by now the plants in my garden have to have some use to wildlife and in particular I have a passion for butterflies and moths. Now one of the best plants that I grow for butterflies and moths is of course Buddleia or Buddleja. Commonly known as 'The Butterfly Bush' it has all the attributes to attract a wealth of wildlife which I like! I like a lot!

Having a couple of Buddleia already growing in my garden (Black Knight & White Profusion) I thought it would be fun to search for other varieties with a view of eventually trying to establish which Buddleia really is the 'best' for butterflies!!

So at the end of last year I planted about a dozen different varieties to get my Buddleia trial started!

Buddleja Davidii - White Profusion was one of two Buddleias that got my trial started. Here you can see how attractive to pollinators Buddleias really are...

I now have about 30 different species planted throughout the garden and it will be interesting to see how they evolve over the next couple of years. Will there be one that is better than all the others at attracting wildlife?? I wonder?

So far I can report that the white variety 'White Profussion' has been the best by far but it is also the most mature buddleia plant in the garden so I don't think we can fairly judge this at this time.

There are also many different types of Buddleia many more than I first thought with over 140 different varieties reported to be in existence from all over the world!

I intend to dedicate a whole blog or two to this superb wildlife plant and have introduced them and my trial here to give you a little taster of what's to come...

So I will leave you with a few Buddleja species from my trial and that are now happily growing in my garden in North Somerset....

Buddleja Davidii - Royal Red...

Buddleja Davidii - Peacock

Buddleja Davidii - White Bouquet 

 Buddleja Lindleyana...

 Buddleja Nivea

 Buddleja davidii - Adonis Blue

Buddleja Davidii - Morning Mist Silver Anniversary...

 Buddleja Davidii - Empire Blue...

 Buddleja - Peach dream...

Buddleja Davidii - Sugar Plum...


Just a very small selection of my Buddleja and I hope you agree very pretty flowers in a veriety of shapes and colours. Whatch this space for more details on the plants themselves and how my trial is progressing.

Bye for now, although I will post up again very soon :-)

Best regards

Higgy




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dry River Bed Revamp and a Garden Raised Deck Pontoon & Bridge...

Hello All,

Well it's been another long break between posts but since my hip replacement back in September last year and now I haven't really been in the best of health and certainly not fit for too much gardening!

As you will know by now I like to have a 'project' on the go and as I was off this last week looking after my daughter and with my health moving in the right direction I thought it time to start a new one!

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of it's construction from start to finish as I usually post on here but I'm posting this to show that I am at last back and moving in the right direction!

So here it is my latest project which involved the tidying up and rejuvenation of the old dry river bed including the addition of a new raised deck seating area complete with bridge.




The pictures above hopefully show the new feature and how it sits with the rest of the garden.
The picture below shows that I have kept with the wildlife theme by providing habitats through the addition of a part buried log pile and the shallow pebble lined pond gives a great shallow bowl for birds to bathe in...


I haven't taken many pictures in the garden yet as I've been so busy getting my hand back in as it were, but it is great to see some spring colour now with the Primrose, Cowslip and Marsh Marigolds starting to push through...

Marsh Marigolds add some much needed colour to the garden and of course provide nectar for early bees and other pollinating insects...

Ribes is another great spring time plant/shrub for early bees who adore this plant at this time of year..

Over the last month or so I have also been busy sowing seeds and pricking out. I hope to have plenty of  plants from this little lot and the greenhouse full that I also have growing...

I've ended up with so many plants growing from seed that I have had to use every bit of free space that is available, including my impromptu conversion of the windows above the garage door!!!...


As well as the plants that I have growing from seed I have also, in true Higgy style, managed to collect the below plants from my local 'Freecycle' site! Freecycle is a great way to find free plants and of course to share plants with other like minded people also!...

I think that is about it for this post, I apologise that it's a shorter post than usual bu I am now in the middle of creating a garden area for my eight year old daughter as she wanted her own garden! I promise to be back soon when I've completed this project with a full update!

Unfortunately it's back to work tomorrow so I will now have to rely on evenings to get the odd hour out in the garden!

Thanks for reading and see you all soon.

Best regards

Higgy











Friday, November 27, 2015

Care Free Wildlife Gardening! And my Buddleia Test Challenge...

Hello All,

As usual it's been a long gap between my last post back in May and this one now (November!!) It's been a funny old year as I spent the summer incapacitated as far as gardening goes due to my deteriorating hip joint. This meant in the end that even a basic job like planting or weeding would take me a long time and would prove very painful afterwards due to my lack of movement and flexibility. This meant that the garden had to fend for itself to some degree this year and obviously no new projects were undertaken.

In September I was finally given surgery and now have a new hip! Currently I am in recuperation and slowly rebuilding my muscle mass, walking distance and general maneuverability.

As I sit in my office overlooking the garden and watching our new resident Coal Tit pair, I think it's time to draw a line under the last few months that have been hard due to lack of actual gardening time. So I will use this post to simply update on the summers wildlife activities and how the garden fared looking after itself for a season!

As I've mentioned them let's have a look at one of our new garden resident Coal Tits...

Not the greatest picture but one of my new Coal Tit pair...

With just a quick mow of the lawn the garden itself actually stood up well to being slightly neglected for a season. Here we have a view across the Perennial Pollinating borders  to the wildflower area in July.

 Both the perennial borders (above) and the wildflower area (below) gave a good show of colour this year and I only planted in a few plants to fill gaps from plants that we lost over winter. Again these pictures were taken in July so half way through our summer season.

So although looking a bit rough around the edges the above pictures clearly demonstrate that a wildlife garden can prove to be low maintenance (not necessarily by choice!) whilst continuing to provide a good looking garden full of colour and beneficial to a variety of species!

There are a few things that I would have changed if I was able to but generally I think the plants worked very well and we still recorded a good variety of insects and other wildlife into the garden.


Summer Garden Update 

In this next section I'm taking a lead from what I promised in my last post and will try to demonstrate what flowers and plants were particularly good for pollinators this year whilst also showing some of the wildlife that visited.

As always Inula Magnifica makes a great statement plant with its large toothed leaves but is also a great reliable pollinating plant in the garden. It is especially loved by bees & Comma Butterflies.... 

 Ragwort is effectively a weed and is probably one of the most controversial plants as in large volume it is poisonous to live stock. Ragwort will seed itself into gardens and is so valuable for many rare insects that I let if grow with will, however I never let it seed to ensure that I am being responsible by not letting it loose into neighbouring fields where it could harm livestock....

 I've mentioned Crocosmia Lucifer in other posts before and I still stand by this as a great pollinating plant for early summer bees and in particular Bumblebees....

Echinacea once again proved it's worth by attracting lots of bees and butterflies in August. White Swan is a variety that I have found to be the most attractive to pollinators...

Verbena bonariensis is one of the best know plants for butterflies and bees and should be included in every good wildlife garden. As usual it proved the backbone of my perennial borders again this year! the butterfly pictured is a Painted Lady and we were lucky to get quite a few in the garden this summer...

 If you include Verbena Bonariensis in your garden then try planting Verbena Hostata also. It's just as good at attracting pollinators but it's shorter length and conical shaped flower spires will give another dimension to your planting scheme. Generally this plant will grow to about three feet tall and makes a nice mid border perennial...

 I include lots of Honeysuckle in my garden as its flowers are great for early pollinators, it provides hiding and nesting cover for birds and small mammals also. But what I really like is the berries that it produces in June. The berries are stripped from the plant from all manner of birds with juvenile Bullfinches and young Blackbirds generally being the first to them!...

In the wildflower area we had a good show of early plants such as Bird's Foot Trefoil, Knapweed and Field Scabious among other things. Unfortunately this year we were a bit overrun by Wild Carrot and although it has some uses for pollinators such as this Brown Argus butterfly I intend to manage it better next year. this will help to ensure that the other smaller plants don't get out-competed by it as they did this year....
 

 Making sure that the whole garden has some use for wildlife has been a goal of mine and therefore we mustn't forget the native wildlife friendly hedgerow and wildlife corridor that I have been carefully developing. Within our hedge rows I have planted a large variety of plants such as Guelder Rose, Alder Buckthorn, Elder Berry among many more species. Included in this planting scheme is native Hazel which is the food plant for many moth species. I was thrilled to find that one of our bushes was defoliated by a good sized clutch of Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars (as below) This demonstrates that even a slightly neglected wildlife garden will continue to support a wealth of wildlife if the right plants have been planted....

 Back to the perennial borders and I have had great success with a plant called Veronicastrum. This grows to about four feet high and has lots of spires of pretty mauve or white flowers. It is a great addition to the back of a perennial border and I have found that the mauve colour is best as an absolute magnet to most bee species. This plant is a must!!.....

 Next to the large wildlife pond that I dug last year I planted a couple of Greater Burdock plants. These turned into large plants this summer and are quite architectural in their appearance which is a nice addition to a pond side. They produced a profusion of pinky/red flowers that the Carder Bees in particular loved this year. They were also visited by the odd butterfly.... 

 Talking of architectural plants then the Cardoon is one of the best! A good friend of mine gave me a small plant last year and this year it turned into a six foot giant thistle like plant with several flower heads as below. The Bumble bees loved this plant and it's already started shooting again so hopefully we will have another giant next year!....

This next plant is one of my best butterfly plants but I rarely see it mentioned in other peoples lists. It's lysimachia clethroides and I think a cracking summer pollinating plant. I get all sorts of butterflies on it but have noticed that the Small Copper Butterfly is especially attracted to it. The plant is vigorous and throws up lots of spires covered in tiny white flowers not disimilar to the larger flowered Buddliea. Butterflies like to work their way along each flower on the spire that has a drooping habit making the flower head lie almost horizontal...

 I grow as much Scabious as I can from the wild Field Scabious in my wild flower areas to cultivated forms mixed in my perennial borders. One of my favourites is the Giant Scabious that attracts lots of pollinators and stands over six feet tall making it an ideal companion to mix with Verbena Bonariensis or to use through a tall or prairie style planting scheme....

 Another success story of this year has been the return of our Sparrow family that disappeared for a couple of years. They have now been back for several months and are currently numbering at about thirty birds and successfully bred this year!.....

A plant that gave us much needed Autumn cover was the Japanese Anemone. Although wildlife friendly I wouldn't normally call it prolific, however this year in the warm October that we experience it performed really well and attracted lots of insects including late flying butterflies...

Teasle simply self-seeds itself throughout the wildlife garden and so long as not out of place I let them grow up as the bees like the flowers but more importantly the Goldfinches strip the seeds in winter.....



Higgy's Buddleia Test Challenge

Those of you who read last month will now that I planted about twelve different varieties of  Buddleia or as often know 'Butterfly Bush' in my garden. This is to test if any of them prove more popular to butterflies than others. 

It's obviously early days at the moment but I already have a few results that will go in the pot with the others when we get them.

This summer the two Budleia that seemed the most popular with butterflies was a pink coloured species that looks very similar in colour to our 'wild' Buddliea often seen in the countryside and a white variety that I have planted. Both bushes attracted butterflies with I think slightly more to the pale pink colour. However as with all these tests it's about their full potential and the white coloured species attracts far more moth species during night time which is of course another vital function of a well planted and functioning wildlife garden!

The pink coloured Buddleia in my challenge has so far attracted the most butterflies...

This white coloured species has attracted almost the same amount of butterflies as the pink but has one the test hands down due to the good numbers of moths that it attracts at night time...

It's not only Peacocks, all sorts of butterflies feed on Buddleia, like this Comma...

Although extremely pretty this yellow coloured Buddleia isn't yet attracting pollinators...

It's early days at the moment on this test for the best buddleia but it will be interesting to see how this develops and if we can find the perfect Buddleia for the wildlife gardener...



This has turned into quite a long post now and I still have lots to tell you about this years wildlife found in the garden, some of which is very exciting! To prevent this post from getting any longer I'll leave this summers new arrivals to my next post!

See you then!

Best regards

Higgy :-)