Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Loss of a good friend and planting for summer's Pollinators....

Hello All,

It really has been quite some time since my last post back in the nice weather last year when I was building a bridge over a flower border into my daughter's play area!

Time has moved on and to be honest no further work has been done in the garden other than the erection of about 220ft of mesh fencing around the bottom sections of the garden!

"Why the mesh fence when you're trying to encourage wildlife in?" I can hear you all asking.

Unfortunately just before Christmas we lost our old dog and best friend Choco! Those of you that watch my progress on here, facebook or even know me from the RSPB on-line Community will know that Choco really was my shadow and was always only a few inches away from me, particularly whilst I was out working in the garden! He was the most wonderful companion and so trusting for an older rescue dog who had such a bad start in life.

He featured in many a post on-line and some of my infamous 'badger stake-out' videos that we ran on the RSPB forum. In fact he became quite a celebrity in his own way.

Unfortunately Choco gave up his fight having suffered from old age and a couple of illnesses and on December 1st 2014 he let us know that he had had enough and was put to sleep at home in his bed with all his family around him. I'm not too 'macho' to say that I shed a good number of tears over the loss of such a special friend!

Choco having a snooze in his favourite place - out in the garden by my side so that he could keep an eye on me to ensure I didn't abandon him as he had experienced in earlier life...
Choco R.I.P 01/12/2014

You are now probably wondering where this post is going and how it will ever link into my garden project?

Well it's that fencing again, remember that I said that I laid about 220ft of fencing at short notice over the Christmas period? There was a reason.....

Following the loss of Choco our home and lives felt empty so the decision was made to rescue another dog and this would be our third rescue to date. Having rescued Choco in his later years we wanted a younger dog so that our daughter could be a bit more hands on and we hoped would have a good amount of time growing up alongside it.

When you put children into the mix your choice of dog has to be considered very carefully so after much deliberation and research we decided on a Lab or Springer Spaniel. We looked at several dogs but just couldn't find the right one as they were too big and boisterous or just completely mad!

After some time we were rang up by Happy Landings Animals Shelter in Shepton Mallet, Somerset and they stated that they had an 18month old Sprollie (Springer/Collie X) that they felt would fit perfectly into our family set up and lively life style. Although a good distance away from home we paid several visits, fell in love and eventually brought home Willow....

Welcome to the Higgy madhouse Willow!

We soon learned that taking the mind of a Mastermind champion, the endurance of an Ironman and a formula one turbo charger then mixing them all up and creating a dog gives you a Sprollie!
Basically a Sprollie is a supercharged brain on legs!

Although highly intelligent, highly trainable it soon became apparent that she was also highly 'escapable!!' which I hope explains the reason for my hasty and very rushed erection of the fence!

Unfortunately in my haste to secure the garden I trampled over most of my flower borders and did a fair bit of damage to the garden! this combined with heavy water-logged winter ground ensured that the garden was well and truly trashed! This has now caused me to have rather a lot of work to do to get the garden back looking as it should this summer!

I am looking at this as a positive though and an opportunity to rethink some of my planting scheme by digging up the borders, splitting large perennial flowers and replanting for pollinators once again.

So after quite a long introduction here are my thoughts of what I shall be re-planting in my trampled borders and why....

My Perennials For Pollinators - PART ONE

Astrantia - One of my favourite perennials for early summer, plant front to middle of a border and they will take most situations including both shade and damp ground. Irresistible to Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and most other pollinators

Bergenia 'Elephant ears purpurea - Again front of the border for Spring flowers and evergreen ground cover. Will take sun or shade and again a range of soil conditions. Great source of nectar for early Spring Pollinators.

Campanula Canterbury Bells - Flowering at the height of the summer you will be amazed at the bee activity around these unusual large cupped flowers. Mid birder in sun will keep these happy but be sure to watch the bumblebees that will come out of them covered in pollen!

Salvia - I use lots of different varieties and sizes. Bees love them they smell great and generally flower mid-late summer. They need full sun and good drainage. they don't over-winter on our damp heavy clay here but should if you have good drainage and dry conditions for them.

Crocosmia Lucifer - Not known as a pollinating plant but they get plenty of visits from Bumblebees in my garden and are a nice plant to add some drama in the border. Again surprisingly adaptable and despite popular belief they actually benefit from plenty of water or a slightly damp ground.

Aster - There are lots of different varieties of Aster and we will use a few different types to add interest and longevity to the feeding season. Aster comes into it's own late summer and into Autumn where it will keep flowering until we have the first frosts. Best in a sunny spot on reasonably well drained soil, doesn't like our waterlogged winter ground but will happily over-winter in drier conditions.

Helenium - A great pollinating plant loved by bees and butterflies! Tall so can be used in the middle or back of the border. Sunny position prefers a well drained soil. I under-plant these with annual Corn Marigold wildflowers and it works really well for attracting in all sorts of pollinating insects!

Inula - Great summer butterfly & bee plant, especially useful in very hot sunny areas or extremely hot years as they cope well with drought and seem to keep attracting pollinators even when other plants are stressed and struggling

 Monarda - great bee plant for a sunny summer border

Rudbeckia Goldstrum - An underrated plant. Adored by the Small Copper Butterfly. There are plenty of other Rudbeckias to chose from also. Mid to back of the border depending what type you plant. They like full sun and well drained soil but do over-winter on our heavy wet clay soil here.

So that's my first ten pollinating perennial plants that I will be planting in me borders when I revamp them in the Spring. I have plenty more choices that will be going into my garden and to share with you also.

Next time I will continue with my list of pollinating plants but will start to include a few other ideas such as wildflowers and bulbs that can be added and make perfect partners for your perennial plants and give your pollinating bed a real 'Zing!'

I will also get some pictures of the new fence and give you a few ideas of how we can still let some wildlife in whilst keeping Willow safe and sound inside the garden!

Until next time....