Friday, 27 February 2015

Not a shred of gardening was achieve this week

There has been no gardening in the Quirky bird in between garden this week. We have had snow showers most days, though thankfully it hasn't lain. It's rained, been windy, chilly and just a bit miserable. The dog and I have only had one walk this week instead of our daily march up the hill.

View from our walk on Tuesday, another snow shower blowing in

Crocus emerging in the garden

Thankfully we are at the end of February and the days are lengthening. I can hear the birds singing their wee hearts out in the morning as I lie in bed planning the day ahead. The Snowdrops are out, the Hellebores are thinking about it and there are a few tentative Crocus flowering.

Another sprinkling of snow

There has been much planning and discussion of future trips, holidays and other exciting things in the pipeline for this Quirky bird, which will no doubt pop up here as they come round. Watch this space as they say.

I needed colour and something to photograph
so I treated myself to some Tulips

They are sitting on my desk
where I can see them as I work

I had the opportunity to go on another bat survey, this time underground at another disused mine this week. That was a really fascinating day, if tiring, surveying two mines. We found seven bats over the two mines, but there are sure to be plenty more where we can't see them.

A collage of my visit down 2 mines on bat surveys this week.
If you click on the photo it enlarges it to see the detail

 That's pretty much it for this week, a week of hibernating, catching up on paperwork and other boring things. I have completed my enrolment with Manchester Metropolitan University to do my course, starting in May. I am excited and very nervous about it, but it will be interesting and good to learn new skills and meet new people. The thought of studying after so long is slightly terrifying! Because it is plant based it will give me lots of new subjects to talk about here too.

Here's what is flowering in the Quirky bird garden this week:

Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'
Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'

Galanthus nivalis
Hepatica noblis, I've had this plant as long as I've been in
horticulture. I was given a piece from the first garden
I ever worked in, Inveresk Gardens, Musselburgh

Mixed unknown crocus

I'm off to have a warming coffee. Have a good weekend, I hope it relaxing and fun, meanwhile here, the cats have the right idea!

Meanwhile the cats have the right idea!

A very warm and snug Milly

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

This February I am

Making: yummy cake & muffins using blood oranges in this months Good Food magazine. 

Cooking: using my new recipe book bought for £4 in a local charity shop. It's Jamie Oliver's 
                 30 minute meals, the book is in pristine condition with a RRP of £26.00. I got a 

Drinking: All the flavoured hot chocolates and coffees we got for Christmas. 

Reading: Don Quixote, working my way through the top 100 classics. I've read Robinson 
                 Crusoe, gave up on Pilgrims Progres (for now).

Wanting: My sister to get through her cancer treatment as easily as possible.  

Looking: At Pintrest too much, lol. I discovered it this week, like I need another internet 

Playing: My way through my CD collection, now my stereo is fixed.

Wishing: Lots of things, for a better, kinder world, no cancer, a good future for my kids.

Enjoying: Sowing seeds in the greenhouse, haven't done that for a few years, I've missed it.

Loving: Our wonderful family David and I have created with our 5 kids and Bracken the dog.

Smelling: The Hamamelis plants at Larch Cottage Nursery, Cumbria when we visited.

Wearing: the 3 long sleeved tops I bought in the same charity shop as the Jamie O book. 
                  Each one was £2.75 and all were in immaculate condition and are very comfy.

Anticipating: Some exciting developments in the near future

Buying: Ferry tickets

Disliking: that cancer is blighting our family yet again.

Eating: A very nice cheese we bought in Cumbria on our weekend, Doddington cheese, 
              mature and subtle in taste, rock hard but well worth seeking out.

Planting: Vegetable seeds in the greenhouse. Some kale, red cabbage and broccoli.

Marvelling: At how mad bracken the dog can be, but so lovable too.

Wondering: Too many things to list here, lol.

Feeling: Very proud after Daniel's parents evening tonight. He has come on so much in so
               many ways. Academically he is working really hard and making good progress. 
               Socially and behaviour wise he has improved hugely, this is great considering his 
               Aspergers. All his teachers were singing his praises. I am a very proud Mum.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Sowing seeds, bonfires, spring tidying and a Hint of Spring

We've had a few dry days this last week, and a couple of them I was able to get out in the garden. Which was good as the next week is forecast to be mainly snow, sleet and cold temperatures. As well as some gardening I also had a trip to Northumberland with David, sho had some work to do around Kielder. A very nice day out visiting a derelict farm house, Kielder water, a visit to a bastle, lunch out and a walk with the dog. 

The buds of the Horse chestnut in the front garden
are beginning to swell and get sticky

I got the cutting back of the dead hedge finished, yeh!
No more boring dead hedge photos

While I was finishing the dead hedge, David and Ben
moved and painted the house sign at the drive
entrance and cleared the years of mud and leaves from
 the edge of the road

So that was one day, its so good to see something done, even small tidying jobs like those. Although we won't be here for ever, it makes it look nice as we come and go and gives a little back to the owners. They were kind enough to let us put up the greenhouses, sheds, bring all our animals and do what ever we wanted in the garden. A couple of days later we had the weather and time to get outside again.

The area in front of the sheds is really muddy so we cleared out the mud
and used some of the excess gravel from the drive. What a difference, it
looks good and is much cleaner for getting to the sheds and chickens and
it didn't cost anything to do.

While David was doing the gravel, I finished lifting the Cornus layers under
the neglected  main plant. In the end there were 21 new plants! I used
these to fill in spaces all the way up the east boundary. Another job that
was free but achieved a lot

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena' in the garden moving

Galanthus nivalis has moved well, a nice healthy

We also used some of the excess drive gravel  to fill in
lots of odd muddy spots on the patio, such as here at
 the bottom of the steps to the back lawn

and here all the way along the back of the house

This is the next project in the front garden

Milly, having a daft turn int he morning, while waiting
 on Daniel's school bus

Chitting Daniel's potatoes

Saturday was cold but dry with blue skies and an occasional snow flurry, so wrapped up I got my car cleaned inside and out, long over due. Then I tidied and watered both greenhouses, potted up a house plant and various other jobs ...

Seeds to sow, a house plant to pot up, gathering the bits and pieces together

Staring the bonfire, because it was mainly dead wood,
 it burnt really well, you can't beat a good  bonfire

Burning the dead hedge trimmings and all the other sticks n stuff lying
about, Adam and Daniel were a great help (boys and bonfires, you
know how it is!) We also toasted some marshmallows.

Creative in the kitchen too, this is the Blood orange and Pomegranate cake,
before the pomegranate syrup topping

... and after, I have to say it was very nice

Sowing the first seeds of the year, some vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli and
kale for Dan's veg garden. Its great to be sowing seeds again

Making room for the trays in the greenhouse

So as you can see, a busy week in the Quirky bird garden, I'm writing this as the snow falls again. I don't think there will be much gardening done this week. What ever you get up to, have a good one.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Snowdrops are in full flower, bringing colour to our gardens and lifting our spirits. Last year I did a blog on snowdrops which you can read here: snowdrops spreading wee bit of joy in the grip of winter. This year I thought I'd share some photographs I took this week of my snowdrops. When I lifted plants to bring with us when we moved last year, I managed to get some of each snowdrop I had, appart from G. 'Lady Elphinstone' which I couldn't find. But I know where I can get a few new bulbs. 

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'

Earlier this week I decided to pick one flower of each variety and do some photography with them. These are the results, the close ups are taken with the macro lens which I love using.

Galanthus 'John Gray' in light

Galanthus 'John Gray' in light

Galanthus 'Magnet' close up

Galanthus 'Magnet' close up

Galanthus 'Magnet' close up

Galanthus in shot glass

Galanthus in shot glasses

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Plena'

Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Trip to Larch Cottage Nursery

When we were away for a long weekend in Cumbria a couple of weeks ago we were staying just 5 miles from one of my favourite nurseries. On the way home on the Monday we stopped in to have a wander and buy some plants (of course). I first visited this nursery in 1986 not long after it opened in 1984. Even back then when I was 16 and about to start a career in horticulture I could see this place had something special. It ends up being several years or more between visits (although I have ended up there twice in the last two years) but each time it is better and better. 

One of the many archways

So what is special about Larch Cottage Nursery? Well it definitely is quirky (no wonder I love it). It is full of garden statuary for sale and as features in the gardens, from classical to modern and everything in between there is a garden ornament or container to suit your garden style. The gardens and nursery are full of re built walls, windows, arches, door ways and follys using recycled stone work and reclaimed masonry. The owner Peter Stott and his team are creating a real gem inspired by Italian archetecture, softend by beautiful and interesting plants. Their latest project was a chapel, built in time for his wedding last year, now that's love.

The beautiful early flowering Cornus mas

Cornus mas

They have an amazing selection of plants, many rare and unusual species and culivars, well grown and looked after, the sales area and gardens are always clean and tidy. Plants are easy to find and the staff are helpful and pleasant and will go searching if you can't find your desired plant. Although it was early in the year to visit, the early shrubs were in full flower and a delight to see. There is a gorgeous mature Cornus mas on the way to the restaurant, its yellow flowers striking against the blue winter sky. The Hamamelis were also out in flower with their elusive scent.

Hamamellis intermedia 'Diane'

Hamamellis 'Moonlight'

I of course went with a wee list of plants I wanted, having looked up their excellent website to see if they might have them available. You can see the web site here: I got four out of the six I was looking for which was great. I was tempted by a Hamamelis and a Salix, but have to bear in mind we are in the in between garden, so everything has to be pot bound for a few years. I was restrained, not like me!

Looking back towards the main buildings

We had a wander around the nursery and gardens, unfortunately we couldn't walk down to the chapel as that area is only open at certain times. All the gardens had been tidied and the labels were all neatly lined up waiting for their plants to start into growth. I found the plants I was looking for and took some photos and some of a couple of plants I have added to my list of plants to get. One of these is Salix chaenomeloides  'Mt Aso' with lovely fluffy pink buds.

Salix chaenomeloides  'Mt Aso' 

The photos are a bit washed out as it was a beautiful sunny day, but that made it even more of a pleasant visit. There were plenty birds singing and hopping about enjoying the feeling spring is just around the corner.

Looking down into one of the sales areas

There is also a lovely gallery full of lovely arty craft nice things we could quite happily have taken home if we had the money or space. We contented ourselves with a visit to the excellent Greenhouse Restaurant for a coffee which turned into mega hot chocolates and cake! The nursery also have a good Facebook page where there are often photos of new amazing cakeness. It would be rude not to partake while we were there. David was all for resisting until he discovered there were cheese scone... He had a Green and blacks hot chocolate, I had the full monty! I didn't eat for the rest of the day.

My full monty hot chocolate

After stuffing ourselves with cake and hot chocolate I paid for my plants and we made our way home meandering back through Gretna green and up the M74 in the winter sun. It was another fabulous weekend away together in a lovely wee cottage with the fuzzy dog too. 

Here are some photos I took of the nursery when we visited two years ago in April 2013

Acer and urn

Peeking through the foliage

The pot area and part of the sales area

Another statue in a niche in one of the walls

Spring colour in the gardens

A statue for every style of garden

Hiding amongst the Acers

If you are ever travelling near Penrith this place is definitely worth a wee detour to the village of Melkinthorpe, have a wander and definitely have cake and hot chocolate.