Wildflowers -Day 26 of 30 Days Wild

This year I was given free wildflower seeds from Just Bee Drinks, Grow Wild and I also got a packet in my 30 Days Wild pack from The Wildlife Trust.

I decided that a the beginning of June I would put some wildflowers in troughs under my living room window as well as sprinkle them around the garden.
I decided that as some of the seeds were going into 2 troughs, I would sow each seed in plug plant trays.
I didn’t know what type of flowers I was going to get, so it was going to be exciting to see the results. I opened each packet and sprinkled a number of seeds into the trays before sprinkling the rest in various parts of the garden.
I watered the seeds well and now all I had to do was wait.

It was exciting to see the green seedlings shoot from the soil, and start to form their shape. They started to become greener and fill out with more with leaves.

It wasn’t long before the insects started to come and have a look.

Today I planted the plugs out into their troughs and already the bees are taking a look at them so I have even placed a little insect house by the flowers too.

I think these little troughs complement the wildflowers that have been sprinkled around the garden. They are all looking stunningly beautiful in the sunshine and myself, bees and insects are loving them.

 

A big thank you to Grow Wild, Wildlife Trust and Just Bee Drinks for these lovely wildflower seeds.

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My encounter with ladybirds Day 6 of 30 Days Wild

Today was a blustery rainy day. I was being blown all over the place and felt cold and damp, so I decided it was best to stay in a polytunnel (a greenhouse made of polythene) at work potting up plants.

There wasn’t much sign of life outside anyway as the birds where trying to shelter in the hedges and trees and the bugs and bees were sheltering where they could, in the nooks and crannies within walls, log piles and in the polytunnel with me.

As I walked around the large polytunnel I saw a variety of spiderlings hiding within the plant leaves, a bumblebee keeping warm in the crease of a folded up parasol; but even more fascinating was spotting different life cycle stages of ladybirds amongst the leaves.

Most people can recognise a ladybird, they are probably the most identifiable bug in our gardens.  Less familiar to some however, are their eggs, pupae and larvae, which some may unfortunately mistaken for garden pests. Please don’t hurt them though as they are a gardeners best friend, as both the larvae and the adults eat lots of aphids.

Spotting lots of these lovely creatures today, I decided that I would share with you the life cycle of a ladybird.

About May the male and female ladybirds mate.

 
Females then lay about 200 eggs underneath leaves which are usually infested with aphids. 

These eggs then hatch into larvae and a food source is available straight way. These larvae can munch through an awful lot of aphids.

After about 3 weeks the larvae will turn into the pupae stage. 

As this happens the larvae start to shrink into a hunched shape.

 

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Over the following week, the pupae becomes duller and shriveled,

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before a ladybird emerges from within.

These new adults now start feeding on those pesky aphids again till October. They will then overwinter till the following spring, were they will start gobbling up all those aphids again.

 

So next time you are in the garden look out for these amazing creatures.

There is a great little ladybird larvae identification chart here

 If you do find these strange-looking beasties in your garden, don’t squash them! Ladybirds and their larvae are great friends to gardeners and are extremely happy to eat all the aphids.

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Day 1 of 30 Days Wild

Today is the start of 30 Days Wild were The Wildlife Trust challenge you to do something inspired by nature each day throughout June.  Everyone taking part will be busy bees at the moment I’m sure; taking photos, writing blogs and doing nature based activities.

I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since the last 30 Days Wild.  It only seems like yesterday I was busily planning my months worth of “Random acts of wilderness”.

This year I spent my first “Wild” day at work

…..but don’t sigh….

I work outdoors surrounded by an array of beautiful flowers which attract a variety of wondrous small creatures 🙂

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The wild areas dotted with vibrant red poppies entice hoverflies, butterflies, a variety of bees and other insects

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Caterpillars hide from the mid-day sun and from beady eyed birds ready to carry them away to feed their young family.

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But a silver Y moth and a small copper butterfly look like have had a few near misses

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The ladybirds however, seem to be enjoying the sunshine and are helping keep all those pesky aphids away from the plants.

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Of course, my favourite creatures to watch whilst i’m working amongst the plants are bees.

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I think they bring a ray of sunshine to even the most dreariest of days.

All of these tiny creatures have a big part to play in any garden and I think we must cherish them more.

Hopefully you’ll all have a go at doing something “Wild” this June and show nature just how much you appreciate it.

Spring has sprung

At the beginning of March I wrote an article for the Cheshire Environmental Records Centre newsletter about the garden in springtime.  (You can read it here: Wildlife on your doorstep)

I can’t believe how much the garden has changed since then.  Drifts of snowdrops, crocuses and dwarf iris have faded away only to be replaced by stunning daffodil drifts, primroses and hellebores.

The garden looks lovely at the moment.  There are vibrant yellows, pastel purples, beautiful blues and pure whites.

Drifts of daffodils symbolise that spring has sprung and is now in full swing.  There are so many different varieties and every one of them is beautiful.

The primroses are also looking their best now adding vibrant colour under the trees whilst hellebores add pastel hues to the garden.  Hyacinths also look beautiful at the moment and their heady scent wafts down the garden.

If I had to choose my most favourite flower in the garden at the moment, I think I would choose….snakeshead fritillaria.  I think it’s such a delicate pretty flower.  The pastel shade of purple with chequered pattern is exquisite.

My favourite tree in the garden at the moment has to be the damson tree.  I absolutely love the the delicate pure white blossom and the hoverflies, bees and other insects adore it too.

It’s not just the plants that are taking centre stage in the garden though.  Wildlife is returning to the garden once more.  Those sleepy hedgehogs are waking up, frogs are relaxing under the hibernacula and newts are returning to the pond.

It’s lovely to see the hedgehogs waking up from their hibernation.  They have a big shake, a good old scratch and then waddle off to find food.  (You can see some hedgehog footage here)

The pond is absolutely teaming with life.  In the sunshine I can see caddisfly, flatworms, water daphne and waterlice.

I absolutely love sitting by the pond on a sunny spring day to watch the newts dancing about showing off to one another and laying their eggs on plant leaves.  (You can see some pondlife footage here though the newts are being shy)

 

Spring is such a lovely time of year, it really does lift your spirits.

The garden is bursting with life and colour now so get out there and enjoy it.

 

 

The “Sol Monath” garden

From the warmth of a cosy room behind a window, the garden looks dead and uninviting at this time of year. But for all those that brave the cold wet February weather will know that the garden is anything but barren and lifeless.
The garden in February sees the start of new life sprouting from the ground and to the Celts indicated a time for new beginnings. February gets its name from the Roman festival of purification called “Februa” but I have heard that there is also an Old English name “Sol Monath.” This means “Mud month” which I think describes the month perfectly.
In the garden at the moment, it’s cold and damp, and the faint sun can be seen hanging low in the sky behind the silhouette of tree branches. At a quick glance the garden doesn’t seem that inviting but as I look around I see signs of life popping up around me.
Bright green moss and beautiful fungi are cheering up the damp areas of the garden, and fresh cyclamen leaves are emerging from under the trees. bountqplrvp.jpg.jpg

Delicate bright green shoots are popping up from the lawn as daffodil bulbs start to awaken, and vibrant crocuses start to bloom.img_20170211_173215.jpg2017-02-12-15-25-16-048.jpg

Hellebore flower heads are just poking up from the ground adding pastel shades to the garden;2017-02-12-15-23-54-419.jpg

whilst primroses and dwarf iris also add a zing of colour.img_20170110_174308.jpg20170211_133736.jpg

I have even seen some weeds starting to appear in the bare soil, a sign that I need to wrap up warm and get out there to do some weeding.

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Snowdrops have got to be my all-time favourite plant in the garden at this time of year as they symbolise the end of a dreary barren winter and the new beginnings of bright joyful spring.img_20170131_172848.jpg

Their lovely bell shaped flowers weigh heavy with raindrops and they are a beautiful sight to see. It won’t be long till the snowdrops can be divided. Just after they have flowered and the leaves are still green is the best time to divide the bulbs into smaller clumps and plant them elsewhere in the garden. I love dividing plants such as snowdrops and primroses as it is like nature’s free gift to me for all the hard work I do in the garden.

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Later on in the day, as I walk around the garden I notice a mole hill that has suddenly appeared in the lawn and there are several blackbirds polishing off some windfall apples under a tree. The tree branches are covered in beautiful lichen, and delicate catkins dangling from the hazel tree are also a lovely feature at this time of year.  It’s lovely to watch them swaying gently on the breeze, waiting ready to drift their pollen into the wind as they seek out a catkin of the opposite sex.img_20170208_174024.jpg

And as I head indoors and the sun sets on the garden, the feathery plumes of the grasses (which have been left for winter interest) are baked in a beautiful warm copper glow.

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Life is anything but dull in the garden in the month of February.

Winters wildlife garden

I’ve finally got round to writing my first blog of the year. (Better late than never)  I have been busy with various things since my last blog, most of which have been boring mundane stuff but, one of them was writing my first ever wildlife article for a newsletter.  The article was called ‘Wildlife On Your Doorstep’ and was for the Cheshire Environmental Records Centre newsletter.  I had so much fun writing it and hope those that read the article enjoyed it.

(Here is my Wildlife On Your Doorstep article.)

 

Here’s what else I have been doing in the garden since then…….

At the weekend I decided I would have a bit of a tidy up in the garden and my tasks for the day were to make sure the ponds, bird baths and feeders had a good clean.

The ponds are situated in the orchard so had collected many leaves but I had to tread carefully as I noticed bulbs poking out from the leaf litter and grass.  (My job for next weekend is to put canes in the ground where the bulbs are coming up so as not to step on them)

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I gently and carefully started to scoop the leaves out of the pond a bit at a time making sure I put any debris by the pond just incase any pond life was hidden there.  Whilst scooping out the leaves I saw a number of water slaters and pond snails.

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I didn’t tidy up the sides of one of the ponds as it is a newt breeding pond and they lay lots of eggs amongst the vegetation there.

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As I scooped the leaves out of the other pond I found a large frog hiding at the bottom.  I swiftly apologised for disturbing it, put it back in the water and gently topped up the pond using water from the near-by water butt.

Next on my to-do list was to give the feeders and bird baths a real good clean; so out come the washing up gloves, scrubbing brush and disinfectant.  There are about 7-8 bird baths and many feeders in the garden so it took a good while to clean them all thoroughly.  There was a blue tit, blackbird, robin and little wren watching me as I walked around the garden with a watering can filling up their baths.

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Before I went inside I cut some apples in half and placed them around the garden. Blackbirds, squirrels and foxes absolutely love eating them at this time of year.

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Here are some things that you can do in your garden at this time of year.

Put feed out for the birds and clean their baths.

Make sure you check that ponds and bird baths don’t freeze over.

Put bird boxes up in the garden.

Give the pond a little tidy ready for Spring.

Listen out for woodpeckers, watch out for those beautiful waxwings and look out for those bulbs just poking up from the frosty ground.

and lastly….make yourself warm and cosy, have a nice hot drink and start planning what you’ll be planting in the garden come Spring.

Winter is a coming

As I went to bed last night I looked at my weather station which said the temperature was  -1 and as I peered out from the curtains I saw thick freezing fog coming in. Of course this is what happens at this time of year when there has been a clear sunny sky all day.

I snuggled down in my new hedgehog brushed cotton blanket which I had got for my birthday and wished I could hibernate just like the hedgehogs.

When I woke this morning I opened the curtains and there before me was a marvelous sight. The fog was starting to retreat and everywhere looked like it had been sprinkled in icing sugar.

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I  wrapped up warm and rushed out with my phone to take photos.

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I think its a magical experience to walk around and see the white covered cobwebs hanging from every tree, shrub and fence. it looks like the garden is covered with white tinsel.

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The garden looked like a winter wonderland with frost covering everything. The grass and moss sparkled and the shrubs looked like they were covered in tiny crystals.

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After taking photos, I made sure I walked around the garden checking all the water butts, ponds and bird baths for ice. Luckily most were ice free as I had placed a floating object in each to help prevent them freezing over as much. The bird baths, however were frozen solid with a 1cm thick ice cap, so I smashed the ice and put clean water in them. It’s so important to check these at this time of year as water is so precious to all the wildlife that visit and live in the garden. I know the diving beetle was happy it could get to the surface of the water butt it lives in.

After lunch I had another peek outside and things were just starting to thaw in places and the low lying sun scattered golden dashes of light across the bare tree branches. As the frosted leaves began to thaw, they delicately cascaded down through the branches like snowflakes. finally falling onto the crisp frosted ground below.

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Most of the leaves have fallen now but there are a few still hanging on. Once all the leaves are down, I can start clearing the ponds so they don’t become choked with muck and decaying leaf litter. Infact, there is still much to be done at this time of year in the garden. As well as pond maintenance and making sure there is clean water for wildlife; there are nest boxes to be put up, bird feed to put out and wildlife habitats to be made.

As long as you wrap up warm and stay dry, this time of year has lots of magic to offer.