Alder terrace

I posted early this month that I had been working on the alder terrace and would post about it later, it’s nearly the end of the month and I still have not gotten around to posting, it’s all the bee activity, I’ve been distracted, I haven’t seen the great yellow bumblebee queen this week, it’s been chilly and wet, I hope she is alright,

the alder terrace is the smallest bed in my garden at 5 x 10 feet, surprisingly (I think) smaller than the little bed in the front garden which is 6 x 12 feet, when I made the alder terrace I had intended it to be planted with shrubs and a few perennials, but, as I had not been able to, I scattered a couple of packets of free seeds over the bed with the intention that it would be for just that one year, here we are 4 years later and I have only just got it back to a condition where I can plant some shrubs, a word of warning, be very careful where you scatter free seed packets, I’m not complaining about the plants that grew from the seeds, just would have preferred them to grow in other parts of the garden, last year I took out a lot of the oxeye daisies and red campion which had completely dominated the bed, however there was still quite a bit left, earlier this year,
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the brown looking shrub is an unknown hebe with lovely pale mauve flowers that become almost white with age, I pruned off the damaged material and it is slowly leafing out (like most plants this cold year it is very late),
at last the daisies and campion are now in the damp meadow which is a far better place for them and the bulbs are planted or waiting to be planted in other areas of the garden, I had replanted some daisies and daffs but then decided no!
at the back by the trees, Alders and Willows, there are a lot of daffodils and narcissi which look beautiful when in flower so no more needed here, I did replant the snowdrops and I’ve added a few crocus, I left the P. vulgaris, native primrose to flower then divide and replant after, I dug in 2 large buckets of my chunky compost and topped the soil level up,
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I had plants in pots and other parts of the garden I wanted to move here, so I gathered them together and had fun arranging, (I know I should have moved the buckets etc. before taking the photo),
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I planted the ones I was sure of where I wanted them first then reconsider to be certain of where the rest went,
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finished, before mulching, the bags of compost are bags of pine needle mulch I collected,
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mulched, this is how it looked at the beginning of the month, room for a few more plants, otherwise done,
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there are 3 shrubs, Aucuba japonica Variegata, Hebe ‘Caledonia’ and Skimmia reevesiana, that at the moment are mere sticks due to winter damage, they have some green wood so I am waiting to see if there is any life, several of the plants have some winter damage, Conifer Whipcord and Thuja occidentalis Rheingold do too,  I am hoping that they will be more protected here and the two evergreen ferns that were in the front garden and totally wind burnt during winter I have also moved here where they should be sheltered from the worst of the winds, it’s being to sound like a hospital bed,

I saw and bought this heath last week, I have not seen one before with such large bell flowers and I rather like it, Daboecia cantabrica subsp. scotica Silverwells, Irish heath, Silverwells,
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an update of how it is looking now at the end of the month,
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Erica x darleyensis ‘Silberschmelze’ with the creamy new growth is in this bed near the hebe, I like how Euphorbia Ascot rainbow’s new growth goes with the wine red Astrantia together with the Erica they make a nice little trio,
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P. flaccida is in the area between the bed and the trees, it is 5 x 4 feet 6 inches, originally I had not intended to plant this area as I have learnt by experience it is a good idea to leave access to shrubs and trees for maintenance purposes, but when I was trying to find places to replant daffodils and narcissus from the huge clumps that need dividing, I reasoned that planting some here was fine because they will be safely underground come winter and I can access the trees, it has been working fine, I planted this little primula here and wild orchids have started to grow, it is due to all the daffodils and narcissus here that I feel there is no need for any in the alder terrace bed,
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that where it is now, there will be more updates as the year progresses,

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©Copyright 2015 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

living Willow fence

one of the coloured willows, Salix Basfordiana farndon, has some good strong stems that I thought could be used for a living willow fence, but where?
3 weeks ago when I was strimming the grass in the birch garden, I was thinking how well the ‘alternate compost’ was looking and I thought I really should give it a better name, it’s in the birch garden, then as I strimmed up the side of the heather, a light bulb moment, put the willow fence here and divide the birch garden, the alternate compost can be the wild flower area and the birch garden can be more organised,
so now to get the heather cut back to make a straight line down to the willow at the bottom, then cover with cardboard to kill the grass and weeds and plant through, the cardboard is just over 20 feet long,
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first attempt,
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after messing about for quite a while I realised I needed to cut a lot of the twiggy branches off, and some were too short, go cut some more,
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that’s better,
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bent and tied at the top, I felt 2 pairs of hands would have made it a lot easier, when you are bending over two strong branches that want to be upright and trying to tie them together in the bent position, it was not easy,
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entwined, I am leaving the ties for 2 weeks and then I will see if they can be removed, the finished fence is 18 feet long, my first living willow fence,
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I had realised that by creating the willow fence the alternate compost is now surrounded by willows on 3 sides, so it has been re named the wildflower willow patch, you can see it beyond the heather in this photo (all photos click to a larger image), the willow back left is the willow the fence has been cut from,
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view from the drive, in this photo you can see the black willow on the right and a red bark willow on the left,
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I will now gradually get the heather and grass cut from around the willows as they have become over grown, a good day,

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©Copyright 2015 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

the bees and June foliage

Friday finally the rain stopped and the bees came out, and yes I feel confident now that the bee I saw is a Great Yellow bumblebee, Bombus distinguendus, infact I have found out now that the Common carder bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum, is not present on the Silly isles, Outer Hebrides and Shetland isles, so ‘common’ in the UK may not be common where you live and likewise, very rare and scarce may not be so in your area, it is all relative, I had never thought about possibly living in an area where for some creatures it is one of their last places of survival in the UK, I knew there are no ladybirds here and only 5 species of butterfly (it’s too far north), all things I have learnt since living here, I now know there are only a small number of bee species some which are only found in a few areas of the UK,
the great yellow bumblebee is the UK’s rarest bumble bee according to this factsheet provided by the Bumblebee conservation trust, it is surviving only in the north of Scotland and the islands, this is because of the loss of flower rich habitats in other parts of the UK during the last century, where as in the north of Scotland and on the islands there are the Machairs, natural wildflower areas, and the land is crofting land and crofters still work the land as they have for centuries, (when I read of a gardener hiring the local farmer to plough his garden I realised I have never seen a plough or ploughed field here on the Outer Hebrides),
the fact sheet goes on to say that the Queen emerges in mid June and the workers are seen in mid July, this would indicate that the bee in my garden is a Queen, Friday she was on one of the centaurea flowers and stay until mid afternoon, resting and feeding, I do so hope she will nest in my garden, nests are small with only 20 – 50 workers and it is thought that there are only one or two nests for each square kilometer, this bee became a BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority species 8 years ago, reading all about this bee has made me feel a great sense of responsibility to her, these are 2 of the photos I took Friday, if she nests in my garden a word of warning there will be more,
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from the very rare to the scarce, the Moss Carder bumblebee, Bombus muscorum, I have seen this bee since I first came here but never very many, not any where near as many as the White Tail bumblebee, Bombus lucorum, I had seen one down by the trees a week or two ago, I went down there Friday in the hope of seeing one and was not disappointed, it was visiting the bugle and green alkanet, then when I was by the wildflower slope I saw one on the yellow rattle, which then flew to the geranium phaeum, then when I was taking some photos on the alder terrace there was one again, by now I was wondering if it was the same one following me, I liked this photo I quickly took with my point and shot camera best, Moss carder bee with Primula flaccida,then when I was back in the front garden by the centaurea it was there again, and then there were two, I saw them in the garden Saturday too so I think there may be a nest not too far away, looking at the flowers this bee chose then planting natives and relatives of natives is it’s preference, I took a second photo of one on the centaurea, the abdomen is similar to the great yellow but the thorax is ginger and no black band,
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now to foliage, I have decided to use these posts to focus mostly on the middle front bed, this bed was primarily planted for foliage, due to the manner in which the front garden is divided 2 paths from the gate cutting the garden into 3 (the forth bed is small in the L of the house), I decided to make this middle bed mainly foliage as a compliment to the other two beds which would be planted for flowers, I also originally planted only silver, blue and grey foliage plants, again a contrast from the golds, greens and variegated foliage in the flower beds, I quickly realised the palate of silver/blue/grey could be monotonous so added purple and plum foliage, the front garden being my EoMV last year some may remember this view of the middle bed,
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I had not planted the left (east) side of the Olearia as there was a problem with aggressive grass, it has been worth it as now the grass seems to be gone, so I can start planting, Friday I weeded a lot of the bed fed and started to mulch, I need to collect more mulch, Saturday with so much room for new plants I decided to get the bus into town and see what there was, I got 6 plants 5 for this bed, in the plant shop they had Festuca glauca, Intense blue, which I just couldn’t resist, 4 from the plant shop,
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next to the Festuca glauca, Elijah blue,
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these are all new since last year, Crocosmia x crocomiiflora Solfatare, which was said to have bronze leaves, Euphorbia Purpurea, which I bought a few weeks ago and Dianthus deltoides, maiden pink, this one has deep red flowers, it is one of 2 plants I bought from a stall Saturday, sometimes there are stall holders in town on Saturday but only one does plants and he is not always there, I don’t go into town often on Saturdays because the buses are fewer than week days,
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Oxalis Triangularis, I had a blue/green leaved oxalis here until the rabbit visited, so we will see how long this lasts, I have not seen rabbit damage yet this year (hope I do not live to regret saying this) I did see a baby rabbit a few weeks ago, but I have also frequently seen the black panther walk around the garden, a large black cat with short smooth fur,
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I am glad I added the corms from the clump I dug up as I like the lance shaped leaves among the finer leaves of the other plants, I did learn the name of them but it must be on my old computer, I must search for it one day, haha ‘one day!’
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however one has grown like this, is this what I have heard of as ‘fasciated’?
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this was the first part of this bed I started to renovate about 4 years ago, some plants have not come back, probably drowned in last years continuous wet,
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I was however surprised to see sedum Black beauty as I would have thought the wet would have done for it, I dug it up and moved it, raising it slightly with 4 large stones,
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this is the bottom border along the north front of the house, the snow in summer seeded it’s self there and did well until last year, I tend to leave anything that seeds in as I have had so many problems with this border, according to the professionals the Mahonia I planted the first year should be a beautiful mature plant now, oh yeah! I won’t bore you with all the other shrubs that have failed, so now I am going the perennial route, it seems to work best here, 3 new hostas which should all become a good size if they reach maturity, the grass, carex frosted curls is self sown, one part of me wants to divide it and make two, another part is scared if I do it will die too, I need to do a bit more weeding here then feed and mulch,
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to the right is supposed to be a path I would very much like to get the opportunity to complete it this year, then the bed will be done except for adding more plants and keeping tidy,
I have bought quite a few Ericas over the last few years, they were not a plant I would normally grow, perhaps coming from an area with chalk clay where it was far to alkaline to grow acid loving plants has had an influence, anyway in an attempt to go with what does grow here, I have taken some interest in Ericas and Callunas finding there is more to them than first impressions give, many like the Juniper I showed last month have colourful new foliage, almost giving the impression of a second flowering, this is Erica x darleyensis ‘Silberschmelze’ which  has white flowers in winter and these pretty creamy new growth tips now, (I know I should have pulled those 3 weeds before taking the photo),
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the bees love the flowers of Ericas and Callunas, I know a lot of people go for impact and statement, I quite like walking around a garden and coming across things that can’t be seen from a distance, I like getting up close and seeing the small details, there is a saying ‘the best things come in small parcels’, thanks to Christina for hosting the foliage meme, if you wish to see more foliage in gardens then click through to Christina’s blog,

happy solstice, if you are in the north summer solstice and if down south winter solstice, for me the summer solstice is always a bit sad as it heralds the coming of winter,

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©Copyright 2015 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

celebration and reward

as I watched the post number reach one thousand I was going to write a post to mark it but it has come and gone and I didn’t,
then as the number of posts tick away – 1,099, 1,100, 1,101, I thought what about marking the 1,111 post, all the ones, so when my bloom day post ticked 1,110, it was time, but how??

when I took photos for my bloom day post I also took some of the bees on flowers, all white tailed, bombus lucorum, but there on the Centaurea montana was another bee as well as the white tail, a bee I had not seen before, I looked it up and thought the nearest match was the common carder bee, bombus pascuorum, so that was that,

until today and Julie’s bloom day post, as it was raining and I wasted spent hours online, I looked again at my unusual bee photo and then realised there is a black band across the thorax, which common carder bees do not have, hmm,
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less common bees, nope, scarce bees, nope, very rare bees, ……….. yes! could I have a Great Yellow bumblebee, Bombus distinguendus, the UK’s rarest bumblebee, the isle of Lewis being one of it’s last remaining habitats, it prefers red clover (which I like and keep encouraging in my garden) and knapweed, I photographed it on the Centaurea montana, knapweed,

if I am right and it is a great yellow bumblebee, it will be such a lovely reward for all the work of trying to make my garden wildlife friendly, and a wonderful celebration of my one thousand, one hundred and eleventh post, :o)

links to bees:
Great Yellow bumblebee, Bombus distinguendus

Common Carder and White tailed bumblebees are on this page of common bees,

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©Copyright 2015 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

blooming June

well sort of, I looked at photos of flowers in previous Junes and there was a lot more in flower, it is still cold, 5-6C (42F), I’ve heard and read that some plants respond to length of day and others to warmth, so, I am assuming the plants that are flowering respond to length of day, and that we have at 58 degrees north, as we near the summer solstice there are about 21 hours of day light and on a clear night for the 3 hours of dimmed light there is a rosy glow on the northern horizon, the plants that are not flowering, some not even in bud must respond to warmth and it just isn’t warm, not even luke warm,

front little bed, geranium phaeum is still flowering in the little bed and at the tree edges, it was windy and I know the flowers do not show much but I thought it deserved a photo and mention, I am so pleased I took the time last year to rescue it and pot it up, I’ve been well rewarded for my time,
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Silene uniflora, sea campion has re appeared in the front garden, it is low growing and almost evergreen with these pretty campion flowers, however when your back is turned each of those flowers turns into a seed bomb, if they get growing they put down a very long taproot, it grows wild and natural along the sea cliffs where a seed landing in a small crevice puts down a taproot to get sustenance and hold on to the cliff in strong winds,
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front jungle bed, Cerastium tomentosum, snow in summer,
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yes, there are still a few daffodils, this is in the north facing border at the front of the house where they open last, name unknown
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Centaurea montana and Geranium sylvaticum, Album (thank you Angie), I enjoy seeing them from the front windows,
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ditch garden, Primula sikkimensis
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3 weeks ago I showed the contrast of primula and mentha foliage, now the primula are blooming, I like the dark foliage of the mentha with the magenta flowers, this is only the first whorl, there are usually 3 or 4 so they will continue for several weeks,
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I usually show these magenta candelabra primula in a group so I thought I’d include  a closer view,
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now I jump to the edge of the trees where the bluebells are flowering with the horsetails,
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still primroses, P. vulgaris has flowered so well this year,
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Pentaglottis sempervirens, green alkanet, I like this plant, not your showy big flowers but pretty blue stars that the pollinators love,
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Ajuga reptans Atropurpurea, Bugle,
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tweenie garden, Centaurea montana and an orange geum,
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Calthus palustris, marsh marigold and a pollinator,
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dogwood border, Chaenomeles japonica. Ornamental Quince
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next to the quince, Cardamine pratensis, Lady’s smock, there is quite a bit this year, I have been trying to get it growing on the wildflower slope,
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rugosa rose border, allium,
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these alliums are much later this year and the Hesperis matronalis, sweet rocket that flowered at the same time last year has only just started to make buds this year, it is also much shorter than usual, infact the sweet rocket looks very unhappy, clearly doesn’t like this cold weather,

Birch garden, the aquillias have started flowering and look nice, I took seed from the blue plant and white plant, I have a lot of small plants growing but I know that seed does not come true so next year I will see what colours they are,
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Symphytum × uplandicum, Russian comfrey, I just love this plant,
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and I’m not the only one,
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species rose border, unknown astrantia, I was given a clump of this, it grows to about a foot, has these lovely plummy flowers and flowers for a long time, it divides well too as each division grows quickly to about a foot diameter and stops, so not invasive but increase well as and when I want, a perfect plant,
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and I could not have a bloom day post without including at least one photo of Silene dioica, red campion, it looks pretty and is loved by pollinators but like sea campion, every flower is a potential seed bomb, so as the first flowers are now green seed bombs I will be cutting it all soon before they turn brown and open,
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thanks to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme, please follow the link to Carol’s blog to see more bloom day posts,

last week was good and I managed to be in the garden Monday to Saturday, I had hoped I could also say we had a dry week but no, I woke up Friday and Saturday mornings to rain, it cleared though and I could work in the garden, I have moved plants and planted out a lot of my pot nursery, I now have two tall stacks of clean empty pots (waiting to be filled???), today has been a mix of sun and showers,

wishing you all a good gardening week x

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©Copyright 2015 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.