tree following ~ Betula pubescens ~ April

when we had a couple of warmer days last month I started putting down the heather mulch on top of cardboard, I hope it suppresses the grass, I didn’t get as far as the birch I am following, I get a tad confused with the information about mulching, it seems so contradictory, mulch in spring to suppress weeds, then, don’t mulch when the ground is cold, well in spring the ground is cold! duh!! so that’s why I did it late afternoon on the warmer days, I know the ground was not warmed up but the surface was a bit warmer, no change this month,
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I thought the reddish brown bare twigs look nice against the blue sky, I was surprised when I really took notice of the height that it must be over 7 feet now,
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and if we drop down to the ground there are some primroses growing,
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now you may look at this and think ‘there isn’t much grass there’ haha, there is a massive network of roots, all I’ve done is pull the top off, when those roots get going it can grow 3 feet in a season and it doesn’t flower nicely, it flops over into a suffocating blanket, I have done a lot of reading about ‘grass’ and these grasses that are fast growing and don’t flower have developed/been developed for grazing animals, to keep them fed,

I thought I give the brave hawthorn growing between the birches a moment as it has started to put on leaf,
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I planted 2 hawthorn between each birch, the idea being that the birches would grow up as haha tall trees, instead of the shrubs they, and the hawthorns would make a hedge with the trees growing through, according to the books I read 14 years ago it should have worked beautifully and I’d have a wonderful native hedge there now,

I’ve been meaning to take a photo of last years lodge pole pine I followed, just a reminder, the pines are the workhorses of my garden, they protect many other plants, I followed one of the smaller ones because we had had a storm in January 2015 with gusting winds reaching 130mph, this photo is from February 2015, you can just see some of the needles browning with windburn,

February 2015

February 2015

following the tree I showed how over the months more and more needles turned brown and eventually fell off, conifers don’t show wind burn instantly like deciduous trees, it develops over many months, this is a photo I took Thursday of the tree and you can now see just how much damage the Jan 2015 storm did, the tree still lives and grows like the ones behind it but the bare branches will never re green,

April 2016

April 2016

thanks to Pat for hosting tree following, follow the link to Pat’s blog to see more tree following posts,

I’ve started a new thing with tree buying, last year the shop in town had some conifers quite cheap, Compressa ‘Wilma’ and ‘Goldcrest’, I already have one of each in the garden and they are standing up to the winds quite well, I have not got the area I want to plant the new additions in ready yet, so I potted them on and left them outside, they have done well, I hope to plant them in a month or two if not I shall check them and pot them on if necessary, this started me long term planning, and this winter I have found a tree nursery online that sells mainly native trees, I ordered some small ones, they were good trees with a good strong root, I’ve put them in pots to be planted out when larger and stronger, I’ve just ordered some more, I feel/think they will have a better chance if planted out when bigger and also used to the environment, i.e. wind and wet, on reflection I think some of my early trees failed because they were too exposed too small,

plant a tree for future generations x  

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©Copyright 2016 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

wildlife Wednesday ~ April

March was a better month and so I was in the garden more, which gave me the opportunity to see more wildlife, shortly after last months post I was weeding in the garden when I saw something black and shiny in the soil, I quickly realised it was Alexander beetle, so covered him over and hoped I had not disturbed him, just a bit later I did disturbed another beetle, I didn’t see it until it tried to slowly walk away, so after taking a photo, of course, I scoped it and some soil onto the trowel and tucked it under an evergreen fern with lots of dead leaves around it, I hope it was aright, I did a search later to see what I could find out, only that there are lots of common ground beetles, I think this is carabus nemoralis, european ground beetle or purple-rimmed beetle,
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next was when we had the 2 glorious days and I saw a moss carder bumble bee on the crocus, it’s rather large and that early probably a queen, as the weather has been so changeable I hope it has survived alright,
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this is my favourite wildlife photo this month, on a misty morning there could be seen hundreds of spiders webs in my garden, now you may be think ‘so what, we have lots of spiders webs’, well you see when I first moved here one of the things I found very strange was a complete lack of spiders webs, where I had previously lived there were always tons of them, not here, so the photo delights me as it shows how I have change a fairly barren blank garden into one full of life,
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there have been lots of birds in the garden, but my photos are still not very good, I think I may have to consider a better camera, for long shots of small creatures, the greenfinches have been teasing me by perching on the electric cable to my house but never letting me get close enough for a photo, I am posting the best I managed, blurred but I think you can see the green markings, no photos of the goldfinches they hide in the trees and peek at me,
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the hooded crows are (I think) taking up residence in the tallest spruce tree, I think this is him, he stands there calling, she is on my shed roof or one of the fence posts around the field, I saw a twig being carried up one morning, then waited an age in the hope she would do it again and I might get a photo, no luck,
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about 10 days ago I was at the wildflower slop and saw this again!!
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I have replanted in hope and put sand down this time, I heard the strange noise again, if it is a red grouse, I wish it would give me at least one view of it’s self,
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and at the end of last week the fieldfare and redwings arrived for a stop over on their way to Iceland, I still absolutely marvel at the distances small birds travel, morning and evening they feed, during the day they gather in the trees and make such a commotion, like everyone is taking at once, Monday evening they were all around the house, all over the garden, I think the black bird and thrush were looking a bit bemused, what are all this lot doing in our garden, today has been quieter I don’t know if they have left or if it is because of the rain and cold wind, photos were taken through the house windows,
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I have won a prize for my wildlife garden, the company that put up the birdnest boxes, apparently do some little competitions for which garden they have worked in has the best ? and I apparently have the most wildlife friendly garden, so they presented me with several bird feeders, I asked them not to be offended but I do not use bird feeders, as I want the balance of nature to come from my planting, but I did say I would keep the coconut feeder, I’m going to hang it under the trees, I haven’t yet because the passing fieldfare and redwing would have demolished it in a instant, also I wanted them to clear my garden of as much seed and slugs as possible,
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this morning had me practically glued to the kitchen window, it is wildlife though not strictly speaking in my garden, at times above my garden, the geese were making a terrible commotion and no wonder, eagle was visiting, 3 geese kept harrising the eagle, I see the geese a lot and fairly close so know their size when I see them in the air, and it was when they got pretty close to the bird they were chasing I knew it was an eagle not a buzzard, it was bigger than the geese, I saw no white and it seemed in perfect control, so I believe it was an adult golden eagle, I did eventually unglue myself from the window to get the camera and just managed a photo of a dash in the cloudy sky,
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after living on the islands for nearly 17 years I still have to pinch myself that I really am seeing this from my home, so much better than Gatwick fights over head!!

a big thank you to Tina for hosting this meme I enjoy it so much, please visit Tina’s blog to see more wildlife posts,

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©Copyright 2016 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.

the other side

I have been trying to keep up with some of the areas of my garden that are ‘not too bad’ however, there are areas that have, so to speak ‘got away from me’ during the last 2 wet years, and I do mean years, spring, summer, autumn and winter were very wet! then last year as well as wet the summer was cold, only a few days did we have temperatures in double figures celsius, above 48 fahrenheit, due to the amount of rain encouraging weed and grass growth but discouraging my working in the garden, weeds and grass dominate whole areas of the garden,

the not being able to get out into the garden (without being drenched) and seeing the weeds and grass taking over, got me down, to the extent eventually that I started to think of moving, or even just locking the house up and taking myself some where warm and dry to live, to help me out of this low feeling, I decided to ignore the areas the weeds and grass ruled, it has not been easy but one way has been to concentrate my blog posts on what I can do and simply not talk about the overgrown areas, now is time to talk about them,

the fruit and berry garden being the worst, this is the new area (well it was 2 years ago), it was covered in polythene for 2 years, then I grew my potatoes here to dig it and clear the weeds, that was 2014, so last year I planned it for fruit, there is a lot of creeping buttercup here, I dug it over to clear it several times last year, still they came back, and then grass too, in the end I just couldn’t keep up,
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across the ditch to the main part of this garden and it looks like a wasteland, 2 years ago it was fine, that wet summer (2014) started the weed and grass take over,
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raspberry canes, there were no flowers and fruit last year, I think because of the cold,
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gooseberry, it was 2 years ago that they got the fungus, I had to cut 2 of them right down and dispose of the contaminated material in the hot recycle bin, late summer/autumn the decline started here, last spring I started to clear it and it was so bad that it seemed impossible, then it rained on me and I gave up, it was the day this happened that I became near to tears,
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wild rush, I dug wild rush out of this area when I created this garden and now due to all the horrid rain it’s back,
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this is water in the adjoining field that drains through my garden, the ditch garden, it is about 3 feet deep, it never made a pond like this until all the rain in the last few years, now it has even reached the top and came over the bank at times,
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the trees I planted 4 years ago are growing well which is something,
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this red grass like foliage, I think is cotton grass, now I would be quite happy to have cotton grass growing in the ditch side, each time I have dug some up and put where I’d like it, it disappears,
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the Alder garden, a small part of this area is alright, most of it like this, I had such hopes 2 years ago when I started making more vegbeds here,
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the tree edges, I’ve cleared about half,
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last year I put paper and a mulch down when the bluebells had receded, I only got half done, this shows the difference and how quickly the grass can take over,
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the tweenie, originally all the grass was dug out of here, it had been going beautifully, now look what 2 wet years can do,
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and I have not got last years growth cut down yet,
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the right is the tweenie, left the damp meadow, between a path lol, where the stones are and then it curves into the bottom right corner of the photo, I put concrete down here, I now know you need to dig down at least 12″, fill half with rubble and then top with 6″ of concrete finishing with a smooth cement skin so there are no little gaps something can grow in, who would have guessed in a wet climate concrete makes a fantastic seed bed,
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I wanted to finish with something a bit happier, I have managed to do some work in the damp meadow, however, there is a lot that needs digging out, all the brown heaps are common montbretia, and there is a huge area of a suckering spirea, the white one is a delight and keeps a good shape, the magenta one lulls you into a false sense of security thinking it too is well behaved for several years, then one year when your backs turned it explodes and tries to take over the garden,
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so there you have it, the other side,

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©Copyright 2016 Frances Caple. All rights reserved. Content created by Frances Caple for Island Threads.