Posted in Environment, Gardens, Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

Flashback: A wildlife garden in August


Simon’s garden is the opposite of neat and manicured – and this is all for the better as it is a shared garden, used by both locals and residents living further away. And these users – birds, insects, reptiles, butterflies and mammals – appreciate his garden, coming back to feed and drink, or living there quite happily. I’m rather envious of this as my garden doesn’t attract quite as many different species as Simon’s. Woodpeckers, blackcaps, wood warblers, goldfinches, greenfinches, frogs, blackbirds … these are just an example. So he took me on a garden tour and gave me tips along the way. We did this in August so a lot of colour had unfortunately gone, but there were still many good ideas.

The front garden

Sink pond in the front garden, which is often used by garden birds having a ‘bath’.
Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece. It is usually used for sleep disorders, such as insomnia.



The back garden

Verbena. According to the Wildlife Trust, there are around 250 species of verbena. They are very useful plants providing nectar for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Sink garden. At the top there is a gap caused by a plant dying in the 2018 summer drought, (even rock gardens need watering but due to the high drainage it’s difficult). There is also thrift, small leaves of thyme and a red campion seedling (weed that can be moved). Middle right, are stonecrop and thrift. Dominating slightly are the silvery leaves of dianthus (Latin name) in the middle bottom. There are a few ox eye daisies dotted around.
Water butts capture rain water which can then be used to water plants. Very handy, especially in a drought. A water butt is something I keep meaning to buy.
Buddleia, echinacea, crocosmia and evening primrose
Crocosmia, valerian and red campion
Above left, black Niger seed attracts goldfinches. A plastic bottle prevents rats, mice and squirrels from climbing up. Above right, a plant pot collects leftovers from peanuts. Often birds can be found in the plant pot, enjoying their breakfast leftovers!
The main pond, with frogbit on the surface and wormwood in the foreground. At the back, behind the stone turtle, is a frog hideaway. Simon has three ponds altogether – two in the back garden and a small sink pond in the front, often used by birds for washing.
A visitor and probable resident – woodpecker and frog. Simon has rescued tadpoles from elsewhere on a couple of occasions, when the water levels have dropped because of the weather or the pond has become stagnant. They lived in a second hand aquarium in his house until ready to move into the garden pond.
Nest boxes in an old tree. Several birds have lived – and reared their young here – over the years.


Fig tree
Flower of Kent apple tree. This is the variety of apple Isaac Newton saw falling to the ground in 1666 – and inspired his theory of gravity.

Facts of the Day

1. The single easiest way to add wildlife value to a garden is to install a pond. It doesn’t matter how small. Consider adding a plank of wood to help any wildlife that might fall in.
2. If you want to grow vegetables, it’s best to stop using chemical pesticides. These upset the natural balance and can be lethal for wildlife (and not just the ‘pests’. 
3. A compost heap is an essential for a wildlife garden. It cuts down the waste sent to landfill and provides a habitat for a number of insects – which can be a good food source for hedgehogs and other animals.
(Facts from The Wildlife Trust:
Nine potatoes home grown at Cosy Cottage!

There’s always a first time for everything and that includes growing spuds. Last year, I bought two seed potato packets from JTF in April and, a couple of weeks later, I planted them in pots of varying sizes. When it was time to dig them out a few months later, in July, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find real potatoes under the stems and leaves in the first pot.

What was in the other four?


Nothing. Not in pot 2, 3, 4 or 5.

So that was a grand total of 11 potatoes.

Out of two seed packets and five pots.

So when it came to this year I had no expectations. This year’s crop came from Wilko’s and cost £1 (so I wasn’t expecting wonders!) They were bought at the end of March and I planted them in May.  When it came to August, I started thinking, is it time to dig the ‘Nicolas’ up? When is it too early or too late?

I find timings fairly hard to master in the gardening world.

When the Nicola seed potatoes were planted

The weather was odd this year too (I had all the excuses ready for the inevitable disappointment). Even in the north of England, there was a seemingly never-ending heatwave from May to July. I was beginning to wonder if the rain would ever make a reappearance. But of course it did, and when it came back it was as if our old familiar companion had never left us.

This climate could have been to blame for the poor showing of the lettuce this year. Lettuce seeds had been planted in a newly established bed but what came up instead of attractive crisp lettuce?


nature plant leaf green
Photo by Pixabay on

But myself and Dad decided today was the day when we would see what lies underneath the green potato stalks. Just one tub of five Nicola seed potatoes – what would be the result?

The first stalk was promising – four spuds, no large ones but perfectly sized for salads. Then nothing under the remaining four stalks. But we dug under the soil with our hands and found another, another, another, another and one more…

It was like digging for treasure and this was the gold we found – Nine beautiful brown potatoes.

So okay, not economically viable or a large collection but still, it’s something isn’t it? And what’s more, those organic ‘Nicolas’ tasted extra special too.

Here’s to next year’s crop! 🥔🥔🥔


Facts of the Day

  1. A tatty/tatties is a Scottish informal word for potato/potatoes. Spud is another slang term.
  2. According to Oxford Dictionary, the potato is ‘A starchy plant tuber cooked and eaten as a vegetable’. The plant grows underground stems, which ‘swell up with stored food at the tips to form tubers, called potatoes. The ‘eyes’  can grow into new plants using the food stores in the potato’ (Miles Kelly). The word comes from the Spanish patata.
  3. It comes from the perennial nightshade family (the leaves are poisonous) and was first grown in South America 1800 years ago.

Information courtesy of The Miles Kelly Book of Life


Tatties and spuds

Posted in Gardens, lifestyle, self-sufficiency, environmental issues, adventure

Fulwood Open Gardens


A few years ago, I became aware of the National Open Garden Scheme, a proposal where gardeners invite others to look around their pride and joy for a donation to charity. It’s a great idea for other gardeners to get inspiration and advice and the money goes to a good cause. I was going to do this last year but, as so often, the year went too quickly and in September I realised I missed my chance.


I noticed a poster for Fulwood Open Gardens on a walk with a friend. It was displayed on a tree in a particularly eye-catching front garden. It wasn’t part of the national scheme, but was a local event, designed to raise money for the Baby Beat Appeal at the nearby Sharoe Green Hospital.

(The appeal aims to raise £100,000 each year to fund the state – of-the-art technology needed by the Maternity Unit, not covered by the budget. There is also a current funding campaign – Little Ted’s Appeal – to soundproof two rooms at the Delivery Suite).

There were 10 gardens altogether, from 10.30am to 4pm, but we only visited six because of prior commitments in the afternoon.


All had their merits and were varied.

One was very quirky and a real mix of everything in a fairly small space. Buddhas, tick. Fairy garden, tick. Veg patch (including onions), tick. An abundance of flowers, tick…



One gardener proudly showed us around his raised beds and containers of vegetables – carrots, cabbages, parsnips and more – and handing out tips while he did so.

A delightful slice of chocolate cake and a refreshing cup of tea was had in next door’s conservatory. I loved the summer house at the bottom of their garden.

A small garden demonstrated what could be done in such limited space and there was even a sheltered housing complex offering a display of flower borders and hanging baskets.


My personal favourite was the wildlife garden. As we strolled along the path, we saw crowds of bees feasting on the lamb’s tail among other culinary (for them) delights amidst the flower borders. I also came across a small white butterfly. But what I saw was only a mere glimpse of what creatures comes to visit…




Scenes of the wildlife garden

The garden owner told me that a hedgehog came round at 9.45pm every night for his supper. Today his neighbour came to look around his garden and told him a hedgehog visited him nightly at 10pm!

I came away from the gardens feeling inspired and invigorated. What next? Raised beds for veg? Bee balm to attract bees? Sink garden of succulents? A fairy garden?

Have you taken part or visited a Open Gardens Scheme, whether local or national?

For more information on the National Garden Scheme, visit

Facts of the Day

1. The National Garden Scheme was founded in 1927.

2. At that time, before the creation of the NHS, admission fees raised money for district nurses.

3. According to its website, the National Garden Scheme is the ‘largest single funder of nursing and caring charities in the UK’. Since 1927, £55m has been raised for charity.