Posted in Chickens, Gardens

Snapshots of my July garden

My title was going to be Snapshots of my June Garden – then I realised it was actually July. How quickly time flies! I bought a lot of plants earlier this year, planted them, then forgot about them. Until they decided to remind me with their presence…

Patio Corner – can you spot Dottie?
The Pond Garden
The Gravel Patch and Goldenrod Corner. The spare chicken house is essential, awkward to place elsewhere and not particularly attractive, so flowers have been planted around it
Mabel vandalises Goldenrod Corner
Roses in the Chickens’ Garden
Posted in Gardens

The littlest sunflower

Flowering!

Once upon a time there were five seeds who each had the potential to grow up to become tall and handsome sunflowers. This was during a pandemic and a time when an entire nation was locked down; its population was getting weary and worried. But these five sunflower seeds had power. They had the golden opportunity to grow … And grow smiles on admirers’ faces.

So beginneth the tale of the Littlest Sunflower.

Back in April 2020, my friend Emma held a sunflower competition via a WhatsApp group called Battle of the Plants. We were all sent five sunflower seeds (I received mine on May 1) and a recording form and we took it from there.

There were ‘spot’ awards throughout the growing period and prizes for the tallest plants. Photographic evidence and vital statistics were needed. There was no entrance fee but a donation to our chosen charity. I met Emma while volunteering at The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall – a charity which would be desperately needing funds at this time – so I donated to them.

Contestants came from all over, Lancashire, Somerset, Devon, Wales, Portsmouth, near Heathrow. Romania was the furthest. There was humorous banter about the judges. Unfortunately Mr Titchmarsh declined the opportunity to join the judging panel but Charlie Dimmock’s brother Charles, along with Monica Don and Tom Attorney, joined the judging panel! 😉😂

One contestant started her sunflower’s life in a yogurt pot. Another had a M&S egg carton for hers. Then there was a milk carton, cut in half. I lovingly sowed mine in five colourful pots, trying to make sure I used proper compost so there would be no intruding weeds.

Sunflower pots

The first prize was for a seedling at least four inches tall. Some contestants’ seeds were doing well, with most sprouting. Others were still waiting for their first seedling. Like me.

Tips were given to fellow members such as: “I think mine were a bit dry and cold, have given them extra water and warmth and it seems to have done the trick.”

Some contestants got quite technical – and it paid off. The first spot prize went to “the lady who is using ‘aquaphonics and channelling the power of the super moon”.

There were disasters and near-disasters. Fellow contestant Linda told us: “I had to repot ours as we had a cat disaster. I carry them in from the conservatory at night when it’s chilly and put them on the kitchen window sill. Agatha our cat knocked them all down (on purpose I think). There were shoots everywhere and mud. I managed to find nine shoots from the carnage and repotted”.

And one day, lo and behold, I got seedlings! I happily sent a photo but was told that, alas, those pesky weeds had sneaked in after all and were busy posing as sunflowers. But these imposters were found out – their stems were too weedy to be sunflowers.

It was disappointing but I learnt a tip and that was to move the seeds further up, nearer to the top, so they wouldn’t drown.

But there was one seed which had promise, for this one had become a true sunflower albeit a tiny, feeble one.

All my hopes were on this guy now.

Other contestants boasted of great heights, already! Their seedlings were already growing up and getting moved out into the garden. Mine was a mere baby, still needing to be mollycoddled and even then ….

And even then a major disaster in June – my one hope, my only hope had snapped, breaking in two.

That was me out then. But kind Emma gave me another chance and I received five more sunflower seeds. Will these do any better?

Measuring time

While my five seeds started to sprout and grow, there was drama aplenty with the other flowers.

Some were murdered by slugs (Mr Dimmock recommends broken egg shells, cut hair or coffee grounds), others pelted by rain or blown by the wind. Mine were still indoors, carefully propped up in their pots with mini stakes.

My tallest was now 14cm. Then, like its predecessor, it snapped but its nearest sibling was now at 13cm. The smallest withered away but one continued to grow…

And then one day in the middle of October the little sunflower, the last one remaining of his siblings, woke up and started to flower.

Will it flower?

A late bloomer indeed! Not long after, I received a certificate to celebrate my little sunflower!

A late bloomer!
My certificate!
Posted in Gardens

The hebe jeebies…

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A few weeks ago, after a visit to a garden centre, I came back with this delightful plant – a purple shamrock hebe. I like the colour purple, shamrocks and hebes so what’s not to like? And even better, my garden co-sharers love hebes too.

Who do I share my garden with? Well, a whole host of birds, butterflies, bees, other insects….

So here’s a few facts I have learnt about my new container plant, thanks to the very informative label which came with it.

1. It’s compact and hardy with variegated leaves.

2. It was discovered by Doug Thomson in Ireland. (I imagine that’s where the name ‘shamrock’ comes from). This variety may be from Ireland, but most hebes originally come from New Zealand.

3. In summer, there are occasional blue flowers.

4. In winter, the evergreen foliage turns purple.

5. It likes moist, well-drained soil.

According to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle, the hebe is popular with ‘bees and butterflies seeking nectar’. So a good choice for wildlife-friendly gardens. 🦋🦋🦋

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Posted in Gardens

A hint of California in my garden

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I received my ceanothus (Californian Lilac) as a present when I first moved into my house some eight years ago in 2011 (goodness, it doesn’t feel so long ago!)

It was at a time when, although I loved gardens and plants, I was very ignorant about such matters. (Although I still am, I was even more so at that time).

When it stopped flowering after the first year, I thought it had died!

Eight years ago, it was much, much smaller. I remember walking past a front garden which boasted a much older ceanothus. It looked much bigger, colourful and more flamboyant than my little one with its few weedy buds.

Roll on eight years and my ceanothus is looking grand and beautiful.

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And it has survived the chickens, even Mabel (who always seems to be appraising the plants in the garden)…

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And the bees love it too…

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Note: This post is a flashback to a couple of weeks ago, when the ceanothus was still looking its best.

Facts of the Day

1. The ceanothus thyrsiflorus is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 6m/20ft high. It has ‘glossy mid-green leaves and, in spring, bears pale to dark blue flowers in large panicles’. There are other types of ceanothus though, including deciduous varieties. 

2. It is valuable for wildlife, providing pollen for bees. Its leaves are also eaten by caterpillars of various butterflies and moths.

3. The roots ‘favour fertile, well-drained soil’ and it is suggested it should be grown ‘in full sun in a sheltered location, protected from cold winter winds’.

Information courtesy of The Illustrated Practical Guide To Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle

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

Too many babies *

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

* Aloe Vera ‘babies’ that is.

I remember a nursery rhyme from my childhood, the first couple of lines read:

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. 

And so it is at Cosy Cottage, okay, this is a little house and not a shoe (Thank goodness as I don’t think even the guinea pigs could fit in one).

And, yes, okay, these are not human youngsters.

They are plant ‘babies’. Aloe veras to be precise.

Aloe veras reproduce like rabbits.

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Aloe veras

My first aloe vera, given me by Simon, ironically died. Even more ironically as he claimed I couldn’t kill this plant as they didn’t need much watering.

But he persevered, giving me another. I now realise this wasn’t of the goodness of his heart but because he had a surplus of the fleshy succulents which needed rehoming.

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Aloe veras

And this aloe vera thrived, maybe a little too much as she decided to have a ‘baby’, and then another, and another.

There appears to be no ‘father’ but there are plenty of young aloe veras, and now I have lost count of how many there now are and they all need new homes.

New pots at any rate.

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

Facts of the Day

1. Aloe Vera is a succulent and an evergreen perennial. Its leaves are fleshy and thick.

2. It is found in products such as skin lotion, tissues, traditional medicine (as a skin treatment), drinks, ointments and cosmetics. It is used as a moisturiser.

3. There are records of the use of aloe vera from the 16th century BC (Ebers Papyrus).