Starter Homes for Birds

two brand new bird boxesOur dilapidated old garage might have been pretty useless for housing our car, but its ivy-smothered exterior was popular with the birds who found many suitable nesting places. Our new weather boarded garage is very smart and is perfect for parking the car but it currently lacks foliage – so our birds need new homes. With this in mind – and with National Nest Box Week coming up from the 14th-21st February – I have bought a couple of new nestboxes. I’m still pondering where to put them – the north side of the garage would be ideal but the lack of cover may well put the birds off. Time to get planting I think, but in the meantime I will find other spots in the garden that are well out of the way of cats, sheltered from the prevailing wind and out of direct sun.

old dilapidated garage in garden

Old Garage

brand new garage in the garden

New garage

Three Gardens from the Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Preview

In my earlier post about Sir Paul Smith, I wrote about the role of green as the anchor that holds everything in place in a garden – so it’s unsurprising that the greenness was what I noticed as I looked at some of the drawings of this year’s Chelsea gardens. No doubt, when we get to Chelsea our eyes will seek out the excitement, and the actual gardens will be further enlivened by shape, texture and the play of light, but it is useful to see the contribution that green makes to each of the gardens and bear it in mind for the planting in our own garden.Joe Thompson's garden at chelsea 2015

Jo Thompson’s Sylvan Retreat will have a two storey writer’s retreat tucked amongst a glade of birches and ‘floating’ in the middle of a natural swimming pond. It looks wonderfully romantic and promises tumbling roses and blowsy paeonies – only comment is that with all those lovely distractions will the writer ever get any work done!

trug makers garden at chelseaThe Trugmaker’s Garden is an Artisan Garden that promises to be of particular interest to me. Several years ago I wrote a feature about one of the few surviving Sussex trugmakers and I spent some time with her (yes, her) in her wonderful workshop and came away appreciating the complexity of the process and the strength needed to fashion a trug. The trug I bought from her is still in regular use – they are incredibly robust and although mine is well-weathered it is a strong and functional as the day I bought it.prince harry garden at chelsea 2015

Prince Harry’s Sentebale Garden
This garden, designed by Matt Keightley is an interpretation of the Mamohato Children’s Centre, a sustainable, beautiful and locally-inspired centre that will support to some of Lesotho’s most vulnerable children where one child in three is an orphan and 40,000 adolescents are living with HIV. Called ‘Hope in Vulnerability’, Matt will use traditional and sustainable Lesothan building techniques and plant the garden with vibrant colour combinations.another view of the Prince Harry

Sir Paul Smith finds inspiration at the Chelsea Flower Show

paul smith lecturing on gardensLast week I somewhat reluctantly took the train to London for a second day in a row to attend the late afternoon RHS press briefing for Chelsea 2015.  Don’t get me wrong – I was interested – it was the prospect of a two hour journey home on a crowded commuter train that put me off. I’M SO GLAD I WENT. Not only did we hear about the many tasty gardens that designers will be serving up this year, we also got to listen to Sir Paul Smith talking about how his annual visit to Chelsea is an important source of inspiration in his work.  He was fascinating and described his working methods in a very straightforward way that we non-fashionistas had no trouble following. He showed us slides to demonstrate how he interprets what he has seen and I was struck by the way that anything and everything he sees feeds his creativity.  I’m pretty sure that I barely glanced at a display of chrysanthemums in the Grand Pavilion, but Sir Paul registered the colours and used them for stripy socks (apologies for the poor photo). Red, yellow, blue and pink flowers in a multi-coloured border were individually used for a range of sharp suits. He told us that although the brightest shades sell in far smaller numbers than the less adventurous tones, they are what catch the attention and keep the business at the forefront of fashion.  It’s a bit like gardens really – splashes of colour keep things interesting but green is essential moderating influence that pulls it all together.  In the world of fashion it is navy blue.

Picking Limes in January

In the Garden

the first sign of the snowdrops in January 2015

The snowdrops are beginning to open

In the Greenhouse

the beautiful flower of iris reticulata

Iris reticulata ‘Beatrix Stanley’ is looking quite lovely

In the Kitchen

limes growing on the tree in January

I’m picking limes!


Christmas Tree Slayer/Sleigher?

Our tree was fading fast from glossy green to grey green – it was time for it to go. The decorations and the lights were packed away and the tree was carried outdoors where it was swiftly reduced to a pile of branches and its central stem thanks to the Christmas Tree Slayer/Sleigher (I didn’t save the sleeve and can’t remember the spelling) loppers sent to me by the good folk at Burgon & Ball. Investigating their website, I think this was a clever bit of seasonal repackaging of their Mini Bypass Lopper, but whatever it is called it worked a treat. TIP: I keep some of the individual branches to cover vulnerable plants in case very cold weather or heavy snow is forecast. I also shred some to use as a mulch on the strawberries in the tree has been lopped for recycling