Wednesday, 7 February 2018

"February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March"

I think this weeks diary post blog might consist mainly of all the lovely photographs I've taken this week of the dramatic skies, new snow and stark and stately trees. We've had more flurries of snow over a few evenings, sometimes lying thicker than others, so needless to say work at the nursery is not progressing as quickly as I'd like. I am getting things done, just not the tasks I'd hoped to have done by now. It's an interesting comparison though, year on year as to how far ahead I am in the nursery depending on the weather. We are so much further behind at the moment that we were last year. But, as time goes on I hope to catch up as I don't have the massive project of building and planting out the scented and herb garden as I did last year. We are however making great progress with new signage and labelling, so all is not lost.

(Title quote -  Dr. J. R. Stockton)

Sun setting on the way home

Flurries of snow again!

Although there has been snow on the ground this week, the temperatures haven't been low enough to freeze everything so I have got all the compost bins either emptied or turned, depending on where they are in the cycle. This is a very physical job which I managed to complete in one day, as you can see they are rather large bins, so I was feeling like I'd definitely earned that creme egg waiting at home in the fridge! The compost I have emptied into bulk bags will be used around the nursery gardens to improve our clay soil.







Me weaving some willow

I have spent a couple of days weaving more of the willow fence in our wildlife garden. Again a big job but I do enjoy it, especially when the winter sun has a hint of warmth and we get a lovely sunset. I managed to finish the first side this week, which is our boundary with the cafe and farm shop. This year I have heightened the willow fence by six to twelve inches and this has made a big difference (no pun intended!) to the look and strength of it. I've also put in a lot more new rods to thicken it and fill in all the gaps at the base. I'm looking forward to seeing what difference this makes over the year.


David has been building more steps in the gardens so you can wind your way around the gardens from terrace to terrace, enjoying the gardens and plants. He's also been working on signage for both the nursery and gardens, we hope you'll see a difference with the signs and information available when you visit this year.

I love a good sunset, especially when trees are silhouetted against those wonderful colours



Impressive cloud over the Pentlands, taken from the nursery

When the weather has been ameniable I've started restocking the sales tables, ready for opening at the beginning of March. It is amazing how much colour and interest there is when we really look. Most of these plants you can also see growing in the nursery gardens.

Sunrise over the Pentland Hills from the other side

Monday, Monday, wasn't much of a day off. Up early to get my car to Livingston for it's service, bonus was a nice sunrise over the Pentlands. I don't often see this west side of them these days, a big change from living this side for many years and seeing this view most weeks. Now we live right at the bottom of the Pentlands range and the nursery looks onto them form the east side. After dropping his car off for repairs in Penicuik, David picked me up then headed home to wait on a heating engineer. We had no hot water or heating when we got up, not ideal given how cold it is. Luckily the letting agent was on the ball for a change and we had an engineer in the house by lunch time with a diagnosis of a problem with the gas supply from the tank. Phone call to the gas supplier who owns the tank, an emergency call so another engineer out within and couple of hours and all fixed - yeh. We have experienced no hot water or heating for days or weeks before in this house, so as you can imagine this was great. Just keep breathing as they say!


The rest of the day was less stressful, we picked my car up mid afternoon, then headed to Penicuik to pick David's car on the way into Edinburgh for our Archaeology course in the evening. This week we were studying stone circles, so we were able to talk about the ones we saw on our trip down south last year. Another fascinating evening. We were supposed to meet up with David's daughter to celebrate her birthday afterwards, but she's not well so it's been postponed until a later date, so we picked up some pizza on the way home.




Tuesday was a much more relaxing day off with a long lie trying to ignore the new covering of snow that appeared over night. A good inch or so has turned the world completely white again. Luckily the roads are clear, meaning we can get around but enjoy the beauty of it. It has been a proper winter this year. We headed to Broughton to do a nice wee walk up towards Broughton Heights where Bracken enjoyed running about in the snow. Back to the car and down to Dawyck Botanic Gardens for a walk around the gardens and some lunch. This is a lovely garden and we are so lucky to have it close by. If you are a member of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh there are many benefits which you can read about here. These also include free entry to all the Botanic gardens in Scotland and discounts in the cafe.



Walking towards Broughton Heights

Coulter Fell in the distance

Tinto ahead

Because of the snow the snowdrops weren't very showy but it was very peaceful and quiet walking around the gardens appreciating the wonderful tree specimens, Rhododenrons, shrubs and lichens. We saw a few pheasant and a hare ran right passed us! After a lovely lunch we headed home to potter about and edit photographs.

You can read about previous visits to Dawyck here:

A Trip to Dawyck Botanic Gardens

A Trip to Dawyck Gardens to see the Snowdrops


Corylus

Cotoneaster

Lichens

Snowdrops in the snow

Betula jaquemontii

The chapel at Dawyck





Tree Creeper



As we head towards spring life will get busier and busier for us gardeners and maybe we might get caught up on nursery work if the weather behaves. Have a great week what ever you are doing and whatever weather you have.





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Saturday, 3 February 2018

Bats in the Garden

Whether you live in an urban area or in the countryside there will be bats about, roosting in trees, attic spaces, barn roofs or even the tiny spaces in between house walls. 

The best time to see bats is at dusk as the light fails, when Pipistrelles and Noctules come out to feed on insects. Other species, such as Brown Long-eared Bats come out later. Some bat species cover large distances in the night to reach their feeding sites, before returning to their roosts. 

Bats use a diversity of habitats, particularly areas with mature trees and water, so wooded parks, canals and riverbanks near to your home are good places to start looking for them.

A brown long-eared bat

There is no guarantee bats will feed in your garden: attracting bats to the garden is more about providing the right plants and habitats to encourage insects, which are the bats food source. Look on your garden as an enhancement to their feeding area or a bat service station while they are en-route to their usual feeding sites. If you are lucky they will swoop in for a snack. 

Wild flowers and grasses provide a great habitat for insects

Because bats feed at night, night-scented plants are key as they attract moths and other night flying insects. Use plants that have seeds, nectar, vegetation and fruit which can provide food or habitat for the larvae and adults of these insects. All these plants can be incorporated into your garden or as a specific wildlife garden, which in turn will benefit many more creatures, bugs and beasties as well as the bats.

Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis),
 a night-scented plant

Trees and shrubs
If your garden is large enough, create the type of woodland edge habitat many bats like. This gives them shelter for flying safely from predators and creates a warm sheltered atmosphere where insects like to congregate. Plant a row of trees, even smaller trees such as Birch and Willow which will grow quickly giving you a shelter belt in a few years. An important thing to remember when creating a wildlife garden is to plant native species, as these are more attractive to insects. You can under-plant these trees with shrubs and perennials to increase cover and insect habitat. Plant up gaps in hedges, which will also create the same conditions as a row of trees on a smaller scale.

A group of Birch trees providing
a corridor through a garden

Perennials, Biennials and Annuals
If you are planning a wildlife garden to encourage a range of wildlife these plants can be used amongst other plants. They are specifically night-scented or encourage the insects bats eat. Most of them can be easily grown from seed and we stock a few in the nursery. 

Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris), Nottingham catchfly (Silene nutans), Night scented catch fly (Silene noctiflora), Night scented stock (Matthiola bicornis), Sweet rocket, (Hesperis matronalis), Evening prinrose (Oenothera bennis), Tobacco plant (Nicotiana affinis), Cherry pie (Heliotrope), Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis).

Herbs
Chives, Borage, Lemon balm, Marjoram and Mints all have characteristics that attract insects, from their nectar, to their seeds, vegetation and aromatic foliage.  

Climbers
Honeysuckles including Lonicera periclymenum, L. 'Halliana', L caprifolium and L. Etrusca Superba, Jasmin officinalis, Rosa canina, Rosa rubiginosa, Rosa arvensis, Hedera helix and brambles all provide insects' requirements in the garden, thus providing the bats with food.


Other things to encourage bats include a pond (many insects start life here) . This doesn't have to be big, and you'll probably get other animals such as frogs and toads coming to visit too. Log piles, left to rot will attract many insects and an easy way of using up logs from felled trees.

Our log pile in the wild life garden in the nursery
You can of course put up bat boxes if you have a suitable site. A good position is on a tree-trunk as high as possible, with no branches directly above or below the box. Also make sure the space into the box is just as wide as your finger, otherwise smaller birds may move in instead of bats!

Wooden bat boxes waiting to go up


David putting bat boxes
 up in our last garden

Please remember bats are a protected species and any attempts to harm them or destroy their roosts will lead to prosecution. Bats should only be handled by someone with a bat licence, see below

Written in collaboration with David Dodds, Consultant ecologist at David Dodds Associates Ltd.

For more information find their website here: David Dodds Associates Ltd




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Thursday, 1 February 2018

It is deep January. The sky is hard. The stalks are firmly rooted in ice

Here we are at the end of January already and we've had every weather available in that month; brilliant sunshine, deep snow, hail, howling gales, heavy rain and everything in between. Despite the weather I've achieved a lot of paper work, sign design and orders indoors and out doors the willow weaving and garden winter tidy up are well under way. Not a lot in the way of days out or dog walks but hopefully the weather in February will be kinder.

(Title quote from Wallace Stevens,  No Possum, No Sop, No Taters)

Sunset on the way home from the nursery

Sunset over Tinto


Back at the nursery last week I made the most of the dry weather. On Wednesday I started my garden work out (who needs to pay to go to the gym when you've a garden to tidy up?) These borders at the nursery entrance, although big are fairly easy to tidy as they have a bark mulch. This is a great way to reduce weeding on large planted borders, easy maintenance means more time to do other things. The plants here are big, spreading and merge together as they grow, so even in summer there is very little space for weeds to grow. The plants have been cut back, the leaves lifted, any weeds removed, the stone edge straightened and the track raked. 



Winter plant interest in the entrance beds after tidying today -
Acaena microphylla, Geranium dalmaticum,
Bergenia 'Claire Maxine', Pinus mugo Pumilio Group



Continuing on Thursday I tidied the shade border, one thing about gardening at this year it's all barrowing, bending, lifting and shifting, ideal for working off the excess eating of Christmas! I also shifted a ton of bark to top up the tidied borders and spent the afternoon weaving willow. The evening glass of wine was well earned.



Looking good in the shade border this week:
Pulmonaria 'Opal', Arum italicum marmoratum,
Pulmonaria 'Cotton cool', Lamium galeobdolon 'Florentinum'

Looking food in the shade border this week:
Tiarella 'Spring Symphony', Euphorbia amygdaloides var. Robbiae,
Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum', Bergenia 'Bressingham White'

I've also started turning the compost heaps, bring plants into the covered area to be tidied and labelled to go into the sales area and top dressed more borders with our own compost. The weekend weather forecast was not good, heavy rain and more gales. Making the most of the rubbish weather I've gone through all the trays of bulbs in both tunnels to see what damage the voles / mice have done since I spotted their trail of destruction (piles of compost and the papery husks of bulbs lying about). They really like Crocus, Scilla and Tulips as they've eaten every single one! Narcissus are not on the menu (they probably know they're poisonous) and Alliums were 50/50. So not very good really, especially since I'd raised all the crates up off the ground. I know mice can be good climbers and this just proves the point, unless they came down on wires, mission impossible style?


My orchid is still flowering over a year later

Aspleniums in old stone work in Roslin Glen

On Tuesday we headed to Roslin Glen for a walk along to the ruined gunpowder mill. It's so peaceful walking through the woods and completely at odds with it's industrial history. The mill and all its out lying buildings covered a large area and now there is only bits of crumbling walls, the weir, and the mill sluices left. But they do make great subjects for photographing. There are lots of ferns growing out of the old walls, softening the industrial remains. Bracken ventured into the river after a stick but decided it was way to cold for small doglets and hastily retreated back to shore! Afterwards we went for lunch at Roslyn Chapel visitor centre. Some lovely soup and then coffee and cake warmed us up after our walk.

Bracken framed in the windows of the mill ruins









Birches in Roslin Glen


On Tuesday night we headed into Edinburgh for a talk on badgers by one of the wildlife groups David is involved with. An interesting evening at the Central Library with pizza on the way home and some nice photos of Bristo Square. Its not like us to be out two nights in a row but we've been doing an archaeology course in Edinburgh with Edinburgh University which is really interesting. It also gives us a chance to meet up with family for dinner while we're in town. So far we've covered rural industry in the 18th and 19th century, the history and archaeology of St Kilda and this week it was Crannogs, so a very varied group of subjects. Next week it is stone circles. 









So there we are, the first month of the year gone, now for February, shorter but more often or not with more wintery weather, we shall see. With more snow forecast for the weekend I hope you have a relaxing and safe weekend.




 If you want to find out what's been happening in our garden at home like our Facebook page 
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 If you to see whats new and looking good at the nursery like our Facebook page
                                                         Quercus Garden Plants


Find out more about the nursery here - our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener


You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list



All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden, thank you