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Continuing this series of thoughts and rambles about gardening that I started in 2018. I did not create the column until September last year so hopefully I will be able to record the whole year of 2019.


Sunday 20th January, 2019

20th January, 2019

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

I think I will fancy something warm to start with on Monday 14th January 2019. So it will not be the Prawn Cocktail but instead Baked field mushrooms with Welsh rarebit topping. Followed by a main course of Duck leg with plum and orange sauce. I just wonder if I will still have an appetite after all that. Just in case please may I have the Homemade Stick Toffee Pudding served with vanilla ice cream. Coffee and shortbread to follow. Always best to have a good appetite before shopping for food and ordering a meal. The choice of meal was taken at the December meeting of Christleton Gardening Club. An evening when I realised during the quiz of the many aspects I do not know about gardening. The meal at Eaton Gold Club in Waverton was the venue for the January get together of the Gardening Club. Some thirty members enjoyed the evening. The next meeting at Christleton Methodist Hall is on 11th February when Sue Clarke will give a talk about Margery Fish. A well-known gardener  and author who died in 1969.

On reflection perhaps I should not have chosen Duck because of what I am about to talk about in my first Ramble Down the Garden for 2019. The delight of having a garden is not just the plants you can grow but the creatures that come to visit. It amused me to read the other day that a study has found that bees prefer middle-class gardens as they usually contain a greater variety of flowers. There is a kind of contentment in seeing bees going from flower to flower in your garden wondering how far they have come and what the honey produced from the nectar in your garden will taste like. I could, however, do without wasps who made three nests in my garden last summer. Squirrels are an entertaining visitor. As soon as they see you they move so quickly scampering across the lawn and straight up the nearest tree. Unlike the squirrels in Grosvenor Park in Chester who are so tame that they will come and pick a nut out of your hand. Even if you do not have a nut they will come and investigate if you put your hand to the ground. Mating ducks add excitement to the garden in the Spring and even more fun if they stay to nest and lay eggs.

The most welcome visitors must be the garden birds. Although the numbers and the range of birds has changed so much over the 42 years I have been at Stoneydale. I recall the house sparrows that used to nest in the eaves of the house. The numerous collared doves that used to walk around on the drive. Now gone although can be seen in other parts of the village. The gardener’s pet bird must be the robin. As soon as you have started to break up the surface of the soil he shows up. Wander off for a few moments and return and he is plucking a worm from the ground you have been working on or he is standing cheekily on the handle of your spade. At this time of the year the birds will appreciate you feeding them as they will at other times. As the song says “Show them you care And you’ll be glad if you do“ If the feeding place is close to the house they will reward you with their endless activities. It surprises me how short a time a bird will tarry when eating but assume that this is just an inbuilt instinct to aid survival. I have an acer near my bird table which the tits like to congregate in and then fly for the food and back.  I understand that there is a contention at present as to whether you get what you pay for when buying bird seed. I must admit I have never paid an extortionate price for seed. No objections from the birds but making sure your bird table is clean and seed or nuts are free from mould is important. Also provide water for drinking and bathing. One bird I do not want to feed in my the garden is the heron. If you think making it impossible for them to wade into your pond will save your fish, think again. I have seen a heron eye my pond from a nearby fence, then take off, swoop down to the water, take a tench and then rise up again and fly away. Nets may work in some circumstances but I have seen koi dead beneath a net speared by a heron but the bird was unable to get the fish through the net.

We have not no real winter weather as yet and the garden is already bursting into life. There is even a penstomen in flower. Plus the flowers that should be in flower or coming into flower. The hellebores and the snowdrops. You can remove the old leaves of hellibores so the new flowers are more visible. Do not be afraid to experiment with bulbs. The books might say the bulb season has passed but you can still buy reasonably bulbs from specialists and it is so much easier to see where you might have space for them as the daffodils and tulips are all showing their growth. You will have your plant gardening failures. We all do. Try to learn by investigating what might have gone wrong and have another go. It‘s not too early to weed and it might just make it easier when the earth warms up and the weeds try to take over. Make sure you know your weeds. When in doubt let the supposed weed grow for a little more until you are quite sure it is not a prized plant.

It is a good time of the year to study seed catalogues if only to dream what you could grow if you had the space. I think I would like to grow more dahlias this year plus increase the number and types of primula in the garden.  Start think about pruning your roses, wisteria and apple trees. Tidy up the beds by cutting down old stems of perennial plants. Right time to plant bare rooted roses, trees and shrubs. That is enough to keep you busy till next time.

  •  Jay just about fits on my bird table

    Jay just about fits on my bird table

  •  Mother managing to get away for some peace and quiet

    Mother managing to get away for some peace and quiet

Over the years I have had ducks make a nest and lay a clutch of eggs a few times. After hatching mother and young spend two days on my pond enjoying all the facilities I have provided including a plank to aid them getting out of the water. On the third day mother goes missing for well over an hour. I am sure this is a reconnaissance flight for after she returns she gathers her family of little ones together and leads them out of the garden down the drive, onto Pepper Street with cars passing by. Turning left she proceeds down the road past Windmill Lane until she gets to the church lychgate where she does a left turn into the churchyard. Yes, I have been following making sure all have kept to the pavement. The hazardous journey will end when they all reach the Pit. 

A Ramble down the Garden in 2019

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