Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

A Feeding Frenzy

The silage was cut a few days ago and afterwards I had a very enjoyable evening watching the local foxes clearing the field. They obviously know the sound of the machines, as this individual was scavenging within minutes of their arrival. I am hoping to see some of the newly-born foxes at the autumn harvest.

This cinnabar moth was a very welcome sight recently, as I have not seen any for a couple of years. It seems very early for an appearance as ragwort won’t be in flower here for some weeks. It is resting on nipplewort which is also not in flower but I presume it has some source of food nearby.

Parts of the garden require a radical makeover. When I arrived here over thirteen years ago this small space in front of the house was bordered by a semicircle of hydrangea on one side and a small crumbling dry stone wall one the other, which offered no protection from the wind on the rest. As the land dropped steeply into my field, I had no option but to repair the walls. I completed the semicircle of hydrangea and this is now offering at least six feet of shelter. My first choice was to fill the area with herbaceous plants, but this has had limited success. About half the plants became rampant and the other half died. I am now in the process of taking the whole area apart, dividing it into four smaller spaces and putting in paths to make the area more accessible. It is a ‘work in progress’ and looks a little ‘wonky’ at the moment but I am hoping that my makeover will eventually be successful.

I always find it surprising that the standard fuchsia does not do particularly well in my hedgerows and a number have died. This small bush variety has settled in very nicely under my large conifers and is already full of flowers despite being in almost full shade for most of the day. It is also producing new plants in the surrounding area. I hope to introduce any small plants to other parts of the garden.

I have become a firm fan of Merlin Bird ID, as it is almost impossible to see any birds in the garden as the greenery is so dense at the moment. I also know little about birdsong. However, when it identified linnets in the garden, I was sceptical as I have never seen one in my lifetime. Yet here it is, perching outside the kitchen window in all of its glory. In fact, I have now spotted at least three. Another new find is the willow warbler although these are much more difficult to spot as they flit through the trees.

I have had to replace my New Zealand tea tree on a number of occasions over the last thirteen years but never regret doing so. Despite its position where it is exposed to the south west winds this one has lasted the longest and I am beginning to get an idea of its potential size. As it survived this winter, I think that the cold rather than the salt and rain may be the potential killer.

Almost every hydrangea in the garden has at least one fully formed flower. This one has been joined by one of the three Melanoselinum decipens (black parsley) which is gradually starting to fade. I am keeping a beady eye on it so that I can collect the seeds, as I can’t imagine not having it in my garden now. They will take three years to flower but I can wait.

This Cornus kuosa is one of my favourite plants in the garden but it is also very frustrating. It rarely needs pruning and has grown into the most beautiful shape reminiscent of a specimen tree in a Japanese garden. However, no matter how hard I try I can’t capture this grace in a photograph and have to make do with a few of the lovely flowers.

The cornus is holding its own with some shelter from the winds. It will flower for months and the colour will change over time from a deep pink to a very pale pink. I have added a few other specimens in the last few years and would like to continue doing this but the cost of this particular plant is becoming prohibitive.

I am on the verge of a major change in my gardening methods – if truth be told, it is being forced on me. I am big enough to admit that I have been totally defeated by a tiny yellow flower. I have always preferred the name galloping buttercup as it is more appropriate but, regardless of the name, I cannot eradicate it from the whole garden and in some areas have hardly make a dent in its presence. This is in spite of the fact that I have spent hours digging up and destroying every root. I am now experimenting with trying to ‘love’ it and leave it in peace. We will see how that goes. The latter may be easier than the former.

Despite appearances, this is part of my rockery. I always leave foxgloves in place and in recent years I have added sowthistles to the accepted species. Well, realistically, they have added themselves I just leave them alone. Believe it or not there is method in my madness. Bullfinches are big fans of the seeds and visit this spot each evening to stuff their faces. I have seen at least three at any one time in the last few weeks. It may all look very untidy but I really don’t care. Bullfinches have only arrived in the garden in the last few years and I will do anything to keep them happy.

The definition of ‘stuffing your face’.

This is a small raised bed that has posed considerable problems. Realistically, it is exposed to winds from too many directions so my plans for a small specimen tree have failed. I tried planting herbs, but the mint bullied everything except these chives out of existence. Having removed most of the mint the bed has taken on a life of its own. Common ramping-fumitory, scarlet-pimpernel, bitter-vetch and nipplewort are producing a thick mass of colour. I am happy to leave well alone at the moment. If this continues soon the only gardening tool that I will need will be chair!

Normally I love to watch the starlings flit from one phormium to another in the garden as they compete with the bees for pollen. Usually, I would try to get a photograph of them. However, I have just discovered that they have invaded a robin’s nest built in a cavity the side of the house and at best have destroyed it. I don’t know if there were eggs or young in the nest but I am not happy. The robins here feel like family and not only have they abandoned what remains of the nest but they have also left the area. As they are constant companions as I work in the garden, I sincerely hope that their absence is temporary.

My revamping of some of the small gardens involved trying to mix and match wild and cultivated flowers. This small sloping garden has a very successful hydrangea hedge on the left with a few select shrubs. On the right was a small vegetable plot but I have not managed to successfully grow anything in it. I think it is too exposed to the salt air. As I have left it fallow it has filled up with wild flowers so I am going to take my cue from that. The wheelbarrow is a suggestion that I might do some work in the area sometime.

The first rose chafers of the season feeding on the flowers of the hawthorn tree and a rare opportunity to see them. It is interesting that it seemed to be ignoring the nearby roses but the hawthorn flowers are turning out to be a popular choice with the goldfinches too. This has thwarted my plans to try hawthorn flower syrup but maybe that is a good thing.

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