Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

A Frog By Any Other Name

Gardening at the moment is an exercise in dodging thunder storms, rain showers and wind gusts that can knock you off your feet in a very undignified manner. Everywhere there are hints of the jobs to be done and even the grass is growing despite the cold. So are the lichen as Fergus my frog can confirm and he may need to be renamed. Most days I have been confined to tidying the garage/garden room a job that I put off all year as I hate it so much.

I love this area of the garden at the moment as you could easily convince yourself that it is the height of summer. The silver leaved Euryops Pectinatus is a summer flowering shrub from South Africa. For some reason it always starts to blossom at Christmas and takes a rest in early spring before flowering again in the summer. It is joined by the New Zealand leptospermum for contrast. Only the bare dogwood in the background lets you know that it is winter not summer.

My love affair with the New Zealand tea trees continues and I have treated myself to a third variety called Correa Puchella. In a few years these should be a blaze of pink or orange when little else is flowering apart from the amazing Camellia Reticulata Inspiration which is now covered in flowers. Usually, it stays this way until May so I consider it to be one of the best purchases that I have made.

Camellia Reticulata Inspiration in the sunlight

This feels like it should be a summer photograph. Camellia Reticulata Inspiration has so many flowers and buds that it is covering the ground with falling blossoms.

Hebe do very well by the coast and can always be relied on for the occasional winter flower which is all the more precious for being rare. This is Hebe Wiri Cloud is another New Zealand export as is its cousin below.

The birds continue to eat me out of house and home. Their new record is emptying three bowls of my homemade fat mixture in one hour. The robins are now so tame that they start to feed before I have finished filling the bird tables. Even the blue tits barely register my presence. A flock of over twenty goldfinches move together around the garden from feeder to feeder although it is harder to photograph them as they are more skittish. Despite being together they are some of the most argumentative birds in the garden. You can hear them squabbling from afar and there is usually trouble if three of them try to feed from a table at the same time.

This peaceful scene did not last for long but they are such beautiful birds that it is easy to forgive their squabbles.

I tried to place the birdfeeders close to big trees to offer shelter from predators. It is fascinating to watch the chaffinches and blue tits make the short flight from the hedgerow to the pine tree and then shuffle down the branch until they are opposite the opening to the feeder. Then it is just a quick dash to collect a seed and retreat. I was very distressed to see that one of the feeders was covered in enough blood this morning to make it clear that something had met its death. As there were no remains, I can only surmise that one of the smaller birds was taken by a predator.

As the weather has been too wild and the ground too wet for gardening, I have been taking my dogs for walks in the fields. My neighbour kindly lets us roam at will and while the dogs run their hearts out, I amble about looking for new items of interest. I can’t believe that I have passed this tree on countless occasions without noticing how dramatic it is.

This is the time of the year to see the details of the system of branches in the trees at the bottom of the garden. This one is almost completely covered in lichen which highlights its contours perfectly. Another example of nature as a work of art.

I still find the occasional fungus in the garden but I was amazed to find this mushroom in my field on one of my walks. It looks as it is growing inside out and I presume that this is the result of the recent frost.

The weather is improving and it looks as if I can ignore the garage again and continue to plant my bare root trees. This is always a rewarding task and I am not sure what I will do when I run out of room. I can almost convince myself that I need a bigger garden.

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