Pests


1 May 2020

It takes a lot to make me cry but with this Clematis Montana Rubens I came close. When I moved here it did not take me long to realise that I was unlikely to be able to grow climbers in a conventional fashion for a long time. Despite the exposure I decided to try growing some along some of the many low, dry stone walls in the garden. This clematis was planted in mid-2018, grew almost twenty feet in no time and last year was covered in flowers. The photograph (above) was taken in May of last year. Delighted with my success and the success of a white Clematis Montana (Grandiflora) I added two more to walls throughout the garden. To my horror I have just discovered that three have been stripped of every bud and flower and all that is left are a few young leaves bravely trying to emerge. I am at a loss to know what has consumed the buds. As you can see from the photo below, they have all been surgically removed (almost as if with a scissors.) I don’t think that this is the signature of mice but if it is there must be millions of them. The similar destruction of my hellebores makes me wonder about rabbits or hares. If this is the case then it is particularly galling as the Camellia Montana Rubens is planted on a wall just eight feet from my kitchen window and I have three lively dogs!!!!!

What remains of the buds on my Clematis Montana Rubens.

Whatever has demolished the climbers they have completely ignored the Ceanothus pictured below for which I am grateful. This plant is a magnet for bees at the moment and I am delighted to see them feeding with almost full pollen sacs after a daily feast. Usually the pink clematis covers the wall on the left in a pink haze and contrasts beautifully but is not to be this year.

The final indignity is that I have been nursing a wisteria in the same area for two years with little success. This year it has rewarded me with lovely fresh, healthy shoots. I just hope that the rabbit/hare/mouse appreciated what they were getting when they chomped them all off.

Demolition

You might ask what my dogs are doing while all of this destruction is going on. In fact, they are very busy on a major excavation at the side of the garage. They are obviously in pursuit of some small creature there but as this is a considerable distance from the house, I doubt that it is the clematis stealer. For those of you who might be concerned about the creature there is no need to worry. The walls offer plenty of cover and the creatures just move to a safer spot further along the wall until the dogs give up.

Other invaders

Last summer I arrived home late one evening just before darkness descended. As I walked towards the house, I noticed some (actually many) odd shapes on the driveway. For a brief moment I wondered if the dogs had escaped from the house and had decorated the area with their ‘poo’ as a punishment for being left alone. Torchlight revealed it to be an army of snails en route from the bank behind the house to the Hosta placed just outside my back door. The sheer numbers reminded me of the ‘Terracotta Army’ and both fascinated me and filled me with despair. These creatures have to cross a gravel filled drive, climb a low stone wall and then march across concrete to get to their target. As they are never in evidence during the day, I can only assume that they return to the bank in the early morning for a well-earned rest.

Before

After day one

I am still trying to find a way of removing the snails without harming them. This is difficult as they are not in evidence when I am awake. I have put many of the pots in trays to trap rain water and keep the plants moist during the summer. I can only hope that the snails can’t swim. But given how tenacious they are they will probably just adapt and abseil down from the roof.

4 May 2018

Trees

The weather has been very wet and stormy for the last few days and the blackthorn is losing its blossom. The tree in the above photo is in my neighbours’ garden and is a good indication of the prevailing wind. You could spend years trying to get a tree to take on this beautiful shape but here there is no need to bother. The wind will do it for you.

In the garden the blackthorn blossom has been replaced by the scented blossom of the common hawthorn Crataegus Monogyna. These trees do very well here. Recently I was delighted to find over 18 small seedlings under one of the trees. I attribute their growth to the robin who favours the parents’ branches as he obviously eats and disperses the seeds. I have potted them up and they are growing nicely. It is a lot of fun deciding where I will plant them all.

The hawthorn seedlings have all survived transplanting and are growing rapidly.

On the advice of the garden centre Future Forests I tried planting Craetageous Prunifolia in an exposed corner of the garden. This has been so successful that I have started using it as the first line of defence in hedges. It grows quickly and has lovely autumn colour. The flowers are slow to appear but it has too many other advantages for this to matter. I have not been as successful with Cratageous Paul’s Scarlet as only three of the five that I planted have survived and only after replanting to more sheltered spots in the garden.

The lovely hawthorn blossom in its full glory.

Camellia Japonica spring festival a delicate semi double pale pink variety.

The last of my camellias are now in blossom as the earlier varieties fade. I think that Camellias must be one of the most reliable shrubs for this climate and truly give you value for your money. I have had varieties flowering since December. They are now being replaced by the Rhododendron blossoms. Sadly, I only have a few plants as they are much more delicate than camellias and I have to search for appropriate sheltered spots.

A rhododendron (Graffito) protected from the worst of the gales by hawthorn and willow trees.

Sambucui grew very well in my gardens in Scotland. I had a hedge of Sambucus Nigra (the common elder), Sambucus Nigra (Blackface Eve) and Sambucus Racemosa (Sutherland gold). The contrasting leaf colours of gold, bright green and deep purple were as dramatic as the lovely scented flowers and the Autumn berries. Sadly, they only seem to like the habitat at the bottom of my drive which means that I don’t see them as often as I would like. This above photograph is of a Sambucus Sutherland Gold which provides interest throughout the year and has just come into flower. It is partnered by the equally flamboyant Pieris Forest Flame seen below.

Social distancing in action

My summer companions showing admirable social restraint.

As the restrictions due to Covid-19 continue my neighbour’s seven heifers are my only non-resident constant companions. They are very friendly and their antics provide me with hours of amusement. However, the social distancing did not last long as they rush up to greet me whenever I work by the wall bordering their field. At least I think that is what they were doing. On the other hand, they may have been aiming for the flowering redcurrant.

 

Wild flowers

The first of the cat’s ears are out on the bank at the back of they house joining the violets and bluebells. If other years are anything to go by, they will soon fill the whole area including the driveway itself.

The cat’s ears are sensitive to the sun and open and close throughout the day showing their underside of delicate grey.

When you examine the young foxgloves closely you can see that they have more than an attractive flower and provide interest throughout their growing and flowering period.

The pink and grey young leaves and the purple stems of the foxglove

Germander speedwell nestling amongst the golden oregano in the herb bed.

9 May 2020

Vegetables

I have been too hasty to condemn my attempts to grow some vegetable seedlings on the garage window. The courgettes and outdoor tomatoes are finally making an appearance although the peas seem to be a washout. I will give them a little more time.


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