Some Good News (Despite the Weather)


These Glistening Inkcap appear in the same place on the drive at least five times a year. They often arrive overnight and lose their lovely colour by the end of the next day. They were lucky this time to catch just a moment of sunshine in weeks of stormy weather although the powdery veil (or mica) gets washed off very quickly.

I planted a flowering redcurrant in the first hedgerow that I grew when I arrived here. Many of my choices are based on a combination of research on flowers that will survive in this climate and memories of my childhood garden in a the much more benign ‘Sunny South East’. I was not sure that this would either survive or thrive but it has done both. It seems impervious to the cold winds that continue to blow across the garden and is obviously a lot tougher than it looks.

I never spent too much time studying the crow family until I started feeding the birds in winter when the garden suddenly looked as if it was the set of a remake of Hitchcock’s film The Birds. At least forty grace the tall trees from early morning and are eating me out of house and home. The only true ’crow proof’ feeder that I have found is one that holds peanuts in a double cage. Its counterpart for seeds is less successful. The crows cannot get at the seeds directly, but have learned to swing the feeder in a wide arc like the pendulum of a clock so that the seeds fall to the ground. They can open knots, prise off the lids that have been tied down and knock the feeders to the ground. You have to admire their persistence and their inventiveness as you tidy up the damage over and over again.

I have never been very fond of crows but was quite touched the other day when I had to rescue one that had got stuck in one of the bird tables and was in a panic when I found it. Once I covered its wings with a cloth it settled very quietly in my hand and waited as I tried to figure out how to release it. For some reason, the incident has completely changed my views of the creatures, although I will probably continue to bemoan the cost of feeding them all. Interestingly, like most of the goldfinches they will soon disappear and I won’t see them again until I start feeding in the autumn.

Sunny days have been rare this winter and spring was little better. The camellias are at their best at the moment regardless of the weather and I managed to capture this Camellia ‘Debbie’ with some blue skies in the background. It was a rare sunny day and was followed by storms and torrential rain but I still battle on.

The more I work in the garden here the more I appreciate the contrast between formal planting and the very natural landscape that surrounds most of my garden. My childhood garden was walled and formal and at one time I thought this would be my ideal. Now I have a great respect for the stony, rough, gorse-filled hills that surround me and I particularly like the contrast between the camellia and the gorse on my neighbour’s property.

It is hard to believe that parts of the garden have ‘got out of hand’ after thirteen years of planting – especially when I doubted that anything would grow. A radical pruning this winter revealed this lovely old dry-stone wall which I had forgotten. I suspect that it will disappear on a regular basis in the years to come.

I have planted the bay tree, Larus nobilis, both for its culinary benefits as well as the fact that it is a evergreen and provides shelter for the birds in winter. Despite knowing the tree all my life I never realised how pretty its winter flowers are.

This Photinia ‘Red Robin’ has taken some years to settle into its place in the southeast shrubbery. You can see from its companion to the left that it requires shelter from the cold winds here but its fresh young leaves provide much needed colour at this time of the year. I am reluctant to plant any more as they seem to find it too challenging here.

The radical winter pruning also revealed this Magnolia Stellata which has not suffered from being hidden for years and produces an abundance of flowers each year regardless of the weather and its shady corner. Usually I stand on a wall to admire it but it is now exposed in all of its glory.

Details of the Magnolia Stellata flower.

I do have sparrows, wrens and dunnocks in the garden, but they are much less evident than the robins, finches, blue and great tits none of which could be described as shy. The former seems more cautious and tend to stay under cover until I have left the feeders. They have become more obvious now that some of my winter visitors have departed. I supposed that I should not be surprised that the demand for food has not decreased so some of these birds may literally be ‘stuffing’ themselves as the nesting season begins.

Camellia flowers vary considerably and the only consistency is the fact that they thrive here. The plants on the edges of the wind breaks have an occasional black leaf from the salt, but they will all get a good feeding after flowering.

I have been very sorry for this collared dove which has been visiting the driveway alone each day since its companion disappeared a few months ago. I found a bundle of feathers which suggests that it was taken by some creature. It was a delight today to see that it has now found a companion, so I am making efforts to make the area of the drive safer for feeding birds.

The handsome couple.



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