Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

Winter Visitors

I am not a photographer, but sometimes I have a piece of luck and this was one of these occasions. This little blue tit was resting just two feet from where I was walking and did not stir when I took the photograph. Despite being next to the path it was just ten feet from the bird bath in one direction and ten feet from the bird feeder in the other. Surrounded by hawthorn trees and other shrubs it was protected from the strong winds and could escape to safety in seconds. I am sure that this photograph is not perfect but I think it will be my lifetime favourite. I don’t think that I will ever have such an opportunity again.

My tree planting in the field was at risk last year from the very dry summer as I was not able to water everything a much as I would have liked. Despite my concerns, everything has survived and the eucalyptus and monkey puzzle trees are flourishing. It will be some years before most of the trees gain much height, but I am hoping that this stretch – which is essentially a hedgerow – will fill out within a few years.

I know that I should not use cracked or chipped mugs in the house, but always find it difficult to get rid of patterns that I like. I feel much better now that I have started this tea party garden. As clumsy as I am it should expand greatly in the next year or two.

The camellias have suddenly burst into blossom just as the snow arrived. They seem unperturbed, although I am worried about some of the more delicate plants from the Southern Hemisphere, especially those that are too big to cover.

This is the hellebore ViV ‘Maeva‘, it does not require any protection as it is in a pot outside the house. When they are not eaten or shredded, I love to watch the progression of the colours in these plants as they mature.

The mature hellebore blossom.

I am still trying to understand the migratory patterns of the goldfinches in the garden. I believe that I have about ten to fifteen permanent residents and at least forty winter visitors. The day I took this photograph I was trying to get an accurate count although I know that it is futile. Suddenly at least fifty new birds rose up from the field below the house. At the same time the air was full of the sound of whistling and twittering of what appeared to be hundreds of small birds in the small wood below the garden. Two days later all was silent and I seem to be back to my permanent residents only. However, a week later the trees are again full of the birds. The garden will be very quiet when the visitors have gone and I will miss their noisy squabbling and whistling. I wonder where they all go and whether they will return next year. I sincerely hope so.

When I arrived here, I planted a hedgerow on the south and south east side of the hill and added shrubberies once protection was in place. The hedgerow is perhaps one hundred and fifty feet long. I am trying to understand what has happened in this part of the garden. This is not a planned path but a corridor that was created one night during a severe storm from the southeast. There is an identical corridor about one hundred feet away and most of the plants were severely damaged or killed that night. It is as if a mini-tornado swept through the area. To add to the puzzle my beautiful American dogwood survived the attack and may be a clue as to what to plant in the future. It certainly seems to be very resilient contrary to my expectations.

This camellia has a fashionable white streak on some of the petals and looks as if it has just had a trip to the hairdresser.

I have been feeding the birds twice a day and in the afternoon give them my luxury mixture of lard mixed with oatmeal and sultanas. I am beginning to feel like the pied piper as most of the small birds seem very happy to perch close to me as I fill the feeders. Some§§times they are very vocal, but the moments when all I can hear is the fluttering of dozens of wings in the trees of the copse as they swoop by waiting to get to the food. A magical moment.

Sadly, this Euphorbia ‘Tasmanian Tiger’, has not done particularly well and this is the only flower that has appeared this year. I think that the more common species has taken over the whole bed and suppressed everything else including the lovely Euphorbia ‘Martini’ and the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. However, it does make a lovely contrasting plant, as seen in the next photograph.

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2 responses to “Winter Visitors”

  1. Just read this today, Julie (21st March) and am so impressed with all I see/read. The photo of the blue tit is absolutely delightful. “Lucky” maybe….but being so in touch with nature helps!

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