Thursday, 24 July 2014

A bird in the hedge

The hedge that skirts our semicircular flower bed is horribly overgrown. It's far too tall and bows outwards like a hedge that has eaten rather too many cakes and chips recently. Earlier in the year I fretted about this - it limits the sunshine that reaches that side of the garden and looks wayward. As the Spring progressed though, I began to notice evidence of several birds' nests. A pair of blackbirds, thrushes, great tits and robins were making very regular visits to and from the hedge, accompanied by the telling high pitched sound of baby birds begging for food.

My hunch was correct. I haven't managed to track the nests down but a second set of robin fledglings emerged from the hedge last week. They are perching on the willow wigwam up which the sweet peas are growing and being visited by their parents with snacks of flies and woodlice. I'm very fond of robin fledglings. They have a very fluffy fuzzy feather on each side of their head and are speckly conker brown. Here's one of their parents:

Yesterday I walked up the garden to the shed and heard tiny alarmed cheeps before seeing two miniscule slightly fluffy wren fledglings sitting on the deckchair. They scrambled into the hedge in alarm. They were smaller than Cadbury's Creme Eggs. Fledglings don't stray far from the nest they have just left so I can add another species to the birds-in-the-hedge list. It seems there's a sort of nest village behind the overgrown privet. There are birdy benefits to neglecting the loppers.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Just now my garden is at its peak. There's a riotous jumble of flowers out there and the bees, hoverflies and butterflies seem to be enjoying it as much as I am.

It's easy to love our smallish plot of soil at this time of year. In the months leading to Open Studios in July we clear, sow, plant and even mulch in an attempt to bring the flowers to a sort of crescendo. The garden, always forgiving, repays me in posies.

I'm a shamefaced fair weather gardener though. I tend to turn my back on our patch between September and March and nestle inside under quilts instead, peering outside and tutting now and again at the crispy jungle. This year I resolve not to neglect the garden during the colder season. I hope that writing this good intention down will prevent me from retreating inside the cottage at the first sign of falling leaves. I haven't planted a new Spring bulb in years. I've certainly never sown cut flower seeds in late summer. This must change.

Yesterday my sweet peas began to flower. I always feel as though I've cheated if I buy baby plants from the garden centre. These were not sown by me and what's more they sat forlorn in their pots for several weeks before I planted them. For shame. I redeemed myself though. I made them a willow obelisk to climb up. My friend Val taught me how. Then I dug approximately 300 roast dinners-worth of compost and muck onto the soil before I planted them. They seem more lush than any sweet peas I've grown before. To the right of the (somewhat grainy iPhone) image above is lusty, jungly sweet pea growth covered in buds. This may have something to do with the water I've been giving them. Consistent hose and watering can action is not my forte. So far this year my form is not exemplary but I have not yet dessicated anything, which is new for me.

I fear my love for my garden is a little shallow - it's all about the dahlia and the foxglove and the floral fireworks and not about feeding the soil in bleakest February and planting bulbs in October when the soil is cold and claggy. I fear I'm insufficiently committed. I resolve to do better.