Is fruit picking the most enjoyable part of gardening? It is so satisfying getting sticky and sweet-smelling hands and defying the wasps who are after you. Just look at today’s produce – golden plums with red and green gooseberries. The huge green goosegogs are from a self-seeded bush in a shrub border at home, the tiny red ones from the allotment. How is it that the pampered bush produces berries half the size of the neglected bush? Simply another case of mother Nature knowing best I guess!
What is it with House Sparrows? We all know now of the terrible plight of this “cheeky chappy”, the “cockney sparrer”, or as we called them as kids in Gloucestershire, “spaggies”. Their population has dropped drastically, in town and country. A year ago we were missing their constant chirpy chatter here in our Avocet garden as in the six years we had lived here they all but disappeared. We decided that we might reverse the trend a little by putting up a box for them – the real thing, a sparrow terrace with 3 nesting spaces. They had occasionally in the past pushed a pair of great tits out of one of their boxes so we put one of those metal plates with a small hole over the original hole and nearby nailed up the new “for sparrows only” box. The box was on the fence in the side garden opposite our kitchen window so we could watch for developments.
The old box with its new metal hole was grabbed early in the year by a pair of blue tits who took up residence in January and fought off all other prospective squatters. The house sparrows completely ignored their new box except occasionally using it as a perch or toilet. However we soon discovered a pair evicting great tits from a tit box in the back garden. The fight continued for weeks with nesting material being added in turn by the sparrows and the tits. The sparrows won in the end and have now raised a healthy and noisy brood. They are now sitting on the second batch of eggs.
But no sign of activity in the specially provided sparrow terrace – unless of course you count the blue tit family in residence in the end terrace!
A warm humid day brings out the best scent in the garden and roses are often considered the best blooms for sweet scents. But not all roses perform, with many hybrid teas completely without odour. When we began our garden in Plealey we wanted the best and most varied scented blooms so all our roses are New English varieties bred by David Austin. Luckily his nursery and trial grounds are not far away. The display gardens are amazing and give you the chance to fully experience the sight and scent of each variety. So chosing roses for our garden is so easy. We simply take a half hour drive, wander around the roses sniffing the blooms as we go and then make our final choice over a cup of tea served in cups decorated with paintings of roses of course.
We now enjoy here in our patch at Avocet “A Shropshire Lad”, “Falstaff”, “Teasing Georgia”, “Graham Thomas” and “Wenlock”. We grow them close to paths – close enough to enjoy their scents but not so close that we suffer from their thorns.
My flock of chucks is back up to eight with the addition of a Fenton Blue and a Fenton Rose. These are hybrids bred from Cream Legbars which are very flighty birds. My two tend to live in the trees in their run watching their flock comrades below them. They are normally very nosy birds but show them a camera and they disappear. Hence so far this is the one and only photo I have. But I shall keep trying.
On Sunday 17th July we opened our site for the National Garden Scheme, the famous Yellow Book. Allotment holders had worked hard during the previous week cutting grass, tidying borders in the green spaces and sprucing up plots. The site looked wonderful – even in Sunday’s rain! And rain it certainly did! We were pleased though when over 100 visitors came along with brollies braving or perhaps defying the weather. I believe that gardeners get good at defying weather – others merely brave it out. Many of our visitors stayed for several hours, leaving only when they had drunk gallons of tea and consumed masses of cake, and promising to return next year. I had hoped to show how good the site looked with photos of glowing flowers and shining veggies but that will have to wait until the weather improves. These photos though depict the reality of the day.
We have built a new insect stack, or insect hotel as they are often called, in our back garden here in Plealey. It is a real upmarket affair – if it were a hotel for humans it would definitely deserve to be called a “boutique hotel”. We hope it becomes a home for beneficial insects – ladybirds, lacewings, beetles and bees, plus maybe the occasional amphibian – one of our resident newts, toads or frogs perhaps. A much friendlier way of dealing with garden pests.
I have acquired a couple of new hybrids to add to our flock. We are getting fewer eggs these days as our bantams are now rather elderly as bantams go. The Hybrids which we have had now for nearly a year are still laying well but these new girls should boost production as the originals begin to age and slow down their egg laying activities. The new chucks are a Sussex cross, who is mostly white apart from her black tail and hackle and a Bluebell, with strange airforce blue and grey plumage with a contrasting amber chest.
Each time the sun momentarily burst through the blackened skies which produced sporadic heavy showers all morning, it lit up the golden spires of verbascum and ligularia.
During one of my many breaks for coffee whilst gardening I was joined by this little chap. He stayed for a while – long enough in fact for me to fetch my camera and take his portrait. While I enjoyed my coffee he perched on the seat beside me being fed with chewed up Amelanchier berries provided by his mum.
We have launched our competitions this year at Bowbrook Allotments Community – scarecrows and sunflowers. We will be judging the scarecrows on our National Garden Scheme (Yellow Book) open day on July 17th but leaving the measuring of the sunflowers until late summer. We measure the height to find the tallest grown by a child and by an adult and measure the width of the flowerheads to determine the biggest grown by an adult and a child.
The scarecrow competition last year produced two very worthy winners.
The Willow Man won in the children’s competition.