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My Garden Journal 2016 – January

I will once again be keeping my garden journal during 2016 recording my thoughts on our own garden here at Avocet in the tiny hamlet of Plealey situated just inside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the South Shropshire Hills. I will share the sounds, sights and aromas of our garden and make mention of the wildlife that shares the garden with us. In 2015 I found a quote every month from a little book, ” Led by the Nose” written by Jenny Joseph. In 2016 I will look back at what I recorded in my first garden journal which I began in the first full year of living in Plealey. Although we moved here in August 2004 my journal began in January 2005. It will be interesting to compare 2005 with 2016.

So, welcome to our “Avocet” garden in 2016. I hope you enjoy the journey through the months with me.

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My first page for 2016 features my gouache painting of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few words about this charismatic garden visitor.

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“The Great Spotted Woodpecker makes its presence felt in our garden. It is black and white with splashes of bright red. It announces its arrival with a loud call as it flies in with its undulating flight. It hits the bird feeders hard so they swing around. These hungry birds stay feeding for far longer then any other bird.”

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On the opposite page I write “Gardeners often pose the question“What is your favourite season in the garden?” It is easier for some to answer this question and they quickly give a definitive answer, while others find the choice impossible to make. For me? Well, I admit  I always answer “The one we are in.” Not many gardeners will say “winter” viewing it as a “non-time” in their gardens. Many put their gardens to bed for the winter by chopping a huge percentage of the plants to the ground. Their interest only returns when spring bulbs burst into flower. I absolutely love the winter garden!”

I illustrate the page with my watercolour painting of two hips from Rosa “Graham Thomas”, a David Austin New English Rose which we grow as a climber. It gives joy to the gardener for many months of the year with its profuse golden sunny yellow blooms and when it finally gives up in December it begins to produce its green hips which quickly turn to yellow then orange.

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Turning the page over I write “As the weather turns colder at the end of the first week of the new year we are delighted to see the garden full of birds. Often we hear our feathered visitors before we see them. While spending a day in the garden cutting down soggy perennials we heard the Buzzards mewing over our heads and the grating call of Mistle Thrushes defending their favourite berried trees. The high pitch calls of Goldcrests are barely audible” Below these words we find my gouache painting of a pair of Goldcrests.

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Foliage features on the opposite page where I write “In winter flowers generally give way to interesting foliage on both shrubs and evergreen perennials. There is such a wide variety of shapes, colours and textures to be found in our January garden”.

A selection of photographs which I took in the garden on the same morning follows.

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Turning the next page my text is all about the scents of winter flowering shrubs.

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“Scent is such a powerful force in the winter garden and it is shrubs that put in a strong performance. We plant these scented shrubs close to paths so that we can enjoy them close up. On still days though their perfumes can be appreciated all over the garden. Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, has a delicate scent but striking flowers of a bright yellow to which sunlight adds a hint of lime green to make it really zing.” 

A much more strongly scented winter flowering shrub grows close to the main path in our back garden and is generous with its scent spreading it all over nearby borders, is Daphne bhuloa “Jacquiline Postill”.

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On the page opposite I put the spotlight on a plant called “Physalis alkenengi” as I had come across the skeletal remains of its fruiting head while gardening in the Hot Garden.

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I write “Physalis alkekengi is a strange little plant. It is inconspicuous for most of the year apart for twice when it gives splashes of colour. We rarely notice its off-white flowers in mid-summer but bright red papery “lanterns” soon follow. Inside its lanterns are hidden glossy orange berries. The wet decay of winter breaks down the papery cases which turn biscuit coloured before the flesh falls away leaving a lantern shaped net within which sits the orange berry.”

I illustrated this page with a watercolour painting of this little garden treasure. It was a great challenge!

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My next page is about two gardeners at work. Jude the Undergardener and I produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our crops which we grow on our allotment plot.

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“Bean Poles and Pea Sticks

We have reached the stage now where our garden has matured enough to allow us to produce our own bean poles and pea sticks to use on our allotment. Our two Hazels provide us with the majority, but other shrubs add to our stash when we prune them.”

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On the page opposite I share my photos of the first frost of 2016.

“The first frost of the year arrived in the third week of January. It added a new white dimension to foliage which sported rims of tiny white crystals.”

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My final words and pictures in my January entry in my garden journal look back at my 2005 garden journal and a current garden project.

“Looking back at my January entries in my garden journal of 2005, I notice that I was then building a heated propagator in our new 14 foot by 8 foot greenhouse. This has served us well over the years making seed germination so much easier. This year I am making a much bigger propagating bench. For this version I will need support of my Undergardener, Jude.”

I hope you enjoy my photographic journey through this most enjoyable two day project. It was a good task to do while the weather outside was too cold, windy and wet to get any outdoor gardening done. The greenhouse was warm and snug so a good place to be working.  When describing our efforts I used short captions for each photograph.

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Using recycled wood we made a new bench. We checked it was perfectly level.”

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“We fixed in a double layer of insulation boards after adding an edge of 6 inch board. Then we fixed on a layer of plastic sheet.”

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“We added a 2 inch layer of soft sand. The control box, thermostat and probe were fixed to the box.”

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“Then we laid out our heating cable carefully. The cable had to be covered in soft sand.”

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A second layer of soft sand was added to a depth of 2 inches. We carefully made it level. The final touch – a layer of capillary matting”.

Here ends the entries from the first monthly entry into my Garden Journal for 2016. See you in February when we will start to use our newly constructed heated propagation bench.

 

 

 

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autumn autumn colours birds climbing plants colours garden photography garden wildlife gardening gardens grasses hardy perennials migration ornamental trees and shrubs poppies roses trees wildlife Winter Gardening

A Garden Bouquet for December

Already we are almost at the end of the year so here is my December bouquet from our garden,the final chapter in 2013.

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It is only mid-December and while in the garden we are treated to the beautiful repetitive piping call of a Song Thrush, already making his territorial proclamation. He must have found a mighty fine territory which he is making sure no-one else can take possession of.

The skies seem full of passing flocks of Redwing and their larger noisier cousins the Fieldfare on migration, escaping their cold food-less summer homes in central Europe. Below them exploring the trees and shrubs of our garden mixed foraging flocks of finches seek out the last of the seeds and berries while amongst them groups of Titmice, Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal arrive in hurried flight to explore every nook and cranny of dried stems, tree bark and shrub branches for insects especially spiders.

A few delicate looking soft coloured flowers still hang on determined to be the final blooms of the year. It seems amazing but the odd big bumbling Queen Bumble Bee appears to feed on them.

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Berries on shrubs and small trees add extra sparkles of colour but the resident Mistle Thrushes guard them from the migrant thrushes. They are the larder for the colder days to come. The red fruit of the Cotoneasters, Hollies and Rowans will be eaten first and most will have been devoured by the thrushes and Blackbirds before the month is out. The creamy-yellow berries of the Cotoneaster rothschildiana will stay longer being mere second choices. The last to go without fail will be the white berries of the Sorbus, so we can get to enjoy them against dark winter storm clouds before the birds eat them.

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At this time of year we can enjoy the dessicated seed heads and old flower heads that have managed to survive the wet times that autumn invariably brings. This year has been so wet that we seem to have fewer still standing than ever before. But a few are putting on a display for us and when covered in a frosty layer or when donning a hat made of snow will look even better. Within them are the remnant autumn leaves as yet to be blown from their branches by blasts of wind.

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Signs of next year’s growth are already in evidence like this adventurous bud found on a clematis snuggled between stem and petioles.

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Patterns become important in winter as they emerge from seasons hidden away behind plants. So that is the end of my year of garden bouquets for 2013. Perhaps they will return for 2014.

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Echinaceas – A Coneflower Gallery

Echinaceas are one of those plants that I cannot resist taking a photo of, whether they are in bud, in full flower, gradually dying, or in their seed head stage. I photograph them in every season whatever the weather. But first a look into my sketchpad.

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And here is a gallery of some of my attempts. I try to capture their various shapes, colours, textures and catch their every mood.

The photos were taken throughout the seasons from summer to winter and I hope illustrate their changing shapes and colours.

I have at last got a link to my Flickr photostream so if you want to see what is on there so far please click on link in right margin of my posts.