Monday, 13 February 2012


January here in Devon was quite something and with warm sun and gentle breezes the garden marched on at speed pushing up fresh green Allium shoots, Aquilegia, Tulips and Hyacinths.  The Alkanet which has remained quite leafy all winter was in flower, Omphalodes had quite a few flowers too and the Hellebores have been pushing yet more of their bent stems of flower buds up through the heavy clay soil.

Alkanet January 2012
Allium late Jan 2012

Aquilegia February 2012

Omphalodes January 2012

However, things changed dramatically as the month turned and we suddenly found ourselves  in freezing conditions, the soft clay soil became as hard as rock literally overnight and the pond and water butts sealed over with two or three inches of ice.  The poor frogs who had been cheerfully congregating disappeared as quickly as they had appeared as winter finally took hold of the garden.  It seems to have brought an end to the un-seasonal flowering and things are mostly going along as I would expect now.  I am surprised, however, at how slow the crocuses are in coming up and the Catkins by the stream are much slower to soften and shake their tails than those in the surrounding countryside. 

At the end of January I took part in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) yearly garden bird count.  Each participant must count the number of every bird present in their garden over a period of an hour on a specified weekend, logging the greatest number of each bird seen together at one time.  I had read that gardens in the UK are lacking the usual high numbers of common birds this winter due to the mild weather, which is strange because I’ve noticed the opposite with a very lively garden full of all the usual culprits.  The only difference is that so far this year the Fieldfares, Wagtails, Redwings and other birds that only visit gardens in extremely cold weather are nowhere to be seen.  If the current cold snap continues then perhaps they will show up after all and they will be most welcome! 

As the ground thaws I am hoping to get on with planting a section of wildlife hedging to fill a gap left by a neighbour’s tree which was sadly cut down last summer.  I plan on using Holly, Spindle (Euonymus), perhaps another Hawthorn or maybe a Blackthorn.  I like the idea of growing more Wild Rose and Honeysuckle through the hedge too.  I just learned recently that nearly 150 different insects have been recorded on Hawthorn so it really is a very valuable wildlife plant.

I noticed today that the ice on the pond has melted and the first batch frog spawn has appeared this morning.  It's going to be fun watching the pond so full of life again.

First Frogspawn of the year 13th Feb 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Introducing My Garden

Welcome to my garden which is situated in Devon in the South West of the British Isles in an area well known for having a different climate to much of the rest of the country.  The weather is normally relatively mild in winter with gentle summers that are rarely very hot or dry.  However the previous two winters were unusually cold and dry, spring came several weeks late and the summers lacked sun and warmth (even for England!). With the winter of 2011/2012 so far proving extremely mild, I have found myself wishing I had logged nature’s activity over such differing periods and decided this would be the year I started and I hope to include notes of this in my blog.

The garden is positioned towards the outskirts of a village on the edge of a built-up area but approximately 200 yards from open farmland.  The sea lies around 2 miles to the east.  I have mixed boundaries comprising brick walls, a small stream, shrubs and fencing.  I would say the stream and the wildlife corridor it creates through the village is the most important part of the garden in terms of wildlife with hazel, ivy, hawthorn, honeysuckle and wild roses.  I hope to fill in some gaps with more nature-friendly planting in the very near future.


Although we're used to disappointing summers here, the summer of 2011 was an especially strange one in some ways.  It wasn't particularly wet but it was cool with little sun and some plants really did seem to become quite confused.  For example, some of my Hellebores which I would normally expect to begin flowering in late autumn began flowing in early July, bulbs began putting up leaves several months early including tulips which are already around 3 inches high.  At the same time as winter plants flowering early, the mild autumn and winter have meant that some summer flowers are still on the go including summer-flowering Clematis, Iris, Stocks, Lobelia and Nasturtium.  Strangely, the Snowdrops weren't especially early, Catkins are surprisingly still tiny and my Crocuses are still only just showing the tips of their shoots above ground now so perhaps the gardening experts who have been telling us not to worry and that things will right themselves are correct.  Hellebores that were flowering in July are pushing up fresh flower buds and we can breathe a sigh of relief that the gloomiest part of the winter will not be all the duller without our winter flowers.