Monday, 30 April 2018


Behind the scenes there has been a lot going on in the garden that is not gardening.

We are well aware that for the last three or four years not much ongoing maintenance has been done;  Management was too busy/exhausted whilst at work and I was too busy/exhausted from looking after Daisy, working with LP and getting only 3 or 4 hours sleep each night.   For the first few months of Management's retirement we caught up on a lot of indoor jobs, and this Spring have moved outside.  Credit where it is due - it's Management who has been doing most of the work.

He has given the back of the little shed lots of woodworm treatment, and Cuprinol attention too:)

The last two cold frames have been painted, along with the deck they are standing on.

Before Mrs Blackbird moved in he pressure washed some slabs which seem to get slippery very quickly.

Our big shed and the front of the mower shed have been painted, and the trellis was removed, painted and replaced quick because the clematis are growing fast.

We worked together to paint the big gates on the drive, and I've put one coat of a lovely soft green on the pillars, but we found whilst I can wield a paintbrush, picking up a roller triggers my shoulder problem, so I will not be finishing that job.

Whilst I was doing some real gardening and messing around with plants, Management has also refurbished the four big obelisks.

He has also cleaned and powder coated the big ground spikes I use to stop them toppling over, and we plan to get them installed this week.

It almost doesn't feel like Bag End - we're becoming uncharacteristically organised and tidy!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Well, that was sad.

A couple of weeks ago I was on my way to the small shed when I realised I had company.

At the top of a stack of old mushroom trays (perfect size for 9cm pots or seed trays) one of our resident blackbirds had built this year's nursery.  Might have been the same girl who built a large nest in the log store last year . . . because she wasn't remotely bothered about me going back and forwards within a couple of feet of her.

Last week I had a quick peep when she was off the nest and found three perfect little eggs.  When I got back from Scotland we realised one had hatched but a day later Mum was huddled down at the very back of the blue tray and we were worried she had abandoned the eggs.  Next time I went to the shed when she was absent I realised she was out of the nest because her chick had escaped.  Completely bald, but still alive, I took the risk of deciding to move it.  I could not pick it up because I couldn't get a finger around it without a risk of doing damage (it was tucked right into the corner of the plastic box) but got a couple of new paintbrushes and used them like soft chopsticks.

Much relief because a little while later Mum was back on the nest and I was having sneaky peeks when she was away - the chick was getting feathers, and growing well.  Sadly the other two eggs had not hatched - we think they got too cold whilst she was protecting the escapee.

This morning I went to have a look and saw a pile of boxes on the ground - and no chick.  The remaining two eggs are still there.

So sad, that is two years running a nest in the vicinity of the log store has been raided (last year there were three strong chicks and one morning they were all gone).  We are fairly convinced the culprit is our neighbours' cats.  Last year they caved into the incessant whining from two small girls and acquired a couple of kittens who have both taken to sitting underneath our bird feeders.  If we see them or Daisy gets a glimpse, they are chased away with unfriendly intent, but in a garden this size we cannot do much more.

The cat thing makes me very angry.  If I allowed Daisy to rampage through neighbouring gardens and sh*t in the middle of flower beds and lawns I could be prosecuted.  Cat owners however, seem to get away with anything and everything.

Thankfully we do have a lot of other nests, of course I've no idea if they are predated or if the parents successfully raise their little families.  We have a pair of thrush nesting in the laurel bushes near the fruit cage, I've got the noisiest blue tits in the country in a box outside my bedroom window, there are wrens in another laurel hedge, and (much excitement) a pair of wagtail whom we think are nesting in the giant log pile for the second season.  There are also a good number of dunnock, robins and a pair of collared doves.

Whilst there are many other blackbirds at Bag End, it is still so sad to lose babies, but I am wondering whether the log store is doomed and maybe next season, if I see a nest being created I intervene and try to force the birds somewhere else?

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Sorry, am I boring you?

Daisy survived my absence without any difficulty - according to Management she was eating well and being as demanding and attention seeking cute as usual!  After a few seconds of manic greeting she proceeded to ignore me for half an hour, but since then has stuck pretty close - after all, I am a Proven Flight Risk and have to be kept under fairly intense scrutiny. But surveillance is tiring work:

These have been taken at different times during the last week;  I've been gardening, Daisy has been 'supervising'.

Something we have become aware of is how grey Daisy is going.  It was particularly noticeable for the first few minutes when I got home - instead of the vibrantly coloured head than used to greet me, what I saw was a softening, a fading of her colour.

I do not apply much post-processing to my photos.  Apart from cropping and straightening, most get very little more than a light application of an extremely effective DeHaze filter I added to Lightroom. Maybe I am cheating?  Perhaps I should stop tweaking Daisy's colouring - I know I am editing it to something closer to what I 'want' to see rather than exactly what is there . . .

Friday, 27 April 2018

Road trip, part two - Logan Botanic Garden

Carrying on from part one of my first Road Trip with Bill.

Some people want to visit shops when they are on holiday (shudder), some want to go round old houses, some want to lie on a beach and drink boozy cocktails supplied by a loin-cloth-clad cabana boy (go on, say that fast, three times, after some of those cocktails!!)  I've realised what I like best is visiting gardens.

Many years ago Management and I were on holiday in Torridon and I did not take the opportunity to visit Inverewe, which I've regretted it ever since, but thanks to having the van am now making plans to remedy that oversight.  Closer to home but benefiting from the same shelter are the Botanic Gardens at Logan.  Given how cold the last couple of months have been I was really too early to see many of the collections at their best but it did not matter one iota.  The entire site is complete nirvana - the Gunnera Bog, the tree ferns, Woolemia Nobilis, massive glasshouse.  I visited on a misty Thursday and again on Friday when it was clear and bright, and I will be visitin g again - have signed up for Friend membership and I'm sure I'll get good value out of it.

If you thought there were too many pictures in part one there is no point me apologising for part two ... if you're not a gardener just look away now.

Magnolia campbellii 'Charles Raffill'
Blooms the size of dinner plates, not a speck of frost damage.  I would have paid a great deal to have the option of going up in a cherry picker to get an eye-level look at those flowers.   (The one I did get close to was on another, much smaller, tree)

The massive gunnera bogs felt like a prehistoric pit of quietly sleeping dinosaurs waiting to wake up.  Some of the huge rhizomes were as big as a man's body.

Cyathea medullaris

When I win the Lottery you'll know where I've gone to hide because there will be a greenhouse rather like this one!  It was like stepping into an bumblebee apiary (if there was such a thing).  The bees were calm, well fed and warm - and astonishingly noisy :)

I have never 'got' the tree fern craze - why would you spend hundreds of pounds on a fragile plant that never evolved to survive in our climate?  Sitting on a bench in a grove of massive Dicksonia antarctica I had an epiphany of understanding.  I'll never try to grow them at Bag End, but to see them planted with gum trees, as they would grow naturally in places like Tasmania - fantastic!  A viewing platform allows you to see down onto some of them, which is an unusual and lovely view.

Wollemia nobilis
I've never seen this in the flesh before, got all excited and emotional.

There is more to the garden, much, much more, but these are just the sections that caught most of my attention on this visit.  It's quite likely that next time I go to the garden I will be focussed on something completely different.