Lockdown Update From Cothigardeners

So we head towards May, still firmly in national lock down, and having enjoyed one of the most glorious, quiet, sunny and peaceful springs I can remember. Ever.

Many thanks to those members who’ve sent me some pictures from their gardens recently :

From Derek and Tina a couple of weeks ago:

Cherries pollinated by bumblebees…

Distant hills across the garden hedge

Peaches hand pollinated by JoJo

Why we love spring.


Thanks too for these images and descriptions from Elena :

 Warm weather, Ceanothus and pink walls, almost Caribbean!

Bluebells are having a great year. Anyone else noticed that they have seeded everywhere since last year?

 The white broom in full bloom! Not sure if the yellow one in front has made it through the winter though 😦

Wonderful pop of colour from these. Getting more today in my order from Ty Cwm.
BTW Helen tells me Ty Cwm are having a fantastic year for sales, she is well pleased! Gwenda reports that Roberts are also having a great year and judging by Farmyard’s posts they are too!

The first of our strawberries in the polytunnel. Looks like we will have a huge crop this year!


And also for these from Alison :


And for these from Yvonne:

Here are some pictures from my garden taken last week.

The pink, over the top, flowers of Prunus kanzan are wonderful at this time of year. They follow on from Prunus Tai Haku with its single white flowers.

The unnamed Magnolia which was sold to me as wilsonii, but clearly isn’t. However, the flowers are wonderfully scented and loads of flowers from a young age.

Also, Magnolia stellata flowering well this year.


Evergreen Osmanthus delavayi, coming to the end of its flowering period, but still has lots of small white scented flowers.

Amelanchier lamarckii, raised from seed, has started flowering.

I love the leaves of Cercidiphyllum japonica as they come out, slightly bronze. This small tree has wonderful autumn foliage, smelling like burnt sugar.

Hellebores and Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’ still looking good.

The raised beds have been rejuvenated with new boards, and the arch has been installed. Watch this space for more developments.


And Avril’s passed on how her and Dave’s grandson Freddie, has caught the gardening bug young, and has been sowing and growing seeds and selling the plants from their garden in Norfolk to raise funds for cancer research… over £45 raised on the first day!


For those itching to get out and about to look at other gardens at this always exciting time of the year, here are two links to initiatives to bring garden experiences into your homes.

The first, locally, is a new garden blog set up by Joseph Atkin of Aberglasney Gardens, which as yet hasn’t made it out onto their website, but you can access by clicking here.  It’ll keep you up to date with how the gardens are looking, with fabulous photos by award winning local photographer Nigel McCall.

Secondly, the National Garden Scheme has been setting up a whole range of video’d garden tours of gardens which would normally have been opening for charity, but  currently remain closed under pandemic restrictions Click here for more, and also how one can still support the charity’s wonderful work, especially vital in these challenging times.

 


To close, a few snippets from our own garden.

Firstly a Camellia recommendation – Camellia “Les Jury”.

Nearly a decade ago we planted perhaps a dozen named forms of Camellias which we thought we’d carefully researched. They’ve taken years to really get going, but this year has been their best ever. However many, maybe most, have flowers which don’t die gracefully, leaving browning petals. But this one, has always been a star performer for us and largely escapes this failing.

It also seems to flower over a really long period – nearly two months, and even better the new shoots and leaves are tinged with red/brown for several weeks.  Plus it’s doing this in spite of me planting it within a few feet of a mature larch tree. So if you fancied a blast of strong colour, which looks great in any light, but especially backlit in the evening, then why not think about getting one?

OK it’s red, and doesn’t attract any insects, but heck, you occasionally need to make the odd sacrifice 🙂

And now one of the benefits of doing a blog. I thought after all these years, because I was writing this piece, just who was Les Jury? Which after a fair bit of ferreting on the internet brought me to the amazing New Zealand Jury garden at Tikorangi and their multi generational family of gardeners and plant breeding history, which I’d never heard about before. If you haven’t either, then you can read loads about the place and the people if you click here.

It turns out that “Les Jury” was the final Camellia of Les’ breeding programme and a very fitting tribute though we (it turns out) have several other named and AGM Camellias out of this same stable.

Secondly, Fiona spotted this splendid small metallic sheened moth, probably a Green Longhorn, Adela reaumurella, in the garden this week. One of the family of Fairy Longhorn micro-moths, we’ve never seen it before,But it was a real treat to watch as a small group of males sat on the leaves of  Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’, waiting, and almost casting their enormous antennae to try to catch a passing female…

For anyone thinking that daffodils finished weeks ago, some of the later forms like “Merlin”, “St Piran”, “Oryx” and “Trellisick” can provide colour, height and even fabulous scent right to the end of a very sunny April…


Finally, as always, it would be lovely to keep hearing from members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’s a great way of keeping in touch and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com

Thanks again to all who have contributed to this post.

April Sunshine and Lockdown in Cothi Gardens; Sally the Slug and Harry the Hare

As the Covid -19 lock down is maintained and we move into April with no clear exit strategy, I’m guessing we’re all feeling incredibly fortunate to be living in this wonderful part of the world, with our gardens to appreciate in what must be one of the best runs of dry weather we’ve had in ages. (Whisper – we could really do with some rain soon…).

In the absence of any meetings in the near future I’m very grateful for those members who’ve sent photos and information on their gardens to me or Elena recently.  Having just acquired a replacement granny phone (thanks of course to Fiona for sorting this) which I need for receiving SMS messages to log in to this website (the first got trashed last Saturday when I came off my bike at speed in the forestry), I can now upload these insights below:

Alison Williams sent these lovely photos of spring flowers from her garden : 


Anne Thomas sent me this background on what she’s been up to recently :

Well we have been creating a new raised bed in what was an untidy corner (one of many) and laying some slabs and creating a new bed in a corner that housed the oil tank until last month. Have a lot of Hellebores so have put some in the new area and a couple of Acers bought at one of the garden talks. And the good news is that online ordering still seems to be happening with plants!

New raised bed. I think I will plant some tumbling plants above stone wall (built by me when we put in the greenhouse).


Interesting daffodils ( ? Oxford gold)


I think we should feel very lucky living where we do in these difficult times. Must be awful stuck in a flat with children. We don’t need to see or speak to anyone other than the sheep!

Keep safe. I look forward to seeing other gardens.
Anne Thomas


Derek Marshall sent me this:

Raised bed evolution season by season!
The ground is so wet here that we needed to give some depth to the beds, hence raised beds. Originally with mole earth and compost, now supplemented with sand, grit, farmyard manure, more compost and ash from the Rayburn in combination or composition depending upon the intended planting for each bed.


The near bed has been prepared but needs to have holes burned when Tina wants to plant brassicas; the bed on the right still has Leeks; the bed on the far left is now planted with onions, and the central bed is still a bit of a hodge podge mess needing to be tidied up prior to reuse this season.
The fabric is heavy duty, keeps the soil warm and moist, and in combination with the holes reduces weeds, and weeding, tremendously, and the incidence of slugs is also much reduced. I use a small kitchen blowlamp to create the holes. It has many advantages: it is more accurate, easy to use, seals the holes as they are burned so no fraying, and therefore minimises errors on an otherwise potentially expensive resource, the fabric. By this method, and secure fixing by stapling, the fabric normally lasts 3 years, so also defraying the initial cost.
It is clear that Tina is the gardener in our family, but I can complement her efforts by creating structure, and I am weeder in chief, so it all helps.
Aren’t we fortunate at this time to have outside space to relax in, to work in, and to grow in? Additionally I anticipate that in the near future all our efforts to grow our own food will not only be beneficial, but necessary.


I think one of the (few?) benefits of the current crisis might be getting everyone to have to slow down and think about what’s really important.

So here’s a new fable in pictures for these troubled times from our garden – the Tale of Sally the Slug and Harry the Hare….

Harry the hare spent all day racing at speed, from dawn till dusk, getting hotter and hotter, and more and more anxious. But didn’t get anywhere. And ended up exhausted and turned to rusting iron.

(Many thanks to Martin and Angela for this wonderful prop! Click here for their website for any distant readers!)

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, Sally, the slimy slug, who spent all night very slowly slithering to the very apex to graze on algae and leaves, decided as light began to tinge the Eastern sky, to take the scenic route down. So abseiled down her own strong and sticky, slimey thread. And enjoyed a wonderful view as the sun rose and warmed her slowly spiralling body as she inched towards the floor. With plenty of time to think about what she was going to do for the rest of the day, and hardly a care in the world.

( Apologies for gender inaccuracies – slugs are hermaphrodites, but it doesn’t work as well with “it”).


Some of our favourite spring bulbs right now which always make me forget about the hard work last autumn crow-barring them into the ground.  In particular the largely white Nacissus “Thalia” and “Actaea”, and Tulip “Flaming Purissima” :


It would be lovely to hear from more members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’ll be a great way of keeping in touch, and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com

Wildlife in our Gardens; Favourite Plants; April Garden Scenes

Greetings to all Cothi Gardeners, and other readers. Here’s a news post with various snippets which might be of interest. Many thanks to all who’ve sent words or photos to either myself or Elena. Do keep them coming…

Carys Williams contacted me with the following information, from WWBIC :

We are your Local Environmental Record Centre (LERC) for West Wales. We would like to encourage people to engage with nature by recording plants and wildlife on your doorstep.

During the CORVID-19 outbreak, the public are urged to work from home and practice social distancing. We think this is a good time to learn more about wildlife in your garden, if it is safe to do so.

The Common or Garden Project is a simple way of recording 6 priority species for beginners. (Hare, Common Toad, Hedgehog, Bullfinch, Blood Vein Moth, and Slow Worm).  We have chosen these six species which are included in the Section 7 list the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.   This is a list of the living organisms that are of key significance to sustain and improve biodiversity in Wales. We need to know more about these species, can you help? For more information click on the link below.

Common or Garden Poster_english

Thank you, and happy wildlife recording!

Carys Williams

Biodiversity Information Assistant

West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre (WWBIC)

Tel. 01994 241468 www.wwbic.org.uk


Many thanks to Brenda for the photo of this gorgeous clump of Ipheion uniflorum ‘Charlotte Bishop’ – An easily grown spring flower related to the onion family the foliage of which dies back during the summer. Growing amidst what looks like a wonderful clump of Snakeshead fritillaries.

And to Elena for these photos and words about her friend Susan’s amazing garden in distant Trinidad & Tobago, which has a wonderfully exotic and lush feel:

All over the world gardeners in lockdown are turning to their gardens for stress relief during these difficult times. My friend Susan in Trinidad, who I have known since primary school, sent these photos of her small urban garden. What a great use of foliage pot plants! I am sure many of you will recognise the Australian red palms, colourful crotons and bromeliads, bamboo, ferns and the orchids hanging from a tree branch. Lovely … thanks for sharing Susan!!

And back home thanks to Ruth for sending a photo of her productive polytunnel which is providing lots of fresh vegetables for the table during these tricky times, Ruth says :

This is my polytunnel with the brassicas I have been growing over the winter, plus leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, curly kale, cavolo Nero kale and chard. We are enjoying eating them now. If I try and grow them in the summer the caterpillars demolish them!

I’m guessing we’ll all be focusing more on productive plantings this year.

A couple of favourite flowers right now from the garden here at Gelli Uchaf: Scilla Bithynica, the Turkish Squill, shown below, and in more detail in the video clip later. It’s a stunning small blue bulb which flowers for a very long time. We bought a couple from Shipton bulbs several years back, and it spread so well from seed that it’s gradually making a nice carpet of blue, a good 6 weeks ahead of native bluebells.

and Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Lenten Lily :  One of our native daffodil species, which is short and early, and always pale and dark yellow, but quite variable in form. It takes a few years for the snowdrop sized bulbs to settle in, but it’s then really reliable here, and produces quite a bit of seed unlike most daffodils, so can be spread around for those patient gardeners amongst us …

___________________________

The last 10 days of sunny weather have been a fantastic time for early insect activity in our garden, and a great opportunity for seeing just which flowers are favoured by some of our commoner insects.

Day after day of unbroken sunshine, even if the wind’s been nippy, or downright bone chilling – particularly first thing, when I’m out in my nightshirt and long johns. But I hope you enjoy the merged video clips from our garden 800 feet above sea level, in often really chilly and windy conditions

It’s such a thrill to find that after so many years of deliberately selecting and planting more and more insect friendly flowers here, it’s now (relatively!) easy to film such pieces – so many insects find our garden an oasis of provision this early in the year.

Images that reinforce the message that although we all love our flowers, millions of years of evolution have really developed them for their nutritional value to our insect fauna.  And anyone with bumblebee queens a plenty in their gardens in March will probably be familiar with the distinct impression that when walking round your garden, surveying the scene, one or two of these incredibly tough, and large insects will meet you, and if not exactly greet you, then certainly check you out.

Carefully. Circling you three or four times, before heading off on more urgent duties. Just to let you ponder whether it’s them invading your personal space, certainly far too close for safe social distancing.

Or vice versa.

Does everyone else find they get”buzzed” by bumbles?

And has anyone any idea why they do this?

You’ll see in the video clip below, in this order, these wonderful symbiotic insect flower pairings, and see how much busy work is still going on outside, Covid-19 restrictions notwithstanding, in the natural world.

And for any unfamiliar with the wonderfully adapted vegetarian adult Bee fly, it has a sinister life cycle – its larvae are carnivorous, preying on bumblebee larvae. No bumbles, no beeflies.

There’s still lots of opportunities to spot these up to the middle of May, when the adults disappear for another year. Primroses, Aubrieta and Pulmonaria all seem favoured plants for them in our garden.

Chionodoxa “Pink Giant” : Honeybee – Apis mellifera

Scilla bithynica : Honeybee – A. m.

Skimmia “Emerald King” : Honeybee – A. m.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue : Honeybee – A. m.

Primula vulgaris – primrose : Peacock butterfly – Inachis io

Muscari armeniacum: Honeybee – A.m.

Aubrieta : Dark-edged Beefly – Bombylius major

Muscari neglectum : Small Tortoiseshell butterfly – Aglais urticae

Primula vulgaris – primrose : Bumblebee queen – Bombus terrestris

Primula vulgaris – primrose: Dark-edged beefly – Bombylius major

Pieris “Forest Flame” : Bumblebee queen – Bombus leucorum

Narcissus “Brunswick” : Peacock butterfly -Inachis io


It would be lovely to hear from any members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’ll be a great way of keeping in touch, and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com