Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Wishes

A Blythe Yule
an a
Guid Hogmany!

Wishing you all a Good Christmas and a Happy New Year!  

Please spare a thought for the fairy on top of your tree.....


I am a little fairy
On tap o' the Christmas Tree
It's no' a job I fancy
Well how would you like tae be me

A tarted up wi' tinsel
It's enough to mak ye boak
An a couple o' jaggy branches
Rammed up the back o' your frock

An' these wee lights a'roon me
I canna get my sleep
An' there's the yearly visit
Fae Santa - Big fat creep!

On Christmas Day I'm stuck up here
While you're a' wirin' in 
An' naebody says "Hey you up there
Could you go a slug o' gin?

It's nae joke bein' a fairy
The job's beyond belief
You've got to go roon' the wean's beds
An' lift their rotten teeth 

But o' a' the joabs a fairy gets
An' I've mentioned only some 
The very worst is sitting up a tree
Wi' pine needles up yir bum 

When a' the fairies meet again
By the light of' the silvery moon 
Ye can tell the Christmas fairies
They're the wans that canna sit doon

The Christmas tree's a bonny sight
As the firelight softly flickers
But think o' me I'm stuck up here
Wi' needles in my knickers 

So soon as Christmas time's right by
An' I stop bein' sae full o' cheer
I'll get awa back tae Fairyland 
An' I'll see yous a' next year. 

For those who need a translation.....

I am a little fairy
On top of the Christmas Tree
It's not a job I fancy
How would you like to be me

All dressed up with Tinsel
It's enough to make you sick
A couple of jagged branches
Rammed up the back of your dress

With all these lights around me
I can not get to sleep
And there's the yearly visit
From Santa, the big fat creep!

On Christmas day I'm stuck up here
While you're all tucking in
And nobody says 'Hey you up there..
would you like a drink of gin?'

It's no joke being a fairy
The jobs beyond belief
You've got to go round the childrens' beds
and lift their rotten teeth

But of all the jobs a fairy gets
and I've only mentioned some
The very worst is sitting up a tree
with pine needles up your bum

When all the fairies meet again
by the light of the silvery moon
You can tell the christmas fairies
they're the ones that can't sit down

The christmas tree is a lovely sight
as the fire light softly flickers
but think of me, I'm stuck up here
with needles up my knickers

So soon as Christmas times gone by
and I stop being so full of cheer
I'll get right back to fairy land
and see you all next year!   

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Holly and the Ivy

Or to give them their proper names - The Ilex and the Hedera - doesn't quite have the same ring to it does it?  No need for the 3 minute warning either, I'm not about to burst into verse.  Being tone deaf I would not wish me singing a verse or two on my worse enemy!!  I know my limits!!

There are probably umpteen thousand websites/blogs out there, which reference these British Garden stalwarts and for that reason I'm not going to go into detail except to profile what grows in my garden.

However, should curiosity get the better of you, more information can be gleaned from British Woodland Trust or RSPB.  Alternatively a google search of either Holly or Ivy will glean you more information than you could probably handle in one browsing session.

The Holly.....

Ilex aquifolium 'J C Van Tol' (AGM) grows in my garden as a rather useful evergreen hedge. Planted by previous owners many years before I took over.  Up until this earlier this year it received a twice yearly 'tidy up' - however, having finally put a name to the face - it was given a gently shear in springtime.  Pruning group of this shrub is Pruning Group 1 (little or no pruning).  Extremely hardy and would quite happily reach a height of around 6m if left to it's own devices - it's eventual spread being half of it's height.

Kooki, as a kitten, honing his climbing skills 
Presently kept to a height of around 1.8m (6ft in old money) primarily for pruning purposes, this height also reflects the height of the fencing which surrounds the remainder of the garden.  As well as this green variety Van Tol Hollies also come in variegated forms with gold and silver leaf margins.  This hedge also provides cover/protection for the many birds which visit the garden.  At one time Robins used to nest in it's depths, this is sadly, no longer the case.  My 3 cats used the hedge for climbing practice when they were kittens, this I'm sad to say caused them up nest and leave! 

Unlike most other holly the leaves of J C Van Tol are oval
to elliptical shaped and almost spineless.  A great big plus as 
far as I'm concerned!  These glossy leaves certainly do not have the 'ouch' factor!  Being evergreen these trees/shrubs does not lose its leaves in winter but will, like other evergreens, drop leaves throughout the year.  For those who like making up Christmas Wreaths - the spineless leaves make it a great choice.       
Shade toterant and considered one of the best hollies for growing as a 'standard'.


Flowering time for this plant is spring and summer - it produces tiny 4 petal white flowers, which I supposed is considered as insignificant in plant terms.  J C Van Tol  is self fertile, therefore removes the need of planting both male and female plants in order that berries are produced.
These berries are abundant in Autumn and Winter, it should be noted that these berries, if eaten, will cause stomach discomfort if ingested.  That being said, it should also be noted that they are an extremely important food source for birds and wildlife at the time of the year other food is scare.  The dark green leaves and the bright red foliage extend the season of interest in the garden - making it an all year round worthwhile plant!!

Next comes the Ivy.......

Hedera helix (Common/Englis Ivy) is often considered a thug in many gardens, indeed, considered an invasive species in many areas.  I have a vast expanse of new fencing to cover in my garden, along with Camellia and Pyracantha I have planted 2 ivies this year.   It is my opinion that no garden (depending on planting schemes) can really be without Ivy.  I'm hoping that with pruning they should not become a problem. Oh, and I'm not afraid of a bit of hard work should pruning alone not suffice!!
Ivy is considered extremely important for wildlife.  This woody evergreen climber will clamber up trees, walls and fences.  It also has the ability of being able to grow as ground cover - prefers shade and important to note that only shoots receiving sun will flower.  Many insects and birds will use this for shelter and protection.  The nectar from its flowers provides nourishment for many bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other late-flying insects just before hiberation time.  

As yet, my Ivies are very small and insignificant but thought this would be a useful place to log their quite different leaves

Hedera helix 'Goldheart' - I don't think that name needs any explaination!!  Slow to get established apparently.  As I want it to grow up and cover a fence, I have provided it with support in the way of a clematis net and a few strategically placed garden canes until it it able to support itself.
Ivy is self clinging and uses ariel rootlets to attach itself to its host.
The contrast in the leaf colour is a deep green with a bright yellow centre.  It will take on a tinge of pink in colder weather (as seen here).  Beautiful red stems add further to the colour provided by this plant.  As it matures - it's leaves will become larger and make much more of a statement.  Currently growing in part shade where 2 previously planted clematis failed - I'm hoping that it will receive just enough sun to produce it's very nectar rich flowers.  

The other Ivy I have planted in the ground is an unknown variety.  Bought in mid 2011 to be used as part of an autumn/winter display container but had began to look rather shabby by the time summer 2012 came around as I had kind of neglected it.  It has thrived since it got it's feet in the ground and is currently using a carefully place Silver Birch log to scramble over then up onto the very tall closed board fence panel that had to be put in as part of my planning application to have my kitchen extended.This area I suppose could be considered as semi-woodland, still in it's infancy with a couple of decideous shrubs (Acer and Magnolia) surrounded by ferns, hostas, epimedium, primula and a rather special little Dicentra.  Plain green with silver veining - it should provide an ideal foil for it's neighbours.  

The other Ivies growing in the garden are currently being utilised in containers providing a bit of colour on the steps outside the back door.  Whether or not these make it into the garden, only time will tell.  

Sold as part of a 'bedding tray' whether this is hardy or not only time will tell.  It seems happy enough for now with companions of Cypressus Goldcrest, heuchera, galtheria and dwarf bulbs.

This dark green, almost grey Ivy, presently tumbling over another winter container.  Choisya Sundance is it's chosen foil - together with Galtheria, Skimmia and dwarf bulbs should make a stunning display come springtime.

As I strive to make my garden more wildlife friendly and provide as many different habitats to encourage more visitors - both these plant will be invaluable and dependable in my quest and I'm pleased you could join me on my journey!               

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Log Bird Feeder

There truly is very little gardening to be done - we've had frost for almost 2 weeks and the snow came just as predicted by those weather forecasters (makes a change).  I must admit that I get rather guilty when I'm unable to do any gardening - I don't even need much convincing to get out there and clear up the winter debris from those unwanted places.

As part of my 'gardening fix' I decided to have a go at making a Bird Feeder - I came across a picture of a recycled log feeder recently and thought that I could very easily fashion something from a log I rescued from a pile going to the council tip after a neighbour had 2 very dead conifers removed from her garden back in summer.  For the past few months I've walked by it as it lay on the path - yet to be given a purpose.  Well it needn't wait any longer.

Here is the log with screw in vine eye at either end.  These need to be spaced appropriately as they will provide the balance needed for hanging....

It will be necessary to drill a pilot hole first - I find the easiest way of screwing these in is to use a pair of pliers.  An alternative would be to drill a whole through the entire width, slip rope through and tie a large knot on the underside.  I did give this some consideration but decided that the wet weather would probably make the rope perish quicker.

In order to provide a supply of food for the birds you will need to create hollows along the length of the log.  I started doing this by using the largest size spade bit I had but found it wasn't doing the job to my nor Robbie Robin's satisfaction.    

Whilst persevering using the spade bit - I suddenly remembered that I had bought a set of core cutting bits years ago - but the question was WHERE WERE THEY??????????? An hours or so later I found them in an old tool box way at the back of the shed.  Note to self - sort out that shed in spring!!!!!  

As you can see in the picture below - this made the work much easier.  The down side to using a hole cutter is that it does not remove the centre.  However a mallet and a chisel soon has them out.  It is best to try smooth out the bottom of the hole as much as possible.

There we have it - the log with it's many varying sized holes.  I also gave consideration to drilling a smaller hole all the way through but decided that not having a wooden drill bit long and thin enough to go through the whole way - the expense of buying one wasn't worth it - as a new log would be free if it rots.  Cleaning should not be a problem either as I already use small bottle brushes for cleaning out other feeders - the same could be done with this.


Idealy, I would have preferred to hang my feeder from a stong branch of a mature tree - but seeing as there is none in my garden, I opted to hang it on the fence directly outside my kitchen window.  This would also allow us watch the birds as they feed.

A couple of redundant brackets used for hanging planting baskets were attached to the fence - make sure that what ever you hang your feeder from it is strong enough to take the weight.  I attached it through the faceboard and into the arris rail behind with good sized screws.  A couple of lengths of chain (left over from another project) was used as a means to hang it from the brackets.      

All that was left to do now was to fill it with feed and wait - rather strangely for the birds that visit my garden it took them a whole entire day before they began to investigate what goodies were on offer.

The selection of goodies on offer is  rolled oats suet pellets, sunflower hearts, mealworm, grated cheese and dried fruit. The birds seemed to like it - which after all was the main purpose of doing this.  
I didn't use seeds as I don't want an excess of weeds in the border below! 

A few other thoughts:
  • could just as easy be hung vertically - thought would need to be given to the food falling out.  Using lard or peanut butter as a way of solidifying the food could be an option
  • could also be used on the ground - no hanging required
  • make sure feeder is accessible for refilling
  • easy to remove for cleaning
  • choose size of log carefully - the larger the log - the heavier it will be
  • the nature of the log means that it will rot over time
  • not so accessible for cats
  • would be useful to hang on the inside of a balcony if you don't have a garden

I hope you find this inspirational and are tempted to have a go yourself.  Please let me know!!