Snow over much of the country seems to be more prevalent this winter than in I remember in the past – in the 1980s I think when we hardly had a frost. More precise weather forecasting has definitely improved but even so, I sometimes forget to re-cover the beds from which I had removed the netting set to deter blackbirds from rummaging between my overwintering herbs and cats from scratching into the bulb bed.
Cold winds from the east actually froze the driven snow on the bird feeders; quite a scraping was needed to clear them, but that, and my special mix of food, paid dividends. My ‘mixture’ was made from crumbled digestive biscuits, shredded suet and mixed dried fruit. Expensive? No, because the ingredients had been damaged when the kitchen roof leaked; they were too good to discard, and the birds loved them! Amongst the visitors were two greenfinch that have been absent from the garden all last year, two song thrushes, robins fighting for territory, our ‘tame’ blackbird, and four species of tit looking immaculate in breeding plumage. The RSPB say that some birds are nesting already and offer advice on the siting of nestboxes, whilst the BTO (National Trust for Ornithology) have a dedicated page on their website devoted to National Nest Box Week, which begins this Thursday, on St Valentine’s Day (February 14th).
Can you pick a posy for a loved one on this special Day? It doesn’t matter how small; trim the stalks and bind them them together with twine or a pretty ribbon. The bunch above, plucked in a warmer winter, contained roses, viburnum, periwinkle, hellebore, holly and winter heliotrope. Last week, when I wanted to give my husband something from the garden for our 55th wedding anniversary, all I could find were some snowdrops, to which I added tiny sprigs of lavender and rosemary.
The snow is thawing, but it really is too wet and soggy to be working out of doors, and so it is the perfect time for reading. I absolutely love this book which landed on my desk: ‘Vintage Flowers – Choosing Arranging Displaying’ by Vic Brotherson. First published in 2011 by Kyle Books, this is just so special; the author fwho grew up in the Lake District, studied fine art and migrated into floristry. So she knows her flowers and shrubs, and how to arrange and display them to perfection. For first she learned how to draw them, and their structure; and with a painter’s eye how to create homely but beautiful settings – even for something as simple as a hand-tied bunch in a jam-jar. A visual feast that will have you collecting, sowing and growing plants that will first grace your garden with texture and colour.
My own art-works continue: the new style garden journal about which I blogged on 20th January is progressing; but rather than be a record of this year’s edible produce, it now recalls the ‘Courtyard Potager’ in 2012, for I need the finished journal for my ‘open studio’ event in July. So ‘Salad Days’ lists all the Dobies seeds that I grew, and outlines the changes at the end of the year. I had the 2013 catalogue handy whilst preparing the lists, ready to re-order those varieties that we particularly enjoyed eating. I’m writing a tutorial of creating this journal, from its ‘blotted tape’ pages to the stitched seed varieties. The tutorial will appear in instalments on my journaling blog. The various techniques may give you ideas for garden diaries of your own; and only inexpensive, easily acquired materials are used.
Planning is also always uppermost in my mind as I walk around the garden on a day-by-day basis (even if it is snowing!) Ideas creep into my mind – to be forgotten if I do not instantly write them down when back indoors. So it’s fortuitous that I a trialling the newly-launched ‘Dobies of Devon Garden Planner’ to keep track of things. I introduced this in the Dobies E-News published earlier this week, but for those who follow my blog and maybe do not receive the e-news, here again is an outline of what it is all about. Log on to the link given below and you’re just a click away from being able to create the perfect vegetable plot using an online facility, which makes it easy to draw out vegetable beds, add plants, and move them around to get the perfect layout. Either metric units or feet and inches are supported, and any shape of garden can be created. So whether you use traditional row planting, raised beds or ‘square-foot gardening’, the Dobies Vegetable Garden Planner adapts to suit your gardening style.
And in general, check for all seeds, plants and other topics on the Dobies website by clicking on the generic links. You may particularly like: vegetable seeds, vegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don’t forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don’t miss anything special.