Rhododendron Ponticum

May 22, 2015

(Stock photo from Google)

(Stock photo from Google)

The hills are alive with the purple of this Rhododendron. When my favoured route to Tescoville used to run through Slough, this time of year one really was driving through groves of this stuff, purple on both sides of the road. My favoured route has changed, and while it’s not quite as common, it’s still very notible.

Favoured route here means a route to take when the M25 is completely clogged up, which is most weekday evenings.

A couple of years or so ago, at this time of the year, a group of us went to a car breaker based in Yorkshire. One of the group looked up at the hills and admired the colour of the Heather – so I had to correct him in that the colour now was Rhododendrum runaways, Heather didn’t come out until August. For reasons of my father being a Beekeeper, and one year I helped out in a general treck taking the bees up to the Heather moors (in the late 1980s), I knew the Heather starts in August. Bees are taken there partly as the main crop in the South of England has ended, and partly because Heather Honey is widely praised. It also has some interesting physical properties – it is thixotropic, for a start. Hum, interesting rare word used in English containing the letter “x”…I digress.

It is amazing just how invasive plants have come to dominate some areas. (This is also true for insects and even some Deer species). Red Valarian is a pest in Tescoville, as indeed is Japanese Knotweed, I remember seeing it in the town centre in the 1970s, and it was a pest then!. Fortunately the latter is nowhere near anywhere of my responsibility, though there are enough other pests to keep me occupied. I did try and kill off a clump when I rented a house in Cambridge, but wasn’t there long enough to know whether I’d even killed off the lot in the garden let alone everywhere else in the area. Rhododendron is a pest in the woodland in the greater Tescoville area, but also all around the country.

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As has been my want in the past few years, during the summer time regime (the clocks an hour forward), I take a walk at my favourate countryside spot every Saturday evening. Frequently that means no-one else around, and that’s how I like it. I noticed last Saturday that some of the early purple orchids are already showing (their blotchy leaves are very distinctive), but in other places where they have been plentiful in the past few years, nothing. A few wild strawberries in bloom. Cowslips just starting to fade (no primroses at this site for some reason, but massive clumps of cowslips)

Primula Veris

Back at the house I inherited, when I last lived there, we only got to see Swifts at an Aunt’s house (very close to the favourate countryside spot), but these days they are in the skys above the house. So what with the Robins and Blackbirds singing on and off from 5am to now (21:15), the wood pigeons and collared doves, Red Kites all singing away (plus many others on occasion), the soundscape is much more varied – but plus emergency services sirens, reversing lorry warnings, footballs hitting my cars – in a rather more built up surburbia than this identical spot 25 years ago.

Meanwhile in the garden is my “Red Cowslip”.

redcowslip

It’s been here for at least 20 years, sometimes I dig up one of the daughters to try and propagate it, but haven’t really succeed with that, being in the lawn it sometimes gets cut down. A few years ago it was a sizeable clump, but it’s currently down to these two plants.

The local wildlife.

April 19, 2015

Having taken possession of the house I grew up in, and there is a lot to do. But it has struck me how the local wildlife has changed.

Thirty or fourty years ago, there were house sparrows and starlings, with the “cheep” of the former being very loud in the summer, and the mimicry of the starlings sometimes causing confusion – immitating car alarms, telephone rings etc. Along with these were blackbirds, robins and the occasional finch.

These days the bird population is completely different. The blackbirds and robins are still around, and the occasional sparrow, but now it’s wood pigeons and collared doves that make all the noise. Magpies, chaffinches and wrens are also seen and heard, and there were blue tits but I’ve not seen one this year so far.

While wheeling above them all are the red kites. A few days ago there must have been twenty or more red kites trying to get something from a garden – diving down, swooping back up – it was quite a sight. But if I got too close, in order to try and take a photo, they stopped what they were doing, and moved away – only to return once I had gone.

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food...

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food…

I know that these are little better than silouettes, and I’ve had to crop the image quite a lot to not upset bad neighbour, but you can see one Red Kite diving down. I never saw any of them actually pick anything up, and it was the second time in three days I saw them doing these aerobatics above the same garden.

Interestingly, other wildlife seems quite unperturbed

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A couple of years ago I was almost hit by a couple of red kites, one chasing the other, I was amazed that they’d get so close to a human – literally inches away from me, a spectacular piece of flying. The same day I saw what I discovered to be a moth fly into the garden, hover (like a hummingbird) by a flower, and then fly off again.

Other wildlife has changed. There were and are foxes, hedgehogs, but rats are more noticable these days – there is some scrub land, apparently belonging to no-one – at the end of the garden, so no surprise where the rats probably reside.. There is the odd squirrel. Even at night things have changed, as I’ve heard owls and seen bats these days, I never remember seeing them here before. One of the local cats – no one really knows which family it resides with – managed to catch (probably) a rat recently – it was night, but I was awake, and I heard its triumphant cry.

As far as plants are concerned, the pests include some kind of (wild) geranium, a monster form of hairy bitter cress, the ash and sycamores (the original trees probably were planted, their seedlings a constant menace), but bad neighbour had an pyramidal orchid growing in their unmown front lawn. I felt guilty in pointing it out, as the next day they just mowed the strip of lawn with that poor orchid in. There are the garden escapees, thankfully the nearest Japanese knotweed is about half a mile away at present, but several other plant thugs are present.

A garden shed…

January 16, 2015

The shed that my father designed and built himself is over 40 years old and ten years of neglect hasn’t helped. I believe it to be rescuable still, but would need alternative storage in the mean time. And I could do with a shed of different dimensions.

Any ready-to-assemble shed that I have ever seen for sale has one feature that I cannot understand. The door is about 5’6″ high at maximum. Anyone taller has to bow as they go in. I also gave away one such shed from my Aunt’s place, although there was a favour in return so I cannot really complain. A neighbour had a bespoke shed made, but it is off square, the door doesn’t close properly, and not a good advert.

I happened upon a website offering shed plans for thousands of designs, and so I signed up. Disappointed that some designs that were illustrated by photos on the intro page don’t appear, and that there are many duplications of the same plans under different file names, and most of the sheds are far larger than the entire garden I have to put it in. But there is a reasonable selection, and one may serve as the basis for what I need.

But to my surprise were included plans for the A frame building that I referred to in a post about loss of data in the digital age (at the end of the post) However, if I posted the plans here, I’d be breaking the copyright.

First signs of Autumn?

August 25, 2013

Although I have much to do at the moment, I decided to spend an hour in the garden this afternoon – mainly hacking back the ivy. The orchard is doing well, loads of apples, but it looks as if they will be small this year. Sadly the pear tree has died in recent weeks, no real idea what finally killed it off. I did take a photo or two of the blossems on it in the (latish) Spring.

While I was up in the canopy, I saw that the Discovery apples were ripe – some were being attacked by Wasps.

Apple - variety Discovery

Apple – variety Discovery

Discovery as a variety is early, and a recent, well, discovery, but it’s certainly not an apple to store. A week, basically. But I have a fondness for this, as under the guidance of my father, when I was pre-teenager, it was I who grafted the bud onto an existing tree (which was not the variety it was said to be, or perhaps the original graft failed and it is the rootstock that fruits). It doesn’t do very well as the main tree is dominant, but there are a few fruits every year. So, the first apples from the orchard this year. All four of them.

The other two known variety trees, Adam’s Pearmain and Mutsu, also have lots of smallish fruit on.

A still growing Adam's Pearmain

A still growing Adam’s Pearmain

The Mutsu has a lot of fruit on as well.

The Mutsu has a lot of fruit on as well.

Another sign of Autumn is the first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium. This again has links to my father. The mother plant was from an original sowing at least forty years ago. Many years ago a slug got to the mother plant, and I cut out all the dead and decaying part of the corm, hoping to save it. I did.

The first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium

The first flower of Cyclamen Hederifolium

It continues to flower every year, and has many daughter plants. And one of the daughter plants has just opened the first flower of the year.

This photo of the flower is rather bleached out. It happens with both my phone cameras. I had similar problem with a saffron crocus a couple of years ago. No idea why this should be the case, the flower is rather more pink/purple than this photo shows.

I was hoping to put all the corms into a new bowl, but again time just has run away.

Forty-odd years ago, walking in local woods with my father every Saturday morning, we’d frequently come across a Beach tree that had fallen down.  Being shallow rooted and on the chalk, they were very vunerable, especially if there was a break due to another tree having already fallen or cut down.

More recently, the Great Storm of 1987 that brought down so many trees in Southern England is well remembered.  I don’t remember the storm itself at all.   I remember cycling home the night before, thinking it calm (‘before the storm’) and waking up next morning with the Today programme going on about this storm – and then seeing all the trees down.

The London Borough of Richmond has – or at least had – a programme to check all the trees lining the borough’s streets.  In the road where I live, pretty much all the old oaks – coming up to 100 years old, I guess, were cut down on the grounds that they were getting dangerous.  This also made the council’s previous policy of building the pavement out into the road around these trees to preserve them rather pointless – and it cut the number of car parking spaces in the road dramatically.  Did they reinstate the parking spaces when the trees were cut down (rhetorical question)?

Image

You’d think with all this going on, the health of trees would be checked by the council, even if on private land, but this example seen yesterday shows otherwise.  The tree clearly had rotted at the base, and came down, across the riverside footpath and into the river.  Had it fallen another direction it might just have hit Richmond Bridge. 

Image

I don’t know exactly when it fell, but as the leaves were still fresh I’d hazard in the twenty-four hours before I took the photo at 15:30 (Friday 11th).

Cymbidium in bloom

January 17, 2012

The South of England is having it’s first real cold snap of this winter. Nothing like last winter, of course, I remember snow laying on the ground in November, all that we’ve had so far are a few frosts.

Such is the cost of electricity, I’m keeping a careful eye on the greenhouse. My method of one fan blowing all the time, and another that comes on just to supply heat, just to keep the greenhouse frost free seems to be working at present. The minimum temperature recorded on the bench was 1.1C, the fan heaters are beneath the bench and blow away from it. And the plants themselves don’t seem to be suffering – four different Geraniums (one still in flower, just), and three cacti (one died last summer for unknown reasons) are OK, while the Cymbidium has opened the first of its buds.

If we were in for a real cold snap like December 2010, when the average temperature for the month was -1C, I’d be putting a lot of bubble-wrap insulation in the greenhouse, but while its not to bad, and I’ve an awful lot of other ‘real’ work to do, that job is rather lower down on the ‘to-do’ list.

While I have been the sole user for the past few years, this year is really the first time for decades that I’ll actually be able to do anything serious in what is now fully and completely, no question about it, MY greenhouse. Although there is the continuing war with the Ivy to deal with, and to a rather lesser extent, bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). The other thing to deal with are all the broken panes. Some of these breakages are due to the Ivy.