Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 29 January 2016

Get Ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch

A Lesser Redpoll on my Verbena bonariensis - a new visitor to the garden

Apologies for the poor quality picture, but I had to show you VP Gardens' latest new visitor, a Lesser Redpoll.

I found a pair of them attacking the seedheads on my Verbena bonariensis last weekend, a great advertisement for not being too tidy in the garden in the autumn/winter.

These red listed birds are a more familiar sight in Scotland, Wales and eastern England, though they may visit gardens like mine in the south west during the winter.

Their acrobatic antics were a joy to behold - fingers crossed they make a reappearance during my Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend!

Update 31/1: My count this morning was - wood pigeon 5, crow 2, long tailed tit 3, great tit 1, magpie 3, wren 1, blackbird 3, blue tit 2, robin 2 and goldcrest 1. Weather dull and mild. Not bad for diversity (though it has been better, usually on a sunny day), but numbers were down considerably.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Up on the Roof

View of the Hugh Garner Housing Co-Operative in Toronto
The Hugh Garner Housing Co-Operative from the communal garden - with not a clue to the delights above

Many of the green roofs we hear about in the UK tend to be at the high end of the market, such as the Sky Garden in London. However, my visit to Toronto's Hugh Garner Housing Co-Operative  highlighted the possibilities for any housing development seen in our towns and cities.

The view from the roof garden
View towards Toronto's iconic CN Tower

It wasn't just a roof full of sedums either; this scheme showcases how a fantastic communal resource can be achieved, suitable for both entertaining and quiet relaxation, with an amazing view.

Lots of communal seating areas
I was delighted to meet Amanda from Cooking in Someone Else's Kitchen at last

I learnt so much during my time in Toronto which deserves to be blogged about, but this garden was the one which really touched both my head and heart. I nearly burst into tears of rage at the time as the UK doesn't have the kind of legislation Toronto has had since 2010. It touched a raw nerve as I'd recently learnt France had just passed something similar.

One of the walkways

To my simple mind it's a no brainer. We need to start building this way, so we have robust, healthy communities, with access to green space even in the concrete heartlands. London at least has made a start; its revised London Plan published in 2008 encourages the installation of green roofs and living walls.

chives were one of the first flowers to bloom after Toronto's cold winter

Note the Hugh Garner roof garden was built in 1983, well ahead of Toronto's legislation. The housing co-operative concerned is run on not for profit lines and the residents are from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds. I hope future developments in the UK - such as the government's recent controversial announcement for the potential redevelopment of sink estates - leads to similarly enlightened schemes.

a pergola provides shade

Links to other Flingers' blogs featuring this garden - they're especially good for the design details:

Here's the Fling blog's overview of all the gardens we visited, plus links to everyone's posts about them.

communal veggie beds

More information about Toronto's legislation

Toronto's website is a fantastic resource which outlines the benefits of having green roofs and showcases lots of examples of a wide range of different schemes and designs.

It applies to new institutional, commercial and residential buildings over 6 storeys high and a minimum gross floor area of 2,000 m2. New industrial buildings were also included in the legislation in 2012.

Since 2010, 260 green roofs have been created (as at March 2015 and 196,000 m2 in area), bringing the city's total number up to 444.

Update: How timely. The UK parliament's Energy and Climate Change Committee has just asked for opinions via Twitter on whether the Department for Energy and Climate Change is doing enough to secure UK energy investment. So I've just tweeted this reply.

I feel a letter to my local MP coming on...

Monday, 25 January 2016

Puzzle Corner: Happy Families

Flowers and fruit/vegetable pictures for the Happy Families puzzle

I've had a lot of fun putting together the latest edition of Puzzle Corner. 

Can you match the flowers and fruit/vegetables with their plant kingdom Families? There is a flower and fruit/vegetable for each one.

The Families are:

  • Amaryllidaceae
  • Apiaceae
  • Asteraceae
  • Fabaceae
  • Polygonaceae
  • Rosaceae
I think - like me - you'll be surprised how some of these pair up with their families.

I hope you enjoy this fun quiz and I'll give you the answers next week.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Ready... Steady... Bake!

Showing off my Great Sport Relief Bake Off designer apron

I love it when work and blog fun collide. The company blog I look after always reports on their efforts for Sport Relief, both of the sporting kind and in the ever popular baking department.

It's great to join in with them this year in a small way by showing off my Orla Kiely designer Bake Yourself Proud apron courtesy of the nice people at Sport Relief. The Great Sport Relief Bake Off starts next Wednesday (January 27th 2016) on BBC1, where another of these aprons will be presented to each episode's winner.

It's also available in the shops* at £12.99, with at least £5.25 going to their fundraising. I'm going to donate the full cost of my apron to the cause, so it's win-win all round. I've also been inspired to restart my baking efforts by making this scrummy chocolate cake. I was given the dry ingredients last year, but family events prevented me from making it at the time.

* = HomeSense, TK Maxx or the Sport Relief website.

Friday, 15 January 2016

GBBD: Brightness Amongst Winter's Decay

A bright daffodil nestles amongst the decaying stems of Echinops in my winter garden
A bright daffodil nestles amongst the decaying Echinops stems in my winter garden. 

It's been a record breaking winter. There was record warmth and rainfall for December, possibly January too for the latter. Now we're poised on the cusp of the coldest spell of the winter thus far, possibly the coldest for the past few years.

So it seems fitting to enjoy my garden's solitary record breaking daffodil whilst I can, possibly sentenced to doom in tonight's forecast frost. It flowered just before Christmas and has had to stretch itself almost impossibly high to get itself noticed amongst the Echinops stems.

It's a record breaking winter for blooms in my garden too. I expect many of these will get nipped in the bud tonight, so it's fitting to record the full list for this month's Blooms Day and posterity. There's a total of 35 flowers and even if you take the 4 new-to-the-garden snowdrops away from the total, this is still my most floriferous January ever.

Expected Blooms

  • Clematis cirrhosa 'Balearica'
  • Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'
  • Crocus tommasinianus (a little early perhaps, but more expected than unexpected)
  • Cyclamen 'Snow Ridge' (wine form)
  • Cyclamen hederifolium (light pink and white forms)
  • Galanthus elwesii
  • Galanthus elwesii 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
  • Galanthus nivalis
  • Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'
  • Galanthus nivalis 'S Arnott'
  • Galanthus plicatus 'Augustus'
  • Galanthus plicatus 'Percy Picton'
  • Helleborus 'Anna's Red'
  • Helleborus (unknown pink vintage, probably x hybridus from a friend)
  • Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Winter Moonbeam'
  • Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'
  • Primula 'Cottage Cream'
  • Pulmonaria (unknown pink vintage from another friend)
  • Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'
  • Viburnum davidii

Unexpected Blooms

  • Bacopa (white trailing hanging basket plant as chosen by Franks Plants)
  • Centaurea montana
  • Dandelion (oops!)
  • Fuchsia 'Pink Fizz'
  • Knautia 'Red Ensign'
  • Lonicera (self-sown honeysuckle of unknown summer vintage)
  • Mangetout pea
  • Narcissus (unknown variety)
  • Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla'
  • Rocket (arugula)
  • Rosa 'Kew Gardens'
  • Rosa 'The Fairy' (red form)
  • Rosmarinus officinalis Prostratus Group
  • Salvia 'Amistad'
  • Strawberry 'Mara des Bois'

I'm amazed there are almost as many unexpected blooms as there are expected ones.

How's your garden faring this January?

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, 1 January 2016

GBMD: New Feet

Apparently Emily Dickinson was also a skilled botanist. I wonder what she would have made of my new wellies!

Happy New Year - may 2016 be a good one for you and yours.
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