Monthly Archives: March 2016

feed the birds…..

all together now ….’tuppence a bag, tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag’.

Except it isn’t tuppence.   We regularly pick up those large tubs of fat balls, as the avian crew round our way can easily get through a dozen balls a day. Which means that a tub of fifty lasts less than a week.  Hence, why I’m sifting through my (extensive) collection of sunflower, (Helianthus annis),  seeds.

DSC_0195I do love the cultivars with the orange/rust hues such as ‘Evening Sun’, ‘Ring of Fire’ or ‘Autumn Time’, but what I need for the birds are the single, big headed forms like ‘Russian Giant’.

DSC_0196I could sow in situ but I suspect that the voles would make short work of any seed in the ground. Instead, I’ll sow into modules in the propagator and grow on in 9cm pots.  Once the plants are big enough I’ll plant a line of sunflowers along the fence of the polytunnel growing area.   I can then tie in canes to support the flowers – ‘Russian Giant’ can get to 10ft, the heads up to 12 inches in diameter.

I plan to leave some stems in situ for the birds to feed on in the autumn and cut others to hang up in the polytunnel out of reach of rodents.  With luck, we’ll have enough heads for feeding to the birds over the winter months.

Hopefully, this will stem the rate of fat ball consumption!

swathes of snowdrops….


The snowdrops in the old orchard are starting to go over.   This is the best time to lift and split clumps.   I have a small number of cultivars, but I find the best snowdrop for creating drifts, by far, is the common Galanthus nivalis.   Most of the snowdrops in the old orchard, bar a clump in the hedgerow, came from a smattering of G. nivalis lifted from the lawn around 4 years ago.  To this I have added a few bulbs of the double G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ – a  snowdrop that has been in cultivation since the 1750s, which should also clump up well, and Galanthus ‘John Gray’ – another old cultivar with a lovely honey scent.  I’ve also nicked some snowdrops from my brother’s garden.  I have no idea what cultivars these are – so I have named them ‘Ant Small’ and ‘Ant Large’.

A very modest collection indeed.


The process of dividing is simple – lift a clump and split into small bundles of bulbs and replant at the same depth in another spot.


I’m aiming to create around 20 extra pockets of the G. nivalis snowdrops every day for the next the next week over a quarter of the orchard.

DSC_0175I prefer to have the effect of large drifts rather than collecting numerous cultivars, though I can appreciate the lure of ‘galanthomania’.  It’s like a more modern form of tulipmania.  Apparently a single snowdrop bulb with a yellow head and markings, (‘Elizabeth Harrison’), sold for £725.10 on ebay in 2012 – which, of course, is bonkers.

Though I do quite fancy a yellow form…. ‘Wendy’s Gold’ perhaps…..








fungi flourish…

mushroom1Here on the holding we get the occasional puff ball and shaggy ink caps.  The OH is always far braver than I when it comes to eating fungi gathered from the wild.  However when I came across this little kit languishing on the sale shelf in a £1 shop I thought I would have a go at growing some mushrooms.

The try it at home version consists of shredded cardboard, compost with mushroom spawn and a container.   I set up the kit, popped it back into the sleeve and placed it in the corner of the living room, (the warmest place in the house).    Once the white threads of the mycelium appeared I put the kit into a dark cupboard in the cooler utility room.


I have 2 little mushrooms so far.  I tried one; it had a good, intense flavour – button mushrooms from the supermarket always seem to be a bit subdued.  Hopefully the little kit will produce a more substantial fungi flush.


Emboldened by my success I think I shall buy some spawn of the oyster mushroom.  Apparently this grows well on a straw medium and we have plenty of mini bales!



moody, moors & magnificent Minster

DSC_0147We went over to the east coast to look at stone paving for the garden.  The topography of the moors is so different from our part of the world.  Miles of bleak moorland – the wind must howl across the landscape.  We have some upland heath but not as wide-ranging as these North Yorkshire Moors.


We had to abandon our first attempt to cross to the coast as the snow came down.  We consoled ourselves with brunch at the very excellent Bettys in York and toured the beautiful Minster, managing to scale to the top of the Central Tower, (though our legs were a bit wobbly by the end).











The carving is spectacular and it is good to see that stonemasons are still hard at work making replacement pieces.  The Quire screen is a brilliant test of one’s knowledge of the English kings from William the Conqueror to Henry VI.









The Undercroft has a very good museum which not only tells about the extensive work needed to prevent the Central Tower from collapsing but also has a fascinating timeline of the location’s history from the Roman barracks to the present.  It is well worth a visit.

We rounded off our day with dinner at Bennett’s.  Perfect.