Thursday, 15 October 2009

Thursdays favourite plant

The much maligned Hedera (Ivy)

I say much maligned because this plant does get a bit of a bad rap sometimes, But I think its a really versatile plant that can be used in so many ways, and theres so many different varieties other than just the plain old green.

People often say that ivy will pull your house down (if its growning up the walls) This is only true if your walls are dodgy, then yes it will probably damage the brick work/plaster etc. Also it can grow through wooden window frames (if you let it) So if you have it or want it growing up your house you just need to keep an eye on it and chop it back if it gets unruly. Another thing to be careful with is fencing, if you have that overlapping (can't think of its proper name) fencing it can push between the panels.

So negative stuff over with.

Ivy grows and climbs by having adventitious roots, which means roots growing out of the stem. That's how it attaches itself to stuff and how if you have it growing in the ground (by choice or not) it spreads and roots everywhere. You can use this to advantage if you want to propagate it or if you want to train it to grow a certain way.

I have loads of pots of little young Ivies, they are so useful for filling hanging baskets and window boxes, especially this time of year. I also have it dotted around in the house as houseplants in the winter and use tones of it as decorations Christmas wouldn't be Christmas with out Ivy (and holly). You can make topiary with Ivy by planting some in a pot and making a frame out of some wire and then training the Ivy round the frame (here's how to).

Ivy looks really good grown up through old trees and is a gorgeous when the tendrils hang down trough the branches. It also can provide a good screen if grown up a trellis or archway (just make sure its strong and firmly pushed in to the ground.

There are some amazing varieties I love....

Hedera colchica that has beautiful large heart shaped leaves in creamy white and green

Hedera 'Buttercup' little yellow leaves

Hedera 'Glacier' This is the baby one that I use all the time (I say baby its a Young one in a 9 cm pot)

Ivy is also a really really important plant for wildlife. A thick tangled mass of Ivy provides nesting for birds, there is a pub near me with it growing up the wall and in the spring there are what seems like hundreds of sparrows chattering away in there. It also provides nectar in the autumn for insects and over wintering butterflies like the tortoise-shell, and berries for birds in the winter. If you have or our planning a wildlife garden or area you'll definitely need some.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Drowning in feathers

Remember these little guys

Well this is them at 16 weeks old
This is Dean Martin (Dino) who was the cheeky one staring at the camera (the one I thought might be a boy) Isn't he handsome.

Here's Boo still a ball of fluffiness.

This is the welsummer I thought was a girl, He's not not a name because most likely he'll have to be re-homed unless he can get on with his big bro and live happily together (we'll see?)Ohh the one behind is one of the Indian game birds.

This is my black rock? Blackberry.Not sure about the sex really hope its a girl as its such a sweet little thing, he/she follows me round the paddock and pecks at the polka dots on my wellies. If its a boy I might build him a kingdom all of his own or re-home him somewhere lovely. Boo and Blackberry are best mates.

This is 3 of the 4 white leghorny chickens

Here's the 4th white one which looks very different to the others I assume they are all related but maybe not? The whites are living in a sectioned off part of the main paddock, when the table bird has departed they can move in with Dino and his lot.

Right now on to the garden gang

This is Blondy, one of the silkie x's He/she has the feathering of a silkie. He/she also hates Holly Golighty with a passion so he/she is living with the Marans. The two you can see are I think boys (Doh!)

This Maran I think is a girl (fingers crossed) I'm going by the size of combs and the fact (and please tell me if this is rubbish) that the males are lighter. There is also a little grey bird in here but he/she didn't want to come out of the house to have its photo taken. It also hates Holly Golighty.

Heres the fabulous Holly Golighty (who I'm 90% sure is a lady as she kind of clucks at me) She is living with 6 little ball of trouble. I'm not sure if she's put herself at the bottom of the pecking order or she's gone all mumsy with them, maybe it will be good practise for her as a broody.

This is what she's got to put up with.
I tried to take photos of them individually but it was impossible.

That just leaves my two welsummer girls and their baby sister maran chicklet. But the batteries in my camera have run out of juice so I'll snap them tomorrow.

Anyone got any opinons about the sex of any of them? Anyone want one?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Fennel (for John)

I meant to to this a while ago but between one thing and another.....

Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)

I love to use the herb in the flower border. The acid green feathery foliage is great for setting off dark purple and orange flowers and it adds height with out being to overpowering or obstructing any views. It looks gorgeous with verbena boneriensis and echnineaca. I love the bronze fennel but I'd plant it with yellow and green flowers like bells of Ireland, or nicotiana lime green. In fact as foliage plants go I think fennel is the best for sticking in a herbaceous border because it is so light and airy.

It goes really well with fish especially if you stuff it inside the cavity and barbecue it or if you use some dried stems in a cooking fire it adds a a lovely smoky aniseed flavour. The seeds go really nicely with pork.

Medicinally fennel is used to help indigestion and stomach cramps. Its also supposed to be an aid to weight loss. Cotton wool soaked in fennel tea and placed on your eyes is good to reduce puffiness and watering eyes, and a mix of fennel tea and honey is supposed to be a good face pack for getting rid of wrinkles?

According to some of my old herbal books....
Prometheus used a hollow fennel branch to steal fire from the gods on Olympus. Dionysus carried a fennel wand as a symbol of fertility (because of its crazy self seeding habit). Its reported to have grown around the fields of marathon in ancient Greece and was eaten before the Olympic games to give strength to the athletes. It was also given to gladiators before entering the arena to give them a hunger for blood lust, and a crown of fennel was placed on the victor.
Charlemagne ate it on his campaigns to curb his hunger. Edward I's retinue once consumed eight pounds of it during lent. Fast days must have been noisy -one medieval poet recommends fennel seed because in it "This virtue shall you finde, foorth of your lower parts to drive the winde."

one final things you may or may not know about Fennel is its one of the main herbs used in Absinthe. I actually have in my hands right now an old herbal book with a recipe for Absinthe. Hmmm maybe I'll work on home made wine first before I attempt to brew a potion that will most likely kill me or at the very least make me blind or insane.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Thursdays favourite plant

I've got a lot of catching up to do here so I'll rush through a bit If you want to know any more leave me a comment and I'll answer any questions.
So here we go.

Ohh my camera (and blogger) is still playing up so I've borrowed a few pictures.

Tricyrtis formosana (toad lily)

What can I say about this, its absolutely stunning. I love the way the spots are carried through to the stamen and anthers. It flowers from about late august till about now (mine has still got lots of buds on it). This is a Japanese herbaceous perennial, that thrives in shady spots, and damp soil. It has a thick fleshy roots and is really easy to propagate by root cutting in the spring. The Leaves also have gorgeous spots on them and I'd advise giving them support as the stems can flop over a bit. Give it a good thick mulch in the autumn.

Cyclamen hederifolium

(image via flickr)

This is the native autumn cyclamen you see bursting out of fallen leaf litter in shady places, under trees and shrubs or banks and hedgerows. The flowers come up first, then the leaves follow. The leaves are stunning in different patterns flecked with silver. You can buy these as dry corms or in flower. Theres a video link to Carol Klein talking about them here

Aster monte cassino

I have a few different asters but this is my favourite. It copes with dry soil better than most asters and mine has never got mildew. I love the tiny little daisy like flowers. I have mine planted with.....

Penstemon Raven

(image via Hayloft plants)
I have a real weakness for dark almost black plants, and this one is almost velvety. My biggest tip with penstemons is to not cut the old stems back until spring when new shoots start to emerge. If you live somewhere prone to frosts, mulch it with straw around the crown to protect them. These are great for bees giving them a real feast before winter.

Euonymus alatus (spindle)
(image via flickr)

Autumn colour doesn't come much better than this. This spindle has the gorgeous pink berries and seedpods. It has these corky sort of wings along the sides of the Branch's. They'll grow to about 2 to 3 metres in height.


If you've got the space (alas I haven't) then this tree will give the most amazing autumn display, I love the variations in colours. But beware it will grow to about 15to 25 feet high.

I'm off now to gaze out the window at the rain watering my freshly moved around herbaceous border that I managed to do in yesterdays perfect sunshine. Somethings not quite right but I can't decide what it is yet, hopefully I'll figure it out in time for a break in the rain.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

When I'm 65 (or nearly 30)

When I first started gardening 10 years ago there was a list of plants I banned from my planting schemes and containers as being old fashioned, old ladyish and twee.
They were:

Standard roses
Bizzie lizzies
and Primulas (the coloured ones.

So is it a sign of old age creeping in that I have a standard rose I adore, Pots of begonias by the front door, an old metal bathtub full of scented carnations, Quite a few Chrysanthemums dotted about and lots of little pots of cuttings and a tray of burgandy Primulas waiting to go in the window boxes. No bizzie lizzies yet though.

I've finally had some rain here which has turned the chicken garden into a bog (poor holly golightlys pom pom hairdo has gone spiky) and given all my poor plants a good drink before I dig them all up. I had planned on spending some time drawing out plans and the like but between one thing and another I haven't got round to it yet. Hopefully that will be a job I can do today as tomorrow's meant to be dry and sunny and unless any thing gets in the way, tomorrow's the day I'll spent in the garden trying to make it all look better.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Back in business

(What are these?????)

Hello, I'm back normal service is kind of resumed. I'm much happier than my last post. Thanks for all your kind words.
Well a lot has happened since my laptop died, on the chicken and garden front.
Here's the head count...

Well to start with we have the garden girls Then Holly Golightly who I'm pleased to say has coped well with the loss of her buddy (better than I did)
Then we have the two Welsummers who have both turned out to be cockerels, and Boo the little Buff Sussex who fingers crossed its very much a girl.
4 Indian Game birds, these are destined for the table in a few weeks time. Hubby was after some Hubberds or Cobbs at the auction but got chatting to an old farmer who recommended these as birds he'd kept before, being slower growers and bigger . breasted. They are living it up in the field along with the Welsummer boys and Boo
Next up another impulsive auction purchase was a box of 5 farmyard chicks?? which consisted of a older larger black chicken (who I really hope is a girl as its a bit of a wimp but follows me round the paddock and has the most gorgeous purple green sheen to its feathers) I'm not sure of its breed I'm thinking maybe a black rock? This one was put in with the wels and boo, and was terrified of the wels who didn't pick on it as such but weren't exactly nice to it, luckily boo was nicer. This one is in the field with the wels and the dynamic is much improved. And 4 little white birds again I have no idea at all of the breed, they all look a bit different one has a crest and a fan shaped tail a bit Dutch bantamy and the others look a bit Sussex x amberlines. As these are tiny they are in the nursery run in the paddock.
The same day we bought them I also got a box of 3 Cuckoo Maran chicks, obviously I knew very little about link/auto sexing and its turned out that 2 of them are 100% boys and the other one I'm not sure yet,. They were 2/3 weeks old when we got them and are now about 6/7 and massive.
Then 2 weeks ago my husband bought 8 Game x chicks at the auction, these are adorable. Hubby thought they were Indian game but they're Old English Game which is a totally different bird. there are two sets of chicks in this group, 5 of them are crossed with silkies, (I've got a fuffy one, one with 5 toes, one with a rose comb and 2 with feathery feet) the other 3 are tiny wee little thing, so pretty and if I didn't know any better I'd say were part quail. I had a chat with the seller after hubbys purchase (50p a head)and quite frankly I don't think she had clue what they are. These are living in the converted hutch and run with Holly golighty except for the fluffy silkie x and a very pretty grey one who hate Holly and she hates them. I tried putting those three together first but the fighting was really nasty and blood was drawn, which is a shame because the fluffy one was my hopeful as a broody to go with Holly (obviously I have no idea about the sex of any of these yet and If I'm honest still not 100% about Holly although I've heard her cluck, please be a girl, please be a girl.)They are co-habiting with the 3 marans.
Then lastly Saturday was a rare and minority breed auction and hubby was at work so I was flying solo. Unbelievably I bought nothing there was tons of birds there. I was tempted by some quail and Indian runner ducks, but sensibly didn't even bid as practically we not set up for either yet. Also some Buff Orpington bantams but again sensibly knew as lovely as they are aren't a practical buy. I was after some welsummer pullets but I was hugely outbid, they weren't massively expensive but for that price I'd rather buy them from a breeder face to face.
In a way I was quite pleased I came home empty handed as I've spent the last week moving chickens around the garden and paddock, building and securing proper (make shift) houses and runs and got my garden back ready for some care and attention. So it was quite nice to come home and not have to run around with chicken wire rigging up a temporary home in the garden.
Off course that didn't last... An hour after I got home I was googling local breeders and came up with one that had some Welsummer pullets, hooray. So yesterday me and hubby drove out to South Yeo farm east rare and traditional breeds and got some 6 week old girls, now these look very different to the orignal welsummers I bought. Much more salmony coloured. The lady there was lovely, she showed me around her breeding pens and gave me lots of advice. I've fallen in love with some new breeds and plan to go back in the spring and maybe get some Ixworths, Vorwecks and Legbars. I found this place really inspiring. Oh and I also bough a baby Cuckoo Maran girl too.

So in total if my maths is correct that give a grand total of 31 chickens. Wow

I've learnt a heck of a lot in the last month or so, mainly the hard way. Auctions are a great place to buy inexpensive birds as long as they look healthy but most young chicks will most likely be unwanted males (if its a breed that can be identified young)I plan on defiantly keeping one welsummer and one Maran. Buying from breeders is better as you get to look around and chat and some more comeback if things go wrong. I've learnt how to (try) and deal with sour crop and have a much better understanding of a chickens digestive system. Even though I know I did all I could, I just wish I known about sour crop sooner and how to deal with it, maybe I could have prevented Eliza losing so much weight and saved her, although being so young her chances were so slim.

Unfortunatly I haven't got photos of everyone yet but theres an old photo of the black one and one of the little white bantamy things at the top of the post. If anyone has an idea what they might be please please let me now.


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