Gardening

5 ways to attract birds to your garden

Garden Bird Feeders

We’re currently trying – and failing – to attract birds to our garden.

One of my children is an avid wildlife fan and was very excited to receive a bird feeder for Christmas.

However, being in a new-build with a garden devoid of plants, we’ve only managed to attract a couple of robins and not much else. Time to consult our trusty Favourite Garden Birds book.

This lovely book is packed full of charming photographs and
illustrations, avian quotes from literature, and fascinating facts
about the birds that could visit your garden.

Its chapter on helping birds should be just what we need to attract feathered friends to our plot.

 


 

And here’s the advice it imparts:

 

1 Provide water

Birds need fresh water more than ever in winter. They must keep their feathers clean if they are to stay warm because dirty feathers do not provide good insulation. If you do not have a pond, provide a bird-bath or wide shallow dish for them to wash in and drink from. Prevent ice from forming by floating a ball on the top, or use hot water to melt the ice each morning.

 

2 Put out food

Some birds are seed-eaters, others insect-eaters and some eat both. Put out a variety of foodstuffs to suit a range of species: bird seed, suet, bacon rind and other cooked meat, live mealworms, grated cheese, apples, pears and bananas.

 

Greenfinch eating peanuts3 In the right place

Some birds prefer to eat from a bird-table, others like pecking at crumbs on the ground, while others like hanging feeders. Make sure that the birds can feed away from prevailing winds and from predators. The best site is out in the open but near to a bush or tree so that they can hide, if needs be. Make sure you clean where they feed on a regular basis.

 

4 Plant for wild winter fare

There are several plants and trees that will give birds food from autumn to spring; just be sure to leave seed-heads on and any windfalls lying beneath the trees. Include some of these in your planting scheme: apple, beech, cotoneaster, hawthorn, holly, ivy, nigella, pear and viburnum.

 

5 Give them a place to nest

If you do not have suitable trees and shrubs in your garden consider a nest box. Fix it facing north so that it won’t become too hot in the summer. You could also put out nesting material, such as wool to give busy parents a head start. Clean thoroughly at the end of each nesting season.

 


 

Favourite Garden BirdsFor MUCH more information on birds, you can purchase Favourite Garden Birds from our online shop for just £7.99.

Click here for more information.

 

#feedthebirds

#gardenbirds

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Plant now for a glorious spring display

Plants bulbs now for a spring display

Plant now for a gorgeous flowering display in spring

Not only does our lovely 2018 Dairy Diary give you 56 fabulous recipes, but it also is packed with interesting articles, such as Blooming Bulbs, which gives lots of tips on flowering bulbs.

And it’s now time to plant for a gorgeous flowering display in spring. There is a myriad of stunning blooms to choose from including crocuses, narcissi, grape hyacinths (my favourite!), tulips, anemones, dog’s tooth violets and lily-of-the-valley.

In general, bulbs don’t take too much effort
to plant but the results can be spectacular,
providing a welcome ‘surprise’ in spring.

Planting

Planting spring bulbsIn the ground:
Prepare a hole, or a trench if you’re mass planting, to a depth of two or three times the height of the bulbs (three or four times for tulips – always the odd ones out!). Sit each one on its rough underside, so that the narrow end points upwards (a dip or buds for corms, which are flatter than true bulbs). Space them at least an extra bulb’s width apart. For tubers and rhizomes, it’s fine to lay them sideways. Replace the soil and gently firm down.

In containers:
The RHS recommends three parts John Innes No.2 to one part grit if you plan to leave the bulbs in situ for more than one season. Otherwise, using multi-purpose compost instead of John Innes is fine. Put some broken crocks or stones at the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and plant as before, but not quite so widely spaced. Water regularly.

Planting snowdropsIn grass:
Scatter handfuls of bulbs around the area and plant them where they land, either individually or in groups, replacing soil and grass clumps when you have excavated the hole and popped in the bulbs. To save time and too much hard work, you could invest in a bulb planter, a tool specially designed for the job. Several kinds are available, including ones with long handles. It’s best not to cut the grass until the bulbs’ leaves have died back, several weeks after flowering, so this may dictate where you want to cultivate the natural look.

Squirrels love bulbs!
They seem to be especially fond of crocuses and tulips, so if this is likely to be a problem, try netting the area or spreading some sharp gravel on the surface. Failing that, they are, apparently, not too keen on chilli flakes, so you could try sprinkling some of that around.

 

Dairy Diary 2018 now available

 

#gardening

#springbulbs

Make mowing a breeze! How-to-do brick border edging

Brick Border Edging

Brick Border Edging

One of the projects that I (when I say I, I actually mean my far more practical other half) want to tackle this summer is the edge between the lawn and the borders. 

Our strimmer seems to run out of strimming
line roughly every two minutes and I end up
on my hands and knees using our blunt garden
shears to hack at the edge of the lawn.

With sunken bricks, you can just mow straight over them and the borders look tidy and stay contained. Overall, this gives a really neat finish to the garden.

 


Seasonal Garden IdeasSeasonal Garden Ideas

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Instructions

You can put in brick edging at any time of year, but it’s better to choose a dry day for it.

The time it takes will depend on the length of run.

Equipment

  • Engineering bricks.
  • Sand.
  • Ready-mixed mortar.
  • Spade and bricklayer’s trowel.
  • Watering can or bucket for water.
  • Wheelbarrow or board for mixing mortar.

1 The bricks can be laid on a 12.5cm (5in) footing of sand. Assuming your bricks are 7.5cm (3in) thick, you need to dig a trench 20cm (8in) deep. Start by digging the trench along the full length of the border, making it slightly wider than the length of brick you are using.

2 Line the entire length of the trench with a 12.5cm (5in) deep layer of sand, tamping it down very firmly.

3 Make up the mortar according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using either a wheelbarrow or a board for mixing. Lay a stretch of mortar on the sand at the start of the trench and set the first bricks into it, mortaring neatly between each brick.

4 Continue in this way for the length of the trench, allowing for any curvature along the way by inserting a slightly wider band of mortar between the bricks on the lawn side of the edging. The brick edging should be flush with the grass edge or very slightly below it.

5 Leave the mortar to dry and set before running a mower across the edging.

Tip
Check that all the bricks you use are sound and whole – the wheels of a mower going over them can give quite a battering, which will soon destroy a damaged brick.

Notes
If you prefer you can use concrete instead of sand for the footing – it will be even stronger. Use ready-mixed concrete and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for its use.

Aftercare
Lever up and replace any cracked or broken bricks as soon as you can after spotting them. Once there is a break in one brick, those adjacent to it will also start to crumble and disintegrate. Brush dirt, leaves and debris off the brick edging to keep it looking good.

#gardening

A Fabulous Fern for Shady Corners

Seasonal Garden Ideas

Fabulous Fern

Here’s a show that’s strictly for the summer months – a magnificent bird’s-nest fern lighting up a shady corner with its huge, wavy-edged, apple-green fronds.

Warm, moist conditions in shade are a must – plus indoor shelter for the rest of the year.

Grow the fern as an indoor plant until summer temperatures outdoors are warm enough – 16°C (60°F) at the very least. Bring indoors again at the end of summer to a heated greenhouse, conservatory or living room.

Planting the fern should take about a hour or so – it’s quite big so will take some handling.

 


 

What you need

Plants
A specimen-sized bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus).

Equipment

  • Large terracotta, ceramic or plastic container with drainage holes.
  • Humus-rich compost with added grit or sharp sand for drainage.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.

 

1 Line the container with broken crocks for drainage. Half-fill with the compost. Check the level of the compost by placing the fern, in its original pot, inside the container – it should be planted at the same level as it was before. Adjust the level of compost as necessary.

2 Plant the fern into the compost, firming in well. Top up the compost to within 5cm (2in) of the rim of the pot. Water thoroughly.

3 Bring the fern outside when the weather is warm and position in a shady, sheltered spot. Keep it moist at all times and feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser during the growing season.

Tip

If the care, attention and exacting conditions required by bird’s-nest fern seem a little daunting, then try its smaller relative, the hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium, also known as Phyllitis scolopendrium or Scolopendrium vulgare). This fern is frost hardy and reaches about 30cm (12in) tall, with a spread of 45cm (18in). It does well in damp, shady places and likes well-drained, alkaline soil. The variety ‘Marginatum’ has most attractive frilly edged fronds.

Note

If conditions are right, bird’s-nest fern can produce fronds over 90cm (3ft) long and 20cm (8in) wide with their trademark thick black midrib. Bear this size in mind for when you need to move the plant around and when it comes to repotting into a larger container.

Aftercare

Remove old or damaged fronds as they appear.  Keep warm, moist and humid at all times, though you can lessen watering during the winter.

 


 

Seasonal Garden IdeasA project from Seasonal Garden Ideas.

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Scented Pots & Win a Garden Centre Voucher

4 Steps to a Gorgeous Scented Pot

Having a supply of fresh home-grown herbs is really useful, and much cheaper than purchasing them from the supermarket.

And in this project, they look (and smell) gorgeous too.

This planted pot would look fabulous stood by the front door and will welcome you home with fragrant aromas.

 

Bay, Thyme and Lavender

Bay, Thyme and Lavender

Three strongly aromatic plants combine here to make an enticingly scented corner. A standard bay in a large ceramic pot is circled by a medley of low-growing thymes, with lavender surrounding the base.

Plant in spring. All of these plants have a year-long presence – bay and thyme are evergreen, while lavender, which flowers in summer, retains its grey leaves throughout winter.

Allow a couple of hours to complete this container and the surrounding bed.

Plants

  • One bay tree (Laurus nobilis), trained to standard shape and clipped to a ball.
  • Eight thymes (Thymus serpyllum and Thymus citriodorus varieties – here golden leaved, variegated and grey-leaved forms as well as the more usual dark green).
  • Eight lavenders (Lavandula variety, such as ‘Munstead’).

Equipment

  • Large ceramic container (or any other pot large enough to take the bay tree).
  • Soil-based potting compost with added grit or sharp sand for drainage.
  • Broken crocks for drainage.
  • Trowel.

1 Position your pot where it is to stand – it will be too heavy to move once planted. Here the pot is surrounded by a narrow bed of lavender which will need about 45cm (18in) of planting space all around the pot.

2 Line the container with broken crocks for drainage, then half-fill with compost. Check the level of the bay’s rootball by placing it in its original pot on the compost. Adjust the level as necessary to get the rootball to the same depth it was in before, then plant the bay, placing it centrally in the pot. Firm in.

3 Top up the container with more compost – the thymes will have much shallower rootballs than the bay. Plant the thymes in a circle around the bay, firm in, then top up again with more compost to within 2.5cm (1in) of the rim. Water thoroughly.

4 Work some of the compost/grit mix into the soil around the pot, then plant the lavenders all round. Water thoroughly.

Tips

If you wish, choose a dry, sunny day and cut some of the lavender flowers when they are at their peak. Leave them to dry in bunches, then use them in a vase or a potpourri, or make little sachets and stuff them with the lavender flowerheads – place in linen drawers or hang in clothes cupboards to keep the clothes smelling fresh and sweet.

Note

Both the bay and the thymes are culinary herbs, so use them freely in your cooking.

Aftercare

All these plants do best in full sun and need light, well-drained soil. Keep the bay in shape by trimming any straggly shoots in summer; remove any frost-damaged leaves/shoots in spring. Remove faded lavender flowers in autumn, then prune in April – but do not cut into old wood. Clip the thyme, removing dead flowerheads and straggly shoots in spring.

This little project is taken from our Seasonal Garden Ideas book. Find out…

READ MORE

 


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Spring Begins Today!

Make 2017 a Colourful Year

The herald of spring is the perfect opportunity to plan your garden.

While you’re pondering on seeds, plants and bulbs, have a read through this extract from the 2017 Dairy Diary. It gives some great advice on how to plant for year-round colour.

 


 

Gardening for colour

Gardening for Colour

The garden is a naturally colourful place – green grass, brown earth, painted fences and sheds. But it’s the plants and foliage that provide that added zing, and with a little creative planning and judicious planting, they can provide it all year round.  

In poet Thomas Edward Brown’s estimation, ‘a garden is a lovesome thing’ and so it is, and it can be an even lovelier place if you think about what colours you want to see at different times of year. Haphazard planting has a lot going for it because it’s easy and can result in the garden looking beautifully chaotic for part of the year, although it can look a bit dull for the rest of the time. However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your

However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your masterplan come to life. No need to stick rigidly to the rules of colour theory; taking note of the general ideas can be enough, and experimenting is part of the fun. It’s your garden, after all. You can have a glorious mass of different colours if you like – and, in nature, they never seem to clash – but knowing how to use colour effectively throughout the year can make a big difference.

Whether you want your patch to be bright and cheery or a haven of peace and tranquillity will influence your colour choices. The hot colours – red, orange, yellow – are exciting, stimulating and demand attention; the cool colours – green, blue, purple – are restful, calming and recede into the background. If various sections of the garden are to have different purposes, or moods, the transitions between them are important, too, requiring subtler shades and whites.

Key effects 

  • The colour value of the plants you are intending to grow is important, too, i.e. how bright, pale or dark the flowers and foliage are likely to be, bearing in mind this is likely to change during the year.
  •  A small area of light colour in a sea of much darker vegetation creates a powerful effect.
  •  Repetition is an old trick that helps to avoid the garden looking too much of a riot. If you love red, for example, have more than one area of it.
  •  Pale colours reflect light and brighten up a shady corner.
  •  Bright colours can look wonderful and vibrant in full sun, while pastel colours will look washed out.
  •  Cool and pale colours bring a sense of depth; bright colours appear to be closer. Planted at the end of a border, pale colours make it look longer while bright colours foreshorten it.
  •  Silvery grey foliage lightens the area and cools down any nearby hot colours.

Growing plans

When choosing your plants, first and foremost, select those suited to the location and soil type of your garden, and plan to position them in the ideal spot for their individual requirements of light and shade. Otherwise, think about containers, not too big so you have the option of moving them. If you are experimenting with colours, it may be that you will want to move some plants to try other combinations; but shrubs, once established, are mostly better not moved, so be sure to plant them where you want them to be.

Shrubs and perennials are lower maintenance than annuals, and since perennials benefit from being divided every few years, they could be a good bet, augmented by bulbs and, in summer, by annuals. These are often flamboyantly colourful. Remember to deadhead to prolong flowering. Some perennials give very good value, such as Phlomis russeliana, which flowers from late spring to early autumn and has attractive seedheads in winter, dianthus with its pink flowers and silver-grey foliage, and penstemon, which flowers to first frosts.

Also, when planning a colourful border or bed, remember to choose plants that will flower at the same time in order to achieve the desired effect. As well as colour and flowering season, think about height and contrasts in shape. Tall, upright plants, such as irises, daylilies and foxgloves, mix well with those that have wide flowerheads, such as sedum and yarrow, and spherical flowerheads, such as alliums.

Foliage is an integral part of any garden display, whether used as background or as a focus in its own right. Shrubs such as cotinus and Fatsia japonica have eye-catchingly colourful foliage. Others, including berberis, viburnum and holly, have red or orange berries in autumn and flowers in spring.

Among all the possibilities, don’t forget roses. A fragrant shrub, climber or floribunda that blooms continuously throughout the summer can do wonders for your garden.

Year-round colour

Spring brings sunny yellows and greens, fresh pinks and blues and white morphing into the vivid mix of summer and the warm burnt oranges and deep reds of autumn. Come winter, if you think of the garden as being a colour-free zone, think again. Flowers, berries and dramatic foliage can lift it from the gloom.

Spring 

Shrubs: azaleas, California lilac, euphorbia, forsythia

Perennials: aubrieta, elephant’s ears, forget-me-nots, polyanthus

Bulbs: crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths, tulips, anemones

Summer

Shrubs: rock roses, fuchsia, potentilla, mock orange, buddleia

Perennials: delphiniums, peonies, crocosmias, geraniums

Bulbs: alliums, irises, lilies, gladioli, begonias

Annuals: Busy Lizzies, lobelias, heliotropes, cornflowers, poppies, marigolds, tobacco plants

Autumn

Shrubs: spindle tree, rhus, plumbago, Japanese maple

Perennials: chrysanthemums, asters, Chinese lanterns, ligularia, Michaelmas daisies

Bulbs: colchicums, nerines

Winter

Shrubs: winter jasmine, mahonia, dogwood, daphne, skimmia, winter heath, clematis

Perennials: winter pansies, violas, hellebores, hepatica

Bulbs: snowdrops, aconites, cyclamen (grows from tubers)

 

You can have a glorious
mass of different colours.

 

Garden colour schemes

Colour schemes

The colour wheel, a circle divided into six or twelve, shows how colours relate to each other and gives clues to the effects of juxtaposing them. For gardeners, the six-point colour wheel, made up of primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, purple) colours, is a useful guide. It may be a good idea to make one as a reference (look it up online), and bear in mind the enormous variety of shades, tones and tints that exist in gardening and in nature, so the colours can be liberally interpreted.

Complementary Also called opposing, these are colours that fall directly opposite each other on the colour wheel: red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. Positioned next to each other, they seem especially vibrant, so complementary colour schemes can be eye-catching and lively. A small area of hot complementaries balances a larger area of cool ones.

Contrasting Colours equally spaced around the colour wheel are thought of as contrasting: orange, green, purple. They tend to go well grouped together – vibrant colours and green foliage.

Harmonising Analogous, or harmonising, colours are those that lie next to each other on the colour wheel, e.g. red and purple, yellow and orange, blue and green. Harmonious colour schemes can be elegant and serene, or, with hot colours, invigorating.

Monochromatic Using just one colour can be very effective, but challenging. Some contrast is necessary or the result can seem somewhat bland, so use all the shades, tones and tints at your disposal, and plenty of interesting foliage.

 

Harmonious colour schemes
can be elegant and serene.

 

Gardens to visit in 2017

Gardens to visit

If you’re short of ideas, or just want to soak up the atmosphere created by talented garden designers, why not take a trip to one of the hundreds of gardens around the country that are open to visitors? Many show the influence of Gertrude Jekyll (born in 1843), whom we have to thank for introducing colour-themed ‘rooms’ into the garden. Some are renowned for something extra special:

The white garden at Sissinghurst, Kent

Hidcote, in Gloucestershire, famed for its twin red borders

The winter gardens at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Great Dixter in East Sussex, for unusual colour schemes

Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex, for garden artistry

The herbaceous border at Arley Hall, Cheshire

Harlow Carr, the RHS garden in Yorkshire, pushing the boundaries of design and planting styles

Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland, described as a ‘theme park for gardeners’

Check opening times and facilities before visiting.

 

Websites

letsgogardening.co.uk

nationaltrust.org.uk

rhs.org.uk

wyevalegardencentres.co.uk

 

 


 

#gardeningforcolour

#spring

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