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Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Queen's Compost Heap

Whenever my husband and I get back to England, my dad always takes us out in the car and enjoys showing Eric the England that I grew up in.

On a visit a couple of years ago, we went to Windsor Great Park, near the town of Windsor, not far from where my parents live.

I could probably do several posts on the park (and probably will) because it was such a central part of my growing up.  I used to hike there, ride horses there, go for picnics there, there are polo fields, a Deer Park, the Valley Gardens, Savill Gardens and Virginia Water.  It's an absolute paradise for gardeners, which may have contributed to my love of gardening.

 The Long Ride, Windsor Great Park

But today, since this is primarily my gardening blog, I thought I would start by showing you the Queen's Compost Heap and brush pile!

The park covers 2020 hectares with a mix of formal avenues, such as the famous "Long Walk" which stretches from The Copper Horse statue on Snow Hill all the way to Windsor Castle, seen in the distance in the photo above, as well as open grasslands, woodland and gardens.

With all those woods and parkland to take care of, there's sure to be plenty of brush and compost materials.

Don't believe me?  Check out the piles in the photo below! Any gardener would be green with envy!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Birds of Winter - Part Two

I mentioned in yesterday's blog post that I had neglected to get photos of our most colorful and year round  feathered visitors - the Northern Cardinals and the Blue Jays  So this morning, I set seed on the wall and lay in wait, warmly wrapped up on the patio with my camera.

I love the way they watch me from the hedgerow as I set out the seed.  How many birds do you see in this photo? (you can click on it to see a larger version)

They all get along pretty well and will hop around each other on the wall, selecting their seeds of choice.

Can you say "greedy"?  This Blue Jay grabbed not one, but two, peanuts.

Here's another photo of them all in the hedgerow.  Perhaps I should take inventory of the plants there and see what I can add to my own garden to invite the birds to stay.

I'm linking today's post with Camera Critters.

 Here's hoping you had an enjoyable and safe New Year celebration and wishing you happy gardening and birding in 2016!


Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Birds of Winter

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting, either in the dining room or on the patio, and watching the birds go about their business in our garden (that's English for back yard).

While we have lots of the usual visitors - Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves, I've also spotted some seasonal visitors.

 At first I mistook these goldfinches in winter plumage for sparrows.  It wasn't until I zoomed in with my camera I realized what they were.

This one seems to be pointing out the fact that there's no birdseed on the wall.

 This isn't a great photo, but I think this is a House Finch. I've only ever seen one a couple of times before, so I may be mistaken.

We had four male Northern Cardinals in the back yard at one time yesterday, but I didn't have my camera handy.  I was able to snap a photo of this female on the wall though.  They are year round residents in the hedgerow behind us.  Unfortunately, that land has been rezoned, so I fear the days are numbered for the hedgerow.  Perhaps the birds will come and take up residence in our back yard.

Another year round resident in the area is "Woody", the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He likes to perch on the electric poles behind the house and has been heard hammering on the neighbors' Hardi-Plank siding (that must have given him a headache!)

Two birds I saw but just couldn't get a photo of were the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse.  The Chickadees are year round residents but I've only seen the Tufted Titmouse once or twice, usually in winter, so I'm presuming it's just a winter visitor.  I just wish I could have got a photo of him.

I just realized I also don't have any photos of the Blue Jays.  Oh well, I'll just have to get out and take some and do another post in the New Year.

Speaking of which, I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year celebration and a wonderful 2016.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Greetings To All

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. ~~ Thomas S. Monson

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
~~ Norman Vincent Peale

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~~ Roy L. Smith

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.
~~ Winston Churchill

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
~~ Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Festive Colors in the December Garden and a Sad Butterfly Tale

We've had some strange weather so far this December. It's gone from warm and muggy to cold, wet and windy, but certainly nothing approaching "Christmas-y".  But I do have some festive colors in the garden, courtesy of the holly and the bottlebrush.

Earlier in the year, when the Savannah holly was blooming, it was covered in bees, enjoying the nectar.  Now it's the bottlebrush's turn to be the center of bee attention.  If you click on the photo to see the larger image, there are two bees in this picture.

The Savannah holly is now covered in bright red berries, which I hope the birds enjoy, although I've never really seen them.  The bushes are big enough that I can even snip a few branches and bring them inside to add to my Christmas decorations, something I have always wanted to do.


On another note - I mentioned in one of my earlier posts in autumn that I had been seeing butterflies around and then some caterpillars.  Unfortunately we didn't have much luck with Monarchs this year.  In previous years we had 15 or more chrysalises on the fence, the house eaves and elsewhere, and lots of successful hatching.  

This year, not nearly so many and even sadder, it appears that at least one female who was laying eggs was infected with OA, so her caterpillars either never made it to the chrysalis stage, or the chrysalis never hatched.  

I saw one butterfly at the beginning of November whose wings didn't unfold properly - a symptom of OA infection.  All I could do was pick it up and set it the only remaining zinnia I had in the garden at the time.  It had disappeared completely by the next day.

And on December 12th I found this male butterfly with half his wing missing fluttering on the lawn. Luckily I had planted some pansies a couple of weeks ago, or I would have had no flowers at all.  I let him crawl on my hand and set him on the container of pansies and he immediately probed the center of a pansy with his probiscus and starting feeding.

I brought the container on to the covered patio that night as we were expecting heavy rains and a cold front.  He was still alive, but very lethargic the next day because the temperature had dropped, but once I moved the container back into the sun and he warmed up, he started crawling around the pansies feeding again.

Today is December 16th and he is still out there.  I check on him regularly and have had to pick him up off the ground and put him back in the pansy container a couple of times.

Obviously, his days are numbered, and he won't be migrating, but as long as I have pansies, I'll try and make sure he can at least feed.

I've had similar events happen in the past and it always saddens me. I''m not sure what the answer is, but I'll just do what I can.  In fact, I think I'll go check on him now.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

We've had some lovely weather this week, and I've been doing some tidy up in the garden - pulling out the finished zinnias, trying my hardest to get rid of the bermuda grass and nutsedge.  This resulted in two rather empty island beds, so I headed to Plants for All Seasons to get some winter color.

These little violas will last from now until spring and will brighten an otherwise drab garden through the winter.

They spread a bit, so I spaced them out and had enough for both island beds, the containers by the bird bath and the raised bed by the trellis on the back wall.

Skip forward to this morning and I awoke to hear the drumming of rain on the roof and the sounds of the water barrel overflowing.

As always happens when we get a heavy rain, the garden flooded.  We keep meaning to get something done about it, but the water usually drains after an hour or so, provided it stops raining.

But what's that I see behind the bird bath?  

Yes, the Angel Trumpet that offered one bloom after a rain storm at the end of October (see my post here) is literally covered in blooms!

Now the rain has passed and the sun is shining again.  Here's a photo of the Angel Trumpet in the afternoon sunshine.

It's bright and sunny outside, but very blowy, so I hope this doesn't get blown over.  That would be a disaster!

I noticed earlier when I was re-positioning it to make it more stable on the sodden earth, that the pot is starting to crack so I'll need to replant it eventually.  I'd like to find somewhere to put it in the ground, but everywhere seems to be a battle of roots.  I'll have to give it some thought and decide where would be the best place for it.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Walk in The Woods

Since I'm, shall we say, "between jobs" at present, and since the weather has been absolutely glorious this week (apart from a torrential downpour on Tuesday, I decided to go for a walk through Kleb Woods and take advantage of being able to be outside enjoying the weather on a week day!

I'm sure I have written about Kleb Woods before, it's one of my favorite places.  We are so lucky to have it close by.

The trails are easy so I headed off, looking for the marsh and bird blind I had visited before.  After swatting at mosquitoes for about half an hour, and not finding the bird blind -- note to management... more signage on that side of the woods would be a help -- I headed back over to the more familiar Nature Center and spent an hour walking around there, watching birds and other critters.

I know many people consider squirrels a nuisance, especially in  the garden, but I find them delightful.  We used to get a lot in our garden, when we were surrounded by trees.  Perhaps we will again one day as the trees in the neighborhood grow and mature.  I hope so.  I miss the lil guys.

The area around the nature center is always inspiration for my own wildlife garden.   Their Hamelia Patens is shoulder tall in summer (unlike mine, which didn't get over a foot tall this year) and I'd like to know what they are feeding this Turk's Cap. It's humongous!! (Although to be fair, this is two plants) 

I don't know if they ever open up the house to visitors, but you can look in the windows and see it's furnished and decorated as it was when Elmer Kleb lived here.

The story of Elmer Kleb and how the Nature Preserve came to be is quite intriguing.  You can read more about it here.

As I was getting ready to leave, I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye and was delighted to see this grey fox (at least I think that's what it is)

He let me get quite close and take some photos before he trotted off into the brush.

All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon in the woods.  I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.

Linking this post with Camera Critters today.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.