Nutter for nuts

The sight furry, four-legged fluffy-tailed object, fling himself through 9ft of fresh air was followed immediately by an almighty crash as splintered plastic dome plunged at speed to the ground. Even more surprised than me, the culprit quickly brushed himself off and looked over at the house in a panic to see if he was in trouble, then scampered up the fence and into the mulberry for safety. But I knew that he knew that I knew he'd foiled my latest plan, and I admired him (or her).

This was the denouement to days of cunning adjustment and trial and error, on both our parts. We'd had the ailanthus pollarded (for reasons I won't go into now) so all the bird feeders on their 5ft wires were homeless. My only fall back option was a gifted shop-bought pole and bracket feeder stand. I wedged it into a patio umbrella stand on the former lawn. From its four hooks I hung a peanut feeder, a niger seed dispenser, a fat block cage and a mealworm feeder stocked with a simple and popular no-grow mixture of sunflower hearts and peanut nibs.

As we all know from experience, that our visiting squirrels, all 4 or is it 5 of them, are persistent and measured when it comes to foraging. And I knew finding the squirrel-safe sweet spot for my feeding station would take a couple of goes to get right. Clearly they could shimmy up the pole unhindered and lean out to fill their faces from the fatty delights on offer. So I inserted the pole into a purpose-built plastic dome up to its middle and secured with a wingnut, but without a suitable flange to support it properly it wobbled in the wind. Nevertheless it got quizzical looks from the squirrels who made it up the pole to this cloudy force-field, like a child with its face pressed to the window of a closed sweetshop. So far so good.

I have a hunch that squirrels are a little spiteful. If you foil their feeding plans somehow they conjure some act to annoy you. It might be emptying the contents of a pot of scilla bulbs onto the patio or brazenly nibbling tulip buds when they know they're being watched. The white-bellied devils!

xxxxxx before I could send him to his room with no supper.

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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

Following a tip-off I took a surreptitious trip to a particular garden centre. Under cover of broad daylight on a cold, crisp day I pull up in the carpark giddy with the same anticipation and excitement of a first internet date. You already know what to expect in terms of general appearance and personality but will they be as tall, as witty, as vibrant in the flesh as your imagination wants to believe?

Like being over-squirted with aftershave by that lady in Debenhams, only doubly so, I break through the eye-wateringly heady perfume wall of the 300 unsold Sarcococcas that I hadn't come to see, and make a bee line for the reds, yellows and oranges of the witch hazels across this crowded room. For the record, I don't think bees ever make a bee-line for a witch hazel, A) they should be in bed and B) it would be unfair on the flies who need something to eat in February.

Hamamelis intermedia 'Ruby Glow' with Calamagrostis brachytricha

Essentially bare twigs brandishing little sea anemones reaching out to grasp the winter air, witch hazels are a weird and wondrous sight. Having visited Chris Lane's witch hazel nursery Open Day in Kent last year on an atrociously wet day and still been won over by them, I had a shortlist already. None of these varieties were on sale here today but I wasn't going home empty-handed! Like when you go to buy fillet steak and come away with rump, it's not much of a compromise. 

They had 'Arnold Promise', pallida, 'Firecracker', 'Ruby Glow' and 'Orange Beauty'. I already have an orange, 'Jelena' that I'm very happy with, and I think I'll postpone getting a yellow - some mad person may mistake it for forsythia, so I decide on red.

They have two sizes. The smaller size of 12-18" high would suit a winter pot arrangement with snowdrops and heathers underneath as the witch hazel flowers are closer to the ground. But I'm thinking border, so I give all the 4' ones a thorough look up and down, it's okay there's no-one around. I'm there, checking out the position and number of stems and flowers and buds, standing back to see the silhouette, bringing one forward, then the next. One is lob sided, another has just two stems but upright, another has four but all splaying forward. I feel a bit like I'm choosing a puppy, though when buying plants is no time to go for the runt of the litter!

I lean in time and again to inhale the soft scent of their flowers and glance around at the others and pace about a little more, admiring their range of dogwoods before coming back, plumping for my winning specimen of 'Ruby Glow', a cooked-rhubarb red. I carry her high on the hip to the tills like a proud father, but playing it cool like I just happened to be passing...

Testing, testing 1234...

If ever there was a seedhead that resembled a microphone it is this one. From the lanky, yellow, floppy-petalled daisy Ratibida pinnata.

Who's a Pretty Boy Then?

36 local ring-necked parakeets stop-by for a photo-op.

Pick-Up Sticks

A pterodactyl's twiggy nest the size of a Mini that has plunged, deconstructed to the ground beneath a sycamore is a rare focal point in a garden.


I cut your garden for cheap?!

Bloke just offered to raze my front garden to the ground and replace with pebbles, ouch! To paraphrase Dolly Parton: It takes time and effort to create a garden that looks this unkempt!

Fallen lime leaves pepper the front garden. Molinia 'Transparent' and Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' have turned yellow too.

Fallen lime leaves pepper the front garden. Molinia 'Transparent' and Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' have turned yellow too.


WFH

I can see "working from home" is gonna be hell for me this summer ;)

Sounds of the suburbs

Sun shining, cock crowing, church bells ringing. Like being on holiday!

'You could do so much with this garden' suggested an estate agent once, 'could have a nice lawn....'

Surf 'n' sniff

If only we could tweet'n'sniff!
My wisteria's having it's best year ever, like a fragrant snow shower! All that twice-a-year pruning has paid off...

Feeding the 5000

What's up, have you never seen a man dispensing organic slug pellets in the rain after dark before? Some of us have alliums to protect!