Monday, 5 December 2016

Gardening With Dogs and Chatting With Chickens

Chickens have been part of my gardening life for a few years now. They follow me around, listen to my ramblings, and rarely disagree with anything I say. They are an absolute joy! One morning when I was giving the chickens their daily weather update, I became aware that I was being watched. I turned to discover a mother and child scurrying away with unseemly haste from the scary chicken lady. Happily it hasn't put me off chatting to my chickens. They are mighty fine listeners - and it has nothing to do with the corn in my pocket.
Our dog is a ready listener too, although the kids insist that it is cupboard love. Unlike the chickens, he talks back to me because in the age-old tradition of dog parents, I have given him a voice. To the uninitiated it might sound as if I am talking to myself, but it is simple enough to work out who is speaking as the dog adds 'mum' onto the end of every sentence, because obviously I am the dog's mother and not the other way around. 
Gardening is just one of the many topics of conversation we have covered since Basil joined our family earlier this year. We share certain interests in the garden. We both like to dig, for example. The only difference between us is that I like to dig holes to pop plants in; he likes to dig holes to get those plants out again.
Basil and I are united in our love of lying on grass, but you won't see either of us for dust on mowing day. Basil is so anti-mowing that he has taken steps to hamper any attempt at grass cutting by storing his extensive collection of treasures on the lawn. 
We both deadhead flowers, although he doesn't think that it is necessary to wait until the flowers have bloomed; and his fondness for harvesting entire tomato crops irrespective of whether or not the fruit is ripe, is legendary. But the one thing he loves most is to see the garden filled with… well, filling.
He is adept at tidying up sticks. Sometimes those sticks might have fallen from a tree, although more frequently they are actually entire hedging plants which have been uprooted and taken for a few laps of honour around the garden before being filed away in his collection of treasures on the lawn. 
When I am planting I can always rely on him to pick up any empty plant pots. If he should stumble upon a pot containing a plant, he will remain unfazed and dispose of the plant and the pot together. He even saved me the effort of tidying away my pink gardening clogs by rendering them unwearable. What a thoughtful boy!  


Our garden was once a farmyard and the soil is very stony. Basil is a hero when it comes to digging out stones. He will never let a plant stand between him and his one-dog mission to improve the soil and create stoneless borders.
When it comes to training shrubs, he takes hard pruning to a whole new level. Here is what was left of a standard rose after it had been 'Basiled'. Admittedly it's not the cleanest cut I have ever seen.
If I’m honest, I would prefer Basil to be a little less boisterous in my borders, but he is still young. It’s his first birthday this week. I am looking forward to the day when Basil is happy to relax on the lawn and watch me nurture the plants he so energetically uprooted during puppyhood. In the meantime, we will celebrate his birthday in style by planting and removing a new hedge together. He’s really looking forward to it… or so he tells me.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sweet Peas, Gin and The Perils of Gardening Clubs

November is a month for harvesting leaves for magical leafmould, planting bulbs, and preparing ground for new hedges, yet I am always overcome by the urge to sow seeds at this time of year. I suppose it is because it seems like forever until the next sowing frenzy.
I usually start sweet peas in November or spring. A few weeks ago I was told that October is the optimum time to sow them and it was music to my ears. My desire to pop some seeds into compost is at its height in October. I carefully selected the varieties I wished to grow and was all ready to sow, then life being life, did its thing and got in the way of my plans so I shall be sowing them this month as usual. 
My sweet peas grow haphazardly up hazel poles with strings woven round onto which they can cling. I pick them all the way through summer and autumn (there are a few in a vase on my desk right now). These blooms might not be atop the longest, straightest stems you will ever see, but they smell divine and at the height of the season I pick them by the bucketful.
I remember many moons ago watching a television programme featuring an exhibitor who explained all the rigmarole of cutting off sweet pea tendrils, tying the peas in, and then laying them down and training them up a cane further along the line. I thought at the time that the poor man should get a life. Now I rather envy him. 
The Royal Norfolk Show 2016
The person from whom I learnt about October sowing exhibits sweet peas. He has won awards for the quality of his blooms. I have never had any urge to grow show standard flowers and arrange them in a bikini vase, or nurture a giant onion and enter it in a show. It would be like stuffing one of my kids into a pretty frock and shoving them into a beauty pageant. I realise that a lot of people do this, it’s just that I’m not one of them. Yet suddenly, after decades of gardening, I am inspired to grow exhibition quality sweet peas. 
The Royal Norfolk Show 2016
This whole sweet pea obsession has caused me to start a cutting garden. I am landscaping it at the moment and pride of place will be given to my sweet peas (if I ever get around to sowing them). Such is the danger of going to a gardening club talk given by a passionate sweet pea grower. Needless to say, I was mightily relieved that last week's talk was about gin. I've never been particularly partial to gin, but guess what? I'm converted! At this rate, summer 2017 will be spent flouncing around horticultural shows, polishing my straight-stemmed sweet peas, gin in my hand. I daren't even ask what next month's talk will be about. 
The local gardening clubs I attend are:
https://www.facebook.com/nofeargardening/?fref=ts
http://www.forncett.info/index.php/activities/diggers-and-dibblers/diggers-and-dibblers-events



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Farewell to The Dillon Garden

A summer of gallivanting has taken its toll on my borders. Deadheading (that delightful gardening task undertaken while enjoying a drink of choice) has been neglected in favour of inspiring trips to other gardeners’ gardens. I have returned filled with remorse and overflowing with ideas. 
One of the gardens I visited was at Helen Dillon’s house in Dublin. Famed for her ever-shifting seasonal containers and no-nonsense advice, Helen Dillon’s garden was one of the most inspiring town gardens I have ever had the pleasure to spend time in. I say was, because the garden has closed. For good. 
We all have to leave our gardens eventually. Sometimes the garden continues to open to the public, as is the case at Great Dixter. In other instances the gardener moves on complete with plants and embraces the creation of a new garden, as is Helen Dillon in Ireland, and fellow garden blogger Helene at Graphicality-UK* in London.
A relationship between visitors and much-loved gardens deepens over time, and with it something akin to a sense of ownership develops. As I wandered around admiring the fruits of Helen's labours on that cloudy Sunday, other visitors were keen to express their views on the garden and its future. One local lady had been a regular visitor over the years and was there to say goodbye to it. Another was outraged, claiming that in the UK we would have preserved this gem for posterity. I disagree. One of the many wonderful things about this garden was Helen’s use of containers. Plants in pots are perfectly capable of travelling a few miles down the road to add value in the creation of a new garden.
Gardeners are a generous bunch. I have yet to meet one who refuses to share knowledge. Helen Dillon is a natural teacher. On the afternoon I visited she was in her garden, endlessly answering questions as if they had never been asked before, even though she must surely have answered those same questions thousands of times. Since I am not a natural born staker I need plants to hold themselves well, so I was keen to pick Helen's brains on a particularly strong pink Phlox with sturdy upstanding stems. Realising what a good plant it was, she arranged for a piece of it to be dug up so that she could take some of it with her to her new garden. She also made sure that I had a little to take back with me to England. The plant had come to her from someone else’s garden and she didn’t know the cultivar. Unable to give me the name, she gave me something better. 
Helen Dillon & I with the glorious pink Phlox
Now a little piece of Helen Dillon's extraordinary garden is settling into my shabby borders. Next year my garden will not look so sorry for itself. There will be pots aplenty and more than a few dustbins like the one behind Helen in the photo above. 
It seems a tad strange to be writing about a garden that is unlikely to exist ever again in the form we see in these photographs, but gardens don't stay the same. Great gardens move on, and in this case a great gardener is moving on. Here's to the future of all our gardens.


All photos were taken in The Dillon Garden, Dublin.

*Helene, who moved hundreds of plants to her new garden in London, blogs here: http://graphicality-uk.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Twenty-First-Century Gardeners

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the internet set me thinking about the ways in which technology has impacted gardeners' lives. Once upon a time I gardened in isolation and on occasions I was fortunate to share my enthusiasm for plants with 3 elderly gardeners. I will be forever grateful for their company, encouragement, advice, seeds and cuttings. Twenty-first-century gardening needs not be a solitary experience. I might garden alone, but within seconds I can share my latest horticultural triumph or crop failure with thousands of fellow gardeners and receive advice, support, sympathy, and on those rare occasions when the going is good, a virtual pat on the back.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
If your nearest and dearest are not nuts about gardening, meeting fellow gardeners and spending a few hours indulging in plant talk is a great luxury. In the UK, members of All Horts, an online group, arrange garden visits and invite fellow members to join them. It was during one such visit to Philippa Burrough’s wonderful garden at Ulting Wick in Essex, that I met Persicaria orientalis. I also met gardening enthusiast and fellow Twitterer, @ToBoldlyGrow, who admired the Persicaria in Philippa's garden and decided to start some from seed. Earlier this year, along with other wonderful plants which he had grown, he gave me some Persicaria orientalis.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
Persicaria orientalis is an annual with the splendid common name of kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate. I planted it opposite my garden gate, not because I was optimistic of a kiss, but because I wanted to see it every time I went out or arrived home. In any case, I would need a ladder for kissing because the gate is taller than me, and kissing atop a ladder is a folly even in the first throes of love. Persicaria orientalis' rate of growth is impressive. It has managed to reach at least 1.5 metres (around 5’) since I settled it into its new home in June. It likes full sun and well-drained, dry soil, which is as well, because the soil has most definitely been dry this summer. It will flower until the first frosts and I am hoping that it will do the decent thing and seed itself about.
Persicaria orientalis at Le Grys Farm
In return for Persicaria orientalis, I gave @ToBoldlyGrow some Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' plants. I might not have grown Tithonia if it wasn’t for Jason, who blogs at Gardeninacity. Jason lives thousands of miles away from me. We have never met, but his enthusiasm for Tithonia is contagious, so I sowed some seeds. These wonderful bee magnets are now growing in my garden, in @ToBoldlyGrow's garden, and in his sister's garden too, both of which are over a hundred miles away from mine. Without the internet, none of this would have happened.
Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine' at Le Grys Farm
We might be aiming for a paperless society, but most companies continue to produce mouth-watering glossy photo-packed catalogues to be savoured and drooled over during those long dark days, when the sun barely shines and we are up to our crowns in thermals. Researching plants, whether on those pages or not, takes little effort these days. It certainly makes the quest for rarer varieties less arduous than it was in the last century. 
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The search for a plant will often lead us to untried nurseries and should all go well (and in the history of my extensive shopping experience, it always has), a lifelong relationship with these nurseries will soon be formed. In the UK, we are blessed with the Independent Plant Nurseries Guide, an online resource which came about in response to a thoughtless, throwaway comment by a well-known gardening presenter earlier this year. Three passionate plants-people took action to repair any damage caused by his comment, and now we are blessed with an ever-increasing list of nurseries. How I would love to visit them all!
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
I recently had the pleasure of meeting some fellow garden bloggers. We are all members of the Twitter- and Facebook-based group, Garden Bloggers. We receive support from one another, discuss blogging issues and, as it turns out from our meeting, share seeds and books. I was delighted to receive Glass Gem Corn seed from James, who blogs at Reflections On The Dew Pond. Having never grown Glass Gem Corn, I am really looking forward to trying it next year.
Ulting Wick Garden 2015
The first social media site was launched in 1997; blogging also dates back to the '90s. My children were born in the twenty-first century. They are teenagers who have never known a world without the internet, social media, or blogging. Like many families, we have rules about mobile phone manners, but at some time every day, I will see them with their heads bowed over their phones as they plan their social lives and share experiences with their friends far away, and I wonder how they could have ever managed without the internet. Then I look at myself and wonder how on earth I survived without it for so long.


I am linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to share the joys of Persicaria orientalis and Tithonia 'Orange Sunshine', which are both blooming their socks off in my garden at the moment. Why not pop over to http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/ to see what is blooming elsewhere around the globe?

More information about the garden at Ulting Wick may be found at  http://www.ultingwickgarden.co.uk/
The Independent Plant Nurseries Guide: http://independentplantnurseriesguide.uk/
Jason blogs at https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ and James may be found at 
https://reflectionsonthedewpond.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Late Summer Colour in The Thompson & Morgan Garden

My beans are a disaster! Mountaineering slugs have been enjoying a beanfeast in the kitchen garden and I am left with two scrawny specimens climbing inconveniently up separate wigwams. Developments in plants can make a huge difference to our plots, and while I would love to find a slug-resistant bean (along with pigeon-proof brassicas and a self-watering pumpkin), I am always fascinated to meet any new cultivars and to see if their improvements match my gardening needs. Consequently, I was delighted to accept an invitation to see the 300-400 containers of plants being trialled in The Thompson & Morgan Garden at Jimmy’s Farm.
Fuchsia 'Princess Charlotte'
Sometimes we have no desire to grow a certain kind of plant. Perhaps it hasn't performed for us in the past, or it may never have had the opportunity to perform because it doesn't fulfil our requirements.
I have always regarded Gerbera as too tender for my plot and too fussy for the time I have available to pander to its needs, so to learn that Gerbera ‘Sweet Glow’ is hardy down to -10, flowers from early summer through to October and doesn’t mind being watered from above, means that it has made the rare leap from nowhere to the top of my wish list. There are also pink and yellow flowers available in the Sweet Series, but I particularly love the strength of ‘Sweet Glow’, which holds its colour well in bright sunlight.
Gerbera 'Sweet Glow'
I haven’t grown Amaranthus for years. We didn’t have a great falling out; it just dropped beneath the radar. Now it is firmly back on the must-have list thanks to the glorious great burgundy foliage of Amaranthus 'Molten Fire'. The leaves of this striking plant change to bronze as summer progresses and I can imagine it looking at home in mixed borders and exotic planting schemes.
Amaranthus 'Molten Fire'
It is decades since I planted any showy Salvia splendens, but Salvia 'Go Go Scarlet’ may be about to change that. It is certainly popular with bees, and unlike Salvia splendens, it doesn’t go to seed. 
Salvia 'Go Go Scarlet'
I loved Fuchsia as a child, and while I grow a couple of plants for berries in the kitchen garden, I have never embraced them ornamentally. Fuchsia 'Princess Charlotte’, with its compact form and upward facing flowers, is set to change this.
Fuchsia 'Princess Charlotte'
There were more surprises for me among Thompson & Morgan's new plants for 2017. I will write more about them in the autumn, by which time I might have recovered from the shock of finding myself drooling over a plant that I have never considered growing. Isn't it wonderful to be won over by plants?

Thank you to Thompson & Morgan for a very enjoyable, informative and eye-opening afternoon and for introducing me to the delights of the weeping peach, 'Lacrima'. Its succulent fruits have the good grace to hold themselves together so that the eater does not end up wearing bits of peach and juice dribbles down the chin in public.

If you are in Suffolk, do pop over and see Thompson and Morgan's show/trial garden. The plants are all clearly labelled and admission to the T&M garden is free. http://www.thompson-morgan.com/tmgarden

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Perennial Basil

Hilarius, the French physician, claimed that sniffing basil had led to a scorpion breeding in the brain of an acquaintance. I don't know about you, but I have buried my nose into the King of Herbs on many occasions and have never, as yet, noticed scorpions in my brain, breeding, or otherwise. 
My passion for growing basil began in London where an Italian neighbour's garden was the source of a bountiful supply of fresh, juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes and delicious basil. He gave me my first basil plant and I quickly became hooked on growing culinary herbs. The thrill of harvesting fresh herbs never diminishes. I keep the plants close to the kitchen door so that I can grab a handful without bothering to put on my shoes. I also grow lettuce and tomatoes there in the hope that I might reach for salad instead of a chocolate bar (there is more chance of basil inducing brain-breeding scorpions). 
The Salad Bar (sadly, the chocolate bar is no longer with us)
Greeks and Romans would curse when they sowed basil seeds as they believed that it helped germination. When seeds stick to my hands rather than depositing themselves onto the compost, I call them names. It is hardly in the same league as a jolly good curse, so I have to take other precautions, such as sowing into modules, which does much to prevent death from damping off. I supplement home-sown insulted seeds with plant purchases if I see one which tickles my fancy. There are so many to choose from: cinnamon, lemon, lime, sweet or spice, Thai, Greek, Marseillais and Neopolitana, not forgetting the sumptuous purples, which may or may not be ruffled.
Spot the purple basil purchase
The key requirements of basil are warmth and well-drained, rich soil. I grow the plants in containers placed in sheltered corners which receive midday sun. Basil can be given to sulking if it goes to bed with wet feet, which is perfectly understandable (I don't like my feet to be cold, let alone wet), so water basil by noon.

One of my ongoing gardening challenges is to keep the kitchen supplied with fresh herbs over winter. Some, such as rosemary, are a doddle, but others, basil among them, are trickier, especially without a greenhouse. The solution might be 'African Blue' basil (Ocimum 'African Blue'), a half hardy perennial which is sterile. Since it doesn’t go to seed, I guess that it will not have that irritating habit of ceasing leaf production every time it sends up a flower stem, which is as well because the flowers are beautiful and delicious (I nibbled a few after I took the photos). 
Ocimum 'African Blue'
While 'African Blue' certainly tastes of basil, it does not have quite the same flavour as the more commonly grown annuals. It does, however, have the distinct advantage of being perennial, so it may very well supply me with leaves earlier than the annual forms if I get it into my sunny office before the first frosts. Imagine how much basil I will be sniffing at my desk! If the perennial basil experiment works and Hilarius was right, we may very well be facing a massive UK scorpion infestation in 2017. It will make a change from slugs.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Prince Charles, The Smiths and a Passion for Podcasts

There was a time when I would have cranked up the volume on my car cassette player and sung my heart out to the strains of The Smiths. These days, although I am still prone to a spot of singalongaSmiths while driving, I am more likely to be clinging onto every word of a gardening podcast. My addiction to podcasts is interfering with my social life. Lingering post-lift conversations are a thing of the past as passengers are hastily disgorged from my vehicle so that I can settle selfishly into Gardeners' Question Time and similar treasures.
It was during one of these blissful solitary podcastly moments that I heard Prince Charles speaking about his love of delphiniums and how he would like to see battalions of them. Why wouldn't he? Three delphiniums make a handsome group, but a multitude of them yomping through the borders must be a marvellous thing. I prefer to think of them as a corps de ballet dancing through my garden rather than a battalion storming my barbecue area, but that aside, he and I are clearly of a single mind when it comes to beloved plants: more is most definitely more.
Taking care of mass Delphinium planting in the traditional way must be time-consuming. This doesn't scare me because (look away now if you are faint-hearted) I don’t stake my herbaceous perennials.... not even my delphiniums. I do, however, plant them in the least windy, most sheltered parts of the garden. After the storms which have battered us over the past few days, I had been expecting to see them slumped like a posse of teenagers over their mobile phones. I was wrong. These sturdy plants are dancers with serious core strength. They might not be as ramrod straight as those we see at flower shows, but they are most certainly standing tall and strutting their stuff, despite the occasional curved stem. Most importantly, bees love them. They are as popular as Nepeta with our buzzing friends at the moment. 
June borders might be a feast for the eyes, but while I was working in the garden a few days ago, I was bowled over by the most divine scent. Following my nose I found myself face-to-flower with Abelia mosanensis. Given that the roses are all belting out fragrance at the moment, the fact that quiet little Abelia flowers managed to eclipse them says much about the beauty and strength of its scent. First discovered in Korea, this 1.5 metre high shrub is a member of the honeysuckle family. I grow it in full sun, but it will take a little shade. Its light green leaves turn shades of red and orange in autumn and best of all, it is popular with butterflies and bees. Of all the myriad flowers deserving attention in June, a quiet, humble shrub with tiny blooms wins my heart. That is as shocking as telling the teenage me that there are more desirable plants than a limp Gladiolus which has been flailed about the stage by Morrissey.* 

*Just in case you are too young to remember.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PV4eiDi12w

Prince Charles on Gardeners' Question Time http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074zy95

I am joining with http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/ for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Why not head over there and see what is blooming in June around the globe?


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Hopeful Kitchen Gardener

Panicking about unplanted pumpkins and runner beans with nowhere to run is an annual event in my kitchen garden. Spring-sown plants scream to be released from their pots and I can almost hear the sighs of relief every time I pop one of these poor, desperate specimens into the soil. Although everything needs to be done yesterday and the weeds will be back tomorrow, I am always filled with hope at this time of year because (with the exception of a breakout of peach leaf curl and the ongoing battle with aphids) things have yet to go catastrophically wrong in the kitchen garden.
The prettiest stage of a medlar

There were so many pollinators about in spring that I decided not to flutter around the fruit trees with my pollinating paintbrush pretending to be a bee. Unsurprisingly, the pollinators have done a fine job. Tiny embryonic fruits cluster on the branches of trees. They have yet to suffer the rigours of June drop, wasps and scab, so for the next week or two I shall remain optimistic that this autumn will be fuelled by wall-to-wall pies and crumbles.
Hope of fruit crumble, custard and cream

The hens are clearly heeding the slug and snail warning this year as their pest patrols have been ruthless. Nothing gets in their way. Last week they uprooted part of a mirabelle hedge, three asparagus plants and picked every last one of the developing gooseberries. That's one crumble I won't be enjoying this summer.
Hope of summer pudding

Images of pumpkin plants being released from the prison of their pots and spreading their roots gratefully (if indeed pumpkins feel gratitude) into delicious soil only to be dragged from their moorings by an over-exuberant hen, have led me to protect all of my crops from the chickens and rethink the whole slug control issue. 
Ever hopeful Hyacinth Hen

Fortunately my family are squirrels. That is not to say that they spend their days clinging valiantly to bird feeders and chewing on the little plastic perches, but they could quite happily live off seeds and nuts - particularly pistachios. This is great news in light of the slug and snail invasion forecast. I buy unsalted pistachios and it makes my family happy. I take the shells, scatter them around the brassicas and the slugs and snails do a runner elsewhere (hopefully into the path of a peckish hen). It takes a lot of pistachios to mulch a broccoli bed, then again, if it were left to the chickens, the broccoli would be long gone. 
Hope of pumpkin pie

While tomatoes and potatoes have yet to be blighted and courgette leaves exhibit no sign of mildew, we can remain optimistic for a bumper harvest. Early summer is a time for hope: hope that we won't be pulling pointless micro-celeriac again (what on earth happened to the celeriac last year?); hope that 2016 will be the year of the great butternut glut; and on a personal note, hope that my family's passion for pistachios will never wane.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Strange Goings-On At The Bird Feeder


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Blickling Hall's English Bluebell Wood

According to my daughter (who was born in the twenty-first century and is therefore an expert in these matters), I have vlogged. It happened because I thought that you might like to hear the sound of an English Bluebell wood.



Vlogging has its shortfalls. There appears to be no share button for scent. In the absence of virtual scent, you might wish to create your own. Bluebell woods are wonderfully fragrant, but the scent is subtle and doesn't knock you sideways. If you have a few hyacinths to hand, remove them to another room and leave the door open, then place a pile of damp dirt and the odd bark chipping by your computer. Olfactory experts might describe overtones of this and undertones of that, but as far as I'm concerned it's an ambrosial dirt/wood/floral fragrance. 

Please note that considerable quantities of coffee and cake were consumed in the making of this video, so it would be entirely appropriate for you to pop the kettle on. The video doesn't last long, so in the interests of indigestion avoidance, you might want to hit the cake while it's loading. 

https://youtu.be/dlsZfghh_2M



Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Garden Nursery

When I was six years old, I loved to tiptoe quietly into the garage to peek at the silhouettes of baby blue tits in the bird box my dad had built into our garage wall. The back of the box was glazed and covered with brown paper which gave the birds a sense of privacy while allowing us the opportunity to see something of their lives. My dad died the following spring, but the seeds of my fascination with the natural world were already sown.

Nowadays we don’t need to head into the garage to see silhouettes of chicks in a nest. For Christmas I received a bird box with a camera in it. I suspect that the gift is part of a cunning plan to encourage domesticity as the nesting box is sited directly opposite the kitchen window under which there is a sink. Since the sink is required to fill the kettle, the domesticity plan has backfired to the point that far from motivating me to attempt kitchen chores, there has been a significant increase in the quantity of time I spend sitting down. I have always drunk coffee on the hoof, but if there is any activity around the bird box while I am filling the kettle, I fire the remote at the television, plonk myself into a chair and ogle the nest while enjoying a lovely warm drink and wondering what Dad would have thought of this wireless camera bird box. 
The nest taking shape
The most astonishing accomplishment of this piece of technology is that it has caught the attention of my own offspring. Instead of the usual fare they enjoy on television, they have been spotted watching nature. Out of choice! Surely this is a healthy form of screen time?
Feathering the nest
From the comfort of the kitchen we have also been watching over a mother who hatched 11 ducklings. The nest is in the lavender which I have yet to cut back after flowering last year. I don’t cut back plants until spring because of the shelter they offer to minibeasts. I hadn't considered that the same plants might offer shelter to much larger creatures. Of course, my lavender tends to fall apart more quickly than it would had I shorn it after flowering, but it is easy to strike cuttings so I always have a ready supply. The courtyard where the ducklings hatched is a former boar pen. In the two years since it was converted into a garden, 22 ducklings have made their way into the world under the cover of the plants.
The garden feels like a dating disco. Our feathered friends are busily pairing off and doing the bird equivalent of The Birdie Song while dancing around their handbags, or in the case of Mr & Mrs Pheasant, tiptoeing through the tulips, (aptly named Tulipa 'Night Club'). At this rate - and with any luck - we will be inundated with offspring!
Mrs P doesn't look impressed. 
Perhaps she doesn't like the tulips.
There is a baby boom in my office too. Since I don't have a greenhouse, the office floor must double up as a nursery. Butternuts, tomatoes, peppers and Cosmos are jostling for light and waiting impatiently to fledge. It is hardly the ideal start for a plant, but they are safer indoors than in the cold frames where they would become frazzled with frost in no time. I rather like sharing my office with them; I only wish that the greenfly hadn't followed them in. The office greenfly are clearly very happy with the food and shelter on offer as they are procreating like it is going out of fashion. One solution will be to bring in the ladybirds. This is all putting a most unlikely slant on the notion of a busy day at the office. 

I am joining with Wildlife Wednesday at https://mygardenersays.com/ Why not pop over there, grab a drink and spend some time marvelling at the wildlife in gardens around the globe?