Monday, 1 February 2016

New Introductions

Introducing new plants into a garden is always exciting. Sometimes the impact can outweigh the outlay because we plan and use our additional plants carefully. We might create a new focal point; add lemon flowers to lift a blue and white scheme; or increase coherence by repeating the same plant or form at intervals throughout our borders. It would be wonderful to post about a new, improved planting scheme today, but my garden is suffering from a surfeit of new introductions at the moment; and although I am very happy with them all, they are not exactly making my borders look any fuller, more beautiful or bountiful. 
RIP Herby Chicken
The first new introductions of 2016 were additional hens. Herby chicken died a few weeks ago and since a solitary chicken is such a sorry sight, I got Hippy Chick some new friends in the form of the cluckiest blue chickens in Norfolk 
(Iris and Hyacinth), and a sweet little Russian Orloff called Voddy. 
The hens had all settled in wonderfully well until I introduced a puppy called Basil into the mix yesterday. Iris and Hyacinth secured their position as top guard hens by marking his arrival with a deafening fanfare of clucking. Measures are already in place to reconcile Basil with the girls; and I am reconciling myself to more chaos than I might wish for in the Barn Garden. An eight-week-old puppy and three new chickens is not a combination famed for its positive impact on lawns and borders, but this doesn’t matter; it is a joy and a privilege to take care of animals, be they pets or wildlife. 
This is why I am not too upset about the state of Iris reticulata 'Blue Note'. I had been looking forward to a spectacular display of these beautiful flowers in the Barn Garden this year, but many of the stems have been scattered hither and thither by the hens' over-exuberant scratching. It is a small price to pay for seeing the girls happily settled in their new home. 
Wild birds have started to help themselves to our garden fare at last; I hope that they are late because there has been plenty on offer in the surrounding countryside. Plump Pyracantha berries have persisted through most of January, but they are now being eaten. I know many gardeners view Pyracantha as a mundane plant, but I could not disagree more. Not only does Pyracantha add wildlife value, with nectar-laden flowers for pollinators, juicy winter berries for birds and year-round cover, it makes a wonderful addition to more formal planting when clipped as an espalier, or trained into a grid pattern. I think it is one of the most under-appreciated plants in our gardens.
The arrival of February heralds a period of deepening envy as I read about other gardeners sowing seeds under cover. I allow myself to sow a few flower seeds which will cope with life in the cold frame as they grow, but without a greenhouse, it makes sense to wait until spring to sow many edibles. Doing nothing is incredibly hard work, but it is better than the alternative (cucumber kitchen curtains linger long in the memory*). I am optimistic that I will be so busy with Basil that I might sail through the big wait to sow this year. Here he is on his first morning with us, busily practising the important life skill of helping gardeners tidy up after themselves. This will come in useful when I introduce new plants into the borders. I shall remain optimistic regarding the length of time these new introductions will remain in the soil... there are only so many plants a puppy and a few hens can dig up, surely? 


41 comments:

  1. He is absolutely gorgeous. My parents had a black lab called Bruno.. who went on to dig up every rose bush in the garden, most more than once. Just sayin'..

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    1. Nooooo! Of all the plants! Clearly Bruno liked a challenge. I am hoping that Basil will prefer to smell the roses (some hope....)

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  2. Such fun to have a puppy and chickens around in the garden. Indeed I´m sorry for the Iris reticulata but when that´s all.... Empty plantpots are such fun for puppy Basil and also still for an old dog like my Snarf. He is always juggling with plastic potsh, I love it. You can learn labradors not to dig they are clever enough.
    Wish you happy gardening and have fun with your animals!

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    1. Thank you Janneke. The Iris reticulata grow by a glazed door, and strangely enough, the chickens have started to leave the bulbs alone since they spotted Basil looking out at them. Hopefully he will be as good at learning not to dig, as he is at saving Iris flowers.

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  3. Lovely puppy and chickens. Happy February.

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  4. Hi Sarah, oooah what an adorable puppy! Is he a Labrador? They are such a great friendly breed, but I have heard that they can be quite rambunctious when young... I am sure the joy he brings into your home will help you cope with some of his mischievous behaviors. Gosh I so would love to get a second dog myself.
    Wishing you a lovely week!
    Christina

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    1. He is a labrador. I have heard that they can be challenging teenagers. So far, so good. He is really relaxed and eager to learn. A second dog? You are a brave woman!
      Thank you. Wishing you a happy week too!

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  5. Your attitude is an inspiration. I will think of it when I start to feel annoyed by the deer, raccoons or squirrels. But not the gophers...they deserve our enmity.

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    1. Haha! Perhaps it's easier for me to be relaxed because we don't have gophers here.

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  6. Oh, Sarah, really you're an optimist, waiting how many plants puppy and hens will dig, ha ha! I love Labrador dog, they are very clever. It's pity your irises died.
    Happy February!

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    1. Thank you. And a very happy February to you too! Labradors are very clever - and so easy to train. It is truly a privilege to have Basil in our lives.

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  7. The garden must be quite lively. I would like to have a few hens around but given the number of foxes, coyotes and fishers in the area it would be hard work keeping them alive.

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    1. That is the problem. We have foxes here, but they seem to keep out of the garden. The only problem I have had is when a chicken was attacked by 3 dogs last year. It was heartbreaking. I could cope with a fox attack, but not someone's pets doing something so awful. Needless to say, I don't trust Basil with the chickens, although he looks as if he is becoming desensitised to them.

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  8. Such a lovely looking puppy, I am sure you will find yourself forgiving him quite easily, though perhaps it might be sensible not to buy anything particularly precious to plant for a while?! I admit I would have fenced the chickens, lovely though I am sure they are, away from the iris, but then, this is why I don't have any chickens!! And don't tell anybody, but even those of us with greenhouses frequently regret early sowing, it might satisfy the urge to get going, but the low light levels rarely lead to sturdy plants. Not that this will stop me...

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    1. The chickens aren't so bad.... I just get very upset when they eat a worm. I spend half my gardening life shoo-ing them away from any patch I have gardened where worms may have been brought close to the surface. Oddly, I don't feel so precious about slugs and vine weevils. It is most kind of you to remind me that things go wrong for early sowers... how quickly I forgot the downside!

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    2. I giggled at the thought of you protecting the worms from the chickens... Vie weevils, OTOH, definitely do not deserve such protection!

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  9. Basil looks dead cute. Our neighbour in Aberdeen had a black lab named Holly, well we were informed a year later that her name was actually Molly (always get things wrong, I do) anyway she would find her way through a hole in the hedge and jump in our pond which was only about 8"x6" labs do like water. I know, why not get a kitten to complete the fun.

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    1. I would LOVE a kitten! Not sure the chickens and Basil would though. Oh the thought of the big dog in the little pond!

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  10. At least having Basil as a puppy Sarah you have the opportunity to train him to respect the plants and stay on the paths/lawn (with brown patches)! Our daughter Mary had Murphy (see the team) as a 18 month rescue dog, no hope, all though he is lovely!

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    1. I had a dog named Murphy once. He was a rather ignored runt of the litter, but he turned into a brilliant dog. I would take him down to the allotment and call him from across several plots and rather than run directly to me, he would take all the paths around the crops, not putting a paw on the soil. Basil has a lot to live up to!

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  11. New puppy and new chickens, I also thought that a kitten would complete the picture when I read your story – you would have utter chaos for the next year!! Basil is adorable though, Labradors are so clever, get him to puppy training when he is old enough and there is no reason why he can’t be taught to leave the flowerbeds alone. Not sure what school to send your chicken to though :-)

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    1. I am now thinking that I should have got a border collie to round the chickens up. I missed a trick there!

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  12. Hi Sarah, I love chickens! My dad raised them and we had them when we were younger but, alas, the Saver has lost interest. What a sweet puppy! Oh, baby faces....who can resist them?? (The chickens, I'm sure!) You are going to be on your toes for a while!

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    1. You are right - the chickens are very worried by him. He couldn't be less interested. Their coop is under a tree. When I take him over there to look at them, he is more interested in fallen twigs. Long may this continue!

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  13. You have a truly humane spirit. I get into a murderous rage when the squirrels and rabbits nip my crocus and tulips. Good thing I don't have chickens!

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    1. I keep the chickens away from the kitchen garden, but there is nothing I can do about pheasants having a dust bath in the seed beds. My humane spirit gets a little stretched when I have to buy extra seeds and resow! And although I wasn't in a murderous rage when I discovered that a rabbit had burrowed under a two-year-old hawthorn hedge yesterday, I was most certainly not celebrating.

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  14. Love your Barn Garden, Sarah, and its new occupants! Your puppy is adorable, and I so envy your chickens -- can't persuade my husband to let me get some. P. x

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    1. But Pam, you have a little horse and a goat! I would love a little horse and a goat.... and an alpaca.... and some guinea fowl.....

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  15. Such important points you have here especially about seeds and a greenhouse. I sow early under lights mainly to teach the beans about plants but without a proper space what I can accomplish is minimal. Looking forward to seeing your garden and how wonderful to already have it so full of life!! Your puppy is too cute for words!! Have a great weekend! Nicole

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    1. How lovely you are teaching the beans about plants - even if it means sowing under lights. It is so important! My children are at the stage when they do not want to have anything to do with the things their mum thinks are cool - and that most certainly includes gardening! The important thing is that they grew up learning how to nurture plants. Over the past year they have all purchased indoor plants - and one grew chillies from seed. Needless to say I am extremely pleased with this turn of events!

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  16. I am fairly sure that life with Basil will not leave you with a nano second of doing nothing! He is extremely cute and I'm sure you will forgive him all the plants he will sacrifice as he 'helps' with the digging! I speak from experience as I am owned by the diggingist dog in the world ! I forgive him every time but the lawn often looks as if prospectors have been trying to make their fortune!!

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    1. You are clearly extremely forgiving! I am dreading the digging phase. Please say it doesn't last forever....

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  17. Hello Sarah, I know I should like Pyracatha, but I've been poked and prodded by its spines so many times that it came "that close" to being hacked down to the ground and unceremoniously thrown into the compose bin once. I'm trying to be patient but it wants to take over and it's spines are particularly anti-social.

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    1. Try training it! They are lovely clipped as espaliers and maintenance involves secateurs in one hand and the beverage of your choice in the other. Isn't that the perfect gardening task?

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  18. Basil is adorable, and looks so much like our own sweet Jasmine, long gone but always remembered. Do I detect a deliberate garden theme in your choice of names? I do that, too!

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    1. There is! I have also had dogs called Bean and Sprout!

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  19. Gorgeous little pups make up for everything don't they lol he's adorable Sarah and he's going to be the grandest little garden helper in Norfolk :)
    Looking forward to hearing of his antics as he gets used to what he is allowed to destroy - sorry, help with ;) and what he can't :)
    I have absolutely no seeds growing whatsoever at the moment, I already have too much garden to contend with lol I suspect though that there will be lots of self seeders soon enough :)

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    1. Destroy? Little Basil? She asks as he plunges headlong into the topiary! Self seeders are marvellous - apart from dandelions, although even they have their good points. I have a lot of Acanthus seedlings this year, which is lovely, although they do take up a lot of space!

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  20. Basil, the garden dog! So cute!

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    1. He is very cute - although he's getting bigger by the day; and since I have to carry him everywhere at the moment, I am beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have done more weight training prior to his arrival.

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