Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Nelson Road chicken flock increases in number......

I wanted you to meet the new girls!

They came from a breeder in Dorset and picked them up while I was down there last friday.

I have 3 little Pekins (Millefleur, Mottled and a Blue) and a Partridge Silkie.

They are about 8 weeks old- and are all girls- however im a little suspicious of the Mottled Pekins comb- it looks a little large for my liking but ive got my fingers crossed as its a long way to go to take her/him back!

Because they are still young they are staying inside at night for the next weeks or so before going out permanently- and intergrated hopefully with the rest of the girls later in the summer.

We have decided the names of the new girls are:

Storm- the Blue Pekin
Twiggy- the Mottled Pekin
Fleur- the Millfleur Pekin
and Dodo the Partridge Silkie

Me trying to make friends with a Pekin Cockeral at the farm!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Could you give a chicken a new home?

Hey everyone,

I don't know if you all know but I recently started keeping chickens in my back garden, and havent regretted it- as they are great fun!

However I have just received the email below and wanted to spread the word to see if I could help save some battery hens from slaughter- perhaps you or someone you know might be able to help by giving them a new home.

If you think you might know someone just forward this and the email below on to them- any questions just ask!

Owen :)

>> Hello lovely people,I needed to get your attention - and quick!!
Little Hen Rescue are about to attempt the trying to rehome 10,000 hens in less than 2 months....
Yes, 10,000 hens in 2 months.....
As some of you may know, we have been working hard to empty a Norfolk battery farm for the last 9 months or so.

The girls in these barns have been in quite a frightful state and we have given thousands of them the chance of a new life.
However, this farm is now closing and going into something different (not livestock) BUT there is approximately 10,000 girls left in there. The farmer has the slaughterman booked for the 29th June. Any girls not rescued by then will go to slaughter, with no if's or buts and no second chances.
So.........Here's your opportunity to help!

Please you lovely lot, this is your chance to help rehome some of these beautiful girls. I really do believe that we can pull together and get these girls out.
Little Hen Rescue

More info here:

If anyone can take some hens and find them safe homes, please get in contact with Little Hen Rescue.

(NB Try ebay for a cheap hen coop)
Hens cost next to nothing to feed, provide you with entertainment and fresh eggs!



Sunday, 3 May 2009

Let the sunshine in!

You can see in the above photo the newest leaves on the Tetrapanex Rex unfurling- the reason why the sun is shining so nicely through them is that I have cut down some of the branches of the Sycamore tree that you can see behind it.

The tree is on our boundary on the south side of the plot so casts quite a lot of shade at the back of the garden. The branch actually was about 20ft tall! So when it fell there was a real danger of it it flattening alot of plants in my garden! Luckily while i was on next doors shed roof sawing the branch P was down in the garden to catch the huge branch!

Luckily the branch fell slowly and a Bamboo and Arundo donex took the brunt of the branch.

Now something i didnt see happening after the cutting down the branch was that along with the branch fell literally thousands of Greenfly that covered all the plants and pots below in the garden- however the chickens got a welcome snack of greenfly from the pots- and despite the insects small size the hens were easily able to pick them from the pots.

The mini greenhouse is full of baby vegetables ready for being planted out on the allotment in a few weeks time.

The Persicaria Red Dragon has been moved from the sunny border into the shade and seems to be doing well so far- also in this photo is the Mouse plant, Astillboides tabularis, Bugle and a Schleffera impressa.

The Maiden Hair Spleenwort has pushed up its new leaves- and really glad i chose to plant it up in a pot rather than plant it out. Hopefully it will fill out much more over the summer.

This is one of my Dicksonia antarcticas- this is a potted plant- and sends up a larger set of fronds than any of my treeferns which have been planted out. It is also grown in full sun- its a lovely plant.

The Cyathea cooperii I got from Fibrex has been potted up- and become the central plant in the garden. You can also see to the left of the fern in the blue pot the flowers of the Sarracenia flava var Maxima.

Here is the large Aloe I bought from CGF, and also the Purple Aeonium, Echeveria and Agave attenuata from the plant swap. Now when i bought the Aloe it had a label but its disappeared since getting it home- any ideas what type it is?

The beautiful Adiantum aleuticum 'imbricatum' I got from Fibrex nursery. Trying to decide whether to grow it in a pot or plant it in the fern bed under the Dicksonia antarctica. Im thinking it might be a bit dry in the fern bed.
These Asarum europaeum will be planted out in the shade borders. Ive been looking for the plants for ages after seeing them in the Natural History museum wildlife garden! I love the shiny evergreen leaves.

Bath day!

It was a gloriously hot day on saturday so I decided it was time to give the cats their annual bath with some anti flea shampoo.
Now im sure many of you dont wash your cats at all- but Cleo recently has developed abit of a pong! So we decided it was time to get her a bath!

The cats obviously dont like having baths- and this is the first time India has been washed and as soon as they realise the bathroom door was shut they put up with it fairly well!

And they come out smelly all nice and get dried down with a towel.
The cats both got a cat treat too for being well behave -well Cleo was well behaved im sure India was muttering dark thoughts to herself when she went off to sit in the sun to dry off.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Cat vs Mouse at 2am :(

So its 2am this morning and it sounds like someone is having a rugby match in the kitchen - that means only 1 thing- the cats have got a mouse. I get out of bed and find that the mouse is still alive but India has it in her mouth and wont let it go- and she is growling to the world in general!

Normally she would run out the cat flap when she sees me coming (as I'm a spoil sport and always take the mouse off her) but as the cat flap is set to in-only (as its fox cub season) she cant escape- I then proceed to wrestle with the cat trying to prise open her mouth and let the mouse go- the mouse decides its time to try to make a break for it and starts trying to bite me and India - probably scared out of its life! So eventually I get her let the mouse go and take it up the garden and let it go under a bush- I didn't give it much odds on surviving tho.

So now I have completely woken up, I leave a grumpy cat in the kitchen and head back to bed. I know I cant stop her hunting- and so I keep them in at night, but now she had the mouse I just didn't want it running behind the fridge and dying! Or a repeat of when I walked out of the bedroom and stepped on a dead mouse bare foot- eeuuuuggghhhhh!!

Now living with Siamese cats- you get uses to them making noises 24/7 but for the sheer variety of noises India wins the prize- she chatters at the birds in the trees through the window, yaps back at you like a naughty child when you tell her off for scratching the sofa or trying to climb up onto the shelf in the lounge by balancing on the tv) and mews at you to get attention. India was the cat that we really didn't intend to get, but our neighbours cat had kittens and we honestly only went to help our friend who wanted to choose a kitten for herself- and then we got caught up in the whole lethal cuteness that kittens seem to posess- so our friend took home Indias brother and sister and India came home with us- how did that happen? The Siamese cats definitely did not approve of this rash decision- and took months for them to settle down- luckily for her India seemed completely oblivious to the death stares she was getting everyday!
When you look at her India looks superficially like a tabby cat but she has good breeding in her family! Her mum is a pedigree Bengal Cat who fell for the charms of the local black Tom cat! So when you actually look at her patterns she has spotted coat rather than stripes as a normal tabby has. She also appears to have got her mums hunting instinct too resulting in 'fun' things like the above happening!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Last Saturday I met up with fellow Blogger - Julia (from We're going to need a bigger pot) and we both went to a HTUK forum meet at a brilliant tropical plant nursery in Birmingham called Akamba- Julia had rashly offered me a lift up in her car- but luckily for her she didnt mind my frequent rambling and indeed I think we chattered non stop for about 5 hours there and back!

At Akamba I met up with a lot of friends from around the country who all have a shared interest in growing tropical plants in the UK from the HTUK forum. It was a beautiful day, and was lovely to catch up with many friends who I hadn’t seen for a year or 2! and met many new faces that perhaps I only knew as user name or avatar in cyberspace. I think in all we were at the nursery for 4 hours and I reckon we left early compared with most people!

Can you spot me?- probably not!- there were quite a few of us! We even were given name tags!

Frank and Me engrossed in plant talk

I resisted in buying any plants from Akamba (something not many people managed to do!). However after leaving there was a swap in the car park where people bring their spare plants to give away or swap to others. I was able to get 2 Tetrapanex 'Rex' pups (as mine hasnt pupped yet- one for the sunny side of the garden and one for P's mum), a purple Aeonium, and an Echeveria subrigida.

Frank and Julia

Myself, Julia and Frank decided to go 2 more nurseries on the way home the first was Fibrex- which is a nursery which specialises in Ferns and hold the national collection of Hedera, Pelagonium- and I bought a Cyathea cooperii and some smaller ferns (an Adiantum aleuticum 'imbricatum' and 3 smaller Asplenium scolopendrium muricatum, and once we had our fern fix we headed off to CGF- Cotswold Garden Flowers which has loads (and I mean LOADS!) of gems- i bought an Aloe, a Sanguisorba 'Tanna' for the grass garden, and 2 Asarum europaeum for the shady border.

I will add photos when I can of the visit! I fell in love with a metal crocodile- it was just the price tag that held me back! Thanks to Nick and Lucien for the photos above.

Allotment update!

I wanted to share with you the very first sneaky glimpse of our new Allotment plot!!

We have been given a definite date of when we can have our allotment- it is ours from the 16th May!
The plot is as you look at the photo- all from the left handside with all the blue forget me nots- down to the shed (yes thats ours too) then along to the right to the old apple tree, and then back up towards us. I think this is half a normal size plot- but should be more than big enough to start with! In fact its bigger than our garden at home!
Really looking forward to it- as our seedling veggies are getting a little large now in the mini greenhouse!
Me and P are both taking a week off work around this time to be able to start the digging!

Next door really kindly offered us his old decking from his garden- which means we don't have to buy the gravel boards we were going to use to create the raised beds- so the front of our house looks like a builders merchant at the moment!

The asparagus crowns we bought a couple of months ago are shooting and some are about 6” tall at the moment- I don't expect much growth from them this year as they are only newly planted- but its very promising!

An End of April Update

Hey guys,

Im sorry its been nearly 3 weeks since my last post- sorry about that!

Well whats been happening?

Hermione is still broody- I gave up dunking the chicken in the pond to cure her after about 3 days as it didn't seem to be working! And plus the neighbours were giving me funny looks. She gets turfed out of the nest box twice a day to feed and drink. And now just as Hermione might be coming out of it Flo has decided to get broody aswell! But they both like the same nest box so it's a bit of a squeeze in there for them! So that means no one is laying at the moment- we might have to start buying eggs again!

The under planting along the shady borders is almost finished with the addition of more ferns, Geranium phaeum, a saxifrage, Arisaemas, Rodgersias, Astillboides, Astilbe, Persicaria Red Dragon, Lamium, Sweet Woodruff and some Arisarum europaeum.

The tender plants have now been brought up out of the cellar and out from the kitchen and lounge where they spent the winter. Of the plants that spent the winter in the cellar in total darkness- the green Ensete ventricosum looks dead, and sadly my Passion Flower ‘Sunburst’ only bought last year at Hampton Court doesn't look like its made it. But on the plus side the Ensete Maurellii and Montbelliardii seem to be fine are pushing out new leaves already. Another Passion Flower and the variegated Brugmansia are also fine with this period of darkenss and no water!
Above are my new Agave parryii which i bought from a garden centre back in January which had the most extraordinary large collection of agaves and aloes. The larger Agave on the right is Agave macroacantha Blue - which i bought from a nursery in Germany many years ago.

The beds have been mulched with some well rotted manure which has made the garden look very smart and neat with all the fresh foliage coming through. My new Thyme's are now potted up in matching pots to give the bees some food when they all flower.

The Musa basjoo seem to have mostly come through the winter fine even those unprotected- however those left to fend for themselves ive found ive had to cut more off the top of the stems to find new growth- the Musa sikkimensis haven’t done quite so well. The pups are all dead (not surprising as I didn't protect them) and had to cut off 3ft from the main trunk which was protected with fleece.

The tadpoles have hatched and have become fat black wiggly commas in the wildlife pond.

Most of the large plants have begun to sprout including the Robinia, Fig, Albizias- but my Manihot has not sprouted yet- much to my dismay! Fingers crossed it is just late this year! And the Marsh Marigolds are flowering in the pond. Below is a photo of my Schleffera impressa cool hand like new shoots.

The early purple tulips looked fantastic on the front porch but sadly are over now- with some pale pink ones taking their place with some late Muscari. (see top photo)

The cats seem to be enjoying the sunshine anyhow!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

A Hedge in a Box!

So I was up at 6:45 this morning so walk round to my local Post Office depot to pick up my native hedge that I ordered online last week.

It actually arrived yesterday but the postman didn't knock, and when I left for work all I found was the red note on the doormat indicating he had been- how infuriating!! As my bare root trees would now have to sit in the depot for a whole day extra without water- just because the postman didn't knock on the door! I was in!

So I picked up the box about 7 this morning – it was pretty heavy (its times like this i wish i had a car) and took it home to pot up the plants before I headed off to work.

They were very well packaged and no major damage at all to the plants only 1 snapped side branch- even better i dont think i knocked off any buds when unpacking or potting up the plants- which I thought was amazing considering they were all tied together and i manage to knock off my Japanese Acers buds reckless abandon when walking past the pot as im so clumsy! (speaking of Japanese Acers- of my potted plants my autropurpureum on the side of the pond i discovered to my horror is covered in scale insect on its stems and trunk- i must do something baout it this weekend). This hedge is destined to be put up on the allotment- so they would have to be potted up for a few weeks before they can be planted up there. I only had half a bag of compost- so I ended up putting the 33 plants together in 6 pots.

I bought the plants from Danny from Botanica (, who are based in Suffolk. Was very impressed with the quality of the plants and the customer service received.

So onto the good stuff- what did I get?????

Note the 30 pots of Asparagus to be planted out on the allotment!

Well I figured rather than buy a Hawthorn or Blackthorn based hedge- go for a complete mix of species which should encourage a broader range of wildlife.

So I got:
Field Maple (Acer campestre)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Common Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)
Wayfairing Tree (Viburnum lantana)
Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Field Rose (Rosa arvensis)
Hazel (Corylus avallana)
Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
Wild Pear (Pyrus communis)
Wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis)
Scots Rose (Rosa spinosissima)
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Silver Birch Tree (Betula pendula)
Rowan (Sorbus acuparia)

That's 17 species in total and 2 of each species- I think I will let the birch grow into trees but the rest will be grown in the hedge.

Im trying to decide how high the hedge should be- I think I will let it grow to about 4 feet- this should provide some privacy from neighbouring plots but not too tall to block out the light.

Anyhow- am very pleased so far with the delivery and cant wait to get them planted out! Roll on the 4 day weekend!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Buying a Bumble bee colony

You may remember I had seen on Jimmys Farm a bee box ready supplied with bumble bees- i loved this idea and wanted to see if I could find a source of these boxes- i got a few responses from my emails.

I discovered however that the species of bee in the boxes you can buy are actually not native species and mainly sold to pollinate greenhouse crops- so should not be released into the wild. Tut tut Mr Doherty!

I got a great response from Dr. Ben Darvill the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Director from the University of Sterling who wrote:

"Sadly the boxes of live bees currently available in the UK for use in commercial greenhouses are a sub-species from abroad. It is a criminal offence to wilfully allow reproductives (new queens and males) to be released into the wild because of the threat they pose to our native bees. In time we may be lucky enough to have a UK supplier of bumblebee colonies, and these would be a valuable interpretive and educational tool. However, a degree of caution is needed, because placing one of these boxes in unsuitable habitat would lead rapidly to a starving bee colony! Step one is to ensure that gardens, parks and the wider countryside are as full as possible with bumblebee-friendly flowers, and advice on this is on our website. Suitable habitat will be naturally occupied by bees, so there really is no need to buy colonies, other than for interest and education."

I got another email from Graham Collins who gave me these links on how to make my own Bumble bee box.

"Bumblebee nest boxes seems to be almost as common as bird boxes. A quick 'Google' for "bumblebee nest box" reveals numerous sites where they are available. They can be quite expensive, and the following links explain more about the principals involved and how to make one yourself -

I don't think you should try to buy active nests (wrong time of year anyway) since as far as I know the only available ones contain foreign strains of bees which are not supposed to be released into the wild (I think they are meant for pollination of glasshouse crops). They are more likely to harm wild populations than help them, and should be banned.

You should find out more about them before getting nests, and I would recommend Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland by Edwards and Jenner, available here:

This will explain the life history and how to attract them to your garden. Also that for all species it is only the queen that survives the winter and new colonies are founded each year. The earliest species are just beginning to emerge at the moment so you should have a month or two to get set up."

Im not quite sure i've got a spare £60 to spend on a book on bumble bees tho!

So i think the best idea to get Bumble bees in my garden would be to get my own bumble bee box and hopefully next year a wild a queen bumblebee will move in.

My dad on the other hand is halfway through his Honey Bee keeping course- he is due to be getting his own hive of Honey Bees in his garden about May time- quite exciting!