Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year 2017 from the Serendipity Garden!

The weather is important for a gardener, too much of this that and the other and the whole balance gets skewed - and things get out of order. Last spring we had a lot of rain, much more than usual, but it ended in June and here in London we have not really had any substantial rain at all since June and only a few days with any rain at all. It might be winter on the calendar, and it has been rather cold the last couple of days (just below freezing – which is cold in London!) – but gardening never stops for a bit of night frost, not in my garden. In fact, winter is the busiest time of year in terms of planning, planting and getting new ideas into action. That is – if we could just get some rain! The ground is still too hard to manage any planting so I am planting bulbs in pots and containers for now and hoping for some rain. Soon please!

The temperature has varied widely in December, just see what we got on Christmas Day. A balmy 14.7 degrees (58.5 F)!

The garden looks so nice in the winter sunshine, the beds are so empty and the trees so bare – everything has paused for spring. Only 3 months to wait and I got LOADS to do in the garden before we get to 1st March so I won’t run out of things to do!

The fox is still here most days, I am still not sure if it is a male or a female but I can’t say it looks particularly pregnant so I don’t know. Maybe it is just a young male that likes to hang out in my garden? I can understand that :-)

The fox usually sits on the roof of the shed where it has a good view over the area and can jump quickly down behind the shed in that little safe space between the shed and the wall. If it is a female it is likely she will have her cubs in that space and the cubs won’t come out until they are around 4 weeks old. The cubs are usually born in February or March after a 52 days gestation period so this fits well with a female fox not even pregnant yet. But she would have looked around and found her perfect home and I suppose I should feel honoured she chose mine. If I am right I will probably have some cute photos of fox cubs running around in my garden to show you by May or June. I do have a bit mixed feelings about the prospects of having a fox family in my garden until the autumn, I had this twice in the past in my previous garden and although the cute-factor is sky high, the mess and destruction is equally high.

But I might be wrong, it might not be a female at all, but rather a young, male just looking for a place to crash. I am pretty sure it is the same fox I am seeing every time – which also begs the question in case of a pregnant female; where is the father? Fox parents stay together and the father brings food to the mother the first few weeks when she is cooped up in the den. I guess time will tell :-) 

In terms of wildlife, there’s a lot going on in my garden. My bird feeders are well visited all year round and the blue tits and green tits are very active right now.

So are the collared doves, I seem to have a flock of 5-6 birds that stay close to my garden, usually in the tall avian cherry tree and they help themselves to bird food many times a day.

And then there are parakeets.

What? Parakeets?!!
Yes, the other day I was treated to this sight when I got up in the morning and looked out the kitchen window. Two ring-tailed parakeets were literary emptying my birdfeeder between them and scared off any other birds attempting to have a snack. The parakeets stayed for a few hours and then left. They haven’t been back so far and to be honest I hope they won’t come back. This was the first time I have seen parakeets in my garden and it was a treat to be able to take some photos, but they are very noisy, messy birds that do a LOT of damage and they often come in a large flock and can completely wreck a garden in matter of hours, eating all new shoots on shrubs and trees. There are estimated to be 6-10.000 feral parakeets in London alone and possibly as many as 30-50.000 in Britain.

Parrot colonies have only resided in London in significant numbers since the 1990’s, and various theories have been put forward to explain their presence. It is generally accepted that just one single breeding pair of rose-ringed parakeets being released into the wild could have formed the basis of the existing London parakeet colonies. It has also been suggested that a flock of the birds escaped from London’s Ealing studios during filming, that a container of the birds fell open at Heathrow airport, and that a large aviary collapsed during the storms of 1987, releasing a significant number of the birds into the surrounding area. Whatever way they came here they are now considered a problem as there are way too many of them, and there are steps taken to cull their numbers. I hope these two birds had just taken a slightly longer trip than usual, as West London is the usual area for them. I hope they won’t be back with all their friends soon - two at the time is more than enough!

And most of the time the main ‘bird feeder raider’ in my garden are the squirrels. I have three visiting squirrels at the moment and sometimes they are here all three at the same time. I haven’t managed to film or photograph all three together, I am still trying! The squirrels eat anything but seem to especially favour the sunflower seeds I use in this feeder.

And afterwards it is off to the birdbath to have a drink of water!

OK, that was the wildlife presented, let me show you some plants and flowers. These are my 3 witch hazels that I bought in March on sale, after flowering was finished so this is the first time I see them in flower. They were advertised as ‘Highly Fragrant’. I wonder how many plants I have in my garden that has turned out to have little or no fragrance after all despite being advertised as fragrant?

These witch hazels are all Hamamelis × intermedia, which I have later found out have very little fragrance and the faint fragrance you might possibly detect would only appear in sunny, warm weather. We have had rather cold weather since flowering started so perhaps there might be some scent to detect later on but I am not expecting it. The varieties I have are ‘Arnold Promise’, ‘Ruby Glow’ and 'Orange Beauty'.

This yellow one is ‘Arnold Promise’ and so far is the only one in full flower, but the other two are not far behind. Witch hazel grow quite slowly and I intend to grow these permanently in containers, perfect to plop into beds that need a bit filling out when other plants have passed their best or died down.

It might be winter, cold and 3 months till we officially start spring, but the snowdrops wait for no one. The first ones are here, just one sunny day or so from flowering.

But before I get too much into spring-mode I would like to finish with 2016 and here is a movie from my garden – I know some of you have waited a long time for a new garden movie. Sorry I didn’t manage to produce any in October and November, but I hope this movie will make up for that. I filmed the footage Thursday the 29th December, apart from a small section of the fox in my garden, which is from beginning of November. I have added a small selection of the ‘Best Bits’ of garden photos as a sort of photo cavalcade at the end, I hope you enjoy the tour! Best viewed in full screen in HD if you have connection for it, please adjust your settings in the bottom right corner.



Today I have been blogging for exactly 6 years – if you had asked me 6 years ago if I would still be doing it 6 years down the line I would probably have said of course not! – but here I am, still writing! I find it more challenging though to sit down and prepare photos and write the posts and as a result I haven’t posted as much this year as previous years, and the last couple of months I have been rather absent. I use my blog as a kind of garden diary and it is amazing to see how the garden changes from year to year. I am especially grateful for having a record going as far back as it does since I moved house in May last year, so my previous garden still lives on through my blog :-)

I will definitely continue blogging, but I am not sure how frequent it will be - I tried to do it twice a month in 2016 and struggled with that. I have started posting photos from my garden on Instagram and I use Facebook as well to post short updates. I find this easier and I will probably continue with it more often. But nothing can replace one of my really, really long blog posts absolutely loaded with photos and I am sure there will be plenty of them in the future, maybe perhaps not just as often :-)

May I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2017 – and I hope we all get a great gardening year with just the right mix of sunshine and showers! I am off to delve into some of the plant and seed catalogues that seems to be coming my way in droves at this time of year. So many exciting plants! Not that I need anything at all until I have planted my 530 plants already waiting to go in the ground, but I could always have a look....:-)
See you next time!

26 comments:

  1. Your bird feeders in this garden are much more successful aren't they?

    Your garden is well sheltered that must provide its own special micro-climate.

    I do wish sellers wouldn't exaggerate a plant's qualities as it only leads to mistrust and disappointment.

    Would shorter more frequent posts be more manageable as it must be quite a feat to turn out such content rich posts. I'd probably get four or five posts out of this material. One a week for a month.

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    1. My bird feeders are much more successful in this garden! In fact, they were not successful at all in my previous garden and I have no idea why. I had several feeders, I hung them up inside or under trees, I had a birdbath next to it and I used the same bird feed as here. The only one eating the bird feed in my previous garden was the squirrels! Which they do here too, but hey ho....I have kind of given in on that one!

      I am pleased to see that the temperature during cold weather is the same as in my previous garden, I had tall fences around the whole garden where I was before and the same here - and tall buildings all around which all help to retain heat so night frost is usually just a dip barely below zero. The coldest I have had so far is -1.7 and that's nice compared to many countryside temps just outside London.

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  2. I love to see the vieuws out of your garden Helene. I wish I had your wildlife in my garden. Must be great to watch.
    I wish you a lovely and healthy 2017.

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    1. Thanks Marijke, I do appreciate the wildlife in my garden although at times it gets a bit 'too wild' for my liking!
      Thanks for your well wishes, all the best for a great gardening year 2017!

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  3. It was wonderful to be back in your garden and feast my eyes on it and the critters visiting. We have loads of snow. Since late Nov we are up to about 6 ft...cold and getting colder around midweek next week. So a typical winter for a change. Wishing you a wonderful New Year Helene, and I will be watching as you garden and I dream about mine until April!

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    1. Thanks Donna, at this time of year your garden reminds me of gardening in Norway where I come from - 6 ft of snow was pretty standard and January/February temps could often go down to minus 30F and even lower for a while. I don't miss it one bit - I have been pruning more roses today :-)
      I wish you a great gardening year 2017, keep dreaming, it's not that long till April!

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  4. Dear Helene,yout garden looks wonderful! I was impressed when I read that you currently grow 530 plants, but then I thought to my beloved garden and realised that I must have at least the same number. But my garden is far bigger, so you must be a really good gardener if you are able to grow as many plants in such a little but fascinting garden. I hope you will find time to write about your garden next year because it would mean that you are feeling better.Thank you for sharing your gardening experience and so many beautiful videos and photos. I admire you since you are vey brave. I would be scared stiff if a fox chose my garden as her home!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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    1. Hello Guy, the 530 pots with plants are just the plants in my 'pot jungle', waiting to get in the ground - waiting for me to dig a hole and plant them :-)
      I have lots more plants already in the ground, planted - I have no idea how many plants and bulbs I have all together but I took with me around 700 plants from my previous garden, there were some already here that I kept (trees and large shrubs), and I have bought some since I came here in May 2015 so yes.....probably more like 1.000. It depends how you count of course. One pot with 40 bulbs of snowdrops is one pot in my 'pot jungle' - but in reality it is 40 individual plants and I think I have around 3.000 snowdrops. And probably just as many crocuses. And then there's all the daffodils and tulips and all the other spring bulbs. It's easy to count rose bushes, I have 30, and apple trees, I have 1 - not so easy when it comes to bulbs :-)

      I would love to have a big garden so I could have a big pond and a green house and maybe a poly tunnel, but in a way I am happy the garden isn't bigger as it would be too far to walk around. This garden is bigger than my old garden, and yet I had almost the same amount of plants there. If you want to see how my previous garden was you can have a look at this post and see the movie in the post:
      https://graphicality-uk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/end-of-month-view-june.html

      Oh, and foxes are not dangerous to humans, they won't attack you. They might be interested in your lunch if you leave it on the table and go inside, but they won't have you for lunch :-)
      I promise there will be more gardening posts, but probably not as frequent as there used to be. Have a great gardening year 2017!

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  5. Your latest movie is wonderful, Helene. Happy blog anniversary! (I marked my 4th anniversary this week as well.) Happy new year too! I guess it's premature to congratulate you on fox kits but your resident fox is very cute, and surprisingly cat-like in her movements. I understand your view on the parakeets as I had a similar reaction to the peacocks that have shown up in my own garden on 2 occasions.

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    1. Thank you Kris, and happy blog anniversary to you too - and happy belated New Year!!
      It is way too soon for congratulations in terms of cubs I am afraid - I don't even know if it is a female I have here - but you are right in that they are a bit like cats, and not much bigger too in fact. London foxes tend to weigh 12-15 pounds, that's all. So they can easily go through cat flaps - and they do!

      I have seen peacocks in Kew Gardens, they are very inquisitive. I had two following me around for several hours one day when I was there, I didn't understand why, until I realised that the plastic bag I was carrying had a big photo of lots of fruit and berries!! I am sure they wanted my bag, not me....noisy birds, lovely to see, but I wouldn't want them in my garden - imagine waking up to that every morning :-)

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  6. Serendipity is often a wonderful thing, in gardening and in life. A very happy New Year to you and your garden. It promises to be eventful.

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    1. I have had many serendipity moments in my life and I hope the visitors to my garden - both here on my blog and in real life - also have some serendipity moments in the garden I am creating :-)
      All the best for a great 2017 gardening year!

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  7. Hej Helene!
    Önskar dig allt gott för det nya året. Trevligt att följa din trädgård, med djur och växter. Parakiterna är exotiska att titta på, men hoppas att de inte återvänder, om de förstör.
    Ha ett riktigt gott 2017!
    /Marika

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    1. Hei Marika, vil få ønske deg et riktig godt Nyttår og alt godt for et fint år i hagen!

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  8. Hello Helene,it is always useful to see the garden when goes empty and "naked" during the winter for better planning and design. Your piece od land is nice in any period anyway,seems to be always cosy. Observing your hamamelis I think of my 7 year old Aphrodite which grows in very tough conditions. It is probably good to have them in containers as mine in spite of dry alcalic soil and southern sunstroke grows quite lot and never mine that toptree is sparse,branches go where they want and take a lot of space. This is not kind of shrub which is possible to prune so it is little bit tricky. But it is beautiful even I chose late variety. And it does not smell,ok if you put your nose right a blossom,so some light fragrance,but it flowers when we have quite cold weather,so the same here band in GB with sellers...:-). Hela

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    1. Hello Helena, I think hamamelis will be fine in containers, but I am prepared for having to re-pot into quite big containers when they get as old as yours. Maybe 35cm diameter and deep for each of them. And I think you can prune hamamelis, that should be fine, at least to tidy up the shape, prune right after it is finished flowering and be prepared for a bit less flowers the next year. But if the bush has grown out of shape and proportions and you really want to rein it in a bit then of course you can prune a bit. Just take a bit, and prune a bit more next year :-)
      The problem with containers is all the watering during the summer - apart from that it's very practical with containers - you can move them around wherever you need something or if you just change your mind.

      We have finally had some rain so this weekend I am splitting lily bulbs and planting more plants - that's the plan anyway!
      Have a great week-end :-)

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  9. Dear Helene, sorry I'm late with my comment, you know why. Your garden is pretty in January as well. I am always glad to read your posts and watch your photos despite of how frequently you write. Lovely pictures of Parakeets, I think they are unusual for London area.
    Today is orthodox Christmas and the temps dropped to -20 C, brrr. I'm waiting for warmer days!

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    1. Dear Nadezda, my very best wishes to you both and I hope you both are well by now and had a lovely Christmas celebration. We have had cold weather here too, but cold in London is not like COLD - the garden is still growing and spring is right around the corner. I wish you warmer days and an early spring!

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  10. Hello Helene, I have just been catching up with your blog! Happy New Year and best wishes for good health and gardening success in 2017! Your garden is looking great, even with the challenges you have faced. With your fox, parakeets, and squirrels, your garden is certainly filled with interest, even in the middle of winter. I hope you will soon be getting more rain. We just came out of a dreadful drought that lasted about three months. I will never complain about rain again!

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    1. Thanks Deb, over here we usually have dry and wet years and it evens out in the end - mostly. And every now and then it doesn't and we get drought, or flood everywhere. Right now we are OK because it's winter and quite cold, but the water table is quite low and we really need more rain. I won't complain about 3 weeks of solid rain :-)

      I have had to reduce blogging for a while so I guess it will be one post a month for now. I am trying my best to do the round and visit everyone but I have still got many to visit since my previous post. I'll get there in the end!

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  11. We have foxes, too, and I'm not so happy about them because I would like to keep chickens. Those parakeets are amazing! Happyy 6th blogaversary and Happy New Year, Helene. P. x

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    1. Thanks Pam, the foxes are great as long as they are in other people's gardens...
      Very belated happy New Year to you too!

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  12. Parakeets--wow! That would certainly be something to see. You have so much wildlife in your garden. Would you say it's more diverse and populated than your previous garden? I can't believe you have a resident fox, too--and one that is so tame. Wonderful photos!

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    1. Yes, the parakeets were a surprise, I knew about them but they don't usually fly as far as my end of London. As for birds I would say I certainly have more in this garden than the previous. They were obviously there, but never landed and didn't want the bird feed I offered. Nothing to do with the feed as it is the same as I use here, but I think it must have been the tall fences, the long, narrow garden with the tall wall at the end - perhaps it looked too scary?
      And in terms of squirrels and foxes, that's fairly the same - I had a few more foxes roaming in my previous garden and could often see as many as 4-5 at the same time. Here I have only seen 2 at the same time. That doesn't mean they are not here of course - in London there are about 18 per km2. Great. No, not really!

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