They're Tough Up North

 Temporary rules for Richmond Golf Club (Yorkshire) during World War II. We know it's 'grim up north' but they also breed 'em tough as well. Mind you, coming from the other side of the Pennines, I reckon those Yorkists are a bit soft. To be fair, they definitely think the same about those of us from the Red Rose county.

Richmond Golf Club, Yorkshire
This appeared in a BP Society newsletter (February 2021).

Wildlife Sightings in the Garden 2020

Earliest butterfly sightings:

March 2nd: Peacock on tulip

March 23rd: Small Tortoiseshell on buddleia

March 27th: Comma

April 9th: Small White

April 10th: Orange Tip and Holly Blue

April 11th: Speckled Wood

April 15th: Large White on wallflower

April 16th: Green-veined White

July 28th: Gatekeeper

August 6th: Common Blue

August 14th: Red Admiral

An absentee in 2020 was the Painted Lady (this photo is from 2019):

Other creatures

We have plenty of nectar/pollen rich plants in the garden that attract other insects throughout the year. Bees are especially welcome and there is always a constant hum among the perennial wallflowers (particularly Bowles Mauve which flowers all year), poppies, hardy geraniums and aquilegias, lavender and comfrey.

Harlequin ladybirds are, unfortunately, increasing in numbers to the detriment of indigenous ladybirds:

And there are plenty of moths around although we tend to see only the day-flying ones such as Scarlet Tiger and Burnet!

And sometimes we see the caterpillars but not the moths such as Mullein (24/5/20), Elephant Hawk (3/8/20) and Cinnabar (26/5/20).

We have a small pond that is not really big enough to attract dragonflies or damselflies. However, we do get occasional visitors such as the Pale Blue Damselfly (26/5/20).

The Pond

Speaking of the pond, this comprises a deep round tub, donated by a neighbour, set into the ground and with dimensions of about 60 cm (diameter) by 50 cm (depth). It contains a small leaved water lily and a pot of rushes.

Every year we get frogspawn and 2020 was no different.

The 'hatch rate' was high in 2020 and there were tadpoles galore for many months (here living side by side with water snails).

snails, tadpoles, frogs, pond

A very tiny frog (1 cm long) emerged one day and, later on, we spotted another about 2.5 cm (or was it the same one?). Even in Autumn, there were still quite a few tadpoles in the early stages of development in the pond. Would they survive the winter? Would they overwinter?

Adult frogs are seen around the garden - I found one hunkered down in one of my compost heaps quite a few years back. The specimen below was enjoying a quiet bathe in our pond - was it the mother or father of this year's tadpoles?

Juvenile frogs are also seen further afield. The example below was spotted in the Kitchen Garden on July 25th 2020 rooting around the strawberry patch.

Birdwatch 2020

We try to keep a record of birds seen in or around the garden, including those flying over. This is a somewhat ad hoc list for 2020 but we hope to be a bit more systematic in 2021!

Species (maximum seen at anytime)

Blackbird (6)

Blackcap (1)

Blue Tit (4)

Buzzard (1)

Coal Tit (1)

Collared Dove (1)

Crow (2)

Goldfinch (1)

Great Tit (2)

House Martin (2)

House Sparrow (6)

Lesser Blackbacked Gull (4)

Long-tailed Tit (4)

Magpie (3)

Robin (2)

Starling (6)

Swift (20)

Wood Pigeon (2)

Wren (1)

TOTAL   19 species

Here is one of our regular visitors atop the bird feeder. Fortunately for the other birds, he/she cannot get to the bird food below his/her feet otherwise there would be nothing left for them. The copper dove was made by Greens Weathervanes, a local Herefordshire company.

Greens Weathervanes, wood pigeon, bird feeder, dove of peace

What's Flowering in the Garden (4/2/21)

 It is early February 2021; I thought I would have a walk around with my camera phone to record which plants are flowering at this time of year. 

In the front wall the pansies are putting on a colourful display along with a yellow wallflower.

In the main garden there are snowdrops and  cyclamen as you would expect in late winter.

Sarcococca is a winter flowering member of the Box family. The flowers are delicate but their perfume is strong and exquisite and can be smelt from some distance away. Coronilla is a vetch with prettier flowers but a less intense aroma.

The final quartet of flowering plants are viburnum, a mauve perennial wallflower, a white hellebore (Christmas Rose) and primrose (although Mary says the primrose is actually flowering!).


Tulips and daffodils are breaking through so we hope for a good display from late February onwards.

Honey Fungus


Unfortunately, it appears I may have a honey fungus issue with my old redcurrant bush. The bush is about 15 years old and situated close to a north facing wall. Redcurrant bushes don't seem to mind too much whether they are in a shady or sunny position. It has been a prolific source of redcurrants over the years.

The bush will have to come out along with as much root stock and surrounding soil as I can mange and disposed of as general waste. There is no treatment and the infected plant material should not be composted. I will not be planting anything in its place for a few years and may have to consider alternatives that are less susceptible to honey fungus infestation.

The ground will not go to waste, however, as I shall use it to grow celery and celeriac in my Greenhouse Sensation Salad & Veg Planters.

Loofah Saga - The Final Instalment

 Our attempts to grow loofahs (luffas) this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster; see here and here for Parts 1 and 2.

The Good: germination was excellent and the first seedling was planted out in the polytunnel towards the end of April (warm and sunny).

The Bad: the first seedling was very slow to establish itself, so much so that I thought it would not be viable.

The Good: the second seedling, planted mid-May in the polytunnel, took off like a house on fire and quickly produced some flowers!!

The Bad: all the flowers on the second plant were male! I was expecting both male and female!!

The Good: the first plant finally put on a growth spurt and developed female flowers!!

The Bad: however, it was now late July and I was concerned the growing season might not be long enough!!

The Good: By mid-September, there were recognisable if somewhat diminutive loofahs...

Loofah, luffa, polytunnel, England, fruits

The Bad: I'd run out of exclamation marks!!!!

The Good: eight fruits had developed (all on the first plant) and were swelling up fast as you can see from this photo taken from the doorway of the polytunnel at the start of October.

Loofah, luffa, growing, harvest, polytunnel, quadgrow

 and close up.

The Bad: it was the end of October and the nights were getting much cooler so it was time to bring the harvest in. Ideally, loofahs ripen and turn brown on the vine but all the fruits were harvested green. We tried peeling a few fruits but there was nothing resembling a loofah skeleton and the remains were despatched to the hot compost bin. A couple of fruits also started to rot and also ended up as compost fodder.

The Good: without knowing how large the loofahs were meant to grow, four reasonably sized fruits were placed on a tray and left in the airing room at about 27 ℃.

The Bad: two fruits went off...

The Good: two fruits didn't!!

The Bad: the waiting! The tension...

The Good: on December 19th, a brown-coloured loofah was stripped of its crispy skin to reveal a passable loofah skeleton. Hurrah!!

The Bad: the other loofah was still a bit greenish and not quite ready. I thought the fish tray was a nice addition as most people, it seems, think loofahs come from the sea.

The End: the final loofah was stripped around mid-January. Disappointingly, it had a less well-formed skeleton than its predecessor. We did recover some seeds from the two viable fruits so we will see if they grow in 2021.

loofah, luffa


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