Monday, 29 December 2008

A name!

We named the house frog end soon after we moved in, but until now hadn't managed to find a good sign. Ian bought me this for Christmas. Can't wait to go home and put it up.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


I love the big packs of nuts that you find in supermarkets at this time of year. Hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts... they all look so appealing with their shells still on. Whilst it does take much much longer to eat them when you have to crack them open it's all great fun.

I wonder what happens to the nuts between the time they come off the tree and the time they are to be found on the supermarket shells. I ask this because I'm wondering what the chances of me getting them to grow are. Presumably the worst condition that they could have been exposed to is cold, but simulating a natural winter is often necessary to get tree seeds to grow in this country anyway. Unless anyone suggests a reason why I shouldn't I think I shall plant some as an experiment.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

An appeal

One of my life goals is to turn a piece of land into a nature reserve, including planting a large area of woodland. Ian also aims to grow and sell topiary to fund the opening of topiary gardens, similar to those in Maryland...

and tamborine mountain in Queensland (unfortunately I can't find a picture on the internet).

Although we've started planting tree seeds and boxwood cuttings we've only managed to do this on a small scale in the garden and greenhouse. Buying a piece of land now would enable us to get started growing box and privet for topiary on a large scale as well as trying out some other commercial enterprises, including growing trees and plants for sale on ebay, trees for the future nature reserve, pumpkins for halloween, christmas trees etc.

As some of you will know we put an offer in on a lovely piece of land near Okehampton a couple of months ago, but sadly our offer was rejected and it has been taken off the market. Today we looked at another piece of land for sale only a couple of miles from our house. It had massive potential as both a nature reserve and a place to grow all we could ever need. Of course it has a couple of ponds and I'm already wondering how many species of dragonflies and damselflies we could attract ;-). Anyway, whatever happens with this piece of land we do aim to buy some in the very near future and we would really appreciate your help in getting started with the growing...

We're going to be growing as many native trees as we can so if you have any seeds or happen to pass an oak, beech, hazel etc next autumn please please could you collect and save them for us. Similarly if you have hollies, hawthorns, rowans etc sprouting all over your garden then rather than digging them up and discarding them could you please pop them into a pot and we'll come and collect them from you. Obviously I'm not asking you to start digging up seedlings in your local park, but if you do know anyone with seeds or seedlings that they don't want please rescue them for us and allow them to be part of a future nature reserve.

Thank you. You will all be most welcome to visit our land when we buy.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Species lists

I was going to wait until the New Year to blog the species lists for the garden, but there's very little wildlife about now (the odd bee, slug and red admiral being all I've seen this week). All the species below were seen in 2008, with comparitively few in 2007 (the garden being only grass and gravel back then).


harvest mouse
grey squirrel
house? mouse


herring gull
wood pigeon
collared dove
song thrush
house sparrow
blue tit
coal tit
greater spotted woodpecker
grey wagtail
grey wagtail


common frog
slow worm
smooth newt


broad-bodied chaser (male)
common darter (male, female, ovipositing)
emperor (female, ovipositing)
migrant hawker (male, female)
southern hawker (male, female, ovipositing)
golden-ringed dragonfly (female, ovipositing)
blue-tailed damselfly
large red damselfly (ovipositing)


large white
small white
green-veined white
holly blue
speckled wood
small tortoiseshell
red admiral

Friday, 7 November 2008

Grey Wagtail

Just a few minutes ago a grey wagtail flew over the house, into the back garden and had a drink at the pond. It stayed for only about 2 minutes and it made me wonder how many other visitors we have to our pond that we are unaware of.

One of my new years resolution's was to make a list of birds that we've seen in the garden. This has been quite troublesome since we have little cover at the house end of the garden and even with my glasses I can't identify the birds at the bottom of the garden. I shall try to take more photos over the next few weeks and then I shall blog a species list for 2008.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Pond 2

Finally.. something to blog about in the garden! It's been very cold in Exeter this last couple of weeks (though we've had no snow or hail like in Ottery St Mary), but this weekend we decided to put in our second pond. We had not originally planned to have two ponds, but after Ian dug up the bush ( we were left with a big hole and no plans for that bit of border yet. We expanded the hole this week and today we lined it with loft insulation and then with pond liner.

Wrestling with 4 x 3 m of pond liner is not easy (it was even bigger last time), so Ian made the very sensible suggestion that we fill the pond with water before sorting out the edges of the liner. It made it so much easier this time, as did having a hose to fill it with.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The south end of William was in the pond!

Ever since we put in the pond William has refused to drink from a bowl. Instead he prefers to balance rather precariously on the rocks by the side of the pond...

Three nights ago Ian warned me that William was wet. I thought that odd considering that it wasn't raining. Upon examination, his rear end, tail and one back leg were thoroughly drenched. We can only assume that he must have slipped and fell in! He spent the remaining part of the night leaving wet patches all over the place and finally washing himself dry. I refrained from photographing him in his soggy state.

For those of you who don't understand the significance of the title, you must read 'Once upon a lilypad' by Gilly Meredith. A classic childrens book. Can't find a picture I'm afraid.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The back fence

On Tuesday south west water were doing some repairs at work. Since they weren't sure how long the water would be off for we stayed at home. Whilst I did some work (of the sitting at a computer variety) Ian and Dad decided to spend a couple of hours doing some 'real work' putting up our new back fence.
the old fence last year



Thank you both for a fantastic job.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Dunsford Wood

This morning we visited the Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Dunsford:

The reserve has 6 species of fritillary and the rare wood cricket. Today we saw many insects including two species of cricket:

male dark bush cricket

female dark bush cricket

male speckled bush cricket

Friday, 22 August 2008


Another dragonfly species arrived in our garden today - the migrant hawker. We had two females - one on the damson tree and the other on the house wall.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


This was supposed to be a blog about vegetables, but after experimenting with lots of different varieties this year we've found that due to the combined efforts of slugs and butterflies we're going to be growing mostly root vegetables next year.

For the last few weeks whenever it's not been raining the white butterflies have been fluttering about, laying batch after batch (or is it a brood when it isn't fish?) of eggs. We no longer have any brussels sprouts to speak of, nor cabbages. I have one ornamental cabbage left and the only reason that has not been eaten is because it is next to 2 large sprout plants. We have therefore decided to abandon our above ground vegetable crop and to grow caterpillars instead. We're doing very well at raising caterpillars.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Calla lilies (again)

More calla lilies. I love how the plants sometimes seem confused as to what shall be a flower and what shall be a leaf - resulting in some very pretty leaves.

I broke off part of the pink calla

to give to Dad, but it reverted to yellow rather than pink. Still, the yellow is very pretty.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Bye bye bush

This week, Ian cut down the bush in our back garden. It has been a lovely feature during the last year and has provided cover for both mammals and birds, but it didn't feature in our long term plans. Once we have dug out the roots we shall plant a damson tree just to the left of where it stood.

The garden looks so much bigger now.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


It's been cooler and wetter this last few days and something about the breeze has made it feel like autumn here in Exeter. Not that I'm ready for autumn quite yet - I was hoping for a late summer to complement the early summer that we had (mid-summer having been very wet), but I am looking forward to it more now that there's a lovely fungus on a log by the pond.


The last week has been wet and poor for wildlife in general, but I was very pleased to see a pair of darters at the weekend, especially since the female was ovipositing. They didn't settle, but I was able to get a video of their activity (too large to post here I'm afraid).

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Our first crop of whitecurrants. Not quite a glassfull, but they went down well with some blueberries and ice cream. Our first crop of redcurrants were eaten by an unknown suspect before they turned red. Shame.

My instinct was to write whitecurrants as 2 words, but to write redcurrants as one. Opinions on which is right please!

I wonder if I would prefer whitecurrants over red and black if they were as common. I think I prefer their flavour, but then that's probably because they're the first I've eaten in over 10 years.

Monday, 28 July 2008


Having had a darter at the pond on both Saturday and Sunday we've now had a total of 4 species of dragonfly in the garden. Actually we had a darter last year too, but this was the first since the pond was in.

Broad-bodied chaser


Southern hawker

Common darter

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Calla lilies

We have 4 different colours of calla lily in our garden (no black though), obtained from a J Parkers catalogue. They were all planted at different times (as the borders went in one by one) and so only 2 are flowering so far.

I do like this one.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The venturesome vole

Today has been a wonderful day - the entire afternoon having been spent productively in the garden. We have finally dug over a large portion of the top border in the back garden and I managed to get a number of plants out of pots and into the border.

The day has been dominated by the wildlife that we've seen and in particular the antics of a rather foolish little vole. I first saw it just after lunchtime, rooting around the pots of box. We watched it for quite a while and then Ian decided that it would be safest if we chased it back into hiding as William is rather partial to catching rodents. Surprisingly it refused to be chased away and settled for sitting between a pot and a brick, munching seeds. I managed to get closer and closer without it being bothered and eventually rested my camera on the brick, 2 inches away from his nose. It did not even stop eating when I proceeded to stroke it. One tame little vole.

Whilst we would be happy to have a tame vole in general, this does not fit in too well with William. So Ian caught it in his hands and we put it in a bucket, proceeded to place it in some vegetation and hoped it would be safe. Twice more it ventured out of the vegetation and straight into the open space of the new border I was digging over. No cover for yards around and there it was happily wandering about. When he decided to approach within 1 foot of William (who luckily didn't even notice) we decided that something more serious had to be done.

So our vole spent an hour in our recycling box whilst we had dinner and then took a trip in the car to Mincinglake Valley Park where we released him. Fingers crossed that he lives a happy little life.

Saturday, 19 July 2008


Summer has finally arrived in Devon and with it has come the wildlife. This week has been amazing. 1 baby and 2 adult slow worms, the emperor dragonfly, gatekeepers, whites, blues, speckled woods, a comma and numerous other smaller insects that I have not had time to identify. I expect that it won't be long before the grasshoppers start to appear - I look forward to hearing them chirrup. Already the front garden is filled with the sound of buzzing bees and wasps as our lavender is now in full bloom.

Why is it that I can learn to spell a couple of Japanese words a day and yet some English ones catch me every time. For some reason I really struggle with the endings of lavender and calendar (my instinct being to spell them as I say them - lavander and calander, though I admit the latter looks wrong). This year I have managed to get to grips with emperor, but only by remembering to switch the o and the e from the way round that I say them. If anyone can come up with a way to remember these endings I'd greatly appreciate it.

One day I may tire of uploading photos of slow worms, but not yet!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Pond success is...

An ovipositing emperor dragonfly. Hooray!!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Shield bug

A visitor on the study windowsill yesterday.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Since we bought the house and have had a garden I've gone through several different plant discovery phases. It started with cannas - inspired after seeing so many beautiful ones in Vienna last year. Then came the verbascum phase (I now have 8 species) and now I'm into Echinaceas.

There is something about echinaceas - even the more 'boring' ones are lovely. The shape of the flowers - the huge centre and the dainty petals really appeals to me. The ones that stand out the most are the newer varieties that not only have the lovely shape, but also vibrant colours and sweet fragrances. It's hard to select my favourites, but these are among them.
Summer sky

Harvest moon

Tiki torch

Coconut lime




After midnight

White swan

Of course I don't have all of these as they are not cheap. I am trying 2 varieties from seed at the moment so if that goes well I shall get some more seeds next year.

Monday, 7 July 2008


It's been really windy here the last few days. Growing up in Formby I'm used to wind, but we've not had much in the garden here before. The recent weather has caused a number of my plants to collapse, including the lovely Galega I bought last year and 2 of my 3 teasels.

The amethyst passionflower (lavender lady) had lost much of its hold on the trellis. It doesn't seem to hold on to things as well as the peas and clematis.

Friday, 4 July 2008

So long junk!

The incredible day that the skip arrived

and two days later. Can't believe that there's still lots of gravel and 4 large pieces of corrugated iron that didn't fit in.

Pond wildlife

We're gradually getting more wildlife in and around the pond.

Yesterday we had our first damselfly for around a month - a blue-tailed.

These eggs are on the underneath of both the frogbit and the brandy bottle.