Sunday, 18 January 2015

The usual suspects.

We have had a few smatterings of snow in the last few days, so I took my camera round the garden this morning to see what I could find.



Hamamelis mollis, has flowered late this year and I am pondering if it needs some cold weather to set it off or maybe it's just my imagination. Mine is planted amongst other shrubs but they make much better stand-alone specimens planted in grass but you need a large garden to pull this off.
 

 

The top picture of Mahonia japonica was taken in mid-October and it still has one or two bits of colour left although it is systematically stripped of its flowers every year by blue-tits. The lower picture is Mahonia japonica 'Hivernant' which came into flower a couple of weeks ago and remains untouched.
Can't beat Viburnum bodnantse for scent.



Helleborus corsicus, sorry I know it should be Helleborus argutifolius, just coming into flower. I think these reliable plants are indispensable for this time of the year.


 This is a variety of H.corsicus the name of which I have forgotten but it has now been flowering for about a month so is markedly earlier than the type. 
 

This Hellebore I think is one of the Ballard Strain but I am not 100% sure, a nice plant nevertheless. There has been a frilled Hellebore flowering all winter but its flowers are now very tatty so it didn't make a good subject.

Cyclamen coum complete with bitter cress!

Cyclamen hederifolium still looking good.

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin' just poking through.

Ubiquitous primrose


Squirrel Wars

I was driven to this on Christmas Day after watching two squirrels disappear with tulip bulbs firmly held in their mouths after raiding several other containers and I make no excuses for it. There seems to be little logic to their behaviour as in previous years I have been lucky and in fact the containers in the front garden have been ignored even now.




Breakthrough!
After careful observation (fluke) I have found what appears to be a solution to my problem. I generally top off my containers when growing plants on with coarse grit. Last season I ran out and didn't bother for a while, the containers without grit (3" pots upward) were attacked but those with the covering were left alone as they always had been although I hadn't realised the significance. After further tests this year I have confirmed this to be the case, not only with containers but also in the open ground, which leads me to think that they don't like the sharp grit on their pads. Next year the tulip containers are going to get the same treatment so watch this space.


11 comments:

  1. Hi Rick,
    It is good to know about the grit. I have noticed here that they will attack tulips in the open ground mostly just after they were planted. If the tulips survive the first winter, they are usually left alone.

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    1. Hi Alain, I find exactly the same in that disturbed soil seems to attract the squirrels I would think because it makes it easier digging for them which makes containers more vulnerable. The grit thing seems to be the solution for me, I will know better after next year, but I have to say your squirrels may not be as easily dissuaded as mine.

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  2. Glad to read you've finally found a solution to the bulb stealing squirrel problem. I read so many blogs where the squirrels are an issue - I will remember to pass on your tip Rick.
    Nice to see Katharin making an appearance - she is a beauty isn't she.

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    1. Hi Angie, it certainly seems to be working for me but who knows with these pesky critters! Katharin tells me we are on the right side of Winter, fingers crossed.

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  3. Rick, I dont half miss the Hamamelis mollis in the garden, and I must get a few plants of the Cyclamen coum, I think they are more likely to take when planted in the green, so off to the garden centre. Grit on the surface of the tubs to keep the squirrels away, I had been thinking of doing this next year, glad to see your experience with this.
    www.aberdeengardening.co.uk

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    1. Hi Alistair, I only have the basic plant and quite admire some of the newer cultivars but find the Hamamelis if nothing else a psychological boost in that the new growing year is starting. After sticking my neck out I hope the sharp grit deterrent works for everyone.

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  4. I have a similar range of plants to you Rick that look really nice at this time of year, sadly I am the only one to enjoy them! At least you are sharing yours!
    Brenda did use hamamelis and viburnum in a table arrangement with some evergreen daphne and at least they had a wider audience than in the cold garden! Viburnum smells wonderful inside.

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    1. Don't quite understand your first comments Roger, but I agree that winter-flowering and foliage plants can provide some impressive arrangements and scents, I don't rate Sarcococca, mainly because I don't seem to be able to get it established but I do love Lonicera fragrantissima which has been giving me pleasure for over a month now.

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  5. Lovely to see your winter garden Rick, every year at this time I admire hamamelis and mahonia on other people’s blogs, but I just can’t find any suitable place for either in my tiny, shady garden. I have wondered about growing them both in containers in my front garden, after all I have been growing a Garrya in a container in my east-facing front garden for more than 10 years – but that doesn’t mean these two will be just as happy. What do you think, any point in trying?

    As for the squirrels…I am sorry to say that the squirrels here dug up two of my lily containers – with grit. I have put new grit on top again, and it has not been touched after that, it was about 3 weeks ago. I have also tried with a thick layer of bark mulch for my crocuses, it is a bit hit and miss, some they leave completely, some they still dig and eat off. I have now bought fine meshed chicken wire and intend to make domes for all my lily tubs, I lost so many lilies last year due to squirrels so at least I will take the extra work for them. I will post about the result…..

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    1. Hi Helene, pity your containers were attacked, despite the grit, but I am beginning to think that individual squirrels behave differently as I have had as many as four recently and they all seem to have different characteristics for example only one of them will attempt the narrow pole up to the bird feeders whilst the others are content to scavenge the seed and nuts which are dropped by the birds so I am pinning my hopes that mine are all put off by the grit. Incidently I never have a problem with lilies being dug up, no idea why other than as above perhaps my squirrels are not interested.
      I have never grown Mahonia or Hamamelis in tubs but there are some dwarf varieties available which might well be worth a try, one I have come across recently is Mahonia nitens 'Cabaret' which seems rather interesting although I have never tried it.

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    2. Yes, 'Cabaret' has been on my wish-list for a while, not sure how much of a dwarf it actually is though, given a good few years...I have not a good experience with supposedly dwarf plants, only exception is Rhododendron 'Dopey' which hasn’t grown taller at all the last 5 years, still only about 80cm tall (11 years old). But you should see the size of my Forsythia 'Mini Gold' which should grow to max 60cm tall….still in a container so should be somewhat restricted, but I prune it 3 times a year or it would be enormous! I might give 'Cabaret' a go if I get it very cheap somewhere :-)

      I think you are right about the squirrels, I have at least two squirrels that frequently keeps coming back, which are different in size, perhaps male and female? The smaller one favours buds on my roses, camellias and lilies, the larger one favours bulbs. Just like us, I suppose they have their favourite dish!

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