Well – did you take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January? For many years I have recorded the birds in the garden on the appointed day with children and grandchildren – quite often having little to report as the birds seem to know we are recording them and go elsewhere for the day. I wasn’t going to take part this year but on the Sunday morning I looked out of my office window and there on the front lawn were a flock (10 in all) of Redpolls pecking up the seeds that had fallen from the silver birch catkins. I had seen them a couple of weeks before hanging upside down on the branches of the birch taking the seeds. I was so pleased that they were back – birch seeds being their favourite food according to my RSPB bird book …
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to record them so I sat down with pencil and paper and noted the other birds – robins, blue tits, black birds, sparrows and of course, pigeons that stopped by during the hour. What joy these birds bring during the cold winter months and they need all the help they can get from us as, I understand from the RSPB website, that over the last 50 years we have lost more than 38 million birds in the UK and even house sparrows are now on the UK Red List for birds. The blue tits have been investigating the bird box in my front garden. For several years they took up residence, but not for the last couple of years. It is in a good position and within a short flying distance of the oak trees on King’s Corner where they can harvest the caterpillars to feed their young – but they are quite picky so they may seek nest boxes elsewhere.
I am writing this in the second week in February on a wonderful bright sunny morning and I guess, like me, you have been marvelling at the fabulous sunsets. My garden is becoming a great delight with drifts of snowdrops behind the pond and under the silver birch trees. In the autumn I planted lots of new miniature iris, plus planting out the ones that I had grown in pots the previous spring – they never do well if left in the pots but planted into the ground they get a new lease of life. Some daffodils are starting to show their colour and the tulips are peeping through. I wish I could grow aconites – but they don’t like my garden. My daughter has thousands in her garden in Cambridge, they spread out from under the trees and onto the lawn. Each year, with her permission, I dig up loads but they do not do well with me. I said that I would report back on the amaryllis that I had saved from last year. I was very late potting them up but I am pleased to report that one has a fat flower bud. Yesterday afternoon I went out into the garden to inspect my pots and tubs and they were so dry. I spent the next hour watering them well. It was mild and frost free so an ideal opportunity. The narcissus in my cutting pots were all in bud so the water will help them along and soon I will be picking them for the house. Camelia and chaenomeles buds were showing their colours, there was so much to see in the garden and so up lifting – what a lovely time of the year with the promise of everything to come. Staying positive is something we all need to do in these globally challenging times.
So gardening jobs for March. Seed sowing begins in earnest and it is a good idea to cover the soil with a cloche or polythene for a week or so before sowing outside to help warm up the soil. But salad crops, vegetable and hardy annual flower seeds can be sow in a green house. Don’t be too hasty as the middle of the month is fine when the light levels are better and the nights are less cold. Pinch out the tips of early sown sweet peas to encourage side shoots. Plant summer flowering bulbs such as lilies, gladioli, crocosmia. This year I am growing ranunculus for the first time. I am going to start them off in pots in the plant house. Now is the time to start off dahlia tubers under cover in a shallow tray of moist compost. They will start to shoot in a few weeks and then you can take cuttings. Divide snowdrops that have finished flowering but are in full leaf. A good time also for planting new snowdrops in the green (when they are in leaf). Finish pruning roses and also prune the spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia – cutting back to strong young shoots. Pruning at this time gives the plant time to develop growth for next year’s flowers. But most of all keep providing fresh water and food for our feathered friends who, in turn, will continue to visit our gardens and forage for the creatures that destroy our crops later in the year so it’s a win win.