Archive for December, 2009

The Restorative Garden

December 13th, 2009

Quiet times of reflection can be enhanced by a walk 'round the garden

Quiet times of reflection can be enhanced by a walk 'round the garden

 

If you are a gardener then you will know that your garden makes you feel good.  I know it gives me enormous pleasure and satisfaction.  When I come in from a good day spent in the garden I may feel tired, but it is the right kind of tired – the kind that comes from physical work well done in the fresh air and in a place I love, not the kind that comes after a string of stressful meetings and a nightmare journey home in the traffic. 

Gardens and plants in themselves are good for our health.  Trees are the lungs of our polluted cities, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.  They also take up and filter out a number of other serious pollutants in the atmosphere as well as protecting us from solar radiation.  You and I can do our bit by planting suitable trees and shrubs in our gardens.

Our diet can be improved by growing some of our own food.  I know my little vege patch encourages me to eat more vegetables, and there is something enormously satisfying, elemental almost, about feeding yourself in part at least from your own plot, and the fruits of your own labour.  Yesterday I had one of  Waddles &  Hazel’s eggs poached in a nest of Swiss Chard from the vege patch.  It tasted wonderful!   You don’t need a huge amount of space either.  Even in the smallest garden you can find room for some containers.  Herbs are wonderful too fragrant and it gives an enormous pleasure to wander into the garden and take some fresh sage or rosemary  to add to your cooking.My little Vege Plot

Gardening as an activity is also very good for you physically.  It is a valuable form of exercise and works all the main muscle groups while giving your heart and lungs a very good workout too.  I read an article once that stated that you can burn more calories per minute digging than you would do cycling and only slightly fewer than swimming!  I don’t know if I would though with my form of pottering about in the garden.  But it is a nice thought anyway.  Still, after a day in the garden I sometimes have sore muscles the next day – so it must be doing some good.  And unlike other forms of exercise which are an end in themselves and so can become boring very quickly, gardening has an end product.  A product that you can touch and smell and feel! 

a place to pause and ponder

a place to pause and ponder

 

Overall, the quality of life – including mental as well as physical health – is improved by spending time in the garden.  Gardening is therapy and one of the best stress-busters that there is!  Getting out into the garden after a hard day and pottering for an hour, or even just sitting there and looking around, is an ideal way to unwind.  It is wholly absorbing – I often head out into the garden a loose all track of time.  Usually a good thing, although this has gotten me into trouble at times.  But I do know that spending time in the garden is a stress-free activity that forces you to slow down to the pace of the natural world, the pace at which we all lived until very recently in our history.  It is a way of connecting to the natural earth.  Being in a garden, surrounded by beautiful plants, calms the mind soothes and lifts the spirits.  I hope you can find some time in your garden today.

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A Duck Story

December 11th, 2009

At this time of the year it is nice to look back.  Think about how far we have come.  This time last year we had just added two new additions to our little family.  We named them Waddles and Hazel.  I was just today looking over some of the photos of when they were young.

how hard to choose!

how hard to choose!

Here is a picture from that very day.  The day our ducks were hatched and we headed out to collect them and bring them home to our garden.  They are Khaki Campbell ducks, and for the next few weeks a heap of work.  But they made up for it by being cute and fluffy.  What more could you ask for?  Here is a picture of them in the back of the car on their trip home.  They were pretty tired from being hatched and all, but they still made a lot of noise for such little creatures.

Tired little fluffy ducks

Tired little fluffy ducks

The Khaki is a breed developed in the early years of the twentieth century by a Mrs Campbell from Gloucestershire in England.  She wanted a more conventional looking and better layer than the Runner, so bred the latter with Rouen and then introduced Mallard into resulting offspring several years later.  They are very reliable layers and we now have 2 eggs most days.  In fact we all enjoyed scrambled eggs today for lunch.

I like the idea of Mrs Campbell with her ducks.  She did a good job and I love the results!  Hazel and Waddles make perfect garden pets.  The term ‘khaki’ was used for her breed because of the dull yellow-brown colour of the plumage, but it was also a patriotic way to acknowledge the brave men going off to the First World War.  The Khaki Campbell is a great little duck.  Now my two girls are much bigger, but I think they are just as cute.  They sure make a heap more noise!

The girls in the garden

The girls in the garden

We have certainly come a long way from last year.  We built a house and pen because they need a safe and quiet environment, in fact this is essential for layer breeds as they are very easily frightened or upset.  They just love to come out into the backyard to forage in the garden and they cannot be equalled for their enthusiastic and active slug and snail control.  They are not like the Muscovy who works a few hours and whiles away the rest;  they like to keep busy.  And they like nothing better than to be helping when I am weeding.  It is true that their help is not as productive when I am trying to plant anything esp. bulbs.  Unfortunately bulbs look a lot like very big snails and in Autumn last year I spent a great deal of time replanting the bulbs and Hazel & Waddles kept digging them up again.

Anyway that is the story of the ducks

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Mandy’s mini missions for December

December 11th, 2009

Christmas is just around the corner and I really must do some shopping, cooking, cleaning…but first…just a few minutes in the garden. I guess Christmas will happen no matter what. So, out into the garden for some mini missions and a quick look around.

keep dead-heading to keep the flowers coming
keep dead-heading to keep the flowers coming

Roses: If you can keep up with the dead-heading of your roses you can expect a second flush of blooms this month.  Always lovely!  When I am cutting the dead-heads off the older bushes I take quite a bit of the stalk too, like picking a rose to put into a vase.  This helps to keep my bush, well, bushy, not lank and spindly.  We really wouldn’t want that now would we? 

Giving the plant a little feed, maybe a little blood & bone that always helps too.  While I am at it I take a few in to brighten up my desk.

Tomatoes: Yes, there are now little mini ones – could be some for the Christmas salad.  And if I don’t hurry up and get these mini jobs done and get out there into the shops that’s all we will have for Christmas dinner! 

looking like we might have some for Christmas

looking like we might have some for Christmas

But the mini mission with these are to tie them up.   I like doing this job, they smell wonderful and after I have done it my vege patch looks organised.  Of course it helps the plant too.  Last year I got behind with this and some bad wind came along and broke off some of the branches.  I feed my tomatoes every week and of course they absolutely love getting my duck poo mix..I put this under the plant being careful not to get any on the leaves.  But more of that in a latter post where I shall share my secret duck brew with all you other duck lovers. 

Hanging Baskets:  I really need to keep an eye on these because they dry out very quickly esp. during hot weather.  They need a good soaking in a tub of water.  Sometimes if I know a very hot day is coming up I just hook them down and they pretend they are just ordinary pot plants for the day.  They chat with the other pot plants and enjoy a rest in the shade.

Must take myself off to the shops…happy gardening…

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Magic in the Garden

December 10th, 2009

Today is warm and sunny – just calling you outside to enjoy the garden. I have just been for my morning walk around looking for new treasures in my garden. Magic happens everyday in the garden, but you have to look for it. 

 Wilbur the Wizard

I like to make little pictures in my garden to stimulate the imagination.
When I went for my walk today I noticed the Salvias are flowering always a joy! I am becoming addictied to salvias, they are such a useful plant to have and the varieties are endless. The birds love them also. When you have salvias in the garden you will have birds come to visit to enjoy their nectar.  I have a picture of one with its fat rosette of grey-green hairty leaves, out of which spring tall spays of intense blue flowers.  Absolutely fabulous!

The birds love to visit this plant

The birds love to visit this plant

You really can’t go wrong with a few salvias in the garden, they are hardy and seem to cope with less water than most other plants.  They have colours of every hue: yellow, pink, red and shades of blue.  Most good nurseries now carry quite a range.  Often you will find that the labels say drought-tolerant, most salvias seem to have this quality and so are a handy addition, add some to your garden, the birds will thank you for it.

Colour in the garden always adds magic too.  That is where pots really come into their own.  Always remember that pots are mobile, so move them.  I have put these orchards down under the porch to brighten up this shady and forgotten area of the garden, also when I look over the rail in the evening I can enjoy the beautiful blooms.

Enjoy your flowers

Enjoy your flowers

I really enjoy moving my pots about, it revamps your whole garden and can give you a whole new look. 

Well, its time to head on out into the day I need to dead-head some more roses to keep them flowering and maybe cut a few to enjoy inside for a day or two.

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December in the Garden

December 9th, 2009

 

 Hello, my name is Mandy and I want to share my garden with you.  December, the sky is blue and days are longer.  Lately in my garden I have been lucky to have beautiful weather to entice me outside. The ducks and I have been very busy. December is such a hectic month though, it is hard to find time to get out there as much as I would like. Perhaps I should take time out to introduce you to my ducks, Waddles & Hazel .. here

is Waddles heading over to see what I am doing…
Waddles
Waddles

Well, she loves to help out.

This is the month that the hydrangeas start flowering and they look especially lovely. Hydrangeas are perfect plants for those difficult areas down the south side of the house or in a shady place where you can’t think what else to plant. They also look very beautiful in massed plantings where they can enjoy the morning sun. Here is a picture of mine at the moment. Pink and pretty. Would cheer anyone up!

Pink & Pretty hydrangeas

Pink & Pretty hydrangeas

I head out  with my hat on early in the mornings these days, with the ducks at my feet checking out the grubs and generally helping to keep the soil loose, also helping with fertilizing. But these mornings I am busy up above them dead-heading the roses. It is one of my most favourite jobs!  And so rewarding for it makes the bush give me heaps more roses. Note to self – must ask for a new pair of secateurs for Christmas from Santa.
Another thing on my wish list is a diary. Every good gardener needs one so you can keep tabs on what you did last year and it is a good way to learn when things come into flower and when you cut back things. You can pop in pictures too.  It is a good way to watch your garden grow and plan for the future.  It is a good tool and one that is not used often.
Well, this is my first post. Just a short quick one. It is time now for me to go outside and feed the ducks and pop them into their pen for the evening.  Hope you find time to relax in the garden over the next few weeks to get away from the Christmas rush and get back to nature.

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