Rosies Back Garden http://rosiesbackgarden.co.uk Fri, 18 Oct 2019 23:27:33 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Wind in the Willows? http://rosiesbackgarden.co.uk/index.php/en/component/k2/item/409-wind-in-the-willows http://rosiesbackgarden.co.uk/index.php/en/component/k2/item/409-wind-in-the-willows

Tonight I heard a toad - my first of the year. My heart soared.

I was up far too late. It was a light but foggy night and I was letting the dogs out for their final Ps and poos. Whilst the BBC 24 hour news intoned horrific stories behind the double glazed garden doors, the toad croaked – and told me the beginning of Spring was happening. And he makes my “Wind in the Willows” winter complete.

The key characters of Kenneth Grahame’s delightful stories are Toad, Mole and Ratty. Toad is the only one truly welcome here.

“Ratty” should not exist thanks to next door’s “killer cat” but Pearl seems to be off her game at the moment and I have seen the most splendid rat running across my back terrace recently. It is a beautiful version of its species – large, well-fed, brown, healthy and clean looking. It’s not a dirty, grey, straggle-haired sewer rat – let’s face it there are no sewers here where we all cope with sess pits and drain-aways. It’s a beautiful, healthy farm/countryside rat. And it’s big. It is about 28 cms long plus its tail -like the one below.

And it's clear it has been living in my log store and moving from there to my neighbours' as it feels fit. Its fairly large droppings are the evidence both of it and its size.

There were smaller rats outside here when I first arrived. As a new owner arriving from London I shuddered and put some poison down where the dogs couldn’t get it and I hadn’t seen a rat since then – until now. But, in the nearly five years since I have lived here, I have become less and less able to kill or even imagine killing any living creature except mosquitos and flies. I gently capture spiders, bees, moths, dragon flies, hornets etc and simply move them out of the house. Rat poison kills horribly. One should leave water for them apparently because it makes them thirsty as they die. This all sounds horrific and I am not sure I can do it to this beautiful, intelligent creature. I just want it to move away.

Also tonight, a mouse was scampering on the wall under my bird feeders. It was so brave and ignored me completely. I even went into the house, called my Japanese ward, Sayaka, to come see and it was still there when she came out to join me. So I took pictures and it "froze" in the flash but remained with its food source. With its huge ears and white belly it was as cute as could be and there is no way I would want to kill it. The rat was substantially larger but no different in any other major way. Why should I want to kill it any more than the mouse, unless it wants to come and live indoors with me or threatens the dogs?

 

Of course, one mouse or one rat “seen” usually means many more of each unseen. I hope that the much more plentiful food available at the farm down the path (from whence I hope it came to eat my bird food) will lure it back again.

“Mole” has caused me much greater trouble this winter. The lower end of my lawn now resembles a battlefield. When Mole appeared “Dorset Reg”, who mows the lawn, advised putting empty wine bottles into the ground. Apparently, the wind passing over the open necks makes a noise moles don’t like.

However, my mole seems more than happy with the songs from Cotes de Gasgogne and Sauvignon Blanc bottles and has gone on to decorate the whole area.

He headed to the pond and I was seriously worried he might burrow through the sand, under-liner and cause a leak in the butyl liner but luckily the pond remains intact. I also bought four buzzy, solar “mole detractors” from Amazon - to no avail. So the lawn is now adorned with brown clay/soil mounds, two green bottles and four buzzy mole deterents. Not my idea of the ideal lawn.

But the idea of a mole trap? No, sorry. Again I can’t do it. I just hope Mole heads into the fields and has a happy time there. Reg and I will have work to do to reinstate the lawn later in the season.

I have just nipped out before heading to bed (even more horrifically late having written this) and toad has been joined in song by others and by frogs. Oh joy! That sound does something very special to me. Weird but true.

Watch this space re dealing with Mole and Rat and the survival of the progeny of toad in the coming months but, despite the invaders, I am deliriously happy. Spring is on the way.

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rosie@rosiesbackgarden.co.uk (Rosie Catherwood) Rosies Back Garden Mon, 18 Feb 2019 19:05:00 +0000
February moan http://rosiesbackgarden.co.uk/index.php/en/component/k2/item/410-february-moan http://rosiesbackgarden.co.uk/index.php/en/component/k2/item/410-february-moan

"Warning" This is a non photo blog. It's a real moan.

Apologies for the gaps between blogs. I have been busy elsewhere but, more relevantly, I have been “garden depressed” for the first time since moving here and creating this garden. Why? During this year the mid and bottom end of my lovely “Kennett” bed, down the left hand side of my garden, was taken over by ground elder, nettles, briars, bindweed and grasses.

Nettles and briars I can (and do) pull out relatively easily though it is eternally boring, needs protective clothing and generally makes me cross when I am doing it, especially since I usually get stung and pricked in the process despite wearing gloves etc. - and they seem to be coming from my next door neighbour’s garden! They take space other plants would like and they disrupt the tending of my other plants by making it generally painful and difficult. The grasses are coming from the surrounding fields, plant themselves very deep, are very invasive and boring to remove.

But it is the bindweed and especially the ground elder that are my true nightmares. OK, if one chooses to be positive, ground elder could be seen as quite attractive, plentiful ground cover and it is edible but it invades the roots of everything and I have plants such as Acers in there that hate root disturbance.

I don’t want it there but it is so hard to remove organically. It spreads underground via white, beansprout-like, roots – like bindweed does. If you even leave a trace of one of these roots when you try to dig them up they will multiply even more.

I blame the Romans

The Monty Python-esque question “What did the Romans ever do for us?” normally results in all sorts of positive answers but few know that they brought ground elder with them as a salad crop. I really wish they hadn't!

Iinitially I thought “if I can’t beat it at least I can eat it”. I tried it. Sayaka, my Japanese ward, and I ate it in salads. It's not great or very interesting but fine. However, she and I simply can’t eat the quantity that has been growing in my garden and there seems to be no market for it at the greengrocers. I need to kill it but without killing my other plants in the same bed. I am loathe to use weed killers but trying to dig it up simply isn’t working and seems to be encouraging it. I am in a tough and negative place.

However, I think what I resent most about it and the other invasive weeds is that I hate being put in a bad mood when I am in my garden. It should be a place of creation, contemplation, therapy, scent, visual interest, love, joy and good mood whilst also being a place of positive hard work, normal weeding, digging, tending, cutting, growing, pollarding and pruning etc..

Yes, we always have to deal with aphids, slugs, snails, the odd plant disease etc but it shouldn’t be a constant unpleasant battle in the borders that upsets us in theory and in practise. The Kennett bed has been just this to me for the last six months.

I apologise for burdening you with this moan but my roses there have been swamped by bindweed, many of my plants have been root threatened by these weeds and being in the border has been painful and depressing for me. Ttchh!

I know I am not alone and I have to deal with it/until I do I won’t be happy/I can’t be defeated by it etc etc..

I would, however, choose to do this without chemical weed killer but I think I may be heading in that direction in the Spring when the ground elder starts appearing again. Otherwise I would simply have to re-dig up the entire bed, to a huge depth, remove all the plants except trees and then put a cover over it for about a year – which I am not going to do.

Watch this space for an update!

In the meantime, I feel I can’t leave you on my moan. After all, I am a “glass half full” sort of person in real life.

There are, of course, some major positives at the moment. The garden is full of birds. I have many Sarcococca, Daphne and my Japanese Prunus mume “Beni-chidori” in massive, scented flower. The overall structure has looked good in the Winter (and in the recent snow). The snowdrops are out, the daffodils and Camelias are coming into bud and the tulips are poking up from the soil. The roses, clematis and other plants are showing new buds and Spring is on its way-ish. The daylight hours are getting longer (slowly) and one day soon it will dry out and the sun will shine again on my flower-filled garden. I just need to deal with the weeds first!

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rosie@rosiesbackgarden.co.uk (Rosie Catherwood) Rosies Back Garden Fri, 01 Feb 2019 19:0