3 Dates for Your Horticultural Calendar

With 2012 upon us, it’s time to think about the multitude of horticultural extravaganza’s ahead.  I’m not talking about the flower shows and country fairs here, I’m talking about the bizzare, eccentric and quirky exploits that you may not dare to enter!

1. Big Garden Birdwatch – January 28th/29th

The Big Garden Birdwatch is back again as the RSPB attempt to get a complete picture of bird populations throughout the UK. With the recent few days of bad weather, birds of all varieties are sure to have been flocking to gardens as frozen ground and water limited their access to food. For just one hour at the end of January you can simply take the opportunity to sit quietly and watch the world go by. Count up all your feathery friends and send your results to the RSPB over the internet. Easy. After an appalling survey last year, I’m hoping that my results in 2012 might be a little better.

2. International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day 2012 – 1st May

May 1st, 2012, will mark the sixth outing of International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day; a time when we must all take to the street’s on mass and plant seeds EVERYWHERE! The main premise behind this day is to highlight the importance of greening up our local neighbourhoods by planting in tree pits, forgotten council flowerbeds and random patches of dirt in desperate need of some green. Again, 2011 was a disaster for me as, no sooner had the little seedlings germinated, than a council man came along and weedkillered the lot. This year I’m having a backup plan by sowing some seeds at home in pots too.

3. World Naked Garden Day – 5th May

Also in its sixth year, and following close on the heels of Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day, is World Naked Gardening Day. Now, I’m not encouraging you to combine the two – I think there’d be more than a few arrests that day. Nor am I encouraging you to completely strip off much to your neighbours horror as I’m sure a few of mine were. Whilst some hardcore enthusiasts might say it’s about taking everything off, I say it should be more about finding yourself at one with nature. If you’re not comfortable facing those stinging nettles and thorns in your birthday suits, dispose of shoes for the day and feel the earth beneath your toes. Throw off your tops and let the sun get to parts almost never seen before. And, if you want to go the whole hog but have a nervous disposition, find a secluded shed or greenhouse in which to potter!

Big Garden Bird Watch Results

I had hoped to make a joyous post about all the beautiful birds that I spotted this past weekend when I did my conservational duty by taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch. Having noted a considerable increase in feathered friends over the winter I was ready for some stunning results. After a seemingly wasteland of bird species, with just a local robin, blackbird and wood pigeon group coming to my feeders, this winter had been very exciting. I saw a tiny wren flitting amongst the wigelia. A black cap cock bird visited several times over Christmas, nibbling his way through the bright purple callicarpa berries. A pair of robins started visiting, whilst the wood pidgeon numbers rocketed. I saw great tits and blue tits more frequently, and long tailed tits visited for the first time. Finally, in a moment when I nearly ended my days with a blissful smile on my face, a flock of 50 or so waxwings descended to snack on next door’s crab apples.

So, with piping hot tea, scarf, mittens and camera at the ready I settled down for the hour. Nothing in the first five minutes. I adjusted my timing and decided I’d start the hour on the first sighting. Another 15 minutes and nothing. Minutes went by, and by…..and by with nothing. And after waiting for over an hour not a single bird entered by garden or even flew over it. I’d seen a single robin that morning on the feeder, but for the entire Big Garden Bird Watch I had not a single visitor!

I was going to post some pictures of the successful bird spotting, but alas, I have nothing. Instead I’m just going to post some pics of birds that have been seen over the years in my garden!! Did you have any luck? I hope more than I did!

© Geoff Wakeling

Feed the Birds

Outside my window sits the crab apple tree. Laden down with snow, red fruit sparkling against the white world around them. A thrush sits on a dangerously bending twig, nibbling the fruit at the end. Two blackbird cockbirds fight for the rights to eat at the top of the tree, whilst a sudden movement in the adjacent fir catches me eye and I spy a little, round, blue tit hanging off the needles, searching for titbits.

The Blackbirds currently have found a hefty source of grub

Its at this time of year, that all birds need a little help. This year in particular, with such bad weather, British bird die-off is expected to be quite high. Until the BBC’s wonderfully surprising “Snow Watch” programme that aired earlier this week, I had no idea that 70% of the blue-tit population dies every winter! That is quite astounding! With Chris Packham and Kate Humble at its helm, the Beeb once again managed to answer my question that I’d been wondering about the mottled, grey and spotted beauty amongst the gathering of black birds – a field fare! In South Woodford!

This year, I finally put out a bird table, thinking that one bird caught by my cats would be better than 10 dying of starvation. With 5 cats in our run of three terraced houses, its a little bird unfriendly to say the least. However, with Mimi being the main hunter, and being the lazy, fat, oddity that she is, mice normally find themselves far more at risk than the odd Robin. On all accounts I try to prevent breeding, as poor little nestlings would soon find themsevles guzzled up, but as the frozen earth closes off a much needed food source, I gave in. And so far….as my cats are far from happy with Britain’s glorious winter, I’ve had no incidents!

I even feel a little sorry for the vegetable nibbling Wood Pigeon’s

Meanwhile, at the end of the month, comes the Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s essential for the RSPB to know exactly what’s happening to our bird populations, and by simply taking one hour out of the weekend of the 30th/31st and submitting a bird count we can all do our part. Its marked on my calendar, so simly visit the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for all the info and lets give them the best survey coverage ever. It’ll be a beautiful, nature filled hour too, I guarantee it! :O)

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening!

Meet Geoff Wakeling