Thursday, 27 April 2017

We're on Instagram too!

I've added another string to my social media bow!

Instagram!!

I'm loving the quick updates I can do, sharing photos with you all as they happen.
I'm using a little selection of hashtags on my posts, including (but not limited to ;) :

Cookie Syrian hamster Instagram
Cookie is excited about Instagram x
#pets
#AdoptDontShop
#guineapigs
#guineapigsofinstagram
#cavylove
#chickens
#hens
#orpingtons
#orpingtonsofinstagram
#hamster
#hamstersofinstagram
#plants
#flowers
#vegetables
#fruit
#garden
#gardening
#growyourown
#food

and most importantly... #pumpkinbecki - oh yeah! My own hashtag :)

Make sure you follow us on Instagram too @pumpkinbecki
Love
Pumpkin Becki xx

Monday, 24 April 2017

Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants Unboxing and Review

There's something you don't know about me, I like to keep...

Carnivorous Plants

In the beginning there were Venus Fly Traps

I've owned carnivorous plants (on and off) since my teens, I seem to remember collecting margarine lids and sending them off for my first Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula).

It was tiny with three or four softly blushing traps. I wasn't great with it. I gave it tap water - very infrequently. I would try to make the traps close by poking it, try feeding it dead flies, you know how it is. Needless to say, the poor thing died very quickly - probably from tormented exhaustion!

Then there were Sundews

Later I got a gorgeous Sundew (Drosera), which was fantastic at catching fungus gnats, and other teeny tiny flies. The glistening, sticky 'dew' fascinated me, as did the unfurling leaves and graceful flower heads. My mother was very enthusiastic about keeping it on the kitchen windowsill.

I stuck with sundews over the years, though I thought I wasn't very successful with them. Now I realise they could just have been in their dormant phase...why didn't you tell me the go dormant?!

When we got the greenhouse I decided I wanted to step up my game a bit.

And then there were Pitcher Plants

Ohh yeah!
I currently have two Pitcher Plants...a tall one and a short one. The tall one is Sarracenia farnhamii, and the short one doesn't say. I bought them from a garden centre, so they didn't have very detailed labels. But what I do know is that they've come through two winters in the greenhouse, and they are throwing up new pitchers as I type.

Carnivorous plants Sarracenia Pitcher Plants
Carnivorous Pitcher Plants, Sarracenia var unknown
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
When I cut back the dead pitchers, I split a few open along their length, and noticed they'd been very successful hunters, trapping and digesting huge blue bottles and wasps among other things!

Carnivorous plants Pitcher Plants Sarracenia farnhamii
Carnivorous Pitcher Plants, Sarracenia farnhamii
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
I also have a Cape Sundew Dorsera capensis alba...the big question is - Is it dead or just dormant? I guess I'll have to wait and see...

Carnivorous Plants Sundew Drosera capensis alba
Carnivorous Plants, Sundew Drosera capensis alba
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Buying from a Specialist Carnivorous Plant Nursery

Inspired by the new growth on my Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia), I decided to expand my collection. I looked around online, and settled on Triffid Nurseries, a UK based carnivorous plant specialist. Their website was easy to navigate, had good photographs and product descriptions, and the ordering process was very easy.

Please note, I paid for everything except for a free plant which was an offer on the website, and a packet of seeds. These gifts were genuinely available to all customers at time of ordering, I did not announce I was a blogger, or writing a review until after my order had despatched.

 I ordered:

Plants (supplied bare root)

Seeds

  • Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea x Open Pollinated
  • Drosera binata 'T' form 

Plus

  • A bag of multipurpose Carnivorous Plant Compost (UK)

I was also really tempted by the pygmy sundews, they're soooo cute! but I didn't want to get too carried away.

The delivery charge is £8.95, which at the time felt like quite a lot for bare root plants and some seed (the compost price already includes P&P), but the plant and seed prices were very competitive compared to garden centres, where you 're lucky if the labels tells you what varieties you're buying, plus the individual plant packaging is so intricate and careful, I soon realised the charge was totally justified

I picked varieties described as easy and/or hardy on the website, but they also ask you to give a few substitutes, just in case what you've chosen is unavailable. I just said that I was a 'mildly experienced owner of carnivorous plants, keeping them in an unheated greenhouse year round' so alternatives need to be 'hardy and easy to grow'.

I placed my order via the website on Wednesday 12th April. Normally their plants are selected and packed on the Monday after your order is placed, but as this Monday was a Bank Holiday, I fully expected to have to wait an extra week, which was completely fine with me. They also warn you that they do not send out order confirmation emails, so don't get anxious when you don't hear anything.

I did send them a message via their website, to see if they could advise me what the chances were of my sundew coming back to life. Not only did they confirm shipment of my order (which was sooner than I expected, and I hadn't directly asked about), but Andy also gently broke it to me that poor old 'Alba' was very probably dead *sadface* It apparently should have lots of new leaves by now. I'll do a post mortem once I have the new compost...maybe the roots will be clinging to life...maybe.

Triffid Nurseries Haul, Unboxing and Review

My parcel arrived by courier on Friday 21st April.
The box was an appropriate size and strength for the contents, and the filler was shedded paper, which I can recycle - yay!!

In the top of the box was a personalised letter from Andy and Alison of Triffid Nurseries, and clipped to the top was a ziplock bag with my two packets of seed and an additional free packet. The website stated 10 or 20 seeds of each, but there were definitely more than that in each packet. There wasn't a packing note though, and as you don't get an order confirmation, I'd kinda forgotten what I'd actually ordered (oops).
Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing letter
A personalised letter, with the seeds stapled to the front in a ziplock bag
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing, letter
Opening the box from Triffid Nurseries
Photo by Pumpkin Becki









Each plant was beautifully and creatively packed to protect as much of the leaf and dew as possible. The letter said the plants were just coming out of dormancy, but I think they were a bit further along than that, with lots of fully formed leaves. Each came wrapped in soaking wet paper towel (remember they are bog plants), and with a proper plastic plant label, so it was easy to identify each plant. I was really pleased with them all. Below are photos of every plant I bought and how it looked on arrival
Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing Drosera capensis
Two lovely Drosera capensis plants
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing Drosera hybrida filiformis intermedia
This pot should be Drosera hybrida filiformis x intermedia but look at the tiny spatulata (my guess) round the edge - so adorable!
Phot by Pumpkin Becki
Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing Drosera spatulata
Drosera spatulata
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Triffid Nurseries Carnivorous Plants unboxing Drosera filiformis ssp filiformis
My freebie! Drosera filiformis ssp filiformis
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
The Pumpkin Becki Award for Most Ingenious Packaging goes to Triffid Nurseries
The Pumpkin Becki Award for Most Ingenious Packaging - I love the sticky tape roll to give extra height!
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
Carnivorous Plant seeds Drosera binata T Form Drosera binata Otaki Forks NZ Sarracenia purpurea ssp purpurea
All the seeds are sown, Drosera binata T-Form, Drosera binata 'Otaki Forks NZ' and Sarracenia purpurea ssp purpurea
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
 And finally...
'Alba' made it through after all!! Yay!!! I started pulling away the rosettes of dead leaves and discovered all this lovely growth. I am so bloomin' happy :D

Carnivorous Plant Drosera capensis alba emerges from dormancy
Drosera capensis alba emerges from dormancy at long last
Photo by Pumpkin Becki
And when I unpotted it to upgrade it to a bigger one, I discovered strong shoots coming from the root ball as well!
Shoot root ball Drosera capensis alba
The arrow points to a shoot coming off the root ball on Drosera capensis alba
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Huge thank yous to Andy and Alison at Triffid Nurseries for sending me such fantastic quality plants, seeds and compost, and providing additional support via email. I would highly recommend buying from them, and I'm sure I'll be ordering again soon...I'm still hankering after the pygmy sundews afterall!

Let me know if you're interested in Carnivorous Plants in the comments,
Love
Pumpkin Becki


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Spring Gardening - it's a busy time of year

Spring Gardening - Ornamentals


The Woodland Garden brings me so much joy in Spring. It's always been the main attraction at this time of year. Being at the front of the house, it welcomes me home from a tough day at work, or sends me out into the world with a smile on my face.


I bulked out my tulip collection quite a bit last autumn, keeping purple and whites, but adding pink and extending the season with different varieties



The Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are really starting to spread under the trees. I love the way they bask in the spring sunshine. Last autumn I felt the two clumps I had were big enough to start dividing, so with a trowel I took small sections off the outsides and planted them straight out in their new positions. I kept my fingers crossed for them all winter, and was delighted a few weeks ago to see how well they had settled in.

If you look closely, you'll also see the ridiculous number of sycamore seedlings I have to weed out - grump grump grump :(


Speaking of Anemones, the first of my Anemone coronaria (Garden Anemone) have come into bloom this week. They look electric here against the lime green leaves of the Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia).

Late last summer I dug up my bearded irises, as the clumps were getting huge and needed invigorating. I broke off all the old or diseased rhizomes, trimmed down the leaves to approximately 10cm and potted the healthy rhizomes up into individual pots. These have been stored in the greenhouse over winter, and once I started to see green growth, I cut off all the old dead leaves and began watering them. This has worked really well, and I've just started planting them back out into the Woodland Garden in full sun.

In the greenhouse, spring sown Sweet Peas are growing well, they have been pinched out to encourage strong stocky growth, and have been potted once once already.

Spring Gardening - Edibles

There's lots going on in the edibles department too.

I've learnt over the 7 or 8 years I've worked my garden that there is absolutely no point direct sowing seeds in it. Early in the year they don't get enough heat or light, and the slugs are very active. The death rate is too high. I'm far better off sowing into modules or pots, and getting things growing well in the greenhouse or on the kitchen windowsill. Then I can plant out strong healthy plants which can withstand the slugs better, plus the weather and soil will be a little warmer.
greenhouse bench April broad beans leeks iris peppers aubergine onion sets
Greenhouse bench - mid-April 2017
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

I sowed my first batch of Broad Beans (var. De Monica) early last month. They've been potted on once into 15cm square pots, and yesterday I planted them out into the square foot beds. In the meantime I've also sown some The Sutton and Masterpiece Green Longpod, which are just showing their heads above soil.

I apply the same system to onion sets as well. For me it's more reliable to pop sets into modules, let them get growing and then plant them out once they have formed 10-15cm long leaves.

I'm not having much luck with peas so far, they just won't germinate, but then lots of my seeds are very old, so I may have to start again with new seed.

I bought some parsnip plug plants, which went out into the square foot beds, but I will also sow some seeds of my own.

Leeks germinated well and are already 6-7cm tall.

I have pricked out my young chilli plants and put them next to my tomato seedlings on the kitchen window sill.

I have bought some young tomato plants as well, as an insurance policy, two orange sweet pepper (capsicum) plants, and a grafted aubergine plant. I have had great success with grafted aubergines for the last two years, so it was a no-brainer when I spotted one at B&Q last night.

I've put all these beauties on the bench in the greenhouse to grow on a bit.
Hope your season is going well too, let me know in the comments xx

Monday, 10 April 2017

Introducing my Family - part 6 - Daisy

Daisy


Friday 31st March 2017 was a particularly bad one at work. We needed to pick up our mood, and some more hamster and guinea pig food, so dropped in to Pets at Home on the way back from work.

We started our visit with a look at the baby boy guinea pigs, so many colours, so many hairstyles, so much cute! Then we moved round, past the bunnies to the baby girl guinea pigs, they were really outgoing! There were around 8-10 girls in the pen, definitely at least three different age groups, and probably from more litters than that, as they were all so different.

One of the larger girls looked very like Molly, Rex coated, but in white and lemon - very cute! then suddenly another tiny baby appeared from under a hidey! She was tri-colour, with long wavy hair...Oh My Goodness!

Daisy our new baby guinea pig
Daisy
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

MrPB spotted her first, and instantly fell for her. He started talking about where we could house her, who she might bond with!! I agreed she was lovely, but we already have five piggies, could we really have two trios? A quad and a pair? One big herd?

I suggested we go and look in the adoption area, just to give us both a minute to think. We looked at the beautiful Lion Head rabbit, multiple hamsters and a trio of HUGE adult female guinea pigs who obviously needed to be rehomed together. Definitely no space for any of them!

We went back over to the the babies and looked at the tiny little girl again - she really was beautiful! MrPB gave me final say, but I knew she was coming home with us, and I reasoned that as we don't know how old Molly is, it might be wise to bond Emmeline with a younger piggie now. We know Emmeline isn't the most sociable creature in the world, but maybe she would accept a baby better than an adult. With the baby being so small, Emmeline shouldn't feel threatened by her.

An assistant got her out and let us have a cuddle with her. I checked her over, made sure she was definitely a girl, checked her bottom was clean, eyes bright and nose clear. We explained our intention of bonding her with our existing pigs to the assistant, hence why we weren't looking at more than one baby. He asked us lots of questions about our set up, feeding regime, our experience of bonding piggies, and quickly he recognised that we knew what we were doing.

By this time MrPB had already named her, she was to be Daisy.

Please Note:

I do not advocate impulse buying pets. Remember that I am an adult with my own home and a good job to cover any unforseen expenses (ie. vet bills). I have kept guinea pigs and hamsters since I was very small, I have five guinea pigs already so I know what I am doing by taking on another one. I would prefer to adopt if possible, but sometimes a little face just steals your heart.

...Back to Daisy

I believe she is (at least partly) a Lunkarya. She has the curly sideburns and two rump rossettes that differentiate the Lunkarya from the Texel. This means her coat is going to get very crazy as she grows up. At the moment the fall is quite short and tidy, but we'll keep it trimmed so that it doesn't get tangled or matted.

When we got her home at about 3pm, we separated off one level of cage, cleaned it thoroughly, put in fresh newspaper, hay and Burgess Excel nuggets, and put a fresh water bottle on the bars of the cage. We also made Daisy a little hidey area, and then put her in the cage. We also gave Molly and Emmeline a dose of Ivermectin 'Spot On' treatment to be sure they wouldn't pass any parasites on to Daisy.

We left Daisy quietly until 10am the following day. She had been silent, very nervous and desperate to hide in the cage, so we decided to try bonding her with Molly straight away. She was so relieved to see another piggie that she dashed over to Molly, squeaking excitedly. Molly gave Daisy a little reprimand to calm her down, chuttered her teeth and had to keep defending her food. Daisy was trying to eat anything Molly ate...as it disappeared into poor Molly's mouth!

Bonding baby guinea pig with adult guinea pig
Daisy was very keen to interact with Molly
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Bonding baby guinea pig with adult guinea pig
...very keen
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Initially we thought we would bond Daisy with Molly, then put them back in their own cages overnight, and start again in the morning, but Daisy was so desperate to be with others that we decided she would hate to be on her own again. So later that day, once we were happy with Molly and Daisy being together, we put Emmeline in too.

The dynamic of the three together was fascinating. Daisy rushed over to Emmeline to say hi, Emmeline ticked her off soundly, displaying all sorts of dominance behaviour, Then Molly faced-off to Emmeline to quieten her down. So Molly wasn't exactly defending Daisy, just asking Emmeline to respect her dominance. Daisy obviously felt much safer with Molly, but was still excited to be with everyone, popcorning, zooming and squeaking all round the pen!

Bonding baby guinea pig with adult guinea pigs
Emmeline joined in the bonding session
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

Eventually all the excitement was too much for them, and they all flomped out for a nap, Molly first, then Daisy, then Emmeline.

Bonding baby guinea pig with adult guinea pigs
Exhausted, they all flomped out for a nap
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

When we were satisfied that the bulk of the dominance behaviour was over and they were being calmer, We cleaned out Molly and Emmeline's cage really thoroughly and put them all in together.

With lots of levels in the cage, everyone found their spot, Emmeline tried to keep Molly to herself by blocking her into a corner, while Daisy set up camp in the hayloft. We monitored them closely, as dominance behaviours can start up all over again when the environment changes. When we were happy with them, MrPB and I went into the next room to watch some tv.

About an hour later, there was some alarmed wheeking, which became a whimper. I rushed into the kitchen to find Emmeline now in the hayloft and Daisy down on the next level looking terrified. I scooped up Daisy and gave her to MrPB to hold while I went and got Molly and some lettuce. We all sat together for a few minutes, then slowly moved Molly over to be with Daisy. Daisy was so relieved she tried to burrow under Molly as if she was going to nurse from her. Molly was not interested in that (it's been a long time since she had babies of her own!), so with the help of the lettuce we persuaded Daisy just to sit next to Molly.

The following day we bought Daisy a toy giraffe (one suitable for a new born human baby, so no plastic eyes or loose bits). We made sure the giraffe smelt of us and we put it up in the hayloft with Daisy. She loves it! When we get her out for a cuddle, Giraffe comes too, and Daisy tries to burrow underneath. Giraffe even came out to play on the grass with everyone yesterday!

When I posted on Instagram that this was the fastest bonding session ever, I might have been a bit over-optimistic, but they are doing very well. Good job girls!

guinea pigs giraffe grass sunshine
Six guinea pigs and a giraffe enjoying the grass and sunshine
Photo by Pumpkin Becki