Thursday, 20 December 2018

Preparing my Carnivourous Plants for Winter

My carnivorous plants have been lovely this year, in this video I start the process of preparing them for the winter.

Get yourself a cuppa and see what my little munchers have been eating all summer long.

Rebecca xx

Planting up the Hay Racks for Winter Interest

Hi everyone,
I'm well behind with posting my YouTube videos here on the blog. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram then you know that my father has been very unwell, so we've been making a lot of hospital visits to see him.

In this video I'm planting up the hay rack baskets that sit under my craftroom window. I wanted to refresh them with some Autumn/Winter colour, and I must say, I'm very pleased with the results.

Lots of love
Rebecca xx

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Why Should Fireworks be Restricted?

SPOILER ALERT: Animals, Birds and Fireworks Don't Mix

I've just signed a petition on calling for a review of the current Fireworks Act 2003 and Firework Regulations 2004, to further restrict the use of fireworks to very specific dates, limit decibel levels, licencing of public displays etc. Here's a link to the petition if you would like to have a look at it and maybe add your name too.

Here's a look at the comment I left:

Most of my pets live inside so aren't troubled by fireworks, I also have chickens who are not bothered by them. But I really signed up because of the adverse impact on wildlife, the abuse of animals with fireworks, and the way it seems to have become appropriate to have fireworks at any outdoor 'celebration' throughout the year. This last one makes it impossible for pet owners and livestock holders to prepare their animals and birds for the Armageddon they are about to experience. If firework use was restricted to the two weekends and in between for Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, plus New Years Eve, at least people would know to be prepared. Also, noise travels - it's no good just letting your next door neighbour know that you are having fireworks, it affects a much much wider area than that, including surrounding wildlife and livestock.

Now lets talk about Fireworks and their effects a bit more:

My Guinea Pigs, who are kept inside, never react to fireworks, thunder or other loud noises from outside. Stompy the Tortoise is phased by nothing either.

The only ones I worry about are the chickens. The first year we had them I made sure they were shut away in their coop by dusk, and checked on them repeatedly during the evening, but they were always sound asleep on their fact I think I was disturbing them more than the fireworks were!

The following year I shut the coop up as soon as they went to bed, and checked on them after all the fireworks had finished (around 10pm), and they were suitably unruffled.

I am lucky though. I know many animals and birds are completely terrified by loud noises, and people have to deploy ways of helping their pet cope, some use distraction techniques like food and music/ radio, some use sedatives, and some relocate their animal altogether.

Disclaimer - I am not an animal expert, vet or animal professional. If you have a frightened animal or bird, seek professional advice now.

Things you can try for domesticated animals and birds:

  • Familiar surroundings and routine - This can really help keep an outdoor animal feel secure, and do try sticking to your regular routine, ie if you normally leave your horse/donkey outside overnight, then it may find suddenly being in a stable more stressful, and it could begin to associate its stable with frightening experiences, which obviously would be bad. Keeping companions together can also be beneficial
  • Distraction techniques - Guinea Pigs and Rabbits can easily be distracted by a big pile of hay or ReadiGrass, or maybe a puzzle toy.
  • If your animal or bird is used to the noise of tv and radio, you can leave one in earshot as this will help disguise sudden bangs and pops.
  • Check the environment - A startled animal can hurt itself and others badly, so make sure fences are secure, and that there are no hazards in the enclosure (indoors or out).
  • Speak to your vet about appropriate use of sedatives and other calming options. But remember that these usually have to administered well before the event.
  • Make sure you have insurance that covers you incase your animal escapes and causes damage to another person's property, injures another person's animal, or causes an accident etc etc.

If you are going to be having fireworks, please remember the impact you have on other people, pets, domesticated animals and birds and wildlife

Before lighting your bonfire, check it thoroughly for hedgehogs, frogs, toads, mice etc seeking somewhere warm for the night - you might give them more than they bargained for!

Fireworks can disrupt roosting birds, be aware of any Schedule 1 species that roost and nest in your area. They must not be disturbed!

Wild animals can be frightened by fireworks, making them suddenly run out into roads. Studies show that the numbers of road traffic/ wildlife related deaths increase significantly during November and December. Be extra vigilent when out driving near firework displays.

But - and here is why I really signed the petition:

Letting off fireworks is becoming more prevailant  all year round, making it impossible for owners, farmers and wildlife to take necessary precautions.

I'm not a killjoy, but I do feel that fireworks should be even more strongly regulated, and letting them off should be limited to certain dates and times, with fines being applied to people breaking these restrictions. Don't even get me started on the malicious misuse of fireworks!

I'd be interested to know what you think, so do leave me a comment.

PS: Me? I stick to sparklers πŸ˜‰

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Halloween Fun with the Guinea Pigs and Pumpkins 2018

Happy Halloween everyone!

In this week's YouTube video I had some spooktacular fun with the Guinea Pigs, did a spot of pumpkin carving and get very messy indeed.
I hope you enjoy watching this hauntingly good video as much as we enjoyed making it πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ΌπŸ˜†

Rebecca xx

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Colourful Flowering Plants for Autumn Garden Decorating

Hello lovelies,

Goodness me it's busy at the moment. I had an operation, the garden has gone a bit wild, we've lost and gained pets, I've been preparing for craft fairs, and so much more...

I will write a 'proper' blogpost soon, but for now here's my latest YouTube video where I pretty-up the patio outside our lovely blue summerhouse with some Autumn flowering plants -it's the only time you'll see red and orange in my garden! πŸ˜‰

This was shot on a very warm day, the sun was really strong and I was struggling with light/shadows and seeing the least the planters look pretty 😊

Hope you enjoy it

Monday, 17 September 2018

Fairy Garden Makeover for George the Dragon

This week's YouTube video is a timely makeover for George the Dragon's Miniture Garden. It was looking a bit sunken and a bit shaggy. Watch how I divide the plants and rejuvenate the garden.
Rebecca xx

My YouTube Anniversary and Making a Tuscan Fairy Garden from a broken terracotta pot

This week's video marks my 1 Year Anniversary as a YouTuber, and features a fun Tuscan feel Fairy Garden made from broken and repurposed things.
Rebecca xx

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Perfect Pony Holiday in Dartmoor

This week's video is a roundup (pun-intended) of all the pony fun I had on my holiday this year.

I've never been to Dartmoor before, this beautiful rolling landscape is made all the more magical by the sheep, cows and ponies that live in it.

If you're looking for maximum Dartmoor Pony encounters, then I highly recommend the car park off the B3387, the "Haytor National Park Information Centre", where the ponies congregate during the day, and the "Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust", situated on the National Trust Parke Estate just beyond the small town of  Bovey Tracey.

There are several Pony Trekking/Riding centres on the moor, and for upclose contact with the tiniest ponies, go to the Miniature Pony Centre at Moretonhampstead.

I freely admit to being a pony-mad girl (actually a not-quite middle aged woman), and short of actually riding a horse, this fulfilled a lot of my pony dreams ☺

Enjoy the video, it's full of cuteness,

Rebecca xx

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Create a quick table decoration with succulent cuttings

Hi there,

My vision for this week's project was a centrepiece for an alfresco dinner party. I had so much fun creating this lovely table decoration, and it was so quick, inexpensive and easy to do!

I bought the reclaimed cedar planter from Pembury Recycle for a princely sum of £8.00
The compost is my trusty E-Coco Products Cactus and Succulent one, and the small amount probably cost £1.50-2.00
The candle and votive were leftovers from Christmas, you could use something you have already.
The plants are all free cuttings taken from my existing plants.

Create a Quick Table Decoration with Succulent Cuttings

I'd love you to try something similar and let me know how you get on in the comments ☺

Lots of love
Rebecca xx

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Visiting Godinton House and Gardens for Delphinium week 2018

Splendid Delphiniums on Display

This week's video (taken on my brand-spanking new camera - the Canon M50) is a visit to the beautiful, tranquil walled garden at Godinton House near Ashford, Kent.

Set amongst 12 acres of grounds, the Walled Garden was the kitchen garden for the House and Estate.
It is now home to a huge Victorian-style greenhouse, clipped box wood, a  rich collection of herbaceous perennial plants, and the stars of the June show are very definitely the Delphiniums. So much so that Godinton House and the Delphinium Society host a 'Delphinium Week' each year.

Come and explore the Walled Garden with me, and experience these breathtaking plants in their prime, plus some cheeky extras in the greenhouse!

Rebecca xx

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Royal Horticultural Society and the RHS Plants for Pollinators Scheme

"RHS Plants for Pollinators"

...Wait! I thought it was the "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" scheme? Yes, yes it was. Here's what happened.

In 2011 the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society, here in the UK) launched "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" plant labelling scheme. It was a great way of helping the gardening public choose plants to support pollinating insects.

Nurseries and Garden Centres could register with the RHS, and print a logo on appropriate plant labels and advertising material to help guide shoppers towards flowering plants that would be attractive to bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, hover flies, beetles, moths and butterflies.

Super! However...

Studies began to show that some of the plants bearing the logo "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" had actually been exposed to pesticides during their growing. So although the plant had the right attributes to attract beneficial pollinators, it could potentially be lethal to them.

The RHS realised that they couldn't possibly 'police' all the commercial plant producers in the world to ensure that the logo was applied only to organically grown plants, so instead they chose to slightly tweak their branding.

Enter the new "RHS Plants for Pollinators" logo

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme logo

The rebranding took place on 10th May 2018, and should soon begin to filter it's way on to the marketplace.

So remember, when you see this logo, it is commenting on the attractiveness of the plant species to pollinating insects; be that the colour, markings, flower shape, scent etc, rather than suggesting that these plants are safe for pollinators because have been grown without coming into contact with pesticides or other chemicals.

It's an important distiction. 

The RHS are trying to increase our awareness of beneficial insects, applying pressure to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in horticulture at large, and are also working with the industry to produce a list of Organic plant nurseries and producers, which is available on their website.

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme logo

Choosing Plants for Pollinators

Keep your eyes peeled for these logos next time you go plant shopping, understand what they mean and that they make no promises, but above all, do your own research.

Try to provide a range of plants that flower over as wide a timespan as you can, to ensure pollinators have access to food throughout the year. The RHS have a list of pollinator friendly plants but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme buddleja
Buddleja flower through summer well into autumn, this is a dwarf variety and is just as attractive to pollinators as a big cultivar

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme hollyhock
Hollyhocks flower in summer on very tall stems, single flowered cultivars are best for pollinators rather than flouncy doubles
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Phlox
Phlox paniculata flower during summer into early autumn
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Allium honey bee
Allium flower mainly during May - bees love them!
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Crocus
Crocus - one of the earliest flowering plants of the year and a vital food source for pollinators

RHS Plants for Pollinators scheme lavender chickens
Lavender - wonderful for insects (and the lesser-known pollinating hens!)
Rebecca xx

NB: The Royal Horticultural Society, and its logo, are trade marks of The Royal Horticultural Society (Registered Charity No 222879/SC038262) and used under licence”.

Monday, 21 May 2018

My Garden Tour Video - May 2018

There's so much going on in the garden at the moment, that I thought it was an ideal time to do a garden tour video.

The early-mid Spring flowers have faded, and the late Spring ones are bursting into life everywhere I look; geraniums, ceanothus, alliums, irises, wallflowers, heuchera, hostas and so much more. This is a lush time, before the summer heat takes its toll.

Rebecca xx

Monday, 7 May 2018

Meet Stompy our new baby Tortoise

This week's video is all about my new baby tortoise Stompy, featured in the previous blog post.

Please take a moment to like, comment and subscribe to me here on Blogger, and also on YouTube, I'd really appreciate it.

Rebecca x

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Stompy the Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise

My new pet - a baby Tortoise!

In my last blog post I mentioned some very strange plants that I'm trying to cultivate. The reason for these oddities is this little chap...

Stompy baby Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise
Stompy the Tortoise

Or's hard to tell at this age!

We've named him/her Stompy (for now at least), and for ease I'll refer to this creature in the masculine from now on (otherwise I'll drive myself bonkers!). To be honest, I wanted to call him Om after the Great God Om (Holy Horns) from Terry Pratchett's book "Small Gods", but I think that got vetoed 😒

Stompy's Particulars:

  • Stompy hatched in September 2017
  • He weighs 63 grams (I haven't measured him yet - but his plastron is roughly 6.5cm long)
Stompy baby Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise hand
Stompy is very dinky - and I have small hands!

  • He is a Testudo graeca graeca or Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise (not to be confused with the African Spurred Tortoise Centrochelys sulcata, which grows enormous)
  • He was bred by a work colleague, who has owned the adults Tilly and Trevor for years and years. Tilly had laid eggs before 2017 but they were never fertile. Then in August 5 babies hatched from a clutch of 6 eggs, then Stompy and one other hatched in September from two more eggs laid a little later.
  • Stompy could live to be 100 years old, with the right care - I unfortunately will be long gone by then!

 Tortoise Habitat

There are approaching 300 species of tortoise and turtle in the world, 5 of them are known as Mediterranean, and they have all evolved to deal with slightly different environments.

The Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise needs temperatures of around 20-35 degrees Centigrade during the day, the upper end being the all important basking temperature. UVA and UVB light sources are necessary for correct growth and metabolism, and a humidity level of around 40-50% is ideal.

While Stompy is so small, it's not safe for him to be left out in the garden to roam free, getting all his nutrients etc from nature, so we have to try to replicate his natural environment indoors.

The easiest and safest way to do this is by constructing or buying a Tortoise Table. Do not try to house your tortoise in a Vivarium, Terrarium or anything that the tortoise can see through. The first two are impossible to control environmentally, the latter will cause your tortoise to fret about the boundary line, constantly trying to get to what's beyond it.

Tortoise Table set up
Stompy's Tortoise Table

Research is King

I've spent months researching what Stompy will need to live a long healthy life, and while that doesn't make me an expert, it does mean I understand that Tortoise care is complicated and you can't take shortcuts. 

Initial cost is a big factor to bear in mind:

And then there's the cost of the tortoise itself. 
Expect to pay around £150 - £250 for a captive bred Tortoise with it's certificates. 

Admittedly once the initial set up is done, there will be less ongoing cost, but UVB bulbs need replacing every 6-9 month, substrate can be spot cleaned daily but needs totally replacing periodically, Vet bills must always be taken into account, and finding a good reptile/exotics Vet is harder than you might think, so do your homework, you need everything set up, tested and the basking temperature settled BEFORE you bring your tortoise home.

Stompy mini garden edible plants
Stompy in his mini garden


There are commercial tortoise diets on the market, but by growing the right plants, it is entirely feasible (and healthier) to never need to feed pre-prepared food to your tortoise. I have a several safe houseplants in the table; a Prayer Plant, a Boston Fern and a Spider Plant. I've also planted up six half sized seed trays with plants from my garden like violet, London Pride, hardy geranium, Couch Grass and plantain, plus I've sown seeds of cat grass, dandelion, harebell, zinnia, pansy, marigold and hollyhock, all of which are safe to feed. 

It's important to know that what you are feeding is safe for your tortoise to eat, that it hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, fed with chemical fertilizers. treated with slug pellets or been used as a bathroom for visiting dogs and cats.

You can download edible plant lists from The Tortoise Table, plus they have a really fantastic App that you can take with you on your mobile phone. 

I can't tell you how helpful The Tortoise Trust and The Tortoise Table websites are. There's a lot of conflicting advice out there, but if you start with these two sites you won't go far wrong.

So, please join me in welcoming Stompy to our family, we're captivated by him.

Rebecca xx

NB All prices quoted correct as of April 2018.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

I'm Growing Some Really Weird Plants!

Forget Carnivorous Plants, these are even weirder!

This week I've made a YouTube video all about some very odd plants I'm trying to cultivate. Don't be worried, they're just more likely to be the sort of thing a gardener would be pulling up, not planting in the garden...come and see what on earth I'm talking about...

Rebecca xx

Please remember to πŸ‘share and subscribe to me on YouTube, and to get notifications every time I upload videos, press the little πŸ”” button too 😍

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring 2018 has arrived at last

Spring is in full swing!

It's taken it's sweet time, fierce easterly winds brought in snow, ice and freezing temperatures in March, but finally, enevitably, Spring 2018 has arrived - thank goodness!!

Let's have a look at a few of the highlights so far...


Alpine Planter Arabis Armeria Thrift
New Alpine Planter
 This new planter is filled with two types of Arabis, one creeping and one upright, and wonderful softly spikey Armeria aka Thrift.

Spring Bulbs

Anemone coronaria blooming newly hatched ladybird
Anemone coronaria and ladybird

I can't believe I took this photo with my camera phone! No filters or fancy stuff, this is just how stunningly vivid anemones look...the newly hatched ladybird needs to learn about the art of camouflage though πŸ˜„

Narcissus Tete-a Tete have been beautiful this year, and I love the contrast with these early purple tulips, the pink hellebores and all the vibrant fresh foliage.

Spring bulb mixture Narcissus Tete a Tete purple tulips hellebores
Narcissus Tet-a Tete, Tulips and Hellebores


I've just refreshed my Sempervivum planters, they are doing really well, and have put on lots of growth as the days are getting longer and warmer. I love the tapestry of colours, sizes, textures and markings.

Mixed Sempervivum planted Strawberry Pot
A Mixture of Sempervivum in a Strawberry Pot

But as you'll see from the next photo, they also look really fabulous when one variety is planted en-mass (see the top right pot crammed with a cushion of wine red Semps)

More Sempervivums planted pots low bowls
More Sempervivum Planters

The Woodland Garden

Things are changing daily in the Woodland Garden, and whilst I love all my plants, there is something very special about Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa). I remember walking through woodland with my mother, and her pointing out these shining white, daisy-like flowers to me. She loved them, and the way they spread and bloom under deciduous trees.

My clumps are growing huge, and last Spring I took the opportunity to split off some pieces and replant them in other areas of the Woodland Garden.  I was delighted to see them flowering among the Primroses and Dog Violets too.

Wood Anemones blooming Woodland Garden
Wood Anemones glowing under the trees

On the Lawn

I scurrified the grass ready for it's first cut, and was surprised by this little beastie proudly sticking out from the turf...

Morel mushroom growing lawn Spring 2018
A Morel Mushroom

And the Morel of this story is...Sorry, that's a terrible joke 😁

Don't become plant blind, nature is amazing and ever-changing. It's so important that we appreciate its diversity, ingenuity and tenacity. Not just from an environmental or horticultural standpoint, but also to get our faces out of our smartphones and start experiencing real life.

What's going on in your garden right now? Let me know in the comments,
Rebecca xx

Monday, 9 April 2018

My Carnivorous Plant Collection and Repotting

Finally! A Carnivorous Plant video on my YouTube channel

I really needed to do some repotting of my Carnivorous plants, and seeing as it's Spring and they are beginning to come out of dormancy, I thought I'd bring you along for the ride.

Enjoy the video, and please remember to rate and share my videos, and subscribe to my YouTube channel too :)
Thank you
Rebecca xx

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Lambing time

A brand new YouTube video, just for you x

Hi there!

This week on YouTube I'm celebrating the real arrival of Spring with a video all about lambs...lots and lots of cuddly, bouncy lambs - prepare for cuteness overload!

If you haven't already subscribed to my YouTube channel please do, and remember to click the little πŸ”” (bell) icon to get notifications every time I upload πŸ˜‰

Rebecca xx


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Sowing Seeds for Square Foot Gardening

In this week's YouTube video, we're beginning to look at seed sowing for the veggie garden, and looking at the first principles of Square Foot Gardening. As the season progresses there'll be more posts and videos on the SFG, but here's a great place to start :)

Rebecca x

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Meet the Hamsters - it's cleaning out day

This week's YouTube video is live, and although I know you've already met my hamsters in this blog, here's a little video of them, taken while I was cleaning them out :)

Prepare for epic cuteness overload!

Rebecca xx

Monday, 5 March 2018

Bonsai and a crisis of conscience - Tree #2 Zelkova serrata

Where do you Start, Pre-Bonsai, Developed Bonsai or Somewhere in between?

The greatest sum paid for a Bonsai was an ancient pine at 1.3 million dollars. Some trees are priceless heirlooms which have been tended by the same family for centuries. Obviously, these trees are WAY out of my reach financially, and I'm aware that I don't stand any chance of creating such an artwork in my lifetime. Slightly more attainable refined trees can sell for £1000 to £2000 and some Bonsai professionals advocate buying refined trees, so that you can get experience of handling a well grown, ramified tree with significant age, good nebari (the area where roots flare away from the trunk), beautiful bark, and maybe some jin or shari (dead wood) too...

But I'm a beginner, what if I invest in a tree nearing refinement and I wreck it, or worse kill it!? Not only will I have lost the tree and the money I spent on it, but also the work and dedication of the generations that developed and tended it. I feel the weight of that responsibility and I find it crippling.

I'm torn between two thought processes on how my Bonsai collection should take shape.

1) Developed Bonsai
My cynical side tells me that Bonsai professionals have nurseries full of trees that they want to sell, so of course they are going to tell you you need refined trees. And while it's true that a Bonsai is never finished, it does feel that a ramified tree would offer little creativity beyond changes to apex or tweaks here and there, because the main structure is set and has been for 30/40/50 years.

2) Young trees, seeds or seedlings
You can buy tree seeds, though for me that's never held much appeal - too much waiting! Or you can buy (or dig up (with permission)) young 'starter' trees, usually around 3-4 years old, they will be slender saplings, with few branches. They are a blank canvas, but they require patience (yes I know that's what Bonsai is all about), and they don't offer much opportunity to practice your skills in the early stages.

Or you can buy something in between...

Enter Tree #2 Zelkova serrata (Japanese Elm)

Amazon listing Zelkova serrata Japanese Elm Bonsai
Zelkova serrata (Japanese Elm) approx 8 years old
Amazon Listing details:
    • measurements inclusive of pot 46cm(h)x 26cm(w) x 21cm(d) and trunk diameter of 11mm at compost level
    • the pot is a traditional 16cm plastic bonsai pot
    • supplied with full instructions and to your door within 7 working days
    • outdoor bonsai tree - tree pictured is the tree you will receive

Searching for supplies on Amazon recently, I spotted this tree and I liked what I saw. It was only £30 plus delivery. There was something about the shape that really interested me, and I've seen slightly bigger Zelkova, with less development sell for twice this price. It had been pot grown from seed for 8 years, giving it quite a natural deciduous shape, good internode lengths, and good division (bifurcation) of branches from 1 to 2, 2 to 4 etc.

It had a degree of ramification that I felt I could learn from, but it also had some areas that could be worked on straight away, such as a couple of multiple branches coming from one location, which I thinned to 2. I also cleaned the moss off the trunk as this can cause inverse taper if left on for a long time. Plus there was an old partial break up in the apex, so I pruned that out as well.

I think for me, at the level I'm at now (enthusiastic beginner), this little tree is a good compromise between price and development. It's further advanced than my other trees, but I don't feel 'over-horsed' by it, I'm not afraid to touch it or prune it or style it.

Keep your fingers crossed for us both, and I'll be sure to share updates with you soon.

Do you have any thoughts on this dilemma? Let me know in the comments :)
PB xx

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bonsai - Let's begin with my trees - #1 Picea albies

"If you want to practice Bonsai, you need a lot of trees"

I can't remember which of my Bonsai guru's imparted that gem of knowledge, but it's certainly true. Once you've done a piece of work on a tree, you must let it recover, if you have only one tree, then that's a long wait until the next job can be done. You can't build skills and confidence like that.

In the few short months since I decided to reconnect with Bonsai I've amassed a small collection of trees and shrubs, spanning deciduous, evergreen, flowering, fruiting, hardy, tender, tropical. Hopefully that will give me a range of jobs I can do throughout the year. Here's what I have (so far!) ...

I had a Japanese Maple too...but I killed it #sadface

So you can see (maybe, if you zoom in!) that I have 18 trees right now, and knowing how 'invested' I get in hobbies, I expect that number to grow.

"You have to kill a lot of trees to make a few decent ones"

I can't remember who said this either, but I know I've killed quite a few trees in my time, mainly through a lack of learning during my teens.

Let me start to introduce you formally to my trees...

Picea abies (Norway Spruce)
I bought this for about £5.00 in early January, it was left over after Christmas.
Picea abies Norway Spruce Christmas clearance stock
A leftover Christmas Tree - Picea abies (Norway Spruce)
My first important job was to get this little tree out of it's bucket. It was planted straight in it, and there were no drainage holes. I was certain that the roots would be poorly formed, as a) the mass production of these trees means that time is money, and b) the non draining pot could have caused the roots to avoid filling any the sodden areas.

Picea abies Norway Spruce before after initial root pruning
Left - Before root pruning      and Right - After!

I was right! The roots were a disaster. The tree had clearly been pushed down into the compost, causing the roots to be forced upwards, and to wrap around the neck of the trunk. Roots had then formed at the top of the trunk, immediately below the branches (left hand photo). 
I decided there were no kind ways of working on this root system, so clipped off the high up roots, all the upwards growing roots, the tightly wrapped ones and the overly thick ones (right hand photo). That operation also removed most of the fine roots too.

There were a large number of branches growing from the same points on the trunk, so I thinned them out, but left the remaining branches unpruned, so the tree had some foliage to aid recovery and healing.
Picea abies Norwary Spruce Bonsai initial pruning repot recover
Post-pruning and repotted.

Now this isn't a styling - this is damage limitation. Too many branches coming from one trunk location, moving resources to and from the foliage can cause the collars (where the branches meet the trunk) to swell together, and overly thicken the junction. When this area gets to the point where it is wider than the rest of the trunk (nb it can happen on branches too), it is referred to as inverse taper and becomes a fault that is hard/impossible to recover from.

After this initial work, I'll leave this tree well alone and see how it responds. You can see in the final photo (above), repotted it in approx. 75% Akadama (granular clay-like material used widely for bonsai), I've indicated a potential front for the tree (white pointy piece of plastic), and I've had to stabilise the tree with crocks on the soil surface, otherwise it was just falling over - not surprising really, now it has so few roots.

I've got the tree in an unheated greenhouse to protect it from cold, frost, snow and wind, and when I start to see signs of growth, I'll begin feeding this little Spruce with omakase japanese bonsai feed pellets.

Right! 1 down, 17 more trees to go!
See you soon
PB xx

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Holly's Succulent Fairy Garden

In this week's Youtube video, we're using copper, succulents and fairies to create a super-cute miniature garden...does it get better than that?

Hope you enjoy,

PB xx

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Early Spring Sunshine

The sun was so warm this weekend, that I took full advantage to get some jobs done in the garden, join me ....

Monday, 5 February 2018

Returning to my Gardening Roots with Bonsai

My garden path is a wiggly one

My mother was very protective of her garden, when I was young, she would try to let me 'have' bits in an attempt to nurture a love of gardening in me, but things took too long to grow from seed, I never remembered to water, weeds took over, and before I knew it, my area had been assimilated back into Mother's garden.

I liked making mud pies next to the dustbin :)

In 1988 at the tender age of 14, I was flicking through a copy of my mother's Amateur Gardener magazine, and saw an article written by someone called Clive Jones. The photo accompanying the article was a tree...and it was in a little ceramic pot.

first Bonsai article read Clive Jones Amateur Gardener magazine 1988
This is the very first Bonsai article I ever read, it's probably an antique now!


Imagination captured!

After that, I scoured Mother's garden magazine collection for more information and articles. The author of the articles then changed to a gentleman called Peter Chan, a Bonsai artist living in Surrey, with his own Bonsai nursery called Herons. Mother didn't need much persuading to arrange a family day out, so on a sunny summer's day we went.
Bonsai article written Peter Chan Amateur Gardener magazine 1989
Peter Chan wrote in a different manner to Clive

I was star-struck by Peter, and tried asking him a question, but I don't think he took me very seriously.
My dad and I were completely captivated by the glorious forest plantings on Peter's display benches, and at the end of my visit I bought two little Swamp Cypress starter trees in 3" pots.

My 1st Collection

Back then, we didn't have much money, so alongside my two Swamp Cypress, I had a fuchsia, a couple of little seedlings from the garden, a pyracantha, and occasional evergreens, which I would get overly ambitious with...and kill...very quickly (I gave up on evergreens after a while!). I did have a Scots Pine in a big bucket as well. I loved poring over Bonsai catalogues, and would send off for price lists. In those days catalogues were mainly typed lists of plants and descriptions, so you were very much buying blind.

ancient collection Bonsai catalogues circa 1988
Bonsai Nursery catalogues from the late 1980's

Learning about Bonsai in the 80's

I wasn't terribly interested in learning as a teen (I was doing enough of that at school), so I would grasp a couple of concepts and cling to them. Such as;

to thicken a tree's trunk, grow it in a standard plant pot rather than a bonsai pot.

Perfect! I'm creating Bonsai!

I had some nice Bonsai books, one was a school prize for attainment, but in all honesty I was afraid to prune anything off my trees for fear of ruining them, didn't understand how often to tend or feed them, or that I should be tailoring their soil to their individual needs, I just used whatever compost Mother had, or I'd take soil straight from the garden.

Somehow I kept my trees going for about 4 years until I went to Art College, started a part time job and discovered night clubs! Sadly my little trees couldn't survive this deep neglect (even though Mother was watering them for me), and one by one they died.

If you read my page How I came to Gardening you'll see I have now found space in my life for many aspects of gardening, and I've documented my growth in knowledge and achievement here in this blog as well as on my YouTube channel. I'm also enjoying the actual act of learning far more than I did back then, especially as it's just for me, I don't have to prove anything to anyone, or take exams or anything.

Fast forward to Autumn 2017

As research for my own YouTube channel, I'd been seriously exploring the garden-based YouTubers to see what sort on content I could create; I had my garden itself, my carnivorous plants and my succulents. Then I stumbled on some amazing Bonsai videos, and quickly realised that things had moved on an awful lot in the world of Bonsai since my last attempts, and long-held techniques were being discarded. Being able to watch a current Bonsai artist, amateur or professional, assess their trees in real time, make decisions, prune, wire and repot trees was an absolute revelation It occurred to me that now might be the perfect time to go back to where I began my journey, back to Bonsai.

My Favourite Bonsai YouTubers:

YouTube is a huge source of information, but for truly educational Bonsai videos - I would highly recommend searching for Nigel Saunders The Bonzai Zone, Graham Potter at Kaizen Bonsai and Ryan Neil at Bonsai Mirai.

  • Nigel is based in Ontario, Canada, and enjoys 'cut and grow' Bonsai techniques, has lots of trees in his collection from all different climates, of different ages, and stages of development. His plethora of videos are gentle, calm, informative, friendly and he takes you carefully through the pros and cons of each decision he makes for his trees. He breaks the videos into libraries, so it's easy to search for species or techniques. Nigel also takes you for walks around his local area, to study the natural shapes and quirks of different trees as they grow out in the landscape.
  • Kaizen Bonsai is in Norfolk, UK. Owned by Graham Potter who seems to get much joy creating sculptural deadwood on pines and conifers, he also has a good quantity of videos for inspiration, though most of his work seems way beyond anything I could ever hope to approximate. He is very good at demonstrating confident use of power tools on deadwood.
  • Bonsai Mirai has free content on YouTube and their website, then if you want to learn even more, you can subscribe to their live streams. There are 3 tiers of subscription, I've recently signed up to Tier 2. Ryan Neil is a Bonsai professional who trained for 6 years under Mr Masahiko Kimura in Japan. He doesn't just look at styling and design, but gives you complex horticultural knowledge that you didn't realise you needed to know, but gives you a real *lightbulb* moment on your own successes and failures. Bonsai Mirai is based in Oregon, USA.
These three channels together provide a perfect balance for me to learn from, each with their own speciality and way of imparting information - watch Nigel's Lara Croft video and tell me you weren't totally absorbed by it!

Peter Chan also has a number of videos on his website and YouTube, his Bonsai skills are undeniable, but personally I find his demonstrations too fast to be able to learn anything meaningful from.

So here I go again

There is a Chinese proverb...
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

If I'd been able to keep my first trees they'd be about 33 years old now, but I must not lament their passing, just remember that they taught me many lessons, and that I am now ready to begin my journey over again. My trees and videos will reflect my skill level - enthusiastic beginner! I can promise you no more than that, but it would be nice to think I might inspire someone else to try their hand at this beautiful art form.

Love PB xx

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Valentine's Inspired Sempervivum Heart Decoration Tutorial

This weeks video is live, and features beautiful Sempervivum, on a Valentine's Day inspired heart decoration.
Rebecca xx

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Sad News about Molly & Gastrointestinal Stasis

It's with deep sadness that I announce the passing away of my beautiful Molly.

Molly Guinea Pig passed away
Molly Mumma

Molly had been poorly for a couple of weeks, and though she fought bravely, and we did everything within our power to pull her through, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to have her put to sleep.

To make something positive out of this sad time, I wanted to share what happened.

Friday 29th December 2017

We had all seven piggies out together for floor time. Mr PB wanted to FINALLY connect all the hutches up together, allowing them to access all the floors. It was a big job and would take 2 days. At the end of Friday we decided the piggies were safe to leave out in their floortime run overnight.

Saturday 30th December 2017

Everything went well, until during the afternoon we noticed Molly had tucked herself away in a quiet corner of the run. She wasn't coming out for water, or to eat from the bowls as she had been that morning. We tried putting ReadiGrass and hay right next to her, and she was eating small amounts. If you held a bottle for her she would drink from it, but she didn't want to move.

We noticed a very soft poop where she'd been sitting, but not as many poops as I would expect her to do, considering how long she'd been sat there for. Worrying that Molly was going into Gastrointestinal Stasis, we decided to start syringe feeding her.

Syringe feeding Molly guinea pig GI Stasis
Molly looks unimpressed by her syringe feeding

Syringe Feeding a Guinea Pig - Method

We always keep small (1ml) syringes in our pet first aid box, but didn't have any Oxbow Critical Care, so instead we soaked Burgess Excel Tasty Nuggets  in plain water, ground them to a watery paste with a spoon, and sucked the mixture up into the syringe.
Hold your guinea pig's head in one hand, insert the tip of the syringe into the guinea pig's mouth, immediately behind the incisor teeth. Slowly squeeze the plunger of the syringe to dispense a small amount of the feed into the guinea pigs mouth.
Allow the guinea pig to chew, then repeat the process. If you try to feed too fast, you can make your guinea pig choke.

We aimed to feed Molly 2ml every 15/20 minutes. That doesn't sound much, but it is.

When we weren't actively feeding her, we kept Molly on her own in a big box with a towel, some hay, and placed a warm hotwater bottle underneath the box. GI Stasis is very painful - imagine when you have an upset stomach, so the warmth is soothing, but your guinea pig should not come into direct contact with the hotwater bottle, and shouldn't be allowed to get overheated.

We were also massaging Molly's abdomen constantly. Later in the evening she began passing tiny round poops, and then later as more fluids entered her system, the small poops started joining together into long clumps. Molly would also strain her tummy while we massaged her, it was clearly painful, but an important step to kick start her system again.

We constantly cleaned poops away from her bottom, and changed her bedding every couple of hours.

It's not a pleasant operation, your guinea pig is unlikely to think you are helping them, but you MUST be persistent.

Sunday 31st December

Despite our best efforts, and working in shifts all through the night, Molly was looking weak. We continued through the day, trying to tempt Molly with little bits of romaine lettuce, celery and carrot but she wasn't interested.

She'd lost 80g in just two days, so we had a frank discussion about how long it was right for us to continue. Molly is an elderly guinea pig - we don't know exactly how old, as she is adopted. Maybe she had just decided that this was her time? But her eyes were still bright and shiny, so together we agreed to keep trying through another night.

Monday 1st January
Molly looked a little brighter, and she actually began eating hay

Friday 19th January
We'd used our last Critical Care yesterday night, but more was due tomorrow. Molly suddenly looked weak again, and her weight had dropped another 60g. We fed her with mashed nuggets again, but she seemed to be straining, and her poops were getting smaller and rounder again.
We booked her an urgent appointment at the vets.

So What is Gastrointestinal Stasis (aka GI Stasis)?

Guinea Pigs have a very delicate digestive system, they are herbivores, but as one brand of pet food terms them, 'Fibrevores' may be more accurate. For good digestion and uptake of nutrients, they need to constantly eat long-staple fibre (ie long strands of hay). This fibre plus water feeds microorganisms in digestive system. The microorganisms then produce a type of volatile fatty acid. The fatty acid is what gives a guinea pig its appetite, and keeps its digestive system functioning properly. Any little blip in this delicately balanced system, in which the function of one part relies so heavily on another, and you would start to see symptoms of GI Stasis very very quickly. GI Stasis can lead to death in a matter of days. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital.

Symptoms of GI Stasis

The first thing you might notice is your guinea pig being quiet and not interacting with its cage mates or you.
You may notice it isn't drinking or eating as much as normal.
You may notice that your guinea pig isn't eating its caecal (pron: see kal) stools (the special softer poops that a guinea pig MUST eat to be healthy.
You may notice that your guinea pig is tired, eyes are dull, coat is puffed up.
You may notice that your guinea pig is passing very small, hard, or very soft poops, or worse still; isn't passing poop at all,

Any or all of these symptoms need investigating urgently. They could means any number of things are wrong with your guinea pig. If you are at all uncertain, then make an emergency appointment with your vet!

Molly's Final Trip to the Vet

Alex the vet listened to everything that had been going on, whilst checking Molly all over.
Eventually, he looked up and said "I can feel a mass in the left side of her abdomen".

This was a total bombshell.

To me it felt about 2.5cm long x 1cm, approximately torpedo shaped, hard and immobile.

Alex believed that this mass was probably the underlying cause of Molly's GI Stasis. He talked about the possibility of treating Molly with steroids to reduce the lump, but we knew it wouldn't be a cure, and besides, Alex's veterinary medicine handbook didn't give a steroid dosage for guinea pigs, so there was a strong risk of not giving enough, or giving too much.

Mr PB appeared to want to try, but I looked in Molly's eyes and said "I think it's time to let her go".
We shared a final cuddle with our gorgeous girl, and she snuggled in as close as she could.
Then Alex took her away to administer her injection.

We will be having Molly cremated, and keeping her ashes, like Pudding, there was something very special about her. In the 2 years and 2 months she was with us she touched our hearts very deeply.

I just hope she knew how much we love her, and that we gave her a happy retirement from her life as a breeding sow.

Sleep tight my Molly Mumma xx You are loved xx

Sunday, 7 January 2018

My Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) collection.

New YouTube video

I've just uploaded a video all about my Moth orchid collection. Come along and see what I've got.


PB x