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A merry-go-round at the recent Festival of Light here in Kirkcudbright

Working in the garden all year long, I’m often reminded that there is no starting point or  stopping point in nature.  It just goes round and round and I’m grateful for it, because as soon as one thing starts to fade or loose its leaves, another plant will bud up or start to flower.  I just see it as a big merry-go-round; one might take the occasional break but it’s seldom long before one needs to get back in the saddle again and carry on. That is one of  things I love about gardening, no matter where you look, there is always something to admire even in the depths of winter.

Speaking of which I was wandering around my garden a few days ago when I saw new seedlings sprouting inside an old poppy head. Talk about amazing!

Nature never fails to keep me entertained.

Mellow Yellow – Mahonia

I was recently in a garden on a sunny November day, (yes, they do happen up here on occasion), when suddenly to my surprise I saw that some bees  were enjoying the flowers on a Mahonia. With yellow flowers that are sweetly scented, Mahonia brightens many a dark day here in Kirkcudbright. A popular choice is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, which will grow away quite happily in most situations, providing you have well-drained soil. Seeing the bees, was a timely reminder of the need to provide insects with as much sustenance as possible throughout the year. Luckily, I had my camera on hand, so here are some pics to share.

 

Gently as you go

Here are a few jobs and tips for gardening at this time of year.

Forget -me-nots

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If you  have allowed them to self-seed, forget- me- nots will have put on a lot of growth over the previous months, ready for flowering in April/May. Now that they are big enough, it is time to dig them up and pop them around the garden, to fill gaps for a colourful display next year.

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Watch your bulbs!!

I’ve noticed many a bulb popping their heads above the soil recently due to the mild weather.

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Taken 10/11/2018

If the bulbs are too close to the surface simply dig a clump up and replant it a little deeper or  alternatively cover them with a layer of compost.

Ahhh! Leaf mould

I promised last time to give you a few ideas for creating leaf mould. If you are a bit nonplussed at my enthusiasm for old leaves, you may be keen to know that well-rotted deciduous leaves are an excellent soil conditioner. After all, we are just imitating nature, allowing leaf mould to replenish our soil. Anyway, that’s the hard sell out-of-the-way but how do we do it?

Well, depending on how many leaves you have, you can do it in a few ways. Those with a fewer amount of leaves, can just place the leaves in black bags, wet them and compact them, put holes in the base of the bags, and leave them for at least a year – remember, it is a bit like vintage wine, the longer the better. For instance 3-year-old leaf mould will really make your toes curl!!!he he he.

Those with an abundance of leaves should make some leaf cages and then fill them with leaves after they have been mown to break them up.

 

Mow up your leaves

 

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A whole heap of leaves

Just leave them exposed to rain and slowly they will break down to a rich peaty texture. Then you can use it as a mulch on your spring borders, (it is a great foil for the bulbs to bring out their colour), or to mix with your compost.

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Garden Gold – one year old leaf mould

 

An Estuary Garden 3 Millhall

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A view towards 3 Millhall from the Dhoon

 

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A view over the estuary

At the start of October, I was invited to photograph a garden just outside of Kirkcudbright which sits on the coast. Known as 3 Millhall the garden is owned by Mr Alan Shamas  and is ably tended by the gardeners Rob and Magnus. It is a wonderful garden, set as it is overlooking Kirkcudbright and the Dee Estuary.

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It is not just the setting that will excite gardeners for it is also home to some rare and wonderful plants and shrubs. As you wander round things are not always what they seem you may recognise the plants or shrub but you will be caught out by the custodians who delight in telling you, ‘well it’s nearly that but it’s just a little different’.

 

 

 

Above the Begonia with no name and not quite Clematis tangutica

I, by the way was caught out on every occasion, which made the whole visit very enjoyable and entertaining. The garden itself covers 4 acres but plans are a foot to extend it by another 4 acres no doubt to pack in more rare specimens and why indeed not. It’s great for all these horticultural wonders to be housed as they are.

The gardens open for charity on a few occasions through the year and it is also open to organised groups.

Here, from the two visits I made at the beginning and end of October, respectively, are some of the highlights in a slide show.

 

 

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Garden photography – a bird’s eye view

 

I’m pleased to have some company  on my blog today. David Roney, who enjoys photographing the local wildlife has kindly let me have some of his photos for you to enjoy. Dave can often be found in  some of the best spots roundabout, including  Kirkcudbright’s very own Barr Hill Wood, which not only has lots of bird life, but is also home to the famous red squirrels. He told me he has been photographing for a while now, and finds himself constantly improving, as he becomes more at ease with the camera and being able to get the pictures he wants.

 

I would say the secret to his success, is a passion for his subjects and going out photographing as much as he can. His photos bring enjoyment to many people including myself, which he regularly posts on his Facebook page. There was also great news for Dave recently, when one of his pictures was selected for a local calendar.  So thanks for joining us Dave and letting us see your pictures. Happy snapping!!!

 

Three tips for bird photography

I’ve put together a few tips on photographing birds. If you have any others please leave them in the comments section. I’m sure there are many.

1.Take your time and study your subjects

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Relax and enjoy

Don’t be in a rush to take photos and just enjoy being outdoors, even if at first your photos don’t turn out as planned. The more you photograph the better you get. Make time to do it on a regular basis.

 

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Getting to know you

Time spent just watching birds will pay dividends later. Try to learn their habits and watch for good photo opportunities. For instance, I notice as they feed their heads move in a few different poses find the one you like and capture the moment.

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2.Use a fast shutter speed

To capture movement a fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 of a second should be used. You may need to increase it ( I typically use speeds of 1/1000).  To make it easy, just set the camera to Shutter Priority mode – this allows you to set the shutter speed and the camera will do the rest.  If the shutter speed is too slow, even a slight movement by a bird will cause blurring

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Here the photo is blurred due to shutter speed being too slow to capture a sudden movement
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A fast shutter speed will capture the action

3.Create interest

If you are photographing in the garden, why not add props such as wheel barrows, upturned terracotta pots and bird feeders to make your photos more interesting. Over time you could plant small trees and even a hedge to encourage birds into your garden and improve you chances of getting a good photo.

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You could also have a wilder area in your garden, where you might grow plants such as ivy, whose berries are a great food source in winter for birds. Alternatively, if you know somebody who feeds birds on a regular basis, why not ask if you can photograph them.

Oh yes, and finally clear the garden of anything that will spoil your photos.IMG_6559

Bye for now

Well that was enjoyable, but the ride is over for this time, however my next blog out on Thursday December 6th will soon fly round. Rest assured, I’ll be striving to bring you a  hearty feast of seasonal  gardening tales. Until then, as always, enjoy the garden, keep your camera nearby and above all, have fun whatever you are doing. Bye for now, best wishes Dave