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Posts Tagged ‘spirea’

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  Before she went to Wells with my sister, she was hobnobbing with reindeer in the Highlands.

cairngorm reindeer

We had a cold and wet morning today, more suitable for March than June but it closely matched my mood as I woke up with toothache.  The rain kept going all morning but the toothache eased off so I took a pain killer, bought some mouthwash and hoped for the best.

As I had referred to a spirea with pretty leaves and dull flowers in a previous post, I thought that I ought to show it off.

wet spirea

It probably looks at its best with a few raindrops on it.

We do have irises in the garden which don’t have petals outlined in silver and I thought that they should get a look in too.

old irises

However, it was not a day for wandering about like Basil Fotherington-Thomas, saying, “Hello flowers, hello sky,” so I went back indoors and watched the birds from the comfort of the sitting room.

There were a lot to watch today, perhaps because the wind had dropped and I was pleased to see a completely mixed bunch of sparrow, goldfinch, siskin and redpoll at the same time…

repoll sparrow goldfinch siskin

Though a goldfinch didn’t seem so happy to see a siskin as I was.

goldfinches sneering at siskin

It  was a day when a bird was almost always looming up out of the drizzle..

busy feeder with goldfinch

They might expect to get a rousing welcome when they arrived…

busy feeder with sparrow

…and there was a stiff competition for seats at the table.

busy feeder june

One  of the sparrows tried to put a hex on the other birds.

sparrow putting hex on feeder

Having carefully checked that the trains were running, we went off to Lockerbie after lunch to catch the Edinburgh train.

It was twenty minutes late.

We were not surprised.  We would be deeply surprised if it ever arrived on time.

Mrs Tootlepedal has made Matilda a dress to wear in a dancing competition she brought it up for Matilda to try on today.  It fitted well and Matilda was very pleased with it.

Matilda was in good form and she and her mother beat me all ends up at Go Fish and Beggar my Neighbour again.  But as her father cooked us an excellent evening meal, I was not too downhearted.

The train home was on time as it almost always is.  We have not discovered why going north is so much harder for the railway company than going south.

In the absence of any sunny pictures, I have put in no less than three flying birds of the day.

flying sparrow

They are like buses…

flying siskin in rain

…you wait for ages and then they all come at once…

second flying siskin in rain

…and it was just a pity that it was on such a poor day for taking pictures.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She visited Wells with her friend, my Somerset corespondent Venetia, and took this reflective portrait of the cathedral from the bishop’s garden.

wells cathedral from Bishop's garden

We had a colder, windier day than yesterday, but as it was drier than forecast and the sun even came out briefly once or twice, we were grateful at a time when elsewhere in the country, torrential rain was making life hard.

I started the day by going to collect my bike from the bike shop where it had been serviced.  Because it has a gear box rather then a derailleur, it had had an oil change instead of a new cassette after just under four thousand miles.  The oil change was cheaper than a new cassette and chain but it still made my eyes water.  I will have to learn how to do it myself.

When I got home, I did a little shredding, put the results in compost bin A and then sieved more of compost bin C and put the bits that didn’t go through the sieve into compost bin D.  I lead a deep and exciting life.

Then I compounded the excitement by wandering about with a camera in hand.

The orange hawkweed is also known as ‘fox and cubs’ and this foxy flower looked as though it was brooding its cubs.

fox and cubs hawkweed

We have spireas that have showy leaves and dull flowers and we have spireas with dull leaves and showy flowers, very showy flowers.

spirea blossoms

Although we have had plenty of bees, I haven’t seen a great many smaller insects so I was pleased to see this one on a doronicum.

insect on doronicum

The tropaeolum flowers on the yew were lining up in attacking formation.

three tropaeolum attack

Apart from the rosa moyesii, which is in full flower, the other roses are still mainly work in progress. Like almost everything else in the garden, they could do with a bit of warmth.

four roses

The chives were still attracting various bees…

two bees on chives

…and I managed to get a wing as well as two bees knees in today’s shot.

close up on chive bee

By the front door, one clematis keeps fading while the other keeps flourishing.

clematis seed head and flower

It is hard to say which is prettier though.

By this time, lunch was calling and after lunch, I settled down for a while to watch the birds.

It was still very windy and this siskin was keeping firmly plunked down on the perch.

flat siskin

An anxious sparrow checked to see if there was a vacancy.

hopeful sparrow

I did think of going for a ‘bicycle walk’ just to get out of the house, but the weather was so unforgiving, cold and very windy, that I stayed in and caught up on some of the hymns for next Sunday’s service.

After a couple of hours, I went out to check the weather and noticed that Mrs Tootlepedal has a fine crop of doddering dillies growing in the bed at the end of the drive.  This grass has the Sunday name of Briza Media and it is also known as Common Quaking Grass and in the wind today, these doddering and quaking grasses were certainly living up to their name.  I had to pinch a head off one stem and take it inside to get it to stop quaking long enough for me to take a picture.

doddering dillies

The first candelabra primula flowers have appeared beside the pond.  I hope that they do well in spite of the weather, as they are among my favourite flowers…

early candelabra primula

…though of course, this is my absolute favourite.

astrantia

The day hadn’t got any better so I went back in and watched the birds again.

The squad of goldfinches was back….

four goldfinches

…though a siskin managed to sneak in at one point…

five goldfinches

…and occasionally there were more goldfinches than perches.

four goldfinches and a siskin

A greenfinch had no difficulty in persuading a goldfinch to offer it a seat at the table…

greenfinch close

…and when they had all gone off, a redpoll appeared and wasted my valuable seed.

redpoll spitting

My view of redpolls as charming little birds has been somewhat dented by seeing a redpoll nest live on the Springwatch programme on the telly.  It was the most disgustingly untidy nest that you could ever see.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a delicious one pot penne, tomato and cream cheese dish for our tea.  As the rain taps on our windows as I write this, we are just hoping that the weather will let us get to Edinburgh tomorrow.  A tree had fallen on the line today but it has been cleared, so all is well at the moment.

As a bonus for another ‘stay at home’ post, there is not one but two flying sparrows of the day.

flying sparrow looking

In the strong winds, birds had to approach the feeder with care.

flying sparrow hanging

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who passed the Bridge Inn at Duffield while on a bike ride.  As he had already fuelled up elsewhere, he took the picture and went on his way without calling in to sample the wares.

bridge inn Duffield

I know that I ought to be resting my Achilles tendon but I am feeling really exercise deprived and I might easily have done something inadvisable this morning had not the weather come to my rescue by producing another cold and grey day, ideally suited to sitting in and getting stuff done in the house.

I did stroll round the garden after breakfast.

Mrs Tootlepedal recently bought some depressed ranunculus plants in a pot at a garden centre.  She gave them some care, divided them up, planted them out, watered them in and now they are rewarding her with a splendid show.

ranunculus

A berberis in a shady corner caught my eye, with its flowers brightening up a gloomy corner.

berberis

A blackbird was quite happy to help with getting the moss out of the lawn.

blackbird pecking lawn

I opened the greenhouse and was much struck by this handsome Fuchsia inside.

fuchsia in green house

Mrs Tootlepedal bought it recently and put it outside in the warm spell.  Then it got badly hit by the frosty mornings so Mrs Tootlepedal trimmed off the damage and gave it some shelter and now it is looking very well.

Just outside the greenhouse, the rosemary bush is covered in flowers from top to toe.

rosemary bush

I noticed that the geums are coming along nicely….

geum forest

…and then went inside to get warm.

Later on in the morning, the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted the sparrowhawk resting in the walnut tree after an unsuccessful fly through the garden.  It stayed there long enough for me to get a camera…

sparrowhawk in walnut tree

…but when I went out to see if I could get a closer shot, it flew off in disgust.  It didn’t take the little birds long to come back to the feeders.

siskin eating peanuts

The quarrelling pigeons were back again today and it went beyond hard stares and descended into flapping and waving which led to both birds losing their focus.

flapping pigeons

I put another week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database and noticed that if you were shopping in Langholm’s High Street in 1899, you could acquire ‘all the latest London novelties’ from Mr Hyslop, the draper, who had just come back from a visit there.

Mrs Tootlepedal had to go out for an errand on her bicycle in the late afternoon and as the sun was shining, I went out with her and then turned off to do a little three bridges cycle instead of a walk by myself.

The copper beeches at the park bridge are looking good. two copper beeches

I didn’t go into the park but continued down to the waterside, and was happy to catch a glimpse of a grey wagtail at the Sawmill Brig.  It was living up to its name and waggling about a lot so I couldn’t get a very good picture.

grey wagtail

The trees that have been felled along the Lodge Walks have taken some of the magic away from the green tunnel that used to greet walkers…

lodge walks

…and you can see how big the gaps are when you look at the trees from the other side.

rear of lodge walks

The sun was disappearing rapidly behind the clouds by this time and the colours were rather subdued so I headed home (pedalling very gently)…

castleholm with dog walker

…noting this burst of blossom on a tree beside the Jubilee Bridge.

white blossom beside esk

Once back home, I had a last walk round the garden, enjoying the cow parsley above and the sweet woodruff below in the back border.

cow parsley and sweet woodruffe

The yellow azalea is doing its best to come out to join the pink one and the first yellow potentilla flower of the year has appeared nearby.

azalea and potentilla

There had been a light shower of rain earlier, which was welcome, but it had not been hard enough to wet the soil thoroughly.  It did make the lily of the valley shed tears apparently…

lily of the valley weeping

…and of course it gave me an excuse to take a picture of a spirea with droplets, one of my favourite subjects.

spirea with droplets

In between times, I practised choir songs and prepared some music for Luke.  Our wonderful Carlisle choir conductor has gone done in my personal popularity stakes a bit as she is making us learn another song off by heart.   As it is one of those songs where you sing the same words to slightly different notes each time they reappear (and they reappear a lot), so this means a lot of hard practice is required.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s tasty quorn concoction made a welcome return to the tea table in the evening, this time in the guise of a shepherd’s pie.

There are two flying birds for the price of one today with a siskin coming and a goldfinch going.

two just flying birds

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was very impressed by this floral hedge which she passed not far from her home.

susan's hedge

We had some thought of an expedition today but uncertain feet and a dubious forecast persuaded us that some time spent in the garden while it was still dry would be time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal did those things which gardeners do. She planted out Sweet Williams, planted seeds in the greenhouse, planted beetroot seeds in a raised bed, weeded, tended and in general way was productive and busy.

I dead headed, mowed the middle lawn with the blades so high that I barely touched the grass, sieved a very little compost and took some pictures.

There is a little pause just now in the garden when it comes to new delights but old friends are thriving…

six april flowers

…and there are various dicentra on all sides, though the cooler weather seems to have discouraged the bumble bees.

four dicentras

The big euphorbias get more fantastic every week and some little ones are coming to join the fun.

two euphorbias

Ferns are unrolling…

fern unfolding

…and some shuttlecock ferns in a very shady spot have unfurled completely.

shuttlecock fern

Shrubs are doing their best to add a bit of colour.

spirea and berberis

But my favourite view of the morning came while I was sitting on the new bench and looking at these tulips.

8 tulips

Mrs Tootlepedal made lightly curried parsnip and carrot soup for lunch (with croutons) and while she was cooking, I watched the birds.

More siskins than ever turned up today and places at the feeder were hard to come by…

siskins and goldfinch

…even for other determined siskins.

siskin arriving amid siksins

Once again, some siskins took to the peanuts, a sound policy in my view.

siskin on peanuts

After a while, redpolls turned up.  They are determined birds too…

redpoll sees an opportunity

…and one saw a chance to nip in while two siskins were fighting each other.

redpoll sneaking in

Another took a calmer view of things while it played a waiting game.

redpoll on feeder pole

In the afternoon, we went up on to the hill in the hope of seeing some hen harriers but all we saw was some very heavy rain as we had chosen to wrong time for our trip.

Once we decided to go home the rain stopped of course and we could at least get a view across the Tarras Valley…

View to Cronksbank

…but there were still clouds behind us….

Tarras cloudscape

…and more in front…

Whita cloudscape

…so we went home anyway.

In the evening, we went down to Canonbie to hear a choir of Ugandan schoolchildren sing in the church there.

The children, most of whom were very young, did tremendously well, singing, dancing and clapping with great vigour.  The concert was nearly two hours long, had no interval and was frequently punctuated with appeals for financial support for the religious charity which had brought them over to the UK.  This left us with the slightly uncomfortable feeling that the children were perhaps being made to work a bit harder than would have been ideal.  Still, we were glad that we had gone to hear them and they sang one beautiful African song which warmed the heart with its harmonies.

The flying bird of the day, taken when the light was poor,  is one of the many siskins.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who visited Birmingham for an organ recital and took some time out to enjoy the canals while he was there.

Birmingham canal

We had what was possibly the last of our run of fine sunny days today and once again we started off with frost on the ground.

The frost was melting away when I crossed the suspension bridge on my way to visit the shops after breakfast…

suspension bridge frosty moprning

…and was retreating from the front lawn under the assault of the sun when I got home again.

lawn defrosting

I checked on the frogspawn in the pond and found it hard to tell whether it had been damaged or not…

frogspawn after frost

…but the early daffodils are certainly made of tough stuff and are standing up well to alternate bouts of warmth and cold.

daffodils after frost

I noticed that Mrs Tootlepedal has made use of some surplus woollen packaging as a mulch round one of her roses.

woollen mulch

My morning coffee was enhanced by the presence of Dropscone bearing scones and I enjoyed mine with some two year old blackcurrant jelly which Mrs Tootlepedal had found in the back of the jam cupboard.

Dropscone revealed that he had won a golf competition at the weekend but he was honest enough to admit that as it was in a  field of three, it wasn’t the most hard won victory of his long and successful career. Still, a win is a win.

When  he left, I had a moment or two to watch the birds where an incoming greenfinch was racing  a chaffinch to a vacant  perch….

two incoming birds

…and two greenfinches, having won a place at the feeder, were putting the wind up a siskin.

#greenfinches scare siskin

Then I sat in front of my computer and had a remote session with my speech therapist.

We decided that the exercises that she had given me had worked well enough for me to be discharged from her care and after giving me some sage advice as to how to proceed in the future, we signed off.  The remote consultations have worked very well and saved me a lot of time and expense which driving to see her the hospital in Dumfries would have entailed.

When I had finished, Mrs Tootlepedal took me out into the garden to show me some intriguing green bubbles that had grown on a bucket of sieved compost. The bucket had got very wet as it had been standing under a drip for several weeks which might account for this result.  We have never seen anything like it before.

mould on compost bucket

After lunch, I lent a helping hand in the garden, getting the hedge clippers out and giving a spirea a haircut…

clipped spirea

…while Mrs Tootlepedal prepared the soil and planted the new ground covering rose which she had purchased a day or two ago.

ground cover rose

Although the sun was out, it wasn’t by any means warm and I wrapped up well before going off for a cycle ride.

The reason for the lack of warmth became clear as I cycled along.  There was a thick layer of dirty mist in the air acting as an insulator and limiting any views to my immediate surroundings.

no view

From the top of Callister, I should have had a clear view of the wind farm on the hill three miles ahead but today I could hardly see the hills, let alone the wind turbines.

no windmills

As I am mildly asthmatic, I did think for a moment or two of turning round and going home but in the end, I stuck to my task and pedalled on, keeping my efforts well below the level that required heavy breathing.

I read a  newspaper report which said  that the light winds of recent days combined with the dry weather and some Saharan dust, which may have floated up on the southern airflow that has brought our warm weather with it, may be the cause of this concentration of airborne particles.  It is not often that I think a bit of rain would be a good thing, but I hope that it rains soon.

I managed 27 miles and this took my mileage for February to just over the magic figure of 300 miles, which is my monthly target for this year.  Thanks to the cloudy conditions, I didn’t stop to take any more pictures on my way.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir and we had a very enjoyable session with our regular conductor, who is also my singing teacher.  I did my best to show that I had paid attention during my lesson on Monday.

I didn’t have long to watch the birds today and as a result, I caught my only flying bird of the day just as it head went into the shadow of the feeder.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to the misty mountains of Madeira.

madeira

As I am still resting my singing voice under doctor’s orders, Mrs Tootlepedal went by herself to sing in the church choir while I kept myself busy at home.

I may have occasionally glanced about as I went about my business…

butter and sugar iris

more butter and sugar irises are out

…but there was washing to be hung out….

yellow onion

and a handsome yellow oniony sort of thing has come out too

…lawns to be mowed…

lupins

the kindly weather has meant that the lupins are out from bottom to top of their stems

…and watered…

lupin close up

.and worth a closer look as well

…the car windscreen to be cleared of huge amounts of squashed insects (we had hardly any insects last year bit this year numbers seem to have recovered)….

philadelphus with roses

a large philadelphus with a scattering of roses in the back corner of the front lawn

…a second load of washing to be hung out…

astrantia

a garden in a single flower

…a sausage stew to be prepared for the slow cooker…

foxgloves

foxgloves are popping up everywhere

…and quite a bit of watering to be done too….

spirea bridal wreath

a better look at the tiny spirea flowers

…in spite of a forecast of thunderstorms later in the day (after yesterday’s disappointments, we weren’t taking the forecast seriously)…

lamium

and the lamium has burst in flower too

…so there was hardly any time to look at flowers at all.

hawkweed and white flowers

 

Mrs Tootlepedal is considering scattering more of the white flowers among the orange hawkweed for next year.  I think that that would be a good idea.

I did take a look at the hydrangea on the wall of the house.  Uninstructed people like me might imagine that the big white things are the important part of the flowers….

hydrangea

…but bees know better where the real interest lies.

bee on hydrangea

A blackbird took advantage of the lawn watering to have a quick shower.

blackbird having shower

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church and got busy in the garden.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon waiting for the rain to come.  We were entertained by some prolonged rumbles of thunder but the lightning that caused them must have been a good distance away as we saw no evidence of it at all.

monument from garden

In spite of some very dark skies to the north of the town, the monument stayed bathed in sunshine and only a few drops of rain came with the thunder.

I had taken a camera upsatirs in the hope of some lightning shots but had to make do with looking at the birds instead.  They came to the feeder below the window, apparently quite unworried by the rumbling overhead.

goldfinch

goldfinch (2)

Two siskins felt the need to quarrel.

fighting siskins

It did start to rain more heavily eventually and for a while, it looked as though it was going to take things seriously but in the end, we only got a couple of short showers, enough to wet the garden which was welcome but not enough to store up some moisture on the ground for the future.

Now the threat of thunder and lightning has receded, I hope to get out on the bike again next week.

The flower of the day is the  Ooh La La Clematis, a pretty flower with an awful name.

Ooh La La clematis

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s stay in Aberdeenshire.  He visited Lil’ C’s American Diner near Oyne and sent me this picture.  The beer, Doom Bar, had come a long way as it is brewed in Cornwall and Bruce and I had drunk a pint of it ten years ago in a pub in Cornwall when he was acting as driver for the Tootlepedal Lands End to John o’ Groats cycle tour.

doom bar

In an effort to preserve my voice as much as possible, I didn’t go to sing in the church choir today.  While Mrs Tootlepedal went off, I stayed quietly in and cooked a beef stew for the slow cooker and checked out the garden after the overnight rain.

It looked refreshed…

foxglove

hosta with raindrops

…although one of the delicate peony flowers had found it all too much.

peony after rain

A white spirea is just beginning to show the first of its many little flowers…

spirea

…and the mini forest of orange hawkweed is thickening up.

orange hawkweed

As we had a practice in store before the concert itself, we had to leave for Carlisle not long after Mrs Tootlepedal got back from church, packing a snack to fortify ourselves after the practice and before the concert.

We picked up a fellow singer from Canonbie and got to the venue in good time.  We were singing at a new venue for us, St Barnabas Church, and it looked a bit run down as we approached it….

choir church

Inside, it was a different story entirely…

choir church interior

…and I wish that I had had the time and a camera to do it justice.  The church was built in 1936 and has been thoroughly refurbished inside so that it may well be the most cheerful church that I have ever been in.

As is often our custom at concerts, we were joined  by a local primary school.  This has the excellent twin effect of adding variety to the programme and numbers to the audience.  The children sang very well and I was pleased to see several boys in the school choir.  Our choir was about eighty strong and the acoustic was rich so we were able to make a good sound too.

The church was packed when the concert got under way and it went off pretty well and I managed to get through it surprisingly well.   We sang a little tribute to Andrew, our departing conductor, as a final number and he was much touched.  We will miss him.

Our Carlisle concerts are never too long so we got home in good time to eat the slow cooked stew and although it had obviously rained a bit more while we had been away….

pulsatilla

…it was still, warm and pleasant when we arrived back so while we were waiting for the kettle to boil for a refreshing cup of tea, we took a quick stroll round the garden.

The irises are looking well….

blue iris

…and Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the latest arrival, a very dark and attractive variety.

dark iris

The naked eye sees it as almost black.

While we were looking around, a blackbird paused for a moment on its way back to the nest.

blackbird with worms

There will be no worms left in the garden at this rate.

There should be some food for us later though, as the plums are looking promising.

plums

Now the choir season is over, I am hoping for some good weather to get value out of my new bicycle.  The immediate forecast is looking promising.

I didn’t get a chance to catch a flying bird but the feeder was busy while we were outing singing and I had to refill it when we got home.  It was soon in use again.

siskins and goldfinch

 

 

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