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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

primrose

Although it may seem slow Spring is on its way, in our garden the frogs have been croaking, the buds on the early Clematis are nearly ready to open, the snowdrops are up and the Primroses are in flower.

Primroses have to be one of my favourite flowers; they bring back happy childhood memories of walks up the fields gathering small bunches for my mum – although picking them nowadays isn’t the done thing.

Primula Vulgaris is the British native Primrose that can be found growing in hedgerows or on banks in the wild, but it will also grow happily in gardens.

They prefer a well-drained soil and will thrive in clay, chalk, loam and sand; they will grow quite happily in semi-shade making them perfect to plant under hedges, trees and in a woodland setting as well as in a wildflower meadow.

Primroses can be grown from seed, these are sown in Autumn and remain dormant during the Winter months they will begin to grow when the weather warms up, alternatively you can buy them bare root to plant in Autumn or as pot grown plants which are available now to plant straight away. When primroses have become established they will form thick clumps that can be divided and replanted, ideally during September, they will also self seed naturally. Primroses thrive on leaf mould which can be incorporated when planting or used as a mulch around the plants.

Primroses provide an early source of nectar for Bees, Brimstone Butterflies and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies they are also the food plant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy Butterfly.

Did you know?

  • The Primrose is the county flower of Devon.
  • Its name derives from the Latin ‘Prima Rosa’ meaning ‘first rose’ of the year although it is not a member of the rose family.
  • Since Victorian times, April 19 has been known as ‘Primrose Day’ it is the anniversary of the death of the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the Primrose was his favourite flower and on this day every year they are placed at his statue in Westminster Abbey.

Primroses do not take up much space in your garden their pale lemon flowers are a glorious sight and their sweet delicate fragrance is a delight, they are well worth growing and a sign that Spring is on the way.

Gill

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Square Ground Bird Table

This year the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over three days for the first time, running from Saturday 28 January to Monday 30 January, this means that if you are busy over the weekend or the weather is bad you still have the option to take part on the Monday – you could even do it at work in your dinner hour!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has now been going over 35 years, it originally started in 1979 as a Winter activity that junior RSPB members could get involved in, Biddy Baxter who was then the editor of Blue Peter liked the idea and featured it on one the programmes, the response was amazing with over 34,000 people sending in their forms, it wasn’t until 2001 that adults were invited to join in the fun too.

Big Schools Birdwatch

Schools can take part in the Big Schools Birdwatch anytime before 17 February 2017, either as a whole school or in classes; the Birdwatch is suitable for all ages and abilities and an invaluable educational activity which allows pupils to get closer to nature and become aware of their environment and its wildlife.

CJ Wildlife Giant Fat Ball Bird Feeder

Getting started

Visit the RSPBs website and register for your free pack which is full of fascinating facts, tips and advice.

Make sure that you have plenty of bird feeders and bird food available in your garden; it is recommended that you feed the birds throughout the year and not just for the Big Garden Birdwatch or during Winter. If your bird feeders have been out at while it may be an idea to give them a wash before filling them up, this applies to your bird baths also as good hygiene and clean water are very important.

On the day – Find somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to view the birds, have a pen, your checklist/pad, a pair of binoculars and friends/family who can also look for birds.

What to do – For one hour count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time, this means that you are less likely to double count the same birds.

Here are some of the more common birds that you might see:

  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Coal tit
  • Collared dove
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Great tit
  • Greenfinch
  • House sparrow
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Magpie
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon

Keep watching closely there are many other species that may visit your garden especially if the weather is cold.

Send in your Birdwatch results to the RSPB by 17th February 2017.

For more information and advice on feeding the birds in your garden click here.

I shall be taking part, happy bird watching

Gill

 

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holly

We associate Holly with Christmas, its bright red berries and glossy evergreen leaves feature on Christmas Cards, Wrapping Paper, Christmas jumpers and are used in table decorations and garlands on our front doors.

There are hundreds of species of Holly; some ‘shrubs’ only grow up to two metres high, whilst ‘trees’ can grow up to forty metres tall, red berried varieties are perhaps the most common but there are yellow and black berried varieties and even some that don’t have prickly leaves. Each species has ‘male’ and ‘female’ plants which both bear white flowers in May/June, yet only the female plants can produce berries this is dependant on there being a ‘male’ plant nearby for pollination by insects and bees.

Holly berries are toxic to humans causing sickness and severe stomach aches if eaten, yet they are a vital source of winter food for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, each berry contains four seeds which pass through the birds, germinate and grow into new plants. The prickly leaves are important too, they give birds protection from predators and provide a safe roost amongst the branches.

Holly was considered to be a sacred plant by the Druids who hung it on windows and doorways to fend off evil spirits and witches; they thought that cutting down a Holly tree would bring bad luck, although hanging branches in their homes would bring good luck.

The Romans hung up Holly during the festival of Saturnalia to celebrate Saturn the god of agriculture and harvest.

Christians today associate red Holly berries with the blood that Christ shed when he died on the cross and the pointed leaves the crown of thorns that was placed on his head.

However you think of Holly, it is a beautiful and unique plant that is easy to grow, why not give someone a Holly plant or two as a gift so that they can pick their own Holly in years to come.

We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year from Gardening With Children and everyone at Gardening Works.

Have a wonderful time

Gill

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Have you seen our Children’s Christmas Quiz in the School Zone under ‘What to do this Term’ on the Gardening With Children website?

It is a fun trivia quiz with a mix of religious and traditional Christmas questions and would be a perfect end of term activity either individually or as a team challenge, it is a multiple choice quiz which makes it easier and suitable for children of all ages.

Click here to go to the Christmas quiz.

Here are the answers: 1b, 2c, 3c, 4a, 5b, 6b, 7c, 8a, 9c, 10b, 11c, 12b, 13b, 14a, 15b, 16c, 17b, 18a, 19c, 20b

 

Congratulations to our September-November Competition Winners.

We had lots of correct entries for our Hedgehog Word Search Competition in the School Zone, the winner was Hempshill Hall Primary School, Nottingham who wins a Hedgehog Pack containing a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

I really enjoyed looking at all the lovely Hedgehog pictures that were entered in the Family Zone Competition, it was really hard choosing a winner but overall the winning picture was by Leah Jobson with her picture of ‘Sophie’ the hedgehog who ‘loves hugs and dislikes being alone’, Leah wins a Hedgehog pack containing an Igloo Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

HEDGEHOG

Well done to both of you, I hope that you will soon have a hedgehog in your Hedgehog House.

Gill

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CJ Wildlife Blackbird Nest Box

We are all familiar with our summer migrants the Swift, Swallow and the House Martin who come to Britain to breed and escape the harsh African, yet did you know that tens of millions of birds arrive in Autumn from their breeding grounds to escape the bitter cold weather and a shortage of food (hidden under ice or snow) to spend the winter in our mild climate. These birds travel large distances from the north and east (Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the Arctic) and include Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Brambling, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Bewick’s Swan, Whooper swan, many types of ducks, wading birds and geese including Pink Footed Geese who fly very high in a V-shaped formation called a ‘skein’.

Here are some amazing statistics about some of our Winter migrants:

Brent Goose – Over 120,000 arrive October onwards from the Canadian Arctic flying 19,000 miles to the UK, overwintering mainly in Ireland.

Bewick’s Swan – Over 7,000 arrive October onwards from Siberia flying 2,500 miles to the UK.

Fieldfare – Over 720,000 arrive October onwards from Scandinavia and North West Russia flying 1100 miles to the UK.

Many birds arrive on our shore hungry and exhausted, some make emergency stops on their journey and rest on oil rigs and boats out at sea (as seen in this year’s Waitrose Christmas advert).

Wildlife World Open Fronted Teapot Bird Nester and Nest Box

You might be surprised to hear that Robins, Blackbirds and Starlings are winter migrants as we see them throughout the year, in the UK we have our own resident populations but during the winter their numbers are boosted by birds escaping the extreme cold of Eastern Europe. These visiting birds act differently as they are not used to their new surroundings and having people nearby, they skulk in the undergrowth and near the feeders before darting out for food they are easily frightened unlike our residents that dive on the feeders, they will after time adjust to their new environment and become more confident.

We all know the importance of feeding the birds throughout the cold winter months, knowing that thousands of winter migrants are coming here to feed makes it even more important, if you haven’t got any birdfeeders in your garden now is a good time to invest in some, they are inexpensive and will provide many hours of pleasure for you and the birds! It is a good idea to put up different types of feeders that will hold a variety of bird food, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, mixed bird seed, fat balls and mealworms, different types of food will attract more species of birds. If you are fortunate to have an apple tree or maybe know someone who has, store any surplus apples now to put out later on for the ground feeding birds, this year has been a very good year for fruit. Some kitchen leftovers can be put out for the birds these include grated cheese, cooked potatoes, rice or pasta, porridge oats, fruit, biscuit and cake crumbs. Water is just as important as food, fresh water changed regularly will provide birds with drinking and bathing water.

For more information on feeding birds through the Winter click here or to see our range of bird feeders click here.

This weekend make time to put up some bird feeders in your garden.

Gill

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The days are shorter and the nights are colder, now is the time to think about our garden wildlife and give them a helping hand with a safe retreat to spend the winter months, why not enter our two free competitions on the Gardening With Children website for a chance to win Wildlife products for the Hedgehogs in your garden:

In the School Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hogitat Hedgehog House Habitat

Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter all you need to do is to find the hidden words in our Hedgehog Word Search the first correct entry drawn out of the hat will win.

For full details, The Hedgehog Word Search and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

 

In the Family Zone you could win a Hedgehog Pack containing:

An Igloo Hedgehog House

Wildlife World Hedgehog Igloo House Habitat Shelter

A Hedgehog Snack Bowl

Wildlife World Hedgehog Snack Feeding Bowl

220g pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

A field guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

To enter draw or paint a picture of a Hedgehog and give him/her a name and our favourite picture will win.

For full details and an entry form click here, the closing date is Wednesday 30th November 2016.

Good Luck

Gill

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I hope that you all had a very enjoyable Halloween and now we look forward to Bonfire Night!

Penny for the Guy

When I was young I remember knocking on the doors of neighbours with my friends and asking them if they had any old wood that they didn’t want for our bonfire and also if they had a ‘Penny for the Guy’ who was sat in our wheelbarrow wearing our old clothes and stuffed with newspaper/leaves/straw, the money went towards fireworks, thinking about it now it does seem rather cheeky although I suppose it is not too different to trick or treating which seems to have taken over.

The ‘Guy’ represents Guy Fawkes who was a member of the conspiracy who intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605, the Gunpowder plot was thwarted when he was caught the night before guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the House of Lords.

I can’t remember the last time I saw children’s asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ it is such a shame that this tradition has died out, it is harmless fun although not for the Guy who unfortunately takes pride of place at the top of the bonfire.

Bonfire Night is all about keeping warm by the bonfire, watching fireworks, eating delicious treats and having fun here are some tasty easy to eat snacks for you to try:

popcorn

Home-made Popcorn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn Kernels/Popping Corn
  • Flavouring of your choice: Icing Sugar, Salt, Honey, Butter

What you need to do

  1. Place the popcorn kernels in one layer on the bottom of a heavy-based, deep pan with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Place on the stove on a medium heat with the lid on.
  3. Stay nearby as you need to listen to the kernels as they pop, at the beginning they will pop vigorously, when it slows down to a second or two between the pops remove from the heat.
  4. Wait a few minutes for the popcorn to cool, carefully remove the lid and place in a bowl, whilst warm sprinkle over the sugar, salt, runny honey or melted butter and stir.

Johns Red Apple plot

Spicy Apple Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 large red skinned eating apples
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • Spray Oil

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Core and thinly slice the apples ideally with a mandolin (adults only) which will give even slices.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spray lightly with oil.
  3. Lay the apple slices out on the tray so that they are not touching and sprinkle with the spices.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes turn over the slices and if required sprinkle again with the spices.
  5. Return to the oven for about 30 minutes, check regularly and remove any crisps that are golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool on a baking rack.

Edible Chocolate Sparklers

Ingredients

  • Bread Sticks
  • Chocolate
  • Syrup
  • Cake decorations (stars, edible glitter, hundreds and thousands)

What you need to do

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add some syrup so that the chocolate doesn’t set too quickly.
  2. Spread or brush (with a silicone brush) the chocolate on one half of the bread stick, then sprinkle with your favourite cake decorations, why not also try popping candy, nuts, desiccated coconut or even Rice Krispies or Coco Pops.
  3. Leave to set then enjoy.

firework

Don’t forget Garden Wildlife on Bonfire Night

With all the excitement of bonfire night don’t forget about the wildlife in your garden.  Make sure the bonfire isn’t set up too far in advance, as hedgehogs, small mammals and frogs/toads will be looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time of year, and may find a pile of leaves and wood enticing.  Why not provide hedgehogs/frogs/toads with an alternative home such as a Hogitat or a Frogitat. Click here to see a large selection of Wildlife Habitats.

Place fireworks away from trees and hedges where birds may be roosting, when bonfire night is over remember that now is an excellent time to start feeding your garden birds.  Click here to have a look at our bird feeders and accessories.

Safety is paramount on Bonfire Night click here for a reminder of the rules and tips for a safe and enjoyable Bonfire Night.

Gill

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