Dodging the rain

Despite the threat of rain, we have had some good gardening sessions this Sunday and Monday - even if we did have to run for cover at least once. It is quite exciting gardening with the rumble of thunder overhead - but we decided not to stay outside in lightning.

We started two new beds next to the water tower. One will have a climbing clematis, a favourite plant of at least one volunteer, and also very good for wildlife.

We started two new beds next to the water tower. One will have a climbing clematis, a favourite plant of at least one volunteer, and also very good for wildlife.

We planted some daffodil bulbs, which we had saved from Council roundabouts (thanks Grant and Tony). We have hyacinths and tulips to come...

We finished cutting back half the perennial meadow bed - as an experiment - and even saved some flowers for vases and to try some natural dyeing. We will let the other half flourish for a few weeks or so - they are so pretty. Cutting it back twice in the first year should improve the sward next year, apparently (but you have to be very hard hearted to do it).

We finished cutting back half the perennial meadow bed - as an experiment - and even saved some flowers for vases and to try some natural dyeing. We will let the other half flourish for a few weeks or so - they are so pretty. Cutting it back twice in the first year should improve the sward next year, apparently (but you have to be very hard hearted to do it).

And as new flowers come out, we captured a few plant combinations we like. Here we have Japanese anemones, with daylily leaves (both divided last year from a local garden) and brunnera (from a charity plant sale). The white flowers look good against the dark hedge behind.

And as new flowers come out, we captured a few plant combinations we like. Here we have Japanese anemones, with daylily leaves (both divided last year from a local garden) and brunnera (from a charity plant sale). The white flowers look good against the dark hedge behind.

We can't really have enough Verbena bonariensis (grown from seed) - and they look great with the flowering sedums (from garden cuttings) - the pollinators are really spoiled for choice!

We can't really have enough Verbena bonariensis (grown from seed) - and they look great with the flowering sedums (from garden cuttings) - the pollinators are really spoiled for choice!

We sowed some (late season) veg seeds, did some general tidying and planning for this Autumn and Winter and next year.

We finally harvested our 'massive crop' of (big) potatoes from the pallet planters - only from one plant. They are 'surprise potatoes' - we still don't really know what the seeds were - maybe Duke of York. Next year, we will try some first and second earlies - probably Arran Pilot and Charlotte.

We finally harvested our 'massive crop' of (big) potatoes from the pallet planters - only from one plant. They are 'surprise potatoes' - we still don't really know what the seeds were - maybe Duke of York. Next year, we will try some first and second earlies - probably Arran Pilot and Charlotte.

We have some exciting (we hope) plans for this 'wilderness area'. Watch this space...

We have some exciting (we hope) plans for this 'wilderness area'. Watch this space...

The pleasing combination of crocosmia, dianthus, gaura, geraniums, rudbeckias, sedums (although their name has changed recently) and verbena rigida is one reason why we are converting some of the annual beds to perennial plants. Although the seedbank of annuals is a bit overpowering at times - see the Californian poppy crop between plants - as fast as we weed them out they grow back.

The pleasing combination of crocosmia, dianthus, gaura, geraniums, rudbeckias, sedums (although their name has changed recently) and verbena rigida is one reason why we are converting some of the annual beds to perennial plants. Although the seedbank of annuals is a bit overpowering at times - see the Californian poppy crop between plants - as fast as we weed them out they grow back.

Working hard again

Planting up a new asparagus bed - we had dug out the clinker and raised the sides so we hope we have sufficient root run. The plants were raised from seed this year so we won't get a crop for a couple of years or so. We like the ferns though and it is an inexpensive way to go.

Planting up a new asparagus bed - we had dug out the clinker and raised the sides so we hope we have sufficient root run. The plants were raised from seed this year so we won't get a crop for a couple of years or so. We like the ferns though and it is an inexpensive way to go.

We seem to have spent a lot of time just eating cake in the garden recently. On Sunday, we got back to doing some gardening in the mild but not too hot weather. Lots of people knuckling down.

Even Bella the dog showed (a bit too much) interest in gardening the raised beds (here she is behaving herself). The soil level has dropped a lot in the beds over the summer (we used a permaculture technique of layers that rot down at different rates) so we will soon need to clear them all out and top them up over winter.

Even Bella the dog showed (a bit too much) interest in gardening the raised beds (here she is behaving herself). The soil level has dropped a lot in the beds over the summer (we used a permaculture technique of layers that rot down at different rates) so we will soon need to clear them all out and top them up over winter.

Phew what a scorcher

The almost finished water tower bug hotel - we have another drilled panel to put onto the front and need to design a roof...

The almost finished water tower bug hotel - we have another drilled panel to put onto the front and need to design a roof...

What a hot, sunny bank holiday. A perfect afternoon for finding a shady spot under some Swedish Whitebeam trees, with a gentle breeze, and catching up with Nightingale garden friends. So that is what we did - although Julian was heroic and worked on the water tower structure, putting us to shame.

Next Sunday, back to work... if it isn't too hot.

Update on 4 September: it wasn't too hot and Julian and Justin made good progress on the tower. We decided it needed a name - the ones suggested by children were extremely long - so we have decided to call it Falling Water. Partly because we watched a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright and partly because we have decided we will try to make it catch water for us as well as provide housing for bugs and a support for a new - to be planted - clematis. 

Some updates

Our signpost has been a LONG time in gestation. Thanks to Bob for the signwriting! And now our bumblebees (on the back of the sign) have no excuse to get lost on their way home...

Our signpost has been a LONG time in gestation. Thanks to Bob for the signwriting! And now our bumblebees (on the back of the sign) have no excuse to get lost on their way home...

We have been so busy recently, we haven't updated the website... and in some cases because it has taken us a while to finish things - or start them.

Some of the Patriotic annual Pictorial Meadow bed - with the new bug hotel (disguise for the water tower) in the background - still in progress.

Some of the Patriotic annual Pictorial Meadow bed - with the new bug hotel (disguise for the water tower) in the background - still in progress.

The Golden Summer perennial Pictorial Meadow bed is looking very lush and flowery now. We are supposed to crop it down to 10 cm again but it seems very cruel so we will wait until after our party on 27 August I think.

The Golden Summer perennial Pictorial Meadow bed is looking very lush and flowery now. We are supposed to crop it down to 10 cm again but it seems very cruel so we will wait until after our party on 27 August I think.

Our produce raised beds have been really good this year - their first year - until this weekend when blight attacked our tomato plants. We have harvested the green tomatoes and disposed of many of the plants but we thought we'd give these a few more days (without leaves) - in case the fruit will ripen on their plants. A sad day...

Our produce raised beds have been really good this year - their first year - until this weekend when blight attacked our tomato plants. We have harvested the green tomatoes and disposed of many of the plants but we thought we'd give these a few more days (without leaves) - in case the fruit will ripen on their plants. A sad day...

Blooms for bees - citizen science

The three colours of dahlia plus instructions...

The three colours of dahlia plus instructions...

Earlier this year, we registered with the Blooms for Bees citizen science project. This involved growing from seed three colours (white, red and purple) of Mignon Series dahlias. These are now growing well in small bed in front of the club hut (and we will put a poster up about them today).

They like the white flowers

They like the white flowers

These 'bedding dahlias' are 'single' (simple flowers), nectar-rich and known to be liked by bumblebees. The scientists now want to find out if these bees have a preference for flower colour. We are doing the survey by counting the number of bumblebees on each colour of flower for 5 minutes each.

And the red ones...

And the red ones...

If you'd like to do this too (you need to be a registered participant), send your counts to our garden volunteers at info@nightingalegarden.org.uk and we can enter them online for you.

You will need to tell us:

  1. On what date you did the count;
  2. The number of open flower heads included for each colour.
  3. The number of bumblebees on each colour in 5 mins each.
  4. If you can, identify the type of bumblebee (but this is quite tricky - they move fast!).
And the purple ones (which look pink to me)

And the purple ones (which look pink to me)

More info: www.bloomsforbees.co.uk

Or just enjoy watching bees on the flowers!

And across the path they like these cactus ones.

And across the path they like these cactus ones.

And two honey bees on this one

And two honey bees on this one

It is a bit addictive taking photos of bees on dahlias...

It is a bit addictive taking photos of bees on dahlias...

CCVS Rag Ballot - good news!

One of the new raingardens at Wulfstan Way - the plants like all the rain we have been having. Planted (and sowed) by 28th Cambridge cubs - with a bit of help from adults from Queen Edith's in Bloom and the RHS.

One of the new raingardens at Wulfstan Way - the plants like all the rain we have been having. Planted (and sowed) by 28th Cambridge cubs - with a bit of help from adults from Queen Edith's in Bloom and the RHS.

We have just heard our January application for funding to the CCVS Rag Ballot was successful. This means we will shortly have £200 to spend on gardening tools.

Our aspiration is to have a good range of strong tools that can be used in the community garden but also taken out to other greenspaces around the area. For example, we already take a range of tools and gloves of different sizes to the Wulfstan Way raingardens on Saturday mornings.

Shortly, we hope to start helping a group of parent volunteers and staff to make a new school garden at Queen Edith's primary school. From time to time, we also lend some of our tools to community groups, if we think they can be used safely.

Late July in the garden

We grow a mix of flowers and produce in the garden but at least some of the foods we allow to flower in case they are attractive to insects. Bees love globe artichokes! A single bumblebee can spend many minutes crawling over the purple flower, which gives ample opportunity for even an average camera phone to get at least one photo in focus.

We grow a mix of flowers and produce in the garden but at least some of the foods we allow to flower in case they are attractive to insects. Bees love globe artichokes! A single bumblebee can spend many minutes crawling over the purple flower, which gives ample opportunity for even an average camera phone to get at least one photo in focus.

Bees like sunflowers too.

Bees like sunflowers too.

For the second time, a family released their grown-from eggs painted lady butterflies in the garden. Apparently they hang around in the release spot for some time afterwards. We have seen some in the garden some days afterwards. 

For the second time, a family released their grown-from eggs painted lady butterflies in the garden. Apparently they hang around in the release spot for some time afterwards. We have seen some in the garden some days afterwards. 

Families like hunting for creatures in the garden - this was one of the best catches so far - a common frog - probably three or four years old - in the long grass.

Families like hunting for creatures in the garden - this was one of the best catches so far - a common frog - probably three or four years old - in the long grass.

We also make artificial habitats for wildlife. In this case, a disguise for our water tower. We drilled long holes of three diameters in recently cut branches - from local nature reserves and parks and brought to us by Guy and Vic. It is important you don't use chemically-treated wood for this - or the insects laying eggs might be harmed.

We also make artificial habitats for wildlife. In this case, a disguise for our water tower. We drilled long holes of three diameters in recently cut branches - from local nature reserves and parks and brought to us by Guy and Vic. It is important you don't use chemically-treated wood for this - or the insects laying eggs might be harmed.

Morning moths

Lesser elephant hawkmoth - the third year we have recorded this species - and always popular.

Lesser elephant hawkmoth - the third year we have recorded this species - and always popular.

We had a really good morning in the garden, opening up Guy's overnight moth trap. We think we had about 19 new species, not recorded in the past two years. We will send the records into local databases. The largest and most spectacular moths are the hawkmoths but the smaller ones are very beautiful too.

Some of the moths in the trap collect in egg boxes - there were masses of them this year.

Some of the moths in the trap collect in egg boxes - there were masses of them this year.

The moths like to settle on people, which is very endearing

The moths like to settle on people, which is very endearing

Sometimes they tickle a bit...

Sometimes they tickle a bit...

And some of them are massive. This is one of two poplar hawkmoths. We have a large poplar tree by the garden gate. The one we saw last year was a bit moth eaten but this one looked to be in mint condition.

And some of them are massive. This is one of two poplar hawkmoths. We have a large poplar tree by the garden gate. The one we saw last year was a bit moth eaten but this one looked to be in mint condition.

One of two stag beetles - very excited to see these because we have recently made a habitat especially for them.

One of two stag beetles - very excited to see these because we have recently made a habitat especially for them.

A click beetle, which refused to do the click beetle trick - jumping while making a click sound.

A click beetle, which refused to do the click beetle trick - jumping while making a click sound.

We had such a successful trap, Guy offered to return later in the year (scheduled for Sunday 8 October during the Funpalace) to see what we have living in the garden then. We will post the dates and times on the QECF website.

Bats in the garden

Pond dipping

Pond dipping

We had a lovely evening talking about the pond, adding some more plants, sticklebacks and a dragonfly larva, setting up an overnight moth trap and bat watching and detecting. We saw and heard four species of bat this year:

A dragonfly larva gift to the pond. We have lots of dragonflies and damselflies visiting the pond and laying eggs so soon we can look out for some hatched in our pond.

A dragonfly larva gift to the pond. We have lots of dragonflies and damselflies visiting the pond and laying eggs so soon we can look out for some hatched in our pond.

  • Noctule, which is the largest we have, first to fly, high above the garden - rather like a swift - it feeds on the Light arches moths we caught in the trap.
  • Common pipestrelles - much smaller and later and lower flying (as it is getting dark) - a couple flew circuits low over the pond catching flies above our heads.
  • Serotine pair - larger than the pips and much rarer - Guy thinks there is a maternity roost in a building nearby.
  • Soprano pipestrelle - a new species for us in the garden and park.

Swimming around on the pond

Mrs Mallard and her ducklings, having a swim in the early evening sun

Mrs Mallard and her ducklings, having a swim in the early evening sun

On Wednesday, we spotted twelve baby ducklings and their mother swimming on the pond. But we shouldn't be surprised if they dwindle in number over the next few days and weeks.

According to our pond advisor: they should be eating insects (and not sliced bread) so please don't be tempted to feed them. Although they are very cute, we'd like them to fly (or waddle) away fairly soon or our pond will just become a muddy duck pond and we won't have good pond dipping opportunities.

Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind...

In fact, on Thursday, a similar sized group were spotted in a garden across the road from the park so maybe they are hunting for the safest place to be with the tastiest food (or had been reading this webpage).

Update 2 July: four ducklings spotted with their mother - and a visiting cat eyeing them up... hope they survived the encounter!

Update: August - all four ducklings grew to adult size and were seen often in the garden, especially at night. We have seen them since mid-August and assume they have now moved on.