I obviously hope you enjoy browsing through the postings on here - do feel free to leave comments as it's always good to see who's visiting and to hear about other people's experiences - after all you never stop learning do you?

If you've any gardening questions or you live in Brittany and are looking for some gardening help - be it design work, planting or general gardening or you simply would like some advice, please don't hesitate to CONTACT ME or call me on 0033 661 77 23 89 (from UK) or 0661 77 23 89 (from France).

Happy gardening!

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Twitterings from Brittany as Spring gradually emerges...

There have been all signs of life in the garden over the last few days - it's been bitterly cold here today in particular, bringing an ever increasing amount of birds to the garden and lots of activity going on in the woodland too!

There appear to be record flocks of Fieldfare and Redwings here this year - the Fieldfares in particular have been gobbling up all the rotting apples under the cider apple tree in our woodland... good to know that they haven't gone to waste! They are such difficult birds to photograph without a decent zoom and this was as good as I could get today... will keep persevering though!

Birds visiting our actual garden this year have been less with regard to variety but SO many Blue Tits and not quite as many but still lots of Great Tits too...

Greenfinches have also been in reasonable quantity. Again today they have been wolfing down the food and I seem to be topping up their peanuts and fat blocks/balls on a daily basis! Even the coconut is going down well - some of the smaller birds like this Great Tit actually fits perfectly inside the half shell! Hopefully they'll stick around and take care of all the garden pests this year in repayment!

Despite the cold I've noticed a number of the Blue and Great Tits in particular checking out the nest boxes which is v. exciting too. Hopefully there will be lots of little families to be reporting in my blog later in the year.

As an aside to the birds for a moment, as they seem to be stealing the limelight somewhat recently. I've also noticed many early signs of plant growth in the garden too which always makes for exciting moments in what can be a difficult time of year with all the endless cold weather... I discovered the first clump of Snowdrops today which are a particular favorite ... and some more on the way too :-).

Daffodils are starting to poke their foliage through the soil already.

Helebores are getting going too - we have a lovely mix of both white, pink and a deeper red ones here; all of which self-seed profusely.

The young shoots of Tansy already showing as well!
The furry buds of the young Magnolia "Susan" that we have look lovely at this time of year!

Another of my favorite early spring plants which has been out for a while now is the lovely Daphne Odora - a plant Graeme and I bought in Cornwall during our honeymoon - nearly 6 years ago now - the smell from the flowers is incredible - they prefer a shady spot with some sun but do not like dry soil in the summertime!

A couple of more recent acquisitions to our garden with the two small Camelias which I bought during our spring trip to Cornwall last year - Camelia "Dainty" which has a very pretty pink and white flower with a centre full of yellow stamens and one which I bought for it's name is Camelia "Marjorie Magnificent" which really made me laugh - this is a blush pink double flower and very blousey! Both of these seem to be enjoying their new home and will be open fully in due course.

I can't imagine being without Rosemary - fantastic with roast lamb and beautiful at this time of year with it's pretty purple flowers against the granite walls of the house - especially appreciated at this time of year when few other plants are actually flowering already... great for any bees that are around - I have seen one or two!
I went and checked on the state of things in the greenhouse and was delighted to see the progress of the Alstromeria roots that I was given at our local plant-swap in the autumn!

Out walking this afternoon I spotted the deer again - what a lovely evening and such pretty light against the trees... a fitting end to a busy weekend!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Wildlife in our Brittany Garden...

A cold and frosty start here today but a day full of exciting wildlife sitings ... all within our garden or within a 10 minute walk of the boundaries!

For anyone new to my blog, we live in northern Brittany - about a mile from our local village and about 20 minutes to the nearest large town - we're lucky enough to live down a small no-through lane with only 2 houses on the lane that are inhabited as well as one small holiday home and another house which has been up for sale since early last year. We are surrounded on one side by woodland and on all other sides by farmland.

When we found our house some 8 years ago now, there had been nobody living there we think, for at least 7 years and certainly no one tending the "garden and woodland" for considerably longer! Of course it was a total wilderness at that time but the thing I have come to appreciate more and more as the years go past here is the fact that being left to its own devices the garden had built up its own eco-system which means on the whole aside of a small amount of weedkiller on our gravel at the front, I literally use NO pesticides/insecticides or chemical based fertilizers and I'm sure this is one of the secrets to having such a wonderful variety of wildlife in our garden and woodland - it really is a joy!

Anyway... getting back to today... most mornings I'm out with Lucy for her morning stroll and as it doesn't' get light much before 8.30am... I usually head out about 10ish and go across the fields... well today I was blessed with the wonderful sight of some young deer grazing in one of the smaller fields which is just left to rough meadow - it's not cultivated at all! I tried not to disturb them, but they did hear me of course and skipped off over the stream and to the woodland beyond... wonderful to see them in full flight across the fields.

I then turned along the stream and not far from home spotted one of the wild Coypu that frequent the streams and rivers around here - if you look carefully at the photo - behind the bramble in the foreground you can see the main part of the body and then you can make out the head and it's nose and whiskers! They are hunted by the local Chasse as they do quite a lot of damage to crops but at this time of year do a great job in keeping the vegetation along the river banks nice and low!

After the frost, the ice on the trees started to melt and thought the early catkins on the Hazels made a nice shot - Spring is very slowly emerging here... lots of new shoots coming along in the garden too - how exciting!

Back to our garden and all the birds were very busy feeding today being colder than it has been for the last few days - then I noticed a Blue Tit sizing up the hole on the nest box on the Cherry Tree - interesting as we normally have Great Tits in there! And so I left the cold for a seat behind my computer with the garden always in my sight as I worked...

Whilst working, I caught sight of our lovely Great Spotted Woodpecker on the Coconut - the birds here really love these but you don't hear of many people putting these out - is there a reason why not? These photos aren't the best as they were taken through the office window (I think they need a clean!)

Then later on this afternoon, I noticed flocks of birds flying over the garden and some landed in the Walnut Tree which is visible from my window... Fieldfares in their masses! By then it was starting to get darker and of course trying to get a good shot of these birds was near impossible but I did my best!
Hope you have a good rest of the week... keep warm - Miranda

Friday, 15 January 2010

Harmonious feeding...

I'm more than aware that the Goldfinch appears to be a common visitor to many people's gardens in the UK but through my experience of working as both a gardener and garden designer in Brittany over the last 6 years I've never seen many of these birds in people's gardens - more commonly seen in areas of wild meadow feeding off both Thistle and Teasle seeds. So you can imagine my excitement today, when I spotted the first Goldfinch we've ever had on our bird table... they really are stunning birds!

An added excitement was to spot it feeding happily alongside our Song Thrush which was also feeding on the bird table. It was pointed out to me last year by some fellow bloggers how unusual it is to have a Thrush feeding from the table itself - they are more commonly ground feeding birds as far as I know. I have been adding some Niger seed to the seed mix for the birds - so I wonder if this was the secret ingredient that "Goldie" came for!?

So two bits of exciting news all in one day, I thought I'd post these onto my blog to keep you up to date with the goings on in our Brittany garden!

One thing I am hoping to do this year is to focus on ideas of what to plant in order to increase the levels of wildlife in the garden - something which has been richly rewarding to discover of the past years - particularly since we've been living here. If you've got any particular hints and tips on this subject - do feel free to add your comments...

ps. my apologies about the photo quality - but these were taken through the bedroom window!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Enjoying the last days of snow it would seem?

As today is partly raining/sleeting and generally pretty disgusting, I decided to cheer myself up and you hopefully, by posting the photos I took on my walk yesterday late afternoon - it was WONDERFUL!

I've always loved the snow and any chance to get out in it, wherever I've been has been taken! There are lots of places to walk around here without taking the car which is just the best and one such walk is about an hour in length and follows a track most of the way - going gently a little bit up and down but reasonably level , surrounded by a mix of fields, meadow and woodland. As the sun was going down with temperatures dropping below freezing around 5.20/5.30pm yesterday all the lovely hues of pink and orange were reflecting in the snow... real food for the soul!

Nothing better than coming in from the cold and enjoying the benefits of a lovely log fire and a cup of tea :-)

Another noteable thing these last two days in particular is the quantity of bird food that is being gobbled up!! We seem to have lots of very hungry birds and so today have put up more feeders as well as a coconut which I've split in half - they seem to love these! I don't think we've had the same quantity of birds here this year as we have the last two and wonder if other people have had this experience - do hope that this isn't as a result of them surviving the cold. We haven't yet had the Nuthatches as last year, very few visits from the Great Spotted Woodpecker and as yet no Siskins or Brambling... the little Black Caps were new to the garden but other than them - it's mostly lots of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, Robins, Wrens (a garden visitor but not to the bird feeders), Dunnocks, Redwings (in our woodland) House Sparrows, Jays and Magpies. - I think that covers them all!

As well as lots of food, don't forget that birds need a regular supply of water too!
If any of you are considering adding a small tree to your garden that would be good for wildlife - our "Everest" Crab Apple has been wonderful - there are still one or two crab apples remaining and have been a wonderful source of food for the Black Caps, Blackbirds and Thrush during this cold weather... the Greenfinches and Robin (seen hiding!) seem to enjoy this as a place of refuge too! The male Greenfinches in particular looking rather stunning along with the deep red of the apples!

And on a happy note I'll leave you with a photo of our snowman... a very funny incident involving Lucy - our dog who on coming around the corner from the woodland in the dark the day he'd been made started barking madly and jumping about. We'd infact used 3 dog biscuits to create the mouth of the snowman and before I realised what she' d infact eaten part of the mouth - such a typical trait of a labrador! Take care and keep warm Mx