Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Yearly Archive: 2020

Growing Snakeshead Fritillaria From Seed

I have planted bulbs of Snakeshead before several times to no avail. Last year I bought another bag of bulbs from Wilko. Only one flower popped up last year. which was encouraging, so we left it in the same large pot and this year we were blessed with about five flowers which have now gone to seed and all but two had popped and cast their seeds to the wind. The remaining seed heads had many seeds inside so Laura has sown some in a tray and I have kept a few in order to research how to grow these beautiful and endangered wildflowers from seed.

We are hoping that this years plants, having already scattered their seed to the wind, will grow on for us next Spring so as with all gardening its a waiting game now. The undisturbed bulbs should multiply too so fingers crossed.

Fritillaria seed ripens in mid to late summer and is best sown as soon as ripe or soon after in autumn. While older seed may still be viable it develops germination inhibitors that can make late sowings germinate erratically. Fritillaria has evolved to have dispersal of their seed by the wind which results in their being adapted to germinating on the surface of the ground. So it is important to sow the seed on the surface of gritty compost and not bury it any deeper.

Water the pots and place in a cool, sheltered place out of doors such as in a cold frame. Fritillaria seed requires a period of cold to stratify before germination so the pots can be left outdoors through the winter until they germinate which is usually in the Spring. Check the seed regularly for any germination and remove immediately to a bright place.

Once germinated keep the pot in a sunny position and keep watered throughout the growing season until the seedlings start to die down for their summer dormancy. By the end of the first year the baby bulbs will be small and difficult to handle so it’s better not to pot them on until the end of their second year. A typical Fritillaria will probably take 5 to 6 years from sowing to flowering.

Snakeshead Fritillaria

https://www.citychickens.co.uk/?s=snake+in+the+grass&searchsubmithttps://www.citychickens.co.uk/?s=snake+in+the+grass&searchsubmit

The snake’s head fritillary is one of the most exquisite jewels in the treasure house of British wildflowers with a long list of common names which also include, Checkered Daffodil, Chess Flower, Frog-cup, Leper lily and Guinea-hen Flower. The nodding bell-shaped flowers are unmistakable for their nodding heads, sometimes of pure white, or more frequently marked with a delicate chequerboard pattern in shades of purple. This rare British wildflower is now protected in its native meadows, but will always attract attention in a woodland garden, rockery, or naturalised in grass where they look magical.

The white form of this rare British native is rarely found in the wild. It flowers from March to May growing to between 15 and 40 cm in height. In the wild it is commonly found growing in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows and can be found at altitudes up to 800 metres, although it takes readily to garden culture where it makes a superb border plant.

.https://www.plant-world-seeds.com/store/view_seed_item/2315

White Snakeshead
Seedheads

Mice in The Garden?

The header picture is Chico Grande, one of our many cats over the years at this house. She is long gone but was a mouser and would often present a mouse or a young bird to us.

We have noticed that we have been having mice in the garden since last Autumn. I am assuming that the fact that we have chickens is probably the main reason as they have a regular source of food and bedding plus warm hidey holes under the chicken houses. They are very attractive little creatures and although I am aware that they breed prolifically, I am loathe to do anything cruel to them.

The Wood Mouse

The wood mouse is sometimes known as the long-tailed field mouse and is widespread; it is probably most common in woodland, rough grassland and gardens. It is mostly nocturnal and an agile climber. Wood mice will gather food stores of berries and seeds in the autumn, which they keep in underground burrows or sometimes in old birds’ nests. Females have up to six litters a year of between four and eight young, and may even breed over winter if food is abundant.

Wood Mouse

The wood mouse is golden-brown, with a pale underside, large ears and eyes, and a long tail. It is bigger than the harvest mouse, and browner in colour than the house mouse.

The wood mouse is our commonest mouse and the one you are most likely to find in your garden. Because of this, it often falls prey to domestic cats, foxes and owls; in fact, tawny owls may not breed if wood mouse numbers are low as it restricts their diet. The Wildlife Trust

Laura has noticed that she has lost quite a few seeds and young plants from her greenhouse too.

This is only the second year that we haven’t had a family cat or two as our old girls and boys finally died and we haven’t replaced them. I can only assume that, although I was never happy when the cats brought me a mouse, the cats must have acted as a deterrent to the mice.

On the positive side, since the cats died, we have many more small birds inhabiting the garden now too.

Field Mice

Gardens are ideal habitats for these small mammals as they provide plenty of cover and a wide range of food sources. Sometimes, however, they come into conflict with gardeners when they eat highly valued plants, seeds and bulbs. When populations peak mice are more likely to become a nuisance in the garden. Mice are small mammals that sometimes feed on garden plants. They are shy nocturnal animals so there could be more of them in your garden than you suspect. Which Magazine.

Field Mouse

Field mice commonly live in gardens, where their vegetarian diet can cause problems for gardeners. For most of the year their numbers tend to remain low. However, in autumn they can build up high populations and cause a great deal of damage into early winter. Which Magazine

A wild, green garden full of colour and life is far more rewarding for both people and wildlife than a grey square of paving slabs and our garden is definitely a paradise for wildlife so I suppose we should welcome these creatures. Following a bit of online research, I think maybe our tiny lodgers must be Wood Mice.

Hmmmmmmm. Should I get a kitten?

Dehydration and Rehydration

Last winter I had a very scary health event that included severe dehydration and so that made me aware of the dangers of this condition. I have recently been having symptoms of dehydration again, namely,:-

  • giddiness
  • headaches
  • confusion
  • dry skin
  • dry eyes
  • dark urine
  • tiredness
  • lack of skin elasticity

Scientists warn that the ability to be aware of and respond to thirst is slowly blunted as we age. As a result, older people do not feel thirst as readily as younger people do. This increases the chances of them consuming less water and consequently suffering dehydration

The body loses water as we age. Until about age 40, the proportion of total body fluids to body weight is about 60% in men and 52% in women. After age 60, the proportion goes down to 52% in men and 46% in women. The reason for the decline is the loss of muscle mass as one ages and a corresponding increase in fat cells.

Drinking at least five glasses of water daily reduces the risk of fatal coronary heart disease among older adults. This is a shocking statistic and one we should all take heed of.

Sudden shifts in the body’s water balance can frequently result in dehydration and the physical changes associated with aging expose the elderly in particular to the risks of dehydration. One serious danger to the elderly is that they may not know about their dehydrated condition, which could lead to it not being treated and result in more serious consequences.

The kidneys’ ability to remove toxins from the blood progressively declines with age. This means the kidneys are not as efficient in concentrating urine in less water thus older people lose more water. The information listed on my medical notes includes CKD which is chronic kidney disease. Whilst I realise that this is a common condition in people of my age I do try to drink more water as directed by my GP.

However, I have made a decision to be more proactive with regard to this particular health issue and so have been researching what food supplements I could use to aid my rehydration.

ORS Dispersable Tablets

These tablets must be dissolved in a glass of water to make a drink that is easier to take than the large tablets. The tablets are fruit flavoured making them easier to drink.

Ingredients per tablet dissolved in 100ml of water

  • Glucose/ Sugar /Energy 8.6kcal
  • Citric Acid,
  • Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
  • Sodium Chloride /Salt 176mg
  • Potassium Chloride 150mg
  • Colourant Beetroot
  • Blackcurrant Flavour
  • Polyethylene Glycol 6000
  • Sweetener/Aspartame
  • Kollidon K25

These tablets are said to contain a balanced formula of electrolytes, glucose & minerals. They do not contain yeast, gluten or lactose. They are free from artificial preservatives and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They are cheap to buy and easy to take so I will give them a try. It’s the 21st of May and I have been taking them for one week so I will report back in another three weeks and note any progress.

Electrolytes produce ions and enable the body to function. Body fluid contains electrolytes, chemicals which, when they dissolve in water, produce charged ions. These ions enable the flow of electrical signals through the body.

The major electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride. Electrolytes are substances that dissociate in solution and have the ability to conduct an electrical current. These substances are located in the extracellular and intracellular fluid.

Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electrical impulses in the body when mixed with water. It’s important that you have the correct balance of electrolytes as they are involved in many essential processes within the body.

Some of the most common electrolytes in the human body include calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

Mild dehydration can usually be treated by taking more fluids by mouth. Generally, it’s best to drink something with some electrolytes, such as a commercial rehydration solution, though in most cases, even drinking water or tea will help. Be creative and make having a drink an occasion instead of a task. It goes without saying “No Alcohol”. That causes dehydration.

Strawberry and Coconut Water

Strawberries and Coconut Water

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) of fresh coconut water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) strawberries sliced
  • sugar or sweetener

Directions

  • To make the sugar syrup boil sugar and water together.
  • Add one cup of coconut water.
  • Combine the strawberries and sugar or blend.
  • Serve with ice.

This drink sounds wonderful but the combinations are endless.

Copper Beech-Fagus Sylvatica

Copper Beech Fagus Sylvatica?

This young tree was presented to me by Sean and Deb, my son and his partner, following their move to a new house. I believe it was in the garden already in a pot so they brought it here. It is a beautiful thing with striking colouring and looks very healthy. It survived the winter and though I was concerned that it looked a bit dead early on in the Spring it is now a pleasure to behold. I had heard of a copper beech of course but had no idea of the size that it might grow to.

On researching this species I have found that as well as large trees this can be used as hedging. I am also confused as to whether I actually have a Copper Beech or a Purple Beech.

Fagus Atropunicea

Fagus Atropunicea – purple beech – creates a beautiful, dense hedge with attractive copper purple, oval wavy-edged foliage that changes throughout the season with small white flowers in spring. A very rewarding hedge they have been known to bring wildlife into the garden as well. The Purple Beech is a very popular choice as a standalone specimen and makes a great alternative to fences or walls when grown as hedges.  It has stunning dark purple-red foliage in the spring, turning into a dark green-bronze gradually over the year. They will grow perfectly well in either sun or partial shade and thrive on almost any well-drained soil. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.

Fagus – Beech

Fagus – Beech is a traditional English Tree. They have lovely green or copper purple, oval foliage that changes to yellow and then a rich russet brown in Autumn. They do tend to keep hold of some of the leaves during the Winter months but they are mainly a deciduous plant. The leaves then start to bud up around February / March time and the leaves open from April onwards depending on the weather. Monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree. In April and May, the copper beech’s tassel-like male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.info from Grasslands Nursery.

Well for the moment I think my Copper Beech? or Purple Beech? Fagus Sylvatica? or Fagus Atropunicea? will be staying in its pot and looking beautiful.

On further research, I came across this information. Copper Beech, also known as Purple Beech, is a cultivated form of common beech. It grows to a height of more than 40m. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, often with slight horizontal etchings. Twigs are slender and grey but not straight, their shape resembles a zig-zag. Torpedo-shaped leaf buds are coppery and up to 2cm in length with a distinctive criss-cross pattern.

40 m. Oh dear. Well unless I win the lottery and move to a big house this tree will stay in its pot for a few years.

Beech

Sambucus Nigra – Black Lace

Elder

I have wanted one of these plants for a while and last year Laura turned up with a beautiful young plant that has come on really well this year. The new leaves have emerged green but are changing to deep burgundy and already has flowers. I have placed it into the sun.

Multiple stems are crowned with flattened heads of fragrant pink, lightly perfumed, flowers that complement the dark foliage. Later in the season, glossy black elderberries appear that are traditionally used in preserves and homemade drinks.

Sambucus nigra Black Lace has very finely cut, almost black foliage, which is the perfect foil to the pink blooms in late Spring and early Summer. In autumn its leaves turn a rich red. To produce the best coloured leaves prune plants back to ground level every year in early spring. Nigra works well when planted on its own or as part of a hedge.

For best results grow Sambucus nigra Black Lace in moist but well drained soil in full sun to partial shade. However, it will tolerate waterlogged or very chalky ground.

Aquilegia vulgaris Collection Columbine

Over the years I have gathered quite a few varieties of Aquilegia Vulgaris from the very first seeds given to me many many years ago by my Sister-in-law Janice who had gathered them from her Mothers garden one Autumn. Her mother has long gone but I think of her often when these flowers start to bloom.

Just like Joyce these flowers are hardy and no nonsense. They look after themselves and pop up year after year to bring colour to the garden. There are so many varieties and hybrids so my wish list is very long.

You can start Columbine flowers from seeds or buy young plants. Seeds should be sown throughout spring. The seeds need light to germinate so simply press them on the soil surface and lightly cover with soil. Germination is about 30 days and because Aquilegia is a perennial it will take two years from planting the seeds for them to bloom.

Most varieties of Columbine plants will bloom for at least four weeks. They look delicate but are tougher than they appear. They tend to be short-lived perennials but self seed and spread bringing pleasure and colour to your garden for years.

Varieties of Columbine include dwarf varieties that are just 6 inches tall as well as large varieties that are more than 3 feet tall with large flowers. Keep in mind that Aquilegia varieties readily cross-pollinate. If you plant more than one variety be prepared to see new colors and combinations.

Aquilegia is a genus of about 60–70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers. The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because of the shape of the flower petals, which are said to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

Aquilegia Vulgaris William Guiness

Also, known as Magpie, this variety has purple-black flowers with contrasting white centres in late spring and early summer above fern-like, mid-green leaves. The unusual flowers of this old fashioned columbine creates an eye-catching display. The plant self seeds freely.

Aquilegia William Guiness

Aquilegia Vulgaris Pink Flamingo

This is a large flowering pink variety. Appearing in late Spring it is a new columbine variety. Coming quite true from seed it should be planted away from other Aquilegia with which it could hybridise.

Aquilegia Pink Flamingo

Aquilegia Vulgaris Crystal Star

Aquilegia Crystal Star is a long spurred aquilegia with pure white flowers. A cottage garden favourite and an excellent and unusual cut flower possessing a clean crisp bright whiteness. “This has to be one of the easiest and most rewarding Perennials available producing masses pure brilliant white flowers with stunning spurs”. so says the company that I bought the seeds from so I hope so as this is the first year that I have sown them and I am hoping for them to become a permanent presence in the garden.

Aquilegia Vulgaris Blue Bird

From the Songbird series this blue Aquilegia is one of my favourite flowers in the garden. Such a perfect blue.

The songbird series is a range with compact habit and very large flowers with bright clean flower colours. A clump-forming perennial which forms a basal rosette of foliage and from May to July huge flowers with long spurs produced on strong upright stems. Varieties still to add to my collection from the Songbird Series are Goldfinch, Nightingale, Cardinal, Bunting, Early Bird and Chaffinch.

The Songbird hybrid series has a long history that started back in the 1980’s, and it’s story involves at least two breeding programs. The breeders used many species and selections in creating this mix. McKanna Giants formed the foundation of this complex cross. Breeders also reportedly used A. skinneri, A. californica, A. chrysantha, A. canadensis and a number of other strains. It’s a real mix, but is still sold under the botanic name of Aquilegia caerulea, as this remains the primary species used in the strain.

Aquilegia Bluebird

Aquilegia Wild Variety

A perennial often found at woodland edges and roadsides, long stalked with long-spurred blue-violet flowers. This variety grows to a height of 60cm and prefers damp woodland. It flowers during June and July. The foliage is very pretty.

Wild Columbine

Aquilegia Crimson Star

Crimson Star hybrida has striking red and white flowers. Columbines are attractive foliage plants that grow well in fertile soil in the sun or partial to full shade.

Aq Crimson Star

Tragedy after tragedy….

As of 5 pm last night, 34,466 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 across all settings in the UK. More than 307,000 people have died across the world and 4.5 million are infected – Johns Hopkins University tracker

All of those numbers represent a person. An individual whose life has ended amid this crisis. I am amazed and appalled at the attitude of some members of this human race that I am a part of. I have always tried to see the good in everyone but whilst I am certain that the majority are aware of what is going on I still see so many who are turning away from the truth and not facing up to the seriousness of the situation we are in.

Every day we hear of a new family tragedy. The NHS staff and their support are to be commended for being there for us in such dangerous times. We owe it to them and all key workers to be responsible and do all we can to stop the transmission of this virus.

Keith Dunnington, 54, a nurse for more than 30 years, died at his parents’ home in South Shields on 19 April. His mother Lillian, 81, died on 1 May and her husband Maurice, 85, died days later in hospital. NHS staff, well-wishers and fire crews paid tribute to the family outside South Tyneside District Hospital.

Joanne Rennison, 52, died in an East Yorkshire hospital on 5 April. Seven days later, her father David Whincup, 79, died at Hull Royal Infirmary.

Cranesbill Cantabrigiense St. Ola

This cranesbill is an improved form of  Geranium cantabrigiense Biokovo which holds the white flowers for longer before ageing to pink.  It is an Alan Bremner hybrid, bred and named in Orkney.  A cross between G. dalmaticum ‘Album’ and G. macrorrhizum Album with aromatic, evergreen, glossy green leaves. It grows well in most soils, is low growing and forms good ground cover. 

I bought this plant as a bare root from wilko.com and it seems to be growing as it should. Unlike the tulips that I bought from there as pale pink and white that turned out a beautiful cerise colour. It was a slow starter but is now looking very good with a good amount of healthy bronze leaves. I am looking forward to flowers this year as it is supposed to bloom from May till first frost. It is listed as deciduous but perennial so hopefully will reappear next spring. All I have to do now is decide whether to keep it in the pot or put it into the border.

Cranesbill is very easy to manage.  Remove old overwintered leaves in spring, tidying up any damaged by winter weather.  Propagate by division in spring.  Pest and disease resistant. This will be the last of my cranesbill collection for a while. I have Beth Chato already in flower at present and more to look forward to.

Pause for Thought

14th May 2020 …………….. The UK government’s daily figures released today show that a further 428 people have died with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours. This brings the total number of deaths in hospitals and the wider community to 33,614. The first recorded death was on the 6th of March. That is an average of over 487 deaths a day over the 69 days. Every individual an important person to the bereaved left behind to grieve. Lives lost; families broken; careers ended; children without parents, the list is endless and heartbreaking.

Mass testing is the order of the day now

More than 300,000 deaths have been recorded worldwide. A testament to the virility and speedy transmission of this extremely contagious disease.

Population is sticking to the rules

We are living in unprecedented times and history will record how we behave now. We must all do our part and my part has been very easy. I am a shielded individual as I am in a group most at risk. My only hardship so far has been to stay at home. Easy for me as that is where I am happy and safe. I am eternally grateful to all key workers who have been keeping the county going during this awful time.

Common Garden Frog

….did someone say frogs?..

We have waited patiently for years for the frogs to appear in our garden pond. We did have frogspawn last year and during the summer saw some tiny frogs appearing but this year our patience has been rewarded with evidence of a resident group of our very own frog family. Garden slugs look out! We have moved all the chickens to their own enclosure now as they would eat the frogs.

Common frogs have smooth skin that varies in colour from grey, olive green and yellow to brown. They have irregular dark blotches, a dark stripe around their eyes and eardrum, and dark bars on their legs. They are able to lighten or darken their skin to match their surroundings.

This species is widespread in mainland Britain and can be spotted in the garden from March to October. Common frogs are most active at night and hibernate during the winter in pond mud or under piles of rotting leaves, logs or stones. They can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. They can emerge to forage during warm spells.

Males can be distinguished from females by the hard swellings, called nuptial pads, on their first fingers. The nuptial pads are used for gripping females when mating. Males also possess paired vocal sacs, which the females lack.

In spring males croak to attract females. The male embraces a female and fertilises her eggs as she lays them in shallow, still water. Frogspawn is a familiar sight in Spring. Tadpoles hatch and over about 16 weeks gradually change into froglets, a process known as metamorphosis.

Adult frogs eat insects that they catch with their long, sticky tongue plus snails, slugs and worms. Young tadpoles feed on algae, but then become carnivorous. Frogs cannot swallow, so they ‘push’ their food down by using their large eyes, this means they must close their eyes to swallow.

Outside of the breeding season, common frogs live a solitary life in damp places near ponds or in long grass. They are normally active for much of the year only hibernating in the coldest months. In the British Isles common frogs hibernate from late October to January. They can re-emerge as early as February if conditions are favourable and migrate to bodies of water to spawn. Common frogs hibernate in running water, muddy burrows or layers of decaying leaves and mud at the bottom of ponds. The oxygen uptake through the skin suffices to sustain the needs of the cold and motionless frogs during hibernation. In the wild the Common frog has a life span of around 8 years.