In a spell of dry weather in late autumn we collected the seed heads of several perennials, which have been stored in brown paper bags. Ideally, this seed should be cleaned promptly, but so much had needed to be done in the gardens that we had to wait until a wet day in December to do so.
Here we are sieving out the seeds of Veronica spicata ‘Red Fox’, removing any surrounding material (chaff) that could cause rot. In summer this Veronica has deep pink flower spikes that will attract butterflies.
These seeds were then placed in a small brown envelope and sealed. This was in turn put in a larger envelope with care instructions written on (these can often be found online) and then stored in a plastic box in a cool room.
When sieving these seeds, we found tiny spiders and other microscopic insects, showing how leaving on most of the seed heads until the spring provides a safe habitat for these creatures that are so important in food chains and food webs.
The garden team put out bird feeders as well as the animal keepers and other departments. Checking the weather forecast will help you predict which foods to use and how much you put out. We need to put out more when it is cold and when there will be long periods of rain. Suet balls and fat cakes are ideal energy and protein rich foods for such times.
When we get northerly and easterly winds we may get extra migrant birds such as blackbirds, song thrushes, redwings and fieldfares into our gardens.
In the Jubilee Gardens we have seen up to 6 blackbirds at a time, and so far we have spotted 2 fieldfares and 1 redwing.
We have had plenty of freezing weather this winter, but our ponds are large enough that there have always been unfrozen patches at the edges for wildlife to drink from.
If your pond freezes over completely, the safest and most effective way of clearing a ‘breathing hole’ is by using a small metal saucepan of very hot water. Hold the bottom of the saucepan on the surface of the pond and let the heat slowly melt a circle of ice. Gases can now escape without the wildlife being disturbed.
Happy New Year from the Gardening Team at Beale Park!