Sunday, 31 July 2016

Off With Their Heads!

It is the time of year to do a spot of beheading - removing dead heads and collecting seeds.  Here is a part of my sun lounge complete with drying seeds of allium, love-in-a-mist, marigold and poppies:
So that is a whole lot of bowls, saucers and plastic boxes out of commission - these seeds need to be removed and put into paper bags.  But where do I get a lot of paper bags and even if I label them, having to sort through a lot of anonymous-looking wee bags to find the right seeds next year will not be easy.  So why not make some seed packets like the ones you buy?  These will have all the information on the reverse, a cheerful colored image on the front and...well, let's make a couple first.

Open a graphics program, it doesn't matter much for a simple project like this which one you use but I tend to like PSP.  Here is a seed packet blank:
It is yours for your own use.  This makes a nice big packet and fits onto A4 so for a smaller packet just resize.  If you have taken a photo of your flower now is the time to use it, or have a look for public domain photos or images of the flower online.  Here it is after being cropped and having a posterizing treatment added to it on PSP, then cut and pasted onto the packet blank:
Note the caption which tells you what it is!  I have had these pink poppies for ages now and collect the seed every year but they have also become naturalized.  These double flowers are pretty but not much good for bees as they cannot get inside so not the sort of thing to go wild with and sow all over the place.  I just add a few for their looks.  Now let's open a table, fill it with useful information and you have done all the work you need
This tells you what you need to know. Print out, cut out, apply some paper glue on the tabs and stick together.  Put the seeds in and you have a pretty and practical packet!

Of course maybe you don't need yet more seeds of a particular variety or you have enough to fill a football pitch with them.  So why not give the packets to people as gifts?  You could put their names on the front and who they are from.  Lovely stocking fillers, Secret Santa or any other occasion.

Some more seedy ideas next time.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Scrap Your Garden

When your garden is looking its best under summer skies it is time to take plenty of photos.  For a simple page with a fun floral look here is an idea that won't take long to do but which showcases those floral closeups.

You will need:

Natural looking background paper in earth tones (this one is Basic Grey)
Dark green card
Scallop edged scissors

I)  Choose your central image - here family members in my aunt and uncle's garden.  Draw a circle 4 1/2" and cut out with the scallop scissors.  If you don't want to cut the photo make a copy and cut out a circle with the important parts in it 4" in diameter and mount.  Put aside.

II) Now select your favorite floral closeups.  As these vary in size and I didn't want to chop up large flower images there are two sizes of petals here.  Here is the wide one:
This is 4 1/2" high and 4 inches wide.  Here is the thinner one:

Choose any even numbered combination of these shapes that suit your photos and get snipping.  You will need eight and all require being cut out with the scallop scissors.  Mount the photos on top.  Here are the photo patterns, half an inch smaller all around:

III) To arrange on the page line up four petals top, bottom and sides with the edge of the page and stick down.  Now attach the other four in between.  Finally put the circle on top and your flower is done!  There ought to be some journalling but I tend towards double page spreads and this was on the other page leaving this for photos alone.  There is room top and bottom for captions.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Photo Fun

I know, I know I am not the world's best blogger but rest assured, I have been out and about communing with nature.  Today my pack arrived (hooray) to spur me on and give me some much needed ideas.  I see I have already done some of them and have been doing so for years and one of my favorites has to be taking photographs and making my memory album!  Another favorite is using the photos for something else - something even better than the memory album which is wearable art.  Also arriving in the mail was the latest issue of Bead Magazine:
Inside is an article all about how I got into working with beads and also one of my projects.  This uses photographs to make pendants.  The pictures are shrunk in a graphics program and embedded in resin.  Here is the necklace:
And here are the photos I used to make the wee pictures:
I took all of these in my own garden using the plants I grow.   I will have to find out what is loved by ferns but I know how much bees rely on those early crocuses when the queens are starting new colonies.  I am clearing more space right now to plant more of them so those are my acts of wildness for the moment.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Cuckoo Spit

Every May white blobs of foam start to appear on shrubs such as lavender and rosemary; this year because it was so cold in late winter/most of spring they are later.  A few days ago I started to notice that they had begun to appear and here is one on my rosemary:
Looking a bit out of focus as I am rather in between cameras at the moment, looking for one that takes a good closeup.  I expect this looks familiar if you live in the UK but what is it and what does it have to do with cuckoos?

This is the larval form of a wee insect called the froghopper.  It causes no harm to plants whatsoever and please don't try and get rid of it as it will soon vanish when the nymph is old enough to leave the foam.  The adults are sap suckers and will appear in late summer; again they don't do any harm.  They lay their eggs at this time of the year which will lie dormant over winter and emerge in the spring in their protective blobs.  These keep the nymph moist and taste nasty to predators, as well as keeping them warm.  There is more than one type of froghopper that does this and other common names for the foam include snake spit and frog spit; the cuckoo part presumably refers to the time of year it appears as it has nothing to do with cuckoos!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Getting To Know You...

I took a wander around my garden yesterday to see how many different bees I could spot, and what plants they like the best.  I try to make sure that there are at least a couple out between February and November when the bumble bee season runs and currently there are several, including foxgloves:
These are wonderful plants, easy to grow and hapy with a range of conditions.  You can buy seeds from Crocus here for a number of varieties, but this is the basic one (digitalis purpurea) that will naturalize and provide multi-storey feeding for pollinators.  However, these were not fully out and the bees were instead buzzing around a plant that was firing on all cyclinders.  This is the phlomis:
Looking vigorous and taking up too much path room!  It was so busy (or buzzy) with bees I had to be careful squeezing past it to avoid getting stung.  Phlomis russeliana does not mind drought, and has a long May-September flowering season.  This is another plant that is easy to grow being properly hardy, salt tolerant and generally tough.  Unlike the foxgloves which are happy in sun or shade this one likes full sun.  You can also buy this here from Crocus, this time as a 2 litre pot plant which will arrive very well packed.

So, which bees did I see then and how did I identify them?  There is a useful identification section on the Bumblebee Conservtion Trust site here which lists every bumble bee you are likely to see in the British Isles.  Click here to visit.  Firstly I saw several honey bees, these were the most numerous species.  There is only one species of these in this country and none are wild; they all belong to people these days.  There are also 24 species of bumble bee, and I saw several different types.  There were some buff colored Common Carder Bbees, a Red Tailed bee and several White Tailed bees.  Others were harder to identify, and there is a difference between males, workers and queens but I saw at least three kinds.  Now I intend to take a closer look at my bees and hopefully get some closeups with my camera; these less detailed photos were take with my cell phone.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mini Bio Blitz

Sitting by my pond for a few minutes this afternoon, what could I see?  I thought I would just sit there quietly and see what came along.  Here is what I saw:

Azure Damselflies (3)
Small White Butterflies (2)
White Tailed Bumblebee (I will find out which one this is)
Holly Blue Butterfly
Honey Bees (2)
Unidentified tiny tan moth (again, I will have to check this out)
More tomorrow!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Going WILD!

It is THAT time of year again - time for 30 Days Wild!  If you don't know what this is all about you can find out here and maybe take part in it yourself.  After two gloriously hot and sunny days over the weekend the first day of the challenge dawned dark, dull and damp.  But nature still goes on out there, and so I have gone forth in a bid to make my garden a greener place.  Here is my latest acquisition, a bug hotel:

You can pay silly prices for these but this was well under a tenner from Lidl.  Home Bargains has them too if you live near one of their larger stores (my local one did not have them).  They do stock a fair range of very cheap bird food and other things for feeding and generally pleasing wildlife.  Find out where your nearest store is here and check out their mail order range which includes bird food etc filed under Pets.

Two of my other new purchases from Home Bargains can be seen hanging in my garden:

Feeders for peanuts and fat balls, already marked by beaks!  These are good quality metal feeders; the plastic ones don't weather well and if you have squirrels they will tear them to pieces.  In the distance you can see a third feeder, this time filled with nesting materials:

I don't own any furry pets but do own a tumble dryer.  This is the fluff from my mostly cotton garments and household items made available to birds for nesting material.

It will be interesting to watch and record over the month who visits and what happens!  As Green Thoughts is a craft related site as well as about green issues I will also be posting up some crafty ideas.