Rubber Tree Cast!

We had a strange request recently from a freelance lady artist. Could she make a silicon cast of the bark of our Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum).

Sarah arrived this morning with a large tub of the casting rubber and set about spreading the pink material over a substantial area of moistened trunk, of our approximately forty year old tree.

Later in the afternoon Sarah returned and gently peeled off the size-able sheet of bark textured, silicon rubber. I had been a little sceptical of the outcome, but was impressed with the result and could imagine it making an attractive and interesting wall hanging.

The mould will, after several further processes, produce a bark texture material which will be stuck to a carved polystyrene tree trunk. After painting this will be used in an exhibition about dinosaurs in Germany.

The Ducks are Back

The pair of Mallard Ducks are back for what is at least their third year. They are clearly park ducks as the don’t scare off easily. They have been observed dabbling up the hatching tadpoles,

reaching under the windows we put over the spawn, to protect it from frosts and predators.

However on the plus side, after we’d shooed them off the waterlily pond they did go on the ‘natural’ (clay) ponds and started to do a good job eating the duckweed and algae.. Unfortunately next door’s dog went mental, when he saw a cat in our garden rushing at the wire fence and barking loudly, which managed to scare them off before they completed the task..

New Half Price Features

We bought two fibreglass square tubs from Tomlyns Nursery in January at half price, and two Yucca recurvifolia ‘Banana Split’ at 50% off from the Roots and Shoots Garden Centre, spring sale. We have just set them up and are pleased with the result. The design of the tubs works quite well with the woodwork. It’s a shame the colour isn’t closer!

Welcome Wildlife

We don’t find slow worms as often as we used to, because a few years ago we had a cat

that would catch and kill them. However I found one in the compost bin this morning .It was a female who had lost her tail in the past and has started to grow a new one. Slow worms’ favourite food are the white slugs,which are so damaging to certain of our much loved plants.

Epimedium Seedlings

A few years ago I collected seed from a number of different Epimedium plants and sowed each variety in separate pots, so that I would at least know the female parent. Not a single seed came up in any of the pots.

Last year I collected seed from whatever plants set any, and put it all in the same paper bag. In August I sowed them into two pots. One I put in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge, and forgot about. The other pot was left on the greenhouse bench This started to germinate in February, so we looked at the one in the fridge. .

Unfortunately this had obviously started germinating much earlier as there were etiolated remains of seedlings. We had a similar experience years back where Tropaeolum speciosum seed germinated in the cold temperature and was not spotted in time, but we didn’t expect the Epimedium seed to germinate before the seed in the greenhouse.

The successful pot has about thirty seedlings in it. at the first true leaf stage. It seems they will all be hybrids, but it will be fun when they get to flower. There is already a variation in leaf with some showing red mottling. Thirty seedligs is a good number to trial, more might be a problem!

The only seedlings I have had previously are a very few found in the garden including the one we have named Epimedium ‘Pathfinder’.We thought this plant was worth naming as it produces a lot of lowers, and over a long period, May to September, in its second year of flowering.

Post Scripts

It would appear that low temperatures will kill off the fronds of Dicksonia antarctica.

My experiment of tying up the fronds to prevent snow from breaking them achieved nothing, except perhaps protecting the crown. All the fronds showed severe damage quickly after the cold snap, and are now all brown.

Having said earlier that we never had problems with Dymo Tape pealing off plastic labels I am now having to admit I have had a serious set back. I have spent a considerable amount of time (and money) producing 156 plant labels on the new black Tee shaped plastic labels to find a significant number of the names are coming away after a short time.

My theory is the Tee labels are of not polystyrene as were all our older plastic labels, where the Dymo stayed on for many years. The Tee ones are polypropylene, which must resist the adhesive. I have been using the same Dymo tapes on normal tie on labels at the same time as the Tee ones, so I don’t think there is a problem with the tapes as they seem to stick well to them.

Lots of Frogs Spawn

The first spring after the new waterlily pond was built, three years ago, we had a very good hatching and development of frogs spawn. The following spring the spawn completely failed, we assume, due to it being frosted.

Last year we took some spawn out and started it in a large fibre glass tank in a greenhouse and put the tadpoles in the pond after the risk of frosts. We saw a few froglets later in the summer, but nothing like the first year.

This year the pond is very lively with frogs and there is more spawn than year one, presumably boosted by the successful hatching and development of that year. I have placed an old window over part of the spawn to help protect it, if we have frosts and from predators. Something, presumably a fox dragged some out onto the grass while trying to catch and kill the frogs.

New Hellebores

We decided to give the car a bit of a run this Tuesday, so visited Summerhill Garden Centre on pensioners’ day. We like looking through Hellebore selections in various outlets at this time of year, looking for something new.

We hadn’t come across double Christmas Roses before so despite the fact we’ve never kept the single ones long term, we bought one. Also we couldn’t walk away from a couple of new double Lenten Roses for our collection.