The beginning of 2021 has been extremely wet, and I’m sure you’ll agree, quite miserable!

I am a bit of a fair-weather gardener, so I am keeping inside most of the time, reading, garden planning, watching tv, and especially watching the birds on our new bird feeders. Our children replaced our old, slightly grubby feeders with new ones at Christmas, along with lots of food to put in them. Bird visitors have far outweighed human visitors to the garden so far this year!

Birds in the Garden,

This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which we like to take part in. You don’t have to be a member to count and submit your list of birds. Details and instructions are on the RSPB website.

Hopefully we can all appreciate sharing our gardens with our little feathered friends, and so far our new feeders are proving to be very popular. Here is a list of some of our visitors, highest number of birds first:

Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Sparrows, Robins, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Magpies and Crows, occasional Woodpeckers and other Finches.

So far there has been very little sign of the long tailed tits which were here in the summer.

The most popular food I find are fat balls, but I have discontinued these at the moment as the Magpies were able to get at the feeders and tear great chunks out!

I regularly put out peanuts, sunflower seeds and niger seeds (these are supposed to be for the goldfinches but they seem to prefer the sunflower seeds) and will reintroduce fat balls soon.

Remember to try not to put food out which won’t all be eaten in the daytime as it may attract other types of visitor (usually of the rodent kind!).

The RSPB sell food online, and I also like Happy Beaks mail order bird food. Read more about which birds like what food over on our website blog.

If the weather is freezing remember to put water out for the birds, in a bird bath or anything shallow for them to drink out of.

If this has inspired you to buy bird feeders of your own, I suggest that you buy ones with covered tops and saucers, to keep seed dry and stop the bird food from falling on the ground. Also try to get ones which are easy to clean. Some of my previous birdfeeders were very sturdy but really difficult to clean as they couldn’t be dismantled, so I have replaced these with easy clean feeders.


There are lots of different bird foods available, including mixes for bird feeders and bird tables, as well as for ground feeding:

  • Blackbirds tend to feed on the ground and will eat most things; from fatty nibbles to mealworms. They appreciate apples at this time of year and fresh water.
  • Blue tits and great tits like to use a feeder, eating seeds, suet and peanuts. They will also eat from flat dishes attached to the feeder frame
  • Finches, including chaffinches and greenfinches, use feeders and bird tables, and love sunflower hearts. We get very few finches here apart from the Goldfinches – I’ve no idea why? I suppose that as we are surrounded by arable fields there is very little natural food for them.
  • Look for good quality bird foods – those that don’t include ‘fillers’ such as dried peas and beans that birds rarely eat. These seeds are often cheaper, but it is a false economy if you have a lot uneaten or germinating on the ground!.
  • You can put out leftovers such as some wholemeal and seeded bread, unsalted nuts, or fruit such as apples and pears. Don’t put out anything containing dried fruit – vine fruits such as raisins can be toxic to pets.


The New Year is often a time for thinking about the past and of things to come. As we can’t do much practical gardening, it may be nice to walk around the garden, or house, and think about any plants that have associations with other things in your mind. As I walk around I see plants that have been given to me by friends and family, some that I have bought whilst on holiday and plants that remind me of loved ones or past experiences.

At this difficult time, green spaces can lower our blood pressure and raise our spirits, or, if you can’t get out, even looking at pictures or watching nature programmes is believed to give  pleasure (although the 1000 piece jigsaw of a garden I gave to my sister before Christmas may not have lowered stress levels!)

One of our Fieldcrest friends, the Rev. Sheila Hughes, is a keen gardener and has given me some lovely plants and cuttings that I now have in the garden.

She also paints some of the plants that she has collected over the years, such as the painting above of a fuchsia, which  grows wild on the Isle of Man, which she was given cuttings of some years ago, and which she will pass some cuttings on to me.

This is a description of Sheila’s former Lake District garden, where she focuses on a favourite, the alkanet.

The blue alkanet grew with the foxgloves, corncockles, bluebells, day lilies, large leopards bane, in one of the vicarage woods. There was a clearing and in the spring and summer it erupted into a beautiful wild flower garden. I would go and sit amongst the trees and just take time out from my busy job staring in wonder at what nature gets up to when we leave it alone. I just mowed a pathway through so I could walk through it in my day shoes and not get bitten by the ticks! The alkanet lives quite happily and behaves with other plants around. It is also green throughout the winter and we had a lot of snow and ice! I even found alkanet in flower under the snow! A really tough plant and gorgeous too. You just plant it in a corner or against a wall and give it plenty of space and it will colonise the space and you can check it if necessary.

Isn’t it a lovely account, reminding us of better days to come?

Best wishes to everyone


p.s my Christmas Wreath is still going strong, although it is now on a table next to the back door!