This Weekends Garden Jobs

Well, there was a lot I had planned to do in the garden this weekend.  However, a sudden bout of heart palpitations, sweats, dizziness and bright lights meant it was all cut short.

After that little turn I decided the best thing I could do was just take it easy this weekend.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything done though.

Before it all kicked off I pulled up all the Sunflowers that have nothing more to give, which now only leaves me with two plants that are full of flowers still.

The plan for the weekend was: pull up the sunflowers, mow the lawns, cut the Echinops down, clear the pond of bindweed and fallen leaves, but the edging in up in the woodland area.  There was also the remains of a field maple that needed digging out of the ground, and a shed load of weeding around the garden.

20171015_152921So, the first thing on my list was achieved – yay me!  Next I headed up to the woodland garden – bit of a grand name for a 10 x 10 metre area, but the idea is to get it feeling a bit more like a woodland.  I wasn’t going to do anything on this area until next year, but hey, plans can change.

I’d already put in a few plants, such as the holly and the dogwood, plus planted some cyclamen, oh and about 200 bulbs – hyacinth, miscansus, narcissi, bluebell and snowdrops.

This whole area started last year with the planting of about 18 Hazels to border it, some primrose and a plum tree.  We also put in three field maples.  The Hazel’s are well and truly established, although some are much bigger than others and as they’re now 3yrs old I’ll be able to start coppicing them from next year.  I’ve got 6 others elsewhere so have plenty to work with.  The whole area was then covered with weed-proof lining and a shed load of bark chippings put over the top.

The weed-proof lining didn’t work at all and it wasn’t long before the bind-weed and the grass started getting through.  I knew I’d have to do something about it, but as I said was putting this off until 2018.  I’m just too impatient.

And so I dug out my trench to put in the corrugated steel edging.  I only bought one roll as I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not and wanted to try it before I spend out on more.  Now that it’s in the ground, I actually like it and so will get some more.  Once that was in I decided to remove the final Field Maple.   And it was this that did me in and brought an end to my gardening for this weekend.

It was bloody hard work.  I had to dig down about 3ft and work round the roots.  The ground is very sticky and compacted so it took a lot of breaking up to get anywhere.  After about 40 minutes I started feeling a bit odd and then had to sit down.

This means nothing more got done this weekend.  So these jobs need to be carried over to next week, so fingers crossed the weather holds out.

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There’s a lot of grass and nettles growing on this edge – I’m tempted to keep the nettles going as I know they attract a lot of insects, especially tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies.  I just need to keep them under control a bit as they were the dominant plant at this end of the garden and to be honest I was getting fed up with being stung.  That said, I don’t want to get rid of them completely.

20171015_152841Now, apart from a bit of weeding I don’t think I’ll much more to this area this year – just get the final edging in now I’ve tried it out.  The shoots of the bulbs are already showing in some places, so I don’t want to dig it all over again and disturb them.  Once we get to next year and the Weeping Birch is back in leaf and hopefully the Plum will be better too, I’ll think about the other plants I want to get in up here, such as the Harts Tongue Ferns and Sweet Woodruff.

Once this area is in place the real work will have to begin, as the corner plot behind it is in a right state at the moment.  There’s a massive Buddleia tree with brambles draping from it.  The previous owners dumped loads of wood, bricks, roof tiles, planks of wood and even an old steel day bed back here and it’s all been taken over by bind weed and nettles.  It’s going to take a lot of hard graft to clear it, but we’ve got the plan to turn it into a bit of secret  garden leading off of this woodland garden.  it could be lovely, we just have to do it!

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Pixels #15

Pets

If you can’t get a person to sit infront of your camera for you and you want to practice portraits – you can do worse than use your own pets.

I’m sure over the years we’ve all taken great snapshots of our dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, lizards etc, but how often have you looked at your pet and decided to use it to practice some portraiture work.  i.e. treat it like you would if you were photographing a person.

Our poor animals have been subjected to full on studio lighting and casual outdoor portraiture work – all in the name of practice as well as to have somenice pics of them.

It’s got to be said, when it’s something that moves alot it’s a bit more difficult than a person.  Plus you can tell someone exactly where to look and hold their head, you cannot do this with a cat or a dog.  They do not take this kind of instruction particularly well – so be happy if you can just get them to sit for more than two minutes.

The only trick I have up my sleeve for dogs is to hold my hand up where I want to them look and say “biscuit” – this gives me a couple of seconds before they leap up to investigate, but it does get them looking in the right place.

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For cats there is no trick other than patience.  I tend to wait for him to settle down and get comfy for a nap and then annoy him.  He’ll usually stick around for me to get a few decent shots before he turns his back and goes to sleep properly.  Occasionally I’ve been lucky and he’s just sat in the right place at the right time.

So, think about this – how would you photograph them if they were a person?  How would you light them, what kind of portrait are you taking?  How can you capture their character.  Every pet has a character – whether it’s reptile, mammal or fish, or bird, or anything else I might have missed.  Arachnid?  Insect?

Now obviously, not every portrait has to take place in a studio with full on lights, natural light or a simple fill light can bring out the best too.  Even when I photograph people I like to use natural light as much as possible too.

If I’ve learnt anything over the years when taking photos of animals, it’s patience.  Never assume it’ll be a quick photo and you’re done.

I’ll follow them around, roll on the floor with them, play with them and generally annoy them.  Then, after about 15 minutes I’ll start taking photos.  Be prepared though, I have also learnt that as soon as you get down to their level, some dogs like to come in close.  Really close.  I’ve had many smeared lenses. There is no such thing as a fail-safe, one glove fits all, plan when photographing pets.

I find that my success rate with pets is slightly less then it is when photographing people – this is down to the inability of an animal to understand “hold it there”.  But to be honest, that’s half the fun.  Some of my favourite pics have happened as the animal has moved.  A little bit of blur can be a good thing.  It can be frustrating as you wait for a certain behaviour and look and then they shake and ruin the whole photo.

Every time you pick up the camera you learn something new, every time you put someone different infront of it you learn something new.  The key is to have fun and learn.  Technique will continue to improve and that success rate will get better.  Just bear in mind the old adage of children and animals.  Only do work with them, it’s fun.

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Oh, and if the owner is happy for you to do it – have a pocketful of treats ready – these really help!

The Black Dog

I decided to take a week off of my usual Plant of the Week this week, as I’ve had this bubbling up for some time to write about.  I know PotW isn’t until Wednesday but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a weeks break and leave this up for a few days…

I hadn’t heard the phrase “The Black Dog” until about 2yrs ago.  I had never used it and I had never heard anyone else use it either.  I have openly talked about my own issues to people, both in the real world and in the virtual one and I’m not going to go in to detail on this blog, but I’ll give you an overview.

Black Dog is associated with depression, not used for all mental illnesses, but I think it covers well the feeling of anyone who reaches rock bottom where the light no longer shines at all.  A lot of mental illnesses lead to a feeling of depression and deep anxiety.  And lets just be clear – depression is more than just feeling a bit sad or a bit blue.  Depression can be absolutely devastating and debilatating.  We all have a few down days and dangerously the term “I feel a bit depressed” get’s overused and I fear weakens what it really means to those who suffer.

My story started when I was 17, so 28 years ago now – where does it go?   I was a skinny child who became a fat teenager.  At 17 I stopped eating.  My brain convinced me that I was disgustingly morbidly obese and ugly.  And so I stopped eating and was very ill.  Whilst to this day I remain fat, I do eat and have my demons under a certain amount of control – there are days when I struggle however and the voices remind me what I am.  I had one attempt on my life, and thought about it several other times when I was at my worst.  That’s what depression does to you.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really became aware of others who so often battled demons of their own and so often lost those battles, as I once did, spiralling in to a place so dark they could see no way back.  Back then I felt so alone, like I was the only person that this was happening to.  How wrong I was.

tumblr_mgp8m44nQK1rn3h1to1_400-3491I have friends who suffer badly with depression, anxiety and inner voices.  Friends who every day fight off those inner voices, the negative thoughts and go on to fight another day.  For some this isn’t the case.  For some the voices and the thoughts become too much.  The causes and manifestations for each person may be different, but the end result is scarily similar.  It’s not nice to see someone destroy themselves from within, it’s even worse to be that person and having to go through it all in silence in your own head.

Help isn’t always easy to get.  Trust me.  Just talk to your GP and they’ll tell you that in spite of what Ms May and her merry band of underachievers are telling us – funding is being cut left, right and centre for help with Mental Illness.  They say it’s a huge priority for them and yet behind the scenes they are crucifying the service that is needed and playing with peoples lives.  So unless you’ve got a spare £1000+ to get the help you need privatelyyou can expect to be on a waiting list for quite some time.  Unless you actually hurt yourself or someone else you won’t be a priority because they don’t have the people in place to be able to cover everyone.

We are all a little bit broken in some way or another, we all have some insecurity or fear or nervousness about something, something that makes us squirm slightly when asked to do it or just to think about can bring on anxiety.  We are all people and we all deserve to be happy in some form.

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I’m one of the lucky ones, for now I remain on top of my voices shouting them down every minute of every day.  But it’s tiring and one day I might not beat them.  The thought of being in that place again is a scary one.  The thought that thousands and thousands of people around me are going through that is terrifying, upsetting and it makes me angry that the help isn’t there for them.

As luck would have it, today is World Mental Health Day.  I swear I didn’t time it for this, I only just found out as I was writing.  In truth it shouldn’t just be a day, every day should be that day.  We should all be looking out for each other constantly, not just for one day because someone reminded us.   But it serves as a good reminder, in the same way the Mental Health Week in May does, it does remind of us of something that we do forget about most of the time unless we’re the one’s living with it or with someone who suffers.  to most people it’s an invisible illness, there aren’t always physical symptoms and most people I know are pretty good at hiding it from the rest of the world when they need to.

So just be that wonderful thing we all like to talk about but don’t always end up being – be a human being.  Be a friend.  Be a shoulder or an ear.  You don’t have to know what to do or what to say – sometimes you don’t have to say anything.  Sometimes you just need to hold someone and let them cry, or sit and listen, or even sit in silence drinking tea so that someone else isn’t alone.  It might be a bit awkward, a bit strange and new, but you have no idea how such a simple act of kindness can change the way someone feels.

When you’re in a bad place it’s easy to think you’re all alone and the only person who’s going through it, a simple word from a stranger or a friend to say “You’re not on your own” can change someone’s world.  We, none of us, should ever be on our own when there’s so many people around us.  The help might not always be welcome – I was a horrible person to be near and wouldn’t let friends help – but even though I spurned them they didn’t go far away and they kept an eye and they were there when I was ready to let them in.  So don’t give up.

There is change happening, but there is still a stigma to mental health, I’ve seen it myself with attitudes of some people I’ve talked to.  Not everybody understands, but the more we talk about this, the more we say “It’s ok” the easier it will eventually become.  Workplaces still need to improve, there are some amazing places out there who get, but still some that just don’t.

There is no off button, there is no just getting over it, but it can get better with the right help and support, it can become a bit easier.  And it’s up to all of us to be there,  we have a responsibilty to each other.  In a moment when our world seems to be falling apart and full of hate, lets try and push the kindness a little bit harder.  Be more tolerant.  Be the person that steps up with a hand offered to help someone.

And if you’re in that place, looking for help, I hope someone steps forward for you.  You derserve it.

To all those I care deeply about know that you’re not alone.  To those I’ve never met and possibly never will – know that you’re not alone.    With 7.4 billion people on the planet, I would like to think, perhaps through slightly rose-tinted glasses – that someone has got someone elses back and nobody is truly alone in this world right now.

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Garden Jobs for the Weekend

As we enter another weekend it really is beginning to feel fully Autumnal and the drop in temperature to single figures (brrrrr) is a sure sign that Summer is well and truly over.

The deciduous trees and plants are all showing beautiful deep reds or golden yellows 20171007_083555and the ground around them is beginning to be scattered with their leaves.

We’ve had no rain for a few days so I’ll be getting another mow of the lawn in today to try and keep it down, you never know when the last mow with will be before the winter as the weather makes more and more tricky.  So alongdside the mowing there will be some leaf gathering.

This year I want to try and bag the leaves up to make my own leaf mould for next year, something I failed miserable to do last year due to lack of enthusiasm.  I’m not organised enough and don’t have the patience to wait 12 months for it to be what I want so find it easier to just buy what I need now.  But as I’m trying hard to spend less and less on the garden and grow more things from seed myself, it feels only right to give it a go this year.

Most of the Sunflowers have come to an end now, there’s a few still holding out, but the majority have given their best and are now looking droopy, brown and sad. Job no. 3 – removed these from the bed.  I’ve already cut most of the larger heads that I wanted to keep and they’ve been hanging up in the shed for a couple of months so I’ll also start taking the seeds from them to save for next years plants.

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There’s a little bit of work to do in the woodland area, although not too much, just a bit of weeding and tidying. The new Weeping Birch, Holly Bush, Dogwood and Cyclamen all seem pretty settled, only time will tell if the Hyacinth, Bluebells, Snowdrops, Muscali and Narcissi will surive the winter and fill the borders with colour in the spring.

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The Antirhinums too have all faded – so these will all come out and that bed will be prepared ready for re-seeding next year for a fresh display.  I planted them originally as an “all white” bed, however only about two of them turned out to be white and the rest a variety of colours, and I have to say although I was slightly disappointed that my master plan hadn’t turned out, I loved the bright colour they added.  I could attempt to leave them in and see if they survive the winter before being cut back, but I find with them that you get better plants if you just reseed, they don’t tend to come back quite as strong as the first growth.

It doesn’t sound like a lot to do, but with a bit of weeding thrown in I think it’ll definitely be enough to fill most of today – tomorrow is reserved purely for relaxing on the sofa with a movie.

Have a lovely weekend everyone. x

Pixels #14

The Joy of Props

You’ll hear a lot of photographers talk about the importance of planning.  And I’m not going to argue.  There are many times when I’ve planned through the photo I want to take to get the result I wanted.   When I’ve worked with models I always have a few ideas in my head and know what it is I’m going after.  It is important to plan these kind of shoots.

Obviously there are some shoots you can’t plan, anything that involves children or animals typically, also even with a plan of shots at a wedding there is nearly always something unexpected that happens and you have to be ready  – eyes and ears everywhere so don’t miss opportunity.  Sometimes these are the photos that make the set that little bit more special and personal.

When I work with a model I’ll often stray from the path.  In my last blog I spoke about my love of props.    From hats to bits of material, musical instruments to kitchen implements – nothing is out of bounds when it comes to props.  As I work through the set ideas it’s always fun to throw a few props over to the person on the other side and say “lets see what happens”.

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Sometimes it works and sometimes you’ll look at the end result and just think “What the hell was I thinking?”, but more often than not there’s a shot in there that strikes you as something a bit more special than the others, or at the very least just a bit more fun than others.

As i say, nothing is out of bounds.  If it can be picked up and moved, held, sat on, worn, eaten etc, it can be used in a photo.

So, here’s a few examples that include a whistle, an umbrella, a vase of flowers,

I’ve used foil, bubble-wrap, bits of paper, trivets, plastic spoons – anything I can find I’ll try and use in some way.

The photo of the man with the whistle was a portrait of friend.  He didn’t want his face shown in all of the photos, and this is something to remember.  A portrait of someone doesn’t have to show their face.  There are other ways of telling people something about someone.

Don’t be scared to just try something, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  You might not get a photo you like?  Well, try again with something else.  Exhaust every possibility you can think of for using an item, you’ll probably get something.  Something a bit different to other photos and then you’ll realise it was worth the effort and the time and the hours of fun.Richard Glen IMG_4198 small

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Trust me, once you start you’ll be looking at objects around you in different ways and you’ll realise everything has the chance to open up a whole new world of photos to you.

Have fun! x

Pauls Plant of the Week

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

So, here we are coming in to October, proper autumnal weather and all of the leaves around us are either turning beautiful orange/red or falling off and covering the lawn.  Soon we will have bare branches and flowers will be a down to a minimum few as we await the delights of spring and a return to colour.

Having said that, as I look down my garden now there is still a plethora of plants in bloom and bringing much needed colour and life to the beds and borders.  The sunflowers are standing tall, the three dwarf roses are full of buds and open flowers, the lavendar is still vivid mauve and grasses are awash with flame coloured leaves and flowers.  I’ve never had so much in flower at this time of year and it’s wonderful to see.

In amongst all of this however there is one plant that it currently dominating the lower levels and filling in the gaps left behind by the Astrantia, Helleniums and Coreopsis that have all come to a natural end.  It’s the Rudbeckia.

I started adding this to the garden last year to fill some gaps and have something that would hold it’s own against the miscanthus and other grasses.  I’ve always liked Echinacea and Rudbeckia and although I’ve had limited success with the former, the latter has really taken off.  So much so that I put another two plants in this year at the base of the sunflowers to give some low level interest.

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It’s long, slender petals are delicate, but I wouldn’t necessarily call this an elegant flower.  It’s mop of large foliage along with the multiple flower heads, I think, make this a rather scuffy looking plant.  But that’s not a bad thing.  I’m not growing it for elegance, I’ve got other things that give me that.  I’m growing it to fit in with the garden and help give me a more natural feel.  And that is something it does perfectly.

There is something majestic about the Echinaceas, something that makes them stand out on their own, they are somehow just magnificent without effort.  The Rudbeckia on the other looks like it just got out of bed and dragged it’s arse in to work.  It’s more the court jester to the Echinacea’s royalty.  And that’s it’s charm.  It positively bursts with energy and brings a smile to the face.  Lets face it, at this time of year you need as much of that as you can get with sun rising later and setting earlier.

I don’t want to sound like I’m being to harsh on this little fella, I do love it.  It’s easy to grow, even in my heavy clay soil it seems to thrive with original plants from last year having tripled in size, and the new ones developed from a small 1ltr pot in to lush and colourful plants this year, full of flower.

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The foliage forms a clump of long, broad leaves that give you a lot of ground cover, and from this come the more spindly stems that carry the flower heads, multiple on each stalk.  In total it stands at about 60cm at it’s highest point, but I believe it can grow up to around 1m.  Spread wise it’s hard to say, currently they seem to be around 30-40cm, however if last years are anything to go by this might extend more when it comes back next year.

Goldstrum has been innundated with Hoverflies and some small bees, but doesn’t seem to be of interest particularly to the bumblebees in the garden.  I’ve got enough other things for them though so I’m not too bothered by this.

This is a jolly plant to have mixed in and repeated throughout the bed, despite seeming a bit harsh on it’s character, that is the reason I love having it the garden.  I’m not a formal gardener, like I’m not a formal person, so the scruffy and down to earth are always welcome here.  I shall be adding some more Rudbeckia to the garden, but I’m going to go for a different colour – I run a risk of being over-run with yellow,  maybe something like Prairie Glow or Cherry Brandy, just to add some deeper colours in to the mix.

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Garden Jobs for the Weekend

Nothing like looking out of the window at the grey skies and feeling the chilled air against your face for making you want to retire back to the sofa and let the garden do what ever it wants for the winter.  However, with 2 dogs on the premises that’s just not an option, so I need to get out there and do some bits.

Firstly, as it’s not raining the lawn needs mowing.  Dull!  However, it’s getting way too long again and with the constant rain we’ve been having I’ve not had a chance for a few weeks to get it under control.  Soon it can be left alone for the winter, but not yet.  It’s a bit too wet to mow but I’ve got to get it done whilst it’s not actually physically raining.

Next up is a bit of weeding.  Those bloody dandelions are coming from nowhere and suddenly theres a 4ft plant in the flower bed.

I’ve got to get more bulbs for the woodland area, but I’ve planted my snowdrops, muscali and bluebells and put in a holly bush and a beautiful vivid dogwood will help add a bit of colour up there too.  I didn’t want to go for the classic holly as it needs some lighter colours in this part of the garden to help lift it, so chose a variegated variety instead.

I’ve got a friends wedding party to go to tonight so I shan’t be doing anything too heavy as I’m planning on perhaps partaking in a beverage or two and having a bit of a dance.

I’ve decided not to do too much cutting right back this year, onlly the things that really need it.  We have a lot of birds in the garden, which in spite of the cats best efforts, seems to keep growing in numbers.  They take refuge in the trees and hedging at the top end and so I’ve decided to just let them be this year and make sure they’ve got protection.

The bramble has gone a bit mad in places – you can tell when there’s 10 foot stems drooping down from the tops of the trees that perhaps it’s time to get that under control a little bit.

And that will be it, nothing major, nothing particularly exciting.

Tomorrow will be reserved for relaxing, ordering the bulbs I’m missing for the garden and putting together our wedding album.  We got married in May, thought it was about time we ordered the photos we want!

What ever you’re up to, have a lovely weekend.

Paul x

Blog Share

I wanted to share this blog by my crafting fanatic, and I mean fanatic, friend, Emma.  This is her first blog, there will be a lot more to come and I’m sure some amazing blogs and ideas and inspiration ahead.

Seriously, I’ve never met anyone who just wants to make things, all the time, every minute of the day.  And night.

Please support her blog and encourage her ramblings and crafty antics.

Thanks

Paul x

 

If, the moment you got engaged, you felt your grey matter dissolve and form a scrapbook of ideas in your skull then you and I are the same person. I LOVE to craft everything and anything. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, I’m still learning. That’s why I set up this blog, to share my […]

via — Your Crafty Bride Tribe

 

Pixels #13

I love a prop.

Almost anything in the house can be turned in to a prop for a photo.  I say almost anything, I can’t think of anything that couldn’t be used, just perhaps one or two that you might choose not to!

I’ll start blogging some of the things I’ve used in various photos, just to show that you don’t always have to spend out a load of money to get interesting effects.

Today though, I’m going to start with my favourite thing.  The simple hat.

What’s not to love about a hat.  The hat has allowed me to leave the house to pop to the shops on a weekend morning when I’ve just got up and not done my hair yet.  Anything that lets you hide the “fresh out of bed” look is good by me.

All these images on this blog are selfies, but I’ve used hats with models too.  And not just hats – hoods too.  Anything that covers the hair counts.

With a little bit of lighting, either natural or additional lighting you can achieve some fun and interesting shots.

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And any kind of hat will do too, you can have fun with any hat!  Personally I love a bobble hat or beanie because they’re maleable and you can wear them tight and low or long and tall.  Although I did love that Monkey hat.

A hat can give you a moody image or a fun image and although you can’t do anything with my ugly mug, it does help to create some different feels and a bit of interest to the image.

And just to show that hoods are as useful…

 

I seem to have accumalated quite a few hats over the years and I have kept most of them in the bag just so that I have some knocking about when I want to use them for photos.  Never underestimate the simple hat, it’s a good friend for a photographer and portrait photos.

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Paul’s Plant of the Week

Gaura Lindheimeri “Karalee White”

This is a new plant in the garden this year.  Last year I had Gaura Lindheimeri “Whirling Butterflies” in amongst the grasses and it looked lovely.  What I hadn’t realised though is that it’s not very hardy.  The first cold night of the winter and it was dead in the ground, it wasn’t until Spring came round and everything else was beginning to show through that I realised it was gone.

So this year whilst I was out and about in my favourite little local garden centre when I spotted it again, only it wasn’t the same, it was a new variety.

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According to the label this is much hardier than Whirling Butterfly and can survive winter if protected from frost.  So I will be making some little cloche’s to help protect  along with some mulch to hopefully help, and we will see if that works.

What I love about this plant is it’s delicate nature – everything about it adds a delicate elegance to the flower bed – the tall wispy stems and the tiny white flowers that blow about in the slightest breeze.

This variety seems to be taller than the Whirling Butterflies, it’s about 90cm at it’s tallest.  It is coming to end now, but it still has enough flowers on it for interest.  I’m really hoping that these survive the winter this year, I do love them and would recommend them.  I’ve got them nearer the house this year which hopefully will help with some protection, but they look good with the Rosemary Willow behind and a couple of shrubs on either side which help protect them a little bit too.

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I’ll let you know next year if they survived.