Herbs, A Robin And Some Flak


A few weeks back I was pondering the question of how to deal with the area underneath the bird table.

Nothing I put there grew successfully, thanks to the pitter patter of little (and not so little) birdy feet and the constant pecking at tasty morsels falling from on high. Your suggestions were brilliant, as ever, mostly along the twin themes of low growing herby plants and stones. I decided to go for a combination of both.


Robin 012 Wm[2]


Hucknall was on hand to help.

Especially around elevenses when his little tummy was starting to rumble.


Rockery 003 Wm[1]


Thyme ‘Silver Posie’


I’ve planted two types of variegated thyme.

Camomile ‘Treneague’ x 2

And Marjoram, which has many pink flowers in summer, attractive to butterflies and bees.


Rockery 004 Wm[1]


Origanum vulgare ‘Compactum’


It turned out to be a bigger job than I’d bargained for. Aren’t they all. An inch down, the area was filled almost entirely with large stones, which I had to lever out with a garden fork before I could do any planting. Was feeling rather chuffed after all that effort as most of them I’ve actually reused in the rockery.

So how was I supposed to know I was “undermining” Mike’s edging to the path?

Persona non grata. Again.


Rockery 002 Wm[1]


The stones should provide a bit of protection and anchorage for the herbs*.

And if one plant fails to thrive I can just whip it out and try something else. Hopefully the look will soften as they start to spread.


* For decorative purposes only, needless to say!


2018-03-21T18:32:59+00:00March 28th, 2014|Tags: , |


  1. Sue March 28, 2014 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    It looks lovely, and will be a pleasant herby snack for the birds to settle their little digestive systems. Love the photo of Hucknall, although he does look so perfect he looks like a stuffed bird …. maybe he is …… after eating all the plants while he watched you work 😉

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Despite my protestations he is not a vegetarian robin. He got through a lot of worms!

  2. wherefivevalleysmeet March 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I, along with Hucknall approve – mission well accomplished Jessica.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosemary. There is space to put in a couple more plants too if I come across anything else suitable.

  3. Mark and Gaz March 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    That’s a great idea Jessica and excellent choice of plants. Plus the scent from them are very nice!

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      I hope the birds appreciate the scent. Or maybe it will be a bit overpowering for them and they will desist from pecking!

  4. Pauline March 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    That looks very good, a job well done Jessica. Your plants will soon spread and look softer and I’m sure the birds will enjoy looking for food among the stones.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      They seem to approve. Dunnocks and chaffinches descended upon it as soon as I’d gone inside having completed the work. One of the camomile plants was looking a bit flat this morning and I have ideas as to whose (big) feet did the damage.

  5. Jo March 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    It looks great, a brilliant solution. I love the photo of Hucknall.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jo. He loves having his photo taken. And I discovered he recognises Mike. As soon as he appeared Hucknall went crazy, jumping around his feet. It took me a while to figure it out. And then I remembered that it is Mike who tops up the bird feeders..

  6. countrysidetales March 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    I think that’s a great idea. The stones will also provide homes for insects which will benefit everybody. Win win.

    Re feeding peanuts at this time of year, the general consensus seems to be it’s OK as long as the feeder is strong enough to prevent any whole nuts being taken out. To be on the safe side I thought I might remove mine for the summer and up the other types of food to make up the short fall. Empty coconut shells filled with suet and insects (meal worms mostly I think) would be a good alternative, as they still have the high protein content. 🙂

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks for finding out about the peanuts for me. I think I’ll leave them up. The squirrel proof mesh on the feeder appears to be bomb proof, they shouldn’t be able to get whole nuts out. And the woodpeckers and nuthatches do love them.

      • countrysidetales March 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm - Reply

        That’s very interesting, because it’s the great tits and blue tits who eat them here. The nuthatches and GSWs leave them alone in favour of the coconut halves. Regional preferences?

        • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm - Reply

          Maybe.. or the balance of food I put out. The nuthatches and GSWs like the fat balls too, but because our friend Mr Nutkins goes through them at such a phenomenal rate I am a bit more stingy with those. I haven’t tried coconut halves. I feel another experiment coming on.

  7. woolythymes March 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Hucknall looks very pleased with your efforts. I think your solution brilliant!

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Steph! Hucknall didn’t break a nail though. I did…

  8. justjilluk March 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    That looks good now and will just get better. Peanuts are fine, only one ever suspected fatality from a peanut. If you watch tits they forage frantically for grubs for their babies. They take a peanut and smash it to bits and then eat it. High protein for them to continue frantic garnering of baby food.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      The woodpeckers do the same. If a big bit of nut comes out of the feeder they take it down to the ground and break it up on a stone. Should be easier for them now!

  9. Simone March 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    This looks wonderful! I am glad that our collective suggestions were useful to you!

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      The combination will work well. I hope..

  10. Abby March 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Looks great – I love herbs in general in a garden; lovely to just pick a few leaves and smell as you wander about. Hope the bird table will stay upright now it has no foundations;). X

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      We will find out about the bird table next time Ptolemy does his party trick…

  11. Sue@GLAllotments March 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    The robin photo is beautiful. We have a pair at the moment but not sure where they are nesting.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      I think we have a pair nesting in a burrow in the vertical face of the precipitous bank. I’ve seen a robin flying in or out on a couple of occasions now. It may be an old mouse hole they’ve enlarged. Thank goodness we don’t have a cat.

  12. angiesgardendiaries March 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    If Hucknall approves, then it’s all good! This will look great when they fill out and as already been said the birds will enjoy foraging amongst the stones. Ain’t it a pain when you find rocks like that too hinder your plans, at least you’ve managed to put them to use.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      The ground is very stony here and I dig up all sorts of other things too… assorted bits of metal mainly as the place was once lived in by a blacksmith. No treasure yet, sadly!

  13. Jayne Hill March 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Is there ~ever~ a job which doesn’t end up being bigger (and tougher) than we expected?

    Looks very smart, I hope it works for you and that our feathered friends don’t trash it too thoroughly :}

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      I’ve had to fluff up the camomile a few times already, but if it can stand being walked on by us humans I hope it can cope with a few birds. It’s the constant pecking that’s more of a problem, especially if they discover they rather like it!

  14. Chloris March 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    It looks great. Well done! What a wonderful shot of Hucknall.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Mike got that one, pure chance as he happened to be passing by and Hucknall turned up thinking there was bird food on offer!

  15. Crafty Gardener March 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    The area under the feeder looks lovely and I’m sure the herbs you put there will do just fine.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda. They are relatively cheap too, so if I need to replace a few it won’t be the end of the world.

  16. Linda March 28, 2014 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    I am in love with Hucknall♥️
    Phlox would be nice there as well,Jessica…
    Still waiting for Spring over here….
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Creeping Phlox would look good, and thrift. I need to experiment because flowers tend to get eaten fairly quickly…
      Oh I do hope it gets warmer for you soon! You’ve waited long enough.

  17. Em March 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I have the same problem under the feeding station. The Nuthatches toss everything out of the seed feeder other than whatever it is that they like and it all lands on the ground. It’s a seedy, muddy sludge. I may copy you!

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      I came back this afternoon and found a mostly demolished fat ball on the ground. Either squirrels or woodpeckers, and had to quickly remove it from the plants before something started pecking. I haven’t lost any herbs so far. But..

  18. Rosie March 28, 2014 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    It all looks very neat and tidy, Jessica. The herbs look lovely against the grey stone. I love your photo of Hucknall – we have a couple of robins building a nest in a bush not far from the kitchen window – its been great fun watching them:)

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      They are so sweet aren’t they. The fact that they want to be part of our lives makes them so special.

  19. Suzanne March 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Looks great! Is it done or will you add some pebbles or pea stone too? Lovely little herb garden. They are tough plants.
    It’s almost spring here. Rain for the next few days. Snow almost gone, but the ground still frozen two inches down. I’ve begun clearing out the leaf debris I didn’t get to before my surgery. I guess I’m lucky it’s still cold. The bulbs just now showing some foliage.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Mike is talking about extending it already. More large stone and perhaps some smaller pebbles around the edges. He was sceptical at first, now he likes it. Isn’t it always the way! I’m glad Spring is coming for you at last. It’s been a long hard winter.

  20. elaine March 28, 2014 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Glad all our joint advice was put to good use – hope the plan works.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Hope I did it justice!

  21. snowbird March 28, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Excellent choices, and how pretty they look too. Hope Mike is getting over the undermining …lol…
    I do love the names you give to the animals…Hucknall! Marvelous.xxx

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      The thing is, I can’t tell them all apart. So ALL robins are called Hucknall.

  22. CJ March 28, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Wonderful, some of my favourite herbs, and I love how bee friendly they are as well. Chives grow really well too I’ve found, I have some that I just grew from a sad little supermarket pot, they were so happy to be released into the garden. And the flowers are lovely, and edible too. That rock edging looks rock solid, Mike’ll be happy when there are lots of herbs and bees about the place I’m sure. Hope you both have a good weekend.

    • Jessica March 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      It’s deceptively solid CJ, nudge it and it moves… I am told “something will need to be done about it…”
      Chives are a lovely idea. I have a whole row of them in the veggie garden, and should move some.

  23. islandthreads March 29, 2014 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Jessica it looks really nice and the stones give shelter for beetles which repay you by eating slugs! love the photo of Hucknall, love the way you name your garden creatures too, I’m glad you also have had some dry weather to get out into the garden, I hope the rain doesn’t last long, Frances

    • Jessica March 29, 2014 at 10:19 am - Reply

      Anything that eats slugs is fine by me!
      It’s been raining overnight, but hopefully drying up now. I shall be outside again later.

  24. BadPenny March 29, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

    A very attractive solution. I hope the birds appreciate it while they peck ! Hucknall is a handsome boy.

    • Jessica March 29, 2014 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Thanks Penny. He is a very handsome boy, and a great garden companion. If I talk to him (sadly, yes) he chirps back!

  25. Christina March 29, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Aren’t robins just the friendliest of birds, I love it when they come to watch me work. The solution to the problem is perfect and as with most things solving a problem well will probably end up being a favourite planting!

    • Jessica March 29, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks Christina. He was back today. I know it’s cupboard love, but they get SOooo close!

  26. SeagullSuzie March 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Your new area looks lovely, I hope the herbs survive. Your Robin is so sweet, it’s great to get close to wild animals.

    • Jessica March 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      The herbs will need to be robust. They are getting a lot of pecking. But I’ve never seen the dunnocks so excited, they seem to love foraging between the stones.

  27. Wendy March 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    It looks a great solution and, as you say, the herbs will be loved by the bees. Hucknall is gorgeous – what a fabulous photo. I’m glad you’ve got the seal of approval!

    • Jessica March 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      If it works I’ll experiment with more bee friendly flowers. I thought the herbs might take a bit more rough treatment!

  28. nataliescarberry March 30, 2014 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Sounds like you have made some good choices. I hope it works out well. I love Hucknall! I’ve not seen any robins in my yard this year. So sad. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica March 30, 2014 at 10:05 am - Reply

      Thanks Natalie. Maybe they will come back now the weather is getting warmer?

  29. The base of your feeding station looks great with the herbs and stones. I had to move my niger seed feeder off the patio as the birds were making far too much mess with the seed.

    • Jessica March 30, 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      They make an awful mess. The problem with having soil underneath is some of the seeds germinate. Or at least they would if it were not for the pheasant who, for all his destructive habits, does at least do a great job of hoovering up.

  30. Amy at love made my home March 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    I think that you should be persona very much grata for coming up with such a great solution!! I think that it looks very pretty and will surely deter P from his pecking activities!! xx

    • Jessica March 30, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      He has been, pecked, and stood squarely upon.. we shall see!

  31. Cathy March 31, 2014 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Well, we have confirmed how handsome Hucknall is! How lovely it is to have a robin that ‘recognises’ you – you will have to get a robin dictionary….And you say Ptolemy has tried out the new arrangement? Hope it works….. 😉

    • Jessica April 1, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

      Ptolemy has taken it upon himself to find out whether camomile can indeed be walked upon..

  32. Vintage Jane April 1, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

    That looks great … I am going to copy it! We have bare earth underneath ours and end up with several germinated seeds … great idea.

    • Jessica April 1, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

      The one little thing that worries me is that the seeds may sneak down under the stones where the birds can’t find them and germinate there. But if it’s only a few and they’re easy to pull out it won’t be such a problem.

  33. Janet/Plantaliscious April 3, 2014 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Looking good – though I am guessing you will have to pull a lot of little seedlings out as they fall in between the cracks. I certainly found that they flourish in gravel. Great improvement though!

    • Jessica April 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      It also seems to have sunk! I think I should have packed in more soil to replace all the rocks I took out. It shouldn’t be a difficult job, but I want to do it before the herbs get too established.

I'd love to hear from you..