Tuesday, 18 April 2017

OF MICE AND MANY OTHER THINGS


Here is a very particular little mouse very familiar to Beatrix Potter, always trying to keep her place tidy despite the messy insects and spiders.

This one is foraging for seeds dropped from the kitchen feeder.


The skimmia is resplendent - this is the male one - covered in bumble bees and, better, honey bees from somewhere. The scent of the flowers can be sensed from some way away and is quite heady.

The woodpecker is still visiting but very twitchy and flies off at the slightest alarm. R is monitoring the duck, or rather drake population on the pond - varies from one to four. Perhaps they are all adolescent and shy - NO that never applies to male mallard who are very aggressive when fuelled by the urges of spring. It can be tough being a duck.

The varying colours by the stream are a delight now the Japanese maple is coming into leaf - red.
Today has been picking up yet more sticks, assaulting nettles and brambles (the latter are everywhere) and debating whether the deep area of soggy leaf mould by the top wall is worth excavating and using. I wonder how many weed seeds are in there waiting to burst forth.

The daffs are going over but some later narcissi still ok. Waiting to see how the naturalised camassias on the banking will do this year.
  The pond is looking good even if the ducks are away now and she is sitting on eggs in her nest on the tarn above the spade forge.


The blossom will not last much longer - the Victoria Plum has already lost most of its flowers - but the cherries are so splendid I cannot resist another couple of pics.


This morning I looked out of our bedroom window at the garden - a frost was already fading in the sunshine, a squirrel scurried up the top banking and a rabbit was sitting on the lawn eating fallen cherry petals, not the grass but petals. Obviously a bunny with taste.
  
And finally a blast of colour before the North Koreans go bananas - just read the book In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park - reminds me of Wild Swans by Jung Chang but in some ways worse.



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

QUIRKS AND BLOSSOM


Quirks first - lots of lovely spring flowers like these calendulas - they overwintered and are flowering! There is also lots of seed around where I failed to dead head so . . .? R has been at the daffs doing a stirling job dead heading them as they go over so they can get ready for next year. Yesterday I judged at the Rusland Spring Show - the arts section! Ok with photos, paintings and poems but felt hats and Ruskin Lace, I have to admit, are not my forte.

Another oddity is that we have bluebells in flower - early - two weeks early this year. Is this the sign of changing seasons with climate change? Though we are enjoying a few days of sun overall, the changing weather has become colder and WETTER.



To the blossom itself, loads of it - only hope the odd frost doesn't mean no fruit - damsons to start -


Prunus shirotae


Great white cherry


Victoria plum


Amelanchier


Pyrus salicifolia pendula - the weeping silver pear (very thorny).


I have been a-hoeing as the sycamore has inundated the garden with seedings - everywhere including in the grass. One of the snags with having an, albeit, small patch of woodland are seedlings and suckers. The worst culprit for the latter are the damsons - they send up new plants all over the place from their roots.

On Sunday last I sat out in the morning - it was in the low 20s C - came in for lunch and went out again - low 10s! Monday and it is 7.5C at lunchtime.

When one writes a blog here there are a labels to select from on the top right - at one point my choice reads - Poem, pond, Prince Charles, rat! Very eclectic.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

APRIL!!!


Well, I think TS Eliot was wrong - April is not the cruellest month - that is a contest between December and January - the first for all the hype over Christmas and the second because winter feels like it is never ending.


The Prunus shirotae is out, the great white cherry soon to follow. The shape the shirotae has taken leaning over the curved path to the veg beds is a delight and something I have taken a photo of many times. So loveliest of trees the cherry now - Housman had it right.

And the Victoria plum is flowering so we are hoping to be frost free, do not want the flowers blighted, want the fruit.
The camellia by the shed, sheltered from the damaging effects of early morning sun, is flowering better than it has ever done. It is such a shame that they are not scented. That would turn a stunning bush into one even more exceptional.

To daffs - still here though some dead heading has begun - so the energy generated by the leaves goes into next year's bulb not the seed head. Bought plants on the left, best of all wild daffs on the right.

Where the stream leaves to top garden and comes down to the lawns there are plantings of daffs, primroses and wild flowers such as the golden saxifrage. It looks a lot better now the winter detritus has been cleared away. I like the fact that the stream is not in a straight line, not too formal. I am not sure that R agrees with me re my desire for vaguely controlled chaos.


The slopes of the upper garden are now carpeted in primroses, not the artificial colours of primulas but the pale yellow of the native species.

We went to Ford Park where the garden has become more of a nursery and I bought some white camassias. R got a white pulmonaria shown here and this has been put in under the white lilac.

On exploring diet and so on I have reached the conclusion that onions are fatal (well upsetting) for me so turning to advice from the Fodmap diet we have changed to using green chives. I have let the plants by the blackcurrants seed into the path so we have an ample supply to keep us happy.

There are so many flowers coming, so much colour - whether the delicate heads of Fritillaria meleagris, the snake's-head 



or the blast of colour from our first main tulips.


A friend who lives in Pembrokeshire has said they are eating their first asparagus! We are several weeks away from that. Asparagus at the end of March - almost makes one want to move south.

So went and weeded the asparagus bed and went on weeding tearing out docks and creeping buttercup, couch grass and goose grass (cleavers).
AND I have done a first mowing on half of the lawns.

Time for tea and a dry Ryvita 😢

Saturday, 1 April 2017

MOVING ON, EQUINOX LONG GONE


Firstly Bonjour to my French readers - I have suddenly had 280 hits from across the Channel - c'est incroyable!

I know I have just posted a blog but so much happens at this time of year that I am already writing the next one.

Back to blog basics - boiled egg for lunch and toast - but bread in bin a bit blue and mouldy so had to make a new loaf. 

Had a bit of a disaster with the video camera - good images of ducks and the heron but had fixed the camera upside down!

New flowers every day - erysium Bowles mauve - a perennial wallflower doing well and looking healthy - a favourite of R. Then there is the tulip Madame Lefevre, a favourite of my mother.


Forgetmenots getting going as are the mauve anemones, and still daffodils in abundance.


These on the lower banking came in the topsoil scraped off the site when we built the house. The builder put it back and gradually more and more bulbs have flowered.

Finally got the bonfire to light so now a mound of smouldering ashes with a thin column of smoke winding up through the trees. When cold the ash will be ready to be put on the fruit bushes (potash) - some to go on compost heap as well but not too much as can make the soil alkaline - so a no for azaleas and rhododendrons. 

So a video of our moorhen, ignore the date - forgot again to set date and time -

video

I had thought that the frogspawn was all eaten and we had lost our frogs but whilst clearing around the pond end and tidying the reed mace out popped a small frog and hopped into the hedge. (The frog did, not me.)(No way can I hop.) 

But the ducks can - as I walk around the pond they walk around it on the other side - seem to know I have no intention of swimming across - and they carefully walk behind the video camera. The only birds it captures are the metal ones by Adam Booth.



We went to Holker Hall on the first day of the garden opening - coffee and a stroll - as members of the RHS we can get in for free. This pink magnolia was in full flower and dramatic.
We wandered through the extensive grounds in spring sunshine. The Great Holker lime was not yet in leaf, of course. Here is its massive trunk.



And then the sun was gone, a low pressure sweeping in from the west and all is back to rain and gloom. 
I had hoped to give the lawns a first mow but the firm servicing them have not yet got them back to me - told me one day then on checking 3 days later they denied it. Now the grass is very wet again - and growing - sigh!

Lots of pictures at this time of year so here are a few of the garden -




And finally not all that grows in the garden is pretty - this is Auricularia auricula-judae or the Jew's Ear fungus - I did not name it. It is edible but needs a good wash as it is rather gooey and sticky. Apparently you fry it with a little butter and garlic, plus or minus herbs.


I have to admit we did not try it!


Monday, 27 March 2017

AFTER THE SNOW ETC


Where to start, the lovely daffs are flattened by the snow then the snow melts and we have water everywhere, stream overflowing, pond brim full. Even the mallard drake takes refuge on the shed roof.













I paddle around in my boots trying to stay both off the grass and upright. The British weather! Sun one day, snow the next. It is a good job the snow goes quickly despite the drowning of the garden.

The compost heap, now emptied, is a soggy mush, puddles where my boots have been.


I wander back along the paths and head for the pond. There is not much I can do as the rain falls onto the slushy snow.

The bird bath under the feeders outside the kitchen is catching large drops from the roof. The weather does not, however, seem to deter the birds from feeding, stuffing their beaks with seed and peanuts.


The first pond pic is monochrome - how the day feels - the second is of rain.



So to cheer this miserable blog up here is our first camellia.



On the other hand a pair of grey squirrels back - beware all nesting birds.

Everyone is talking terrorists after the London attack. What is a terrorist. Gerry Adams said at Martin McGuinness's funeral that he was never a terrorist but a freedom fighter. I suppose the definition  depends on one's point of view?

Finally we have a better day. R is out transplanting snowdrops, Im have pruned the bay by the kitchen and the lace cap hydrangea in the woodland fringe. It has developed two suckers. Then I cleared grass from the redcurrants (the ones I hope the blackbirds will take and leave the others alone) and took yet more sticks to the bonfire. I then tried to light it with minimal success. On the way in I pulled some rhubarb for the evening meal.

It is next morning and it must have been the rhubarb.
Strange dream - I now, R says I have them - finished a round of golf with only one club in a small bag having left the rest somewhere out on the course and then running around in my underpants trying to find them pretending to be an athlete. (Very unlikely - being an athlete I mean.)

The tree rats are back - must get out the trap.



Finally managed to light the bonfire so now everything, and me, smells of wood smoke.