Friday, 17 May 2019


May is the best month of the year - you have my word for it - at least here in England. There are tits nesting in the boxes in the wood and a blackbird in the logshed - 

The molecatcher has been and gone - we are three moles less and hopefully that is the lot - we shall see.

The house is looking good as is the garden though I have had to cut down the dead Eucryphia and Hammamelis.

The bed here used to be part of the old rose bed before the building and I have now deposited and dug in two trailer loads of well rotted horse manure. The big grey plant is a cardoon.

Up in the wood all is glorious, woodland flowers at their best bathed in sunshine and birdsong.

The scent from the three yellow azaleas is heady - I planted them by a path out of the wood deliberately. Unfortunately the hawthorn covered in May blossom smell of rotten meat to attract flies - not so pleasant. At least we are (not yet) inundated with the St. Mark's flies (or hawthorn flies) - small and black they fly with their legs hanging down. They are harmless.

We have been to Gresgarth Hall, the home of Arabella Lennox-Boyd the famous garden designer and it 

was a perfect day. 

After a picnic by the car we walked through the glorious gardens and past the pond. There is a magnificent Crab apple - Malus baccata var. Mandshurica, below, and now T wants one. We have a John Downie, on the right,  but that is clearly second rate.

And there was a peony to die for -

I mean the photo says it all.

In the walled kitchen garden there were beautiful stone images by Maggy Howarth - at

Up in the wood by the river there was a stand of white birches - which is where I got the idea for our small plantation, here on the right. Being me I could not resist messing about with photoshop and produced an image of the Gresgarth Hall ones in infrared.

I have sown yet more carrots and hope these will germinate as the first sowing, and those of parsnips, did nothing. I have also pruned hard the weeping silver pear to raise the canopy away from the grass and tidied the willows.

R is in the kitchen making a compote of rhubarb and strawberries - our rhubarb, bought strawberries - the rhubarb is struggling with the dry weather and will need dividing and spacing out in the autumn - too crowded.

It is May and the best time of the year - how do we get through the winter?

Sunday, 12 May 2019


Beautiful morning, a walk from the pond up to the new extension. That's all.

Saturday, 11 May 2019


At last we hear that there are too many people on this planet. All the ecology problems are due to that and human greed - we need urgently to protect large areas of the natural world from human predation.  We need to reduce the world population drastically but there is no political will do do anything much.

Then, at home, it is all go with the fauna including there is the problem of moles and RATS. 

The mole lady has come out and set ten traps - we finally got fed up having more soil than grass on the lawns. And - the mole lady is a actually the daughter of RP who used to run the farm I grew up on on Torver for Dad. He still lives in Torver, gardens and is in his late 80s - titchy world.

 Meanwhile back on the shed roof we have a duck-in, a break from a ducking in the pond, perhaps waiting for the horses next door to be fed?

The pond itself is not looking too bad though muddy and churned after each duck visit.

We are still somewhat short of water despite rain and the pond is a bit low.

The lilac is in full flower and from below the new extension is looking good. 

There is almost nothing so alarming as treading on a hen pheasant but Mr Pheas just struts about squawking chunnering to himself.

Elsewhere the viburnums are getting going, the wild guelder rose and the horizontal flowers of Mariesii.

Knapweed is doing okay in virtually no soil and though we have the white hedge parsley around us I think I prefer this pink version - less aggressive and grows lower.

Going back to rats - should we have the great eco debacle and humanity snuffs it - are rats our natural successors. Their cars would be much smaller and less polluting, their buildings less destructive of the natural world - ??

To Mecanopsis cambrica the Welsh Poppy which sows itself freely, the yellow is the wild one abut we also have the orange and the hybridise a bit. Is that good or bad? 
Pick and boils stem ends for a minute to make them last in a vase.

And the wood is just getting going - campion and pignut en masse.

Off to Gresgarth Hall Gardens tomorrow - the home of Arabella Lennox-Boyd in search of some ideas.

Meanwhile back to trailer loads of manure and breaking up the concrete left by the builders. A new bed on its way but what to put in it?

Saturday, 4 May 2019


The ducklings are down to ten from sixteen 😟. It was going to happen - I mean if they all survived the world would be plagued by ducks (perhaps better than humans?)

As we try and tame chunks of our garden the pressure for rewilding grows. This is back to my dream of being rich, buying up land, fencing it off and letting it go. Here we have the constant dilemma of how much to we cultivate, how much to let go (with a little management to curtail the spread of brambles and ivy) though age and its limitations play a part.

Red campion (and the odd white one) Wild Garlic (damsons) and bluebells thrive with a little gentle management and the camassias have naturalised.

Recently I have reduced the grass cutting - large parts of our mown meadow are allowed to grow longer. This may suit the voles but we also have MOLES! producing mountains of soil which then needs to be shifted or spread to avoid damaging the mower blades. Parts of the far garden are grass and a patches of brown earth - unsightly but a free supply of new soil.

The paving is done and soon I will have to make the flower beds to border it. There are choices - a band of chippings or soil right to the edge? 
The manure and mole soil is waiting.

Of course there are some planting in the wilder areas like azaleas and rhododendrons and the horse chestnut leaning over the wall from next door is full of candles now the sticky buds have burst. The chestnut has sown itself (with a little help from wildlife) and we have a few young trees here and there. 

Hazel and holly also spread as do the wild roses.
I suppose we should leave it all to natural succession but that would mean impenetrable undergrowth and the wild flowers would be pushed out. Further down in the garden the apple and crab apple blossom is now out. 

Below is the Bramley.

We have one water lily flower -

So now it is Thursday and raking the rubble out of the new beds, digging it over and then applying plenty of the horse manure and the soil taken from the many mole hills. Planting will come later when it has settled a bit.

Saturday - it has not rained so mow, mow, mow after clearing yet more molehills. Cut back the old Stipa gigantea which I had forgotten to do, begun building the new beds, moved the pots of lilies and four box balls (well not quite yet but will be soon) onto the new paved area outside the extension.

So to a plethora of yellow, orange and red - summer is coming and the blues are receding - 


Saturday, 27 April 2019


But it is only April not June. Azaleas, camellias, tree peonies, campion etc etc etc. The amaryllis is in flower and on the hall table. Of the other two - both at least four years old, one has a bud coming but not the other - so water and feed and build the bulbs. 

There are tulips everywhere, in the flower beds, in pots and just coming up where I discarded them.

The two camellias that have not yet flowered are finally showing signs of doing something and up on the banking where, about nine years ago, we planted a solitary cowslip we have a growing community.
The heavily scented rhododendron is going over - its rather gingery scent carries across the garden.

Trees go on with their show of white - pear on the left, cherry on the right - the one R bought in the Lidl for almost nothing. I have never seen our conference pear with so much blossom, in fact three years ago I thought it would not survive - but now - !
At the top of the wood, where we discarded the old forgetmenots pulled from the flower beds, they have self sown and are thriving as is the water cress in the remains of the attempt at another pond at the very far end. It is now just a soggy bog. The water drains from the back field full of farm animals so we do not eat it for the chance of liver flukes but we could probably make soup from it.

 From the house we can look down the garden over the new rose bed currently full of forgetmenots but if you look the other way we still have builders - at least now doing paving in front of the new living room windows.

Down the far end of the garden is where the wild things are, plants like the bluebell (used to be endymion non-scripta but they have changed its first name to hyacinthoides - a step back I think if more botanically accurate.)

Then there are plants that if they were are bit more restrained in procreation would be welcomed as a garden plant like the wonderful dandelion. (No I do not know which of the host of subspecies this one is.)

And I have been sowing more chard and land cress and we have been harvesting rhubarb and now the mouth-watering asparagus - steamed with a little melted salty butter.

And then there is the problem of the bald doormat. This little pied wagtail has been pulling threads out of it to make its nest.

On Thursday evening as I was walking the path below the house I came across this small, young rabbit. It was alive and I picked it up. It squeaked a few times and gently wriggled then went still. There was no sign of myxomatosis or injury but I wondered if it had been caught by Britain's number one predator (apart from humans) the domestic cat and my arrival had scared the cat off. 

Enough of the garden, this has been a bluebell spring so here are a few from our local walks -