Tuesday, 31 August 2010


There are four types of willow in the garden - five occasionally.

One, a willow tree in the southeast corner which was,
I think, part of the east field hedge, was here before us. It is a full blown tree and I shall be interested to see what the hedge man does come November when he lays this hedge.

Apart from that the next willows to be introduced
were clearings from a nearby tarn and were stuck in the ground as scions to form the willow tunnel - these are

Osiers and since have been twisted and woven together in more than one part of the garden including a hedge at the top west and a planting in the far corner with a view to coppicing and harvesting them for firewood.

Then we planted a weeping willow tree which, so far, has determinedly decided not to weep.

Perhaps it is too happy where it is in the boggy ground at the lower part of the garden.

Next to this are two twisted willows - I saw these in Homebase looking very sorry for themselves and much reduced in price so could not resist the challenge.

They seem to be happy

and thriving two years on in the very boggy area near the ponds and the stream.

Finally there is my Granddaughter, Willow!

Monday, 30 August 2010


Of course - not mine - still waiting!

This is a picture of the early garden just after the path was built to the very early veg and fruit beds. This picture was used before (14th August) when muttering about seasonal food.

Having been to my brother's near Kendal yesterday where the garden has had over twenty years to mature I realise I shall be a wrinkly old man before I see the same. (Assuming I live long enough). To see walnuts ripening on his tree and damsons weighing down branches - jealousy.

Here are two more pictures from spring 2007, these before the path was built - as you can see the garden was a wasteland. One shows the view to the wood over rough ground.

The small shrub bottom left is a Davidia given to me for my birthday by my brother and sister-in-law and planted in early 2007. This will , in due time, become a handkerchief tree.

The garden has no structure, few plants and is in need of many hours hard labour - which it got!

The other image, also taken before the path was built shows the view back to the house just after the construction of the third veg bed.

The first crop in most of these prepared beds was potatoes to clean the soil (and get scab).
Gradually I have worked out what grows well and what does not. Blackcurrants and raspberries, broccoli and leeks, beetroot and asparagus, rhubarb and rocket all do well. Carrots and parsnips are more difficult - I can grow huge parsnips but they do get some rot. Carrots we have discussed before. Easier to buy at the greengrocers. (If not as sweet and tasty.)

If you look at the blog for 25th August you can see the garden three and a bit years on which gives a good idea of how it is maturing. Unfortunately trees take time to grow unless you spend a fortune buying large specimens - which would please Weasdale Nurseries!

Sunday, 29 August 2010


Well, hardly a stream, more a field drain.

It begins in the field behind the garden where a previous tenant farmer dug a ditch alongside the bridleway at the upper edge.

He then let this drain away into the garden when it was a smallholding.

When we first came here at the start of 2005 the water ran into the garden area and became a bog - in the wild upper garden as shown here. The white flowers are wild angelica.

Out of this came a stream which tumbled down a steep bank into long grass and a further bog. There was a ditch by the hedge at the lower border of the garden
which emptied down a steep drop and became a stream which runs down the back of Rosside House, under the road in Rosside and into Rosside Beck.
This beck later joins Pennington Beck, becomes Dragley Beck and runs into the Leven Estuary near Sandhall.

To solve the bog-in-the-garden problem I dug a new course for the water down the middle of the lower garden and made two ponds. The upper one is a settling pond for silt washed down the stream.

Before the stream was dug I had to fill in two sumps - holes about a yard across and three feet deep with running water at the bottom - in one side and out the other.
During the digging I also found some blocked pipes - evidence of a previous drainage system.

The sound of running water, when there is not a drought, adds to the garden but trimming the grass beside the stream is a bit of a bind.
Fortunately I have a wife who will do this!

Saturday, 28 August 2010


No blog yesterday but apart from showing Grandson J his giant pumpkin - for halloween - not in garden.
In fact have family here so garden is in second place.

This is Granddaughter W at the Kendal Maize Maze indulging in a little ice cream!

As she is too young to mow the lawn, (it is raining again anyway), we did something more educational and learned the difference between a llama and an alpaca.
(The latter is smaller and needs a haircut.)

Actually I cannot quite keep
totally out of the garden even if it was just a bit of deadheading and filling up the bird feeders.

At one point I was pushing the push chair when it rolled into a metal gate. A woman rushed over and exclaimed that she hoped the baby was not hurt only to look in the chair and find - BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!

Sausages tonight - but with some broccoli and calabrese from the garden. When we came back from holiday in early July the calabrese was flowering so I deadheaded that too and since we have had, albeit smaller, many heads more like purple sprouting broccoli.

The Victoria plums are red and juicy - unfortunately the wasps agree with me and we are having a battle as to who gets what first.

Tomorrow we travel to Whinfell to another bit of heaven - picnic lunch at my brother's house. Grandson J and I made rock cakes to take.
Well, he sort of helped.
- He will certainly help to eat them!

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Woke up this morning and staggered to the window overlooking the garden. The air was full of whirling, chattering swallows - are they gathering already?

The garden is a place of sounds and silence broken only by the distant roar of a motorcycle or the siren of an ambulance on the A590 a mile and a half away.

Today small birds chatter, jays argue, collared doves coo and the mew of a buzzard comes down from the sky.
The sun is shining.
This is the view from the kitchen.

Out to lunch today in Flookburgh so time for a story.

As a small boy I was interested in Botany to the point where I became involved with the mapping of the British Flora through the Botanical Society of the British Isles.
I know - what a nerd!

Well, I was about twelve and walking with my mother near Coniston when we sat down on a banking for a rest. My mother moved to one side, pulled out a feathery leaf she had been sitting on and asked what it was.

It was Meum athamanticum - spignel or meu. A plant that does grow elsewhere in the east of Cumbria and was sent to London on trains in historical times as a Dill substitute. Its leaves have a lemony scent. Three plants of it now grow in the garden at our house.

Now the last record of this plant anywhere near Coniston was pre 1930 and reputed to have been made by John Ruskin - and not seen since.

This was a big rediscovery.

I duly filled in the record card and sent it off to Franklin Perring.
Soon after a lady arrived from the Barrow Field Naturalists to verify the plant. She was somewhat taken aback to find I was but a strip of a lad. (Actually a bit podgy).

The record was then logged and I did not think much of it till many years later when Geoffrey Halliday published A Flora of Cumbria.
The Meum was mentioned but its discovery was attributed to a lady from Barrow!
(I had this remedied for future editions.)
This lady, no, woman had purloined my glory, stolen the discovery from a small boy!

Actually that is not strictly true. It should have been attributed to my mother's derriere as that is what found the flower!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Time to give you an idea of what The Nook garden is like this week.

There are four
pictures taken here - when I dashed out between the showers as the sun shone.

Lawns are mowed but did them
quickly with the mulch setting rather than lugging
loads of grass cuttings to the various heaps.

Why is it that when I mow the mower always runs out of petrol at the farthest end of the garden? It does not seem to matter which way round I travel.

We are eating courgettes by the bucket load and the butternut squashes have finally begun to develop. The pumpkins continue to swell with all the rain - they are now safely sitting on a bed of straw.

Reading a life of Thomas Cromwell at the moment - the man behind many of the atrocities committed in Henry VIII's reign. He got his come-uppance in the end but treacherous, nasty, ruthless, heads on gates etc etc.
We have a cartoon in the downstairs WC which shows three heads on stakes over castle gate. One is saying to the other two - 'Well, so much for plan A!'

Think I will have another cup of tea and do the Kakuro.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


It is all my sister's fault - we talked on the telephone yesterday - but first more of the garden.
(She has emailed me having read this blog and denies toothbrush culpability!!!)

So what have I been doing whilst the rain comes again and again.

I cannot mow the grass as it is so wet.

First the old raspberry canes have been
removed and the best of the new ones tied in for next year.
Then they have been pruned at the top - at about six feet or so. A little later in the year they will get a mulch of well-rotted horse manure both to feed them and suppress weeds.

Then I went to the victoria plum tree - only been in for two and a half years and now with some of its branches supported by stakes.
The fruit has been thinned - about sixty per cent removed so the rest can mature without snapping the branch.

I have already eaten one and it was wonderfully juicy.
It is a pleasure just to pick a piece of fruit of our own tree or bush, or pull up a carrot and eat. The flavours are so much stronger and sweeter than supermarket fruit and veg.

And what has this to do with a toothbrush?

My sister asked me what I had got up to whilst R was away for the week. Amongst other things, I set myself the task of cleaning the grout in the travertine floor in the kitchen and utility.
It is a big kitchen.
So I spent a good part of my time, not in the pub, not living it up, not playing golf but on my knees (hard floors, travertine limestone) with an old toothbrush.

Whenever you go away always pack your toothbrush - you never know when it might be useful!

Monday, 23 August 2010


Raining, overcast and dark. Another dank day.

To cheer us up we went and had coffee at Gilpin Lodge Hotel at Windermere.

On arrival home greeted by the information that my Uncle Gratton in Adelaide, Australia had died.
As I have said a dark day.

Let me talk of the garden instead.
The 19th July blog showed the development of the Willow tunnels.
There was a view in the blog of 19th July with a blue seat at the end.
The image on the right shows the view the other way looking up to the buddleia hedge.

Speaking of the buddleia hedge there were comma butterflies there yesterday though this one was photographed on a perennial wallflower.

The view to the north shows the lawn down the garden to
the Wendy House.

You will notice that the roof of the tunnel here is not yet complete. These willow wands were cut from the original tunnel and are therefore much younger.

Below is a diagram of the tunnels. The seat is inside on the left and the tunnel points to the right over the little bridge to the buddleias.

The Wendy House view is from beside the seat looking down the diagram.

"Still falls the rain . . "

Sunday, 22 August 2010


This is a photograph of the rose Rhapsody in Blue.

As you can see, and as with all blue roses - Blue Moon and so on - they are not really blue, more purplish.

The blue rose is a bit like the black tulip used to be - a rose breeder's holy grail.

However, with a bit of Photoshop mucking about it is possible to create a blue rose - if only in an image.

Every year I am surprised by the new varieties which adorn the magazine and catalogue pages, the new colours and colour combinations.

Which brings me to names.
I have always wondered how the house got its name - The Nook. I presume it was the result of hours of deliberation by the Reverend gentleman who built the original prefab for his summer holidays. However you would think he could have arrived at something more original?
So The Nook it was and then as we proceeded with the build, council planning documents started to refer to it as Rosside Nook. This made the address Rosside Nook, Rosside - which seems unnecessary repetition.
Anyway it has stuck.

And the sun is out
and the grass is growing
and soon it will be time
to go out and start mowing.

Or perhaps a coffee and the crossword?

Saturday, 21 August 2010


I cannot quite keep up with the weather!
R returns from Yorkshire today so baked some rock cakes - seem to taste ok.

Into the garden to pick flowers for the house - especially sweet peas - you have to keep at them or they go to seed. The whole house now smells of the flowers.

Also did a couple of vases of yellow/orange flowers and some nasturtiums for the Wendy House.

Went to the veg beds to get some beetroot to cook and pickle (except, after I put them in the bottom oven to cook I found that I did not have enough pickling vinegar. The cauliflowers are gone - rain and slugs - so uprooted and put onto the compost heap - well the big rubbish heap at that end of the garden. When I think of the rubbish I throw in there I wonder who lives there? I know there are toads and slugs and snails and so on - I have to be careful with the fork because of the toads.

Then went to my special, clever carrot pots and pulled some carrots.
They seem to have forked a bit like the one shown so not a huge success - but they taste wonderful.

Clearly the carrots are suffering from a bad dose of anthropomorphism!

Time to feed the birds again - the tits - blue, coal and great have developed a great hunger for the peanuts. The young blue tits - they have a bit to learn - even challenging the greater-spotted woodpecker.
They will learn the pecking order given time.

Friday, 20 August 2010


And more rain and so on.

It is dark and gloomy.
The slugs are creeping out and eating the remaining cauliflowers.
The beer in the traps is old, diluted and needs changing.

But it is pouring down.

This is the summer view from my window at nine-thirty in the morning.

Thunder has just rolled over the fields.

The stream that was dry at the end of June is bubbling away and even the birds are avoiding coming out to the feeders.
I know - the true gardener would be saying - "Git your Wellies and mac on. It's nowt but a bit of watter.

At least I have finished the inside of the Wendy House.

R comes back from Yorkshire tomorrow so I hope she will be pleased.
I am not a skilled handyman - my furniture will last but it is screws, glue and six by two timber.
Trying to get shelves to match end to end and be level when all screws are determined to go in at an absurd angle is impossible.

I have put up some trellis by the decking and bought a bench so R can sit there - presumably in the rain.

I am glad I mowed the lawns yesterday afternoon just before the heavens opened. But then, the rain will make the grass grow
and . . . .

Thursday, 19 August 2010


No, not me - I am just crumbling away.

I am referring to those plants which scatter their seed across the garden and appear in surprising places the next year.
The pictures are of nasturtiums so let me start there.

The first picture, of J. shows the nasturtiums flourishing in the bed outside the kitchen. In the new garden they were idea for ground cover and colour.

In the second year they were so rampant they almost suffocated the catmint which had to be rescued and armfuls of nasturtiums taken the the compost heap.

Of course we now have them forever but that is all right as I selectively weed them and
R. loves them in the kitchen.

Other plants include the poppies - opium, meadow and welsh - yellow and orange, forget-me-nots, alchemilla (you have to dead head before they seed), feverfew, rocket and best of all aquilegias - not the gaudy hybrids but good old Granny's Bonnets.

One surprise self seeding after the harsh winter was Verbena bonariensis - well I think it was as I do not remember them growing where they do now - it may just be they survived and I am going senile.

So this year the nasturtiums came, as predicted, on the banking in front of the house as seen in the third photo.

Though the bright vermillion is the most common
colour there are always some yellow - as seen here - and some darker red.

I would not be without the self seeders but sometimes you have to be a bit ruthless and compost them. (Then the compost is full of seed if you are not careful and they spread even more!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


(The title of the blog could, but does not, well not always, refer to myself after a days work in the garden.)

There are times when not to dead head is the thing.

Various seed heads are worth leaving for their architectural merit - small dried sculptures (or in the case of the Crambe - large dried sculpture.)

The first and perhaps most obvious are the alliums as shown in todays two images. The more dramatic is the upper shot of Allium chiristophii.
(Hope I have spelled that right.)
(If not I must get a new tipist.)

Another plant I leave is the opium poppy because of the shape and so it can scatter its seed for next year.

Of course I leave the hips on the Rosa rugosa and Rosa rubifolia for autumn show and the various ornamental grasses for the frost to come and create a wonderland during the winter months.

In the wilder garden the grasses and the statuesque angelica are also left - there is some hogweed - not a favourite.

When I first strimmed the garden, stupidly, I did it on a hot day with sleeves rolled up.
Next day sitting with family in the Ship Inn at Coniston I noticed blisters appearing on my arms and head.
These were chemical burns from Hogweed sap - not the giant one, just the ordinary one. Rue does it (has done it to me) too and once, pruning euphorbias, I rubbed my eyes - Aaaaaagh!

So now I go out strimming, as infrequently as possible, as if I am wearing a radiation protection suit - and sweat to death.

Monday, 16 August 2010


So, what do you feed your plants with eh!?

Answer - mainly well rotted horse manure topped with a bit of own compost, pelleted hen manure and growmore.

To the right you can see our compost heap - nowt goes in the green bin for the council.
I know - it looks like it could do with turning - well, yes it could. It is just that I have developed the habit of putting it off.

The Horse Manure is now nearly four years old.
When we built the house I got the builder to move the manure mountain in the next field where the ladies
have their horses (and the council wanted to charge them some ridiculous sum to take it away) to the garden. I have still not used it all - though that day will come.

It is great stuff once the weeds that have colonised it have been removed.

Then there is the question of grass cuttings - the mowing mountains.

I try to incorporate some in the compost heap but there is just too much so there are about three secret (and not so secret) mowings mountains in various corners.
A poor attempt to hide it with flowering currant has failed. I could use willow but there is enough in the garden as it is.

One thing I have not yet tried is seaweed.

Many years ago I used to visit Old Charley Porter who lived on Meeting House Lane - he was well in his nineties then and he gave me a rhubarb plant. "Go down to the shore and get a load of seaweed," he said, "Best thing for rhubarb."

So now you can have rhubarb and manure, rhubarb and custard - and rhubarb and seaweed!

Sunday, 15 August 2010


What's up Doc? Today is mowing as it is a beautiful day. Alfresco lunch with home grown salad, freezing courgettes and broad beans, picking sweet peas to keep them coming, treating the paths with weed killer - I know, not organic. There is only one of me and the thought of weeding paths is a step too far.
Son R is still painting the inside of the shed.
Wife R leaves me tomorrow for a week to go to the Arvon place at Lumb Bank.
And she is away all week - my blog recording for Little Cumbria is on Monday to Friday on Radio Cumbria!

So, white and green - the garden is full of colour but which two colours are most important?

Green is, of course, the dominant colour - in many shades in the early year, becoming less varied later as the trees take on a uniform dullness. so it is important to look for contrasting green foliage in the perennials and shrubs, look for variegation.

The other essential colour is, perhaps, not a colour - white.
White is vital to set off all the other colours, to lighten dark corners. A vase of sweet peas in all their colours is wonderful but a few white stems lifts it to another level.
One problem is that some white varieties of normally coloured flowers are not as vigorous nor as strong. Even so give them a go.

One white variety that outshines all the other colours in its range is white Cosmos. The 'Purity' of the white would do Farrer & Ball proud.

However white does not go with everything - yellow!
I have one or two places where white and yellow clash. Every year I make a mental note to move plants to avoid this - and then forget.

Mind you, white and yellow in one plant, as here in Lilium regale, can work - anyway the wave of scent that hits you as you walk past excuses everything.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


No fridge - just a safe on the slate slab in the dark, cool dairy. Bacon salted in wooden boxes and hams hanging from the hooks in the beams.

I am muttering about the days of no fridges nor freezers. The image below is of our first spring at The Nook. You can see the new path on the left and the cold frame - just completed. There appears to be one slightly raised bed and the grassed over mound of horse manure behind. The rest of the garden is grass.

Back to the subject D.
I grew up, mostly, on a Coniston Farm - it was nearer Torver but in Coniston Parish. Marrows came but once a year like tomatoes and things. Food was seasonal unless bottled, preserved or kept through the winter by various methods. Potatoes in sacks or like the carrots in clamps. You do not hear much about clamping on Gardener's World now but Percy Thrower knew all about it.

The apples were on wooden racks, none touching and regularly examined for rot. Kilner Jars stood in rows on shelves.

So what am I on about?

When such as marrows were once a year they were a treat and are remembered fondly - at least by me - none of the rest of the family like Marrow much. The strawberries and raspberries came fresh from the garden for such a short time - not frozen.
Food that was seasonal was special.

Here we have some of the stuff from the garden this year - I know it might not win prizes but it tastes good.

Some things still have a season in the garden if not in the supermarket. One classic example is asparagus.
Two years ago I planted and asparagus bed with 20 crowns.
Last year we had one meal.
This year we had about four but decided not to tax the bed too much because the spring was so dry.
Next year - get out the melted butter for six May and June weeks of succulent delight.
(Unless we have a mild wet winter in which case it will be a battle with the slugs again.)

Now go back and look at the empty garden at the top. Then look at this image 3 years on.

You can see the cold frame but the rest is a lush world of lilies, agapanthus and Japanese anemones. Trees are planted around the garden and, though you cannot see it on this picture, there are now 5 raised beds, a cultivated banking for the cucurbits (pumpkins and stuff) and a bed for black currants and raspberries.

All it takes is well rotted horse manure laced with a touch of backache - easy!?

Friday, 13 August 2010


Yesterday we had a visit from old friends - Bob, Helen and Val. He had been the head teacher of our three children's primary school.

There, of course, came the obligatory garden tour.

When we came to the buddleia hedge it was covered in butterflies - and HONEY BEES. It has taken long enough for the bees to find us this year.

These are the first seen.

As regards the butterflies the nettles in the corners have done their bit.

There were peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells in abundance.

The painted ladies were here earlier in the year when a mass migration occurred from the south.
Sometimes the small tortoiseshell
caterpillars move in droves across the seating area outside the kitchen,
up the walls and into the roof to find a place to pupate and overwinter.

The garden has other butterflies - at least
three different whites (cover the brassicas),
speckled woods,
meadow browns, a few of those small brown ones I always find hard to
identify, and so on.
Perhaps it is time to get the book out and look more closely at what we actually

In the spring, when the garlic mustard flourishes, there are orange tips. When I was a boy we always referred to garlic mustard by its other name - 'Jack-by-the-Hedge". What a strange name. I looked it up in Geoffrey Grigson's 'The Englishman's Flora'. (This is a wonderful book introduced to me by NC. It deals with the etymology of the flower names and folk traditions associated with them amongst other things.)
Other names for Alliaria petiolata include Beggarman's Oatmeal in Leicestershire and Pickpocket in Devon. Gerard's (of Herbal fame) recommends using in a sauce with salt fish.

I digress wildly!

Other more occasional visitors have included the comma, small copper, gatekeeper and one of the fritillaries.

It was an afternoon of good company and good chat and it was good to see old friends again.

They left with a marrow.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


Just going through a rough patch - watching the weeds and grass grow and SIGHING deeply.

Perhaps I shall shut my eyes and get stoned? - Talking of stones - here is another obsession which I share with our friend Sylvia, (the lady of the oak tree) - when I am away I shove a stone in my pocket and bring it home. Of course I want then to be interesting visually if possible.
So there are stones here from Lanzarote and New Zealand - even a stone brought back from our honeymoon in Corfu in 1969!
The first picture also shows an old sundial which belonged to R's late father and was rescued from his garage.

The next shows a mixture of fossils and a piece of agate. This was not brought back from an exotic location but purchased from a shop at the Childwall Five-Ways roundabout on Queens Drive in Liverpool many years ago as a present for my wife - just a whim. I brought it in to her parents house and announced that I had something for you. R's mother turned round and said, 'Thank you, how nice,' so it only came back to us some years later!
(Any way it was probably bought by me, for me, using the gift to wife as an excuse for spending the money).

The third picture is of a small stone sink -
from my mother's garden - filled with small bits including a bit of beach ground green glass and an old stopper.

Now here is a warning - I have just picked some deep purple buddleia to go with orange crocosmia in a vase. On picking up a stem of the buddleia I was stung on the right index finger by a bumble bee. Just glad it was not a wasp - bee stings hurt a bit but soon settle but wasp stings are nasty!

Went down the garden to pick some sweet peas and nasturtiums for the house. R loves nasturtiums. In our first year we had acres of bare soil around plants so one solution to this was to sow nasturtiums - and they have been with us ever since. I have had to be quite ruthless - treating them as a weed where not wanted.

No doubt time will heal and my hortiphobia will soon change to hortiholicism. Just a bit of sun and the healing process can begin.