Monday, 28 February 2011


Phew! Gardening hard whilst I can. R is still raking the bankings to get rid of the dead grass. I got out weedkiller (sorry not organic but . . ) and had a go at the giant marsh thistles in the lawn and brambles on the wood.

Yesterday I repaired or replaced the small bridges over the stream - with sawn off pieces of old scaffolding planks.
This released eight large flattish stones for something.

After a night's thought I decided to make a line of stepping stones in the lawn from the bottom of the zigzag path to the gravelled veg. bed path.
The reason is that the lawn there and around the Bramley apple had become very boggy.

Time for an explore.

The garden is on a steep bank over rock where the field falls to a lower level. Water runs underground and emerges in ever new places. Last year, in the wood there was a mole hill, which I cleared away. On looking into the hole left I could see running water heading down to the lawn.

When I went into the wood to look at the minor stream which comes from a spring in the field it disappeared into a sump hole halfway down its length. Obviously it was emerging by the apple tree.

So I blocked up the hole in the bottom of the stream and hope that that will dry out the garden lower down.

Apart from that it was shifting more horse muck. The muck from the bottom of the heap moved into the garden more than four years ago still smells very strongly.

So do I after all that so off for a shower and a cup of tea.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Precisely, especially in the boggier areas.
Panic - mowing approaching at a rate of knots - and too early in the year.

£100 voucher arrived from Gardeners' World Magazine - now to decide how to spend it - see blog 21st February.

The heads on the daffodils dropping ready to flower and some out.
Today's job is shifting manure. It is a bit late but we have seen so little sun recently - and every time it comes out I am elsewhere doing something else - so I am behind.
Crocusses (or is it croci?) are coming up where I do not want them or cannot see them. These will have to be moved but one always leaves the odd corm behind.

These are the tete-a-tete by the back door.

R continued to clear bankings and I moved some offending crocus hidden under a bush to the banking where they should naturalise.

I also dug up a lot of foxgloves from the lily bed and replanted them in the woodland area - more appropriate. There is and aggressive climber we were given when we moved in and this has been transferred to behind the decking by the Wendy House.

Now, horror of horrors, the spanish bluebells by the fence from the previous owner - which I though I had killed off, are coming up - drastic action needed to try and protect our native bluebells at the top of the wood.

So, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Friday, 25 February 2011


The garden is waking up slowly, buds are starting to break on the flowering currant - I suggested that R used some as decoration in the church but it was declined.
I suppose the aroma of cat pee from the shrub might be a bit inappropriate.

The first Daffodils are out - a small clump of tete-a-tete by the back door. Today we had our first Lesser celandine.

Several indoor jobs have been done like repotting the orchid on which the last crop of flowers had gone - there is a new stem growing.

The pot of basil bought in the autumn in the local
supermarket still flourishes on the kitchen windowsill.

They always put too many plants in each pot but if they are reduced to about half a dozen they manage to thrive. A warm kitchen, south facing windowsill and water when needed all help.

C's amaryllis, which he abandoned in his cottage when he left for London, has a main stem two feet high and growing. It is now opening revealing a deep red cluster of flowers. There is a second stem about a foot high. I have had to stake it in the pot as it is now top heavy and liable to fall over.

In the past, when the flowers are over, I have cut off the flowering stem but have now learned this is wrong. Leave the stem and the bulb reabsorbs its goodness - GW Magazine - cut down when dead.

Still, we now have 4 potted bulbs at various stages of growth.

Soon we will have to extend the house to make room for them.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


This morning the garden was honoured by the great great grandchildren of Tom S.

We walked down the path to the left in the photograph and with the help of a ladle scooped gelatinous stuff out of the pond by the Wendy House.

They had come with their granddad SS in search of frogspawn, clutching two jars and a plastic box into which we put some spawn, water and a bit of weed from the pond - watercress.

Then we went on a tour of the garden, had a biscuit and a drink and a peer into my daughter's VW campervan which has been lodging with us for the winter.

Now to Tom and Bob - if you creep around the back of the church in Lindal-in-Furness at this time of year you can see snowdrops spelling out their names. These were put in many years ago - it was by J, I and E's great great grandfather - and the names are still legible.

It is surprising that they have not lost their shape after so long.

It is good to share the garden, especially with children, and try to answer their questions - try.

Monday, 21 February 2011


On Page 177 of the Special 20th Anniversary Edition, March issue of Gardeners' World Magazine is The Nook!

They have an item for befores and afters and I popped off a email and pics and have won £100 in gardening vouchers - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I attached the following blurb -

"We moved to The Nook in February 2007, having built a house on the site of a 1920's prefab.
I was retiring and out two acres of land gave us something to do! There's a small area of natural woodland at the top of the garden where wild bluebells grow. We have a natural stream running through the middle, and I also dug out a pond. The fruit and veg beds were all double dug the first time around but are now simply forked and top dressed (if necessary).
Our latest addition has been a garden office by the pond which is the perfect place for my wife to enjoy her writing."

Mind you, with the winter, it is looking a bit 'after' now.
Mind you, after this winter I am looking a bit 'after' now.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


There was snow on the hills yesterday and a bit of frost.

There is a cold wind blowing today.

R cleared some of the banking of dead grass, new brambles and so on and I levelled a mound near the septic tank, moved a rhododendron up by the azaleas and a Senecio, (they do not call them that now but Brachyglottis!), to the lower banking to match one across the path. Whilst doing so I noticed more early primroses in flower.

Some of the remaining dead plants - old teasel stems by the compost bins - and beech leaves still on the hedge were rime edged first thing.

Actually most of the hedge beech are only a foot or so high. They were given to us by a friend who has a huge beech tree that seeds everywhere and wanted rid.

The frost was very fleeting this morning and had gone by 8 o'clock.

Working in the garden can sometimes be a welcome distraction - I learned at lunchtime of the death of a friend, Stephen - digging turf and shovelling soil helps a little.

Often the garden can be a haven from cares, a place to detach oneself from the world - yet also a place to think without interruption.
It is a place where one can find peace and contemplation as well enjoyment.

I saw an Aquaslide for sale on the John Lewis website - old memories of Stephen's and our families hurtling down a sheet of wet plastic into the bushes. Perhaps I will buy one?

Friday, 18 February 2011


Yesterday I was naughty!

R kept telling me that I had done enough and come in but I wanted to finish chipping willow and buddleia prunings and then spreading the bits onto the woodland path. I went deaf and finished the job so one less thing to do.

The buddleia makes wonderful chippings but the willow is a nightmare - it had been cut in the autumn and lay on a banking all winter but much of the wood was still green and, if shoved into the ground, would have struck - and as it was put into the chipper it gummed up the works again and again.

Of course I have now cut back the buddleia by the bird feeders and they have nowhere to queue up. Also, today R saw a strange bird walking around these feeders - the sparrowhawk is back!

The next picture is of our first primrose in the new bed down by the Wendy House.

Other flowers are appearing including this wonderfully orange Witch Hazel.

Perhaps I prefer the pale yellow on but have to admit this is a corker. It was bought at Kath's Garden Plants at Heaves Hall near Levens.

Stinking Hellebore, rogue wallflowers and the first signs of the wild golden saxifrage are all here. Spring is not too far away?

Yet it is still really nippy.
And kins are back - must get the stuff H and N recommended to stop my finger ends splitting.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


With a Roley, Poley, Gammon and Spinach, Heigh-ho!

Yes - I went to dig out the pond and Anthony Rowley and mate have given me the perfect excuse.

The first frogspawn appeared this morning so all I could do was work around it leaving a good margin.
No doubt the mallard will be back later in the spring as will the heron - the one with the evil eye.

Elsewhere in the garden R continues weeding, I continue barrowing muck and have moved sticks to the paving for chipping - for the woodland paths.

I dug up an overgrown Sidalcea, split it and shoved it in some grass on the top of a bank near the veg beds. Then I prepared the soil and planted 9 scented lilies. These came from Sarah Raven's catalogue - expensive but each group of three bulbs in a sealed plastic bag, the three bags in another mesh bag and this in a sacking bag with her name on it and this in a cardboard box with paper packing. Obviously the wrapping cost more than the lilies.

Up in the wood the ground is erupting with daffs and crocuses. The snowdrops are splendid and we are planning where to move divided clumps to spread the white carpet for next year.

Like Mrs Dale - I have my worries - I am terribly worried about (no not Jim) but my Mahonia which looks too stick like. Has it fallen to the harsh winter? Amazingly the ceanothus has survived when all around here have not.

It is raining again.

Tomorrow we go to look at a real garden tucked under Whinfell Beacon - and lunch with S and K.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


It is winter, it is wet, it is muddy, it is cold so where do the Grandchildren want to be - no, not on the nice warm kitchen near the Aga but out in the spitting rain kicking a football, walking along the top of walls with a six feet drop to paving, seeing how deep the stream is, or just mucking about - the operative word is mucking.

They also have a routine when they come to
stay. Run up the woodland paths and J pats the little boy by the path shown here. He has followed us for almost thirty years - nothing special, made of concrete but a bit different and not completely tasteless.

The paths through the wood need a new layer of wood chippings again - I have the sticks and the chipper but as yet not the motivation so they are getting muddy.

At last there is scent in the garden - the
sarcococcus by the back door and a hammamelis lower down.

Also, looking out of the study window the other day I saw our one-legged cock chaffinch.

He has been around for about two and a half years now and I never thought he would survive. He hops around on the ground living off the dropped seed from the feeders.
I have never seen him on a feeder - not easy with one leg.

Perhaps we should call him Cassidy but only the ancient would make the connection.
Now I am in trouble - if you remember the TV cowboy series I am calling you ancient!

Thursday, 10 February 2011


The are stirrings in the shrubbery!

When we first came one of the first things I did was to nip to a local garden centre, that was closing, and bagged, very cheaply I think, a Magnolia grandiflora. It has, when mature, large creamy scented flowers in mid to late summer - no it has not flowered yet - keep hoping that this year may be the one?

The undersides of the leaves are a wonderful orange/brown colour. Often, by May the tree looks a bit moth eaten, especially the terminal leaves, but then it picks up. This spring it is not looking to bad but I cannot see any obvious flower buds.

Under the leaves of the Magnolia is the residence known as Roy's Cottage.
A bit small for all but mice I have noticed a coal tit inspecting it. However it will need a bit of renovation as the walls will have to be repointed.

I must have taken this picture about a month ago as I have now removed that lower Magnolia branch to raise its canopy a bit. When fully grown we will need to be able to walk under it. (I mean when the tree is fully grown . . . . )

I have got R into the garden, when it is not raining or she is not writing,
and here she has been sent out to do some heavy duty snowdrop picking.

Her choice of jacket is clearly chosen in order to match the undersides of the Magnolia leaves.

Could only a woman think of that?

Mind you my gardening trousers are usually the colour of pond mud!

Monday, 7 February 2011


So why this heading, this title?

Well, when I looked at the stats for the blog I found that there were some unusual places listed as countries from which readers had accessed the blog, apart from Devon that is.

Oh! Yes there were the expected - UK, USA, Canada, some European countries, even India, South Africa, but Brazil and the C's - China, Croatia and Colombia?

I decided to investigate - which blogs were the most popular?

By far the two winners were titled Self Perpetuation and Hot Pic of the Day and Herbs! I think we can all see why the second got a lot of hits even though it was mainly about Horseradish!
Which brings me to the deep spiritual meaning of the first which was about plants that scatter their seed - on second thoughts I can see a connection between the two!

Back to the garden - what is in a name?
Oh! the lovely Grey Squirrel or as I prefer - the tree-rat.

It has been trying to get at the sunflower hearts in this feeder for ages but so far failed.
And yesterday it was trying in the rain too.
In the second photo it has given up and is contemplating where to get its lunch sitting on the shed roof.

If I confront one up a tree it will shower me with invective - hiding behind a branch or limb and chattering away at me.

I have just looked out of the study window and it is rummaging around in the old grass under the rhododendrons. Presumably it is attempting to find some old peanuts or hazelnuts it or one of the jays buried last year.

And the male Kestrel is back sitting on the same ash branch outside my window.

Is my feeding of the birds just providing lunch for the hawk?

PS. I have dug up the last of the leeks and we have got a little from them though some bolted.
I have also found a row of cuttings I stuck in in the late autumn and forgot - rosemary, roses, buddleia, redcurrant and some I am not sure what they are as the labels have gone walkabout - one of the joys of garden is the surprises self sown plants and so on can give - now I am back to Self Perpetuation!

Perhaps I should call this blog Hot Birds in the Garden and see how many hits I get?!

Saturday, 5 February 2011


I am not a Monty Don
- a wet weather gardener,
anyway I have a cold up my nose so it would
be most inadvisable to get cold and wet.

The first picture shows the pond with rain spattering its surface. You can see what happened to the hedge though if you look at the right next to a log there are some
snowdrops I did not know were there.

The second shows snowdrops on the banking under the trees though the pic. is a bit small. Every year we have been spreading them and they have been spreading themselves but there is a long way to go before they are spectacular.

The final picture is a close-up of snowdrops
under a skimmia just outside the kitchen
doors. They light up a dark corner at a dark time of year.

Which brings me to a little news for my reader - whoever she might be (H?) - The blog may be a bit intermittent in March and April as yours truly has to spend Monday to Friday being fried at Christies.

This, of course means I have only a few weeks to get the garden manured and ready for the coming year.

So perhaps I should be out in the rain.

Or perhaps not - I wonder what's on the tele?

Thursday, 3 February 2011


As the last blog on pond digging had pictures of frost from the garden this one on flowers will have a picture of the top pond excavated with a shovel.

Now to the real blog.

In the garden snowdrops are bursting forth - every year I dig some up and spread them - so now we keep finding them in places where I had forgotten I had planted them.
Early on they also have a tendency to get a bit lost in the dead leaves, grass etc. So we have been clearing last years rubbish out this morning.

Inside the house our amaryllis - a Christmas Present - is in full flow.

We have three other amaryllis which will flower later in the year - 2 are old presents and one was rescued from my son's cottage when he left for London.

R loves tulips so at this time of year there is always at least one vase on the go. We also have various pelargoniums - some in pots - lemon scented foliage, variegated - and a couple of jam jars stuffed with rooting cuttings.

So easy to propagate them - take 10 cm (metric now!) of the top of a stem, strip off lower leaves, cut just below bud, bung in water in jam ajar, wait.

Also moving the muck mountain onto the flowerbeds. However have to be careful as the heap has become infested with goosegrass, (cleavers), and greater willowherb.

I do not want to spread willowherb amongst the roses!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Firstly two frosty pictures - the first from the garden to the lane to Pennington - now visible after the hedge laying.

The second is through the kitchen double doors.

Now to the matter at hand - I dug out the mud from the top pond and the channel that joins it to the lower pond.
It is back breaking work and I was done for yesterday. The medication I am on reduces muscle power and stamina and don't I know it.

It rained last night so I am disappointed that I have not dug out the main pond and replanted the water lilies whilst the level is low.
Many years ago when I worked a summer at my Uncle David's farm at Wormleighton in the midlands, one day, instead of bringing in the harvest as it was damp, I was sent ditch digging. The bottom of the ditch was five feet below field level and after five spades full I lay on the wet grass in exhaustion. The farm worker I was with laughed and went on all day!

I still have the bottom pond and some of the stream to do - alas!

Snowdrops are out and even the odd wallflower.

I did the RSPB bird survey - disappointing.
As soon as I stopped I noticed a kestrel sitting in one of the big ash trees. This, I think, had caused the paucity of numbers.

And I was hoping for a Hoopoe and a Slavonian Grebe!