Saturday, 28 May 2011


Let me start with the Victoria plums - so many on the tree that the branches are almost bent to the ground already.
I will have to snip off most of them - sad! Otherwise the branches will snap off with the weight.
Then I will have to further thin them later.

The same will have to be done with the gooseberries though we can cook the not quite ripe ones. The other fruit - black and redcurrants, raspberries, pears and apples (Bramley) will be left alone. The pear and apple should sort themselves out with the June Drop - when the tree thins its own crop.

In the lower garden near the stream and ponds, still full of tadpoles but with water beetles and their voracious dytiscus larvae, caddisfly larvae in their little houses
- they make a shell of small stones and twigs in which they live - whirlygigs and pond skaters, freshwater shrimps and water snails, damselflies and so on and so on, is a wild patch of grass.

Here wildflowers flourish like ragged robin and the parasitic yellow rattle. The yellow rattle preys on the roots of grasses and so reduces their vigour allowing the flowers to prosper.

Teasel has made this its home as has sorrel and ox-eye daisy amongst others.
They grow around a young weeping willow that has not yet wept and stands erect and proud - not a weep in sight.
This would also be an excellent place for wild orchids - I will consider their introduction later in the year or early next year. (If I can remember - I have bits of paper all over the place full of forgotten memos.)

The second lot of cauliflowers are eaten - I thought it was mice but today saw a small but satisfied rabbit scurrying up the banking away from the veg beds.

Peter? Benjamin?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


First a picture up the garden from the terrace. It is becoming clear that having the main structural line - e.g. the hoggin path - leading one's eye to the veg and fruit beds is not right.

Either the eye must be diverted, the kitchen garden hidden behind a hedge or fence or a better focal point installed.
The problem is we cannot afford a Henry Moore bronze.

Two lunches out in succession - yesterday with family and old friends by Coniston Water and today with NC on Strawberry Bank.
Now strawberries are not something we have - ?
After the second lunch went to Halecat - wonderful now - and bought an arctotis, some sweet peas in much better nick than mine, an achillea and some white valerian to compliment the red and pink we have. However, I will plant the white away from the others to avoid too much cross pollination.
Have done this down by the wendy house.

Also buried some sprouting kitchen potatoes in the side of the manure heap.
Then moved the comfrey near the house down near the ponds where it can grow happily and I can harvest for compost etc.

This brings me to variegation - the comfrey as shown here is not as invasive and vigorous, and better to look at.

I was talking above about focal points and here is the current one growing
near the end of the path through the lawns - variegated horseradish - and the leaves seem to have much less green in them than last year.

So to thoughts of the Chelsea flower show.
More and more it reminds me of the ridiculous fashions one sees in London Fashion week. Interesting as creations but no one will be wearing them - well, some oddballs might. And so too with gardens many of which have little connection to most of us as practical in our gardens - with the plants in the tents this is different.

I sit here at the computer and look at the late afternoon light filtering through the trees in the wood, through the campion, foxgloves and pignut, and think, 'Eat your heart out Chelsea.'

Saturday, 21 May 2011


Managed to get into the garden this afternoon for a while before the rain came. R did some weeding and tried to reduce the Bindweed menace - alien tentacles insinuating themselves through the soul - and a little like the film - reappearing just when you think it is gone.

I put in some leek seedlings and small cauliflowers - the first lot had been munched - I suspect mice.

Then I barrowed some logs to the shed and trimmed the new growths on then beech hedging as I read that doing so would give a more dense growth.

The first picture is the view from the decking by the Wendy House up the walkway. The candelabra primulas are the beginning of an attempt, in a small way, to emulate the show at Harlow Carr. They are allowed to seed and I have also sown some myself and transplanted the seedlings.

I promised you a photo of Goliath - the oriental poppy - and here it is.

The colours in the poppy bed are just getting going and I need about a dozen more plants. I am also going to move some of the self sown annual opium poppies to this bed for, when the oriental poppies are over they can leave a barren area.
I might also move some yellow welsh poppies or some of the orange ones.

The last picture was taken the other day as
the weather began to change after a sunny afternoon. The fine clouds had produced a rainbow halo effect more like the frost rings one sees around the sun in winter.
Of course the water up in these clouds is frozen.

So to the end of another week and memories of R's uncle Colin who loved his garden, his veg and his fruit trees.
His funeral was yesterday - a celebration of his 95 years - of a musician, a gentle man and a gentleman.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Walked around the garden yesterday with guests and found a large area of toadstools.

AAAAAAAGHH! Honeyfungus in the rose bed spreading its bootlaces through the soil.
Panic and swift action. Any dead wood in vicinity removed, soil removed, fungus removed - impossible to get it all so will have to hope and pray - no cure other than cautery - I mean burning.
The soil sneaked across the cattle grid in a wheelbarrow and wasa dumped well away from any tree in the field grass. Every tree is now looked at with suspicion if it is not flourishing. The manure heap is suspect so may have to burn when dry - I suppose I could grow pumpkins on it.
This brings forward the need for a trailer and something to pull it - ? a sit on mower. I have been resistant to this till now but . . . .

Incidentally, nothing to do with the above, I can see the oriental poppy bed from my window and one particularly tall flowering stem of Goliath started as a bud yet in the last 20 minutes the cover has gradually been pushed off and the red petals exploded forth!
Pictures next time (if I remember).

Despite the rain - so no mowing - things have been done in the garden.
This is the top of the banking - marrow, pumpkin, courgette, squash bed. The plants hang down over the black plastic which keeps them weed free and warm.

So now to the nitty gritty and nitty is right.

This is Braindead the Blackbird
attacking itself - well, its reflection, in one of the downstairs windows. The glass is a mess and it is about time it got on with finding a mate.
I once had an equally over-territorial chaffinch which pecked at my car wing mirror so much I had to replace the glass.
But this bird is away with the birds - or I wish it were instead of hanging around the house and committing a bit of self - ? what - flagellation is wrong - ?phobic narcissicism.
Now say that after a hard night on the tiles!

Sunday, 15 May 2011


To start with here is a picture of the Nook version of Woodhenge, seats 15, potatoes and sausages to be cooked in the ashes of the fire.
And if you need it Wild Garlic behind you.

It is raining and is going to rain so the forecasters say.
Yesterday R weeded most of the back bed by the front door - I know that sounds strange but the front door is at the back of the house and no one uses it except the postman and paper delivery. We all go in and out by the back door which is at the side and leads into the utility room.

It is above the front door (at the back) that the swallows are nesting.

Now, here I am typing away in the study and looking out of the window up the garden. A small bird flies down and enters the disused birdfeeder on the shed given to us by Rev. D and Rev. J. Then another identical bird.
Small brown bird syndrome comes upon me and I am plagued by thoughts of chiffchaffs and garden warblers until - I know! - they are spotted flycatchers.
Diagnosis confirmed when one flies a short way off, perches on top of a stick and does the flycatcher thing - land, fly out and catch insect, back to perch and so on.

Not the most concealed place for a nest, especially with squirrels and jays about. I suggested I go out and put up small walls on two sides to give them privacy but was overruled by R who said I was to leave them alone. After all I am not a spotted flycatcher.

No, I thought, but I know about Jays and Squirrels.

Now, why am I having vacillation (it is not infectious) over capital letters?

The cock pheasant - known as Mr Phes - is calling - time to go and find him some cough medicine.

Oh! And rain? - my salvation, I cannot mow the lawns today.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


How the world goes round and round - as does the weather. One minute it is sunny (and if you can get out of the wind feels warm), then a big black cloud brings the rain falling like bamboo canes, then a blast of cold wind and then it starts all over again.
We had July in April and now have March and April in May!

There is something about a flower with deep saturated colour that lifts a garden even though areas of soft pinks, blues and greys are pleasing.
The three images here are - two of tulips and one of the powerful lithospermum heavenly blue.

In the garden the first oriental poppy has come out - I have planted a mass of them in many colours at the foot of the upper banking so it will be interesting to see if the experiment works or is just too much.
Yesterday I weeded the bed by the stream near the Wendy House and found loads of candelabra primula seedlings some of which I have transplanted to fill gaps. The aim is to have a big display there and the cabbagey leaves suppress weeds.

Then I started to move logs into the woodshed. An idea followed and I reshaped the fire area by using the sawn sections of the fallen tree trunk from up in the wood an set them in a ring, moving four large irregular chunks as a surround for the fire.

This all left me tired and ready for a shower to degrubby and desweaty.

Actually I have been feeling a bit more shot at than usual recently and put it down to recent treatment I have had. And a stiff neck - bells lad! Little lights flashing and all that! I have had all this before you see, twice.

So this morning the old blisters have appeared on my right neck - Stinky the Shingles is back - so off to the doc and chemist for a prescription!

How the world goes round and round!

Thursday, 12 May 2011


No, not Dave Clark 5 but a box of gladioli that arrived this morning - loads of them all to be eight inches deep and six inches apart. Need more flowerbed - No! Cries R, not more weeding.

Before gardening this afternoon went to see the amazing R B - 80 - in Coniston. Happy birthday R! He paints great little (can you have great little?) pictures of boats and ships.

Back to the blog.
This afternoon decided to attack the boggy bit whilst R weeded around the candelabra primulas - which are self seeding as planned.
I dug a hole three feet square at the top of the squelch and BINGO! Water could be seen welling up from the bottom. So, is this a spring or an old drain that has become blocked? Do not know. Dug a ditch to the stream and hopefully this will allow the surrounding area to dry out.

Quiz for B from Ilkley - do you recognise this growth?

It is not a real mushroom - all right you can see that - but was given to me by B. The stem has rotted away with the years but the top remains.

Looking out of the study window I can see the Allium purple sensation - about a dozen. However, last night reading Montagu Don's book on his Jewel Garden etc he talks of a thousand tulips and alliums a year!!!!

Back to the garden - the last 2 ash trees are just coming into leaf - at last.
The willow tunnel has been in full leaf for ages as seen in this pic. The tufty stuff in the foreground are the same willows that have been cut back to give young green stem colour in the winter.

Have I done the Chelsea Chop?
No, it is not a dance nor a way of dispatching annoying gardeners, it is a way of postponing an herbaceous plant flowering. Chop back now before flower buds appear and you will get later, if smaller, flowers on, e.g. Sedum spectabile. It is called the Chelsea chop because the originator kept lambs and they were sweetest if . . . . . well, no, it was just that the time of year to do it was when Chelsea Flower Show is on.

Must try and grow a hat like Princess B (it was B was it not?) out of my contorted willow. I wonder if Philip Treacy would be interested.
Now there is an idea.
Why cannot one grow a hat - you can grow a loofah.

Perhaps the princess could wear a loofah on her head next time?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Bun grumble later - (National Trust Cafe staff cannot understand simple arithmetic).

I shall start with an update - sweet peas in, french beans in, five white Cosmos in. The lawns have been mowed today and I have lead another assault on thistles with weedkiller - too many to dig up so spot weed it is. The lawns are not pristine, just mown grass (and weeds) but thistles are not good for little feet (like mine Ho!Ho!).
The garden is in pink, purple and grey mode with alliums, aquilegias (Granny's Bonnets), geraniums and grey foliage.

To the woods, to the woods - (I seem to remember that from an old Abbott and Costello film?) - to the wood which is looking splendid with the may blossom out and a carpet of campion, red and white, pignut and herb robert underneath.

Also there is an area of forget-me-nots
which have naturalised after I shoved them, post weeding from the rose bed, near the top fence.

The dead tree has been sawn into logs and the remaining branches just need to be carried down to the bonfire.

In the boggy jungle that is the far top corner I planted a few willow wands with the intention of providing myself with bean poles in the short term and the house with logs for the woodburner in the long.

R has been weeding to celebrate reaching 90,000 words with her book. I suddenly remembered I had put in three fuchsia magellanica, (the wildish one from Irish hedgerows), by the cattle grid and discovered that they are all alive after the winter but choked with grass - a little tidying done.

Oh! All right - the bun - if soup and a bun in a National Trust Cafe is say £3:50 and soup alone is £3:50 then it stands to logic that the bun is free. However, if you ask for a bun alone they charge you!
Surely the soup without the bun should be cheaper OR the bun free.
No matter what I say the cafe staff just mutter and hide behind such as - I do not make up the rules etc.

Advice - nip to M&S before you go to one of the stately homes and get a decent sandwich, a custard tart and a small smoothie and sit on a National Trust seat to eat it. Not allowed in the cafe of course.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Just came back from a wedding and had no intention of writing a blog today - but then the heavy rain stopped, the sun came out and I decided to wander up the garden to see if the stream was running - it was a little.
Down to the boardwalk and up the wet grass to the bridge near the asparagus bed.
Then I heard an unusual noise - a hiss.

I looked up and there was a swan!

A mute swan with rings on both legs - the metal one I could not read but the other one says JIC in white lettering on a blue background.

Back to the house, camera in hand and R not far behind, I (we) sat on the tree trunk seat about ten yards from it and I talked to it.
Finally it waddled off a bit and shrugged its wings. Then with a whoosh, whoosh, whoosh it flew off down over Rosside.

It is only when one gets very close to such a bird that you realise how big they are and at our first meeting I was but eight feet away.

To the broody pair - the swallows' nest now shows feathers above the mud - all on course.

We are a bit stiff today so no gardening after we returned from Wigan. Boy, you should have seen R dancing to the song, 'The Snake'.

The garden has drunk the rain with a welcome and the azaleas are out on the banking - we bought three from Weasdale Nurseries near Ravenstonedale.

So this week I will have to get back to dealing with weeds as they have loved the warmth and rain as much as any other plant.

One place there are no weeds is in the small bed to the right of the top path. The part nearest house has been stuffed with oriental poppies - watch this blog for more when the flower.

Enough - enough dancing, enough food, enough drink, enough chat - wedding over, weeding to begin!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


They are repairing the nest under the eaves by the front door (which we hardly use) with mud from beside the pond.

We are not deserted though the house martins have taken up lodgings elsewhere.

Life is good with asparagus coming out of both ears!
R has been tidying the long grass around the copper beech hedge - still in its infancy - and I am a mowing and stuff.
The first rose is in bud as are both the wisterias - I must have pruned them correctly. We have both a blue/lilac one and a white one entwined near the kitchen door. Strangely one twists clockwise and the other anticlockwise, one flowers before the leaves come and the other after.

Yesterday went to Muncaster Castle to see the bluebells and azaleas - and also this Insect House built by a local school. I bet they didn't have planning permission.

What else to report from the garden - the service engineer has broken the top of the machinery housing on the septic tank, my knees are kna****** (worn out) and I am very limpish, the tadpoles are being fed on the fat/rind from a gammon - but do they like cloves? - I nearly cut a small frog in half by a ditch, the persistent east wind is cold and has brought quite a few twigs off the ash trees, the ash trees are really struggling to get into leaf as is the Wayfaring tree, the wood white butterflies are doing their mating dance, spiralling up in the woodland sun and the coal tits must be almost as exhausted as the chiffchaff. The coal tits are going back and forth, back and forth and so on feeding their young with seeds from the feeders, the chiffchaff never stops singing and it is such a tiny bird.

Still no rain though it is forecast for the weekend. This is the warmest and definitely driest spring I can remember. Going to a wedding Saturday so that might bring the rain.

Wasn't the picture of the US president (small p like me at present) watching the Bin Laden raid in the White House from a head camera, via helicopter, via satellite like something out of Science Fiction!
ps. Am I the only one getting Osama and Obama confused?
Hang on one of them is dead - but was he really buried at sea?
Another candidate for the Elvis syndrome.

Monday, 2 May 2011


Drought - drought - drought!

In the beginning the wind has come from a strange direction - east north east - and has snapped the wires on some of the raspberries. This has had to be replaced and several canes tied in again.

This tall thin image shows the asparagus bed in the foreground, a heap of wood waiting to be cut for the woodburner on the right of the rhubarb forcing pot (yes, I know the lid looks strange - it is a dish in which to stand a pot), smaller wood beyond for stakes and such, and in the distance the Wendy House with the door open. R is in residence.

The pot was bought for £1 at a sale at Sea Wood House at Bardsea - no one wanted a pot without a lid.

After going to the gym - yes, the gym - this morning - Bank Holiday Monday and no one there - and after lunch R trimmed the grass edges to paths and then disappeared into the depths of the Wendy House to continue writing her novel.

I, rejoicing in not using the strimmer, set the mower on
high and savaged much
wasteland, scattering mowings into the gale.

The three last photographs show the garden on Mayday - yesterday - and I have changed the date on my watch because there is no 31st April.

Time to put the kettle on and make two mugs of tea. Time to interrupt the creative moment.

I leave you as a split personality - well many you have known that for years - I shall sit in the sun, one half loving the dry weather and the other half on bended knee praying for rain - and the other half wanting both - just rain at night - so there you are - a man of three halves!

Sunday, 1 May 2011


When last in Liverpool R and I went to the National Wildflower Centre at Court Hey not far from the Knotty Ash (no Doddy jokes) turnoff from the M62.

The place looked like it could have done with a little care and attention but its aims are admirable - especially the education of school children.

We had a wander around and came across this interesting sundial before a bite to eat.

Court Hey used to be a field belonging to Lord Derby and a house was built there by William Gladstone's brother Robert.

I bought some cornflower and field poppy seed. This was sown next day in an impoverished part of waste ground near the wood. Generally wildflowers and grasses do not like rich soil.

The second picture here shows some orange tulips and a sundial at The Nook.
The sundial is on an old piece of sandstone which came out of the wall of our previous house - a barn conversion.

The sundial came from R's father's and mother's house on Queen's Drive in Liverpool and before that her Grandmother's house.

It tells the time fairly well even though the gnomon is a bit bent at the top. Of course, with the British obsession with changing time in spring and autumn the dial has to be turned to account for the hour altering.

To the garden - now watering, trying to keep the pond level up as the tadpoles have a bit to go yet - they like cheese and leftover meat we have discovered!

Daughter and family here this weekend which is lovely but tiring for an old fogey like me.

So the garden has moved into a maintenance phase - mowing, weeding, deadheading, trying to rescue blighted goosegogs - sawfly and mildew - AND picking asparagus - ten minutes to snap and scrape the stems, steam and on the table with a little melted butter - yum!

And the swallows and house martins have still not made up their minds - or they have and have gone somewhere with a better mattress and fuller english breakfast!