Thursday, 28 June 2012


This is a way to the wood, it meets the steps at the far end. on the right is a mature ash and an elder with a Rambling Rector rose climbing into the upper branches.
Also on the right are brambles and ground elder - tolerated but kept under some sort of vague control.
The wood is full of campion and foxgloves in June.

Enough - what I really want to talk about is - What is and eco-garden?
I have no windmills, solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, most of the garden work is done by hard work and well-rotted horse manure.
I do have machines - mowers and strimmers - but they are necessary for I would need to pay gardeners without them. Having said that I did succumb last year when not so fit to having a strong man strim and clear the bankings and wood (not the wild nettle and bramble beds).
I allow wild flowers and grasses to flourish in selected areas so with the wild we also have some lawn, flower beds and veg and fruit beds.
The garden is a compromise between anarchy and control - neither winning.
I suppose the 'eco' bit means ecologically sound? But to which ecology does this apply - eco and organic are not the same thing.
This leads on to the term 'Green' and all that that conjures in the mind.
In the end all one can do is try to give more to our planet than we take, protect more than destroy.
So, if we get on to the bigger picture the greatest problem the planet faces is us.
We are the plague that threatens the world - come on politicians, address the population problem rather than ignore it.
If the population of Britain was 25 million we could be ecologically sound, self-sufficient, cease to rape out world.

Enough ranting - this is an image of the side of one of my compost heaps - a living willow fence. I know - it might draw much of the goodness from the heap but it is attractive.

Todays news is flash flooding with the stream bursting its banks in several places and total failure in chasing off the squirrels from the bird feeders - it consists of me shouting through the window, "I can see you," and the animal(s) retreating for 5 minutes and then returning - I give up.
The top banking is full of goldfinches and the sun has just come out and is lighting them up.

When the place is so wet all I can do is stay out of the garden and let nature have its wicked way - is that being eco?

I do not know - in the end I do my own thing, enjoy having nature all around me and tinker with it when I feel it is appropriate.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


I have put the picture of the path up into the woodland are first to show how it looks in early spring. The grass is short for we strim some of it in early autumn to encourage wild flowers next year - much like a hay meadow.
The steps, for what they are are made from scaffolding planks discarded by a local company as unsafe and they can be bought for a pound or two each. Wood chippings are used for the path - or were until I broke the shredder.
Now this area is a jungle of wildflowers and long grasses, some beautiful like the wood melick. Paths thread the chaos with single planks to cross the streams.

In then garden the roses are getting underway - this one is Rosa rubifolia because of its purple leaves and resembles the briars growing at the woodland edge and in the hedges. Though we only have the dog rose in the garden the field rose and downy rose do grow nearby.

A friend, (or was it family?), said that I should talk about water. As we have nothing but rain here, except for Monday when I slogged around a wet garden mowing, I should say that shortage is not a problem. Not only do we have a small stream but our own water supply. There are two wells in the garden - not suitable for human consumption and a borehole. It cost a third of the price the water board wanted to charge to bring in the mains supply.
Finally to stones.


On digging new ground for potatoes I found four tide smooth stones.

“Tom brought them here,” his daughter said, “To edge beds.”

Our stones fill corners, sit on logs, fill old bowls -

slate slabs from Luing inset with cubes of shining pyrites,

rock crystal from Corfu, 1969, still exotic,

gathered from a quarry on our honeymoon,

pebbles from Menorca when the octopus grabbed my ankle

on the snorkelling beach and I yelped with alarm,

white quartz from a crag near Goats Water carried down

the old track to Little Arrow through Bannishead,

heavy haematite looking like half an enormous brain

lugged from Newgale in a backpack, now a doorstop,

small stone eggs harvested from the shore at Roanhead

whilst Jethro and Willow excavated mountains of sand,

pink Ionan granite from the beach opposite Eilean Annraidh

where we stood and stared north at Western Mull and Staffa,

slag from the bloomery by the lake near Napping Tree

where we would swim and cook sausages on a wood fire.

When my father died I took a dark brown stone from Bardsea Beach

and rolled it in my pocket like a Rosary, a comfort.

All these places, memories and events are now collected in our garden,

waiting in the shadows to be seen and surprise me.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


The big mower sleeps.
It rained and the pond overflowed, the small bridges were shoved up in the air and grass flattened.

The crambe lies on then lawn
as does much of the cut-leaved elder, some of the buddleia. The lovage is at an awkward angle but worst of all the twelve foot grey poplar is on its side. Rain and wind coupled with sodden ground and shallow rooting have done it.
I have been out with stakes and ties to hold it upright and then placed heavy stones around the base to stabilise the roots.
Everywhere is full of the sound of rushing water but, fortunately, the house is well above the stream.
It must be summer - midsummer? "With a hey and a hey and a hey nonny-no, the rain it raineth every day!" (Sort of Bill S).

To the more mundane I almost feel sorry for the bedraggled rabbits and squirrels - almost.

We ate both broccoli and curly kale from the garden with our meal last night - freshly picked food tastes so much better and I had to remove only one caterpillar - small white butterfly, I think.

The two compost heaps
by the house are overflowing and it is time to move the contents. In the picture you can see a big builders sack - this is the leafmould container slowly doing its job.

We have had a lot of fledging going on - chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches, blue tits, great tits and coal tits, house sparrows and tree sparrows, in the undergrowth skulking robins.

In the wood leaves and twigs are everywhere - it always amazes me how much dead wood an ash tree can carry.

We are gearing up for the grandchildren - pools to fall in, paths in the wood to explore, nettles to sting - you know.
Actually they will probably sit on the floor of their bedroom in a sea of lego oblivious tothe wonders in the garden - but happy.

Friday, 22 June 2012


It is raining rabbits and squirrels (no cat, no dog).
The birds, unlike here in the sunshine, are damp and hungry - I wonder if the swallow and martin young will survive as the parents cannot catch food in this weather?

In the garden, wild or tame, there grow wild herbs and other plants that can be harvested.

The stream has abundant watercress - so much it chokes the top pond, and this can only be eaten cooked as the water drains from a field in which cattle and sheep graze - the danger of liver flukes can be ignored but . . . .

We have our patch, or should I say patches, of nettles - vital for wildlife especially insects, a swather of wild garlic and one of ground elder. (The Romans brought that one here.) There are elder trees with flowers and fruit for jam, cordial - elderflower fritters are great, brambles (blackberries), sweet cicely (aniseed flavoured leaves) and Spignel (Meum athamanticum) a dill substitute.

So have you ever eaten a pignut? They are very hot and peppery and grow in the open part of the wood amongst the campion.

The hazels in the hedge that was laid last year will soon have nuts and there grows a wild plum and blackthorn (sloes).

The lovage is out of control and 8 feet high - and still growing.

When we first came my sister-in-law gave us half a dozen damson suckers from their orchard and last year we had our first damsons. The trees were planted traditionally - at the edge of the property except for one near the veg. beds.
The wild roses give us hips - more for itching powder than rose hip syrup. When I was at school we were paid 3 old pence a pound for rosehips and I still have a collectors badge somewhere. Rosehip syrup is full of vitamin C.
Once I made some rowanberry jelly but it was so laxative we had to discard it.

We have not tried collecting birch sap yet and the maple is too small for syrup - one day, perhaps.

Enough, the squirrel has just pulled the bottom of the peanut feeder by the compost heaps - sigh!

Sunday, 17 June 2012


The idea for this came to me this afternoon whilst visiting a village nearby under the National Gardens Scheme.

The first image is of the lower garden looking through the white birches and the willow tunnel to the Writing Shed.

Next is the House as seen from the Wood showing the mass of red campion there and one of the many nesting boxes - this one has a great tit in it.

From the wood the stream tumbles through roots down a banking and past some planting including a red Acer and Royal Fern.
We do cut back some of the longer grass here to reveal the water and to make sure the stream does not get clogged.

In the driest weather this can dry up but that has not yet happened this year.

After that there is a panoramic shot of the woodland lawn. The undergrowth on the right, beneath the sycamore tree, is full of wild bluebells in spring whereas the tangle on the left has some willow growing in it which I harvest for hurdles and such. It also has such wild flowers as Hogweed and wild Angelica.
Other flowers in the wood, apart from the campion, include Herb Robert, Pignut and Foxgloves.

Of course there are also brambles and nettles, the latter important for butterflies.
We did try, in the spring, to harvest nettle tops and eat them like spinach but, to be honest, they were pretty poor, at least not to my taste.

At the south east corner of the
garden is bog, stream and two ponds. Here we get toads and frogs, water snails and beetles, water boatmen and pond skaters, damselflies and dragonflies.

The main pond is not lined (hence it sometimes leaks). The boardwalk is made from discarded scaffolding planks.

So now to the vegetable beds and fruit growing. In the picture, from
left to right, are the herb bed and cold frame, gooseberries, red and black currants and raspberries. Beyond this are the vegetable beds, two enclosed in chicken wire to keep the bunnies out, a rhubarb bed and asparagus bed. On the right are fruit trees - Bramley Apple, Victoria Plum, Conference Pear and Greengage. Beyond this is the horse manure heap and compost bins

In front of the house is a very dry banking with a shallow cover of soil over the hard core upon which the house stands. Here grow many grey leaved and aromatic plants, calendulas and geraniums.

Finally the flower beds with roses and paeonies, cardoon and crambe, aquilegias and pinks and self sown foxgloves.
The garden is full of alchemilla and catmint, poppies self seed and this year we had our first flowers on the wisteria.
And now, having done this tour I realise that some of the most important aspects of the garden are missing - the view over Morecambe Bay to the Forest of Bowland thirty or more miles away, the sound of spring lambs in the fields around us, the birdlife - not just on the feeders but visits from mallard, buzzard, heron and jays.

This is now long enough.
There is plenty more at where I have been spouting about the garden for a few years.


The gutters cannot cope and a waterfall splashes down outside the kitchen.
It is summer!
Well is it?
Midsummer's day is clearly in the wrong place - yes, it is the summer solstice, but midsummer - never.
Here in the UK summer is June, July and August, autumn is September and October, spring is April and May and winter is November, December, January, February and March! At least it feels like that - and then you have a week with temperatures in the seventies in March and we all freeze in May.

Of course, if the British had no variations in weather we would have little to discuss.

The picture of the garden and house is taken from the far south western corner by the white birches. The stream winds across the foreground, (the rain was so heavy yesterday the stream lifted one of the wooden bridges (really planks) into the air), the wood is to the left and the ponds and boggy areas off to the right.

The broom on the banking below the house has been dramatic. However it does have the habit of scattering its offspring about - not always quite what I want.

So to the slimy chewers.
I have planted out more white Cosmos and each has its own bottomless plastic pot with a band of copper tape.
I have done the same with the last pumpkin but I have never seen such fat snails. Last winter was not hard and cold enough so much mollusc life overwintered.

A jay has just landed on a post outside the study window - British parrots? They are so twitchy and timid - unlike the grey squirrels.

At least with all the rain the rhubarb does not need watering.
The white lilac has gone brown - deadheading in order.
We are seeing many young birds now, bullying their parents - is anything new?
Now I have a Carrion crow on the shed roof.
I hope the swallow and house martin young have managed to ride out the rain as the adult birds find it difficult to feed their young in such conditions.

It is time to venture out and sow another lot of beetroot - I think the pigeons got the last lot. They are great fat birds waddling about under the feeders. No wonder the peregrine takes them for a slap up meal - to eat, I mean, not takes them out to lunch . . . . you know what I mean.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Just back from a fantastic wedding at Cashel House Hotel in Connemara and its wonderful gardens where one can wander through the shrubbery and woods to be surprised by unexpected corners such as Mary's Garden.

Arrived home to be dazzled by the oriental poppies growing as I had hoped at the foot of the upper banking.

Set off by a burst of white soapwort and the green of foliage and grass they are a knock-out.
More will be planted - I want the whole bed to be just oriental poppies - I can sort out what to do with the area for the rest of the year later.

The flowerbed was not the only place where there is a blaze of oriental red.

In the long grass of the banking below the toffee trees (cercidiphyllum)(the autumn leaves smell of caramel) is a poppy from before we built the house. The previous owner, T.J., had these and they have survived, now growing as if wild.

We returned to a whirl of house martins - as hoped we are being colonised and, in addition to the nest under the west gable we now have two more under the east gable (and the swallow above the front (back) door). (The front door is at the back of the house.)

To more edible things - here you can see broad beans sown in succession being protected by twine and alkathene piping - gaudy but seems to work.
The plastic tubs, bottoms knocked out, have carrots in them. I do this to avoid carrot fly which zooms around at zero feet much like incoming cruise missiles. With the carrots being up in the air they whizz past in search of another target. (I hope!)

Just mowed lawns and hit a small stone with blades - so, out with fork and dig it up then fill hole - stone was huge 2ft x 1ft x 1ft or a lot in metres.

There is a feeling of impending rain in the air so I am glad to have done the grass cutting - anyway the mower has to go off for a service now.

Done lawn, had shower, have mugga tea.

Next wedding end July - C, son and P. Need to lose weight ++ so exercise ++++ and food ---- for 6 weeks.

On the other hand I may just wear a different suit?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


This is one of the paths in our small piece of woodland.

So, I asked myself, (if one talks to trees I suppose it is ok to talk to myself), if you could work magic in the garden what would you chose.

Several thoughts spring to mind - manure that transports itself, weeds that commit suicide all in the greater cause, birds that do not fly into windows, squirrels that are red - I could tolerate them if they were not so grey, rabbits that ate only long grass, slugs and snails that emigrate every morning to next door (next door is a field), paving that did not get slippery and need power washing AND a machine that strimmed by itself.

Ah! I can only dream.

This is a marigold, one of the ones that overwintered and now are flowering profusely.
It is redolent with Fibonacci numbers as its petals spiral out from the centre, it is just that it is not easy to see here.

R loves orange, not oranges but the colour. So I search for orange geums and wallflowers and oriental poppies and so on.
Marigolds are right up her street but she likes these big ones not the small tagetes.

No matter what colour there is in the garden, and most of it is green, greys and more importantly whites are essential.

I like red so the oriental poppy Goliath does well as does Geum Mrs Bradshaw seen here.

Something has munched the Cosmos Annabelle seedlings - rabbits I think - and I saw them escaping up into the brambles by the far wall - investigation needed.

As per Monty Don on Gardeners' World, the asparagus is very poor and now needs feeding and leaving alone - only 3 meals from the whole bed.
Roses are out and in a vase in the hall with a large sprig of Kolkwitzia, the beauty bush. Strangely, its flowers look much better in an arrangement than on the bush.

The other morning I looked out of the living room window to see, sitting on the willow tunnel, a tawny owl. We hear them at night, hooting and squeawking. (The sound is nether an squeak nor a squawk).

It is still chilly, wooly combinations and flat hat (I do live up north) on, swimming cozy well shut away in a drawer.