Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Presumably because I am not a duck or a frog.
Good day/bad day, dry day/wet day, what next?

Finally got into the garden this morning and put up the buzzard - it was sitting on top of the bonfire - (not lit). R cut back the remaining geraniums and tidied well whilst I trimmed the santolina - taking heeled cuttings as usual - and cut down the lovage.
I saved a few stems for drying and making into pea-shooters for the grandchildren. Won’t I be popular!
Some of the plants in the garden are huge this year. The Japanese anemones are six feet tall and the cardoon is ten feet high and growing.
Now, I said that we had no damsons - well, we have three and a half (a small one). Not going to be a very big crumble though, nor will the three Bramley apples. Still, we had over 20 pounds of blackcurrants and loads of raspberries.

Then I began the heavy job of moving compost.
We have three compost bins, one with two bays and about three grass heaps. Today I emptied one bay and wheeled it down to a heap at the far end of the garden. Then I moved the compost in the remaining bay sideways mixing it well. All the time I was forking away I was followed by our robin - it waits for me to turn the soil and then searches for food.

Today we found that the main path, a hoggin one, has developed a gelatinous fungus - a curious revolting thing, shuddery to touch.

I cannot mow the lawn - there is still standing water in the tracks from the mower wheels and I do not want to do more damage.

We have three large plants growing wild in the garden - most abundant is the Wild Angelica, then the prolific Teasel loved by goldfinches and lastly the nasty Hogweed. Beware the sap of this plant - it blisters worse than that of Rue - I know - I strimmed with sleeves rolled up and paid the price.

And the giant pumpkin - big as a kumquat - it fell off in the last downpour.
This is not a pumpkin (or fig) year.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


(Vaughan Monroe, Bobby Vinton)

After 278 blogs I am repeating myself. This is not surprising as the garden goes round with the year and things come back again and again.

So I apologise if I say things more than once, like, I have been attacked by a horsefly AGAIN! - AND IT IS RAINING - what a summer! I know I go on about the rain but it really has been an awful summer. (Unless you are a rhubarb plant.) (Or a bog one.)

The garden is full of birdsong once more and the birds are queuing at the feeders. Mrs Pheasant wanders around with her four offspring. The other morning she sat down in the grassy centre of the track to he house. R was on her way out in the car. The bird, grudgingly, moved and the four chicks emerged from her feathers and skittered about before diving after Mum into the undergrowth. Just noticed the house martins are beginning to build again under the gable end - seems a bit late to me but I suppose there will give them a ready nest next year. If I go out of the kitchen door I am assailed by swallows as they try to chase me away from the nest above me.

An extract from this blog has appeared in The English Garden magazine on the Wiggly Wigglers page - about jam and chutney making. Ah! Fame at last.
Just got my Wiggly pack and the birds have got the seed - Thank you!

Fruit - this year is a damson, plum, greengage, pear disaster. Hot weather in March, then frost in April - nothing has set. The outdoor tomatoes have flowers but no fruit either - virtually no bees around to pollinate them. Or is it just too wet?

Despite providing flowers for my son’s wedding at the end of July the plants have recovered. (We did not have enough sweet peas then but were allowed to raid G and L’s garden as they were away - thanks to them for saving our bacon.)

R asks me what she can do in the garden - well, everything! No, that is a bit mean, so she has done a great job weeding the asparagus bed and the veg beds.

Now, how is this for a hobby - ditch digging! It should be in the Olympics - ditch digging and hedge-laying? and ploughing? Have just cleared out the channel between the pond and the Wendy House (for the uninitiated the Wendy House is an insulated wired up shed R uses for writing and doubles as a cheap spare room with a sofa bed.) This is heavy work and tough for an old codger so have to have a cuppa after a welcome shower.

Talking of showers - as I consistently repeat myself with the word RAIN I will correct that for today.
The sun is shining!!

(More precipitation due tomorrow)

This is tomorrow - the lawn is growing and IT IS RAINING!

Friday, 17 August 2012


This is, of course, Meadowsweet which grows abundantly in the wet areas of the garden. Its scent is heady but it is prone to mildew.

Which brings me to wet.

It is raining again. The paper today announces a heatwave - get the barbecues out - but only for the South East. Hey you journalists, there are other people living in the UK. In fact more of us live north of Watford then South of it.
It always amazes me how, on the BBC forecast, they whizz up the east coast (or down) round Scotland, to N.I., Wales and the South West, along the channel and back to the Midlands and East Anglia. Nobody lives in North West England (let alone the Isle of Man).

Back to gardening - I have been down in the bottom corner clearing out the lush growth from the streams - watercress by the armsful. (Is there a word armsful or should it be arms full?) (Prefer the former so there is a word armsful now - take note OED) I have decided to start at the lowest point and work upwards through the ponds.

One side effect of working there is wetleg.
(Another new word.)
So far the wellies do not leak - but the trousers do.

My boardwalk made from cast off scaffolding planks is beginning to crumble. Odd planks are giving way and I cannot face replacing them all.
So it is patch and mend, stick new old planks on top of the bad ones. This will mean more chicken wire around each plank as they become very slippery when wet.

Now, talking of rain, sometimes it freezes and I took this image the other day - in summer. Sadly I missed the weed growing under the wisteria.

Finally to the disease mentioned in the title of this blog - LAWN CUTTING AVOIDANCE COMPLEX.
I am not an obsessive compulsive mower and edge trimmer. As my wife sometimes hints - I like the wild and disorganised look a bit too much. I do have and Armani suit which I wear once every three years but am usually a bit frayed at the edges, cuffs (sleeves rolled up like my Dad did) and collar. Comfortable rather than smart is the motto and this also applies to the garden.

Ah! Yes - mowing, I put it off yesterday and luckily the grass is now too wet.
It is time we had a drought so the grass stops growing and I have no dilemma - should I, will I - etc?

On a lighter note - the house is full of sweet peas. I am picking almost every day. The scent is glorious. I have kept their predators at bay this year.

I must go to Harlow Carr outside Harrogate (RHS), they have a sweet pea bonanza going on, and drown in the scent - if it is not raining or the lawn needs mowing.

Saturday, 11 August 2012


This is the lower garden down by the Wendy House looking up from the decking. The rail is by a footbridge and then a boardwalk meanders through the swamp. (Well, boggy area.) On the left are irises, white valerian and candelabra primulas, in the foreground alchemilla and beyond the rail is a pond, not that you can see it for growth at present. Another fine messy job I've got me into!
Not only the pond needs digging out but the various streams, the hedge ditch, the other pond and so on.
The land down there is so water logged that the amelanchiers have gone autumnal, (red leaves in the centre right), and then shed the lot.
The hedge to the left runs the length of the garden and is regrowing well after having been laid.
Other plants in this area include water cress (bane of my back), both plain and variegated flag iris, marsh thistle, ragged robin, assorted loosetrife, comfrey, pendulous sedge (beware it seeds itself everywhere and is a thug), hostas and euphorbia characias ssp Wufenii amongst others.
The pond is WILD! This means it is left to itself for most of the year and then brought back into the fold before it gets too out of hand. (As it is at the moment.) It is full of water snails, caddisfly larvae in their little houses, boatmen, pondskaters, damsel flies etc.

Now to grub - these are the last of the broad beans - disappointing but with the weather and lack of bees to fertilise them, not too bad. Carrots are coming on and one turnip left, a little netting has protected the Brussels Sprouts from the worst of the cabbage white butterfly caterpillars.

The wild bank is truly wild and the long grasses backlit in the evening are a delight.

Now I hate to throw anything away - most can be used somewhere, composted or, as a last result, go on the November bonfire. (The ashes then go on the blackcurrants as a good source of potash.)

As a poor artist I had a lot of rather rubbishy paintings on hardboard which had been waiting for some time to be useful. When I built a lean-to woodshed a year or so back I needed a wall of some sort and, Voila! or Eureka! or whatever - a hammer and a nail or two and my paintings were of some use after all.

As we are having a short burst of summer it is time to return to the garden whilst I can. No excuses are left - the sun is shining, or at least it was before I came in to write this blog - now it is cloudy again.

R is in her writing house tapping at her keyboard - time for the waiter to bring her tea and a biccy. (Moi!)
Will I get a tip?
Probably something like - 'It is better if you don't let the teabag soak in the milk before you add the boiling water.'

Sunday, 5 August 2012


I thought summer had come as we ate our lunch in the garden - but that was not today.

The final broad beans were harvested, the bed dug over and raked and a rather late attempt to grow beetroot made. Last crop of black currants put in the freezer, old raspberry canes cut out, supporting posts and wires repaired and plants manured to stimulate new growth with well rotted horse manure from the stables outside our gate.

I cleared out the hedge by the wendy house and received a beauty of a horsefly bite to my left arm - they obviously objected to me taking the manure.

R deadheaded and pruned the senecio (the thing with a new name now) and the remains of its yellow flowers. Then she went down to the Wendy House and sat on the decking writing.
There were butterflies at last, unfortunately including the whites - brassicas beware - and the wild bank is now showing toadflax, corn cockle and henbit amongst other things.

Today began calm but milder than late and it looked like the sun might get out. Then a rumble of thunder and THE SKY FELL - not a turkey-lurkey nor a chicken-licken to be seen. It poured down and then, as if that was not enough, it hailed.

I suppose we are lucky it did not snow.

It was torrential and washed away my feeble stream crossings - just a load of old planks.

The leeks, grown in trenches, were in standing water and much of the manure, so carefully placed by the raspberries yesterday, was off to the sea.

British weather - no wonder we talk a lot about it - there is 
plenty to talk about as one never knows what is coming next (except rain) (but that is why the country is green). 

The Global Warming pundits warned that the north of Britain might get colder and wetter - they may well be right. The Olympic Games Committees have missed an opportunity - a Gold Medal for guessing what the weather will do next?

I wonder, after all the palaver in the spring, what I should do to conserve water?

Friday, 3 August 2012


I have been experimenting by trying to grow pumpkins and such on the edge of the old horse manure heap. I have fended off the slugs and snails with flowerpots, bottoms removed, upturned and banded with copper tape. The plants are growing, very slowly as we have had no sunshine or warmth (till a little 20C yesterday)(rained again last night) but I have succeeded in getting a pumpkin to set. The only trouble is that it is the size of a kumquat!

The raspberries are over except for a few and the birds will have those. We are eating turnips and broad beans and are swamped by black currants.
I have frozen them, jammed them, made cassis (yum!), bartered them (for eggs) and given them to friends.
Not got to jelly yet but that is a bit of a palaver. I would have rather had red currant jelly but the birds got to the fruit first.
Rhubarb still doing well with the rain, leeks look great and we have sweet peas at last.
Took some to my hippy sister in Kendal yesterday and used some in the flowers we did for my son and his now wife's wedding a week ago.

I am gearing myself up to one of my favourite pastimes - digging out ditches - it has to be done but I will be covered in mud and wet and tired by the end of it - perhaps tomorrow.
Down by the pond the irises are over but their leaf blades contrast well with the rambling mimulus and watercress - in fact watercress everywhere clogging up streams and ponds. Beside the pond the loosetrife is flowering - the deep pink wild purple one, the pale version and the yellow by the hedge.

I have begun to chop back the alchemilla before it seeds everywhere - it does this far too freely.

I keep telling the swallows nesting under the covered area outside the kitchen door that they do not need to fly from the nest every time I walk out. Clearly they do not speak English. The same cannot be said for the grey squirrels - it only takes a stentorian, "I can see you," from me and they are off up the trees.

I have tidied my shed, a little, and found three containers full of engine oil, three for cleaning car upholstery, and now have some space - had actually, as it now has a large television stand occupying a disproportionate area of floor - from my son - can you just store it for me, I will put it on ebay.

We have three sheds - one for the water tank from the borehole where I keep hosepipes and stuff, one with mowers and flowerpots and a bench and one with a small mower and more of my two sons' 'stuff'. Down by the pond we also have a Wendy House - well a shed where my wife writes. We needed more space and putting in this insulated shed was the cheapest option. There is a small area of decking between it and the stream - a sun trap - if we ever get to see the sun again.

It is not raining.
I have to go out in the garden to justify doing little for the rest of the day.
I think I will walk up into the wood where sudden sunlight has lit up the long grasses.