Tuesday, 30 October 2012


What do you do if the two gardeners living at a site disagree about the garden?

One wants a more formal room structure to the garden with neat hedges, well drained lawns and a separate wild garden. The other likes a random appearance with an evolving garden where wild and more formal blend into one another.
The first is tidy and organised, the second is not.

The image of the pittosporum ball illustrates the dilemma - R loves to prune and shape and control the plants. She would be a topiary fanatic if let loose.
This does have some advantages - the cutleaved elder needed taking back to near the ground to get new young growth next year. So I let her at it.

The pressure is building and I think I am losing. The jungle is being tamed and threats of diggers and drains looms.
I have a rough patch by the stream where yellow rattle, ragged robin and teasel thrive and so far she had been thwarted in attempts to "tidy this up".

Now to something a lot more threatening - the ash tree disease. As usual the powers that be have footled about when action was needed but, probably, the spread was unavoidable, sooner or later.

The problem is our small mature woodland area is 80% Ash. Some of the younger trees are beautifully shaped and then older ones a haven for wildlife.

One question begs to be answered - why import ash saplings?
In the spring and summer seedlings are everywhere and surely this country could have provided its own young trees.
Of course then there is the question of MONEY! It was almost certainly cheaper to get them from abroad.
One consolation is that, by the time it reaches here, there will be little point in burning all the wood to prevent its spread and we will have enough logs to last us until we are 150!

(from the Norse)

Ash .....
our flesh is your wood,
you are the Tree of the World*,
you are my hammer haft,
and cleft the cure of my child.
Your flesh comes late,
goes so soon.

Ash .....
when your leaves fall
your limbs are bare and grey.
When a gale blows
your one-winged keys
spin to another day;
your black caps mourn.

Ash .....
your wood is white
and hardened in the years;
your sawn branch
cleaves well, burns long.
Summers ascend in smoke,
and that which remains ..........


Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Well, no - it is the traditional cream colour.

Not very green then - but -
we rarely have the central heating on, as, with the kitchen door and other doors open, it heats the whole house,
we do not have a tumble drier, do not need one,
we do not have and electric toaster, kettle, coffee machine and so on,
our appliance will last for years and years - no need to replace items including cookers - and how much ‘carbon’ is burned making those things and creating the electricity to run them?
When I calculate the cost of running it with how much I would have to pay out to run all the substitutes then I think I win!

And, last of all, it is a wet winter’s day and you come in from the garden to a wonderfully warm kitchen . . .
And imagine being a cat or a dog and lying down on the floor and stretching out in the warmth . . . let alone reviving a newborn lamb in a box in the warming oven with the door open.

So, I await the backlash . . .

To the garden - the ash trees have all lost their leaves now and I have been collecting leaves for leaf mould and putting them in my big builder’s bag - see photo. I could get a blower but the two pieces of wood and the broom work very well. I looked at last year’s leaf mould and it is about three quarters of the way to being good - they do compost slowly.

The sun has just come out and the coal tits emerged to raid the birdfeeder. The other day we were in the kitchen when R noticed a big bird sitting on top of the feeder pole.
It was a Peregrine!! Obviously it was looking for lunch. Geese are going over regularly from Duddon to Morecambe Bay and vice versa. Frost is forecast for Friday.

The enormous sack of daffs and other narcissi never seems to empty. Have just planted under the willow tunnel sides so should be good in the spring and gets me out of cutting and tidying there until July when the bulbs have fattened up for next year.

It is so still outside, as if the world is waiting for - winter, weather, what?
What? The top pond has sprung a leak and needs rescuing. This serves me right for just digging a hole and not lining it, also the summer downpours have dumped a load of mud and silt in it so it is only very shallow. Now, excavating that is a back-ache job which I have just partially done.
At least water has returned and levels have risen.

 I have still not repaired the cold frame tops as I got the measurements wrong and haven’t got back to the shop - anyway the wood store needs a gutter so the list grows.

And then there is the 1960s shame to get over of being member 18950 of the Teen and Twenty Disc Club from Radio Luxembourg - 10 pm after the Deep River Boys - Member number 1 - J Saville!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The main image is a view of the Wendy House from the bog area. R has been slaving away down there cutting back the long growth (and uncovering frogs).
The sweet peas have stopped flowering and are on the compost heap - roots left in the soil with their nitrogen fixing bacteria. The wallflowers I sowed earlier in the year are a bit moth-eaten but okay now I have weeded around them. I have pruned the lower parts of the willow tunnel and the prunings have gone to a friend as wands to be pushed into the ground on his small holding for a nascent hedge.

The other two pictures are of fruit - two of our few damsons and our one meal's worth of Victoria Plums.

As the cauliflowers and beetroot have not been a raving success (or any success) (well, did get one big beetroot) I have been searching the market stalls for the cheapest good quality veg and have made Borscht and Cauliflower and Cumin soups. These are now in the freezer.

The asparagus has been cut back and the ferns put on the bonfire (which has no chance of lighting without a flame thrower).
I have potted up tulips, and daffs for outside pots and popped some yellow pansies in the top as this looked good last year. One of the tulips I used was the striking 'Queen of the Night' - almost black. Three small pots of daffs have been put under the sink in the utility room in the, probably vain, hope they will flower for Christmas.

In the garden the coal tits - I have counted 7 at once on the feeders outside the window - are busy burying the sunflower seed. We came home the other day as a mute swan went over its wings whooshing loudly and the buzzard has come back to its tree by the wood.

On the hoggin path a curious fungus has emerged - Orange Peel Fungus - Aleuria aurantia - a rich deep colour against the drab path. There is not too much sign this year of the dreaded honey fungus but it still lingers near some old wood chippings. If you dig a little you find the 'bootlaces' of its mycelium.

In the garden we recycle as much as possible, plastic bottles at the bottom of big tubs rather than crocks (this makes the tub lighter and you need less compost), willow wands all over the place, compost, leaf mould and so on - voice in back of my head - "You are repeating yourself" - well, the garden repeats - seasons and thus, so do I. (Senility does not help.)

Soon it will be shrub moving, tree planting time.
"We have enough trees!"
Mmm! I have just entered a competition where the first prize is £2000 worth of trees.
I will just have to get one giant redwood then.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


- that is the question.

As I sit here watching the ash leaves fall like yellow snow onto the lawn that I have just mown, (a great way of collecting the leaves), I am undergoing an internal debate over whether to leave the dead stems of perennials till spring or tidy up the garden, get it spruce before the winter.

The control freak in me wants to make it all organised, manured and ready for next year. The naturalist wants me to leave it all for the wildlife. The grasses would be left anyway - they look so spectacular in a hoar frost.

Do I cut back the phlox, dig up all the bolted leeks, fork over beds, clear the streams - or not?

R has trimmed the vegetation at the side of the stream and I can now see it has silted up with the debris washed down by the storm rain - of which we have had plenty this summer. Though it is autumn, summer is back again today - it is raining.

We are just back from southwest Scotland where they are at least a week nearer winter. We went to the Wigtown Book Festival and heard Miriam Darlington on her book on otters - 'Otter Country'. Afterwards we walked around the White Loch of Myrton. The dreaded Japanese Knotweed was there as well as a strong bloom of green algae. The more the farmers fertilise the fields the worse this will get.

Whilst we were away it must have poured down for the track up to the house has developed channels where the water has washed away the lighter chippings.

Despite fruit and veg disasters this year one success has been the carrots planted in plastic tubs with the bottoms knocked out. Supermarkets cannot compete with the sweetness of newly pulled carrots.
Yet, I have had to go to the market and but beetroot and cauliflowers for our soup. I did wait until they came down to a reasonable price. As it is raining this afternoon will be cooking day, make soup, pot it in plastic containers and freeze.
In the depths of winter there is nothing as good as hot home made soup for lunch. Well, perhaps a deep-fried Mars Bar and chips with chutney and mushy peas? (I do not really mean that.)

I wonder about myxomatosis being back - lately we seem to have had only a solitary rabbit in the garden; the same cannot be said of the squirrels, which must have bred like rabbits. (I know that is not genetically accurate and we are talking dreys not warrens but you get the gist.)

Another puff of wind and another leaf-storm outside my window, time for home made soup.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


So, between the showers and rain
I have failed to get a tan.

However the garden has turned colour early.
The shrubs and trees we planted over the last few years, especially with autumn in mind are strutting their stuff. Even the fig leaves (not needed in such a cold wet summer) have gone a lovely pale yellow. (So have the raspberries but that is another story that has gone viral.)

Here are some of the shrubs etc.

The first is Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' which was given to me by my elder sister and is now about six years old. I have trimmed the wispy bits of dead twig they seem to get at the end of the branches to make things tidy. Tidiness is not one of my fortes but the wildlife in the garden will not mind.

In a row of three are, from left to right, Euonymus elatus. Liquidambar styraciflua and Rhus typhina 'Dissecta'.

The insect life has not yet left the garden and the last of the swallows, possibly going south from the far north, still fly about.
Last year I planted some Verbena bonariensis, (an 'in' flower), with not much success but this year they have been tremendous.

They are in amongst the roses and Japanese Anemones with an underplanting of a large catmint.

Now, there are always a few surprises at this time of year - I don't mean yet another heavy shower though I have just run around the bird feeders topping them up before the heavenly taps are turned on again (we have 8 feeders) - for instance, an oriental poppy has decided to open a bud and blaze away in the greenery.

I will also have a few bonfire dilemmas to come.
1. Will it be full of creatures - thinking of hedgehogs and so on?
2. Will it light?!! It is so sodden it might just have to be left to rot down to compost.
3. Can I even get to it as the surrounding cut turf is squelchy?
4. Do we buy fireworks? Well, the answer to that one is only if the grandchildren are here.

It is interesting how this time of year affects different people differently.
For some this is the best time of year, for others the looming threat of S.A.D. hovers in the increasing darkness.

For me spring seems a long way away at the moment and between now and then there is a lot of clearing up and manure shifting to be done.
I just hope next summer is worth waiting for. This one was literally a wash-out. I can count on my fingers the number of days when the temperature has been into the 70s.

Sad, isn't it?