Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Here I am - just a stuck in the mud - lawn tractors are very heavy - I can vouch for that. Got stuck in boggy part of garden and in the end the only way out was to lift one end of the tractor sideways and then the other! All that is left now is a big muddy churned piece of lawn full of water. So out with the power spray and wash the machine then into the shower and wash the gardener.
I await the revenge of the injured back.

Bees a humming, summers a coming! First swallows over the house and everything cannot wait any longer. Buds breaking everywhere. Even the ash trees have got flower buds coming.
R is brambling amongst the bluebells - which are budding, the cold wind dropped today and finally some warmth. Mug of tea, seat in sun - aah!
There could be a frost tonight. We will now begin a month of fervent prayer for the blossom on the fruit trees. Last year a frost wiped out the lot.
Netting has been bought and installed around the flowering red currants. Last year it only took two days for the blackbirds and thrushes to eat the lot.

We have a gradually expanding primrose banking (there are a few wood anemones and bluebells,
celandines and such there too) by dividing every
year and replanting after flowering.
They are so pretty, especially in a small vase, and smell wonderful.
In Ireland the Primrose is the samhaircin, the May flower (the actual name by which it is known in Donegal, as in Shetland), the spring harbinger. (from The Englishman's Flora by Geoffrey Grigson).
He also list local names such as Buckie-faalie from Caithness, Butter Rose from Devon, and Simerin in Yorkshire (cf. Norse kusmyre, 'cow anemone'.)

The garden is peppered with tulip remnants - one here, a few there - unlifted in the autumn as buried deeply. They gradually wane in vigour, one of the worst for this being the pretty tulip Annabelle.

My son is trying to improve the appearance of this blog with great advice - actually his dad could do with a little (a lot I hear) attention - so if you see any change it is his fault. If it continues in its current state than all his advice has fallen on stony (no muddy) ground.

Currently Ulverston has its walking festival in full flow so I went to and event in the garden of Swarthmoor Hall (George Fox, Margaret Fell, quakers and stuff) where we sat on our backsides and sketched. I ate lunch and defaced a few sheets of drawing paper before consigning them to the bin when I got home. But it was peaceful and quakery in there.
My Great Great Grandfather and his wife visited Swarthmoor when they were on their honeymoon in June 1847. It was strange to imagine him sitting in the garden looking up at the old building just as I was 166 years later.

Friday, 26 April 2013


Heron back, frogs in hiding, transplanting cosmos seedlings, cock greenfinches fighting outside my window, blackbird attacking the window again, difference of opinion in house.
R has decided after all she is not a wild garden enthusiast, wants garden rooms a la Hidcote, big yew hedges etc. I mentioned that I am getting more decrepit and cannot wait for yew to grow, cannot afford a ready grown hedge.
IMPASSE! (Except I will give way somewhat as I love her.)

The garden is a bit here, a bit there, I suppose, a bit short of good planning. I take a corner and think - got some old blackcurrant cuttings - shove them in there, big empty patch of lawn needs six white birch. R thinks veg and fruit beds in wrong place - spent hours double digging and preparing them - cannot face starting that again.
Alas, alack, what shall I do.
Then an invite came - I could try and get some help - Helen Yemm it!
I cannot see the trees for the brambles, the garden needs a fresh pair of eyes, without floaters and soily glasses.
So I have sent off my blurb and a few photos, not to mention the address of this blog. (If that doesn't put her off nothing will.)
The first image is the view from the Wendy House (where R writes) up the garden over the boardwalk (rotting a bit) over the ponds (silting up). The thug plants in the foreground are pendulous sedge.

Molehills are all over the place but I have not the heart to borrow Barry's trap, end it all, make a waistcoat.
I take the soil and put it onto flowerbeds where there is a deficiency of depth. No doubt, one day, the big mower will disappear into a chasm.

The weather has turned much colder again today and I am glad I resisted the spring urge to put out tender plants too early. We are already three weeks late.

Talking of flowering currant bushes, big, pink and smelling a bit like cat wee, I just leave them. They were something left by the previous owner of the plot, Tom. Unfortunately the pink of their flowers does clash with the gaudy yellow of the daffs. The biggest clump hides an old well, an ugly black box covered in bitumen, and now wire netting to keep investigative grandchildren out.
There is also a Rambling Rector rose entangled in it.

It is Rs turn to do the flowers on Sunday at church so a big pick of the daffs is coming on - we have plenty - and they do not need fancy arranging - a big vase stuffed with daffs is splendid enough as it is.
The photo is of wild daffs - these are on the banking at the fringe of the wood - where the wood anemones, golden saxifrage and bluebells grow.

I dug out part of the small stream where it crosses the septic tank soak away - and into which the stream has been disappearing - lined it with pond liner and replaced the turf at the side and stones in the bottom.
It worked! The stream flows on, well twenty feet to the bend where it crosses the soak away again - there it disappears as before. 
More digging needed.
In fact R wants the stream to run in a completely different place - sigh!
Actually, with all the dry weather we have had recently it is hardly running anyway. The ponds and Duck cafe (pair of mallard) are kept going by the overflow from the septic tank and thus the house.
All I have to do to top it up is flush the loo or have a bath.
The taddies do not seem to mind.

After all that let me finish on a high note. Since we came I have been spreading and sowing candelabra primulas below the pond, as at Harlow Carr (but a bit more modest), and this year we are going to have a fantastic show which gives more seed etc etc.

Something for nowt! And I was born in Lancashire not the other place over the Pennines.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Moles - the hair's not working, the rabbits munching and hey-la-day-la the blackbird's back, hacking at himself in the windows at the back of the house, making a terrible mess as he has accidents in his excitement. I shall have to get some new expandable trellis and fit it into the window space on the outside - worked last time, took it down, thought he had gone away.

Oh! Yes, and the pheasants are mating right outside my study window, she reluctant(ish), he hop on, wham bam done and off. He follows her everywhere like a guard and yesterday was attacking wood pigeons under the feeder - I mean, it is not as if they would give her a second look, is it. However, if you look closely, her brown plumage is magnificent, not so gaudy as the boss, but fabulous.
He, obviously, is totally at the mercy of his hormones and his jealous mind. She is his Coo Ca Choo.

I have mown the lawn again using both mowers, big one for mass grass removal, small one for the boggy bits, difficult of access bits and awkward corners.

We survived the gale last week with only a few twigs off the ash trees and my Dwarf on his side, now put up again.

First beetroot and carrots sown as are first broad beans. I have covered the beetroot with alkathene hoops and netting to try and keep off the piddocks,  (pigeons). A new sage plant has been put in and paths have been weeded. Ah! Yes, weeding - it's only just begun.
Out from behind the shed have come my carefully saved bean sticks (bean sticks are a bit like pea sticks but larger) and these have been shoved in to support the broad beans when and if they come up.

Yesterday was a glorious day - how spring should be - but this morning is cooler and darker. I can smell the rain in the air. I am not sure my wife believes me when I say things like, 'It is going to snow, I can smell it.' But I can (or I am fantasising). It is surprising sometimes what can get up one's nose.

I you look at the image of the willow tunnel taken just over a week ago and then at the view from the house you can see how the garden has greened in such a short time with the warmth and rain.

The willow image also shows one of the new plantings we did of daffodils in the autumn. They are not doing quite as well as I had hoped but there happens to be a line of mole hills down each side. The mind of Mowdywarp mystifies me - why just in the line of the trees? Such a strange solitary creature living in its dark world. What fantastic hands though (R says - not hands - paws or something but not hands) for digging. With mitts like that who needs a spade.
Actually, if you look at paws, whatever, especially rodent 'paws', they are just like little hands - Oh! Hands, that is what they are.

Bama lama bama loo, that blackbird's at it again. Its latin name is Turdus merula. I am not sure about the merula bit but the other part is all over the window, the wall and the ground.
Must go, bucket in hand.
Anyone know an avian psychiatrist?

Thursday, 18 April 2013


We had a gale last night - twigs down, bench on its back, pots all over the place but the rain has now gone and things have calmed down. The daffs are fantastic - I just by a cheap sack every autumn and shove them in. Next year the plan is to fill the field hedge at the garden bottom.

Having planted one of my favourite flowers out in the autumn, snakes-head fritillaries, I went out today to admire them only to find that some devilish individual had snipped off all the buds.
So, a little research on the web was needed to reveal that fritillaries are a favourite food of RABBITS!
So, I have no chance - they live here, visit here, sunbathe here and dine here.
I could cover the flowers with netting but that defeats the aim of enjoying their bells blowing in the breeze.
In fact it seems to be fauna week!
Just seen first House Martin - they have beaten the swallows this near.

Mr and Mrs Pheas. trundle around under the bird feeders. She is eating for several - eggs on the way. He just struts about in front of our single gnome (though it is a dwarf - Doc) given to me on my retirement.The mad blackbird has returned to attack its reflection in the windows at the rear of the house.
We have wood mice and voles, shrews and moles.
Frogs croak, taddies swim, caddis fly larvae crawl around in their little houses.
Pigeons get fatter and fatter, they nest in the conifers by the shed.
The collared doves have abandoned the beam outside the kitchen and gone nesting elsewhere.

And on and on - first grey squirrel seen so trap out - after last year when one climbed the house wall to empty a house martin nest.
Then, to cap it all, R returning from a trip to the theatre spotted, in her headlights, a rat crossing her path. I suppose, with horses and stables next door, they are inevitable neighbours.
I wonder if Megatron, the local black cat, might actually meet with my approval if he presented us with a dead rat?

R is off to a school reunion this weekend so I will be on my own. The weather is set fair so in goes all sorts - jut bought a new sage for the herb bed and some shallot sets. Sweet pea seedings thrive but the cosmos have a touch of the damping off.

The grass is greening, the weeds are growing, I get I'll just mow the lawn - what do I care? I've got my Aga to keep me warm. (And R)(Though I tend to keep her feet warm rather than the other way around.)

Friday, 12 April 2013

. . . WOULD A WOOING GO . . .

Hey-ho said A. Riley.
A-croaking and mating and all that stuff, taddies and spawn and you will notice that these two froggies are different colours.
So which is which we thought and watched. The paler brown frog came out on top so we assume that this is the male, or a male or a matriarch.
The grid you can see is my anti heron device - a bit of old concrete reinforcement mesh chucked over the pond corner where all the activity goes on.
They don't half croak, sounds more like they have a frog in the throat (except it is all bulgy cheek action.)

The Grandchildren have been here (4 and 7) which has been fantastic but we are a little phew! now.

With their mother's help, 2 more pieces of mesh, willow wands from the top garden and an old rhododendron bush we made a den. The photo shows the entrance between the stems of the bush.
Next plan is a swing on a branch nearby. You can see we even had a doorstep.

Yesterday it rained - Hooray! I never thought I would ever say that again by the end of last year but that and the rise in temperature has transformed the garden - tulips are budding (two out), anemones, wood and otherwise, pulmonary, first forgetmenots - everything is bursting out all over (and it is only April (not June)).

Soon the soil will be warm enough to put in plants, sow seed outdoors and such. The sweet peas and cosmos have germinated in the utility room - warmth, no greenhouse - fingers crossed.

We sat in the sun down by the Wendy House and listened to the dulcet tones of Froggy and Co. Winter is finally over!!

The last image is a long lens portrait of out garden mower, not the mechanical one but the one that has the name, Oryctolagus cuniculus, or Peter, sitting under the Davidia scratching itself in the sun. It sat there for over an hour before lolloping off in a blasé manner towards the veg beds. Now you know why we have fencing around our precious produce.
And look how fat it is. This makes me wonder if it is a female with  a litter of mini buns in the oven? Nightmares are made of this.

So, poor old Monty Don has been blamed for the weather being cold and, sensibly, saying not to sow seed and shove bedding plants into such chilly soil.

You tell 'em Monty - at least someone is thinking, 'Common Sense" "Nous" (pronounced to rhyme with mouse) spring to mind. 
Anyway you can buy your veg at Lock's Garage. It is a four hour journey for me to get there.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


The daffs are on their way. It was a bit warmer yesterday, at last, and they have responded - probably just got fed up waiting.

The collared doves have been billing and cooing just outside the kitchen door. He flies down and back with a stick, blade of dried grass or something similar.

He presents it to her and she tries to arrange it after a cuddle. He flies off again in search of more nest material. As soon as he is gone she considers his last offering and discards it onto the floor beneath.
This goes on for two whole days before they decide this is not the right place. They do not seem to be bothered by humans peering at them from six feet away, albeit on the other side of the glass door.
The covered paved area beneath the chosen beam is now littered with debris.
At least they might have tidied up behind them.
They have been a fixture near the house for several years. Often, when in the kitchen, you can hear them coo-cooing - the sound coming down the chimney - they are perched on the pot.

And plants keep arriving - did I order those? Really! The cold frames are getting full, waiting for rain and warmth before planting.

And this is a potty time - potting on I mean, plants moving up the pot scale so they can grow - black nails from the compost, frozen fingers from the weather. Potting up is not something I can do with gloves on.

Yesterday was Grand National day and as usual I picked the fifth, Rare Bob, because my nephew's name . . .  a friend said Teaforthree so my sister and wife backed that - and it came third!! Still, we maintained the once a year family tradition of the race, nibbles and champagne (well, cheap pink Australian fizz.)

Every time I go up the garden the trees have shed again. The stick pile grows and grows.
Some are saved as kindling but the rest just go on the heap.
The stream has all but dried up now the last of the snow behind the walls up on the hill has melted. All is getting very dusty. I am watering pots and special plants.
The two dead amelanchiers have been cut right back - one is definitely moribund but the other shows faint signs of hope. I will keep and eye on it with everything crossed (fingers and things.)

The grass is still brown - I do not have super lawns - more mown field full of moss and creeping buttercup and so on. I do try to eradicate the marsh thistles for the grandchildren's sake - nasty with bare feet.

Poles and peasticks are ready. Soon there will be much work to do but I strained my back the other day.
Own up.
I went to have a golf lesson and a practice and was crippled the next day. R had to put my socks and shoes on. I can shift barrows of manure but . . .
The moral of the story -
I will just have to not practice anymore!
Not that it makes any difference to my game.

So here I am waiting for spring proper, waiting for rain, for the plants to grow - and weeds - I had forgotten about them. Though, if I cannot stoop because of my back someone else will have to do the weeding.
Perhaps I will just nip off and swing a few clubs, a little practice?
R .......... can you help me?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


and, I suppose all flesh is grass - cows eat grass, we eat cows, or if one does not eat meat drink milk, eat butter or if a vegan - er? - eat grass?
Anyway so it is true in a way that all flesh is grass.
Having said that we are near drought in the garden and it is so dry the soil is becoming dusty despite the oodles of muck I dumped on it. Blackbirds throw the stuff around searching for food and make a mess. It is no good sweeping it up, the wind just blows it back.
Yesterday I had a stick collecting session and then contemplated having a bonfire but all is tinder dry and we might have had to have a fire engine as well - so no fire.

THE MOWER HAS BEEN OUT! - first cut, just a top trim and what a difference it makes. We have a garden again.
Last year, in March, I blogged about the bluebells being out early! Now the daffodils are struggling to flower in April. I hope there is someone in North Africa warning the swallows to put on their wooly comb's.

R has been dividing and transplanting the snowdrops. 'I will leave it to you to decide where would be best,' I said, and so she put them in at the bottom of the top banking, just where I mow. Keep thy mouth shut, lad, I said to missel', now you will have to put off mowing that bit till July so the bulbs can fatten up.

There are some primroses out but only a few.

Black stuff is laid on the veg beds to warm them up, exclude light, alkathene hoops adorn the rows, plants in pots fill the cold frame waiting for warmer soil.

I am having some difficulties with the septic tank soak away - I know septic tanks are not the most appealing of subjects but . . .

Where the soak away lies under the stream, the water has decided that the slotted pipe underneath would be a better route than down the stream bed. So the bottom half of the stream is dry and water emerges in the ditch by the lower hedge.
I will need to sort out the bed and line it with pond liner or some such I think. I could just let the water go into the pipe and fill in the dry part of the stream but if it rains a lot there would be an overflow and trouble on t' lawn.

The drain away is thirty yards below the tree with the nest box in the photograph. That is a reconditioned box as the top came off. A bit of sawn off fencing plank end was just the job. Notice the metal plate around the entrance to keep the woodpeckers at bay.

The hills in the distance are the Forest of Bowland across Morecambe Bay. I am rambling, (big surprise! What a change!)

Last year was real struggle with the sweet peas and someone suggested plugs - but they are expensive so, maybe.
I will finish with a withering comment about brown fingers - probably just bad gardening and laziness - but a friend has a big veg plot in a field (you know who you are D J) and he said, 'Slugs, what slugs?'
WHAT SLUGS!! I can probably lend you some, buckets full, unless this cold snap has set them back. (Image of gardener on his knees in the veg plot praying.)