Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Sorry, not me - yet!

Mentioning R pulling off the top of an asparagus spear - she did! Here is the evidence - one R, one asparagus bed. We have seven spears today - butter melt, mouth water.
Above this bed the stream comes down out of the top garden and beside it is a small red maple. The roots of the big ash tree at the top of the bank are directing the flow sideways and making things really boggy.

I tried removing the turf but this seemed to make things worse. Short of cutting holes in the tree roots I will have to think hard for a solution. I considered digging a hole under the roots but as soon as we have heavy rain debris washed down will block it up.

Today I began an assault on bindweed. Really I should dig up all the beds, remove the plants and then replant. Mmm! Tried an alternative today with a small jam jar of weedkiller. I dipped the heads of each bindweed stem into a strong solution. Now we wait and see.
Then I must address the couch grass problem!

Up in the top wood the bluebells are great. The plants behind the bluebells are brambles! Brer Rabbit eat your heart out.

Next to the asparagus bed is the one with rhubarb at one end, wallflowers in the middle and shallots at the other end - a mixed bed!  

I have put in the curved hoops of bright blue alkathene piping for the strawberry netting and sweet pea sticks within the rabbit proofed veg beds.

Now to a sad story.
I was climbing the stairs in the house when I saw something a bit like a dead leaf hanging from a cobweb by the roof edge. Outside I went and with the washing-line pole got it down.
It was a dead blue tit.
How it came to be stuck there in the web - ? Perhaps it had flown into the window, killed itself and fallen against the web which stuck to it. I cannot believe that a small spider could catch a blue tit in its gossamer.

And the swallows and martins have not arrived yet - yes, a few passing birds but that is all. It makes one wonder if summer is ever going to come.

Beside the mower shed there seem to have been mole hills and such but suddenly this seems to be a bigger event and the dreadful word springs to my brain cell - ?RATS!
I have been out a and tidied it up - we will just have to wait. I am loth to get out the big rat-trap as the last time I fought a robin.

Just bought a second hand shredder off IB. Might be useful when we come to clear away the willows and so on. It would provide a good mulch to go around new shrubs and trees.

Anyway - to finish - here are yet more tulips.

Gets a bit boring does it not. Well the first of the three yellow azaleas is out - sniff - Ooooh! Lovely.

Saturday, 26 April 2014


As usual the forgetmenots are flowering in the edge of the rosebed, and elsewhere - particularly up in the wood where I dumped a load of deadheaded stuff two or three years ago.

Blue is always valuable in a garden and sometimes difficult to find - good blues that is. We have the forgetmenots that are a chalky blue and bluebells that have a violet tinge. When you see the classic bluebell pics like this one be SUSPICIOUS! There is some clever colour shifting going on. This was taken some years ago in Colehow Wood. Tilly has been gone from us for a lot of years. (And yes the question of another canine member of the household comes up regularly - we have just not quite got there yet).

Bluebells are in danger of becoming a weed in some parts of the garden and, horror of horrors, one clump looks suspiciously Spanish to me. I think I will have to dig them out to be safe but as the bigger Spanish version is everywhere in gardens hybridisation is a done deal and our lovely bluebell will change - sadly.

In the first photo you can see a yellow shrub under the cherry - this is it, not broom but a genista - and it is scented - not unpleasantly but not quite the butter of gorse.

Talking of yellow here is a wallflower plant in full bloom outside the back door (the one at the side) and it is three years old. It has been trimmed as they get woody and a bit straggly if left to their own devices. True they do not give the show grown as a biennial but still a useful addition to the garden. Well, I think so.
And, rambling on further here is a vase of sycamore with their green flowers. Actually they are attractive - and not something you see often in a flower arrangement. So, to the next pic and greater stitchwort in the hedgerow, an April delight. These are known as Poppers locally as the seed heads, if squeezed, pop.        
Well, this is a rather drab and boring diatribe today, tottering on the mundane. All the news is things like mowed, weeded, dead headed - no wait! We have our first three asparagus spears through - now two as R assiduously weeding the end snapped of the top of one of them.

So, Mow, mow, mow the grass all across the lawn,
Merrily, merrily, merrily merrily, life is just a yawn.

So let me blast away the blues (the other sort) with this pot of tulips and pansies. I got the bulb selection from Sarah Raven last autumn and boy have they been good.
Now, of course I have to decide what to do with the bulbs when the foliage dies down. Where do I put them? Not in the wood - out of place, not by the pond, they are really a bit dramatic for naturalising. 
I will have to animate my brain cell (the other one) and contemplate the future for these tulips. Any suggestions instantly rejected (unless from R when deeply considered)(before carefully being forgotten)(until she brings the subject up again) and so on.

Stealing myself for a Monopoly marathon - here come the grandchildren - lawns mown, rain falling so not much excuse. No, seriously, here comes a fantastic weekend - just wished we lived nearer to one another. But then we would have to abandon the garden here and they would have to abandon their amazing hilltop in Herefordshire.

Time for a Kakuro and a cuppa then off to collect them at Galgate.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


You know how you can get a pulse in your lip or eyed and it twitches away for hours, well, I have a vibrating left nipple. No I do not have my phone in the breast pocket I just thought it was something I ought to share with you.

Loveliest of trees the cherry now . . .

I am writing this as the first signs of the blossom going over are here. The Plum has already gone but the pear is wonderful.

R has been brambling in the top of the wood and tells me that ivy is taking over - spreading across the ground. Looks like another job for the garden assassin. Whilst she was up there she said the breeze brought the scent from the rhododendron up to her - a bit of heaven. The azaleas have yet to come and pong us silly.

I have been putting up poles and tying them together for I have finally sown sweet peas - the special ones from Sarah Raven - in pots and put them in the shed window. I have also sown our courgette (marrow) seeds saved from last year.

Out in the cutting bed last year's calendulas are flowering and I have sown more Sweet Williams, wallflowers and creamy yellow foxgloves for next year as they are biennial.

The tulips in pots are fantastic - will do it again next year. We are blasted by colour. I tried to do a Dixter with them and mixed all sorts of colour in a big way. (For those who do not know Great Dixter was a magnificent garden owned by the late Christopher Lloyd where he never held back on colour unless it was intended). Does that last sentence make sense?

Our singing chaffinch is still belting it out - he must be hanging upside down by one claw by now.
Only a quick glimpse of a passing swallow and no martins yet.
Mr Pheasant struts his stuff but suddenly no sign of the two mates. I suspect they are sitting on their nests up under the rhododendrons as usual.

Not all the flowers in the garden are colour-blasters. Some of the less obvious ones are also beautiful in a very different way.

These are gooseberry on the left and redcurrant on the right. Many plants have wonderful flowers - take the sycamore whose greenish yellow tassels can compete with laburnum - well nearly. A big marguerite has splendid daisy flowers but the small common daisy has not just white and yellow but later in the year sometimes red tinges - go on, down on your knees and look.

On Monday the temperature got up to nearly 20C in the shade - glorious but not too hot. Almost makes one want to dive into the pond - almost.

This makes me wonder if our new pond should be a wild swimming pool. That does describe the stroke I use - a sort of sluggish pull with a twisted leg kick - five strokes and then a float on the back for a rest.

We are in drought - well not far off! R has been secretly watering the primroses on the banking as they are wilting. The garden is becoming dry and we have not had any significant rain for some time. The stream is trickling rather than running and the pond is low.

This pic is a cheat - water does not only come from clouds.

Nipple is off again,

Monday, 21 April 2014


Blackbird brown bird singing in the dead of night all the time, driving me mad, waking me up and if I am not mad I am sure she is.
We have replaced our window attacking blackbird with a female, same species. Only this time she is halfway up the tall Westmorland window (a window shedding light onto the stairs, narrow and about ten feet high) where I cannot reach. Other windows still have on cling film to stop this incessant tap, bang, clatter as her bill has a go at her reflection. The film breaks up the image.
I can hear her in the background as I type. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

This is a cock blackbird for comparison. As far as I know he is sane.

The muck heap over the cattle grid is getting smaller and more spread out as the lamb gang crawl under the field gate and play King of the Castle. This scatters my precious resource so I am barrowing it down the garden to the veg beds. An extra mulch and some onto the compost heaps.
I have also been removing some of the hundreds of sycamore seedlings scattered across the garden, and ash.

This is the far corner of the garden. My strimmer man (now retired) cleared it in the autumn/winter. Since then I have mowed a bit, levelled a bit. What to do with it though we have not decided. Probably because R has not really become aware that the jungle has shrunk again and the garden got bigger.

Anyone got a Mrs Blackbird trap? Tat, tap, tap all day long, dawn to dark.
Yibbledeboobleyukbubbletibum!! I am going nuts! It is worse that water torture.

Right. change of thought - I have found my seed packets - they were on top of the old radio in my room. So now sowing is overdue. Anyway, can I really be bothered to sow anything that the slugs will just eat (and if not molluscs then mice or pigeons or something). I suppose I will have to get the sweet peas in even though a bit late. Two to a small pot and plant out when the danger of frost is over.

The stream where it comes down over the tree roots has decided to soak sideways and make the banking boggy. This will need some remedial work when I get some dry weather - come on rain!

The pots just get better and better. I must have put several layers of tulips in each. The pot in the middle is two ranunculi R bought locally. They are splendidly gaudy and cheerful. And finally there is the magic that is spring - everywhere - not just in the brown blackbird's head. Early morning sun and dew, backlit cherries and maples.

Just a minute - bye bye sun, here comes the wind and rain. Back to real British weather. Well, then I can have a lie in.
No, I cannot, that bloggy bird will be clattering its beak on the window above the stairs.

Anyone know of an avian psychotherapist?

What would Freud (not Clement), Jung, Adler (not Larry), let alone Pavlov (nothing to do with ice cream or ballet) have to say about this?

PS - Just been to Ford park garden and done my usual - not reading the instructions. It was a seed swap, so I did take seeds - including some aquilegia and meum athamanticum from my own garden, but I also took plants! Any way, we had a nice cup of tea and a chat with Sarah, and I gave her the chunk of variegated horseradish for the Ford Park garden as they had none.
Oh1 For their wonderful soil and many volunteer gardeners.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


I have mowed the lawns and they are looking a bit better after the wet winter.

Today is a glorious day - sun, blue sky and only  a slight chill in the spring air. I put on my terrible hat to protect the loftiest part of my skin - this produced are look of utmost distaste from R. I do not think she likes the hat. Personally I am not bothered as long as it does the job and I am only in the garden.

C and P are here - C messing about with his car and P reading masses of Bill Shaky plays.

The summer seats are out by the kitchen and occupied.

Down the garden the rhubarb is doing well, overlapping the boundaries of its bed. We have enjoyed some simply cooked with sugar - it does not need much as the young stems are surprisingly sweet.

I have tidied up the messy new growth on the gooseberries so that they grow on a leg. This makes picking much easier if I can get to them before the mildew and sawflies. The variety is Careless.

There is blossom all over the place - this first one is our Victoria Plum.
All the fruit trees are flowering though the Bramley Apple is late as usual.
The greengage I moved is in leaf and looking ok but no obvious blossom. We will have a lorry load of damsons if the frosty keeps away.

So here is another, yes another pic of the Prunus shirotae. This one from below.

Tulips are everywhere - in the flower beds and in pots. The yellow pansies are enjoying the company of the bulbs. I have had to water them for the first time as we do not have any obvious rain due until Easter Sunday or Monday.

The first queen wasp has been sighted but I missed swatting it. After the stings last year I am not feeling too friendly to them.

I have found a new patch of ground elder up in the wood - need to deal with that.
Wild bluebells are spreading through the wood and appearing in unusual places. When they are in the flowerbeds they are not welcome but a wood full of them in spring is a delight.

And MY DOWNFALL - well I got out the seats and with them my favourite.
Unfolded it.
Sat in it.
There was a ripping noise and I found myself on the floor.
That is not the embarrassing bit though.
When I came to stand up my tin knee made life difficult and I had to have help from R to roll over and escape.

We have now had swallows half a mile away down the road but not here yet.
We wait.

Seen one skimming over the back field.
All things come to . . .

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Long time passing etc etc . . .

An hour digging out the top stream and I am kna very tired and perspirey.

"A cuppa tea, a cuppa tea, I'd lub a cuppa tea." (Quote from Spike Maligna the well-known typing error.)(Quote from Spike etc etc.)

Let us start with an early morning shot of the garden taken from the wood

Right, that done, we move on.
"What did your father do with the Pleones son?"
"He put them in and on the stones around his gnome. That's not a gnome, it's a dwarf. Well, it is small. Doc too. Very appropriate.

They are not too hard to grow. They usually grow on mossy trunks. Roots die off in winter and leave pseudobulbs. Do not bury them. They should be on the surface and many species are hardy to cold. They like a cool partially shaded position. In the winter, after the foliage has died down, leave dry. Water in the spring once new growth has appeared.

But then we have had a mild winter. This osteospermum has flowered a bit throughout. Usually they succumb to the cold.

I never thought I would get tired of birds singing but there is one cock chaffinch that never stops. It sits in the small ash outside my window and goes on and on and on. He probably thinks that that is how to get a mate but the female birds are probably taking wide avoiding action. I mean it could drive one mad when all is wanted is a quiet snooze on the eggs.
SAW A SWALLOW three miles away down by the bay.

At last - I hope it will not be long before they get here - if any of them have survived the shooting ranges in Malta and Spain. It seems hardly worth it for such a small bite.
Perhaps we should equip the birds with miniature air to ground missiles and let them take out the hunters. Well, not hunters - there is little hunting goes on just firing away at anything that flies.
Apparently millions of small songbirds are slaughtered for FUN!?

Perhaps the RSPB should offer bounty for each gunman removed from the scene?

It worked to eradicate the Red Kite and other raptors. (Not velociraptors - that was before the RSPB was founded.) (RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) (This information is for the man in Canada and the reader in Kazakhstan).

This blossom above is the Prunus shirotae.

Both the big cherries are fantastic so expect more pics in the future.
The one below is Prunus taihaku.

In the autumn I ordered sweet pea seeds and have put them somewhere safe - somewhere where they will not germinate as they are in their paper envelopes - cannot find them.

And my lovely cosmos seedlings are no more - just slug food I think - aaaagh! The big crambe has also had its leaves assaulted - slugs and snails again - so out with the beer and bury a glass jar to its neck in the soil. Get 'em drunk, get 'em dead. I am unable grieve for them and anyway they will be so blotto when they drown they will not care.
Apart from beer and nematodes and slug bait I know of people who have crushed snails in their fingers, squished slugs and even taken scissors to slugs and chopped them in half. A friend goes round every evening with a bucket collecting snails (he has a lot of dry stone walls), fills the bucket with water and puts a lid on top to stop escapees.

Why can't we all live in perfect harmony - dear slug/snail you can have 10% of my plants if you promise to leave the rest alone.

Where have all the Cosmos gone, l-o-n-g time passing!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


"My Lord, what a morning,
My Lord, what a morning,
My Lord, what a morning,
When the stars begin to fall."

Now before you say I have spelled morning wrong and anyway stars should be cherry petals, I know but this mooring the sun is out, admittedly it is chilly, yet it is a glorious spring day.

Even Mr Pheasant is full of it. R looked out of the window the other day to see him leap onto one of his two hen birds and 'Whizz-bang!' it was over. And right outside our window under the feeders.

The two cherry trees by the house are wonderful and loaded with blossom - Prunus taihaku, the great white cherry and Prunus shirotae with its horizontal branches and hanging flowers. With the latter you can stand underneath and look up into the blossom - wonderful.

One lot of plants that seed themselves and springs up in surprising places is honesty. We have both the red (really deep pink) and white. The best white has appeared by the compost heaps and is grown large on good feed.

The wallflowers in their cutting bed are also splendid and rampant in colour and scent. Every time I pass I just have to bend down and inhale. We have a rhododendron on the upper bank in flower and I had forgotten we had selected it because it too has scent unlike many of its kind.

Yesterday I cleared away grass from around a veritable hedge of redcurrant I have created with cuttings - every year stick a few in - and the blackbirds will be ecstatic when the fruit come.

No, I did not wear gloves, R.
Yes, that is why I am covered in scratches and cuts.
Yes, I am silly (and a bit sore) and brambled sliced. It is astonishing how a blade of tough grass can cut one.
No, I have not put plasters on this morning - I am trying to let them dry out and heal.
Yes, I could use superglue but knowing my propensity for clumsiness, I would probably end up stuck to myself and everything within reach (including the tube of glue).

Now, two plants, in the grass, that we like (ish) are daisies - ok - and R likes dandelions on the top bank. Trouble with the latter is that the do not stay there but crop up all over the place sending down their taproots.

And the daffodils are not over yet as later ones come into flower. The old ones need deadheading and later feeding so the bulbs are built up for next year.

My soon to be defunct willow tunnel/avenue is springing into leaf as are the other willows in  the garden.

And everywhere there is colour - tulips planned and forgotten (and risen again), the forgetmenots edging the rose beds, the flowering currant. The pace at which the garden is moving is amazing. How can it be so empty for the winter and now so full?

And as I swallow a cup of tea this early morning with dew still on my hair we await the coming of the hirundelles (I did a little french at school.)
So come on martins and swallows, our eaves are aching for your nests.

And to finish - the cover of Neil Curry's latest book - a fascinating read, an interesting idea.

Some amateur photographer did the cover image though - I wonder . . . .  ?

Saturday, 12 April 2014


Could not sleep last night thinking about the changes to the garden. So out at 7 am and a walk around the garden in the chill morning sun. Blossom everywhere, mallard on the pond, chaffinch and blackbird belting out their songs, and the air so sharp it would cut with a knife.

This afternoon finished trying to weed the bed by the Wendy House but the sedges are a nightmare. I clipped the reeds by the pond and did a little tidying on the laths. R deadheaded the daffs - many nibbles. As I strolled around the garden I her Hallfound things I had forgotten - more fritillaries by the weeping pear - I suppose I must have put them in - and two big white honesty plants flowering by the compost heap.
The cutleaved elder I pruned and the prunings have been stuck in the top garden. I do not suppose they will root but - you never know.

The wood pigeons have gone barmy - three times in the last hour they have crashed into my window - males chasing males I think - typical laddish behaviour now the hormones are on.

 This is a collared dove - not a great image but they will not stay still and I have not got all day - t'other pic is a goldfinch. The doves coo away, the finch goes, "Coo-ee."

The other day I showed you pics of Holker Hall, today it is the turn of Muncaster Castle Gardens. We took our d-in-law's parents there and a good time was had by all.

 A little out of the way up the Cumbrian coast it is well worth a visit - the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias are coming into flower and then again in early May come when the blubell wood is AMAZING!
There are tearooms, a walk up the terrace with views up Eskdale, the World Owl Centre, flying of birds and later in the day Heron feeding time.

If you want there are also tours of the castle itself. All in all a good day out and you can add on a train trip on Ratty (The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway) or just a walk through the village. This is where Reginald Hill the author lived.

All this takes me away from telling you about the weeding I have done, digging up of climbers from the willow tunnel and replanting, and cutting two big bunches of wallflowers from the plants in the cutting beds for the house.

So, this weekend is spend in trepidation - come on yer Scousers! Liverpool play Manchester City this weekend and, though I am not a football nutter like my son C I do have an interest in the game as occasional entertainment.

I have just found a box of old seed on top of a cupboard in my room and among the packets is one for Verbena bonariensis. However germinating is a hot business.
Instead I have rescued three blackened bananas from the bin and made a banana cake (they call it Banna Bread) - yes, me! And it is edible! Goes well with - you've guessed it - a cuppa tea.

You want the recipe - 8 oz plain flour, 6 oz caster sugar, 4 oz butter, 3 very ripe bananas, 3 level teasp baking powder, 1/2 level teasp salt, 2 eggs, perhaps a little milk.

Cream sugar and butter, add eggs (take out of shells first) and beat vigorously. Mash bananas and stir in well, sieve flour, b. powder and salt together and fold into mixture. This should now be of a soft dropping consistency whatever that is. If needed you can add a little milk here.
Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours 350F or Gas Mark 4, test with a skewer and if nowt sticks to it then done. Leave to stand a while then pop onto one of those mesh cooling things.


Have indigestion.

Take some Gaviscon or Kolanticon.


Have a cuppa tea.

Be smug.