Tuesday, 30 September 2014


I have got to start with this - our Magnolia grandiflora has one huge white scented flower - at last.

One of the main parts of our garden is the small patch of woodland at the top and west. This is largely a wild area only minimally controlled - R removes brambles from most of it though we do have a good patch by the far wall.

This wood is approached by various paths from the house and lawns. These have all been constructed since we moved, are of local slate chippings and edged largely by branches fallen from the ash trees.

At the far corner is an open area which used to be Tom's potato patch (he was the previous owner). It would not be feasible now as it is surrounded by trees which shade it.

However it might be ideal for a surreptitious willow tunnel - do not tell R.

Part of the wood is a group of hawthorn from which the lower growth - to about five feet from the ground - has been removed. This means we can see through them as shown here -

The small bush on the right is a self sown hazel.

It is good to have some mature trees in the garden but, as they are mainly ash (and a few sycamore) we hope the dreaded ash killer currently spreading across the country stays away.

The tall trunks give a cathedral effect - pillars and arches - even if the masonry (twigs and branches) falls on ones head from time to time.

We had collected many of these twigs as kindling for the wood burner but I have heaped them into a remote corner now as a haven for wild life as we have too many.

Funnily enough, whilst I was deciding where to place them I found another half hidden heap I put up there in the spring - I had forgotten. Now we have two heaps. Soon we will have heaps of heaps . . .

From the vantage point of the wood I can look down on the area soon to be a white birch copse. You can see the new course of the stream and the places designated for planting - the logs.

I have been talking of wild life in the garden so here is a cuddly picture of a ravenous bunny rabbit. What a little sweetie. - ? I think it comes up the field in front of the house and through the hedge at the bottom of the garden though there are scrapings all over the place. I do not really want a warren here so will have to keep a sharp eye out for developments. If one rabbit becomes two rabbits and they are of different genders then they can become many rabbits very quickly.
The romans brought them here for a food supply which was as good a decision as bringing Ground Elder. 

My son R mooted that he might slip some fish (perhaps goldfish) into the pond whilst we are not looking but I hope I have dissuaded him as they would only be heron fodder.

D (of D & J) - see previous references to cuppas - has suggested that if I give up my cuppa I might be vulnerable to the temptation of a glass. I might be tempted by fish and chips with lashings of vinegar, salt and ketchup with bread and butter and a lager but the diet must go on . . .  and on . . . and on . . 

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Let me start with a progress report - I have been raking bare areas after the ponding and scattering grass seed. I have been mowing the grass with both mowers - well not the same bits - you know, one mower for this and the other for the other. Well that makes sense to me)(which does not say much).

Here is the view down the garden from the white birches, over the pond to the Wendy House, no willow tunnel in the way - though we will be sticking in a load of birches of course. I have been digging out the few remaining roots of the willows as they were getting in the way of the mower.

In the garden we still have some spectacular flowers like these cardoons.
They will be left until the spring as they look good in the frost (if we get any this year) and just for their architectural quality.

This big blowsy rose is, I think, Emma Hamilton and Nelson would be proud of her. She is heavily scented and still pumping out petals. The other roses, except Rhapsody in Blue which did a leaf shed in August but is recovering, are also flowering - those that are supposed to.

I can say no more about the Cosmos - fantastic - keep dead heading and more come.

Now, every garden has its hidden corners and our one is no exception.
So here are two in all their glory.

This is the bonfire area and grass cutting dump up by the wood. I have just heaped up the cuttings as they were getting very spread out. The problem lies with the sit on mower. When I back it up to unload it will not go on top of what is there already. This means an ever spreading dump. I tried forking the grass into the heap but in the end found the easiest way was just to grab it in armfuls and transport it that way.

On the banking below the veg beds are the willow poles, old willow trunks and planks salvaged from the pond work. I will have to get a chain saw I think to log the trunks.

So it is bye bye time again and I leave you with another view of the Gary Primrose Pond.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


So, there was R reading a book on the bed settee in the Wendy House (she said she was doing research!) when she heard a sound. The pond had a visitor. It looked in the door and saw R sitting there a few feet away, flapped its huge wings and lifted off into the sky.
We had had an exploratory visit from a heron.

And, of course I have wrot a pome about this evil eyed birdie.


The heron concentrates 
down its splinter bill.
Its malevolent eyes burn
like sodium in a grey mist.

Without a ripple
the heron stalks water.
The headlamps of its skull
search the sluggish river

It strikes!  An arching fish 
Heads headfirst down the long throat.
The bulge that still lives
descends into oblivion -

So back to gardening - it is wonderful to have a weedy wife - she has been doing the asparagus today. We did not have much joy with this crop in the spring but it does not look too bad at the moment so we will give it another go next year.

The outdoor tomatoes are late but better than never and we have had a good crop. I have been watering them throughout the drought.

It rained this morning, a little soft rain but still rain. It is cooler with temperatures in the mid to upper teens.

I went to look at the courgettes last night and found I had missed one - it is now well on its way to becoming a marrow.
This is for me as no one else here is partial to marrow whether as jam with ginger or stuffed with mince and baked in the oven. Soup with mint is tolerated.

The two thornless hawthorns we put in last year are well hawed and I am surprised by the size of the fruit. No doubt the thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings will not mind in the slightest.

We have definitely developed a case of resident rabbit disease and I see it almost every morning blithely grazing on the upper banking - cheek! 
We have had some butterflies but not a lot which is disappointing, no honey bees worth mentioning but plenty of bumble bees as here on the Sedum spectabile. 
In the spring I carefully staked these and supported each plant with a circle of twine - did it work?

Well not really as the painters stuck their ladders right in the middle!

So the Scots are still in the fold and we are a roughly united kingdom. All the promises from the 'No' side will presumably get lost in interparty political bickering - no way is Labour going to let the English vote on English matters - even if there were a Labour government there would be a Conservative majority in England.

No - NO! I must not talk politics in this blog - it is a gardening blog. It deals with the real world, with the important things in life like Herons and vegetable marrows.

And, D and J, I do not always have a cup of tea when I finish writing this.

(Today I have already made myself one and it is almost gone).

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


As in the beginning so at the end of the year - lots of yellows in the garden.

 There are potentillas and poppies and helianthemums and, well, so on and so on.

The welsh Poppy to the left is particularly lovely, a wild plant that self seeds. There is an orange version but I prefer the pure yellow. which often grows in shady areas and lights the garden up.
Then there are oranges like these nasturtiums that just blast colour at you.

R has been a-weeding and I have been a bad-backing from lifting water from the pond to try and start some of the old lawn seed I had scattered.

I know, I know, you think it is all fiction to get me out of doing anything. I have decapitated the copper beech hedge plants with a later view to moving them and opening up the lawn area even more. I have pruned the willows around the compost heaps and we have been carrying logs around to try and decide where the 15 white birches that will come later in the year will go.

Here you can see the six existing birches with the rerouted stream crossing the lawn in front. Each log is placed so that I can manoeuvre the mowers around them should I so chose.
There is still a trickle of water running down to the pond but not much. We are very short of rain and today the temperature is, pleasingly, an unseasonable 21C.
We have had a cracking September.

Despite this the outdoor tomatoes are only now beginning to colour up so I have been reading up on my recipe for Green Tomato Chutney. Small 8 ounce jars are ordered and the finished product brings a bit of cash to the November Church Christmas Fair for R.

Plans are afoot and later in the year I will order sleepers, a fruit cage, some slotted pipe for a drain and a great bag of chippings. The latter will be for in front of the Wendy House until we can decide on a decking extension or not.

One small thingy that is bugging me is all this Scottish Independence stuff - endless hours of it. It all seems odd - the Scots who do not live in Scotland have no vote, the English and other nationalities who do, have one. Young people from 16 have the vote, and politicians have a field day.
If they Vote no - what a waste of time and money!
If they vote yes - what a mess!
I think most of those voting do not have a clear view of what independence means (does anyone?) and emotion can and is ruling common sense.

I am English born and bred with a little Manx and a chunk of Scottish (Mother was a Hay)(from Liverpool)(her grandfather came from Coldstream which is as near to England as you can get in Scotland).
My father's distant ancestors were the Black Douglas so the less said about that the better.

I just hope everyone can calm down when this is all over and done with,

Sweet William versus Stunkin' Wullie (Cumberland) - anyway so many of our prime ministers seem to have been Scottish - .... time to stop and have a tot - of tea.

So, you may ask, what is this load of windows doing in my blog? I just like the pic.

These were taken at Sprint Mill where I learned to scythe. Have I been scything since - well not with a bad back!

I mean!

Saturday, 13 September 2014


As opposed to ponding and stuff.

Cut the banking in front of the house - no, not with a scythe, no, not with a strimmer, no, not with shears, no not with a pair of scissors, nor toenail clippers - I used the little mower set on mulch and shoved and pushed and so on. The main problem is waiting for the frogs to get out of the way - they are everywhere.

Speaking of ponds - I have found a boggy area at the upper end so dug a small trench and this is trickling with water - so pipes and stuff to go in.

R has been a-weeding and a-dead-heading but refused point blank to clear the undergrowth below the copper beech hedge - a job she detests.

Fruit, plums just falling off onto the ground now though I have managed to pick most of the damsons.

Ah! Damsons - thereby hangs a tale. We had S for lunch on Tuesday. (The chap with the dog that looks like a sheep (? a wolf in - well you know)) and he had been to the dentist just before he came. R had made a super damson crumble for pud - yes, with custard - and I went and bit on a stone (kernel) and after S had gone, I realised I had broken a tooth. So, on Wednesday, I went to see the same dentist to be patched back together.

Now there is still a lot of colour in then garden - especially with the nasturtiums and montbretia (crocosmia).

The nasturtiums were not deliberately sown but the seeds from last year doing what seeds do and all that.
These are red nasties but we have yellow and orange and a sort of muddy reddish brown as well.
The crocosmia come in everything from Lucifer scarlet to soft yellow.

 At the top we have a pic of the house from the lawn so here is one looking the other way.

Now off to the garden to rake the surface of the bare, post pond areas and then water the garden. It seems such long time since we had any rain of note. This summer has been a good one despite a cold fortnight in August.

I really must clear out the mower shed and chuck out a load of stuff like old keyhole escutcheons and door knobs, screws this size and nails that size, paint tins with a dried up goo in the bottom and so on.

On the other hand have just been to Sprint Mill (http://www.c-art.org.uk/artists/sprint-mill/gallery)(https://www.facebook.com/sprintmilling) to see art in the local C-Art where studios open up their doors here in Cumbria. (http://www.c-art.org.uk). This is where I supposedly learned to scythe.
It is a fascinating place.
(Also, on the way, we just popped into M&S in Kendal so R could take something back - and went there, and Monsoon, and Beales and other dress shops. I bought a novel in Watersons book shop and a WhatCar to read about vehicles I cannot afford. We had lunch by the river (watercress soup (you could have fooled me there was any watercress in it) and a bun or in R's case a cheese scone) and then I went back to the car to wait.
Actually she was very good. (I have to say that) (I mean - I go in a shop - are those trousers? Will they fit more or less, keep me warm, keep me dry, fine I will have them.)

Whoops, shut up lad, thou wilt be in trouble.

So I will.

Shut up I mean.

For now.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


So let me get the scything stuff out of the way and then I can rabbit on about ponds.

My scythe is the one on the left - a biy grubbier than some. This is at a scything day I spent at Sprint Mill, Burneside with Steve Tomlin.

I thought I knew a bit but I was wrong - it was an excellent day, good weather and company and I came home with both more knowledge and backache.

For anyone local there is an exhibition later this month at the mill for the county wide arts thingy - C-Art - http://www.c-art.org.uk

You can find Steve Tomlin on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-Tomlin-Crafts/280214245392604.

If you go do take a look at the interior of the old mill - it is fantastic and a work of art in its own right. If you go on a sunny day the effect of the light shining through the windows onto the stuffed interior is magical.

So back to PONDS, well one pond, well one and a smidgeon.

Here is the planted article - I know there does not seem to be much in there but there is and they will spread. At one point R and Gary Primrose were in the water - which they said was not too cold - planting flowering rush and arrowhead amongst other things.

The waterlilies we had rescued were potted up to give us four plants. Each was put into a black basket with fine holes and filled with aquatic compost. Then a layer of slate chippings was placed on the surface to stop the compost floating away. Next these were lowered into place by rope.

 You can see the cobble beach - a ton of stone barrowed down to the pond from the top with only one lighter moment when the weight of the wheelbarrow and stone left Gary holding the rubber handle covers as the rest set off down the slope.

I thought at this moment I would talk about something else in the garden - texture - especially bark. Ash is grey and relatively smooth, aged oak is deeply furrowed, cherry has horizontal banding but my favourites are the birches.

The top is the white birch of which we are getting another 15 to supplement the 6 we possess at present. The lower brown birch trunk is the one I got free with a heap of labels off Yeo Valley yogurt pots.
Some people wash the trunks of their white birches but I have enough to do (what with ponds and things).
The older trees then get moss and lichen on the bark to enhance the appearance.

And now the nights are getting cooler, the leaves on the ash are yellowing, some even falling, the birds are singing again, the swallows and martins gathering for the long trek south. Soon winter will be upon us and the drawn out nights.

However - I will be able to stop mowing the lawn - so there is a good side to everything - I think.

The warm days are too short.

Time to weep in a cup of tea.

Saturday, 6 September 2014


Cobbles came - well as far as the gate and he couldn't get the wagon up to the house - all a bit of cobblers!
Other arrangements are being made by our hero Gary P.

Being a control freak I told everyone I could do it all myself - what a Wally - so ate humble pie and back tracked like mad. Apologised to Gary P and asked for help.

Comment from R - "**&£@^*)_^%&"

Just been to Woodlands Nursery to get aquatic plants but a definite dearth of oxygenators - safe ones that would not take over the pond.
Avoid - New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii), Canadian Pondweed (Elodea canadensis), Nuttall's Pondweed (Elodea Nuttallii), Curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major) and curled pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), perhaps Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum).
In April 2014 five of the worst invasive aquatic plants were banned - Azolla filiculoides, Crassula helmsii, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, Ludwigia grandiflora and Myriophyllum aquaticum.

Wow! What a lot of big words.

Did get Alisma plantago-aquatica, Butomus umbellatus, Hypericum eloides, Menyanthes trifoliata, Myosotis palustris, Sagittaria sagittifolia, Stachys palustris, Elodea crispa and Eleocharis acicularis.
Have yellow flag iris, plain and variegated, waterlilies (4 plants) and there are such as water mint in the garden already.

Water runs through the pond albeit tentatively as the stream is only a steady trickle.

Enough pondy stuff - just picked a bowl full of damsons, the plums are almost overripe and as I sat outside with a cuppa I heard this ticking sound - thicky me wondered what?
R told me - it was a thrush bashing a snail on a stone to break the shell before its teatime - of course.

So for a pic - this is a glorious helianthus, sunny by name and form and colour.

Butterflies are suddenly appearing despite the buddleia being mostly over - some pruning has produced another flush of flowers.
This red admiral was determined to get at the nectar of this white phlox in the cutting bed, let me get very close and there are small tortoiseshells and peacocks about.

We do have nettles in the garden for the caterpillars - this, of course, is deliberate as part of a structured wild life strategy. (And if you believe that . . . )

The ash trees are just starting to lose their first few leaves but the canopy is a treat and spectacular. It seems hard to believe that in winter they are leafless.

Then there are unusual sights in the garden - not the rabbit I have just seen on the upper banking, but this hen pheasant up a tree. Now I know birds go up trees but pheasants surprisingly (or not) not often.

This morning I rose from my slumber and gazed on the garden. I observed to R as I looked towards the wood over the squirrel trap that I had not seen one for a month or more. Then I went to the other window to the view and there, skittering up the hazel tree in the hedge was a grey squirrel. Down it came with a nut and ran off to bury it. I spent a long time going back and forth burying its winter supplies.

I will need to get some plums and damsons ready for the Church Coffee Morning for R - make up several punnets which they will probably sell too cheaply.

So back to tidying away the heaps of old boardwalk, shifting stones and such. 
Back aches though. 
Perhaps tomorrow . . . . . or the day after?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Let me start with nothing to do with the pond - phew!

At this time of year, late on a sunny afternoon the light in the top wood is a delight (light a delight? Mmm, need to be careful). Well, I am not going to use that awful word, 'nice'. There are millions of intonations one can use with that word, none of which have anything to do with its original meaning.

This is looking up into the top wood with backlit grass and old flower stems and heads.
One plant that really works well with this is the woundwort, its old flower spikes are beautiful. Grasses, campion and dock are also good, even the dreaded nettle.

There is a magical, peaceful quality to the place and yesterday was just such a time.

All the stress of painters and ponders dissipated for a short while, birds are beginning to sing again after moulting - it was a little patch of heaven.

A lazy buzzard floated out of the top of one of the mature ash trees and drifted off over the fields, gulls were working their way west to their roost, swallows and martins whirling after insects - heaven.

It was up here, earlier in the year, that Fiona Clucas did her preliminary work for her painting so here is today's photograph of the same spot with her painting.

You can see she has no need to worry - her work is so superior to my pic and she has reproduced the place faithfully.

One plant that is going great guns is the white cosmos that Sue gave us. The ones I tried to raise etc all went phut! but her seedlings have thrived - Oh! for green fingers.

Finally one has to mention pond stuff - the planks from the walkway have been either salvaged, reused somewhere or chucked on the bonfire.

New mower bridge over ditch to the left, bonfire in the making to the right.
The best planks are awaiting my brain to click in and think of a 'good idea'.

Finally the new stream is about to be dug - the trajectory (if that is the right word)(which I doubt)(but is a good word) marked out in red spray paint from the existing stream to the ditch under the hedge.

Meanwhile there is mowing - yuk - weeding - yuk, yuk - and dead heading - 3 yuks, the plums are all going to have to be picked and frozen (put in with last year's crop) so are the damsons. The pears have decided to fall off the tree on by one and very small and tough.

Good heavens! The two clocks (I wind them every Sunday) are chiming in unison. That almost never happens.

To relieve painter/pond stress R has gone for a walk in a wood with J, and I am sneaking off for some golf leaving all the garden jobs unstarted.

An awful thought is beginning to creep into out consciousness - after we have paid for painting and pond we may not have enough dose to escape for out autumn sunshine holiday.

We may need to go somewhere really cheap - like Syria or eastern Ukraine?