Saturday, 13 July 2019


Is the garden regimented or wild, organised or left to its own devices? I have let the grass grow in many areas but this does go against my desire for order. So, encourage the wild - rabbits,  squirrels, pheasants toads etc etc and grit one's teeth as the blackbirds eat all the soft fruit? This is not easy.
And the moles are back - I give in.

And to encourage wild flowers the long areas have to be cut in late summer - and the cuttings need to be carted away to prevent the soil becoming too rich and grass dominating. The maple at the edge of the grassy banking, the rose Rambling Rector scrambling over the flowering currant in the grass on the top slopes.

I am reading Woodland by Oliver Rackham my son gave me for my birthday - this makes the dead branches on the old ash tree seem not too bad. His descriptions of the interaction of all living things - trees, animals, fungi make me realise how complicated everything is and how dependent we are on our symbiotic relationships.

Sunday we went looking at gardens, Abi and Tom's nursery at Witherslack then Fernhill Coach House - a riot of roses and orchards - the plants bursting from the earth, clambering over each other - wonderful. I was recognised (after my wife was) and greeted with, 'I remember when you came to deal with my mother-in-law's prolapse'!

Note the eclectic mix in the study - a didgeridoo on the left, poppy from the Tower of London on the right, the odd book and all in retro furniture Ladderax.

As some of you know, when not gardening I mess about with a bit of photography. So I had the idea of changing some of my images in a more artful way - 

But what should I call this derivative form of print? 
Then R had the answer as it is neither photography nor art but a combination of the two - I was a bit deflated when she suggested PHART!

Tuesday - not a breath of wind and it rained slightly overnight - but all is very dry. Watering continues when I can get the kinks out of the hosepipe. Anyway, a day out as the electricity is being turned off all day.
The blackcurrants have been viciously pruned - all the older wood gone and the blown spinach consigned to the compost heap.
Yesterday my sister was 80! (This is about twenty years younger than I feel when I get up and creak in the morning.) 

The deutzia, heavy with fading flowers, is losing many of its leaves - I think due to lack of water - so out I go again with the hose. Good thing we have our own borehole.
Tuesday afternoon and we have had a small shower. I have fixed some sort of electronic device to the water pipe from the borehole to soften the water - we will see if it works.

Now with big open doors into the garden small surprises come into the living room like this grasshopper. And this cheeky tree rat was going in the trap and taking out the peanuts without setting it off - till now - gotcha! However they were here in twos so one more to go, before the next invasion. 

 Pheasants and a cock sparrow outside the kitchen door hunting for fallen bird seed in the cracks in the paving - we know the cock pheasant is there by his continuous burbling.

Elsewhere the philadelphus has been superb, its scent coming in through the kitchen windows.

And what could be better than a glass of wine, some good crisps, a better book and sitting in front of our view on a warm evening.

The geraniums and catmint need cutting back, and so on and so on . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Saturday, 6 July 2019


Having roughly scythed back the grass and wild plants beside the woodland paths and carted it away I went around with my camera. It is Saturday and very hot for us - 25C and I was surprised to find both the mallard sitting in the sun by the pond. I was but 6 yards away and let them to their rest.
I have picked the first black currants, early, but the crop is very  disappointing so a big pruning is coming, out with the old wood.

By Monday the temperature has fallen though it is very dry and watering has begun.
I cannot understand how plants such as the white phlox are two metres tall and the carrot and parsnip seedings, few in number, are only a centimetre or two. Ah! The mysteries of horticulture.

We continue to have squirrels but the trap keeps being emptied of bait - a mystery till today when I watched a jay enter, scoff the lot and leave without setting it off.

The mallard pair are back at the pond but now and again another drake tries to intervene and tempt her away.

The rosebed is changing, the nepeta out of control, the agapanthus about to flower.

Further down the garden Alstromeria "Red Sensation" is also out of control - for some reason this plant is very happy but try and grow the paler varieties and zilch!

The peonies continue though I have had to support them as they were flopping with the heavy flower heads and Rosey's new pink evening primrose is happy.

Up on the banking the white willow herb is doing well but is just as invasive as the pink wild version.

As far as trees go the white birches light up the far garden, the Aesculus indica "Sydney Pearce", I think that is the one, is growing very slowly but the liquidambar flourishes. 

 Now we are Friday and as I go in the living room the cock pheasant ambles past the windows.
A young grey squirrel sits by the trap and ignores it, seemingly unafraid though I am only a few feet away. 
The garden is settling into summer and a lethargy permeates it - the birds have all but stopped singing - all but the squawking magpies, even the pheasant hardly chunners.

A large cardboard box came today from Ikea containing a small picture frame. I have dismantled it, watered the compost well and then weighed the cardboard down on the top and watered that.
We are almost in drought, the garden needs watering, the pond topping up - three cheers for our own borehole.

The television is all football, Glastonbury, World Cup cricket and now Wimbledon. The gardening programmes are just rehashes of the same old information - if they took sport, cooking, houses and gardening off there would be little left - except the eternal shambles that is Brexit . . . . sigh!

R has gallivanted off for lunch with her sister, her cousin and her cousin's sister-in-law. What to do?
A drink and crisps in front of the tv watching Wimbledon?
Actually weeded the flower beds, trimmed the genista (overdue) and the sarcococcus, cut back the oriental poppies and the pulmonaria, manured the poppy bed - etc  etc.

Time for a good book.

Friday, 28 June 2019


Late June is pressing down on us.
The trees are one green and the garden is becoming quieter. This morning a lone song thrush calls, a young sparrow chirps. The only other sound is the raucous call of the magpies and the chunner of a pheasant outside the kitchen door.
Down the long path, where I covered the seed bed with netting and sowed carrots and parsnips, there are two fat rabbits sitting on the top of the netting. One reaches up and eats a leaf off a senecio that is in a pot (now called a Brachyglottis)(the plant not the pot). I did not know that rabbits ate those shrubs but suspect they eat just about anything. I shall go out soon and try to put better protection over the seedlings.
It is warmer and more humid. We are waiting for rain. My computer has been attacked by a virus that wiped out all my bookmarks from Safari - very strange.

It has not rained. There are goldfinches on the feeders and today (Wednesday) a greenfinch. I have not seen one of those for many months.

Wildlife is everywhere and the untamed grass is taller than I can remember - if my shoulder was not so sore I would be out scything (just an excuse).

The peonies are an explosion of pink and the small deutzia is ten feet tall - where did that come from? Each morning when I go out the philadelphus assails me with scent. The mass of vegetation is a blanket on the garden, almost smothering us. I do wish someone would smother the blackbirds though. They chatter at me in annoyance as I try to salvage redcurrants.

In the rose bed I have found an abandoned pheasant nest with twelve cold eggs. It is but a scrape in the soil and two feet from the long path - what a stupid place to build it.

No doubt the magpies and the rat will dine well so I move them to a far part of the garden in case they begin to smell.

I am sitting on the sofa in the kitchen when there is a loud thump - a young chaffinch has flown in the door and tried to escape through the window. It is on the floor, stunned. I pick it up, weighs nothing, and carefully take it outside to recover. It sits under the feeders, wobbly and shaken but finally flies away.

We have a second brood of house martins in the new nest above the kitchen door - the nest is so close I can reach up and touch it.

Thursday and I walk into the new part of the living room after breakfast. Sitting on the mat outside is a young rabbit. We stare at one another, two feet apart. It cannot smell or hear me through the double glazing. Perhaps it needs glasses?

When I open the door it ambles off - presumably to eat more of the garden. J's sunflowers are but short green stumps and netting is everywhere. It is a good job some of the veg beds are surrounded by a chicken wire fence. I do not know what else we can do other than buy a gun but that is not on my agenda. Pain in the proverbial as the bunnies may be there must be something a little Buddhist in my make up, mind you I did get in the mole catcher so . . ?

The lady's mantle, alchemilla mollis, has finally got going - late but luscious. And, yes, the foxgloves do self seed. If they were not a wild flower we would all be singing their praise as a garden plant.

And the eggs - after an exploration by sparrows and a blackbird the magpies arrived en masse, then, when most of them had gone the rat came.

Sunday, 23 June 2019


Saturday and we have had our first lunch out on the new whatever - hate the word patio but then what - terrace?

There garden is looking good - as long as you do not look too hard.

The grass is dry, the grass is wet, the mower's clogged, I need to scythe etc etc. But though it is June it is still cold. 
On Friday, the longest day, and it was 12C at 9 am but by the next day the temperatures were 18.5C.

The lawns are finally mown and things are looking a bit tidier. 

Some plants are thriving like the redcurrants - unfortunately this means the blackbirds are too. I have managed to salvage 2 pounds of fruit so far - need 4 for jelly.

5 goldfinches on the feeders, they have fledged as have the magpies next door - 7 of them - 'for a story that's never been told'.
And squirrels come and go, and rabbits come - have netted some of the veg beds to keep them, and the pigeons, off. 
The young rabbits are too tame for their own good. When confronted they just sit and look at you with a puzzled air - what is this creature?

The heads on the peonies are so big they need staking or they end up on the ground. Paeony Shirley Temple, amazing and faintly scented.

Last night as I sat at my window the Phebe rose (Rosa rubifolia from Wormleighton Manor where she lived) slowly fell over. It is now staked and manured. We hope it will survive.

 Elsewhere there is colour in the oriental poppies, the alstroemerias and the so useful geraniums - because the slugs and snails leave them alone. I have ordered 3 deep maroon geraniums for R - she saw them at Swarthmoor Hall when we visited the gardens.

And roses, ramblers and climbers - the Albertine has decided to go fifteen feet up an ash tree - and roses in the rose beds. 
The pots by the back door are settled in and the white rosebay is rampant on the upper banking - which is alright - I knew it would do that so had to put it somewhere safe. The Philadelphus Belle Etoile in is flower as is the white deutzia. I do not from where the red poppy  in the midst of the rosebay came from, perhaps self seeded but unlikely as I dead head assiduously.

Trees - the mighty ash above the house is full of bird (and squirrel) life, the eucalyptus continues to grow and grow and the lower hedge is clearly in need of being laid again. 

At one of the ways down from the middle garden the the lower lawns I planted two thornless crataegus, onion either side. That on the left is thriving and three times the size of that on the right. The soil is the same, they were the same size when bought - a mystery.

I have been weeding, trimming the willow around the compost heaps, R has cleared the old heads from the aquilegias, but the one thing that I think of when I look at the garden is - where has all this come from? In winter there is bare soil, now a jungle.

Still some of it is looking really good.

We sat down by the pond last night, in the evening sun, in our little paradise, and thought how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place.

Saturday, 15 June 2019


There are places in the garden that cry out for a focal point or for light in a dark corner. This does not have to be an expensive piece of sculpture - a plants will do.
The one that stands out in our garden is, perhaps surprisingly, a variegated horseradish. Of course this will not do much in the winter when the foliage dies down - but for the rest of the year - it is wonderful.

There are others - the glory of a crambe, here not yet in full flow next to an enormous cardoon. The crambe can be left as it has such an interesting seed head, the cardoon will need staking because the flowerhead become so heavy the stems fall over.

At the end of the long path is a scruffy fence behind which is hidden a cold frame and plastic storage box. This fence is now festooned with yellow roses and in from there is a golden choisya, Mexican orange, which compliments the rose.

Other plants that are stunners are the red alstromeria, here in a vase, and oriental poppies, especially the bright red ones.

We have also used the white birches to catch the eye and I intend to underplant them with ox-eye daisies for a summer show.

R made me get a daisy bush which is now in flower and she says they smell of honey.

So, what have we been up to in the garden - I have trimmed the beech hedge. The copper leaves are special when back-lit. We also have a copper beech behind the white birches to make them stand out even more.

The two Rambling Rector climbing roses are really getting going - one twenty-five feet up the old ash which is just as well because J and D, two Church of England ministers, are coming for lunch next week. 
R has been clearing out old aquilegias but leaving those of which she likes the colour most to set seed. 
I have cut down the Rhus typhina and now have the job of dealing with its many and far flung suckers. It just fell out of favour.
I went down to the shed by the pond and staked H's dark rose which had flopped over the bench, turned round and the wild duck was watching me from a few feet away, apparently unconcerned by my presence.

We have been given some sunflowers, thanks J, and I have put them in by the back wall.

To lowlife - and we are besieged by grey squirrels, taking apart the squirrel proof feeders and being brazen just outside the kitchen door. Here is one sitting in the entrance to the trap eating peanuts. I went out and to escape it bolted into the trap which snapped shut - big mistake!

There is a constant visitor on the peanuts - a female greater spotted woodpecker.

She or her other half more likely has been busy on the
old ash tree. It has several dead branches and a bit fell off one - peppered with woodpecker holes.

And a glory in the garden - the first Rose Emma Hamilton, blowsy and heavily scented. I just wish the flowers would open more. If they get wet they are too heavy and can get sodden and rot.

And it rains.

And we still have flowering camellias.

Apart from that it is all go - first opium poppy 😇, here with the Stachys (lamb's lugs).
The white campanulas - that spread themselves, are coming out as are the herder and the various geraniums - always good value.

Finally the petunias we bought at Melkinthorpe and were put in the pots by the door are doing well.

Finally, finally, this is the dining area under the feeders - wood pigeon, collared dove, grey squirrel and a small (?) brown rat.