Friday, 8 November 2019


As I get more mobile the garden beckons, clearing out dying plants - well this year's debris, blowing leaves into heaps, trimming, cutting back, aching etc.
This grey cold morning I am nursing my cup of tea as my mother used to do, hands wrapped around the mug, (she had cold hands and used to creep up behind me and stick them down the back of my collar), when a small bird flies into the window with a thud. What had disturbed it? I stand and look out to find three hen pheasants below me looking up. They are this year's brood and skittish, hurry off  into the undergrowth. The small bird that hit the window is unhurt and long gone.

I have been in the garden cutting back the asparagus stems, tidying away the dying peony fronds, Michaelmas daisies and other vegetation. Most off the trees are leafless and the cherries and cercidiphyllums are now turning. A tall teasel shoves its way up through the cherry.

Other trees are casting off this years photosynthetic factories and the grass and paths are carpets of brittle colour. Even the leaves of the strawberries are turning.

Down by the pond the holly is loaded with berries so it is clear that this is a female tree. The winter birds will be glad of the supply.
Other trees and shrubs hold on to their green leaves - the magnolia stellata, deutzia and lilac, the buddleias  and winter honeysuckle. The beech hedge though is finally giving in to winter.
All this seems much later than I remember as a boy as the seasons change.

We have Brussels sprouts but the squash and courgette plants have been consigned to the compost heap.

Elsewhere there are lingering flowers - roses still scented,

Self sown sunflowers from the bird feeders,

a few persistent Japanese anemones

and the final lavender heads.

The lavender is now trimmed - not cutting back into the old wood as that would result in die back or even death of the plant.

The last pear is on the tree and out of reach. It will fall and feed the rabbits.

When I look on facebook or the like and see old friends and cousins in New Zealand welcoming Spring, and then look out at the approaching darkness (it is only 3 pm!), put on another fleece and argue with R about having the heating on, I watch a large flock of fieldfares, winter visitors, fly over and dream of spring and its promise. Meanwhile we just have to get on with elections and Christmas and New Year and so on and so on. 

Friday, 1 November 2019


At this time of year colour is at a premium and often more subtle that in the heyday of summer. The garden subsides into evergreen shades of grey and green with occasional bursts from a late dahlia or fruit.

Hydrangeas, those that have not gone brown yet, carry on but will need the heads removed soon, then be cut back to a good bud later. 
The pond is almost devoid of plant life with animal life buried in the mud for much of the winter waiting for warmer times. I really should wade in a hack back the big water lily - but the water is now a touch chilly.

The banking in front of the house exhibits the multiple green/grey tones well, lifted by a late flowering potentilla.

 And I mentioned fruit - any the the blackbirds, thrushes, redwing and fieldfares have not eaten - still are adding high points.

The trees in the garden are now giving colour, hanky tree below  and azalea to the right. Below the first cherry colour is coming and standing out when (occasionally) there is a blue sky.
In the case of the cherry it is only the branch at the top of the tree so far - I do not know why this should be.
Soon it will be time to get out the blower and clear the paths and grass.

And in the far garden the trunks of the white birches are looking good though I think one has had a squirrel or deer chewing at its bark.

Now, I mentioned that we had been to Scotland. So here is a little Threave Gardens autumn colour.

So, as the Halloween industry counts its profits and prepares for Christmas we move on into November and the year begins to wind down.

Thursday, 24 October 2019


as and it is getting colder. Dark nights approach.
As autumn pushes forward. I do not apologise for showing these two bushes again. When the sun is out they are splendid. The acer was given to us by my elder sister.

Though some plants are regressing, like the leaves of the water lily on the pond others like the roses and the pink geranium are continuing to flower. I cut the geranium back after first flowering with this purpose in mind. I went in the garden on Monday and did too much, finished off the planting of the gladiolus byzantinus and put in  ten eremurus, fox-tail lilies, where they can be seen from the new extension. 
I planted one of the hydrangea Annabelle cuttings I struck last year near the cattle-grid on the banking at the request of R, then cut back and dead-headed some of the rose bed including the very big catmint which had got out of hand. Finally I cleared away the remains of the rhubarb, now flopped and fallen to the ground. 

On the way down to the pond, last year, I put in several cyclamen corms and had given up hope of seeing anything but suddenly we have leaves. By the bottom shed the fatsia has decided to begin flowering though this seems a strange choice to make it has done this in past years.
Over the weekend we were away in Dumfries and Galloway to give R a break from nursing the decrepit invalid and went to Threave Gardens. On the first visit it was shut due to floods but was open on the second attempt - more on that next blog.

At home we have the last of the windfall apples from the Bramley.

I still cannot smell the toffee leaves from the cercidiphyllum or katsura.

And so, here in the UK, the clocks go back an hour from our summer time, waking at 7 am is now 6 am and the dark closes in earlier in the evening.
Ah! Well, only six months to go - Christmas, New Year, an election?, Brexit (or not), impeachment (or not), etc etc etc.

Time to hibernate.

I end with a monochrome shot of The Cumbrian mountains from across the Solway Firth for no other reason than I like the shot and it reflects the feeling that we are all bedding down till the spring.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019



Here are some of the wildlife from the last month or so - we have also had many more including a badger visit.


Immature cock pheasant

Wood mice (long tailed field mouse)


Wood Pigeon

There is so much to do, put off because of the operation, but having said that, the limping man has just mown a chunk of lawn (can you have a chunk of lawn?).

Now to reds and yellows, red sky and euonymus elata - and yellows - Acer Sango-kaku and Rudbeckia Goldsturm -  

On some of the evergreen shrubs the greenery is reverting and will need the reverted bit cut out - when I get around to it. R continues to dead head and cut back and plant stuff, she has put endless bulbs under the white birches. I had not been down to that part of the garden for a while and was delighted to see the bark, even on the youngest trees, has now gone white.

And still it rains a lot giving so many grey days (the spot of yellow is a self-sown sunflower from the bird feeders.

 So as Boris the Cunning weaves his way through the politics of Brexit pretending to be a bumbling harmless chap (don't you believe it), Donald the Devious dodges impeachment if he can and Pugilistic Putin watches and smiles, I think I will have a cup of tea and a piece of shortbread.

And now I learn that Charles Jencks, co-founder of Maggie's cancer charity and designer of the Garden of Cosmic Speculation and Crawick Multiverse has died aged 80. 
The world is a poorer place.

Thursday, 10 October 2019


not a sign of mellow fruitfulness, just wind and rain and rain and rain. 
The butterflies are still with us especially on the remaining buddliea flowers.

Comma to the left, red admirals right. The inundation of painted ladies has dissipated now.
The holly in the bottom hedge is loaded with berries as are the briars and cotoneasters. Does that spell out a hard winter to come? No doubt the blackbirds, thrushes, redwings and fieldfares will enjoy the harvest.

Rosey's hydrangea cuttings are potted up for the winter and the bushes are still putting on a good show. I must soon plant out the ones I took last year as they have rooted.

There is leaf colour coming and leaf fall now from the ash trees.

Strawberry leaves to the left, Euonymus to the right.

Down the garden the water lily leaves are beginning to submerge but, as soon as my knee allows I will need to tidy up the banks of the pond.

At the back of the house the Michaelmas Daisies are finally coming into flower but flopping across the way to the front door (the one at the back). So a primitive use of stakes has been employed to hold them back.

In fact they have become too big and will need to the dug up, divided and replanted this winter.

The stream is a bit clogged as my operation came before I could prepare it for autumn so it has overflowed into the white birches. Yesterday I donned my boots and went and limped off down the garden and cleared some of it out. Also, with all the rain, springs have appeared near the bonfire area so, as to try and protect the grass, I dug a small trench across to the stream.
And then hobbled back to the house.

In the new rose bed Lois and Ian's rose is flowering again. The bed needs a good cut back and clear out, The aquilegias have almost taken over having sown themselves everywhere.

We have abundant apples and pears and R took some to church at the weekend - and left the trug behind. They may rise a pound or two for the coffers.

Another flowering glory at this time of year are the Kaffir lilies, so delicate. I prefer this deeper red to the paler pink ones.

Between the showers and longer spells of rain I have planted up two pots with Madame LeFebre red tulips, R dead headed and I mowed the small lawns near the house - very slowly as per knee.

Still harvesting apples and pears.