Friday, 13 September 2019


As I sit here in front of my computer in an opiate induced haze, wincing as I move my new right knee, I watch the relentless grass grow on the lawns, the bindweed scaling new heights and turn again to the exercises that will return me to my garden.

I have tried an experiment - I noticed the butterflies sunning themselves on the table outside and thought that I could feed them as well as the birds - sugar solution in a shallow container. Now I wait.

We are eating our chard, have half a dozen sweet pea flowers in a vase and I have sneaked out down the garden to look at the unharvested apples, pears and damsons - crutches, bad leg, good leg.

The ornamental cherries seem bigger than ever - well of course they are but BIGGER bigger. From the house Shirotae to the right, Tai Haku to the left. Soon they may need pruning.

When we started there was nothing there, then, after a couple of years - about 2008 - we planted the trees. This is the shirotae, planted and, I note, poorly staked. The stake should have been at 45 degrees pointing into the prevailing wind. Mind you we are well sheltered and do not get much of that.

By 2011 the garden was really staring to take shape and the Shirotae - beloved because its flowers hang down and you look up into them - mimicking the curve of our new path.

By October of that year they were thriving - Shirotae to the left, Tai Haku to the right.

I will not bother you with the story of the rediscovery of the Great White Cherry in the UK when it had all but gone from Japan - you can look it up on the internet.

Both flowering  well in the spiring of 2013 and lighting up the garden, the Great White with brownish leaves, the other with green.

In 2014 I took close-ups of the flowers and here you can see the pendant nature of the Shirotae blossom on the right compared with the other.

The sheer volume of shirotae blossom next year was wonderful as these two photos show.

An 2016 early spring shot shows how open the garden still was though all the old growth in the beds had been cleared and the leaves were not yet on the trees. The two cherries are in blossom.

By this year (2019) the trees dominated the April garden with vast amounts of flower and now, in September, we are beginning to feel like we are living in woodland.
The necessity of pruning may come soon.

And now for something completely different - leg bends and stretches, codeine and naps - soon, please soon, I shall be gardening again.

Thursday, 5 September 2019


An early morning, early autumnal view from the window in our new extension.

If I move a plant and do not know what to do with it it gets put in the weedy jungle on the banking below the veg beds. One example is this Acanthus - one of the prickliest things I know - vicious. Anyway it seems to enjoy being there along with some Tansy and pink Japanese anemones, a pink sidalcea and cast off day lilies. The background is a discarded willow that has been mutilated by tying the branches together - albeit in a rather haphazard way. We used to have a willow tunnel but that got removed when it got too big. In the spring there are still two lines of daffodils where it used to grow. Other willows now form a barrier between the garden and the back field in the very top corner of the garden. The box hedge by the main shed has been trimmed.  However, in attempting to take of a shrivelled leaf from the courgette rather than cutting it off, I pulled the whole plant out of the ground and it is now on the compost heap 😧.
As you may have gathered I am home from the dreaded hospital and on crutches. Enough of my trials and tribulations - just the endless exercises to come and remembering not to kneel down. Steve Austin has nothing on me! For those who cannot remember who he is or was too young - use the internet. Op did not cost 6 million dollars though - good old NHS - hands off Mr Trump.

Down in the veg beds the marigolds are doing well and I am letting them run to seed so I can collect it and sow in the spring. They brighten up a dark corner and are surprisingly hardy. I have raised the canopy on a couple of trees including this on the right and the liquidambar.

Talking trees the white birches are wonderful with their peeling bark. Apparently some people will wash the trunks - a bit much for me.

One small plant that gives good ground cover is the Creeping Jenny. Not many of its yellow flowers showing now but you can see how it got its name.

An update on our ash trees - I have had info from an expert and there is little to be done except, if they are dying and liable to fall on the house, have them cut down. Someone is going to make a lot of money from this. Perhaps I should buy a chain saw and climbing harness - I mean, knee done I might be able to do anything - can one climb trees with crutches?

So finally what is this orange fungus - it is not growing on my knee. I think we shall have to wait and see.  It does not look like any of the images on the web but might be in its infancy - can a fungus be in its infancy? Dunno. Orange peel fungus sprung to mind but . . . 

Finally, finally a bow to memory loss - in the rosa rugosa hedge I can see out of my window is a shrub covered in red berries. I am sure I did not put it there - did I? This is one of the tall shrubby cotoneasters, not horizontalis.

And now for something completely different - as a man delighted that he only has two knees, albeit metal. It will be interesting to see if, after being left for a couple of months, how much work it will take to recover the garden. I mean trees and shrubs are little problem - it is more mowing and scything and weeding, let alone planting 450 bulbs!!

Wednesday, 28 August 2019


Cannot mow the lawn before the knee op as waited for a dry day and when I got up it was thick mist wrapping everything in water droplets. 

One of the nine feet high cardoon stems came down in the wind and rain - RIP one stem.

 So, from splendour on the left to the compost heap on the right - too big and stem too woody really but it will break down in time.

The Japanese anemones on the left are one of R's favourites - she does not much like the pink ones.

The wall of vegetation by the new paved area - michaelmas daisies, teasels, cardoons, stipa gigantic, crambe, buddleia, miscanthus makes for a sort of garden room with the rest beyond.

So, how are we doing on the produce side - apart from only one mouldy greengage ok - we are a bit far north for greengages?

The asparagus promises well for next year and the rhubarb has loved the wet weather - this is the second crop if you remember - we pulled all the leaves off the first lot when they got a bit draggy in the hot weather (what was that?)

Then there are the other fruit trees like the Bramley apples on the left and damsons, despite the attack of pocket plum disease, on the right. The problem is, can I, when crutch bound, pick them?

The Conference pears look great with branches weighed down with fruit.

This is time of the Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia goldsturm in full glory.

 And now to a more worrying item - the young ash trees between us and the horse paddock have no leaves on the top 3 to 4 feet of branches and I suspect that the dreaded ash dieback has come. Will our magnificent 70 to 80 feet high trees survive one of which is white ancient for an ash?

The next time you hear from me I shall, to quote Beyond the Fringe, have stolen to the alien crutch - well a very approximate quote and anyway two crutches. 

Thursday, 22 August 2019


Why, when I look at all the words that spill from politicians' mouths (or not) do I feel pessimistic about the future of our world?
R would say it is because I am a pessimist.
But mankind is almost always a species of 'too little, too late.'

And when we are gone the world will breath a belated sigh of relief, and animals get on with breeding and eating one another.
And will there be a species to inherit the planet? - I suppose it depends on how much of a mess we have made of it. 

The obvious candidate is the rat with its opposing thumbs and ability to survive. 
One other suggestion has been artificial intelligence. If so I do not think it would be long before they abandon the human form and improve on it.

Perhaps enough misery - but I have little faith in those with the power, they are too self-interested. 
James Lovelock is 100 years old and, I wonder, if his theory of Gaia is true - is the earth one giant interdependent living system that regulates itself? Unfortunately we are interfering with that natural system so changes to the earth will get rid of us, or at least control us one way or another - climate change, loss of fertility, disease etc.

The old raspberry canes are removed, the red currants pruned, the beech hedge tidied and I have raised the canopy on one of the small trees. Many of the plums are rotten and wasps - we need sun! The lawn needs mowing but it rains and rains, makes it nearly impossible - THEN I have that phone call - "We have a cancellation for you knee replacement." Panic! Say no, no not till the garden is put to bed for the winter, then give in and get on with it - next Thursday.

The butterflies continue to be wonderful - even there are beautiful moths around.
Below  is a Grey Chi moth on the shed door, only an inch (2.4 cm)  long.

With steely determination I decided to try and find out who had eaten the leaves off my dill, who was the thief in the night.
So I put the video camera by the bed and went a way - 356 images of a waving parsnip leaf and this -

We have courgettes - well a few, but who will harvest the damsons, pears and apples, dig up the potatoes when I am crutched and hobbling?

This was the alchemilla before it went over and R got her shears to it - but it will revive.

The two roses we got for our anniversary are planted and I need to put in the many small Ox-eye daisies amongst the white birches. And so on and so on.

Anyway I will soon have dissolved if the rain does not stop.

Saturday, 17 August 2019


Come again another day - but a good while off.
The Rosa rubifolia is heavy with water - I mentioned before that it fell over and I was worried it might die as it had come from my Uncle's at Wormleighton Manor, the ancestral home of the Spencers (lady Di and all that)(it was a farm they rented) but it has sent up a strong new shoot from the base.

Having said that when the sun does force its way through the flying flowers come out -

Especially, this year the Painted Lady butterfly - they are everywhere in large numbers. We also have the usuals - ed Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and the large and small white. 
There is one white variation that seems to be in larger numbers this year and that is the green-veined white.

 Bumble bees like this white-tailed bumble bee are also busy.

But The rain makes it hard for the house martins to feed - they seem to make just as much mess under their nests though. Next year I might discourage them from building right beside the kitchen door.

I have started the scything of the stream edges - a tidy - and a general dead head and weed has been done. But it all depends on the weather. The global wetting goes on and on - and it is mid August with the temperature outside only at 14C!

I am going to have to get some help - I know I have said I never would - but with a new knee imminent (that makes a splendid pair (Thanks mum for the arthritis)) I will be out of action for a while.

Something has dined on R's new lavaterias - not the rabbit I think but more likely slugs. Not seen many this year but . . . 

I have had to stake the big teasel - eight feet tall - and the cardoon is as big. Apparently the young stems are edible, perhaps an experiment for next year? Oh yes, and we have three flowers on our sweet peas, loads of rhubarb (it likes the rain), courgettes and chard. R has eaten her first two plums of the Victoria tree and the surviving damsons are colouring. Wasps are already at the plums and pears.

And Annabelle has collapsed under the weight of the downpours. The flowering heads on the hydrangea are so big the stems are not strong enough to support them.

So we get to Thursday and eat the last of the broad beans and a large potato I dug up accidentally. But tomorrow the rains return - will we dissolve?

Nearly - it is Saturday and the mower almost got bogged down in the sodden lawn. R cut back the alchemillas now they are over and I pruned the big bay outside the kitchen and dead headed some of the buddleia.

And so to the blog and remembering Ron, a brother-in-law who, with his family, had to endure so many years with Parkinson's Disease. At least he suffers no longer.

Sunday, 11 August 2019


We are back from Wales and a celebration of our Golden Wedding. There is much to do. 
Our children and grandchildren gave us two roses - The Poet's Wife 😀, a golden shrub rose and a climbing rose, The Generous Gardener 😀 from David Austin Roses. It is time to plant them when we have decided where.
I am reading Adam Nicholson's The Making of Poetry on a year or so Wordsworth, his sister and Coleridge spent together in Somerset.    I was glad to see (and remember) that Wordsworth did not leave Cambridge with much of a degree. I have not much more to say about him, one of the two Ws to open the Lake District to tourism (the other is Wainwright). I think his poetry is variable, not all wonderful, but as my Grandfather's cousin Helen was a Wordsworh scholar when at Somerville College, Oxford I shall leave further analysis to her.

Back to the garden -

Rhus run wild - clever old gardener thought I would get rid of the Rhus typhi (Staghorn Sumac) and cut it down. Now the whole lower banking has sprouted with suckers - AAAAgh! It is a pernicious plant. Do not put it in your garden unless it is in a pot.

For some reason this brings from the depths memories of the singing of Yma Sumac who was Peruvian and had the most amazing range of voice. Just thought I would chuck that irrelevant bit of recall in.

Tea/coffee outside between thunderstorms yesterday with my brother and wife and their daughter's dog, shaking with fear of the thunder.
I wonder if we are heading for a monsoon type season every summer?

There is a lot of colour still in the garden - The Crocosmia lucifer with the stand of white birches behind, garden golden rod, red roses tumbling from the trellis beside the mower shed, and many more. Some of the buddleia is going over but we have a lot of butterflies now when the sun comes out between showers.

Under a nest above the back door I found half a tiny white egg shell - there is a new brood of house martins above me.
In the other nest they peer down at me seemingly feeling secure.

Earlier in the year I bought these erysimums in a job lot as R likes the purple Mrs Bowles - she down not like this mixed orange and pink plant though - they will have to be moved.

I have found that the wild ox-eye daisies have seeded themselves beside the drive tarmac so I have dug some up and potted them. Later they can go out under the white birches - I rather fancy a sea of white daisies there.

Redone the BigButterfly count - loads of Painted Ladies.
Walked back from veg beds to be confronted by two rabbits who skittered off onto the shrubbery.

Home to 48 hours of rain, long grass, a rabbit on the lawn ignoring me and 5 sweet pea flowers! It is going to take some time for the garden to dry out.