Friday, 30 November 2012


So, one day we are totally Wellied (waterproof Wellington Boots on for those reading this in Russia) and flooded out - and then a hard frost - ice on the pond, clear skies and wonderful stars.

The last leaves are coming off the Great White Cherry and making a many coloured carpet on the path in front of the house. I have left them there for now they look so good but will soon collect them for the leaf mould sack - which I have moved to beside the new compost bins beyond the veg beds.
I have also dismantled the compost heaps by the house and dug over the ground. Then I transplanted a dozen bay trees (the ones I bought as a herb in a pot on the market for a couple of pounds)(there were 27 small bays in one pot)(so I planted them out) and put in then last of the daffodils from the cheap sack.
One snag from removing the compost bays was that I had a bird feeder pole attached to it. This has been move around to the side of the house so I can now see 4 feeders from my desk. However I spent half and hour crouched in the shed scrabbling on the floor as I dropped a feeder full of black sunflower seed and it shed its load everywhere.
Within half an hour of setting up the new feeder pole I was rewarded with the arrival of a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

The last tree (well not yet quite big enough for a tree) with leaves is the Liquidambar, so red and determined not to let go.

I have finished the back bed, cleared away dying vegetation, tidied shrubs and removed weeds. The yellow climbing rose's wooden trellis support had rotted so I cut some young ash poles (whilst I can) and made a new one - then tied the rose in after pruning.

In the rose bed the last flowers were struggling on but have now succumbed to the cold. Nevertheless I can usually find a rose somewhere for the Christmas table.

I am behind with everything because of the wet weather and spent some time yesterday repairing the outflow from the top pond - the flooding had washed it away emptying out the water.

It is nearly muck time but first I need to tidy the rest of the flowerbeds. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they are frozen solid. Chickens and eggs, harts and corses spring to mind.

I have just looked out the window - the female Greater Spotted Woodpecker is on the peanuts on the new pole and feeders. In the last ten minutes I have had the woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, blackbird, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, tree sparrow, robin and dunnock outside my room.
No grey squirrels for a while - can the word have got about that they should avoid our garden?

The sun is out, the sky is blue, all is well with the world - until it rains again - possibly tonight - on frozen roads.
Well, I cannot be an optimist all the time!?

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Now, some of you have thought that wearing a waste paper basket on one's head is ridiculous - see last blog.

It is the sort of thing I do.
I went down the garden yesterday to get some carrots with a plastic bowl on my head as it was raining.
The sheep in the field completely ignored me!

It is raining again and the vegetable beds are under water, the garden is a river and, in the village, it has burst its banks. I put on waterproofs and great big Wellington boots so I could wander about kicking up the puddles (and unblocking drains). Felt just like a senile Christopher Robin.

Do slugs drown or just do back-stroke waiting for things to get a bit drier - only a bit that is. Snails can seal themselves in their shells so they should be all right - sadly.

The birds have braved the rain and are using the feeders - those under some sort of cover and those in the rain.

If one has a garden one spends a lot of time doing a lot of things in that garden. This year the thing I have done most is look out of windows and plan as the jungle takes over.

And it is so dark - like dusk at midday.
The bad weather is relentless and next year I will only be growing water cress, flukes or no flukes. In fact, one wonders if the weather is a fluke - no it has gone on to long - this is Global Wetting.

My skin is going all wrinkly, (no, not just from age), and I am shrinking, (no, not just from age either).

So, to try and cheer everyone up who lives in this sodden country, (I said sodden), I am putting on a picture of a big red paeony, full of warm colours like the sun.
Now you may well ask what that is, the sun I mean.
Well, as my memory is getting poorer, (yes, from age), and time is passing faster, (ditto), I am trying to remember when I last basked, (no I am not as big as those sharks)(not quite), and came to the conclusion it must have been this year.
I think.
Therefore I am . . . what?


Wednesday, 21 November 2012


In fact, the ash first - we hear much of what will happen to our/my ash woodland but no one has yet mentioned that many of the hedges are predominantly ash. Around here some hedges are almost exclusively ash.

This is a nightmare for farmers trying to keep stock in fields. Invest in barbed wire!

Now to a tale of bats, or a bats tale or .... well. you decide.

The owner of this tale will remain firmly anonymous.

She hates bats.
She sleeps with her bedroom window open and, one night, she heard a fluttering in the house. (She lives alone.) A bat was at large!
The thought of one getting in her hair made her drape a towel over her head as she hurried to the computer and typed in, "How do you get rid of bats?"
She found the answer. 
Take a tupperware bowl and a sheet of cardboard. Place the bowl over the bat and then slide the cardboard under the bowl being careful not to let the bat escape. Then take it somewhere and release it. This is best done at daybreak when the animals are torpid.

Being frightened (yet very brave) she stayed up all night and, as the first light appeared in the east, she put on her jeans and a wicker waste paper basket (over her head so the bat would not get in her hair)(and so she could see through the wickerwork).
She crept downstairs and there by a pot plant on a table was something resembling a dead leaf. Of course, as she had the basket on her head she could not wear her glasses but she thought it was the bat.
She placed the bowl over the thing and slid the cardboard into place. The thing moved. It was the bat.
Now what to do?
She opened the front door and, both hands occupied, set off down the road, the waste paper basket still on her head. It was a good thing it was very early in the morning.
Finally she found a garage door with a gap at the bottom and popped the bat inside.
Then she hurried home, forgetting to take the basket off her head till she had shut the door.
Now, I have asked the person in question for permission to publish this and she has reluctantly consented.

To move on - here is a siskin (I think) sheltering from the rain under the eaves of one of the sheds - even the birds are fed up with the weather.

At least it picked a place with plenty of food.

And autumn is done.

Winter has come in mid November. (And it will last until March.)
Wooly combinations on, wood burning stove lit, lumberjack cap with earflaps at the ready, gloves and Wellies by the back door.
Still loads to do in the garden.
I am getting my knees wet praying for a few dry days (for a change).

So, I know what I want for Christmas -


Thursday, 15 November 2012


First the big news - I have come third in the Gardeners' World Magazine Poetry Competition - and won £50 of gardening vouchers. Perhaps there is a little self wish fulfilment in the poem - what a way to go. (Not so nice for those who find me though.)

So what do I spend it on? It will not be on my knees even if I am. One replacement down, the other can wait (and wait).

It will not really go a long way. Get someone in for half a day to strim? Buy a few plants - no that has been vetoed for now by R who says we have enough in the garden and I can divide and do cuttings etc. A new trowel - do not need it - a pot with a lid to hide in the garden and put my whisky in for tots on cold days - am joking - on the other hand . . .

It is now time for tidying and clearing and weeding and getting the beds ready for the winter.
Autumn colours are all but over and it was misty and very still this morning, not a breath of wind.

The whole garden is going to sleep - well, not quite true - birds, rabbits and some plants are very awake. The sarcococcus is in bud as is the winter-flowering honeysuckle. Plants like roses struggle on and the marigolds offer blazes of yellow here and there.

The pots filled with tulips have been topped with bright yellow winter pansies and, after nipping out the flowers when planted, they are now blooming and lighting up the area around the house.
Hopefully they will do so all winter.

The last autumn leaves are still on the Great White Cherry and the Liquidambar.

From my desk I can, once more, 
see through the wood to the top where the ash trunks are grey in the mist.

So, it is start at one end time, work through the garden and, Oh yes, I have not made the new tops for the cold frames - urgent! I have not drained the cassis from the jars and rebottled it. I have not, I have not . . . etc.

And the poem -


April crosses the lawn,
swings shadows over the grass.
In a potting shed,
rotting at the back planks,
a kettle boils
on a gas ring.
He hefts a tea-bag
into a mug,
dribbles milk and stirs
till bricklayer brown.
Deck-chair stripes swing,
sink, settle.
He watches a spider
crouching behind the dibber
watching him, waiting.
He turns on the Test,
listens to tales of cake
and occasional cricket
and drowses,
lulled by the drone of the commentator,
warm sun through the webbed window
and the roar of the bees
on the rosemary by the door.
England collapse.
The tea goes cold
and skins.
Shadows creep over him.
The rise of his waistcoat
falls and stills.
Woodlice scurry,
disturb dust.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


So our Government has a sense of humour!!!

Their advice to gardeners to burn their ash leaves because of this fungus is just as stupid as imagining there is anything we can do to stop the spread of die-back.

We have at least ten mature ash trees in our garden, especially in the wild woodland area. Burning is as ridiculous as thinking I could collect the leaves in the first place.
If the plague reaches us as I suspect it will I will, also, not be burning the wood, well, not immediately. No doubt I will have to get a fellow who fells to take the trees down. However the wood will be logged and stacked for the wood burner. By the time our trees become victims the disease will be endemic, if not already. So, I pray that our lovely ash are immune knowing they will not be. They provide us with welcome shelter from the prevailing winds and, though the come into leaf last and drop first, I much prefer them to the sycamore that seems to get eberywhere.

Now to other things like rushing out into the garden between the rain and the rain.

The two thornless hawthorns came and have been planted and staked. I hope they will grow to form an arch over a strip of grass leading down to the lower lawn.

 This year’s wallflower seedlings have been munched to almost nothing but I have noticed last year’s are magnificent. Wallflowers are really small shrubs and, if looked after, will flower for a year or two or more. Last year’s crop are now two feet tall and bursting with promise.

At the moment I am writing this as an excuse to come out of the garden. Some plants are dangerously invasive and I have been trying to extract Japanese anemones from a rose bed. This has proved impossible and I am sure bits are left to reveal themselves next year - then I will have to do a second weed.
Into the hole where the anemones were have gone the lilies from last year’s big pot.

Next to the outside table, on the paved area by the house, I plant a big tub with lilies so we can enjoy the flowers, bask on the scent and get the pollen all over our clothes. What lilies - for myself there is only one - the gorgeous Lilium regale, ten in a tub.
There is some discussion as to whether they should be potted up now or in the spring. The idea being that, in the spring they will not have had to survive a winter. I have found that, if you plant them deeply, there seems to be no problem - and was none in the two hard winters we had.

When I was dumping the barrowful of anemone roots in a distant corner of the garden - they may survive there and will not be a threat I found the old golden autumn fruiting raspberry canes I had also dumped a few years ago and they had fruit. A bit sour but really raspberryish. It is just that my head cannot get around the colour and R does not like them so they are, affectively, a wild surprise.

Had my break - must go into the garden and pick up all the ash leaves - see you next spring!

Monday, 5 November 2012


. . . and so is approaching winter. A huge flock of redwings zoomed through the garden yesterday and the brambling, a female, was seen at the feeders amongst the chaffinches. Our Cotoneaster “Cornubia” was stripped of its berries by four male blackbirds in three days.
We have had hard frosts for two nights so I have been out digging over the veg beds so the frost can help break up the soil. Have been topdressing some such as asparagus and rhubarb with a leaf mould compost mixture but being careful with the rhubarb not to cover the crowns as rot could set in.
I am waiting for two trees from Weasdale, non thorny hawthorn - that sounds wrong - and still have lilies to move from a pot and replace with daffodils.
The wooden frameworks for the climbing roses are crumbling so I will need to cut some more poles and construct new trellising. There is some good coppiced ash in the back hedge I could use .

Almost time for cutting back the perennials and adding them to the compost heap but not quite - there still flowers here and there.
I have bought a new ladder, one of those that can assume a whole range of shapes. This means I have two ancient and unused ladders - one wooden and the other aluminium, each in two sections. I am trying to think how I could use these in the garden without being silly.
Possibly as a basis for a boardwalk topped with planks, as fencing, as trellis?

We are still eating carrots and what we can salvage from the bolted leeks. The remains of summer lettuce and caterpillar and snail munched brassicas have been consigned to the compost heap.

Some time ago I bought two scarlet Lonicera for R but, as yet, have not planted them. They may be about to over winter in the cold frame when I can finish making the new covers.

There is still warmth in the sun and the other morning the Wendy House was steaming.

Bonfire night, or rather nights, is/are with us and the fireworks are scaring the animals. It is possible, if it will light, that we might have a bonfire later in the week when the grandchildren arrive. Thus I have taken the rotting heap (because of the endless rain) that pretended to be a bonfire and relocated anything of it that might ignite. Hopefully this will cut out the chance of cooked hedgehogs and improve the possibility of a few flames. Last year was a great success.

The rest will be left to rot down and be used somewhere as it is dig and mulch time. Put on the compost and let the worms do their thing.

And planning for next year - more carrots, less brassicas, net the redcurrants, pray for the raspberries, dream of a summer (we never had one this year), get a trailer for the mower so I do not have to barrow mountains of horse muck to the garden, divide montbretia, ditto japanese anemones and be surprised by all the things you have forgotten are growing in the garden.

And it would be great if the Magnolia grandiflora finally flowered.