Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Now we have had the first hard frost we seem to breathe a sigh of relief - autumn is over and winter is here. (This is despite the eucryphia, Rambling Rector roses and the Bramley apple still sporting green leaves.)

The bed by the back door is cleared and mucked and I have started weeding the Bay bed by the shed where the old compost heaps used to be. It is November but under a thin layer of topsoil daffodil bulbs have started to push up shoots! I covered them up quickly. I think that I will plant this with ranunculus when I have finished to give a bright show in a darker corner.
The back bed has a magnolia stellata that has not yet lost its leaves. I hope the blossom will be better next spring than this year - it was poor - ? cold or wet.

We are under an area of high pressure so the garden is cold but calm - just enough breeze to make the chimes ring quietly. R has collected a few golden syrup tins and I am wondering if they could be converted into something musical (well clangy) in the wood.

The reed mace in the top pond are just fluffing up before releasing their airborne seed. The brown heads are so soft when stroked. I like their sculptural quality.

I have been asked about the life of scaffolding planks. The ones I edged out veg beds with were discards from a scaffolding firm and VERY cheap. The ones in contact with the soil have now rotted  - six years. Those higher up are still ok (ish) but looking the worse for wear. If you really want something to last then it is stone, concrete, plastic (Mmmm!) or metal. I have noticed that the horses in the field next to us have got new railings and, whereas the uprights are wooden fence posts, the horizontals are plastic. Could they be used? Would they be strong enough?
The photo shows the asparagus bed in the distance and the bed that is half rhubarb nearer with some of this year's wallflower seedlings to be used as cut flowers for the house. Both are well manured.

The beech hedges are well coloured and the copper beech now looks the same as the common beech.

I would like to plant more trees but perhaps it would be wise to wait. The ones we have, when they are more grown, will make it feel a bit like we are living in a plantation.

I find it hard to believe that we are only four weeks from Christmas Day, the Winter Equinox or whatever. The bad side is that the afternoons are now very short, the good that it will be not too long before the new snowdrops will be up and give us a lift.

Down by the Wendy House the Fatsia is loving its position and thriving - flowers, fruit, the lot. Perhaps it love the sound of a tapped keyboard.

Anyone got some stamina for sale, or even loan? Gardening seems to have become a series of short strenuous bursts rather then an all day job - or no bursts at all.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Wednesday - Wild too, gale blowing, showers, some with hail, spattering the windows, not much above freezing (I know, I know, you that live in Canada, Siberia and such places think we should be out sunbathing), but it does deter one from the garden. 

By now almost all the trees have lost their leaves - the beech hedge, of course, hangs on to its leaves and the great white cherry is not quite stripped. However the liquidambar just gets redder and redder. 

I have been keeping the field drain steam clear as best I can but it clogs so easily with leaves at this time of year. When it does the water finds all sorts of alternative underground routes down the garden so a little trench has been dug near the compost heap to try and dry out the grass.

I have brought out the potted bulbs for Christmas but am not very hopeful - they should be sprouting now they have had their shot of cold and dark but, apart from the amaryllis, not a thing. They sit inertly on my windowsill.

I have been surveying the internet for sleepers - railway ones, to replace the worn out and rotten scaffolding planks I first used for the sides of the veg beds. Not cheap. I think I do not want the creosoted ones - might not agree with the plants so will ask locally with prices from the internet search in mind. May need quite a few.

Still collecting stick fall from the trees - put somewhere dry for the kindling.
Using a sunflower and niger seed mixture has really attracted the goldfinches.

Moles are about heaping up their soil mountains - I tried the human hair approach suggested by G from Dublin but the just move a few feet to one side. If G. has any further ideas I would be interested to hear of them.

Friday - R has been labouring away clearing the debris of the year from the flowerbeds and plonking it on the compost heap. I dug up some of the yellow montbretia (crocosmia) as it was spreading too widely on the bed below the house and have relocated it on the banking above the Wendy House, I am not too bothered if it spreads there - it may crowd out the bindweed and couch grass.

The grey squirrel with the red face has all but demolished its chosen peanut feeder.

I am at a bit of a loose end at the moment - thrive on projects and have just completed the last one - the family history book. I am sustaining myself with biscuits, chocolate and Heineken, tea, coffee and golf but need something more. Somehow the garden does not fit the bill. Every night, in bed I look to R and say, 'Well, here we are again. It seems like only yesterday we were here before (which of course it was) but the interval feels like a couple of hours - very strange.
It seems a bit sad when the highlight of the day might be a few wheelbarrows of well rotted horse manure.
In fact we are such a loose end that we have got almost all our Christmas presents by mid November. However, I do remember one year when I went to the January sale of cut glass at the local works and bought many of next year's presents then! Mm! a bit sad?

This weekend it is Ulverston's Dickensian Festival (Locally known as the Dick Fest) where anything vaguely Victorian goes. There will be roasting chestnuts and mulled wine on the street and the weather is set fair for the thousands who come.
R and I will walk in and back as parking is horrendous - eyes open for a bargain and something for the garden.

That reminds me that our neighbour has given us some double white sneezewort for the garden and I have not put it in - knuckle rap and stuff - off to do that before dark.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


First of all I have no moustache this November as my upper lip is so infertile all I get are wisps, having said that I can curl it like, alas, Cliff Richard used to do. So no Movember for me.

Saturday - Today has been Church fair Day for R. I sold 21 pots of jam and chutney!
I gardened - finished some manuring, removed the manure from the rhubarb crowns - they would rot if I left them - silly mistake - thanks Monty Don for correcting me. I cleared the shed bed of top growth and then picked the last of the garden flowers for the house.

In the morning I made 3 pots of carrot and coriander soup with the last of the carrots - so . . .

Recipe - 1 onion, 1.5 pounds of carrots, 1.2 litres of veg stock, teaspoon coriander mix, bring to boil and put in simmering oven for 1.5 hours. Then add handful fresh coriander and whuzz in whuzzer till smooth. If not thick enough add a cooked potato and whuzz again.
Whuzz is better than whizz, the machine definitely goes more whuzz. Apologies for the mixed measurements metric and sterling and all that. (You will have to work out the conversion yourselves - easy with the internet.)

Question - do I leave the dead teasels and cardoons to wait for frosts?

This is so there will be some structure in the garden in the winter. However the cardoons are looking rather bedraggled and the main teasel is up through a cherry tree.
Answer - leave until I can make up my mind, because I am lazy or . . .

Sunday - R has grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and taken me on a garden tour. This is to imprint upon me what SHE wants the drainage man to do. This includes moving much of the stream so it goes to the hedge ditch rather than down the middle. Do I agree? Well, that is fairly irrelevant. As I love her what she says goes (much of the time)(but not always)(the secret is at least to let her think she has got what she wants)(which she usually has).
The only proviso will be to watch out we do not dig up the septic tank soak away which loops around the far garden. I have already found it in two places under the small stream.

This pic is from earlier in the year but R wants the stream to go straight on from the small brown tree all the way to the hedge.

Time to go out and garden - Oh! How sad, it has started raining.

Now for a post script.
I am having my arm twisted to consider letting adverts on this site. Comments will be appreciated and if there are any you see that you deem inappropriate let me know - HANG ON!
(I have been rejected by Google Adsense as not having enough content!)
Plenty of discontent though.
Well, solves the problem, eh!
Obviously they have not been to our garden and recognised its importance to the world.

Back to cardoons and teasels then.

Friday, 15 November 2013


So autumn winds on and we steel our frozen hands to the manure heap of future growth, load the wheelbarrow and trundle down the hoggin path of possibility, scattering adjectives as we go.

There is still autumn colour and we have only had two mild frosts.

One of the cherry trees has turned and the leaves have gone a golden yellow. The last of the red amelanchier leaves are off and I have cleared away true soggy entrails of the hostas. Surprisingly the nasturtiums continue to flourish.

 I was up in the wood taking leaves out of clogged streams and collecting sticks fallen from the ash trees when I put up a snipe. It flew away with its characteristic drumming wing beat.

Putting Niger seed in a feeder had brought a flourish of goldfinches and the female greater-spotted woodpecker has been on the peanuts right outside the kitchen window.

And drainage has come to the forefront of thought. We, with a huge push from R at my inertness, have got someone with a little digger to appraise our problem.
As a consequence I have been down the garden and cleared out the stream between the two ponds and extracted the overgrowth of watercress. This has been left on the side so any creatures can slip or crawl back into the water before the compost heap beckons.

R is making rum butter and butterscotch sauce for the Church Christmas Fair at the Memorial Hall. I have donated 36 half pound jars of jam and chutney and some books wot I have read.

Now the days are colder the Wendy House is a bit forlorn and neglected. (I have cleared the leaves from the path but there are many more to come from the great sycamore).

I still have bulbs not planted - ranunculus and snowflakes (lecojum) and it is time I rose from my recumbent position (got off my bum) and did something about it. The carrots await me (I have got some coriander) as does the soup pan.

I nearly mowed the lawn again this afternoon but fortunately D., a friend, came and rescued me. He is a fine watercolourist and I reject the spellchecker trying to make me spell the word and similar without a 'u'.

The approach of winter is wrapping me in darkness, the afternoons are so short, and New Zealand seems so attractive if it was not for the interminable flight out there. I have need of a wormhole so I can walk in one end and out the other having travelled across the globe. D and J showed me a photo of the beach at Whangamata on the Coramandel Peninsula. Come on lottery - I need enough for a first class flight (or private jet), a house In New Zealand by the sea within walking distance of good eating places for the winter and three months of summer sun, warmth and relaxation.

The people who think they know are saying we are in for a stinking cold of a winter.
They said we would have a poor summer and we had a good one.
R got it right for the summer and she says we will have a mild damp winter - well, we shall see, we shall see.

Time for a beer and some garlic sticks (the best bits of Bombay Mix).
I have lit the wood burner, my chair is ready.

Monday, 11 November 2013


Plenty of birds but not many bees (Jewel Akens?)

It is a dark damp November morning and the garden is sodden. I am gazing out of my window at the work that need to be done when, suddenly, there is a flash of colour, and another, and several.
I have put some Niger seed into a mix with sunflower seed in a feeder and goldfinches have arrived, as always not singly but in a small flock.
The blue, great and coal tits continue to muscle in and the dunnocks, robins and chaffinches wander about underneath hoping for dropped seed.
We do get bigger regulars - pheasants and wood pigeons - but I have not seen the collared doves for a while. Wrens skulk, high-sterned galleons hunting the shrubbery.

I have cut down the perennials in the back bed by the front door - as I have said before, the front door is at the back of the house - and taken the dead and dying vegetation to the compost heap. I also began the collection of fallen leaves and put them into my builders' sack to compost down to leaf mould.

On arrival at the veg beds I discovered the new spring above the apple tree in full flood, the water running onto the paths around the bass and making surrounding grass a quagmire. I am not sure what to do about this - pray for a drought?

Here is one of our grey squirrels caught with a red face stealing my peanuts. It has forced entry to the feeder with its wire-cutter teeth. I have bought a squirrel proof feeder - Ha! - and given up on this one. They can have the peanuts - if I let them have this feeder perhaps they will leave the rest alone.

There are some branches and many twigs down in the wood. Whilst we were away there must have been a gale. The big stuff will go for a bonfire, the smaller twigs put under the eaves to dry and be used as kindling.

Talking of animals, and nothing to do with our garden - saw in the paper one of the dogs the Yorkshire Branch were training up to be a Hearing Dog - to help the deaf like Guide Dogs for the Blind - when it was 8 weeks old,  they discovered it was not responding as it should to instructions. It was stone deaf!

We still see the odd bunny but I wonder if the dreaded myxomatosis has re-emerged.

I look out on the lawns and see the fallen leaves in the grass but do not worry - my buddies, the earthworms, will drag the leaves underground, I hope, unless the thrushes and blackbirds have eaten the lot - the worms not the leaves - now there is an idea, leaf eating birds. I must talk to my local genetic scientist - perhaps we could insert a herbivore gene into rooks and starlings?

You know, all this blogging is just a bag of hot air - a rising bubble of blethering, a random rabbiting, a pompous pontification. (Thesaurus out!)
So, I wondered which of my many photographs would be most irrelevant to a garden blog - try this one!

Friday, 8 November 2013


So here we go with the red and the orange and the yellow!

Maples and liquidambars, hazels and everything, all the colours of autumn.

The top is a maple, then a cut-leaved maple, the magnificent liquidambar and finally a something or other.

Right, got that out of the way.
Plans are afoot for getting an estimate to tame the stream in the lower garden - R has someone in mind to do that and drain the boggy bits. Whilst they are at it I suppose they might as well create a proper pond, not a muddy bottomed puddle.

Having said all that we will probably get to November next year still full of good intentions and nowt done.

I have cleared and manured the asparagus bed, cleared the rhubarb and the courgette remains and roughly dug over the beds. No frost yet but imminent despite some of the larger trees still having green leaves. One cherry has turned a pleasant yellow but the great white one is stubbornly green,

Have just been to Herefordshire, land of lanes and small villages, few people and cider. Daughter I. and family live 850 feet up on a hill with wonderful views and a suicidal drive up to the house - needs a five wheel drive! Must be steeper than 50% (for old fogeys like me - 1 in 2) and slippery.
There many of the trees are still green.
They have two organic rotervators, rotivators, rotavators (spelling debatable) ?? who are about to turn into two freezers full of bacon, sausages etc. They remove everything - I lie - they do not like docks!
R wondered if they would be a good thing here but I said NO!!!! as they would churn everything and make a terrible mess. Any way she has me and a fork. (:-)=
(It's a smiley Bonnie.)

So the future is slash and compost (or burn), dig and muck.

It is now so cold I live in a fleece like a sheep. R insists that we do not need the central heating on (and she is the one who is supposed to feel the cold.)

I huddle near the Aga or the wood burner.

I wonder where I put my fingerless gloves?

So to carrots of indeterminate shapes and so on. I am about to lift them - I know they can stay in the ground even if the tops have died back - and turn them into soup - probably with coriander (not grown by me but harvested from the supermarket.

The middle one, but on the left, looks a bit anthropomorphic to me - sort of a carrot orgy with tangled limbs.
Ah! Well, now for a (no not an orgy) sandwich as R has deserted me for a reading group Thai meal out.
Nice mug of tea, sandwich by the fire (and some hot-buttered toast but not with butter, something veggie called Pure) and watch all the recordings from the TV R does not like.

Friday, 1 November 2013


So the mighty storm has just clipped the southeast corner of England and is all the news.
If it had been up here it might have got a mention on page 20? London news is big news, all else is just regional stuff of minor consequence?
Spouting over. There is little of great importance south of Lancaster, let alone Watford.

Outside my window a charm of goldfinches are feeding. The flashes of colour, yellow on the wings red on the face, make me understand why people used to keep them in cages. However seeing a dozen together is special.

To collective nouns later.

The late show - of flowers - is on - November and still blooming. However have just cleared away the sweet peas carefully leaving the roots in the ground so the nitrogen fixing bacteria can enrich the soil. The cosmos in the cutting bed have gone over - six feet tall- and have been removed along with a sunflower. Above is the last of the white ones.

The pink cosmos in the garden proper are still in flower as are the nasturtiums and phlox.

Roses are still flowering and will do so right into the hard weather. Often I can place a rose on the table at Christmas.

So to collective nouns of birds - fascinating.
Yes, there are exultations of larks convocations of eagles but what about the following -
siege of bitterns (they will be on BBC Autumnwatch this week at Leighton Moss),
bellowing of bullfinches,
gulp of cormorants,
deceit of lapwings,
unkindness of ravens (a fox has got a couple of the ones at the Tower of London)
scream of swifts and, peculiarly,
a herd of wrens.
Having said that there are two which are great - a murder of magpies and - nothing to do with birds, sort of -
a superfluity of nuns!

Back to gardens and woodland - we were in Oxford last weekend and went to the Harcourt Arboretum which belongs to the University Botanical Gardens. It seemed pleasant enough but a bit tired. Fortunately the company was excellent so it did not matter. (Enjoyed a pint with C in the Lamb and Flag and two Canadians, one of whom was a nuclear physicist, now retired so just pottering about with astrophysics as one does.

Back to our corner of the universe. The photograph to the left is at the parting of the ways - right up into the wood and straight on to the far wood. Leaves are falling everywhere and will need removing from the paths. Left alone they will compost down and make a good place for weeds to grow.

The grey squirrels are back and have chewed through the wire of a peanut feeder (some teeth!). There has been no further sign of Ratty.

Just a note on the boring old sycamore - why cannot its autumn leaves be more cheerful - rather than brownish grey?

It seems a long wait for our small trees and shrubs to get big enough to make a fine impact in autumn.

(By the way the new Weasdale Tree Nursery Catalogue is out.)

So I have to steel myself to the great garden clear up and get my hands dirty.
This is of more consequence than usual as I have stopped biting my nails and now muck gets under them looking  - unclean, unclean, D is unclean!
The to-do list gets longer faster than I can clear it  (which is very slow at the moment as I cannot be much bothered to do anything)(except eat and sit and - well, did go to the gym this morning)(must be crackers).

The word "advert" has been muted with this blog and I am resisting it. This is not intended to be a money maker blog, just the ramblings of an old man who potters around.

So, my daughter is about to be forty - how dare she! It makes me feel ancient. (I am ancient).
Last night went to my poetry group - 4th Monday Poets - followed with a pint of Wainwright with Neil Curry, a proper poet and author (and friend). He is off to America to visit his daughter for her birthday, but she is to be 50! Makes me feel almost middle earth aged. Got to get out of the hobbit habit of feeling decrepit.
Time to take another gandalf gander at the garden and see what I can avoid doing next.
Or have a cup of tea.