Sunday, 31 August 2014


So, there they were, digging this hole, digging it round - no, digging it square - no, digging it teardrop shaped - in the rain - the whole of the bottom left of the garden has gone!

And though it is august the conker trees (horse chestnuts) are turning as is this Euonymus elatus (the winged spindle).

But then autumn brings fruit like these damsons - not quite ripe yet but nearly so. There are signs all over the place selling them so there must have been a reasonable crop this year. You can use them is so many ways - jam, puddings and, of course - damson GIN! Just add a little tonic and have a special pink one. 

The strawberries have got completely out of hand with runners all over the place so I have been attending to this today, clearing the beds and chopping back the leaves and runners. They will grow a set of new leaves again before the winter.

The best of the runners have been transferred to a holding bed and then, when the tomatoes and broad beans are done I will move these new plants back and increase the size of the strawberry bed.

The old compost is coming on a treat despite errant nasturtiums.

I have been thinking about what to do with the copper beech hedge and if Gary does not want them (why should he) I have a secret idea afoot. (This will, no doubt, meet with the displeasure of the pond lady.)

We is tired old bodies being used to the quiet life and having all those people here but at least the end of the painting and ponding is in sight (I hope).

The hose is dribbling away down the garden and very slowly filling up the butyl depression. In this image - stream entry is on right, exit on left. Because the stream can suddenly get very full, even overflow, an allowance has been made with an overflow at the back from the little pond. Thus R's shed will not be washed away.

Cry of anger and loud knocking on window coming from kitchen - the local cat (well one of them) is trying to catch our small birds. According to the RSPB about 55 million small birds are killed by cats in the UK every year!
Now I know some of you (Ontario) are cat lovers but the birdies are getting a rough deal. I hear all the cries of fact of life and natural instinct and stuff but I still prefer birds - cats walk by themselves (R Kipling) and - well, I prefer dogs - they do not climb trees and the last time I saw a dog trying to catch a bird was on a Welsh beach and the gulls won every time.

Birds are dinosaurs, I hear.

Well, if a cat met a velociraptor - Mmmm! I think I have got into this too deeply and better shut up before extracting myself is impossible.

Thursday, 28 August 2014


It's pond time, happy go lucky pond time, hey - etc  etc, lots of nonnys and nos.
R is pleased as the mini digger moves in and mayhem starts.
Do I help?
No, I would just get in the way - I make tea for the men (and the painters, they are still here. Outside it looks like a car park for a rave!)

The initial question was can we find a pond because of the jungle - I'm a pond get me out of here. (A minor pond).

So a digging they will go. We saved some variegated yellow flag iris and waterlilies. The problem with the rotten boardwalk has been resolved by burying a lot of it and tearing up the rest. Some of the wood is salvageable, the rest will be burned. As they dug, frogs scattered or were relocated - slippery customers.
The boss has made the pond bigger, hope the liner will take it, consigned a twisted willow to a terminal fate and is making decisions - brooking no argument.

The copper beeches must go (anyone want a copper beech hedge?)(about ten of them six feet high).

Back to other things to soothe me 'ead.
This is the view from the emerging pond up the garden. The poplar is beautiful but unstable depute its stake. Gary suggests we pollard it - ?not sure.

Time to escape from the hurly burly - here is a pretty corner of the garden, pink and white and nothing to do with clay and pebbles and digging.

The pink Japanese anemone is spectacular but too big and a certain amount of chop awaits in the autumn.
I still like the glaucous grass in the Cambodian pot but must sort out the stones in the plant dish thing.
I have tidied the roses.
I have picked the plums - well some of them - and eaten some of them. Oh! Off the tree, wasp chews and all!

One plant R does like is this small creeping sedum. I may spread this a bit.

Just been to get my Fiona Clucas painting of the wood (a Christmas Prezzy from R).

It is smashing. She is such a good artist.

It rained this morning but they kept a-digging, did not seem to mind.

More tales of the pond to come, no doubt.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Have been out tidying - pruning roses, shearing lavender and santolina, clearing a`way the old lovage stems (good for peashooters if dried).
Then picked a few plums - it is that moment when the juice runs down you chin - ah! Another courgette.

R has been heaving out bindweed and hacking down hogweed - well I think she has also been cutting down the wild angelica but never mind.

We talk of grass and plants, of birds and animals and so on but there are other interesting things growing in a garden like this lichen. The patterns are fascinating and each can take hundreds of years to grow.

Another is the moss on the dry stone wall at the far end beyond the veg beds.

and down by the pond (yet to go)(well be replaced) are liverworts - a mix of a bit of this and that.

There are strange fungi like this gelatinous one in the gravel and the orange peel fungus (you can see where it gets its name) in moss on a dead branch.

 Of course fungi can grow in the most unusual places -

Autumn is the season of fungi and though it is only August the trees are turning and the weather is cold. My sister says she has had the heating on for the last two weeks.
This is supposed to mean that growth slows but tell that to the grass on the lawn.

Another flourishing item in the garden is watercress - so ~I accept the challenge and here is a poem about it.


When he walks in
you can sense the bitterness,
his feet anchored to the past.
He floats across the room,

swims through the undercurrent,
waves with the flow.
He was carefully selected
for his rather metallic taste, 

hard and sharp-edged.
The chef had him
checked for parasites
but he was clean.

He put his keenness to good use
in the soup kitchen.
Now he has risen to the top, 

his name first on most menus.

Yeh, yeh, I know, what a load of . . . . 

Finally, you know I mentioned that I was a small white ball basher - well here is the result!

Actually, having won this I have to pay for a year's insurance and have my name engraved on it, R tolerates its presence on the bookcase in the hall (just) and so - was it worth it?

Pond men here with Gary Primrose and digger - here we go!

Sunday, 24 August 2014


Welcome to the nippy north of England.
I've been strimming, yes I've been strimming, and R has been pruning the bushes that grow on the banking in from of the house.

After 18 months I have got the machine out, filled it with petrol (and a bit of oil) and it started straight away (unfortunately) so I have been brush cutting the mess in the lower garden.
Now there is just the raking off and tidying up - and then more strimming and so on.

The upper bank is still brown after scything and raking and mowing but will recover and green up.

Here is a view of the far end - you can see where the willow tunnel was, the brown patches on the left. The fifteen new white birches will join the six already planted in the late autumn, early winter.

The bonfire was lit and burned well - all that is left is ash - good for the fruit bushes as a top dressing.

Well, that was drab series of photographs so here is one of rose hips on the Rosa rubifolia to brighten things up.

On the left we have Clematis heracleifolia var. davidiana - or a herbaceous woody stemmed non climbing plant with blue scented flowers - it is seen here with Perovskia Blue Spire on the house bank. I have just seen the dead foxglove on the right and will go out and save any seed from it before disposal. These blue flowered plants go so well with yellows and especially oranges. (Flowers not the fruit - I mean that would be asking bit much up in t' north.)

Annabelle -

This is Annabelle by the back door from which I have taken cuttings. You can see why I want more of these plants. This one has flopped a bit after rain - the weight of the heads becomes too much for the stems. (Somewhat like my knees - weight and all that.)

There are two other hydrangeas in the garden at present, paniculata 'Unique' on the lower banking and a macrophylla at the upper woodland fringe. This photo is a bit bluer than the actual plant.

It has been cold for August and I am sitting here typing with a fleece on. The fruit started to ripen and now seems to be marking time (except for the Vicky plums).

Talking of birds - well I wasn't but I am now - there I was standing on the twelfth tee (yes, I am one of those little white ball bashers who regularly spoil a good walk) when a bird flew down and landed six feet from me. Sparrow hawk I thought but no, it was not - it was a cuckoo, presumably on migration south and too tired to be bothered by a load of aged golfers.

The trees are turning - I know, it is only August - it is cold, R is searching for a cruise in a small boat in a warm climate but they are all so EXPENSIVE! I may have to settle for a hot bath instead. I mean, you cannot put the central heating on in August - can you?

Anyway R would not let me - got to be careful with money - especially if you want to go on a cruise!

Thursday, 21 August 2014


The suggestions box is filling up - S thinks I ought to have a day off, G thinks I should chuck the scythe and use a brush cutter, (I have got a blood blister on my left hand - should have worn gloves), R (the spouse) thinks I should make her a cup of tea, the painters think this house is bigger than they thought when they made their quote (I made that one up they have not complained at all), (in fact, since they came we seem to have avoided the rain and I had to water the pots this morning). My son suggested I was too fat. My wife suggested I was too fat. R found advice on taking hydrangea cuttings so 8 in the shed waiting to root (I hope). She also found advice regarding cutting them so the do not collapse - fill a sink and soak the heads in the water. We then cut the stems under water and so far so good.

As I have said the pond liners are here but I have covered them up because the under liner, if it got wet, would be so heavy . . . !

To get the sit on mower out of the shed I have a crude ramp but it has gone rotten and the poor thing is trapped! (Am I sad - I am not sure.)
Back to the brush cutter (a fancy name for a strimmer with the metal blade on the end) - I have started it and sharpened it and am still putting off using it - strimmerphobia? Anyway I have to go and get some petrol - it is a 2 stroke so a petrol oil mix is in order. Perhaps I should get an electric one, at least one with a press button start - or a gardener.
In the end got the small mower out and hacked the banking into submission with toads of assorted sizes scattering before me.

The rooks have gone to the fields again so the buzzards are back wheeling and sitting in the tall trees - unpestered. I wish they would eat the pigeons.

Aspects of the top banking -

Our sole exotic flower - I have carefully cloned out the washing line pole from this image.

 Banking colours are yellow, orange, blue and purple. Above are brachyglottis, catmint (nepeta) and Alchemilla.

There are also drifts of crocosmia - mainly orange and yellow, the red Lucifer is elsewhere. These clumps are getting a bit big and need sorting (one day).

In this last image the predominant plants apart from the crocosmia are a blue shrubby clematis and Perovskia "Blue Spire".

The other day R and I went up to Blackwell, a local Arts and Crafts House, to look at an exhibition of Scottish design (good) and some Bernard Leach pottery (a bit disappointing). Now Gary P our pond designer and garden advisor did some of the garden there and there is lots of Perovskia. Easy to grow - just cut it back hard in February and it comes again - at least that is what I do. (And I haven't killed it off yet.)

A garden is nothing without a shed or sheds, well it is but not as nice - I think - but when we were up in Scotland in the spring we found this by the sea made of driftwood and flotsam and jetsam.

I know - you think I do not know the difference but I do (looked it up). Flotsam is stuff floating after a boat/ship sinks, jetsam is stuff chucked overboard.
Now I know some of you would like to jetsam me and my rambling but because of my preponderance of adipose tissue I might float, be washed up on some distant shore and return to haunt you with another blog.

So I will just stick with this blog.

Tea time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


It is mid morning and a phone call. A delivery man is stuck in the village - cannot get up our road past a parked VW camper van. Off I go in the car and open the back (an estate car). He is delivering the liners for the pond. They are heavy but we manage to heave them in the car and I bring them up to the house. We are ready to go - well not quite - a lot of work still to be done by the existing pond.

And so to Japanese anemones - they are flowering in abundance. R likes the white ones best even if they are not quite so floriferous as the pink. I think pink is a difficult colour when so deep - especially as there are yellow flowers nearby. And the pink one is a bit of an invasive thug.

Now on to fruit and veg. We have a few Bramley apples - left and conference pears - right but only a few. Still that is better than none.

The damsons are ripening fast as are the plums - also wasps have found them and chomped holes are appearing in some. I am longing to pull off a plum, eat its juicy flesh and say what a good boy am I!

 The rhubarb is magnificent and even the droughted fig is showing signs of recovery.

 The Alicante tomatoes - those that have not been slugged - are doing well as are the broad beans.

The pic of the courgette pliant shows no large courgettes - because I have picked and eaten them.

I have primed the squirrel trap with biscuit - much enjoyed by the wood mice who I saw carrying away their trove. The, like the small birds, are too light to set the trap off.

So out scything and raking and fatigued (or fatiguewed ) - the sun is out but it is autumnal - temp only 15C at best with Bertha dragging cold from the Arctic. The grass I am trying to cut is tangled and flattened with loads of thatch, peppered with hogweed and on a 35 degree slope. Every time I work up a sweat the flies think, Hooray! salt and water and come a-drinking. They pester me into the house.

So much to do and so little determination to do it.

Lots of plans but they are just small electric currents and stuff whizzing through the synapses of me brain ye see, nowt down on paper let alone executed in the garden. Even the mind is not willing (the flesh is weak anyway).

Yes, you got it - I am drinking a cuppa. (But the Talisker was nice last night.)

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Let me tell you 'bout the birds and wasps  . . . (Jewel Akens?)

No, I must stop moaning about my ITCHY!!!! arms where I was stung (got an allergic reaction) - so I will.

Insects are not the only danger - here is lovely rue but beware the sap - a blistery thing.

This very small out of focus photo is a NUTHATCH! Finally after 8 years we have one visiting us - about time.

Treecreepers go up trees and nuthatches come down as you can see. They usually hunt in cracks in the bark for goodies - well for them - would you like to eat what they eat?

Just now R was in the kitchen when two swallows flew in, did a few circuits and then left by the open garden doors. We have also had wooly bears (the caterpillar type)(this is England after all) in there, presumably looking for a pupating spot.

I have mentioned other gardens before and this one is Aberglasney near Llangathen in Wales. In the old days of Analogue television we could get Welsh tele from the Denbigh transmitter about ninety miles away. We watched the programme on the restoration from the start.

Now we are DIGITAL we have lost the Welsh tele and often all the rest too as fine weather interferes with the signal. So much for digital being better!

Moving on - have begun to clear out the ditch/stream by the bottom hedge and cut back weeds and grass. Geraniums gone over are clipped and the early pale lavender sheared.

Two stars in the flower world are these white beauties - lilium regale on the right and nymphaea alba, the white water lily on the left.

The pond liner has not yet arrived and I was wondering where, out of the rain, I could put it - then I realised - twit - it is going on the bottom of a pond and can be left out in the rain!

I am sometimes surprised at what plant breeders and hybridisers can do with roses. On the right is a simple rose akin to the wild briars, on the left Emnma Hamilton from David Austin Roses, big and blowsy, heavily scented but fragile in the rain. Yet they are both closely related.

The plums and damsons are ripening and will need picking soon. We still have plums from last year in the freezer so jam and chutney making time is coming to make room for the new crop.

One veg I have found does not freeze to well is (are) (no is) broad beans. I will have to soup them, removing the chewy skins.

My son R has challenged me to a diet as I am a big fat flabby chappie, my wife moans about my biscuitophilia and I have several shirts I have not got into for a few years.
No more secret Kitkats, diet coke not beer.

I will report on how much I have lost but I am not going to tell you what I weigh - I mean I am stocky and have big bones and all that.