Saturday, 30 May 2015


Lawns mown, logs moved up to wood shed, A and J came and redid drain by shed - they are marvellous. I only rang them in the morning and they were there at 6 pm and did the job.

Good news - swallows have started sticking mud to the wall at the top of the west gable end - nest on the way. (We hope).

It stays so cold, 10C today and nearly June. Fortunately it does not stop the asparagus growing. I have checked the fruit trees and we will have plums and damsons - not all lost to the frost at blossoming.

And then I met my old - well not quite as old as moi - friend who escaped to Noo Zeyland many a song ago who is back in the home country again. He admits to reading this blog, poor fella!

I have resown broad beans and french beans as the first sowing never came up! 

Also J has given us 4 Brussels sprout and 5 broccoli plants so these are also in under a temporary net to keep the cabbage white butterflies away. The potatoes are through and have been covered by  bottomless plastic tubs. As the plants grow they will be earthed up inside the tub - the idea being that when they are ready I will lift the pot and Voila!

Two more garden visit pics - the top from Hampton Court Garden in Herefordshire and the bottom on is The Skating Pond at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. A bit of a feeble pond!

And what about the Federation Internationale Fraud Association. We all knew it was happening but no one in a place of authority did anything. Beth Splatter should go but has not. And now Putin is all indignant because all his supposed backhanders might come to nothing. 
"The laddie doth protest too much, methinks."
And many officials have caught a cold - Qatar (catarrh?). I suspect much football is a little dodgy - too much money sloshing around.
If suspicion falls on Vlad watch the increased activity elsewhere (like Ukraine) to divert attention.

The bruiser of finches is the greenfinch - bullies the rest including the bullfinches and chases them away.


We have had a cockchafer in the kitchen and the butterflies have arrived. 
In the garden the queen wasps are about hunting for a place to start a nest. This brings back memories of last year -


First the wasps had the plums, then they had me.
Out of the jungle they came, predators,
drunk on fermented juice, seeking victims.

I was scything and sweeping campion
from the top banking, scattering its seed
for next year, removing the brittle stems.

The reach and rhythmic swing numbed my senses,
The blade sang as it arced across the slope,
slid over and through the tough tangled thatch.

I saw a dark maw and thought of wood mice 
or voles. I was stung into swift action
and scurried into the house, slammed the door.

Vinegar came out for the pain. She said,
‘Winegar for wasps and bicarb for bees’.
and patted the stings with kitchen paper.

They acted by instinct - I had a choice.
I killed the nest with poisonous powder
puffed into the entrance, and felt remorse.

I was death visiting with a curved blade, 
I was a threat. I raked off the banking,
carted the debris to the compost heap

and walked back by the fruit trees. On the plum
overripe fruit hummed - a haze of tigers.
First the wasps had the plums, then they had me.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Some of the bluebells on the top banking are looking suspiciously like crosses between the Spanish and common bluebell. The previous owner did have a clump near the gate. I will have to go a digging but hope that it is not too late.
Common bluebells have the smaller delicate scented flowers up one side of the stem, the others are more robust and the flower spread around the central stem.
To make things worse there are some very attractive white Spanish bluebells that will have to go.
These are good old bluebell flowers mixing well with the red campion in the wood.

We go away and come back to hear bird tapping on one of the back windows - again - that B. blackbird. I creep up and open the door to find - not a blackbird, not a chaffinch but a red-legged partridge on the window sill!

Weeds have grown well after a week or so away (minding the grandchildren) especially the bindweed and ground elder. The white campanula had been smothered by common vetch. I have some elsewhere (the campanula) so a mass removal is probably the only solution.

Most of the drainage done - well all we asked - and somehow we have a huge length of pipe left over - will come in useful one day. The only failure is by the Wendy House where I will need to extend the existing drain - but nothing unsolvable.
R has hand weeded the asparagus and I have weeded the strawberries and put down the straw. I was wondering what to do for a hand hoe as I do not have one and found that a small mason's trowel works well.

One of the joys of going away is to visit other gardens. In Wales we visited the magnificent gardens at Bodnant in the Conwy Valley with the azaleas in full bloom. Unfortunately we were a week or two early for the laburnum tunnel.

We also visited Hampton Court Gardens in Herefordshire and after getting lost in the maze came across this magnificent Exocorda macrantha, The Bride.

The garden also had wonderful tulip trees and a walled area that had undergone transformation since our last visit some years ago. Then there are the real tulips planted here in a colourful swathe around the edge of a lawn.
Not everything in a garden has to be plants to work. The stark geometry of this rill with pots, presumably planted but not yet showing growth, is very effective - again at Hampton Court Gardens. They have quite a lot of hard structure in the more formal areas.

 At home the "Easter" cactus - as my mother called it - and this is the same plant, well an offspring of it - is flowering abundantly.
We have another in the other room that has no flowers and badly needs repotting as it is shedding leaves.

Down at the pond trouble is brewing with increasing algae so I have cast two bundles of straw into the water. How it works is complicated and not completely understood so if you want to find out search on the web for - algae straw pond - and you will find a site that will give you the details far better than I can.

So not far, a few weeks, to the longest day and we still have the heating on, the ash trees are struggling into leaf - oak first so a splash this summer. (Oak before ash - splash, ash before oak - soak).
And swallows and martins are finally here but not in great numbers and NOT HERE, just in the locality.

Finally something that has nothing to do with gardening. Went to Liverpool to see Don MacLean at the Phil. and took this picky of Paddy's Wigwam - a bit of proper architecture.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


SO, R said to me that she would just go and get a bit of rhubarb to pop in the freezer - 12 pounds of it! The plants will be shot at! So I trimmed and washed and dried and chopped and packed into plastic bags and sucked out air and tied them up and they are now in the freezer as she wished. One slight problem is that we still have frozen rhubarb from last year to use up. This garden produces too much for us to use.

And so to drains and A and J digging and piping and gravelling and so on.  We have had a lot of rain so everywhere is a bit sodden. Time will tell if all this work will be worth it.

We have had a lot of asparagus for lunch - yummy. Here are new spears appearing through the soil surface. There is something a bit exotic with this crop - so little we eat is still seasonal - now you can get stuff all year round. Well, you can also get asparagus but it does not taste anything like as good as fresh from the garden.

The garden has had juvenile fledgling robins shuffling around for two weeks now - seems too early.

Here is Pondland and the Wendy House reflected in the surface.

And here is Pondland (nothing to do with cheap shopping (Poundland)) with a plastic heron and a feathery duck - mallard drake. She is sitting on eggs elsewhere so he comes down here for a quack.

The azaleas are out and smelling wonderful.

As is the horse chestnut with its "candles" of flower.

Here are two pics of the main flowerbeds with Sarah Raven's tulips pushing out colour.

 And finally to those delightful bunnies on the banking chomping on my plants - when in Oxford recently we went for excellent meal at The Magdalen Arms on Iffley Road - and I had RABBIT!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Always start in the right place - this is milady R at the pond using a broken-handled ridiculously short rake to try and remove some of the algae. It will go soon as plants like the waterlilies are growing well.

Next a getwellwish to my son C who has had his appendix extracted. He was sent home in a shorter time after than he waited before - if you know what I mean. I am not sure what I mean.

We have had our first asparagus, steamed and then eaten with a little melted salted butter and continue to consume rhubarb simply cooked in a pan with  little water. R then adds some sugar and I add sweetener (remember the ever expanding waist).

So there I am sitting minding my own computer when I look to the banking outside the window and two fat rabbits are munching away.
I think these are the fromthetopfield rabbits not the fromthebottomfield ones.

The dandelions are in great show everywhere and everywhere I do not want them to be! R loves the explosion of yellow in the roadsides at this time of year. I just wish they would go and explode elsewhere than in the garden. The main grass weed we have is the ribwort plantain which is not surprising as our lawn is just mown field.

On the fence at the end of the path by the vegbeds I planted there things - a passion flower, a yellow rose and a clematis. The latter is flowering well as you can see.

Now, something has been naughty with the Angelique tulips and snapped the heads off an inch (2.5 cm) or so below the flower. To try and save something of them I bunged them in a pudding bowl with water - better then nothing.

Before the blossom has finally gone here are three more pics. The leaves are beginning to obscure the flowers and petals are beginning to fall like snow.

We have bought a couple of choice plants from the now expanded Beetham Nurseries - bit pricey but in good nick - a scented blue iris for beside the pond and a big yellow flowered rue for R.

Now there are those who think my blog is a load of globes so here you are - actually lampshades (I suspect from that place Ikea)(where R loves to go and I DO NOT)(wandering around aimlessly in search of something). 
They are in the wonderful new gallery at Upfront Gallery at Unthank near Penrith, (which has a cafe).

Anyway this whole blog is a bit of a wind-up, isn't it?

Let me finish with a pic of the bluebells in our woodland - so evocative of an English spring.

Friday, 8 May 2015


This morning the garden is still, frozen in the sunlight, except of the eucalyptus whose leaves move in the slightest of breezes. 
I am not going to talk about elections (Mm, just have done).

Here is a snap of the thief, caught on the peanut feeder, then caught in the trap and removed. An hour or two later - another thief also removed and then today another one!

Other animals living in the garden include moles - here is the mess they have caused in the path by the Magnolia grandiflora.  I have considered calling in the catcher but R wants me to be more tolerant.

They do provide a supply of good soil but they could be more tactful as to where the dig their runs.
These are vole holes near the bonfire - the place is peppered with them.
We have wood pigeons nesting in the fir trees behind the big shed. They clatter about and search for dropped seed under the feeders. There seem to be about three pairs.

Down by the pond the blue comfrey has survived the digging and such.

The ducks have gone a-nesting elsewhere which is not really surprising considering the size of our pond.

However they keep popping back for a dabble and a snack.

Up by the greengage is a small rhododendron we brought here from Derbyshire. It had a very heady spicy scent that carries across the garden.
This is the bean bed full of sticks and nothing is up yet through the thick compost.

This is all within the rabbit proof fencing - and needs to be. Twice yesterday I put up a small rabbit hiding in one of the ditches dug to help drain the garden. That ditch will go when A and J put in the proper drains.

This spirea in gold glory is one of the shrubs surviving from the previous garden and house belonging to TJ. Every year it gets bigger and glows up by the wood.

Tulips are still flowering -  especially love these colourful ones.

We count the asparagus spears regularly - up to 30 now and my mouth waters at the thought of a little salted melted butter on them.
They have been so bad the last few years we hope and hope. We lost a few plants and these have been replaced but are not yet through.

If we could get a decent crop this year the bed will survive but if not . . . ?

So this is May and 6C and raining! No swallows or martins recently, heating on.

Today every time it rains it rains buckets from heaven!
Someone left a bird out in the rain. 
Rai-ai-ai-ai-n, when the rain comes etc.

The stream is overflowing, cascading out of the wood and churning up the pond.

Back to the Thief - we may not have flying squirrels in England (except in zoos) but they can certainly motor if need be.