Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Cometh the man they say but where is he?
So much to be done.

It is my birthday (Saturday) and what did I do?
Not in any particular order.
Bit of shopping.
Mowed the lawns.
Bit of scything.
Got invited to a Silver Wedding Party.
Met NC in the Co-op.
Had a wonderful rendition of Happy Birthday on the answerphone from I A J and W.
Accepted emails, Facebook messages, texts, phone calls etc.
And then spent most of the day aged 68. (I was born at 10.30 pm.)(So I was told.)(Memory going so do not quite remember.)
Got lots lovely books and a DVD.
Caught a squirrel.

Now to blog on -

The big sycamore (our notable tree) is already preparing to scatter seed far and wide and everywhere. They hang in clumps from every twig.

The rose bed is getting going magnificently and as each bush is scented the perfume fills evening air.

As I sit here and look out the window we have a juvenile greater spotted woodpecker on a feeder vying with a cock bullfinch and a male pheasant heading into the alchemilla.
He is so skittish.
We have nesting birds in the privet, the beech hedge and, I think, a shrub on the banking.

One class of plants that is in full flow at the moment is the geraniums - not the red pelargoniums but the hardy perennials.

Two plants that clash rather are the dark iris and yellow day lily. One or both will need moving.

We have three types of comfrey in the garden - a small blue one given to us by S, the common one and this one with blue flowers and variegated leaves. All of them seem to self sow and need to be kept in check as they can get out of hand.

I have not made any comfrey fertiliser this year - steep the plants in water to produce and evil smelling concoction - and after diluting with water use as plant food.

Speaking of fertiliser here is some unwelcome natural stuff on the lawn - rabbit!

And whither the weather - whatever is today is different tomorrow - it is raining steadily outside, soft soaking rain bending the grass over with the weight of water. Scything will be difficult with the flattened blades pressed to the ground. Yesterday was sun, tomorrow is forecast to be dry and Tuesday to be HOT! Hot is not a word that springs to mind here very often.

And finally a pic of the pond now well endowed with its water lilies.

Thursday, 25 June 2015


Yes, it's gonna be a cold, dreary summer, but I'll fill the emptiness, I'll send you all my blog every week  etc etc . . . 

Just watched a squirrel trying desperately to get its head through the bars of a squirrel proof feeder - and failing (for now).
The house martin nest in the gable is very silent and I believe the squirrel has had the eggs and the nest is abandoned - well was - suspicious tweeting coming from up there - possible a takeover again by the tree sparrows.

The garden is, sadly, full of fledgeling pigeons - 4 sitting in a row on a cherry tree branch, but then, also goldfinches feeding in the long grass to cheer me.

The lower banking needs scything if I can find the weather, the time and the inclination - actually the banking is steep so plenty of inclination. (Groan)
This is a self sown broom on that banking growing a bit close to the liquidambar (on the right). The broom needs pruning but I killed off the last one - pruned too hard - so just a light trim this time - after flowering of course.

Stuff arrived from Sarah Raven - 3 Euphorbia characias wulfenii and three Cosmos - the latter so taped into the bottom of a deep cardboard box I broke one trying to get it out. Planted them out and also the gladioli R bought at the Greenodd potato do that I had put in pond baskets - so I could fill a gap at this time of year.

The cardoon is enormous and I have a fancy to have several in a big clump somewhere as a STATEMENT.

This pansy is backlit and almost looks better from this angle - as they are south facing outside the kitchen, they face away from us. (Too many faces.)

Here is a combination that has worked - the catmint and osteospermum ecklonis.

They are by the roses. I have underplanted a large part of the rose bed with nepeta (catmint) which seems to be ok.
The forgetmenots are over and will be self sown so need to be removed.
In the fruit garden I have used the tried and tested chives as edging - and useful in a salad or as an addition to potato and mayonnaise salad (with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne pepper on the top for colour.)

My old (well not ancient yet) friend PS from new Zealand came for lunch and take photos of the garden but it rained and rained - soft mizzle - soaked everything. Then, just before he went there was a short burst of sunshine lighting things up. He came, he ate, he drank, he took pictures and ate a large ripe strawberry. We talked, and laughed.

We went to Threave Gardens for a cuppa and a stroll. They have done much since last there including adding some Joe Smith stone sculpture like this.

I am reading Maritime Ireland, An Archaeology of Coastal Communities by Aidan O'Sullivan and Colin Breen. It makes one feel so transitory when one thinks of them fishing off the coast 10,000 years ago!
(I am also reading Geoge MacBeth's Collected Poems (Owl is a great poem) and Peter May's Blow Back - an Enzo Macleod novel so not too stuffy.) (In between I consistently fail to do the gentle Kakuro in the paper but can do the diabolical one - answers as to why on a small piece of paper by yesterday.)

We have been away in southern Scotland and walked the wonderful woods at Castramon near Gatehouse-of-Fleet - fantastic old beech trees, nuthatches and pied wagtails, sanicle by the path.
In the tree pic the footpath goes between the two trunks.

And then poppies are stupendous so here are more pics -

Glory of glories, the bullfinches are nesting in the privet at the back of the house.

Friday, 19 June 2015


At this time of year the light in the afternoon in the wood is just magical. Walking up there bathed in birdsong on a warm day is such a pleasure.

This is a brachyglottis (why did they have to 
change the name from a senecio?). The one at the top is too big. We had two on the bank below the kitchen so we experimented and assassinated one to see if it would regrow, and it is so doing. When the yellow flowers are done the big one will get a violent trim too, well, perhaps not quite so vicious.

So there I was, just up out of bed, put on my glasses and walked to the bedroom window looking across the garden - and there, on the other side of the glass, 16 feet up a sheer wall, was a small squirrel with its back to me. It was after the house martin eggs above its head. I yelled at it and banged the window and it haired off down the wall and away!

Two weeks ago R was saying poor little squirrel as one in a cage in our car whined and, as she put it, cried while being relocated. 
The thought of losing our house martins has changed all that. Now it is shoot the little bu****s. Actually this morning one caught in trap, one on ground below and another around by the kitchen sitting on top of the feeder pole!
So I have taken down the big peanut feeders until September and just left the so-called squirrel-proof one in place.

Still a sucker for an oriental poppy - so blowsy and colourful.

Whilst reorganising my room I found and old box of seeds. I do not know if they will germinate but have sown them here and there in bald patches - quaking grass, Ammi major, calendulas, nasturtiums and chervil. There were also some wallflowers so they have gone in the cutting bed for flowering next year.

So with nothing else to do I took off the old dead flowers from the rhododendron - the spicy scented one. Doing this, feasible on a small bush, will encourage a better blooming next year redirecting the energy of the plant into new growth rather than fruiting bodies.

My iTunes lists Artists by the first letter of their name so it goes Neil Sedaka, Neil Young, Nina Simone and then Otis Redding with me sitting on the chair of my desk. Why not by surname?

Back to gardening - down the pond the plants we put in last year are starting to come up - this is water crowfoot. We are now waiting for the waterlilies, bogbean and flowering rush to bloom.
Taking of bloom - algal bloom still in fine fettle with the recent warm weather. Will try some more straw.

Not all things in the garden have to be flowers or fruit. These Hosta leaves are so sculptural - and not yet slug chewed like the ones under the magnolia.
Other similar leafy plants (with dramatic leaves) are the cartoon and kale.

I have tried planting unusual things in the grass under some of the trees - here alliums at the foot of the great white cherry. I did try some ornamental grasses but they succumbed to the winter.

One of the necessary jobs without a short cut is the hand weeding of the asparagus bed. The shoots are not easy to see as I have just cropped them for a lunch.

Weeding, weeding, weeding, trying to keep on top of things - puling out the goosegrass by the handful (or is it handfuls?)

Weeds and now gooseberries have their annual attack of sawfly larvae and mildew - both at once - sigh!

Come Wednesday come rain come surprises - just had 29 visits from Portugal! These are the first from there for a while. I wonder what I wrote that caused this - did I mention being near Porches in March?
Yes, I did on 17th March - Blogged off to Portugal - cannot even remember my own blogs now!

Finally I must mention compost - for L and G - the old heap had had a nettle invasion but this can be remedied with a little forking and removal (when I get around to it)(when).

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Today is Wednesday 12th and for the first time the temperature reachees 70F. The garden is full of birdsong and you can almost hear the plants growing. Sun hat on and old shoes not rubber boots.

I am watering - the veg, the rhubarb, etc. Why do hose pipes always get knotted up and kink?
Mowed the woodland paths.

House Martins nest building under the west gable end, chaffinches nesting in the beech hedge.

So much purple it must be the in colour. It does contest well with other colours as long as it is intense - not so in favour of wishy-washy purples.

R is still up in the wood (ready to cut down my last few willows). The hawthorn up there is coated in may blossom - well it is June.
I have taken the supermarket basil and put it in a bed within the rabbit proof area. It may grow - probably not.

Email from Go Wild about their free seeds I sowed above the pond - nothing showing yet. (The pigeons have eaten them all?)

Bats flying outside at dusk for the first time - well, the first time we have seen them.

"Oh! The cuckoo is a pretty bird," so goes the song but not as far as other birds are concerned - today saw a cuckoo being chased all over the place by small birds. It makes one wonder how they know that the cuckoo is bad news.
First willow warbler heard in the garden with its characteristic descending song.

Just been finishing off the removal of stones from the new drainage areas and reseeding with grass. Watered it and then it almost rained - few drops then nothing.
It is strange but watering the garden often causes it to rain!
I also dug a new drain by the pond to try and dry out a boggy area and raked mud out of the small pond. A lot gets washed down every time it rains heavily.

And we thought that the ducks and herons and such had eaten everything in the pond but we have seen tadpoles. And a dytiscus water beetle larva - predator supreme, also known as the water tiger.
Purple in the pond also with the water lily leaves. Note the spirogyra alga - probably due to rich inflow water (soakaway from the septic tank). I spend time removing it with a rake and dumping it at the edge so creepy crawlies can return to the water.

Found a dead young pheasant by the pond - its head missing so probably a fox. The parents frequent the feeders (underneath) and had another young with them so not all lost.

The geraniums are coming into their own - in fact this one had self sown itself.

Sometimes it is the hidden corners that delight - the poppies self sown by the shed, 

 The shrubs on the banking by the path to the lawns,

Or even a small collection of items on the paving.

Thursday - it is grim up north so the reaper has been out.
Now, some of you will have laughed when I bought an Austrian scythe and went to Sprint Mill for lessons with Steve Tomlin - but - I have been cutting the long grass that the mower cannot get at by the stream this afternoon after mowing the lawns.

Also noticed we have a dead hawthorn in the wood and another looking on its last legs. I was removing any new shoots on the trees below head height. 
I checked the ties on the new white birches to see that they are not too tight and then pruned off any lower branches, again to shoulder height. Now all the growth energy will be concentrated in the top of the trees and without lower foliage I can see through the trunks to a young copper beech. The area under the birches has been left and is a sea of buttercups.

End of week - still eating asparagus as sprouting well and have had first strawberry. Much promise to come with red and black currants, 



we have Victoria plums coming, damsons, Bramley apples and greengages on the tree I and A gave us - the first time we have had fruit, something not always guaranteed this far north.

The plums
and Conference pears.

So much going on and I am trying to restrict myself to one blog a week (but failing).

Friday and suddenly the temperature is 24C and humid - I have put on my cheap shorts from ASDA in Hereford to get my legs brown before the summer holiday. However rain is forecast for tomorrow. That should signal time to write a blog - another one!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


(This blog carries a warning of insensitive material later on)

In the beginning there was a heart sinking feeling as we strolled past the pond and noticed that, since the drain had been put in under the liner properly the liner was rising again!
Methinks a call to Gary may be needed. 
Very depressing.
To move on -

When the light shines through young beech leaves it is a delight.

Have just hoed around. We had stormy weather and the garden is wet so big mower will have to wait.
Where one of the drains was put in the mole has dug a new run off to the side and all the water is going that way! Not down the pipe.

R is having three downstairs room floored in oak which has floored me. One is my little private haven stuffed with . . . stuff! My stuff! And it will all have to come out.
3 days later and I am stuffed - floors done and chaos resolved, bank empty, brain dead! But the lady loves it so . . .
And have managed to mow without getting bogged down.

Still cropping asparagus, just, and earthing up the spuds.

We have had a a swarm of honey bees into the dormer roof space outside our bathroom - windows shut for the moment.

R has been up the garden digging up recurring brambles and pulling out goosegrass and tiny tree seedlings. There are millions (well hundreds) of sycamore and ash infants.

The campion is in full blossom now.

Let me chuck you a few garden shots - first looking west from the kitchen patio - what a yucky word - there must be a better.

Then to the shed from there and down to the pond. Note the candelabra primulas in full glory.

Finally a view up the garden to the west along the curved path. I prefer curvy things - like paths - except in the veg garden.

Two plants doing well at the moment are these saxifrages.

Din outside my window and I have a squirrel in the trap, no I do not, yes I do, no it is not it is a jay and it is making a terrible fuss. 
Its plumage is beautiful for a crow so out I go and release it.

The metal trap is encased in a plastic sack tied on with string and weighted down with a stone (To stop it blowing away).

The sack is needed because as peanuts are the bait they fall through the metal mesh - and if the trapped prey is in there all night a little shelter would not go amiss.

The forecast ahead is good but we have had some special rain pouring over the gutters.

However it does not last forever and the sun comes out with a little magic light.
This was a complete rainbow but I could not get it all in one image. 
When all is said light is the main essential in any garden, creating contrasts.
There is something special about the varied shadow and light in the wood, particularly when there is a gentle breeze and the leaves cast shapes on the woodland floor.

(R does not have my appreciation of the finer things in life - I am currently listening to Bubbles in the Tar by The Piltdown Men on my iTunes player.)

This year's weed be mainly goosegrass (cleavers) and covers me with sticky burrs. Where did that come from - pulling it out by the handful.

A couple of years ago I put in 5 purple alliums at the end of the rose bed and have allowed them to seed with dramatic effect.

R wants me to chuck seed into the area of yellow/green euphorbia by the path down to the Wendy House when it is ripe - should make a contrasting statement.

My taste has improved (a little) now playing Early Morning Rain by Peter Paul and Mary - showing my age (and Mary is gone as are so many).

Now, I know New Zealand is a long way away and adjustments have to be made for climate, having an upside down year and so on but there is good advice at http://www.sustainablegardener.org/latest-post/. This post on broad beans.

Sometimes this blog can get a bit too nice? Can be too sweety?
So - New Writing Cumbria's online mag The Carrot has taken a poem of mine for the second edition - the theme was 'Killing"!
Also Manchester Camerata has requested photos of Ulverston so all going on. (No pay tho').
The verse is about how all things come around and nothing is wasted in nature.

Any way here is the charming poem - 


Rings set by summer sun running in elm-sap,
trap, in their stain, seasons of snuffed years.
Rain and sorrows run from the furrowed bole
where, beneath the waxen bark, beetles burrow.

Dutch mandibles bring lethal hyphae,
leave bleached skeletons of silent wood
spread against the sky, rattling in the wind.
Within the darkness of an autumn hanger,

from the brown of beechwood litter
and black-edged mould, a parasol emerges,
a Destroying Angel dressed in innocence,
pure and virgin-white against the soil:

and when the ignorant have eaten well
bells ring for worms and new mycelia.
At the north gate of the cattle paddock
past hangs in the dull eyes of a dead rook

hooked by its black neck to barbed wire.
Future crawls in its corrupt corpse, a white choir 
of gorging maggots warming the tangle of its rotten guts,
moulding old flesh to new flesh and paper wings.

Such a gentle little ditty - chicken for supper!!?? Or as was eaten in the last war - rook pie.