Friday, 28 August 2015


The nettles are six feet high up at the top of the garden, intertwined with brambles and goosegrass. I have cleared out the streams that had become a bit clogged with growth and retreated in front of an assault by horseflies. (Out with a dab of hydrocortisone cream.)

The lovage has been cut back and the stuff chucked on the compost heap. This year I have not dried the stems for peashooters - lack of demand in this age of water guns etc.

So on this dismal of days let us have a blast of colour, nothing subtle here.

Yellow loosestrife at the top - the plain wild version - and an awful colour clash at the bottom, montbretia and achillea ptarmica 'The Pearl'.

Leaves are turning - the horse chestnut at the far wall, some of the lily pads on the pond.

Autumn is creeping nearer - spring straight to fall!
Yet morning light after rain if sunny is a delight, everything washed and sharp, a grey wagtail walking on the lily pads, a yaffle (green woodpecker) laughing in the trees 
the flower beds -

And the view down through the sunshine to the far garden from the wood.

I have begun to tidy up the strawberries and remove unwanted runners - if I potted them all I would fill a field. The first windfall apples are now stewed and delicious and I have noticed there are some damsons - which I did not expect. There are so many plums I am afraid the branches will break.

In the garden some herbs are in flower like the marjoram or here the applemint. My granddaughter has been collecting lavender seed heads to dry. She will then tie them up in small cloth bags. My mother used to put these in drawers with clothes for the scent.

Tuesday -
'Something, something,' R mouthed to me. We were in a cafe at High Newton having taken family to the southbound train.
Now, I am sure that she is speaking more softly recently. She says I am deaf.
Piece of paper and pen out, she writes - Alan Bennett, and there he was at the next table with his back to us.
'Don't you dare talk to him,' she said and I didn't - I didn't dare. 
Anyway he should be allowed to have his lunch in peace.

Ah! Fame - nearly got to talk to Alan Bennett - nearly - well, not really.

There is a Herb Bennet, Geum urbanum, the wood avens, and it grows in our garden - as a weed. It has sticky burrs but is not as delightful as its cousin Geum rivale, the water avens.

This also grows in our garden in the ditch by the stream - well, I think it does but it is so overgrown I cannot be sure.
So I have been out with the scythe and rake cutting the banks. I have also used the edge trimmers but they are a nuisance as they keep coming loose. I really could do with some new tools one day when I get around to it - if I ever do.

Though we have had rain - it was torrential in town today - we have had nothing like a few years ago -

Now that is wet!!

Sunday, 23 August 2015


First two examples of the abundance of yellow and orange in the garden - Golden rod - a common flower not loved by all but a golden glow in a dark corner, and orange montbretia - crocosmia.

My backside aches, well, my left hip to be exact. I was using the pressure washer on the big mower when I fell backwards, ended on my hip and cracked my head on the wall. Good job I have dense bones.

I am sitting outside the kitchen in the sun after a long day in the garden. I have part mowed the tangle on the bottom banking and then mowed most of the lawn. We have had a lot of rain recently and it is soggy in places, the wheels leaving tracks.
The mower cased a scatter of amphibians - toads and frogs of various sizes. 
Methinks a hover mower might be a good idea for the banking but then I would have three mowers, a strimmer and a scythe - over equipped?"

I have just put down my empty bottle of Peroni and am listening to R playing there piano. The notes fly from the house like small birds, each with its own song.
I think of Louis MacNiece's words - 
"Down the road someone is practising scales, 
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails.

The sun is out, I am comfortably tired with the ache of a good day's work done, C, my son is here, and R, the other is coming tonight for Toad in the Hole. My daughter and her family will be here later in the week - I like the way the beer makes me feel mellow but my hip does ache.

We do not have red squirrels but we have a fat reddish grey one - cheeky and brazen as it stuffs itself with bird food whilst I watch.

2 more courgettes and have picked the rather sparse sweet peas to keep them coming. The second sowing of french beans has germinated.

This afternoon (Wednesday) it be mostly wet. As a consequence the pelleted hen manure and growmore I put on the shrubs and rhubarb yesterday will be washed into the soil - and I am in the house writing this.
Yesterday I thought one squirrel on the feeders was bad but then there were two. To have one squirrel may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness. 
The trap is primed agin and will work - unless the great tits steal all the peanuts again.

Today is mostly Friday and it is damp and dark and dreary. The leaf laden trees overhanging the garden from the wood feel oppressive and my Grandson wants to play Monopoly. We have four rabbits on the lawn and a squirrel on the feeders. 

I am off my ibuprofen and am stiff - in fact I fancy a good moan - actually realise I have just had one!

 Life is a bit like the pic on the left when it should be more like the one on the right.

My daughter is going to the wood to collect bluebell seed to scatter in the wood she planted in Herefordshire. And I have given her lovage and Allium purple sensation seed.
She may take some red campion seed too?

So time to shut up, miserable old man, and have a coffee and smile. I mean it could be snowing.


No just rain.

Look at the Hydrangea Annabelle. The flower heads are so heavy with rain they are bowed to the ground.

Outside it looks like a scene from Mordor, Sauron is coming, thunder and lightning, torrential rain.
However, I know someone who will not mind too much - Anthony Rowley.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Before we get under way first a happy birthday to my cousin Adrian in Nelson, NZ. It is good to have someone who is always a little older than oneself. (So R tells me.)(Actually she does not - I just made that up.) 
He wrote a fantastic book on the case for organic gardening - Organic Futures - ISBN 1 903998 69 7 - anyway Happy Birthday A. and stay off barn roofs dressed as a spaceman!

Now, this is Pip - a pipistrelle bat found outside the kitchen door in the afternoon confused and disorientated - (whoops - tautology?).

I picked him (or her) - well, it up carefully so as not to get bitten and placed it in a safe place. Next day it had gone and by evening several pipistrelles were flying around at dusk. I should have marked it with some white paint as identification.

Before I move on to mundane matters such as wielding shears around shrubs overgrown with grass and bindweed let me dispose of three images that have been sitting waiting to be used.

The first is of the highly successful planting of alliums under the big cherry tree. This is definitely something that could be done elsewhere, perhaps with other plants.

Then this mixture of catmint (nepeta) and Osteospermum, I think, ecklonis - the centres of the daisy like flowers harmonise so well with the purple catmint.

The bottom one is of the Rose Rambling Rector. This has been fantastic this year but presents me with a problem. It is so vigorous that it is swamping the flowering currant through which it is growing, and after flowering the brown dead flowers are a mess but virtually impossible to prune. (Need for light bulb above head in a balloon here I think.

Now it is Saturday and R found a bat on the kitchen floor this afternoon - another pipistrelle! I picked it up and put it somewhere safe and dark,  it was squeaking audibly - so I am not too high-tone deaf then.

A couple of flower photos - left cistus, right opium poppy stigma and stamens - the poppies are allowed to freely sow themselves around the garden.

The Philadelphus belle etoile shown here is now almost over so some of the oldest stems have been pruned. It is rather boring shrub most of the time until it blasts forth with white flowers and heady scent.

To BIG flowers - here a couple of stonkers - first Magnolia grandiflora now finally showing its true mettle and then Hydrangea Annabelle. Here the podgy wrist on the left belongs to moi but it does give you some idea of the size.

On to a tale of a climbing rose. 
This was given to us when we moved in by PJR and it lived in one or two places before I put it in the bottom hedge with the hope that it would spread itself there. In fact it has decided to climb the holly tree above it so we now have a holly that has red flowers in summer and berries in winter.

Our son C is here and it is so good to see him as he lives away in Oxford. He is working in R's writing shed. She posted her second novel off for assessment yesterday (her second bad novel she says but she is wrong - JK Rowling watch out!)(not that she writes about hairy potters and stuff)(Jane Austen beware!).

We have eaten our first leaves off the perpetual spinach - a treat - a real Popeye moment. (That's all I can stands, I can stands no more.) Mind you I said to R that I am more shaped like Bluto but she disagreed - Wimpy she said!


Oh! Yes, must mention compost.

Thursday, 13 August 2015


So we walked down to the veg beds where the buddleia, pruned early in the year as usual, has exploded in flower - and it was covered in honey bees - a delight to see. I do not know where they have come from but they are very welcome. We usually have to make do with bumble bees.

We have finally had two days of sun with temperatures over 20C but now, Sunday, it rains again. Fortunately I have mown the lawns when they were dry. There are still some flowers on  the roses - mainly the Rhapsody in Blue and William Shakespeare. R keeps dead heading to try and prolong the flowering.

To hedgehogs - R had met someone from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. 

In the centre of their badge is one in a triangle with the Gardener's Friend written outside and below - Don't Squash Me! Presumably this refers to motorists. You can find them at

When we were in Wales R went into Window on Wales in Solva and bought me a new seat for the garden as seen here suspended from the green-oak beam outside the kitchen doors.
Give me the sun and I shall recline, well swing, in style.

Now to a success story - Hydrangea Annabelle - this one is but three of four years old and wonderful, the green heads expanding to plate size and turning white. Apparently if you want to fill a vase with the flower heads the stems need to be stuck in boiling water for a minute or so - the they will last longer.

I was not asked the other day what gardening magazines do I peruse so I decided to ignore that lack of enquiry and show you the main three. The Garden is the mag of the RHS, Gardeners' World is a spin off from the tv prog and English Garden is just a mag - but a good one.

So a quick veg interval - I weeded the asparagus bed. The top growth is lush and promising. One pic shows the rhubarb in the foreground.

I must go down there and give them a liquid feed, and take out the old raspberry canes, and move the suckers that have come up all over the place and . . . 

To move on to COLOUR!
Here are some good colour blasts - Agapanthus with Japanese anemones -

Crocosmia Lucifer -

Tansy -

And finally the orange Day Lily -

This is a bone of contention as, despite its visual punch, I think neither of us particularly like its colour (let alone its thugginess). I tried to dig out some in the spring and it was a Herculean task.

Just circumnavigated the garden and R took one look and said that I was to get help - no arguments - but I have some reservations - I rather like the jungle (R does NOT) - and I will get around to things - one day - probably - possibly - maybe.

Friday, 7 August 2015


The trees in the wood have become very large and on a gloomy day hang over the garden like a dark cloud of foliage.

On the other hand I have no thought to getting in a tree surgeon to cut them back - yet.

So here are a few of the birds on then feeders. From my window it does not take a very long lens on the camera. The windowsill is loaded with dormant (well just in leaf) amaryllis pumping iron into their bulbs for next year. This gives a screen through which I can peer without being noticed. 

Names are needed? -  top is a cock chaffinch, then two goldfinches and left - a young greater spotted woodpecker, right - a juvenile greenfinch.

The one-legged chaffinch is still scrabbling around on the ground looking for dropped morsels.
I found a small cluster of feathers down by the hedge yesterday - probably a cat had got a sparrow. It is a wonder that there are any small birds when one considers predation - cats, squirrels after eggs, woodpeckers after chicks, let alone hawks and falcons.

I have pruned back the senecio (brachyglottis (whatever)) by the house and started to cut back the grass on the lower banking. There is so much to do and so little me (and R).

Just had an old poem published in an online mag. Well, it is a rewrite and revamp. The them of the mag was 'Killing'. Yes, I know, very cheerful. I must have written it when feeling morbid. There is some mucking about with structure and internal rhyming and such.

This is where you move to another blog - picture first.


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.

There, I did warn you.

If you are still with me I will continue - let me talk about food - actually shortbread. I come to make some and we had no plain flour so R says use the self-raising flour.
I did and it is Okay-ish but there is a slight lingering tang of baking powder. Next time plain flour or nowt.

Just dug up these spuds - I did not know what I had put in and was surprised to fine red ones. They tasted good though.

 Also picked the last of the black currants and then picked them over removing stems and leaves. They were almost over ripe, almost - now in freezer and one day may be jam.

Yellow flowers, anthemis EC Buxton above, (I think), and helenium (possibly) golden youth below?

R went to a garden open day and met a lady. She asked this lady where she worked and the reply was that she worked at the H Surgery. (I should mention here that in my previous existence I was a family doctor.) My wife then said that I went there to which came the reply that she knew that.

She said, "He looked after us and now we are going to look after him." 

What more can I say!

Sunday, 2 August 2015


So - home again from Wales and it is cold - 12C today - and raining ++. Everything is overgrown. Weedy paths and weedy beds and weedy paving - all to do.
I have cleared the ash and brambles and nettles from the gate down the lane - and then it rained so panic dash to get the washing in.

Though the feeders are empty, within half and hour of restocking there are birds everywhere. (And a squirrel). (And three rabbits on the lawn).

All the remaining gooseberries have gone and the bushes are plagued again by sawfly caterpillars. There are no redcurrants left and the blackcurrants have taken a beating.

On the way to Wales we stopped at Aberglasney Gardens near Llandeilo - we have been several times since the restoration first started and was on Welsh Television. That was before digital tv and we lost the ability to get signals from the Denbigh transmitter.

In the sunken garden is a fountain shaped in a ball - spot the photographer.

There is an ancient yew tunnel near the front door and a lot of work has gone on in the woodland.  The large leaves on the right are gunnera. The house is just visible through the trees.


In the garden there is a collection of different rue and one or two interesting planting contrasts like here with the calendula and the cerinthe.

At home we have finally got in the garden and I got in the pond - unintentionally! I was cutting back the mimulus when I slipped on the liner and splash - up to the knee on the left. R has been dead heading and weeding. I did some of the same, wove the willows in around the posts of the compost heaps.
Whilst we were in Wales R bought me a seat to hang in a tree. Now I need to find the right branch to fix up a rope or chain and hook - and some decent weather.

Thursday and finally mowed - after the rain some areas really boggy despite draining. Have cleared the top banking now and it looks better. It will green up quickly.
R weeded the veg beds.
I dug up a few miserable red potatoes for supper, picked about 30 raspberries (the ones the blackbirds have rejected) and then salvaged a bowl of blackcurrants to give me a job picking them over in front of the tv tonight.
I have also put weedkiller on the paths AAAAgh!! shout the organic gardeners but as I have a total staff of myself and R and a lot of paths . . . . . well?

In the wood found a large branch fallen off an ash tree. This will need cutting up for the wood burner.

To the alchemilla question - this lot have been sheared by R but there are other clumps not yet done. There are seedlings everywhere, in beds, on paths etc etc.
Lovely as it is it is becoming a bit of a weed - and difficult to get out.

To the weather question - there is a danger of frost tonight in some places - expected to be about 4C here - in July/August!!
My son and daughter-in-law are basking in 24 hour light up on the Arctic Circle. If I were them I would stay there where it is warm.

Friday and the last day of July - I am listening to England winning the cricket against Australia. (For those in the USA this is like baseball but with only two bases - you run back and forth instead of round and round and a match can last from an afternoon to five days. Statistics are, however, a big part of both games.)

Finally to the mystery of the blog - I have just had 219 hits from Italy! I have not  mentioned Berli-whatsit who is ?off to join Gerard Depardieu in Moscow? The mind boggles.

Ah! Sweet mystery of blog. (Naughty Marietta.)