Tuesday, 29 September 2015


By the time of the going down of the cup of tea after gardening age has wearied me!

Mown all the lawns yesterday, scything today. Got out little old plastic bladed Flymo but useless - will need a metal bladed one.

Off to get yet another sack of sunflower seed, unpolished which is ok as they are cheaper but the birds leave a carpet of husks behind. 

They also throw the seed about so it sows itself - here in a pot with a lemon scented pelargonium. They will have to go when Ibring the plant in for the winter.

Off to the church with R this morning to do the flowers - lots of yellow daisy-like stuff and an arrangement in the porch - I say an arrangement but really cut some flowers and stuck them in a pot. Still they did not look too bad.

I have picked our damsons.

It is good to have some as the crop has been poor up here this year.

I have watered and fed the house plants - they starve and go thirsty too often. The most neglected is the orchid in the kitchen which is loaded with white flowers. It gets potted on every three or so years into its transparent pot in orchid compost (bits of bark), is very occasionally watered and never fed. Not bad for a cheap buy by R in Ikea.

I have attacked some of the brambles in the wood as they are regenerating despite R digging them up.

In the UK we have a Rugby Union World Cup going on. As a teenager I played at tight-head prop (look it up) but would be far too small now - I would need to be at least eighteen stone of muscle and much taller rather then ****teen stone of flab and less that six feet tall. Anyway England blew it - now they have to beat Australia.

So fine weather forecast for the whole week and my flabber is utterly ghasted (or is it blasted?). Have just come up from by the pond where I have been a tidying and weeding and shearing and stuff. The candelabra primulas are loaded with seed - it has to be sown fresh for results. 

This is them in the summer (all dead heads now.)

We have B and B coming Wednesday afternoon so I am trying to make the garden presentable. (Playing golf doesn't help with time pressure)(nor does going out to lunch with N who is recovering from having his Gall Bladder removed through keyholes and so on. I wonder if he will avoid fatty stuff?)(I doubt it.)

And so to marrows.

I should have put something beside this for scale but it is just over 2 feet (65cm) long so not enormous but big enough.
Having got your vegetable marrow, what does on do with it.
The traditional thing is to stuff it with lamb mince and onion and bake in the oven.
However marrow in itself is not strongly flavoured and it has a high water content.
We tried making a type of ratatouille and that was Okayish. I have made marrow and ginger jam - also Okayish.
Recently I did oven roasted vegetables and this worked well because of the other ingredients, especially some chorizo. (Vegetarians can omit this.)
One of the best is to cook the marrow and then plonk grated cheese on top and put back in oven or under grill if you have one)(we do not).

Of course, just up from here in West Cumbria, yer marra is yer best mate/friend.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Blue heaven -

So C and J came with B and the day was good - weather and company. Flowers cut for the house and I put a Magnolia grandiflora flower in the living room. When we came in in the evening the whole place was filled with its scent. I quite like it but R is nor so sure.

It is only mid September and the autumn tidy is underway - cutting out old flowered stems (which reveals hidden weeds like creeping buttercup), clearing the undergrowth in the wood now campion and such have set seed - at least the veg beds are done. (Which reminds me to go and pick the broccoli). And the broccoli and sprouts are caterpillared - cabbage white and small white - so I have picked them off and squished them. I have also replaced the netting I had taken off to try and prevent egg laying.
I wonder how I can squish a caterpillar but not a squirrel - perhaps the insects do not answer back.
In the end we did not eat it as the veg had steamed caterpillars as a bonus treat on our plates.

The nuthatch is back.

The first marrow is cut and half of it stuffed with mince etc. It is baking in the oven. Now R does not like it much but I remember, in those olden days when much food was seasonal, looking forward to the September stuffed marrow.

This is our passion flower finally deigning to come out at the end of September. It is a white version without the blue and purple colour often seen.
The flower is full of Christian symbolism - with a little manipulation -
The ten petals are the ten apostles less Judas who betrayed Jesus and Peter who denied him.
The frilly bits represent the crown of thorns, the three stigmas the thee nails and the five anthers the five wounds. Other bits refer to the flagellation, the Holy Lance and the Holy Grail.

"It is ten past three," she said. "Aren't you going to the doctor's for a 'flu' jab?"
And I was - at 3.27, eight miles away, and every tractor in the area in the road, and I got there just in time. As I walked in the nurse beckoned to me with her finger, I was injected and had left within two minutes!
So home I come, job done.
R is out at the hairdresser.
I have the wrong keys in my pocket and no 'phone.
Locked out!
An hour and a half to pass doing what?
I mowed most of the steep banking below the house and mooched around for a while until I heard the crunch of tyres on the track and rattle over the cattle grid.

I am now having small Peroni and a bag of Walkers' Plain Light Crisps. (Not quite - actually I am sitting at the computer typing.) (And I remembered to compliment R on her hair.)(This time.)

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Standing under a roof light looking up at clouds passing I realised that every instant in one's life will never be repeated. (Unless the universe is truly infinite of course.) (Which I doubt or cannot comprehend.)
Each time I go into the garden it is a new garden - the basic structure might be the same but the detail is different - a new flower out here, leaf fallen there. Everything is in a constant state of flux, change, and, as a gardener, all one does is try to guide this more, or often less, in the direction one wants it to go, to defeat entropy.
This hen pheasant may sit on the shed roof again but never in just that way.
I think that being able to freeze a moment that will never be repeated is why photography appeals to me. I have a collection of unique images, ones that may be imitated but never repeated.

As the trees and shrubs grow the garden becomes increasingly compartmentalised with small views appearing as one moves around. I think this is, at least, partially intentional but some late autumn pruning may be ahead.

Fuchsia magellanica is growing, reluctantly, by the gate and beginning to look more than a stick or two. Memories of hedges near Glencolumbkille in Donegal spurred the planting and finally we have a result albeit small.

We have another fuchsia in the garden but it only flowers at the last minute in September/October and is not yet out. Its growth gets cut back by the cold every winter and slowly regrows as the weather warms (which it hardly did this year).

Also near the gate and under a damson tree (no fruit on this one because the blossom was frosted) is a huge teasel - eight feet tall and waiting to be picked to card wool. (Well, maybe many many years ago.)

This morning as I returned from acting as a taxi for R who has hurt her foot there were about fifteen ramblers sitting outside the gate having morning coffee from their flasks. We have a bridleway (public footpath) runs along the upper side of the garden in the field. I offered them biscuits which they declined and gave them directions as they were unsure of the way forward.

Then I went down the garden to cut some flowers for a vase as R's friend M was coming. R has always wanted a big hedge at the top of the garden for privacy but I noted that, as they walked theatre side of the Rosa rugosa hedge I had planted (inadequate says R) they could not see in.
The big daisies, marguerites, have been fantastic this year, have never flowered so well and the yellow rose Golden Showers is still pumping out petals.

Now I have cut the lower banking and we can see the pond I have moved the three bird cultures by Adam Booth to the far side so they are reflected in the surface of then water.

Panic - a cock chaffinch stuck in a bush by its foot - so I released it. The bird had a deformed and swollen foot which is not uncommon in such finches. (Sorry about poor pic but an elusive bird.) The deformity is caused by the Frigilla papillomavirus (FPV).

So there are plums everywhere, so juicy straight from the tree. 
I have just cut back some of the osiers to make new plants - very similar to currants - but they root easier - PB wanted some for his garden so off with a bundle today.

It is windy raining in the south but, for a change, still, dry and sunny up here. (SMILE!)

Saturday, 12 September 2015


I love the wildlife in our garden - well some of the time. I was sitting on a seat in the sun reading a book when I saw movement by my foot. A small bank vole had come out of a crack in the paving and was preening its whiskers. I stayed very still and after about a  minute it noticed me, did a double take and shot underground again.

The other evening, late, after the birds have left the feeders I saw something on the peanuts high up on a pole. It was a field mouse - gingery back and white front. It had its back to me chomping away and I crept to within six inches before it noticed me and dropped to the ground. The photo
is not very good but will have to do.

The applemint is out of control on the banking near the buddleias and by the cattle grid but it does not matter much there. I have just picked a handful to go with our perpetual spinach, an onion and stock R is converting into soup.

Finally done the veg/fruit beds and things look much better. I must remember to get the hoe out to keep things right. 

The raspberries are pruned and trained in, the blackcurrants thinned and sorted.

The courgettes are coming now and R is thinking up recipes to cope with the flow. There are two courgettes that are beyond hope, however. Now they are two feet (60 cm) long vegetable marrows and growing fast.

One unwelcome surprise during the weeding was to have red ants scurrying over my hand. Fortunately I was not stung.

We have picked our first Victoria plums and have a few damsons though they are not quite ripe yet.

The colour of a damson is special. We know a friend who can eat them off the tree but they are too bitter and acid for us to do that.

Here in Ulverston in Cumbria (England) at the time of the Kossovan crisis the town took in many refugees and housed them in a local empty school. Again the town is looking to help, this time taking Syrians though finding somewhere to house them may not be so easy.

Another happening in the town (apart from the beer festival where 850 gallons of beer were drunk) is the emergence of our own Banksy called Loki. Black and white paintings have appeared in disused doorways and sculptures as seen here on the main roundabout in the centre of town.

To get back to mundane garden stuff - a welcome sighting of a nuthatch this morning on a feeder - upside down of course, noticed because of its streamlined shape, before it got chased away by the female bullfinch - bully-finch more like.

I have scythed much of the lower banking (just before the rain) and we can see the pond better from the house.
I tidied up the red currants and took 25cm cuttings for BR - a slanted cut at the lower end, straight across at the top so they go into the soil easier and the right way up. Put into a slit with a spade and left for a year to root. You can do the same with roses.

And then there are earwigs - in the cut flowers, the veg and fruit and now - found in the lavatory paper roll!
Wildlife certainly!

Monday, 7 September 2015


In the beginning there was rain and the grass grew and the grass was wet so no mowing could be done and it rained and the grass grew and it was wet and the grass grew etc etc.

So I began the task of trying to reclaim the garden from entropy - scything and shearing, weeding and raking, sweating and swearing (a little at times) (like when I fall over or get pestered by flies.)

The Eucryphia is stunning in the sun, the Japanese anemones abundant and six feet (nearly two metres) tall but the sweet peas are disappointing. 

We have hips and haws and plenty of berries on the skimmia by the back door.

There is always the question of using the rosehips for something. When I was a boy it was Delrosa rosehip syrup - full of Vitamin C. I no longer have the badges I got for collecting the fruit.
Now the only real use I can think of is to remove the seeds inside and use them as 'itching powder' - most effective down the back of someone's collar.

Purples are doing well - the lace cap hydrangea up by the top hedge, the buddleias - and the hebe at the back.

This allium, I think, is sphaerocephalon fully out. Earlier it has a tight head with a green top.

Pests have been not too bad this year despite the wet summer (not rabbits and squirrels) with one exception being the hosts - normally pest free where they are but this year well chomped by molluscs.

I went down the garden yesterday to get some courgettes only to find gert marrows. Not that I mind as I like marrow. Cut in half longways, take out the seed core and stuff with well seasoned lamb mince and onion. Tie up with string and bake in the oven.

Talking of anthropomorphic broccoli - 

A tight white perm in a green collar
turned up against the heat,
hair so brittle it might crumble 
under the drier if overdone.

Usually Edna emulates her friends -
planted in a Thursday row
in Ida’s steamy salon
reading Homes and Gardens,

slowly growing rigid curls,
good enough to win a prize -
crisp and curd white 
above their cheddar smiles.

But now she has cast aside
her pristine Calabrese,
defies her white roots
and sprouts a purple-tinted rinse.

Best steamed?

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Too much cheese late in the evening and I had a dream. We had arrived back from holiday to find A and J who dug our pond standing by the back door smiling.
"We have finished off all you asked us to do," A said
I walked around the house to find the whole garden, with then exception of two old trees at the far top corner, had been cleared. Everything was gone - plants, shrubs, trees, veg and fruit patch. All the garden was roughly strimmed grass and bare earth. There was nothing left but the pond and the shed.
Then I woke up and breathed a sigh of relief!

So it is September, rained off weeding and got by a horsefly again. Tragedy though - scything and scythed a frog! Sadly neatly removed its right back leg. There you are - an old softie - cannot kill squirrels, throw snails over the hedge etc etc. Next I will be removing ladybirds to protect the greenfly - well, perhaps not. Having said that I have eaten frogs' legs and culinary snails, the latter in garlic and butter, so . . .

Talking of wild life just had R searching my hair as have been in contact with nits (headlice) then I did her hair - nothing there - phew!

I am weeding hard - done the cutting bed and most of the raspberries and redcurrants are pruned and tied in.
Then a surprise - in the row of raspberries I found a rabbit burrow! So that is where the b*****************s are hiding. 
Thunder to the west of me, thunder to the east of me and dark clouds overhead - downpour time is here again.

We still have roses - the yellow Golden Showers, I think, on the fence by the gooseberries and the headily scented Emma Hamilton. If any rose should be called it this is the ultimate Boudoir rose.

Thursday - it was to be a quiet day - coffee with friends and such - then R went to the GP with a sore foot and we were off to Xray in Barrow (XR seems OK) and a crown came off a tooth so I was off to the dentist to be glued back together.
Anyway later we went to have a Champagne Afternoon Tea at Linthwaite House Hotel courtesy of B - THANKYOU! We celebrated B's birthday which happened to be the same day and stuffed our faces - doggy bag of leftovers in the kitchen. So the day ended well. (Actually it is raining again.)(So no gardening.)

Pontificating time -

I cannot imagine the horrors that the refugees that are flooding into Europe have undergone, are undergoing. This mass migration has tones of the last World War. Britain took the Ugandan Asians ejected by Idi Amin and many Kosovans during the Balkan Crisis. Now it is time that Europe organised itself, met the migrants and helped them, took details and relocated them with support. Of course there are more than one kind of migrant - those fleeing terror and injustice, those seeking a better life, those just wanting to take advantage of the benefits system etc. Nevertheless it is time for the European Community as a whole to be positive and help the desperate not just try to put up barriers to their entry. Anyway barriers are not working/will not work.