Sunday, 29 November 2015


Looking into things, well, not myself personally, has been the theme of today (Friday) having just been to have a gastroscopy without sedation. Quite interesting but then I would say that!

Trouble brewing over the Ulverston annual Dickensian Festival when the streets are lined with stalls and 40,000 people come for the two days. The organisers have used the hashtag dickfest on twitter - Oh-Oh!
Mind you we do have a large monument on the hill above the town . . .

So this morning - 3 squirrels. One managed to demolish a seed feeder yesterday. Rain - have I mentioned rain before this autumn (now winter?) - is forecast for the next 5 days with little relief. It does get a bit monotonous and depressing. Another tree surgeon coming this morning to quote - hope it is a bit cheaper or we could have the tree for longer.

Still some leaves on trees, especially the Magnolia stellata, and almost December. The great white cherry has finally turned, the gale stripping the tree.

Sometimes thinking of the garden can keep me awake - ideas, plans, tasks to do (lots of those) and I am awake.
Last night at 1 am the moon was just past full and shining over Morecambe Bay. So out with the camera and mess about a bit -

This was taken from the living room window.

So, what to do when it rains so much?
It is best to keep off much of the garden as feet only damage soggy turf. It is time to make some more plum jam, start on Christmas cards etc etc.

And it is almost December - two months of darkness before the snowdrops lighten the world and fill it with hope of a spring and summer to come.

Actually, I think it has stopped raining. This means that, when R returns from church we will be off to the Dickensian Festival to get shoved around in the crowds. When it is really busy one needs to be a Tyson Fury!
(6 ft 9 ins (2.057 metres) new World heavyweight boxing champion)(not that I like boxing)(but you get what I mean.)

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Saturday - there was a light frost last night and the nasturtiums are much the worse for wear. However the skies are clear and the gales have stopped. They brought down a lot of twigs in the wood.

I have been out and dug up the pink Japanese anemone - two wheelbarrows full - and still have not got it all out where its roots are intertwined with other plants. Planted six agapanthus in its place - three white and three blue to add to the ones we already have. They remind me of Auckland in NZ. Then two loads of well rotted horse manure to top up the soil.

The thingy I hang my bird feeders on outside the kitchen window has rusted through and fallen over. I have taken it down and must think what to do. There are still plenty of other feeders around the house.

R is out doing her church craft fair to raise a bit of dosh and I forgot to prepare some plants for sale. After we had got the room ready I came back and potted up 5 rosemarys and a couple of eleagnus x ebbingei "Limelight". The latter take ages to root well from cuttings. Then I popped back with them. They had a few jars of the Summer Fruits and Blackcurrant jam too. The latter is good but the former seems, surprisingly, to nor taste much other than sweetness.

R always laughs when I say pop over here, up there etc. A doctor thing - "Just pop up on the couch . . ." 

It is now Sunday and the sun is out and so are there rabbits - three sitting, fat and lazy, on the upper banking grooming themselves.

We are steadily clearing away a year's growth gone over. This involves the odd wheel barrow full of stuff. I would use the sit-on mower and trailer but the garden is far to wet.

However some plants are thriving. This is the smaller of two Fatsias we have, both flowering abundantly as winter approaches. The big one will have to be cut back.

There are still roses in the garden like this one given to us by A and P. It clambers over my shed and flowers almost all the time. I just have to keep dead-heading it. We will have roses for Christmas unless we get a severe cold spell before then.

The winter spinach is looking good - goes a bit limp when frosted but recovers. It does wonders for regularity if you know what I mean.

I have another go at the pond and a bit drained out from under the liner. I am sure that the problem, atlas in part, stems from water getting in under the liner from by the inlet pipe above it. I have cut off the water flow and redirected it all down the stream. We will see if it does any good.

My friend S is in Spain - Mijas - and the pics make it look so warm and sunny. He will get a shock when he comes back to our balmy barmy climate as will N from California.

Monday - it is raining again, the grey squirrel is eating the peanuts, the moorhen is back, is gone, is back, the pond liner has sunk a bit again, it is cold and there was a sharp frost this morning, still waiting for my manure.

Friday, 20 November 2015


The tree surgeon has just been and will give me a quote on removing the ash near the house, logging it and taking away the chipped smaller stuff.
He says the dreaded ash dieback is only ten miles or so away in Witherslack. If we get it we will be left with some rhododendrons a young horse chestnut and some sycamores - with the odd holly and hazel in the under layer.
Dieback is caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a fungus and in three years has spread across the UK. The veins of leaves, usually pale, turn brown. There are blackened dead leaves and in more mature trees death of branches in the crown. Diamond dark lesions appear around the base of dead shoots and where a branch meets the trunk.
The Woodland Trust, of which I am a member are seeking a fighting fund to help deal with the future. 
Their website is

Of course there are other diseases of trees that affect larch, oak and, still, elm.

I do not remember such a wet November. We had a wonderful September/October but now! Gales and downpours, floods and soggy everywhere. Even the overflow carpark at the Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge was under water.
This pic is of the road below the house.

As far as the garden goes digging out the drain from under the pond in the rain is the sum of my labours. I would like to tidy things up but it will have to wait.



You can see the liner in the top image. After my digging it has gone down again - but not completely. There is still a substantial chunk with water underneath. Needs thought and action I think.
By Friday the liner had reappeared on the surface and all my work in the rain and mud looks like it was to no avail.

The peanuts in the bird feeders are wet and mouldy. I have had to clear them out and clean them.
Now I can understand why swallows go south for the winter - but why do redwings and fieldfares and geese come here? They should keep on going.
Even our dog has succumbed to the gale and taken it lying down.

So here are more floody pictures and then we can move on.

And though it is dark as I type, gusts of wind batter the house - some up to 60 to 70 mph according to the weather forecasters.

So now it is Thursday afternoon and we have seen a little sunshine. I have cleared away the dead stuff from the hostas and pruned the hydrangea Annabelle. Then it went dark and wet again.

R is off to a piano lesson with A so I am typing the blog.

Time for a wet cuppa decaf tea. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015


It is Saturday.
How can I write a blog on such trivial a thing as gardening when lunatics are wandering around Paris slaughtering innocent people?
How can anyone justify murder on such a scale?
They are going to get a shock, rather they are not, when they find their martyrdom led to nothing - they will simply be dead and achieved nothing.
I am sure most of us find it hard to comprehend how someone can commit such acts - and then do it in the name of a god. Too many people have died with a god on their side.
However, it does put things in life into proportion (So R says when I moan about pond liners).

Right I have had my rabbit so what does one do when the rain falls for forty-eight hours soaking everything. It is the remains of hurricane Kate dumping its moisture on our garden.

So I make jam, summer fruits jam using blackcurrants and blackberries for R's Church Craft Fair on Saturday coming.
I am also going to pot up some rooted rosemary cuttings but not until the rain stops (if it ever does). We have a flood warning out from the Met Office.
I have bought three sacks of peat free compost and wait.

There is still a delight in small things in the garden like the fallen leaves and their colours. But the rain raineth (Ambleside is virtually cut off today (Sunday) by floods on the A59) and the liner in the pond riseth and it is dark and dismal and frustrating.

So Monday is graveyard day in Liverpool - R's family have had the gravestone of their Grandfather restored so it is off to meet the myriad of cousins.

At this time of year there is much to do and I will have to turn my hand to clearing the dead and dying growth from this year, weeding and mulching, with some good horse manure if I can get it.
Have put the asparagus to bed for the winter and need to do the same with the rhubarb and strawberries.
The leaves are off the cercidiphyllums but because of the weather we have not been able to enjoy the smell of toffee they give off after they have fallen.
A man is coming Wednesday to look at the ash tree we want felling and turning into logs. There are some nearby stump shoots he can do the same to.

Then the rain eased and I donned my Wellies and paddled down into the stream. I dug a diversion from the pond drain end so the water did not rush past the outflow (if it did outflow which it doesn't) and shoved the bottlebrush the hoe handle and finally the washing line pole up the pipe. With the latter, 9 feet long, I hit a solid obstruction at the far end which could be a sediment/clay plug but I suspect is the matting underlay below the liner.

This is how it was a year ago. Maybe I will have to dig a new way across from the stream and under the liner to release the trapped water.

Isn't this extremely boring and trivial!!

Je ne suis pas Francais mais - Paris - c'est terrible.

Friday, 13 November 2015


I thought that I would show you this picture from last week first as that was the last time we saw the sun. It has poured down. The stream has decided it wants to go in a different direction out of the wood and I have had to return it to its proper course. I have tried to drain the water from under the pond liner with the giant bottlebrush (the one I got for getting algae out of the pond)(and is useless for that). Despite my digging and such down by the pond, it had not deterred the moorhen which came back almost immediately. 
Essentially there is just too much water in the garden. Everywhere is waterlogged and sodden.
I have tried to rake leaves off paths but they are a clarty mess and the result is far from satisfactory.

Yesterday was wet and so wet that an old man was washed away in Kendal in his car when he  crashed into the river which was in full spate.
Today the sun has come out for just a morning before gales and more rain arrive - a big storm to be followed by the remains of Hurricane Kate.

Life would be boring if the weather was the same every day - sun, sun, sun. Here in Britain we would have nothing to talk about though sometimes a little less weather would be good.

This is the abutilon with the whitefly. Though I have managed to eradicate the living bugs the backs of many of the leaves are peppered with eggs. I fear for its future. I do not want to bring it into the house for fear of the contagion spreading so it may spend the dark days out in the shed.

There is still a lot of colour in the garden especially the euonymus which just goes on flaming.

The skimmia by the back door is full of berries and, as it was yellowing a bit, I have given it a feed.

The Sedum, well there are three in a row, are splendid if collapsed, edging the paving.
They last a long time if cut and bunged in a vase.

More clearing of fallen leaves from the streams, more raking of paths, and so much to do.
I have even tidied the area to the side of the shed where stuff gets chucked so nothing is up against the shed walk to reduce the danger of rot.

Now I shall have to close as I am developing big computer screen stiff neck and it is a pain - literally. In fact getting old is a pain, literally. So, for those readers lithe of limb and strong of heart, beware, do not get old. 
For the rest of us - hard luck - just make the best of it.

(She who knows says I am becoming a hypochondriac. Well arthritic, deaf (I will not admit that yet enough to need a hearing aid), dyspeptic, dreary, etc etc - she may well be right!)

Saturday, 7 November 2015


So the weather has been given a name, Abigail. Gail sounds about right at the moment stripping the last leaves from the trees and rain - plenty now making the grass boggy.
Water everywhere and, unfortunately, it has reared its head underneath the pond liner again - we have a small island. The drain must be blocked, I suppose.
Our moorhen is still with us and looks like has decided to take up residence for the winter. It does not mind rain.

We have the last flush of autumn in the garden but the big sycamore is stubbornly staying green as are some of the Acers - unlike the saturated red of the Euonymus alatus - winged spindle - that is at its best. The ash trees are now naked and skeletal.

Flowers still struggle on - amazingly last year's yellow winter pansies in a pot outside the kitchen door and the nasturtiums on the bank, not yet turned slimy by a frost. The temperature remains in the teens.

R has to do the flowers for the church on Sunday but apart from a big pot of Sedum spectabile in the porch there is not much else now usable. It will mean a trip to buy something, at least for the altar.

I rang the shed people about the wet rot at the bottom of the Wendy House door but got no satisfaction so it will mean a carpenter coming to patch it up.

I have seen all sorts of weather now, even fog.

In the paper there is a cartoon of Cameron and Obama up to their necks in the desert and Putin laughing - but now he is sinking into the sand with them. You would have thought the Russians would have learned better after their debacle in Afghanistan.

And that has nothing to do with a gardening blog.

I have collected some more of the leaves from the paths and bagged them but so much is sodden I can only watch. 
R is making our Christmas fruit cake. The dried fruit is soaked in  booze and soon it will go in the oven for at least five hours. It takes longer to cook than to eat, though to eat it all at once would be a real tour de force!

Recipe? All right - metric measures!
Ingredients 1 - 20 cm square tin - currants 500g, sultanas 350g,
raisins 175g, glace cherries 350g, rind 2 oranges, 150ml sherry, 250g soft margarine.
Chop raisins, halve cherries, put in bowl, pour over sherry add grated rind, cover, stir daily for 3 days.
Ingredients 2 - dark brown sugar 250g, 5 eggs, s/r flour 75g, plain flour 175g, blanched chopped almonds 75g, black treacle 1 tablespoon, ground mixed spice 1.5 teaspoons.
Beat marg, eggs, sugar, treacle and almonds on bowl, add flours and spice and blend well.
Stir in fruit.
Line tin with greaseproof paper, spoon in and level.
Cook in low oven (Aga in simmering oven) for 4.5 to 12 hours. Check regularly with skewer. When it comes out clean cake is cooked. Leave to cool in tin.

After that it is into storing - you can add booze a little at a time over next few weeks but beware - one year R added too much and it was all soggy! (But nice)
Later marzipan and icing as you wish.

To continue - the roses are still blooming here. Thank you to A's parents for this one.

And I leave you with a burst of sunshine from two days ago before the fog came down (or rather up with the incoming tide).

Monday, 2 November 2015


Raining again, got up late and looking out of the window saw that we have a moorhen on the pond. It is a while since we have had such a visitor.

Then again we have a grey squirrel on the feeders and that is a regular occurrence. Yesterday one demolished a seed feeder and left in in fragments on the ground.
I have been into the garden between showers (and prolonged rain) and trimmed the beech hedge. It had grown so tall I could hardly reach the top. I had plans for it to arch over the path to the far garden but that would have meant me trimming standing precariously on a ladder so I have ditched that. As one decrepifies (new word for the OED) balance deteriorates and, no doubt, I would, sooner or later, plummet to the ground.

Having ranted about the rain we have had sun too, occasionally.
It lights up the autumn colours like this Hamamelis under the big sycamore.

Colour is everywhere.

I had thought the visit by the moorhen would be fleeting but it seems to have taken up 

residence here. 
We have bought a special device looking like a giant bottle brush on an extending handle to try and extract some of the algae from the pond. I tried it but the rake, albeit with a short handle, seems better. Also whilst there I put up a jack snipe from the ditch.

We have white fly everywhere in the living room - comes of bringing in tender house plants that have been outside for the summer. The abutilon will have to be treated and then we pray - but they multiply - I was going to say like rabbits but rabbits have nothing on whitefly - like bacteria might be nearer

The horseradish that is supposed to be variegated has, in part, reverted so I will need to dig up the gone all green bit and use the root - that will make my eyes water. Onions have nothing on horseradish. And the nasturtiums get everywhere.

Annabelle is still in full flower except when it rains and she collapses onto the ground. The hydrangeas have been marvellous this year.

So, Monday, still in the season of mists and mellow KEATS stuff - today foggy early on and now sun, and warm, and 61F 16C, and it is November! I must be a close-bosom friend of the maturing sun?
(see the poem.)