Wednesday, 25 May 2016


The Bramley apple blossom is the best I have seen it and for the first year have good blossom on the crab apple John Downie which is good for cross pollination. The Conference pear has put out some flowers but not a lot and the greengage is growing well but no blossom. We will just have to hope for next year.

The strawberries are also full of flower, and promise. Even though they do not make the best setting jam their taste is so special - especially when they are picked and eaten straight away. We have several varieties but I cannot remember what they are all called - Royal sovereign, Cambridge favourite and others.
On the right is the sad picture of the pear tree, half dead and dying. However I remember at a previous house we had a hazel pear, very old, riddled with beetle holes and yet it gave lots of small, rather nutty fruit. On the left you can see the gooseberries are coming on and, so far, no sign of mildew and sawfly - so far. 

I have been at the brambles again and am well nettled and scarred despite gauntlets. However the far garden is coming on. When I have finished I will have to decide what to do with it. One good thing was as I cleared the jungle I found frogs! This is one of our rhododendrons flowering well at the woodland margin.

This is one of the stars of the May garden - a glorious blue poppy.

And we are getting out first roses  - this is Rhapsody in Blue (even though it is not really blue but what rose is.)

Flowers are not the only colour, the leaves of this shrub light up a darker corner especially when the sun is shining. Leaf colour can be so important in a garden - after all the most common colour is green.

Just watched birds on the feeders outside my windows. The tits grab a sunflower seed and head for a nearby twig where they carefully remove the coating before pecking at the contents. The finches take a seed and twiddle their beaks until the coating comes off, then swallow the seed, then take another. 

Here us the cock pheasant bedraggled in the rain - hence the steamed up window through which it was shot (chaffinch for a bonus item).

The yellow tree peony just goes from strength to strength - such a good colour.

And today I started rejuvenating the pots - osteospermums and pelargoniums plus a herb pot on the left - variegated marjoram, dill, puple and green sage and thyme. The pot beside it is apple mint left over from the winter window sill. There is loads elsewhere in the garden as there is rosemary and ordinary marjoram, sweet cicely and lovage.

Today we went to Langholm Mill and then stream garden - our trickle struggles on - envy!

Thursday, 19 May 2016


Three pics of Muncaster Castle gardens - two of the bluebells and one of the view over the shrubs to Scafell.

Back to earth after such heavenly gardening delights - The Conference pear and to some extent the Bramley apple have, I think, canker, Nectria galligena and dead twigs coated in lichen.

Enough - I am scratched to bits by brambles - still clearing the jungle in the far corner. Just as I was about to start the wheelbarrow had a puncture so had to wrestle with a new inner tube and all that.

I could start a forest with the tree seedlings in the garden - mainly ash and the dreaded sycamore.

Whilst we were at Harlow Carrr, the RHS gardens, the other day we bought 2 good sized earthenware pots (2 for the price of one so R could not resist the offer)(but they were good value) so I have crocked the bottoms and filled them with compost. Now we just need something to go in them. (Saw same offer at Beetham, same price, yesterday).

R decided she would read a Harlan Coben paperback I had just finished but gave up when a woman was shot in the knees - not for R - Miss Read come back, all is forgiven. (Actually my knees are pretty shot at.)

Garden getting dry, the big yellow scabious collapsed and had to be watered. All the pots need regular attention but the weather girl on the BBC says it will piddle down on Tuesday and Wednesday - so what's new?

We have been to Holker Hall gardens - we can get in free as we are both members of the RHS.
The bedding in the central beds was a delight - 
forgetmenots, pink and white tulips. And the wild ramsons (garlic), despite the pong, was in wonderful carpets by the ha-ha and the great lime trees.

We do not have tree sparrows in the house martin nest this year - we have house sparrows. I can see them flying up to it past our  bedroom window as I sup my morning cuppa.

Last autumn my daughter gave me a paper bag full of calendula seeds and I have been travelling the garden looking for bare patches sowing them - we will see. I have also found a jam jar full of poppy seed I collected for cooking but have spread some of that about as well.

The aquilegias that self sow (Granny's Bonnets) are out as are the yellow azaleas, first oriental poppies and wall flowers.
The abutilon has survived the winter and a plague of whitefly and is now out on the table on the paving, fed and tidied.

Come Wednesday morning, it has rained last night, not a lot but I liked it.

As the house martins are trying to build outside the kitchen window and we remember a grey squirrel robbing a previous nest the squirrel trap has been out again - one caught, more to go.

The garden from the west.

Gardening, in fact anything to get away from this stupid referendum - only a distraction from the real politics going on (perhaps that is politics?) - both sides unable to admit the other has anything worth saying - I hope when all is over we can get on with being part of Europe again and business can move ahead knowing where it stands.

Off to the kitchen where I have just baked a loaf of spelt bread - half wholemeal, half white, very easy -

250g white spelt flour
250g wholemeal spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
300ml warm water

Mix it all together and then knead for a good 5 minutes, slap in a well oiled tin and leave to rise somewhere warm - about 60-90 minutes.
Bake at 200C - 25-30 minutes in our Aga.
Eat with melted butter (or marmalade)(or marmite)(or syrup).

Saturday, 14 May 2016


Today has been mainly washing the kitchen floor but out in the garden we have had some rain and as the week has progressed it has got colder and colder.  The garden does have some splendid yellows in May particularly the march marigold or Kingcup by the pond and the yellow tree peony which is flowering well.

This is view up the garden over the pond from the decking beside R's writing shed. The raising of the level of the outlet seems to have worked well. Though the stream no longer runs into the pond there seems to be enough run off from the surrounding grass to keep it topped up. 

The magnolia stellata is in fine fettle and covered in flowers.
I have also noticed that the white lilac that flowered brilliantly two years ago, did little last year, is covered in buds again. It is a pity that as they go over they go brown.
I did an experiment in the autumn and, after flowering, I removed the old flowers from one of the three Azalea luteums but not the others. The one where the dead heading was done has many more buds this year than the rest. 

The various pots outside the kitchen are now staring to go over and will need redoing with something or other soon.
I am not a fanatic of bedding plants so may put herbs in one or two. The tulips, after they are done will either get bunged into a spare bit of border or go down to the cutting bed.
Time for an intermission - coffee, birdsong and sunshine - and a read of a book on the Low Fodmap diet cannot do it all but will start with cutting the old onions, leeks and such. IBS is such a pain. Anyway I am going to have a biscuit whatever. (IBS - Irritable Blogger Syndrome.)

This is blossom on the weeping silver pear, understated amongst the grey foliage.

The dreaded bindweed is appearing inserting its sinuous stems through the other plants - nasty stuff.

We went out today and the first campion is coming out, both red and white.

Then in the wood we found pink bells and white bells instead of bluebells. One thing the worries me is that some of the bluebells are looking suspiciously like a cross between the wild and Spanish ones - and there is nothing I can do - it is too late.

Redcurrant and strawberries netted (I don't suppose it will stop the blackbirds), strawberries strawed - keeps the fruit off the ground - and rocket and beetroot sown. 
The two failed pots of tulips have been replanted in a gap in the flowerbeds - you never know, might be lucky (or not probably).

The welsh poppies are coming out, orange and yellow together but - alas, alack -  accidentally snapped off the bud of one of the Meconopsis bailey - the blue poppy.

Have solved the problem of the unreachable algae in the middle of the pond - bought a broom handle and some gaffer tape, attached handle to existing rake and now I can reach - back breaking though - the leverage is a bit strenuous.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Today is Sunday and we have been to look at a garden at Tomsteads in Woodland. B and B saved us some excellent cake and a mug of tea before we walked around the seven acres - mostly wild garden, extensive water but good hard landscaping from B & B's son C. Tomsteads has otters - jealous! It is warm for May, 24C, and we sat out when we got back even though it had clouded over. No doubt it will be chilly again next week.

Sometimes a day can change abruptly - Monday and it starts with a planned haircut and visit to the doctor.  It is 25C and I mow the lower banking and at 12.30 - the highlight of the day - our first asparagus - wonderful steamed and dressed with a little melted butter. Things are looking up (I still have mot get my hair cut (it has gone quite white) and go to the Doc.

I have tried to grow new potatoes in sacks before and failed but seeing Monty Don do it on tv I thought I 
would have another go. The sacks are old wild bird seed containers and I have put several drainage holes in the bottom, put in some very well rotted horse manure (9 years old) and a potato - then covered it. They will need watering well and as the plant grows, topping up of the sack - a bit like earthing up. 

At this time of year the garden is awash with birdsong and down the garden a rhododendron we bought near Matlock several years ago is flowering and the garden is also awash with its scent.

I have cut about 40 sticks of rhubarb - R taking it to church to sell as we still have loads in the freezer from last year.

When we were at Ripley Castle recently we saw this shed on wheels and a rail - a bit like George Bernard Shaw's writing shed - so it can be turned to face the sun - well it could if the rail was not clogged up.

Back home the second amaryllis  has seven flowers and tulips from the cutting garden are a treat.

Down in the land of fruit and veg a brachyglottis (aka senecio) has died in its pot. The root had blocked the drainage hole and with all the rain this winter it drowned. It was difficult getting it out but having done that I put a box in the pot to be shaped at a later date.
The strawberries are flowering well and I must get out the straw to protect the fruit.

This is a Genista - a bit like a broom but more compact and scented. In fact it is out before the broom on the lower banking. I have moved the table and bench we got from Ikea out onto the paving though the side planks of the table are rotten and will need replacing. Another little job to add to the list for the joiner.

Sadly it is snowing on the lawn, but not cold - the cherries are shedding their petals.
R has just found a newt by the pond - I think a male common newt - Triturus vulgaris. Only trouble is it is dead. Nevertheless we introduced them few years ago and saw nothing - till now. If they escape predators like snakes and hedgehogs they can live for ten years! No newt like an old newt!

Friday, 6 May 2016


There are all sorts of cherries, not just trees - Bob Cherry (Billy Bunter's schoolmate), Trevor Cherry (Leeds and England fullback), Cherry Wainer (organist with Lord Rockingham's XI), the bake off lady Mary Cherry - no hang on Berry - actually a cherry is not a berry it's a drupe.
Where did I ramble to - Pondicherry, Cheeryble Brothers - now this is getting out of hand.
Anyway there are more flowering trees at it in the garden than cherries - amelanchier, magnolia stellata, damsons, Victoria plum, wild plum, blackthorn - you see what I mean.

 I cannot stop nipping out to take photographs like the one above.

Though blossom and daffodils are the main thing at the moment (chuck in a few thousand bluebells) new leaves are also a treat. Left Acer sango-kaku, right a cercidiphyllum. The small shrub below cost virtually nothing at a Christmas Fare. I wonder if the white and green is the reversion or the gold.

 There are other flowers in the garden - the forgetmenots in the rose bed (and up in the wood where we chucked the remains from clearing the old plants over the last few years.)

Managed to nip out and do a little mowing before heading to the jungle at the top of the garden and debrambling it. The soil was so soft I could pull whole blackberry plants out of the ground.  So half done and cleared. Hopefully the bluebells all spread and fill the area. Later in the year I will gather seed and help the process.

The first few asparagus spears have appeared, a bit early but who's complaining.

R continues to deadhead the daffs and I have dug out the stream in the far garden. After 36 hours of rain, though, the lower garden is a sponge - sodden.

And finally some warmer, drier weather.
Just been away and R has taken a fancy to a Snow Gum - a white barked eucalyptus so now I am searching for one.
We managed Studley Royal with Fountains Abbey, Newby Hall and Ripley Castle gardens in one day and then went to the RHS at Harlow Carr the next!

At Harlow Carr there was an eye blinder of a tulip bed. And with little photoshopping a rogue tulip appeared! Can you spot it on the right? 

We have so much rhubarb I am wondering what to do with it - making rhubarb and ginger jam is a fussy drag and the freezer is still full of last year's crop.

Anyone wants some and will come and get it let me know.

Today has been a mowing day and a discovery that after waging war on ground elder I have failed and it is spreading on the bankings. If I had a gun (or a ballista) I would shoot the Romans who brought it here. The same goes for rabbits, I mean shoot the Romans for them too.

Now R wants to saw the posts off our four-poster bed - sigh!
I'm going to have a beer.