Sunday, 30 April 2017


The sun is out and thought cold, a present from the Arctic, the garden bursting with growth.

Then, Tuesday, it is hailing, no snowing, no the sun is out again! It is nearly May!
The asparagus is through but not yet ready to be eaten.

Squirrel trap worked last night and caught a Wood pigeon. It had gone in for the peanuts. I put up another picture of the cock bullfinch as he is such a colourful bird.

R and I went to Muncaster Castle as I mentioned in the last blog. Not only were the bluebells splendid but 

rhododendrons too.

In amongst the bluebells were broom shrubs laden with golden flowers - not quite as buttery scented as the gorse but, at least, not spiny.

Back home I have finished tidying the cutting bed and the first gladioli are through.

In the strawberry bed, as well as many places elsewhere in the garden damson suckers are proving to be a nuisance. Like its relation, the blackthorn, it does this readily.
I weed on amongst the colours of mid spring.

Though we do have a broom in the garden it is not yet in flower unlike the Genista or Lydian Broom or Dyer's Greenweed. It has got too bug and will need pruning after flowering - but gently as too hard pruning of brooms can kill them off.

 This is the gingery scented rhododendron we bought near Matlock some years ago. Not large but special. The tree to the left is a greengage.

The blossom on the left is Conference Pear. It still looks a bit tired but I keep feeding it and hoping. So far so good.

With the cold over the last two days I look nervously at the plum and damsons. The former seems to have set fruit, not sure about the other.

Big water beetles in the pond - the trouble is the larvae eat the tadpoles.
Looks like I may be making another pond at the far end of the top garden - dig out the soil and leave a hole - which has filled up with water.

Never thought I would not mind a bit of rain - but there you are - getting bit too dry.

Sunday, 23 April 2017


Usual - that is what R's grandmother wrote almost every day in her diary! Mowing, weeding, dead heading etc.
I have been up by the wall at the far end of the garden digging out the soil under the trees where they hang over from next door, The soil/leaf mould mixture is over a foot deep and will be a great asset to the garden.

Meanwhile back at the bird feeders - it is no wonder I catch squirrels only infrequently as I have just watched great tits entering the trap and leaving with whole peanuts! To other birds -


Greater spotted woodpecker


and best of all? Cock bullfinch. On my way out this morning came across the cock pheasant, well a cock pheasant, hopping along on one leg, the other injured - cat? They are definitely the main predator on the garden and at some time or another all of these birds have been victims. One problem is that the cats have no natural predator controlling their numbers. (Sorry Scottie.)
Of course grey squirrels and stoats take eggs and chicks as will other birds - woodpeckers, sparrow hawk etc. 
There has been a minor flap over sickly osprey chicks that the naturalists left to their fate - big outcry - poor little chicks - need to be rescued. But that is the whole point - the natural order of things, predators at the top of the food chain, seeds and insects at the bottom. 
Unfortunately we have got rid of wolves and lynxes and bears and instead of replacing them as natural predators we have distorted the ecosystem - too many people - perhaps a good cull of mankind might be the answer - whoops - dangerous territory.

To move on - (and about time too) - R showed me tadpoles in the pond - they must have been hiding in the weed - I have hoicked a load of crowfoot out to give some clear water, leaving at the side sonny creepies can slither back into the water.

Walking the garden with friends today we put a a small jack snipe - have seen the odd one before in the stream bottom - still a nice surprise.
At the rhubarb patch I was suddenly assailed by a strong sweet gingery scent and realised it was coming from the rhododendron on the banking thirty yards away.

R and I went to Abi and Tom's nursery at Halecat, Witherslack and they have done an amazing job. The trouble is one never leaves without spending something - bought a blue geranium and this unusual white primula.

This morning I have read that there may be a water shortage in the UK after a dry winter - where? Lawn still boggy in places etc etc though the stream has partly dried up. Anyway we have borehole of our own. 

Got up this morning and looked out of the bedroom window up the garden and a swallow zoomed down in front of me from the nest at the top of the gable. I know one swallow doesn't make a summer - but a spring?

The sun on the front of the house this morning was a treat but we have been warned winter is coming back in the next few days - blossom beware.

Watching M. Don on Gardeners' World there was a bit on Charles Dowding and his Natural No-dig way he uses in his market garden. He wrote a very interesting book - Organic Gardening which my son C gave me in 2007 - ISBN 978 1 903998 91 5. (If you have a garden or are into that sort of thing (or have a bad back)).

Went to Muncaster Castle today to see the bluebells - 2 weeks early and stunning.

More Muncaster pics in next blog.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Here is a very particular little mouse very familiar to Beatrix Potter, always trying to keep her place tidy despite the messy insects and spiders.

This one is foraging for seeds dropped from the kitchen feeder.

The skimmia is resplendent - this is the male one - covered in bumble bees and, better, honey bees from somewhere. The scent of the flowers can be sensed from some way away and is quite heady.

The woodpecker is still visiting but very twitchy and flies off at the slightest alarm. R is monitoring the duck, or rather drake population on the pond - varies from one to four. Perhaps they are all adolescent and shy - NO that never applies to male mallard who are very aggressive when fuelled by the urges of spring. It can be tough being a duck.

The varying colours by the stream are a delight now the Japanese maple is coming into leaf - red.
Today has been picking up yet more sticks, assaulting nettles and brambles (the latter are everywhere) and debating whether the deep area of soggy leaf mould by the top wall is worth excavating and using. I wonder how many weed seeds are in there waiting to burst forth.

The daffs are going over but some later narcissi still ok. Waiting to see how the naturalised camassias on the banking will do this year.
  The pond is looking good even if the ducks are away now and she is sitting on eggs in her nest on the tarn above the spade forge.

The blossom will not last much longer - the Victoria Plum has already lost most of its flowers - but the cherries are so splendid I cannot resist another couple of pics.

This morning I looked out of our bedroom window at the garden - a frost was already fading in the sunshine, a squirrel scurried up the top banking and a rabbit was sitting on the lawn eating fallen cherry petals, not the grass but petals. Obviously a bunny with taste.
And finally a blast of colour before the North Koreans go bananas - just read the book In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park - reminds me of Wild Swans by Jung Chang but in some ways worse.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Quirks first - lots of lovely spring flowers like these calendulas - they overwintered and are flowering! There is also lots of seed around where I failed to dead head so . . .? R has been at the daffs doing a stirling job dead heading them as they go over so they can get ready for next year. Yesterday I judged at the Rusland Spring Show - the arts section! Ok with photos, paintings and poems but felt hats and Ruskin Lace, I have to admit, are not my forte.

Another oddity is that we have bluebells in flower - early - two weeks early this year. Is this the sign of changing seasons with climate change? Though we are enjoying a few days of sun overall, the changing weather has become colder and WETTER.

To the blossom itself, loads of it - only hope the odd frost doesn't mean no fruit - damsons to start -

Prunus shirotae

Great white cherry

Victoria plum


Pyrus salicifolia pendula - the weeping silver pear (very thorny).

I have been a-hoeing as the sycamore has inundated the garden with seedings - everywhere including in the grass. One of the snags with having an, albeit, small patch of woodland are seedlings and suckers. The worst culprit for the latter are the damsons - they send up new plants all over the place from their roots.

On Sunday last I sat out in the morning - it was in the low 20s C - came in for lunch and went out again - low 10s! Monday and it is 7.5C at lunchtime.

When one writes a blog here there are a labels to select from on the top right - at one point my choice reads - Poem, pond, Prince Charles, rat! Very eclectic.

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Well, I think TS Eliot was wrong - April is not the cruellest month - that is a contest between December and January - the first for all the hype over Christmas and the second because winter feels like it is never ending.

The Prunus shirotae is out, the great white cherry soon to follow. The shape the shirotae has taken leaning over the curved path to the veg beds is a delight and something I have taken a photo of many times. So loveliest of trees the cherry now - Housman had it right.

And the Victoria plum is flowering so we are hoping to be frost free, do not want the flowers blighted, want the fruit.
The camellia by the shed, sheltered from the damaging effects of early morning sun, is flowering better than it has ever done. It is such a shame that they are not scented. That would turn a stunning bush into one even more exceptional.

To daffs - still here though some dead heading has begun - so the energy generated by the leaves goes into next year's bulb not the seed head. Bought plants on the left, best of all wild daffs on the right.

Where the stream leaves to top garden and comes down to the lawns there are plantings of daffs, primroses and wild flowers such as the golden saxifrage. It looks a lot better now the winter detritus has been cleared away. I like the fact that the stream is not in a straight line, not too formal. I am not sure that R agrees with me re my desire for vaguely controlled chaos.

The slopes of the upper garden are now carpeted in primroses, not the artificial colours of primulas but the pale yellow of the native species.

We went to Ford Park where the garden has become more of a nursery and I bought some white camassias. R got a white pulmonaria shown here and this has been put in under the white lilac.

On exploring diet and so on I have reached the conclusion that onions are fatal (well upsetting) for me so turning to advice from the Fodmap diet we have changed to using green chives. I have let the plants by the blackcurrants seed into the path so we have an ample supply to keep us happy.

There are so many flowers coming, so much colour - whether the delicate heads of Fritillaria meleagris, the snake's-head 

or the blast of colour from our first main tulips.

A friend who lives in Pembrokeshire has said they are eating their first asparagus! We are several weeks away from that. Asparagus at the end of March - almost makes one want to move south.

So went and weeded the asparagus bed and went on weeding tearing out docks and creeping buttercup, couch grass and goose grass (cleavers).
AND I have done a first mowing on half of the lawns.

Time for tea and a dry Ryvita 😢