Tuesday, 25 September 2018


I have to own up - just returned from the Emerald Isle. Came home early to avoid crossing St George's Channel as storm Ali arrived.
Went to the Giant's Causeway at 8 a.m. to avoid the coach loads of tourists. Came away a bit underwhelmed. The rocks on Staffa and at Shiskine golf course on Arran more impressive?

The sky is full of rags, rooks fighting the gale. The grass is long and very wet, beetroot are full of holes from munching slugs as are the remaining potatoes. I picked enough damsons to make a litre of damson gin. Did not crush the fruit just pricked them with a silver fork, bunged in the sugar (how much depends on how sweet you want) and gin and put away in a cool dark place (the back porch) for a few months.
One thing I found was that damsons eaten of the tree when ripe are sweet and juicy, not at all bitter like sloes.

The courgettes marrows are doing well but no flowers on the sweet peas, no butternut squashes, ate our first bit of purple sprouting broccoli.

The small wasp Diplolepis rosae lays its eggs in Dog Rose buds and forces them to develop into a large red-tinged moss-like galls from which the young wasps eventually emerge. Known locally as Robin's pincushions.

Having talked of success and failure in the garden I have only to walk up the lane to find fruit everywhere - 

Blackberries or brambles and sloes,

 rose hips and haws

crab apples in the road fallen from a hedge side tree.

 Of course not all the wild fruit are harmless - the gloriously red berries on the right are from the wild honeysuckle and are moderately poisonous. Other bright red berries - colour a warning sign - include Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum} and the various nightshades. (Woody on the left)(Not the Deadly nightshade, that has black berries.)

To move on, a tale of two tree trunks. The one on the left was covered in ivy so I attacked it and thought I had been successful until I saw green shoots emerging.

On the right the rugged bark that can only be an oak. That is what I call texture.

A note about marrow (overgrown courgette (zucchini)) gluts - planted far too many, made gallons of soup with roasted garlic, was disgusting and had to put it down the toilet!
Why do I grow so many? Probably because it is one of the things that grow well and relatively trouble free.

It is cold! Usually we do not get frost yet but just about zero last night.

Finally, as some of you know, I have a habit of coming home from places with a pebble or two in my pocket. Unfortunately these stones were a bit big no matter how deep my pockets.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


It is seven thirty in the morning and our buzzard skims the trees chased by a pair of jays, the rooks land next to it and usher it away from their rookery. Later they will dive bomb the bigger bird as it circles on a thermal, rising into the blue.
I have said farewell to my cousin from Australia and as we stood outside the kitchen a shaft of sunlight lit up the hill behind Bardsea and then produced a rainbow. A grand goodbye.

The air is cold but shoving my hands into the compost heap soon warmed them up. (It was steaming.)

Do we have a small wood, a copse or a grove? I have found that there are ways of calculating the age of trees by measuring their girth at chest height. 
It transpires the bug sycamore and most off the ash trees in the wood are about 120 years old.

One of the big ash has shed a large branch so out with the loppers and a saw.

The seedling horse chestnut is now twelve feet high and thriving, the thornless hawthorns are loaded with fruit bending the branches down towards the grass though why, when I planted two identical trees one is much bigger than the other mystifies me.

Sycamore leaves are ageing and now spattered with blackspot. This is caused by the fungus Rhytisma acerinum.

The white birch stand out in their patch of long grass. I have decided not to mow amongst them this year.

White is so important in a world of green - a garden is mainly multiple shades of green. Japanese anemone on the right, phlox on the left and a bee in a white mallow flower below left, bellflower (campanula) below right.

That is not to say that there are not some other colours still - 
In the house this gerbera had come again,

the fuchsias by the gate are delicate and contrast well with the grasses

And since we hacked back the buddleia the shrubby clematis is bursting with flowers.

We have carrots -

and even a rogue nasturtium growing on the compost heap. 
When we look at butterflies we see the gaudy open wings but here a painted lady shows of her beautiful underwings.

And the vicious rose "Grouse", a ground cover rose has pretty flowers and a faint scent.

R has eaten our only ripe fig.

And rabbits do eat damson leaves.

And if only our garden was as small and neat as this one from the Lowick Show - well . . .

Saturday, 8 September 2018


Yesterday we had buzzard and a pair of kites over the garden. Today we had a sparrow hawk sitting in the shrub by the bird feeders outside my window. The hawk looked at me and I am almost sure it smiled. Here I am providing a meal on a plate for it. Not a good time to be a small bird though the buzzards and kites are mainly scavengers.
The Mammal Society estimate, however, that 55 million birds are year are killed in the UK by CATS! We have two prowlers, a black cat (called Megatron) and a shaggy thing - do not know its name.

Let me talk damsons - yesterday morning R and I picked 28 pounds. Now most are in the freezer (actually for jam making freezing seems to soften the fruit speeding up the process) even this one that I posted on Facebook - could not resist it. There is definitely something anthropomorphic about it. (I have wanted to use that word in a blog for a while.)

I continue to do the Big Butterfly Count - 

 Speckled Wood


Painted Lady

Small Tortoiseshell 

The latter have suddenly sprung from the odd one to over a dozen.

We went to Holker Hall gardens the other day, partly as we can get in on our RHS membership cards and partly for coffee.

The herbaceous borders were still good and the use of white cosmos in the formal area was great. In the lower garden the pruning of the hedging bushes has left a line of dancing trunks. It gives the effect of a barrier yet one can see through unlike a normal hedge.

We have been to the Lowick and District Agricultural Show - the Li''le Royal. It has been going for about 160 years. Met friends and walked the tents. On the first Saturday in September. Congratulations to PB on his prize runner beans.

Back home the garden is struggling somewhat for colour. However the bed full of odds and so on - poppies, zinnias, cosmos - is still doing well - until the builder comes and digs it up.

Down in the cutting bed the black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgia "Goldstrum", is bright and colourful but they do not cut well and droop almost immediately which is a shame. I looked up advice re this and got -

Rudbeckia- Harvest when just beginning to open or unfold. Flowers will continue opening when placed in floral preservative and water. Make your cut at the base of the stem or plant above a set of leaves.
Our flowers still droop.

One other thing that has givens a blast against the backdrop of sycamore is the Acer palmate "Sango-kaku" my sister gave me when we moved in.

If we are struggling with flowers it is good to have strong foliage hues.

Then there are courgettes and marrows - the freezer is filling with a courgette bake - defrost, put in a shallow dish, sprinkle with cheese and bung in the oven till hot - and now R is looking for a courgette chutney recipe.

Autumn looks like it might be early, the euonymus is turning red, the hamamelis yellow.

Apart from that the world is much the same, needs brightening up - I suggest at the party conferences Labour and Conservative do a swap - Boris for Jeremy and vice versa. We should have a new referendum on whether to have another referendum, Scotland and Northern Ireland to become anew country and the Isle of Man join Eire - OH! yes and Putin and Trump to have a week together on Necker Island and leave the rest of the world alone.

That's the world sorted, all I need now is a gardener who answers his telephone.