Friday, 24 May 2019


There are some plants in the garden that sow themselves year on year - orange and yellow welsh poppies, forgetmenots, aquilegias, honesty, white hesperis, camassias, fritillaries - that are welcome. There are others not so welcome depending where they are - wild garlic, bluebells - and some positively not welcome - goosegrass or cleavers, bindweed, horsetails etc etc etc.
 There are some that spread relentlessly unless culled like the geranium on the left and white rosebay willow herb.

So, lawns mown, a walk up the garden and a tawny owl floats silently from the bottom hedge. The ducks are back on the shed roof, the garden is so dry and the pond low - so three cheers for a borehole and a top up. Nevertheless the bogbean and water lilies are doing well (as is the blanket weed.)

R has found a recipe for what she calls jam but I feel is more of a conserve or something -
Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam - 600g rhubarb chopped, 300g hulled and quartered strawberries, 450g sugar, juice of half a lemon.
Mix and leave overnight to extract juice.
Boil 5 to 10 min.
If any scum - add knob of butter.
Put in hot sterilised jars - or - we put some into the freezer as it only keeps up to  a month in the fridge.

I have added petunias to the wallflowers in the pots by the back door and put in the erigeron, anthriscus and perennial wallflowers from Sarah Raven. A few seedlings are appearing, reluctantly, in the veg beds. Put in some flat leaved parsley and sweet peas. We continue to gorge on the asparagus.

Elsewhere in the garden the hedge parsley flowers as do the azaleas. In the leaf litter under one of the rhododendrons hoverflies seem to be gathering.

The new extension and paved area (hate the word patio) give new seating areas but we have yet to get into our heads that we can just walk out from the living room instead of round from the other doors. The orange gerbera which has lived and flowered all winter in the kitchen is now in the new bed.
And the fruit - abundance this year, mildewed gooseberries (but no sawfly (yet)), and the pear tree will fall over when the fruit get to full size. The strawberries I dug out last year had sent out runners around the edge of the bed, so I left them, and now we have fruit coming with no loving tender care.

We are not long back from Scotland, cliffs laden with sea pink (thrift), campion, tormentil and gorse at Balcary Point on the footpath to Rascarrel. We have seen a dolphin from the cliffs in the past but not on that day.

A visit to Crawick Multiverse, still a work in progress, just adults behaving like small boys damming streams? And a walk around Drumlanrig Gardens through the azalea scent where the most interesting thing was a remote control mower for steep bankings - love one - but £10,000 and then some, so no go.

So much to do and so little sense of urgency, cuppa and a sit in the garden.

Friday, 17 May 2019


May is the best month of the year - you have my word for it - at least here in England. There are tits nesting in the boxes in the wood and a blackbird in the logshed - 

The molecatcher has been and gone - we are three moles less and hopefully that is the lot - we shall see.

The house is looking good as is the garden though I have had to cut down the dead Eucryphia and Hammamelis.

The bed here used to be part of the old rose bed before the building and I have now deposited and dug in two trailer loads of well rotted horse manure. The big grey plant is a cardoon.

Up in the wood all is glorious, woodland flowers at their best bathed in sunshine and birdsong.

The scent from the three yellow azaleas is heady - I planted them by a path out of the wood deliberately. Unfortunately the hawthorn covered in May blossom smell of rotten meat to attract flies - not so pleasant. At least we are (not yet) inundated with the St. Mark's flies (or hawthorn flies) - small and black they fly with their legs hanging down. They are harmless.

We have been to Gresgarth Hall, the home of Arabella Lennox-Boyd the famous garden designer and it 

was a perfect day. 

After a picnic by the car we walked through the glorious gardens and past the pond. There is a magnificent Crab apple - Malus baccata var. Mandshurica, below, and now T wants one. We have a John Downie, on the right,  but that is clearly second rate.

And there was a peony to die for -

I mean the photo says it all.

In the walled kitchen garden there were beautiful stone images by Maggy Howarth - at

Up in the wood by the river there was a stand of white birches - which is where I got the idea for our small plantation, here on the right. Being me I could not resist messing about with photoshop and produced an image of the Gresgarth Hall ones in infrared.

I have sown yet more carrots and hope these will germinate as the first sowing, and those of parsnips, did nothing. I have also pruned hard the weeping silver pear to raise the canopy away from the grass and tidied the willows.

R is in the kitchen making a compote of rhubarb and strawberries - our rhubarb, bought strawberries - the rhubarb is struggling with the dry weather and will need dividing and spacing out in the autumn - too crowded.

It is May and the best time of the year - how do we get through the winter?

Sunday, 12 May 2019


Beautiful morning, a walk from the pond up to the new extension. That's all.

Saturday, 11 May 2019


At last we hear that there are too many people on this planet. All the ecology problems are due to that and human greed - we need urgently to protect large areas of the natural world from human predation.  We need to reduce the world population drastically but there is no political will do do anything much.

Then, at home, it is all go with the fauna including there is the problem of moles and RATS. 

The mole lady has come out and set ten traps - we finally got fed up having more soil than grass on the lawns. And - the mole lady is a actually the daughter of RP who used to run the farm I grew up on on Torver for Dad. He still lives in Torver, gardens and is in his late 80s - titchy world.

 Meanwhile back on the shed roof we have a duck-in, a break from a ducking in the pond, perhaps waiting for the horses next door to be fed?

The pond itself is not looking too bad though muddy and churned after each duck visit.

We are still somewhat short of water despite rain and the pond is a bit low.

The lilac is in full flower and from below the new extension is looking good. 

There is almost nothing so alarming as treading on a hen pheasant but Mr Pheas just struts about squawking chunnering to himself.

Elsewhere the viburnums are getting going, the wild guelder rose and the horizontal flowers of Mariesii.

Knapweed is doing okay in virtually no soil and though we have the white hedge parsley around us I think I prefer this pink version - less aggressive and grows lower.

Going back to rats - should we have the great eco debacle and humanity snuffs it - are rats our natural successors. Their cars would be much smaller and less polluting, their buildings less destructive of the natural world - ??

To Mecanopsis cambrica the Welsh Poppy which sows itself freely, the yellow is the wild one abut we also have the orange and the hybridise a bit. Is that good or bad? 
Pick and boils stem ends for a minute to make them last in a vase.

And the wood is just getting going - campion and pignut en masse.

Off to Gresgarth Hall Gardens tomorrow - the home of Arabella Lennox-Boyd in search of some ideas.

Meanwhile back to trailer loads of manure and breaking up the concrete left by the builders. A new bed on its way but what to put in it?

Saturday, 4 May 2019


The ducklings are down to ten from sixteen 😟. It was going to happen - I mean if they all survived the world would be plagued by ducks (perhaps better than humans?)

As we try and tame chunks of our garden the pressure for rewilding grows. This is back to my dream of being rich, buying up land, fencing it off and letting it go. Here we have the constant dilemma of how much to we cultivate, how much to let go (with a little management to curtail the spread of brambles and ivy) though age and its limitations play a part.

Red campion (and the odd white one) Wild Garlic (damsons) and bluebells thrive with a little gentle management and the camassias have naturalised.

Recently I have reduced the grass cutting - large parts of our mown meadow are allowed to grow longer. This may suit the voles but we also have MOLES! producing mountains of soil which then needs to be shifted or spread to avoid damaging the mower blades. Parts of the far garden are grass and a patches of brown earth - unsightly but a free supply of new soil.

The paving is done and soon I will have to make the flower beds to border it. There are choices - a band of chippings or soil right to the edge? 
The manure and mole soil is waiting.

Of course there are some planting in the wilder areas like azaleas and rhododendrons and the horse chestnut leaning over the wall from next door is full of candles now the sticky buds have burst. The chestnut has sown itself (with a little help from wildlife) and we have a few young trees here and there. 

Hazel and holly also spread as do the wild roses.
I suppose we should leave it all to natural succession but that would mean impenetrable undergrowth and the wild flowers would be pushed out. Further down in the garden the apple and crab apple blossom is now out. 

Below is the Bramley.

We have one water lily flower -

So now it is Thursday and raking the rubble out of the new beds, digging it over and then applying plenty of the horse manure and the soil taken from the many mole hills. Planting will come later when it has settled a bit.

Saturday - it has not rained so mow, mow, mow after clearing yet more molehills. Cut back the old Stipa gigantea which I had forgotten to do, begun building the new beds, moved the pots of lilies and four box balls (well not quite yet but will be soon) onto the new paved area outside the extension.

So to a plethora of yellow, orange and red - summer is coming and the blues are receding -