Wednesday, 31 July 2019


Did the Butterfly count and then - more exciting, next door have barn owls nesting and when clearing out a drain they also found an eel.
All we have are mice, rabbits and our big fat rat.
The mice are extraordinary, a bit like Norman MacCaig's ring plover - 

They sprint eight feet and – 

stop. Like that. They 

sprintayard (like that) and 
They have no acceleration 
and no brakes. 
Top speed’s their only one.

Well, maybe not 8 feet - see for yourself what they were doing one night.

We have four types of hydrangea in the garden - one is a cutting of Annabelle, below but has sported pink and is shoved up be the top fence.

There are three cuttings in the cutting bed and one has been given to PB as a gift. (Praying it does not snuff it.)

One plant I like is the sea holly - this is the wild one from Askam shore. It grows in the sand and shingle above the tide line and just below the marram grass in the low dunes. The blue-grey colour is always a useful addition to a bed as a contrast in texture, foliage and colour.

We have finally had enough rain to top up the pond and it is now losing its dead colour. Around the banks the yellow loosestrife and spirea thrive as do the meadow sweet and marsh woundwort.

Above the pond the red rose given to us by PJR (M) clambers up the holly in the hedge and the flowering rush lights up a dark area of the water.
We have had one flower on our sweet peas - great achievement - well, better than last year and have eaten some delicious broad beans. The new chard is doing well as are the Brussels sprouts though the latter have to be checked for the caterpillars of the cabbage-white butterfly.
The courgette has suddenly expanded with the rain and is spreading in all directions. So far I have managed to keep the rabbits off the parsnips and carrots, so far.

Outside the house the Lilium regale are starting to go over so here is a last blast. The scent is heady.

So much needs to be done and so little desire to do much - let alone with my right shoulder rotator cuff injury - still aches.

So, what can I say to stir the world up - as if it is not enough chaos already. 

Now I am in trouble -


Men, that’s the problem,
that’s the problem - men!
I’ve heard women say it
again and again.
What can they do
that women cannot?
What are they good for?
Well, not a lot.

They invented religion
to keep women down,
cover their heads,
kneel on the ground.
They can’t multitask,
they’ve a one-track mind,
can’t think out of the box
you’ll generally find.

Together they’ll talk
about this and that -
of course ‘this’ is sport, 
but then so is ‘that’,
beer and some scratchings,
down at the pub, 
or if they’re posh it’ll
be at the club

drinking wine, eating olives,
nibbles and such,
discussing their ailments.
What else? - not much.
So men, that’s the problem,
power and control,
they’re scared women might
run the whole rigmarole.

So here’s some advice
to the ladies from me,
get rid of the men,
set yourselves free.
With careful A.I.
there would be only girls
and you all could live
in a happier world.

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Thursday, 25 July 2019


Yes, R spotted a brown hare crouching in the rain in the back field from her new study window. A poor image but still a hare.

And some heavy rain as Shane Lowry wins the Open golf.

The veg beds are finally coming to life - somewhat. Sprouts nearest with the scruffy sweet pea plants.

It is clear the raspberries will have to be dug out and burned - they are stricken with a virus so no fruit. Any new plants will have to be placed elsewhere, not in the same place.

The agapanthus have twenty plus stems, here coming up through the feverfew.

R has weeded the asparagus bed.

There are many white flowers now at their best like the Lilium regale,  phlox and the mallow given to us by my younger sister.

Alchemilla mollis is such a good plant spilling over the paving or under the red rose by the mower shed.

Here and there the self seeded opium poppies lend a splash of colour.

The banking below the house is splendid - alchemilla, lavender, shrubby clematis, stachys, hypericums etc etc.

And finally as this is moon landing time here is a big moon in the afternoon over Morecambe Bay

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Friday, 19 July 2019


It is Friday and wet, the garden is loving it, drinking in the moisture with cracked arid soil.

We walk around our gardens and see the glories that are there but how often do we look a little closer, at the flowers and leaves that have faded. the symmetries and breaking down of such, the changes in colour with decay.

A marigold, calendula, turning to seed (to be collected).

The philadelphus and rambling rector rose moving from white to brown, the colour of decay?

Brown are the dead flowers on the deutzia, the daisy bush (olearia) and in the many leaves in early fall.

And the last of the peony flowers is done.

There are some sad leaves on the camellia and the magnolia grandiflora is doing its summer shed, scattering leaves on the path and lawn. R has told it off again for not flowering so we have at least two blooms and some buds.

The ash trees are ready to lose limbs in the first gale and the poplar does its usual dropping of redundant twigs.


(from the Norse)

Ash .....
our flesh is your wood,
you are the Tree of the World*,
you are my hammer haft,
and cleft the cure of my child.
Your flesh comes late,
goes so soon.

Ash .....
when your leaves fall
your limbs are bare and grey.
When a gale blows
your one-winged keys
spin to another day;
your black caps mourn.

Ash .....
your wood is white
and hardened in the years;
your sawn branch
cleaves well, burns long.
Summers ascend in smoke,
and that which remains ..........


The Cumbria Book of the Year Awards have been announced -
The Bookends Prize for Literature and Poetry 

This Place I Know: An Anthology of Cumbrian Poetry edited by Kerry Darbishire, Kim Moore and Liz Nutall.
A fantastic collection - but then I would say that wouldn't I as I have a poem in there. Not the old thing above.
Enough of that - the litter of fallen petals is not without beauty, if also sadness?

Alstromeria and Rosa rugosa, the first green hips beginning to appear.

Seedheads have a symmetrical charm whether the catmint or allium.

And everywhere the papery discs of honesty wait to be scattered. As biennials they come back year on year - in our garden mostly the white variety not the pink.

In a small brown envelope in a box file I have found the seeds of Spignel Meu, Meum athmanticum, a sort of poor man's dill once gathered from the roadsides in the Eden Valley and sent on the train to London. I do not suppose they will germinate - but?
Just to be safe I have sown some dill nearby and hope I can remember which is which. The pigeons seem to take delight in pulling out the labels.

And so other flowers come out and adorn the garden - Crocosmia Lucifer in bright red.

Saturday, 13 July 2019


Is the garden regimented or wild, organised or left to its own devices? I have let the grass grow in many areas but this does go against my desire for order. So, encourage the wild - rabbits,  squirrels, pheasants toads etc etc and grit one's teeth as the blackbirds eat all the soft fruit? This is not easy.
And the moles are back - I give in.

And to encourage wild flowers the long areas have to be cut in late summer - and the cuttings need to be carted away to prevent the soil becoming too rich and grass dominating. The maple at the edge of the grassy banking, the rose Rambling Rector scrambling over the flowering currant in the grass on the top slopes.

I am reading Woodland by Oliver Rackham my son gave me for my birthday - this makes the dead branches on the old ash tree seem not too bad. His descriptions of the interaction of all living things - trees, animals, fungi make me realise how complicated everything is and how dependent we are on our symbiotic relationships.

Sunday we went looking at gardens, Abi and Tom's nursery at Witherslack then Fernhill Coach House - a riot of roses and orchards - the plants bursting from the earth, clambering over each other - wonderful. I was recognised (after my wife was) and greeted with, 'I remember when you came to deal with my mother-in-law's prolapse'!

Note the eclectic mix in the study - a didgeridoo on the left, poppy from the Tower of London on the right, the odd book and all in retro furniture Ladderax.

As some of you know, when not gardening I mess about with a bit of photography. So I had the idea of changing some of my images in a more artful way - 

But what should I call this derivative form of print? 
Then R had the answer as it is neither photography nor art but a combination of the two - I was a bit deflated when she suggested PHART!

Tuesday - not a breath of wind and it rained slightly overnight - but all is very dry. Watering continues when I can get the kinks out of the hosepipe. Anyway, a day out as the electricity is being turned off all day.
The blackcurrants have been viciously pruned - all the older wood gone and the blown spinach consigned to the compost heap.
Yesterday my sister was 80! (This is about twenty years younger than I feel when I get up and creak in the morning.) 

The deutzia, heavy with fading flowers, is losing many of its leaves - I think due to lack of water - so out I go again with the hose. Good thing we have our own borehole.
Tuesday afternoon and we have had a small shower. I have fixed some sort of electronic device to the water pipe from the borehole to soften the water - we will see if it works.

Now with big open doors into the garden small surprises come into the living room like this grasshopper. And this cheeky tree rat was going in the trap and taking out the peanuts without setting it off - till now - gotcha! However they were here in twos so one more to go, before the next invasion. 

 Pheasants and a cock sparrow outside the kitchen door hunting for fallen bird seed in the cracks in the paving - we know the cock pheasant is there by his continuous burbling.

Elsewhere the philadelphus has been superb, its scent coming in through the kitchen windows.

And what could be better than a glass of wine, some good crisps, a better book and sitting in front of our view on a warm evening.

The geraniums and catmint need cutting back, and so on and so on . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Saturday, 6 July 2019


Having roughly scythed back the grass and wild plants beside the woodland paths and carted it away I went around with my camera. It is Saturday and very hot for us - 25C and I was surprised to find both the mallard sitting in the sun by the pond. I was but 6 yards away and let them to their rest.
I have picked the first black currants, early, but the crop is very  disappointing so a big pruning is coming, out with the old wood.

By Monday the temperature has fallen though it is very dry and watering has begun.
I cannot understand how plants such as the white phlox are two metres tall and the carrot and parsnip seedings, few in number, are only a centimetre or two. Ah! The mysteries of horticulture.

We continue to have squirrels but the trap keeps being emptied of bait - a mystery till today when I watched a jay enter, scoff the lot and leave without setting it off.

The mallard pair are back at the pond but now and again another drake tries to intervene and tempt her away.

The rosebed is changing, the nepeta out of control, the agapanthus about to flower.

Further down the garden Alstromeria "Red Sensation" is also out of control - for some reason this plant is very happy but try and grow the paler varieties and zilch!

The peonies continue though I have had to support them as they were flopping with the heavy flower heads and Rosey's new pink evening primrose is happy.

Up on the banking the white willow herb is doing well but is just as invasive as the pink wild version.

As far as trees go the white birches light up the far garden, the Aesculus indica "Sydney Pearce", I think that is the one, is growing very slowly but the liquidambar flourishes. 

 Now we are Friday and as I go in the living room the cock pheasant ambles past the windows.
A young grey squirrel sits by the trap and ignores it, seemingly unafraid though I am only a few feet away. 
The garden is settling into summer and a lethargy permeates it - the birds have all but stopped singing - all but the squawking magpies, even the pheasant hardly chunners.

A large cardboard box came today from Ikea containing a small picture frame. I have dismantled it, watered the compost well and then weighed the cardboard down on the top and watered that.
We are almost in drought, the garden needs watering, the pond topping up - three cheers for our own borehole.

The television is all football, Glastonbury, World Cup cricket and now Wimbledon. The gardening programmes are just rehashes of the same old information - if they took sport, cooking, houses and gardening off there would be little left - except the eternal shambles that is Brexit . . . . sigh!

R has gallivanted off for lunch with her sister, her cousin and her cousin's sister-in-law. What to do?
A drink and crisps in front of the tv watching Wimbledon?
Actually weeded the flower beds, trimmed the genista (overdue) and the sarcococcus, cut back the oriental poppies and the pulmonaria, manured the poppy bed - etc  etc.

Time for a good book.