Wednesday, 13 December 2017

COLD GARDENING





Dawn in different guises from here on the hill looking over the bay. Recently we have had a few spectacular sunrises. We do not get sunsets as we face south south east but sunrises - ! Especially at this time of year.


The garden has been frozen solid at times which limits what can be done (If I had the will to do it.)
This begs a question - we have two outside taps and how do you avoid avoid icing up? You can use foam tubing or, as we have, wrapped them with the netting our birches came in a few years ago. Something else kept in case it might be useful one day - the shed is full of stuff like that.



The pond has been frozen though rain by Tuesday night has signalled slightly warmer weather. It is important to keep some clear water for birds and animals, let alone things that live in the depths. Work is mainly getting some salt onto the track and brushing any snow away from the back door, picking up fallen sticks in the wood for kindling.

The squirrels continue to materialise from somewhere and eat peanuts from the feeders. A friend has had both great and little white egrets on his pond (well it is more like a small lake) which does make us a bit jealous.

There are still things to see in the garden - sunshine, albeit watery, on the stipa gigantea and the wonderful white bark on the birches at the top of the lawn. (The lawn is what I call the vaguely mown meadow we have - R says it is just roughly cut grass.)

This photo really gives the sense of chill we have had - D down in her cottage has the fire lit - and I am not surprised.



So I need to get off my backside given half the chance, mulch and tidy (or the other way around), pot on some stuff, make a new flowerbed, etc etc.

Meanwhile a mug of tea by the wood burner I think.

Friday, 8 December 2017

STILL GARDENING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS


The week begins with sleet and rain showers slicing through a cold damp air. Midweek it goes even colder but sunny. Big dawn skies are back.



Winter is definitely here now and as the urgency to get out there battles with the desire to sit by the fire and be warm motivation is hard. So I take old images and mess about Photoshop to produce a graphic image like this.

I am reading Bob Harris's autobiography Still Whispering After All These Years and wonder where I was when it was all happening. (Actually for some of it I was slogging through 105 hour weeks in hospitals or four and a half days on call as a family doctor (not all the time)). Mind you I would not have wanted a broken bottle in my face at a Sex Pistols Gig.

So to gardening - after all this is supposed to be a gardening blog - sort of. You can see the house from the road through the big Sycamore now all the leaves have gone.
 

The banking below the house is scruffy and needs work. The gardener is also scruffy and needs work - 'Do your stretches,' the doc says, and, 'Lose some weight,' so onto a diet which means I could have twelve and a half whiskies a day as long as I consume nothing else but water. (Not in the whisky). 

Christmas approaches and I am filled with humbug, well Everton mints actually, well, I was until I started the diet. R is cooking up something with millet. Perhaps I should change my name to Ebenezer - what the Dickens made me think of that? 
The other house in the garden is still intact despite the weather though a little ropey.

There is still colour of sorts about. In the bark of trees like the cherry and the beech leaves which will stay on until spring. They provide a good wind break against the winter storms - the next one is called Caroline and we might have snow by the weekend (but probably just more rain.)

Even forgetting colour, there is something special about the textures in the garden in winter, frost on the leaves in the woodland.



Time to go and light the woodburner and warm my toes by its flickering light and ponder on the shambles that is called Brexit, and the shambles across the Atlantic called Trump - actually I will not bother - I might just have one of those whiskies.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

MURK AND GLOOM


Out of the dismal days at the end of November come a series of dismal images and facts from a dismal gardener - back still bad so no shovelling manure or double-digging - I do not do the latter anyway but you get the gist. The pond reflects the leaden sky and has a half skin of ice. The only visitors are two moorhens and an odd thirsty wood pigeon.

It is bleak up in the wood and I do not have the energy to collect the carpet of fallen leaves and bag it for leaf mould.

The Rhododendron Ponticum has got too big and needs a hack back - it is a nasty shrubby weed and invasive - an alien plant from before we came here.


Up in the far garden the dreadfully wet autumn has taken its toll with the grass being sparse - (quite like that - sparse grass) - and a lot of creeping buttercup creeping everywhere. 

There are other less depressing parts of the garden - the shapes and tones of the shrubs one the banking below the house (ignore the dead crocosmia leaves in the foreground)(where they have been removed we have new green growth.)



And there are variegated evergreens further along.


I was reading the Oldie magazine the other day and there was this cartoon of a man in a chair being confronted by the Grim Reaper. "Before we go," says the man. "Can you cut the hedge." This inspired a drear poem entitled Scything -


SCYTHING

I know that you are coming
though I do not know quite how.
You know I will be waiting
when no morrow becomes now.

I sense you in my knees -
they’re osteoarthritic,
in crinkled wrinkled skin
and legs that are phlebitic.

I hear you in my deafness,
see you in failing sight,
in sleeping all the day
and wakening all the night,

in tightness in my chest,
the shortness of my breath,
I know that you are coming,
and I know your name is . . .


All very depressing but it got a laugh at the poetry group?!

Back to staring out at the garden  and waiting for the leaf blower battery to recharge.

Friday, 24 November 2017

GOING ON GROWING ON (AND RAIIIIIIIIN!)


And floods - Wednesday/Thursday - garden awash, roads and schools closed, main west coast rail line shut, even golf course closed!

I am in my room as the living room is stinky with tar - the woodburner, left in with a log overnight, has gooed up and the air is fumey. Hands up - all my fault - should have known better as it has happened before - burn off the tar then clean the glass with wet newspaper and wood ash.

Before the rain we have had a period of big morning skies over Morecambe Bay - well the sky is always the same size, it just feels bigger.


The daffodils are confused! On the banking and under the magnolia they are pushing up their stems - and it is November.
Autumn colours are still lingering here and there - on the great white cherry, on the beech hedge and the liquidambar.
 



But golden leaves are not the only things lighting up the garden - this is the euphorbia R bought at Abi and Tom's nursery at Halecat.


But rain, rain, rain was here for the first few days of the week - nothing new then. It has poured again and we have yet another new spring - this time coming up in the path to the wood. Unable to walk on the grass as my feet sink in three or four inches - waterlogged. I have never known such a wet autumn. If this is global warming you can keep it.

So - reading Neil Gaiman's book on Norse Mythology and listening, at this instant, to The Beatles, Think For Yourself - no it has changed - Marty Wilde and Bad Boy!!

Colour still, in small amounts - the blue salvia Sue gave us before she died, a red rose ( birthday present to R) and R's favourite - Erysimum Bowles Mauve still flowering.







In the kitchen the white streptocarpus is in fine flower.


So what did we do today, avoiding rain? R is still clearing away whilst I repotted the herbs and moved the Euphorbia characias wulfenii.

R tells me the moorhen is back regularly and the heron was by the pond again.

The music moves on - Spem in Alium . . . , Jeremy Summerly: Oxford Camerata. In the kitchen the painter is listening to Radio 2, the moorhen is stretching in the pond outlet, there is another squirrel on the bird feeders, friends are sunning it on Bequia in the WI poor things. All the weather fun is here. Rain/sun and probably frost tonight.



Friday, 17 November 2017

SWEET AND SOUR


Finally no rain, just a biting north wind yet sunshine - very welcome - need a month of this now - some chance! About as much chance as Brexit ceasing to be the chaotic mess the Tory Party has dug us into.

So what to do when the back is bad (apart from hoping R will go out and clear away some of the dead and dying plant material.)

A walk around with the blower clearing leaves off the paths and a bit of labour in the kitchen - notably making Redcurrant and Orange Jam and bottling the apple vinegar.

Whoops, the top label is wonky - will have to correct that (?OCD?)

Recipe - Redcurrant and Orange Jam - 
2 Kg redcurrants, 2Kg sugar, 4 oranges, pinch of cinnamon. (2Kg is about 4 pounds)
Put redcurrants, grated orange rind, cinnamon and orange juice into pan. Cook till currants soft. Warm sugar and add, stir till dissolved, bring to fast boil, test often as sets quickly, put in hot pots. Spread on warm toast, eat.

Looking out of my window the other day I watched the predatory cat from next door stalking a grey squirrel under the watchful eye of Doc.
 

The squirrel completely unconcerned eating fallen peanuts (the tits scatter them around) knowing it can shimmy up the shed if necessary.

Now to a question of courgettes that get out of hand - no, not mine, my daughter's. Looks like an awful lot of courgette (marrow) and mint soup going in the freezer?


And when there is not much colour in the garden the sunrise comes up with this -



Time to do a bit of the tidy stuff so elder cut back and I chucked the stuff on the bonfire heap but the stems shoved into the ground will root easily. Earlier I had vigorously dead headed some of the buddleia and they have come again with attractive grey new growth.

The chard is still thriving - in fact doing better now we have colder weather and the slugs and snails have gone. A memo to grow more next year (definitely not slugs and snails) and try the red stemmed variety as well as the white one.

Winter and leaf fall reveal surprising things like this bird's nest up a maple. We, and many others, walked right past without realising it as there - probably chaffinch?