Thursday, 24 June 2010


Woke up. stretched, walked to window overlooking garden to see if any interesting birds and running up the top path was a grey squirrel.
Now this image is a bit of a cheat as it was taken in Manchester at IAJandW's house. Nevertheless it is a grey squirrel though this one looks a bit fatter than the lean tree rat I saw in our garden.
I was about to say that I have not seen a red squirrel for a long time but I lie - saw one at end of May near Dumfries.
Actually I quite like to see wildlife in the garden - perhaps except for the superfat pigeons who have managed to trample a buddleia. They nest in a tree by the cattlegrid. Gun? Not my style.

The lawns are mown, the heads are deaded, the weeds are weeded.
The carwashman comes at twelve o'clock. - (He didn't turn up!)
And the shed is coming a ten a.m. today - we have been told. I wait with baited breath, everything crossed and recrossed. (Came at midday with big wagon they could not get through our gate, had to unload there and then back all the way down the hill. Shed is up but not with shingled roof. That will have to wait.

R and I nip off for a few days Saturday and IAJandW come to stay.
Brother-in-law R is in the Westmorland Gazette for his acceptance at the RA Summer Exhibition.
The sun us out.

Time for a coffee.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


So what's with the pots?
Unable to grow carrots I have devised a sneaky way of protecting them against carrotfly.
After disposing of assorted birdseed and pelleted hen manure, not to mention growmore, I have cut the bottom out of the plastic pots and placed them on the veg. bed.
The problem is that my soil is rich and fairly heavy - not ideal for carrots. The pots are then filled with a better medium for growing carrots - lighter - and carrots sown in the top. Also, carrotfly zooms along a few inches above the soil surface so the elevated carrots are missed! At least that is the theory.
The pots are sown in succession hence the gradated size of the carrot tops.

You will also notice the netting to keep off the pesky pigeons and the little bit of lino with a stone on top. Under the lino is a jam jar part filled with beer - to catch the slugs.
Perhaps the Real Ale people could have a new slogan - Stale Ale drugs slugs!

The green things beyond the pots are cauliflowers - the netting keeps the cabbage white butterfly off as well as birds.

So far so good. Gardenman deflects Carrotfly from its dastardly purpose - I hope.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


So here it is, our shed, well garden office, well Wendy House for the author, well extra bedroom. Four failures to deliver so far as the roof shingles, we are told, were destroyed in a fire!

Why do I have this feeling that we are being put off?

The hardstanding is immaculate and a hardstanding-in-waiting. I wonder if the Queen has problems with her hardstandings and sheds-in-waiting - I doubt it very much.
Of course I could put two chairs there and a small table and sit and imagine looking out of the window up the garden over the pond etc. Somehow that just does not do the trick - does not have the same emotional push.

The electrician is on standby to join us to the grid, the builder is on standby to upgrade the path and put in the small decking.
We are on standby and standby and standby for the SHED!

Then there is the worry that they are bust, up the spout, broke and what we have paid so far is thin air. Perhaps the whole thing is a figment of our . . . . . . get out yer betablockers lad, have a beer and relax. Shed yer worries - (:-)=

Ok. But . . . . . .

Sunday, 20 June 2010


This is Gertrude Jekyll from David Austin Roses - stunning scent.

The bed by the paved area - see a previous blog - has a border of forgetmenots (now clipped as they got mildew) and shrub roses. Amongst them grows a giant catmint, its flowers and foliage a lovely foil for the roses.

They include GJ as above, Lady Emma Hamilton, Winchester Cathedral (white), Jude the Obscure, William Morris and Rhapsody in Blue (not blue but more purple - smells wonderful but cuts poorly).

There are other roses in the garden, from Rambling Rector up a tree or over an old well, to Rosa rubifolia.
The latter came from the ancient garden at Wormleighton Manor where it was given to me by my Aunt P after Uncle D died. It had come with me from garden to garden since. Reputedly was said to be the red rose Lancaster by I am not sure of that. Certainly the garden at The Manor was the ancient home of the Spencer family and would date back to the right time. The rose freely seeded itself there.

There is the start of a Rosa rugosa hedge next to the field.

In the wood there are wild dog roses - Rosa canina (briars) - tumbling out of the shrubbery. The flowers are short lived and seem fragile compared the the garden roses.

I decided to have a day off from the garden today but a little dead heading is not really big gardening - is it?

Saturday, 19 June 2010


I have done it - got out the dreaded strimmer after 8 months, put fuel in it, changed the blade for the cord head, little bit of grease in the gearhole, pulled the starter lead and it fired!!! Now on with the gear - eyeshields, earshields, harnesses, wellies, gloves and off I go.
Actually it is not too strenuous - but I had forgotten that the grass strimmed needs to be raked off and carried to the heap - hard slog. R is a godsend on her knees with shears clearing the stream (with no water in).
AND I haven't strimmed any shrubs or trees by mistake - yet.
This morning I cut a mixture of catmint, alchemilla, white campanula, penstemon and Stachys (Lambs' Lugs) and R arranged them at Church for Sunday as it was her turn on the flower Rota.

Now you might ask why the picture of some frosty bottle bottoms.

These are down by the veg. beds and not evidence of secret drinking. They are the remnants of slug bait - jars sunk into the beds and part filled with beer so slugs can do the old Butt of Malmsey thing and die happy - yet DIE! I find that Black Sheep seems to be a very good beer.

Last year despite every trick I could muster slugs and snails proliferated - I even found them munching away at the top of the runner beans, seven feet off the ground. But last year was WET!
This year is abnormally dry after a cold winter and the thrushes are going hungry. Sorry birds but I don't care, my hostas are pristine, my lettuce are actually growing, not shredded stumps. I have caught a few slugs but not many.

Of course when I have filled up the jars there always seems to a little bit left in the bottom of the bottle.

Friday, 18 June 2010


My mother used to lover her giant Crambe - on the edge of the pavement, it used to stop pedestrian traffic in Coniston.
I also remember a fabulous bed of Crambe and foxgloves at Askham Hall some years ago on an open gardens day.

My mother was a keen gardener as was her father. He was also a watercolourist and we have a painting of his garden in Liverpool full of roses and biplanes flying overhead.

At the Nook this is the first flowering and provides a dramatic backdrop to the roses and catmint.
Later, when it is over there are grasses behind to last through the winter. Of course, also, it all hides the septic tank from the house - a persistent problem.

I have tried to conceal
the tank with a small "hedge" of buddleia . As access is important I cannot just submerge it in something like ground cover - and it is hardly a piece of sculpture - though, when one looks at the things that are produced now a green plastic septic tank would fit in nicely - studded with diamonds!

Mmm! Should I submit it to the R.A. Summer Exhibition next year? Would the Saatchi Gallery be interested? Would Christie's sell it for a million or two?
Buit what to call it? - Septic Tank Shark? An Unmade Septic Tank?
Would its contents be a comment on the state of Modern Art?
If the artist says it is art then it is art!?
Is it?

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Right from the start we have tried to introduce sculpture and things into the garden - of course we cannot afford a ten ton Henry Moore - but we have a small boy reading a book, a falcon from L., three birds from Adam Booth, blacksmith of Kirkpatrick Durham and this crouching figure by Rebecca Buck which we bought from Workshop
Wales near Fishguard.

There are also the willow tunnel, several rough hurdles made from hedge trimmings and a curved living willow wall by the pond, a sheep skull in a rhododendron, a rhododendron pruned like a shelter and my cloud tree - a hawthorn somewhat topiarised.

We do not have much stone in the garden other than that I have dug from the ground so rock structures are out unless we buy some in.
At the bottom by the pond is a boardwalk made of scaffolding planks which have been deemed not fit for use by the firm down North Lonsdale Road.

Always in the lookout for stuff I still have to try and decide what to do with an assortment of poles and so on. Stuff welcome.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010



Yes, I finally dragged out the mower and slogged away through the grass - I seemed to be cutting enough for a silage pit - of course it is all in black plastic bags now. I remember Dad at Torver having a pit dug in the field across from the farm in the 1950's. He only used it once or twice because, after that, it was used as a place to play with Dinky cars - the lime used was ideal for cutting roads!

When I got up this morning the b***** rabbit was sitting on the path near Roy Brown's cottage as cheeky as ****! (Is the cottage now worth millions as he has a picture in the RA Summer Exhibition - and has sold it!)
I can accept toads and frogs, even the errant mole or two, and cannot do much about the visiting squirrels but rabbits eat things. Now cats are also in my dislike books as they eat birds - though they could take a pigeon or two if they wanted.
Then there is the fox - see picture - cannot object as they eat RABBITS!
Mind you they tend to push holes in the netting fence and then the lambs come the other way!
On the other hand if I were a rabbit then I would like to wander into this Michelin Star rabbit restaurant. I will just have to keep the netting around the lettuce and so on and clap my hands like a gunshot every time I see them.
No I do not want a gun - though rabbit pie . . . . . Mmmm!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010



Sitting at my computer I can look out of my window at the feeder hanging on the nearby shed. Recently this has been regularly visited by Greater Spotted Woodpeckers. The photo shows and Adult who is feeding on the peanuts and then passing this to the fledgling below.

The grass is still unmown as our visitors of the weekend brought a bug from which we are suffering - now I know what the term "Damp Rag" means. In addition my back is off again so plenty of excuses to leave the mower, let alone the strimmer, in the shed.

Now for a word of caution - somewhere in the garden is a small rhododendron I received earlier in the year but I cannot remember where I put it - somewhere safe I suppose. It is just that I may have put it in the woodland area - i.e. in the long grass - so when I come to strim - bye bye bush!

R has brought back two tomato plants from a coffee morning so they will need to go in. I tend not to eat tomatoes as it is said they aggravate arthritis (knees) but being overweight is probably much more important.

The woodpecker is back, out with the camera again.

Monday, 14 June 2010



Yesterday we were invaded by Pirates including J. Blackknees the Terrible! The picture shows him on his galleon, flag at full mast, by the helm (steering wheel?) heading for the calmer waters of the pond.

The pond remained stubbornly low despite a day of rain so this morning I found the leak and plugged it with a wodge of mud. No doubt the water will find another way out - it has an amazing ability to go where no one wants it to go - both in garden and houses. Old friends come this morning so the mower remains quiet - well the grass is wet anyway - well that is my excuse. I have tried to pick the sawfly larvae off the gooseberry bushes but after several piercings have resorted to a spray. This means I shall leave the rest of the goosegogs till July before picking. At least they have been thinned out a bit.

This morning R saw a grey squirrel looping past the cattlegrid - too much like a tree rat for me. I suppose I have to accept that the red ones are now gone for good from here.
It is also quite clear that cold winter plus dry spring means a dearth of slugs - such a relief after the plethora last year - in fact so many that, when I put them out for the thrushes and blackbirds, the birds were so full they ignored them.

I sign off today listening to the sounds of home made play dough being scraped from the kitchen floor.

Sunday, 13 June 2010



Last night there was a bang on the window of the living room. I went outside to find a dying song thrush. The window is under the covered area outside the kitchen so I suspect it was fleeing from a sparrowhawk. This is not the only accident we have had with birds and windows - the first was a blue tit which recovered and a greenfinch, picture above, which also recovered after sitting dazed in my hand for about ten minutes.
We could put black hawk cutouts on the windows but that would not have stopped the last tragedy. Sparrowhawks are such efficient predators, skimming the hedges like a low flying jet and causing panic in the garden.

It is raining - soft rain, Irish rain, coating everything and filling the alchemilla leaves with jewels. This, of course, does not stop my grandson J from wanting to go out into the garden - coat and wellies on - neither of which will stop him getting wet.

Saturday, 12 June 2010



So there may be a hiatus in the blog for R and I will be grandchildren sitting this weekend - which does involve a certain amount of concentration. The elder child, J, is now into garden exploration and the younger, W, has just begun to walk which opens up another world and opportunity to investigate things - like going up and down stairs all the time. All the paths and tunnels in the garden have great promise for the future - the sort of thing I would have loved as a child - the rhododendron pruned so one can hide under it, the willow tunnel with odd things hanging in the top - a chime, a coat hanger, an old pair of goggles etc.

Last night we cooked the goosegogs I picked yesterday - a bit early but with branches on the ground they had to be thinned.

The dappled sun in the trees is flickering on the grass and campion, and our one-legged cock chaffinch is hopping around on the paving beneath the feeders. He survived the winter well despite his handicap but I have seen only one wren since the snow and ice. The cold also put back the trees - the ash have only got their full complement of leaves in the last fortnight.

I must be off to collect J and W.

Friday, 11 June 2010



Just looking out of my window as I type I have a female Greater Spotted Woodpecker on the peanuts. The garden is full of birds - species count so far - 49 - not counting those flying over.
This picture of a heron hunting frogs is the last one I photographed. The spectacular bullfinches, especially the male, come and feed in the box stuck on the kitchen window as does one particular blue tit who hammers away at sunflower hearts on the small wooden perch. We sit in the other room and wonder what is making all that noise. There are three feeder sites with peanuts, sunflower hearts and mixed seed - one on each shed and one just outside the kitchen. In the garden are about eight nest boxes. I had to put metal plates on the holes of the tit boxes to stop the woodpecker getting at the chicks. At least two are occupied - great and blue tits - but, alas, the treecreeper/nuthatch box remains empty.

Today I have put in the last of the sweet pea seedlings grown in the cold frame and potted up six geranium plugs which arrived in the post.
Then I picked some of the gooseberries, thinning out the branches. The mildew seems to have mostly gone but now they are plagued by sawfly larvae! Leaves disappearing by the trugload.
The purple sprouting broccoli is on its last legs and needs to be moved to the compost heap - chopped to help it break down - and then the soil dug and topdressed with horse manure for another crop.

I have still avoided the strimmer but have clipped the long grass from around the banking trees and shrubs. Soon I will have to face getting the machine out - I hope it will start. (I think).

Thursday, 10 June 2010



I have to face up to it - I have to get out the dreaded strimmer, face protector, ear protectors etc and cut the long grass. It comes of having a semi wild garden.
The woodland area shown will be left for now as the red and white campion are a sea of delight - and much more abundant than in the image shown.

Every year the banks where daffodils grow are left until late June/July to let the bulbs bulk up for next year - then I have to strim and, even worse, rake off and remove the strimmings.
Under the trees where the light level is lower there is only some regrowth of grass and weeds so it is easier to spot the brambles and extract them. Doing this, rather R doing this, each year has gradually weakened their resolve to take over. We, she, must keep at it!

When we started much of the upper garden was a sea of tangled bramble, stems looping down to root at their tips and march on across the open areas. The triffids were winning. Only the dedication of R has stemmed the tide of invasion and allowed the campion, pignut, violets and bluebells to flourish.

But now I have to go out and face the jungle. Perhaps I will just take the shears and clear around the shrubs first - to prevent strimming that which I wish to keep. (I have managed to assassinate two Robinias and a cercidiphyllum in the last two years).

Oh! Perhaps I will just have a coffee then the garden.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


The Original House was a prefab built in then 1920's by a vicar from the south as a holiday home - asbestos of course.
The last owner, before we knocked it down, was Tom Jackson who ran it as a smallholding. You can see his donkey, cat and hens on the picture. What is most striking is the lack of trees. Incidentally the donkey is buried somewhere in the garden but we did not find it during the rebuild so . . . . !
The big sycamore on the right, now registered as a notable tree with the Ancient Tree Hunt of the Woodland Trust, and the ash to the right are still with us. The others were cut down and stacked for firewood.
There are also two wells for water though we replaced these with our borehole.

No work in then garden today as our gym has just reopened after the floods at the Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge and R dragged me there this morning.
Time for another nap!

Monday, 7 June 2010


It has poured down and disappeared into the dry ground, the stream is still just a trickle.
Actually it is not a stream but a meeting of field drains which then farmer carefully guided into the top of our plot.
When we came it just soaked into a bog at the far end and then into a ditch alongside the bottom hedge. I dug out a new course for the water and drained it into a pond at the bottom corner - which I also dug out. It has no liner or clay but seems to hold water fairly well. There is a drain around the house which soaks away into the ditch and this also feeds the pond. Then the final backup is the soakaway from the septic tank!!
We have had a heron and mallards in then garden - no doubt looking for our frogs and tadpoles - so they must find something worth visiting.

Tried to mow the lawn today as rain forecast for next few days but the grass was too wet for mulching. I mow a small amount which is more conventional but most is cut with the mower set on mulch. When the grass is wet it just clogs up with clarty green mush. As I do not use selective weedkiller on the lawn it is not a bowling green, more a bit of cut field - all right except for the thistles - not good for bare feet!
There are a few garden images in a set at my Flickr site at

Sunday, 6 June 2010


You know, it is really a lot of horse manure that makes things grow. When we had almost finished the house I got the builder to move a mountain of horse manure from a paddock nearby to the garden - and I am still using it. The vegetable beds were all double dug at first but are now only lightly forked over and top dressed with manure.
This picture was taken in the first year showing the manure heap to the right and not much more than young raspberries (R did not like the golden ones so they are now wild by the far wall) and a load of potatoes and broccoli.
The blue is the top of the cold frame rescued from the previous garden.

How much do I work here,
Let me count the weeds.
There are most things - Horsetails, ground elder, bindweed, creeping buttercup, three kinds of willowherb, reeds, couch grass, BRAMBLES, nettles, thistles, dandelions, cress, enough, enough! Mind you I rather like the buttercup banking, the stately marsh thistle and the glory of dandelions - in the right place.

Today is heavy but we are still praying for rain. With all modern know-how etc why cannot it be arranged that it is sunny by day and rains at night? Fortunately, should a drought come, we have our own borehole so water is not a problem - it is just easier when it falls from the sky than out of a hosepipe.

Saturday, 5 June 2010



Today I have planted half a dozen pink lavenders, transplanted some wallflower seedings which have appeared by the white lilac, put in an assortment of coreopsis and trimmed grass. At R's suggestion I have also been attacking the thistles in the lawn. She put down the book she is writing and attacked a small length of "hedging" on the banking - to clear out the grass and weeds. The "hedge" is an experiment with buddleia cuttings. Unfortunately I forgot to tell her I had put in several small cuttings at the lower end and they are now much shorter than they were when she started. Never mind - I am sure they will regrow. Having an extra pair of hands in the garden, especially a pair that will attack brambles with enthusiasm, is invaluable.

On Thursday it was suggested to me by my sister-in-law that I should create an account of the changes my wife and I have made to our garden. Three years ago and a few months we moved into our newly built house and gazed out at the two acres of wasteland left after the building. I had retired the summer before and my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to have something to keep me busy (apart from golf and photography). So we began. I am now going away to sort though the images of the last 3 years to find the ones which illustrate what we have done so far. I am looking out of the study window into the small area of woodland at the top of the garden which is a sea of red and white wild campion dappled with sun filtered through the ash leaves - and I am inside typing! First a cup of tea.