Thursday, 30 September 2010


And the rain it raineth every day - well not quite every day, the sun is shining now.

But - it feels like it is wet all the time.
Even if the rain is not falling the grass is sodden.

And the leaves are going autumnal - these belong to our Hanky Tree (Davidia).

The ash trees - last to leave and early to go - are yellowing, the conker is also on its way out as are the beech.
The last fruit has fallen off the fig - I have just trodden on it by mistake.

In then veg garden the caterpillars are still chomping on the broccoli. I do dislike the squish of a squashed small white caterpillar. I just throw the bugger stuff as far as possible.
Some of the leeks are bolting which gives the centre of the plant a hard flower stem.
The parsley by the sweet peas has competed well with the flowers five feet off the ground. It is the flat-leaved variety.

In the hedge the rowan and the guelder rose - seen here
- are bearing a load of fruit.

The haws on the quickthorn down the track are abundant. This is supposed to mean a cold winter.
I am sure the small birds had enough last year.

I saw a report in the paper today that 50% of the gardens in the RSPB survey showed the presence of hedgehogs. I am sure we have an ideal environment for them but ne'er a one have I spied.

If I keep typing long enough I can avoid having to plant the huge sack of daffodils which has arrived.

Time for another cuppa.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


This is a flying blog as grandchildren J and W are here.

Two items of caution come first - a friend was trimming his son's hedge when the leg of the ladder sank into the soil throwing him to the ground.
The consequence is a fractured rib and a punctured lung and a hospital stay.
Don't suppose it will change anything.
As we get older we will still be up ladders painting, changing bulbs and so on.

By all means be cautious with drink and food and saturated fat and inertia and wrinkles .... but not ability - we don't give in to that so easily - unless we have to.
I am sure he will be better soon but it is a painful injury and we wish him well.

Caution two involves chillies.

We are told to avoid rubbing eyes after handling chillies but yesterday was chopping some green chillies which were drying near the Aga - see the photo.

Then I went for a pee!

Now I have a chillied willy! I tell you it burns!!

Friday, 24 September 2010


No, not the bee stuff but the fungus stuff.

Not Fungus the Bogeyman but Fungus the Treekiller.

The first picture shows the ash tree where the tawny owls used to sit at dusk waiting to hunt. They would sit on a branch about twelve feet off the ground and hunker against the trunk.

Then the tree died.

So we called in
the tree surgeons and they demolished the tree, chopped what they could into logs for the fire and shredded the rest - MISTAKE!!!

We managed to spread the dreaded stuff all over the place. Fortunately, so far, no other tree has succumbed but we had to burn the log pile as it was infested with the bootlace hyphae of the Honeyfungus.

Actually the toadstools of this fungus are edible!

Young ones sliced and fried in butter with some gentle herbs.

Mind you - have not tried it - even though eating such an enemy would give satisfaction.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


So - what is it called - CLEMATIS HERACLEIFOLIA.

Blue(ish), scented and a shrub about 3 feet high that does not climb. Last year it
appeared near the buddleia where the bird feeders are and I thought - what is that ! I had forgotten I had bought it.

So where had I bought it. I have to confess that I cannot remember but the most likely candidate is Cally Palace Gardens at Gatehouse of Fleet. The nurseryman there travels the world looking for new plants and always has some interesting stuff.
Corsock House near Dumfries is another candidate as they open the garden on Spring Bank Holiday Weekend. Well worth a visit and a cup of tea.
Then again I might have bought it at a National Gardens Open Day or whatever they are called where they have oddments for sale.
Or somewhere else. . .

To grasses - not the Stipas and Miscanthuses (is it miscanthi?) - but the wild ones in the wood - The Wood melick I leave and it has colonised a banking by the stream.

The small red maple was given to us By D and J J who now live at Flookburgh and it is part of a small plan to plant by the water where it comes from the top of the garden down the steep bank. Already Royal Fern has been put there and ideas are afoot - if you can have ideas in your foot.
I suppose it depends where you keep your brain!

Fortunately I was never much of an athlete.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


I thought I would let all know how the pumpkin (one of 3) and the marrow (was a courgette) are getting on.

I went into the garden, without wellies as I was standing in the stream weaving willows yesterday when I realised I really do need some new ones as my right wellie was full of cold water, and took these photos.

I used a one euro piece for scale as this was the only thing I had I had in my pocket.

I know - 'Why has he got a 1 euro piece in his pocket in the wilds of Cumbria?" - well it is used by me as a ball marker on the green at golf.

The leaves are starting to age badly on the pumpkin so
further growth may be limited.
However, I do not want to strain my back lifting it.

The only quandary that remains is to decide when is a butternut squash ripe. There are about half a dozen but all fairly small. In the end I will just have to go for it and cut open a likely candidate. If ripe it will be back to the soup making again.

Tomorrow - the clematis that does not climb, should not be pruned and is sweetly scented.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


At the start there was bare earth, the lid over the borehole and the septic tank.

It is spring 2007 the journey began and tentative lines of stones were put down to delineate possible flower beds and paths formed simply where we walked.

The horse manure heap waited and a few small plants had their roots out in the soil.

One or two small trees and shrubs - some given to me the year before as 60th birthday presents - were planted - most had survived over the winter either in pots or heeled in at our rented house.

The owl tree was still standing - see next blog - and the far end of the garden was boggy - the new course of the stream had yet to be dug which helped drain the land. There was no mowing - in fact I did not yet have a mower. All I had was the strimmer to try and keep the jungle at bay and clear areas for development.

Three and a half years on much of the summer and autumn is for mowing and maintenance and winter will have to be the time for new bridges and other developments in the garden.

At least it will keep me warm in the cold days to come.

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Yes, its pouring down again.
Yesterday managed to get compost to R's new bed by the Wendy House, pull up the last of the carrots for dinner and one parsnip - the latter was so big and had a root forked into three - that it will do for two meals - diced and boiled, then mashed with some horseradish sauce.
I am not looking forward to digging up some of the horseradish root, peeling it and grating it.
You think onions are the worst - well, think again!

So on this dismal day let us have some sunny colour.

Having said that - there is a large clump of this Helianthus by the gate which was flowering wonderfully. Then we had a couple of days of rain and 80% went over and needed dead heading.

The clump is getting too big and will need excavating and replanting - somewhere it can ramp about.

In the spring I saw pictures of Surfinas in a catalogue tumbling profusely out of hanging baskets.
Mm! I wondered, would they do the same down the banking out side the front of the house?
The answer is no, not really. They have done a bit and sort of tried to fill in the odd gap but their colours clash with everything else and I am not really pro pinky purply petals.

So both the Surfinas and terrible alliteration can go on the compost heap together.

The pheasants have taken shelter under the rhododendrons by the top fence where they have the nest - hen and two chicks. There were three but . . . .

Saturday, 18 September 2010


The birds on the feeders behave so differently.
The blue tits are fearless and sit in the bush whilst I refill with seed.

The coal tits arrive, grab a seed and fly off - presumably to bury them.
Tit hierarchy is topped by the great tits who muscle their way in shoving the smaller birds out of the way.

The chaffinches just sit and eat unless a greenfinch comes along and bullies them out of the way. They, of course give way to the bullfinch.

Meanwhile the pigeons and collared doves wander about on the ground with blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks and again chaffinches.

In the distance a buzzard is being attacked by a rook as it tries to gain height. It has come too near to the rookery. Soon other black shapes rise to annoy the slowly circling bird.

This morning, just after I got up, I looked down on the garden to see a grey squirrel on the lawn. It ran into the field hedge and climbed a hazel. There it took several nuts, presumably stuffing its cheek pouches, and then descended back to the lawn and proceeded to bury them. This was repeated several times.

Believe it or not it is raining again.

I have tied plastic bags to two of the main stems of the wild plum in the bottom hedge in the hope that they will be left when the man comes in the autumn to lay it.

So - what do I do with now too large perennials apart from divide and replant?

I have a mind to shove them in the rougher grass on the banking and let them fend for themselves.

The thought of more flowerbed to weed is too tiring.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Every year if possible, weather ok and motivation adequate, we go to the Li'le Royal - The Lowick and District Agricultural Show at Lowick Bridge. In fact the first time I went I was so small I had not yet learned to put on my own nappies!

The event is on the first Saturday in September and this year the weather was sunny and dry. The view from the current showground over the church to the Coniston Fells was spectacular.

Whilst we were there we saw Alpacas.
Now, when I moan about cutting and strimming grass, (have just mown the lawns), certain people have suggested - Get a goat!

There is, naturally, a snag here. Goats eat everything - well, they would eat most of my veg and herbaceous plants.
After the show the suggestion has changed to - Get an Alapaca!
Trouble is - same problem?

What really excites me at these shows are the children's exhibits - gardens and farmyards on a plate and animals made from vegetables.

This is a cracker and won first prize.

One satisfactory item was the prize marrow - mine is much bigger!

This afternoon I began to dig and prepare an area by the Wendy House as a flower bed.
R has been given a rose and I bought an enormous Fatsia in B&Q - name appropriate? - for just £15. The man on the checkout till was quite envious.

Just an afterthought - how did the little boy who won the prize get those fruit and vegetables to balance like that?
Almost an Andy Goldsworthy!

Thursday, 16 September 2010


The rain has stopped for a moment but the grass is too wet to mow. I have topped up the bird feeders - we seem to be feeding every bird for three miles now - and done some dead heading.

Time to look at the garden after the rain and wind.

I have still not cut up the fallen branch but that can wait - it is not going anywhere. My one sunflower has snapped off
and the teasels
near the gate are horizontal- so next year put them somewhere else or stake well.

The Sedum spectabile has done its usual collapse from the middle as shown -
next year may try a trick I garnered from Sarah Raven where the plant is pruned earlier in the year and this may reduce the problem. Alternatively I could try and stake it but the stems are heavy and somewhat brittle. Perhaps I will stake one and Sarah Raven the other as I have more than one.

And then there is Doc almost submerged in Weigelia foliage.

He needs a move to a more comfortable situation or the shrub needs a good prune.

The last figs are going brown and the fig leaves are going yellow and falling off - so it is a good thing we live in a cold climate.


What if the Nook garden was the garden of Eden?

Post apple.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


This is the view up the garden from my window.
As it is rotten weather again, instead of describing a garden I am staying out of, I will describe the contents of this windowsill!!

Left to right -

A square flat pot, originally the tray for a bonsai tree that died, filled with little egg-shaped stones from all over the world,
a small metal sculpture of dolphins given to me by R last Christmas,
a bent screw retrieved from a B&Q pack - difficult to get into the wood but teasing to the imagination,
a wind-up device which jiggles on release - the paper hands were an idea as this is supposed to be a note holder,
a collection of wine bottle corks - I have an idea they will be useful for something one day - a mobile sculpture, a fly scaring hat? -
two mugs which I painted and had fired at the Spring Fling near Auchencairn in southern Scotland,
an orange float found on Calgary Beach in North Mull.
In the left hand mug is a golf tee with a small pompom attached so that it will not be lost when driving off - found on Ulverston Golf Course.
In front of the mug is a green plastic blade of an old small hover mower.

Isn't life exciting - any bids for the lot? - 5p - too much?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Just sitting at the computer and looked out of the window - usual birds and then saw a grey wagtail under the feeders. Such a delicate pretty bird with its grey back and flash of bright yellow.
Camera was in car so no picture.

I used to draw odd birds as shown here.

Not brilliant but I think you can tell what they are.

We have a large branch down in the wood after all the rain and gales - the last 36 hours have been very wet and rather wild.

The day I go out and buy a chain saw is approaching.
I am not a machinery man - they always seem to malfunction with me. Well, that is not really true, it is just that I get in a tizzy when they do - no patience.

I have just read in the paper that if women eat a lot of watercress it reduces their chances of breast cancer.
We could sell our stream full - we have both the wild and cultivated varieties growing in the garden - and save the female world - except they might all get liver flukes!

Monday, 13 September 2010

What do I do when it rains (and rains) (and rains).

As far as the garden goes it is amassing a list of things that have to be done, things that could be done, things I can put off for a while and things I can put off indefinitely.
I can watch the birds emptying the feeders, watch the patterns of raindrops in puddles, do a crossword, watch yet another 'Escape To The Country' on BBC2, eat, drink yet another cup of coffee or tea and so on . . . .

Actually one thing I do is sort out old photographs, and "repair" them as best possible with photoshop.

This picture has been badly damaged in many ways so, with a little patience and Photoshop some semblance of the original can be achieved and a new print
made. Of course both can be
stored as digital images as well.

So, what has this to do with a garden blog - nothing!

As it is raining
I thought I would leave you with a wet picture of
alchemilla flattened by the constant falling of water form the sky.

And on this cheerful note I may have to polish my Wellies and brush down my waterproof kagoul.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Well, I am in the doghouse!
Last night I cooked some lovely Halibut (which stuck to the pan), underboiled the potatoes but cooked the broccoli from the garden beautifully.

Unfortunately I also cooked beautifully several caterpillars!

Not only that they were not found till we were eating our supper.

So, I am in the doghouse.

Now, talking obliquely of fauna - I discovered the following animal making its slow way over the tarmac from behind my car in the direction of the compost heaps.

It is called Limax maximus - presumably after some Roman general or something.

It is also a whopping slug. Not as chunky as some of the big shiny black ones but . . .

We have also had a tragic death discovered by my wife wending her way to the Wendy House to write.
There on the path was a distant relative of an elephant - a common shrew - curled up and dead. There seemed no obvious sign of injury so we will have to put the cause of death down to natural causes. (Though I suspect next door's cat to be that natural cause. We have had "gifts" before.)

We have other predators -
Look carefully and you can see the spider waiting at the bottom of its funnel shaped web highlighted by the raindrops.

We have also had a courgette/marrow problem - too many.
So made some soup -
Recipe - chop some onion and soften in pan with some oil and/or butter. Dice courgette/marrows peeling the older and bigger ones, remove seeds if necessary.
Chop a big spud, add to pan with stock and handful chopped mint, simmer an hour, blend in blender - season, done.
I have not given quantities as there are none - just what feels right!

At least only Courgette and Mint soup - not courgette, mint and caterpillar soup!

Broccoli coming up and going on heap. Still have plants for overwintering and spring purple sprouting - too early for the crawlies.

Friday, 10 September 2010


Enough said.

Yesterday R power washed some of the paving and I swept up after and brushed some replacement mixture into the cracks where the previous grouting was missing.

There is a leak in the pond.

Dug out the small ditch below the pond and raked out pond weed. Still leaking but at least the rain has filled it to the brim.

Time to cast the mind back to better weather - so a picture and a poem that has nothing whatsoever to do with the garden!

The photo came before the painting which now hangs somewhere in Overton near Heysham.
Also the picture has nothing to do with the poem as the image was taken in winter and the poem is about summer!
However, it is still good to sit outside the Mason's Arms above Bowland Bridge on a good day with good company (and a good pint) and take in the view.

How lovely are the long mornings this far north,
how quiet falls the night.
Here sunrise seems to linger
till night meets today,
and stars twinkle out
into a breath which is that dark
where two suns, rise and set, almost blend as one.
Grey light is never truly grey
but green or pink suffused
in such a way that ridge on ridge,
looking east from Strawberry Bank,
lies monochrome and silhouetted on the next.
Here distance swallows shape,
night is a time trapped between dusk and dawn,
a flicker in the sky.
A blackbird sings with a hoarse voice
from a fieldside rowan top.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


There is something about a plant with stunning colour that attracts me- one that stands out in the garden. Of course you have to be careful where you plant them.

Big colours can clash - which sometimes works - sometimes. This can bee seen done successfully at Great Dixter.

Here are three very different plants - one low growing,
one a small shrub
and the last a six foot tall architectural splendour.

The first is an Evening Primrose and this spills from its flowerbed over the path, flowering for much of the later summer and early autumn.
I grow tow varieties, this one with the deeper yellow flowers and a paler version. It grows wild around Southport where we lived in the early 1970s.

I think it is important to have plants in the garden which have other connections, with past moments and occasions.

The second is Ceratostigma willmottianum.

I know, bit of a mouthful - but what a wonderful blue. It is difficult to find good blues for the garden.
The autumn leaves turn red and enhance the depth of blue in the petals.
At the moment it is a small shrub about three feet high.

The third is a Cardoon,

a giant thistle like plant with purple flower heads which are left through the winter top catch the frost and keep interest in the garden.
The bumble bee in the photograph is a bonus. They seem to love the big flower heads and bury themselves deep inside in search of nectar.

Three very different plants.

And, Oh yes, I keep them apart. Perhaps I have not had the courage to try and place them together but they each have their own place.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


Despite the weather warnings it has been a lovely sunny day and SAT! in the garden in the sun after lunch out.

The view across the Bay was wonderful.

Over the rolling fields and the green trees, over the sands of Morecambe Bay and the sea to - Heysham Nuclear Power Station.
Well, one cannot have everything, just hope the wind is from the north if it goes up.

I remember 1957 and the Sellafield chimney fire - we lived near Torver and the milk from our cows was poured down the drain for several months. Dad was given a geiger counter by the Government or someone - very hush hush - and measured the milk daily. In the end we were almost the first local farm to be declared problem free.

Enough of the past - looking down the garden
it is interesting to see varieties of plants.

The three types of loosetrife - the yellow flowers earlier in the year and, thinking about it, may have succumbed the the Wendy House. By the pond are both the wild purple and the pink variety. Though the photographs do not show it, currently the paler version is actually more vigorous. This is not usually the case for the wild versions a most often the stronger.
In fact the wild version is growing in the hedge bank down in the village but I suspect that this is an escape.

So I have done little in the garden today - no I tell an untruth - I have done nothing in the garden today but show friends around and shown them my giant marrow and two large pumpkins.

Make of that what you will!

Monday, 6 September 2010


When we first came to the nook one of the large ash trees developed Honey Fungus!
We had to have this taken down and I took a chance and had it chopped into logs for the woodburner.
Not a great idea.
Within three years the log pile was infested with the black wirey strands of Honey Fungus hyphae.
So we had an enormous bonfire and burned the lot. Now we pray that that has done the job.
We did have an uninfected (we hope) part of the main trunk chainsawn into a seat. You can just see it under the foliage lower middle left in this picture.

In the darkest part of the far garden I planted six white birches
bought from Weasdale Nurseries.

Five are thriving though there was a moth caterpillar infestation last year.
One has developed a nasty black patch on the trunk - so - scrape it and paint it and hope.

It always amazes me the vast number of twigs that fall or are blown off the trees - especially the ash trees.
We regularly collect them and pile them in the rough grass at the far end ready for a bonfire.

There is a fallen dead tree at the far end which we have left. It was there when we came and is a favourite perch for the buzzard (when the rooks let it settle).

There is another dead tree that fell over the wall from next door. Fortunately the wall is intact but, apart from cutting off the branches, I have been tardy with the chainsaw on the rest.

This may be because I do not have a chainsaw?

It may be because I am just putting it off - much more likely.

I am alone in the house - R is in the Wendy House for the first time, writing.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


So R was looking out of the kitchen window when a large wisteria leaf shot across the paving and disappeared down a hole by one of the green oak posts.

We waited.

Then this appeared!

One of our Wood Mice.

When we first came to The Nook - our first visit we were taken to one of the wells and the lid was carefully lifted. The well was insulated with polystyrene sheeting and under the top layer was a well formed wood mouse nest. Mice scattered in all directions as light poured in.
Unfortunately there were also a couple of dead mice in the well itself.
Unsurprisingly we decided not to drink the water.

Mowing today after night rain.

First off to Flookburgh to collect scaffolding planks for the garden.
I seem to have an inexhaustible need for them - edgings for veg beds and paths, for bridges over the stream.

Only one picture today - but a cracker!

Back twenty minutes later - there are two mice - getting ready for a cold winter.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


Yesterday I was Strimming!!
Golf in morning, strimming in the afternoon.

The problem is - today - Lowick Agricultural Show in morning and raking off the strimmings in the afternoon. This is much harder work than just strimming.
Now have backache!

To the garden - and at the show there was a large
winning pumpkin - but not as big as mine!

One of my courgettes
- it was a courgette yesterday - is now a marrow!

They grow overnight - makes you wonder which garden gnome is secretly feeding them.

There are early butternut
squashes and chillies so I hope that they will swell and ripen successfully - then recipe books out!

And we have a second ripe fig
- with the sunny weather.

My daughter gave me a great recipe -
split fig, insert chunk of dark chocolate, put in oven till chocolate melted and Voila!

We also have a tree in the hedge at the bottom of the garden which has decided to bear small red
plums. I think it is a variety called prunus cerasus or cerasifera - whichever it is a first record for this locality! On eating they start as a sweet plum but do have a slightly bitter aftertaste.

I hope they are not poisono......

Friday, 3 September 2010


When is a weed a weed?

A wild flower is not necessarily a weed. The bluebells in spring, the red campion later and the angelica in summer are all wild flowers but in the right part of the garden are not weeds.

However there are some that I classify as weeds wherever they are - especially the tenacious ones - Bindweed, Ground elder, brambles and hogweed. Now some people seem to like the majestic white panicles of the hogweed but I have been blistered by the sap! So I much prefer the white flower heads of the Wild Angelica.

Grass is grass but in flower beds couch grass is weed. Add to this clover and creeping buttercup, cress and oxalis, dandelions and docks and so on.

This is persicaria- related to Easter Ledges (still have not cooked them a la Mrs Beeton) - and redleg. It grows on the banking above the pond and makes a fine display. Weed?

Then in gravel paths everything is a weed though you can transplant some self sown seedlings like wallflowers and aquilegias.

Early on I put in some ground cover roses for a quick result and have certainly got it. Now they are rampant and need a strong hand.

The ash, willow and sycamore trees self seed - definitely weeds in the beds. Raspberries sucker and come up where they are not wanted - the list is endless.

So weeds are only weeds if they are growing in the wrong place - especially brambles.
Mind you, they do have juicy blackberries . . . .

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


In our garden, outside the kitchen door,
we have a duck, a flying duck which chimes rather than quacks.It was a present from my son C. and had chuckled away for a few years when the wind blows.

Just below that, standing on the paving is our dog
who nods in the wind and also falls over when it is very gusty.

Now, recently other structures have been appearing in the garden due to J. staying with us.

This is our new bridge.
The individual poles are about six feet long and he, aged four, dragged them down from the wood at the top of the garden.

He did not use it as a dry way across but spent most of the day in the stream fully clothed !).
I assumed that this "bridge" would be used as a new crossing of the stream.

I was wrong. Quite clearly this structure is a bed!