Monday, 29 August 2011


It always intrigues me that here we have our patch of land from which we are making a garden and all the time it is desperately trying to revert, first to grass and brambles, then to tangled shrubbery and finally to high forest.
All right I have skipped a few steps but you get the concept.
We struggle to weed, mow, prune and shape this plot against its will.
Even the "Wild Garden" is controlled, not really wild.
And it is b***** hard work.
We lost a month in the spring and have never caught up.
Also, as age and general deterioration
catch up we cannot do as much.
I can see the day when we come home, fight our way to the front door and slam it on the jungle that once was our garden.
Yet, you know, even in that jungle flowering plants will push through like the acanthus here, managing to compete with the vigour of the wild, old fruit trees will bear, fruit and daffodils and bluebells will bloom.
Just as now, when one walks up the wood and stumbles on the delight of a self sown flower the same would happen in a reverted garden.
Life of all kinds is remarkably tenacious.
The instinct is to reproduce, to survive.

Talking of newts - R saw one by the pond - I continue to excavate the stream and drag out weed, I made ten jars of marrow and apple chutney (not sure it is edible) and five pots of cauliflower soup. R likes cumin in it. I potted on some winter sprouting broccoli seedlings and potted up some Tete a Tete daffs for Christmas so they will probably flower in January as usual with Christmas bulbs.

Wet grass = cannot mow.

But the rain can produce some wonderful sights. I just wish it would not do it so often.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


The conversation with myself goes something like this -

"There is something missing in the garden."
"A week ago we were in a whirl of swallow and martin wings."
"They have gone!"
"It is still August, last year they stayed until late September!"
"The leaves are starting to fall from the ash trees."
"It is still August!"
"In more ancient times August was a harvest time and the first month of autumn."
"Summer seems to get shorter and shorter - is it that I am getting older or is that, with earlier springs, everything is tired out by August?"
"Global what?! is upon us."

Now I know that having conversations with myself might be worrying but the thought of a prolonged winter is depressing.
Oh! I love the crisp sunny frosty days when the world sparkles but that dark month from December to January and not wearing short sleeves. . . . .
Mind you the lawn will not need mowing.

This image shows some of the
produce from the garden - the seven pounds of Victoria Plums, some broad beans (we eat them with the skins on) and some scrotty little potatoes - the ones the slugs did not get. (They tasted all right.)

So to the garden and RAIN! like stair rods (now people have grippers don't they?) so like ?? ? umbrella spokes - that will do.

This last picture is of the
bottom corner by the Wendy House Decking and shows part of the stream clearance I am doing.
Two outlets from the pond meet at the top and disappear down a ten foot drop into the field below. You can see the scaffolding plank edging on the left hand one. In the island bed on the right are candelabra primulas and irises. On the left are alchemilla (alchemilla, alchemilla the empty space filla) and other flowering plants including white valerian.
Before work the streams were choked with watercress and brooklime (lovely latin name - Veronica beccabunga - which it does).

Doing the stream is back breaking (beckbreaking) work and I am very stiff this morning.

Perhaps I should rename the stream (cannot rename it - does not have a name) Old Man's River?

Friday, 26 August 2011


So let me start with Victoria plums - we are stuffed with them - every pudding it seems is plums, I bagged 7 lots of 1lb for the freezer, gave some to a friend and still there are plums. The tree is young so we will need a market stall to get rid of them in the future.
There are lessons to be learned, though. In June I must thin them more - it is so difficult to pull off young fruit and chuck them on the compost heap but, where I have not thinned enough the fruit are noticeably smaller.

Having plumbed depths what else have we been up to - mowing and some mowing of rougher grass on higher setting as around the white birches.

I went down and cleared out some of the stream near the Wendy House which was an opportunity
to gather candelabra primula seed and sow whilst still fresh.

This was a very messy job and I got thoroughly wet and muddy carting large trugs full of weeds and watercress to the compost heap by the willows.

Afterwards I had to strip
in the utility room and dump my gardening clothes in the sink. Next time there will be tickets for sale (but no sensible takers!)
Rather than upset readers with images of myself here are my clothes in the sink.

R often complains, with some justification, that I go gardening in better clothes because I am too lazy to change to old ones.

This is often true. I am not very fashion conscious - if clothes fit, more or less, and keep me warm, and hide what they contain, that is sufficient for me.

Then I can spend the money on some footle or another.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Autumn changes are coming early - leaves changing hue and there is a sense of tiredness in the garden - except for the wasps on the plums. Those that know says it is because of the dry warm spring.
To business - first - an orange Crocosmia (montbretia)
loved by R and surrounded by purple sage, blue shrubby clematis and so on. It is a beauty and I will not divide it this year - give it one more.

The blue agapanthus has also been good and a stimulus to get MORE! But where do I put them - R has stipulated that we have too much flowerbed already. I
will have to be constructive and imaginative (and devious?)
Having said that as R reads this blog I have just shot myself in the foot (at least).

R and I have just been sitting on a seat on the paving looking at all the mowing I have done when R noticed a small grasshopper laying eggs onto the moss between the paving stones. This seems such an unlikely place that I got out the reference book and this is the Common Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus which is a mouthful of a name even for a grasshopper. They lay up to 14 eggs in a foam like secretion that protects them from predators, disease and damp. (It will not protect then from the high pressure hose when I wash the paving.)

Which brings me to a pome - I prefer pome to poem - the former seems a bit more masculine. I wrote this many years ago after a real event when in the Near Intake with my daughter at High Arrow, Torver and we found green grasshoppers (Omocestus viridulus) (or viriduli? if more than one). She ran down to the house and told my father - well read the pome.


Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

went for a walk to try to espy

a grasshopper, (they're terribly shy),

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

found a sundew clutching a fly

in a pretty, red, tentacled leaf

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

watched a kestrel stand in the sky

watching us watching it from the field

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

heard a grasshopper ticking nearby,

rubbing its legs in the warmth of the sun

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

found the grasshopper, (terribly shy),

climbing a reed in the sphagnum moss

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

ran down the hill pretending to fly,

waving our arms in the bright blue sky

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

chased a cabbage-white butterfly

and climbed a gate which said 'Please Shut'

at the back of Grandad's house.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, and I

told her Grandad about the fly,

"And we saw a hassgropper," Izzy said loudly,

"A big green hassgropper," Izzy said proudly,

"You know, the one that's terribly shy,

and we chased a flutterby, Daddy and I,"

and Grandad laughed till he started to cry

and Granny laughed with tears in her eyes

back at Grandad's house.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


I have just been out after breakfast and the house is surrounded by a whirl of swallow and house martin wings. They are hawking around the garden, zooming up under the eaves and chattering like a bus full of schoolchildren. On the wire by the gate I counted 24 swallows. It is only August yet they are gathering, ready for the long trek south.

The feeders - these are by the shed - are inundated by tits and finches and it is getting expensive feeding the hungry masses. Collared Doves, pigeons, dunnocks and chaffinches patrol underneath for titbits until Mr Pheasant (the bruiser) comes striding along.

Autumn is appearing in the trees as well - some leaves are beginning to yellow and the field maple, especially, is reddening.

Two days ago I went in search of a couple of small courgettes for dinner and noticed that the grass had grown over one corner of the bed.

Parting the grass revealed three 4lb marrows (about 2 kilo each). Marrow and ginger jam and marrow chutney time is upon us.

I do like squashes but all the butternuts have been rabbited - perhaps they are less bristly than the courgettes?

Back to birds - one problem we do have with the birds is that, to see them at the feeders from inside the house requires windows - with glass that the birds do not see. Every so often they scatter in a raucous panic - ?cat. ?sparrowhawk, ? nothing but a twitchy greenfinch.

When then do some of the birds
fly into the windows. In the past, as I have previously mentioned, we have had fatalities. This week both birds survived. They had hit the glass in the open door from the kitchen onto the garden and been stunned. Both tiny things needed picking up at releasing.

You can see them, bills open as they gasp for air, recovering from being dazed.

The coal tit on the wall hung
there for about five minutes after being let go - then headed straight for the feeders again.

The strimmed banking makes me realise how few shrubs we have there. R is all for growing lots of cuttings but that will take years before we have adequate cover. The old credit card will have to go to work, I think.

So, as the lethargy of shortening days takes its toll on the willingness to labour on the soil, and the falling of rain soaks the enthusiasm of this gardener I will take my leave of this blog for another day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


There are moments in gardening when the spirits lift. When we first moved here four and a half years ago I had had several damson suckers given to me by my sister-in-law K.

These were bunged in at the periphery of the garden and left to their own devices.

So, yesterday, I was trying to kill the weeds growing up through the cattle grid when this caught my eye. We have damsons - albeit not quite ripe yet.

Like the first eucryphia flower and going today to get the blood test and opening the envelope and finding the result was NORMAL! this produces elation.

So, into the garden and the scent
of Lilium regale, its (or her?) huge white flowers pumping heaven into the air. Not a masculine plant, I think.

I am sitting at the computer listening to the dulcet tones of a strimmer. PM has arrived and is doing the banking!
Then the tuneful buzz is ruptured by the plaintiff mewing of the solitary buzzard up in the ash trees. After a while the sound of our feathered tree cat is irritating.

So to a problem - where to put all the mowing, dead-headings, strimmings and so on. The compost heap is overflowing and there seem to be mounds all over the garden.

Soon drastic action with Monty Don sized heaps will have to be created and hidden somewhere - not too far from the house but not too near. The two current heaps are too small - 4 feet (1.3 metres) square as in the one shown.

It is lovely to sit in the sun - yes sun! - and listen to the sounds of the four stroke motor slicing weeds and grass but I will have to get out and do something.

I did not win the Euromillions lottery again!
Thus I cannot have a full time gardener to do all the bits I would like someone else to do. I could just sow seed and take cuttings and tinker.

I wonder how much R would charge me if I asked her?
On second thoughts - far too much - and she would not have time to write.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


First and foremost, the Eucryphia, seven feet high and slender as a model, has its first flowers.

We did not expect it to flower for a year or two more so this is a welcome surprise. Admittedly there are only a handful of flowers and the tree is famous for an abundance of blossom but this is a beginning.

Before I say more I have to mention the Victoria plum which is a victim of its fecundity - it has found a way to relieve itself of the burden of its offspring. I went down the garden yesterday, we had been weeding and trimming and so on, and the tree was literally on its knees resting its fruiting branches on the ground.. At least none of them had snapped off. Clearly I will need to be much more ruthless with the early thinning than I have been.

Last blog I mentioned pots from Viet Nam - well here is a smallish one which, I think,
resembles a piece of sculpture. It sits on an access manhole cover for the septic tank - if you cannot hide them . . .?
Inside the pot is a small ash tree grown from a seed for our grandson J.
I also bought a larger pot and this is by the back door full of herbs so R does not have to keep asking where I have put this and that. It has sage, rosemary, bay, thyme, marjoram (2 sorts) and a basil (which will not last the winter). Mint can go rampant elsewhere.
All the plants are from cuttings except the bay - see Saturday 9th April Blog.

I have been around the garden marking shrubs and trees hidden in the jungle with white topped sticks. PM was coming Thursday to strim but all was too wet (it still is) and is to try again next week. (With 'PM' and 'wet' why does 'Thatcher' spring to mind?)

So, R has wanted topiary in the garden for some time and she has had a go at the variegated pittosporum outside the kitchen, (she broke the shears). Ignore the glad' to the right - it was a freebie and keeps coming back year on year.

Our bedroom has dual aspect - out across Morecambe Bay and up the garden. Recently house martins have been making feeble attempts to build nests at the top of the gable above the window and, in the morning, we can sit in bed and watch them flying up and down past the window. They have a slightly higher pitched chatter than the swallows.

R has gone to church so, now onto my knees and pray for a dry day so the grass can be cut.

ps. We though the rabbits had gone elsewhere but the sight of no broccoli and stumps of french beans tells otherwise.

pps. My dwarf (Doc) has fallen over so must hurry out and restore him to verticality.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


So this is a conference pear and it is getting bigger. It will be important to pick it whilst still not quite ripe and then let it ripen and be juicy. Cannot wait.

It is not a lonely pear - like our last surviving fig.
The rabbits have now eaten all the seedlings for winter purple sprouting broccoli but I cannot accuse them of fig-thievery.

Our Bramley apple has
two, yes two, apples. Both are rather small and out of reach as you can see in the next pic. We had hoped for more but there is time as the years pass.

Elderberries are starting to warm up their act and there seems to be a good crop coming despite picking quite a lot of flowers for elderflower cordial earlier in the year.

The third picture is of a beast of burden - our gallant Victoria plum
bent double under its abundant fruit, some branches are propped, fruit was thinned earlier in the year but it is struggling.

It is essential to get to the fruit when they ripen before the wasps and be careful when picking them.

Yesterday I went to the most amazing Nursery - Inglefield in Staveley Near Kendal. Bought two pots thrown on the Mekong River in Viet Nam and imported. The place is wonderful for trees and POTS! There was one 100yr old olive in a massive pot and they had just sent a thousand year old olive to Dubai or somewhere on the Gulf.

If you want a pot you want to go there.

If you want to go to pot then contact me - know all about it!

Ah! I am sure that I have never mentioned this before but it is raining, has rained all day, is not raining cats and dogs - but elephants and whales (or even Wales), is going to rain tomorrow.

Film Instruction - dissolve to next blog.

Monday, 8 August 2011


Before I get to the nutty grutty of this blog let me just thank my daughter I and her husband A for the Plum Ouillans Golden Gage given to us for our birthdays or something.

It is planted as shown.

The trees in the background are, nearest - Davidia (hankie tree) and furthest - a Eucryphia (has white flowers one day).

I hope we will get fruit though we are quite far north. R loves gages.

Now to the title.

I have had a message from DJ saying that he thinks the blog is a bit CS Lewis - screwytape maybe, with hideous strength, hardly, out of a silent planet, possibly, a banarnia skin - slippery, or just Surprised by Joy - I hope.

For non CS Lewisians try Wikipedia.

Now, you know from these pages that I love strimming so PM comes on thursday to do it for me! Of course I have to pay but IT IS WORTH IT!
I just hope the weather relents to let the tangle dry - perhaps some hope!

We had the last of the summer broccoli last night - actually we did not as son R noticed some cooked caterpillars in the veg which is a little off putting.
We have sweet peas in the house at last despite all the predators. In fact I have not seen a bunny for a while - hope, hope.
We do have a mournful buzzard that has taken up residence now the rookery is empty and it repeats its Mew in triples from Dawn to dusk - it is becoming more irritating than the collared doves.

ps. I am getting better but, not drinking tea, coffee, alcohol and eating spicy food is dreadful.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Firstly I was just sitting
with R and I, nursing a cup of tea after mowing the lawns, when the view made me scurry into the house for the camera.


Now to the point of the title.

There are many paths in the garden - too many some say - and most of them go to a compost heap, a shed, a veg plot or join one area to another but there are a few that go nowhere - dead end streets. (Kinks).

These thoroughfares to oblivion are at the upper side of the garden and may one day become routes to somewhere - but not at present.

They are like those courses one takes in life which bear no fruit and instigate a backtrack.

Yet, they are not a waste of time. Even if you have to return the way you came they can reveal a hidden corner (that means an untended bit of jungle in this garden) or a surprise view. (With the four examples shown here the surprise is generally that there is no view.)

There are other mown paths which
appear to go nowhere but suddenly reveal decking through the wild boggy bit, swing around and you are at the fire pit circle, reveal a secret lawn in the trees that cannot be seen from elsewhere.

Now there are no mazes in the garden but nevertheless there is an intention to give
the grandchildren something to explore, to find the seat at the end of the willow tunnel, the small boy reading (a small statue) by the woodland path, the wind chimes and so on.

Thus the garden mirrors life.
Here I am mowing these paths through life, many of them heading nowhere, others coming back to where I started, some with a welcome surprise at the end.

Now that is deep which our pond is not as it had sprung another leak and the water lily leaves are sticking up in the air.

Wander through the realms of fantasy and reality will sneak in and Bilbo your Baggins, clobber your H Potter, Gormen your Ghast!

Shut up D and mow your lawns.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


I am going to start with two pictures of the garden last Saturday.

What is it doing this morning - raining!
Last Saturday was warm and sunny and the garden was host to family, chairs out and brolly up to give some shade!!

The orange day lilies are in full flood - though I am not sure I actually like the colour - yet they love where they are.

There has been some tidying - clearing away the browning alchemilla before they seed and all is alchemilla. A bit of dead heading, veg watering, sawing up a branch which fell off one of the ash trees - they do seem to have quite a lot of dead wood on them - but then that goes for most things (including me).

Saturday was the sort of summer's day we all dream about but, up here in t' north do not come as often as elsewhere.
(Big bugbear - "the weather has been glorious across England for two weeks" - in London and SE. "It will be the hottest day of the year" - in London and SE. Up here get your Wellies and your kagouls out. Then, of course - "It has been the wettest day on record" - as we sit in the sun.)

Gripe over.

I cobbled together a few sheets of soft plastic and a water supply and made a water slide.
It helps to have your own borehole. I am not sure I would want to do this on a meter.

Pin it down with a few 6" nails to a steep banking making sure there is a sort grassy run off at the bottom and - Wheeeeeee!

Then, naturally, having seen the fun, Grandad has to go and get his trunks on and Whooooooo!

Actually great fun though I am still finding mystery bruises.

In the evening we went out - fancy dress - I got to be the lumberjack and that is OK.
R was a scarlet woman!
Even better, youngest son, sheet, gold waist cord, greyed hair and false beard, my father's shepherd's crook, very simple - God!