Thursday, 29 September 2011


It is here, a heatwave - well not by the standards of the rest of the world but for here 23C in late September is hot!

What's up ex-doc?

I have turned the compost which exhausted me but it looks promising.

I will have to build something much bigger in the winter to take all the compost - but not now.

Shrubs have been moved to the bankings including a Eucryphia lucida Gilt Edge - a fragrant evergreen variegated shrub which has white flowers in summer and can grow to 10ft.
I moved a rather miserable red-leaved maple growing in the dry concrete-like soil in front of the house as well but managed to snap the stem in the effort to uproot it! So it is now a six inch stump projecting from the fresh soil where I have replanted it. We will see if it survives.

It is at this time of year that faithfuls like nasturtiums and calendulas come into their own.
Other dependable plants are the Cosmos - only grow the white - and verbena bonariensis - which survives some winters and sometimes not.
The anthemis are in full second flush after dead heading but we know autumn is here. The ash tree leaves - last to come, first to go - are falling and the fig leaves are yellowing. (You thought I was going to boast and say that they were not big enough - Ha!)

Look B - twice a week is often enough for my bloggings - your demands are unreasonable - every time you ring R you ask - Where is the blog? Well, it is in my head somewhere, I suppose, but I need a good big KitKat bar to get me going and hiding chocolate from R, (she thinks I am too fat), is not easy!

There is so much to do and not enough of me to do it (despite being overweight) -ditches to dig and manure to spread, grass to cut and sticks to collect - so I am going to sit in this sun, which we will not see again like this for nine months probably, and do a Sudoku (or sleep).

Oh! Yes - why Vandella time - 'Heatwave' - sing-a-long-a Martha.

Monday, 26 September 2011


Before the fauna here is a produce update -
our five pears, ten beans and first damsons.
The beans were delicious and the damsons needed sugar.

At least something escaped the rabbits - well, the damsons and pears were up a tree and out of reach of our DEAR! bunnies.
Having said that I have seen one go over a four foot stone wall!

Now to the chaffinch which
has just flown into out kitchen/patio doors. It was lying on the paving stunned. I picked it up and placed it under the garden bench in a safer position. After five minutes resting on its head it recovered and flew away.

At least we have not had another fatality.

Then we come to our DARLING! wabbits.
This bold as brass Peter was reclining near the top of the banking enjoying the sun after a feast.
I managed to get a closer picture - see next.

R says she is thinking of a man with a gun but I am a bit softer - after all someone
did once ask if they could name a rabbit sanctuary after me.

So what has been going on in the garden - a bit of mowing and weeding but especially, as it has been so wet, planning.
Shrubs to move to the bankings - this will improve the bankings and free up areas of flowerbed for all those plants I cannot resist buying - let alone new bulbs and cuttings and so on.

The woodland paths, usually covered in wood chippings, have turned into mud - so either more wood chippings - out with the shredder - or buy stone chippings?

Now to preparing lunch - rabbit ragout?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


This is the garden in the rain and the garden
in the sun from the window of my room.

I have picked the 5 pears on our tree - conference pears so they are in the house with a banana to ripen though, with two, I had to evict wasps who were dining out.
We also have parsnips, leeks and beetroot - and, despite the rabbits, a handful of french beans from our one remaining plant.
The marrows are getting rather big and there is hope for the late-coming pumpkin.
Best of all, we have our first damsons - enough for a pud.

Done a bit of deadheading - especially the white cosmos - and stick collecting. In fact, last weekend, before the malaise, I took my grandson aged 5 into the garden to collect sticks. This did not last more than 5 sticks at which point he announced he was returning to the house to make something from the heap of Lego he had decanted from a large box onto the bedroom floor as picking up sticks was boring.

The buddleia planted around the septic tank to conceal it is covered in Red Admiral butterflies. I have yet to complete the encirclement with self sown plants dug from elsewhere in the garden and cuttings now rooted.

So to the second image - my attempt at a cloud tree using a young hawthorn on the fringe of the wood. It is in a position where the poor light makes it very difficult to photograph (and it needs a trim).
I used to have an old pair of sheep shears what I found in my mothers garage years ago but they seem to have gone missing. They would have been ideal for trimming the clouds.

You may remember the log circle with a hearth in the centre so we could sit round on warm summer evenings and bake potatoes in the embers.
A dud! Not used and no decent weather will mean a rethink.

C is with us from London and setting up his own business - courage - but he has brains - more than I have (see note above re log circle). In fact all our children are clever, each in their own way, which is probably why they shake their heads when they see me!

Time to pick up a spade to dig holes for the transfer of shrubs to the banking - then a cup of tea to rest my brain cells. In fact I will have a cup of redbush now, all this blogging is exhausting (mentally).


The leaves are yellowing and falling from the ash trees, autumn colours are coming early and I have been berated for not producing another blog sooner.

Time for excuses (not for the leaves, that is slightly out of my control) - I have a cold, otherwise known as Man 'flu', and we have just returned from three nights in Scotland.

Of course, whilst there, we visited places - Girvan which was very depressing and then I took R to Castle Kennedy Gardens near Stranraer, a place I had not been to for 50, yes 50!, years.

It became clear that we should have been there in May for the rhododendrons and azaleas, especially around the huge pond (is that a lake?) must be amazing.
The herbaceous borders were splendid and as usual, under orders, I took photographs of the things R would like in our garden. This does not include willows as she has now decided that my willow tunnel should go - I foresee stubbornness arising within me.

The last three images here are of plants which have caught R's fancy. I know what they are, approximately, so now out with the books and do a definite identification - fennel and the salvia are ok, I think the other is a nepeta but not sure which one.

So we are home and I watch the rain making all walking on the grass very inadvisable - so cannot mow and so on.

I am limited by my "terrible" cold and have to just water the houseplants. In fact, I was very much looking forward to lunch today with old friends but have had to say sorry -
they would not want this spluttering, coughing, croaking creature near them - fine present for guests.

No frost yet - some years we can get to November before the nasturtiums go soggy -
but I feel this year the cold may arrive early - it is only mid September and autumn is definitely here.

Looking out of my window I see the sun is out, the grey squirrel is lolloping up the grass bank and the leaves on the cercidiphyllum are turning.

I hope the cold clears soon so I can smell the caramel odour that the fallen leaves give off. There are three "toffee" trees in the garden. They were given to me as unused scions by the owner of a garden centre at Next Ness just before he closed.

Duty done, time for a pill and feet up.

I wonder what woman "flu" is like?

Thursday, 15 September 2011


My hair is full of poppy seed!

Three days away and when we come back the grass is long enough to hide the Wherearewe tribe and wet so cannot be mowed. I am dead-heading and weeding.

The photographs today are to demonstrate that there are people in our garden

The figure in red, B, (in the rain of course), has a touch of the leprechaun on her mother's side, the other with the purple trug - to match something - is R, the main weeder and expert garden manager with an eye for colour and design yours truly does not possess.
For me - bung it in, if it goes great, if it does not also great as I cannot be bothered to move the thing - until along comes R, slow talkin', slow walkin' R (no prizes for the source of the quote) (but something to do with Yaketty-yak!).
She will request that that section is pinks and another yellows rather than the super-clash I have concocted.

Ah! Sweet mystery of life! (Another quote, now that I've found it.)

The sun is out today so a great day for gardening which is why I am off to the golf course.

I wonder, if I do not wash my hair for seven months will I have opium poppies sprouting from my thatch?

Opium - mmm!

Friday, 9 September 2011


Before you ask how the weather is - it has poured until 2pm and then stopped. I went out to weed the banking bed, did it but slipped on the lawn and so was clarty with mud down one side.

The bed I have done is the one just in front of this rabbit spied from my room this morning. At least it was eating the broad-leaved willowherb - a pesky weed.
This is not the only cuddly bunny in the garden - I have yet to find their burrow but indications are that it is at the top under the ash tree with the Rambling Rector.

So to bears - woolly bears
- caterpillars that can give one a rash - crawling across the paving looking for a place to pupate.
So what is the moth this caterpillar will turn into? I have to admit that I am not good on caterpillars unless they are obvious. This could be a yellow tail tussock or a common footman, a white ermine or a tiger moth - help needed - anyone with more wisdom than I out there?

And then to birds, birds, birds.
I seem to be feeding every tit, finch and heaven knows what in the north of England.

3 feeding stations and this morning I counted 38 birds at one sitting!
Try and work out the pecking order for that lot!

Must nip to West Cumberland Farmers for some more peanuts.

Monday, 5 September 2011


The wife of my late partner has a habit which I share.
Wherever we go in the world we bring back stones - be it local or New Zealand.
A selection of small egg sized pebbles sit on the windowsill of my room, the rest are heaped in the garden.


On digging new ground for potatoes I found four tide smooth stones.

“Tom brought them here,” his daughter said, “To edge beds.”

Our stones fill corners, sit on logs, fill old bowls -

slate slabs from Luing inset with cubes of shining pyrites,

rock crystal from Corfu, 1969. still exotic,

gathered from a quarry on our honeymoon,

pebbles from Menorca when the octopus grabbed my ankle

on the snorkelling beach and I yelped with alarm,

white quartz from a crag near Goats Water carried down

the old track to Little Arrow through Bannishead,

heavy haematite looking like half an enormous brain

lugged from Newgale in a backpack, now a doorstop,

small stone eggs harvested from the shore at Roanhead

whilst Jethro and Willow excavated mountains of sand,

pink Ionan granite from the beach opposite Eilean Annraidh

where we stood and stared north at Western Mull and Staffa,

slag from the bloomery by the lake near Napping Tree

where we would swim and cook causages on a wood fire.

When my father died I took a dark brown stone from Bardsea Beach

and rolled it in my pocket like a Rosary Bead, a comfort.

All these places, memories and events are now collected in our garden,

waiting in the shadows to be seen and surprise me.

Which brings me to plums - they have stones!

But most of them have been removed from the jam.

ps. It is raining again so I have Karchered most of the paving to remove the slippery green stuff.

And the week ahead - gales, heavy showers and cool - autumn is with us, winter is not too far away!

Sunday, 4 September 2011


There are many pests one might expect to meet in an English garden. This is not one of them!

Nor would I want this as an ornament in the garden - it would frighten R.

This is a story of rabbits and squirrels,
docks and nettles and creeping thistles,
stakes that sprout and floods and drought,
springs that spring - none one of my favourite things.
There are ditches that clog, turn grass into bog,
snails and slugs, 'pillars and bugs -
This is not what gardening's for,
this is a story of unending war,
with that which eats the fruit and veg,
it sometimes pushes me near to the edge -
until I discover a scented sweet pea, eat a plum ripe from the tree,
dump a pumpkin into the barrow, an enormous courgette (a monster marrow),
savour asparagus cut in May, just spend a day
sitting in birdsong after the mowing,
listening to water tumbling and flowing
down to the pond. I am losing the war
but, you know, here in the sun I don't care anymore.

This last image of the banking and the Wendy House by the pond shows the wonderful work done by M the strimmer.

Unfortunately the stronger wild grasses have grown a foot in the two weeks or so since this was done and I will have to nip out now with the mower (still have not got my hover mower) and try to not let it get out of hand again. (Of course it will.)

Saturday, 3 September 2011


B is coming today on her birthday to see the garden (and us?).
It is raining tigers and wolves.

So here, for her, are pictures of some of the flowers in the garden yesterday that she will not see (unless she gets very wet).

Now most of the strimming in the wood has been done and it looks wonderful. I did not sit on my backside, much, whilst it was being done - I did clear the overgrown sides of the stream, help R make lots of plum jam - yummy - mow the lawns, plant three veronicastrum by the pond (where R had weeded). The carex pendula (weeping sedge) sows itself everywhere and is a nuisance.
I have also succumbed to some yellow pansies to put near the back door.
Pansies are not my thing - I prefer violas.

Autumn plans are astirring in my head - to move shrubs in the flowerbeds to the banking and replace with cuttings of herbaceous perennials from the shed. Two roses are struggling for lack of good soil (planted over a drain) and will need shifting and feeding.
I have ordered bulbs and stuff from Parker's (good value), Sarah Raven (top quality but not cheap) and Weasdale - two Amelanchiers after seeing Sir Roy Strong on Gardener's World had almost topiarised - is this a word - it is now - his.

And I need to buy a hover mower.
And I need to rent a scarifier.
And I need to have another drinking chocolate on this dank drear day.

Happy Birthday B.