Friday, 31 May 2013


It is glorious, warm, sunny, at last - at last!

But will it last - not much hope of that in this country. Yet, while it lasts it is wonderful, short sleeves, old hat, sun cream, drink outside, family here - C and P - what more can one ask for.

A wood pigeon has just passed the window with a beak full of dry grass for its nest in the ash tree behind the house and the tree sparrows in the house martin nest chatter and scold me as I pass.
I have cut back the grass around the shrubs on the lower banking disturbing a frog which landed on my shoe. Tortoiseshell butterflies and wood whites have appeared in numbers. I have heard a few bees - all bumble bees - no honey bees.

What were empty swathes of soil are suddenly full of growth.
I have planted out the butternut squashes and covered them with netting supported by piping. I have sown rocket in the gaps and courgettes in pots.
Where there is a space in the flower beds nasturtium and calendula seed has been put and wild flower surface sown on the rough ground near the asparagus. (6 spears up so far).

I have realised that the camassias planted on the top banking in the grass are a dark blue when I wanted the larger pale blue. Must make a mental note for the autumn but I shall probably forget.

And what can one say about oriental poppies - splendid, gaudy, vulgar? Red and green go together so well.

Last autumn I collected a lot of aquilegia seed and have just found it in a brown envelope. So, up to the wood and scattered it  about. As they are biennial plants next year will tell if it worked.

Time for a cuppa - just been up onto the hill behind the house and enjoyed the view south to the Fylde Coast and the whole of Morecambe Bay like a carpet, east to the Pennines and Ingleborough, north to the Lake District mountains and west to Kirkby Moor.

The garden is in one of its magical phases, flickering light through the trees, gentle rustling in the new leaved branches, every green a different green.

Two blogs in two days - too much? It is just that the garden is so full of everything at this time of year.

And, to cap it all, R got mentioned on Radio Cumbria this morning.
To find out why visit

Thursday, 30 May 2013


R checked her diaries and calculated that the spring/summer is running three and a half weeks late. Let us hope autumn is not early.

Unfortunately there have been consequences to this - the house martins finally arrived only to find that a pair of tree sparrows (the ones with the brown head (male)) had taken up residence and were well on with their brood. They can be heard chirping away from below.
The swallows still have a choice of nests - three to be exact - but do not seem interested much in any.
We have fledgeling great and coal tits emptying the feeders at high speed.

In the garden it is weeding and mowing and trying to find time for ideas. The alchemilla is great ground cover but getting out of hand. The redcurrants have set and are now well protected with netting.

Alliums, oriental poppies, granny's bonnets are all out in profusion but the seeds I sowed in the cutting garden bed are slow to germinate. The first asparagus has made an appearance and fingers are crossed, butter ready. Broad beans are through and sweet peas beginning to recover from planting.

The garden is still full of birdsong and I hope the late season will mean we have that for longer.
The promise of something white is growing - the white rosebay has spread on the upper banking and the crambe is in bud.
I planted three Azaleas - the yellow smelly ones - by a woodland edge path and the aroma when one passes is glorious. Just above, on an ash branch, we have hung a big set of wind chimes, albeit not quite high enough as I was never a boy scout so the the knots got confused - running slips and so on. You can only hear the gentle sounds when near but the chimes are hidden from view by a beech hedge (had their first trimming) so they come as a surprise.

It  is confession time. Despite all affirmations to the contrary we have not got around to dividing the primroses so less clumps but bigger next spring. The butterfly in the picture is a wood white, one of few insects in the garden.
Today it is sunny and warm with just a shallow breeze. One can almost feel the leaves soaking up the sunshine.

My butternut squash are ready to go out but I need more netting for the alkathene hoops. I have put in sweet peas where the dead raspberry canes stand forlorn and sad so if all goes well we will have a house full for the summer.

So many jobs to do now and so much lethargy!
R is already helping with the weeding and some of the buttercups are enormous - obviously liked the manure I covered the beds with in the winter. They look so succulent they could be eaten - not really of course.

So, off to put the mower away and get the shears out to clear grass from the trees and shrubs on the banking.


Monday, 27 May 2013


So, a quick pop off for a whizz around Dumfries and Galloway and the Spring Fling. Bought a big set of chimes for the garden from Melkinthorpe, did not buy any more metal birds from Adam Booth in Kirkpatrick Durham but was glad to see they have appreciated in value.

And, up at The Nook, the green grass grows all around around around etc . . . .
The garden is bursting with growth driven on by the muck I liberally applied during the autumn and winter.

Some shrubs are getting too big - R will have to wield her pruning shears with vigour later in the year.
One very dry, almost soilless bank is smothered in euphorbia but it does save weeding - except where it has decided to grow up through the paths.

I have concern about whether our fruit has set - there seems to have been a dearth of bees this year. Usually the blackcurrants are humming but - silence.
The house martins have not returned and the swallows seem unable to make up their mind as to whether they want to nest with us or elsewhere.

The rhubarb has exploded with the rain and two days of warmth - well not literally - that is what happens if one eats too much?

It was interesting, in Scotland, that we saw a hare, slow worm, reed bunting and a lot of white butterflies - especially small whites, and wood whites. We found a fabulous wild retreat, Taliesin, near Auchencairn - see at
for details.

So I have returned with scraps of paper littered with ideas - different ways of mowing, bench positions and many others. There might even be a concession from my chaotic semi-wild jumble to R's organised, controlled environment, (might be).

Almost a whole row of raspberry canes are dead. Rather than cutting out I am going to grow sweet peas up them and then reorganise in the autumn. I cannot envisage a summer without fresh raspberries, nor later, making raspberry jam so summat wil 'ave to be done, a new bed and new canes, I think.
And therefore I am, off to have supper - porridge - after three days of rich food a la Masterchef.
Tomorrow a walk around the garden and a list to be made.

Friday, 17 May 2013


I have just looked out of the window and seen our first house martins pass, then four swallows - already investigating the old nest outside the kitchen door - and finally a swift scimitarred above the trees.
Winter is definitely over, rhubarb is in the bottom oven. The sound of chattering martins and swallows is wonderful. They fly like they are just enjoying the experience - a bit like otters playing.

This is May and the garden, though two weeks late, is beginning to burst at the seams. As the daffs go over and the primroses get swamped by new grass the forgetmenots and tulips come into flower.

Celandines, a bone of contention, are everywhere - R thinks they should be eradicated from all flowerbeds but I rather like these harbingers of spring and the leaves die down soon enough.
Many years ago I was reporting on a square
for the Botanical Society of the British Isles' Atlas of the British Flora and sending my reports off to Franklin Perring, I think, at Cambridge. One of my cards came back with a request to check whether the celandines had bulbils - they did not. There are two sub species of celandine in the UK, one with bulbils, one not. Those with tend to be more common in the east of the country.
These are small offshoots and each produces a new plant - lilies also have them.

As I speak the damson blossom is fading and legs, fingers, toes all crossed the fruit has set.
The plum, pear and greengage are still in flower as are the cherries. The wild blackthorn has been rather disappointing this year.

This morning I have been digging up and potting up black and red currants for my daughter who has a new house in Herefordshire. Every year I give out cuttings to friends and also shove a few in the far corner of the garden - spares you might say. These are for the birds who especially love the red ones.

The oaks have young leaves but the ash none - they do have some flowers. So we are in for a splash rather than a soak though last year we had both and more.

At R's suggestion, last year I scattered some Hedge Parsley seed in shaggy places - grassy bankings and such - and this year we do have some plants. The 'Queen Anne's Lace' is splendid to behold in roadsides but will need some watching in the garden, albeit the wilder areas.

Nothing goes to waste if I can help it. This morning I burned the bank statements etc as I had completed the accounts (and anyway I can access them on line) along with other receipts and so on. A bit of potash for the fruit garden. I wish I could burn the tax bill but then I am not a multinational corporation - well, have a bit of a corporation but that is all up front and . . . .

Sunday, 12 May 2013


We left our garden in full daff and primrose glory, grass mown, hoeing done, a cowslip mysteriously appearing on the upper banking, spotted flycatchers hawking, swallows wheeling - off we went.

North to Scotland and hope for a fine day, that was the plan.
Come day two we went south down the Mull of Kintyre, a quick ferry crossing and voila!

The only good weather day this year and we were on the Isle of Gigha - not in the garden working hard as we should have been. Good weather, good friends and a great garden.
We had stayed at Achamore House some years ago and the whole time there it rained, and rained. This time the sun was out and the day was glorious.
The work done to the gardens there was amazing. So much achieved since our last visit.
The viewpoint at the top of the garden revealed the western coast, a seal on a rock, head up, tail up and buzzards wheeling.
The rhododendrons were two weeks ahead of home and bursting with colour, especially the deep reds.
Camera was out taking visual notes - the pond, camellia walk, walled garden, bamboo tunnel - ears bathing in birdsong.
Summer was on its way.

But it did not arrive!

Next day was back to rain and cold and so on. We fled to Arran on a wallowing ferry, two of us looked a little green.
We fled home a day early - well, we could tidy up the garden.

It was raining, is raining and the grass has grown six inches, most of the daffs are dead (R deadheaded them yesterday), it is too wet to cut the lawn so I have to just watch the jungle rising from the turf.

It is amazing how much change can come to a garden with a day of warmth. The cherries, pear, plum and greengage are in blossom as are two of our damsons. Flowerbeds, empty a few weeks ago, are tumbling with growth. Forgetmenots seem to have seeded themselves everywhere (or did I scatter the seed?) They are in the rose bed, up the bankings, in the wood, down the bankings, everywhere and wonderful. Other surprises reveal themselves on closer inspection - two teasels in the main beds - they can stay, the japanese anemones I removed from the rose bed have come forth - must have left a smidgeon of root behind.

All in all it is so difficult to leave one's garden - the control freak in me - to its own machinations.
On a final note - the cling film on the back windows seems to have deterred the blackbird from attacking its reflection, the human hair down the mole holes has not worked too well. Mowdy is tunnelling away with renewed vigour.

At least one good thing - the previous owner had planted Spanish bluebells near the gate - I assassinated them last year and they seem to have disappeared. I can almost hear our native bluebells in the wood breath a sigh of relief.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Bramblin' Rose, bramblin' Rose
How you do it, heaven knows,
Though the thorns scratch, they are no match,
They can't defeat a bramblin' Rose?

I should explain - my wife, formerly known as R is actually Rosey to her close family, Rose to her sister and cousins and Rosemary to others.
She attacks the tip rooting monsters in the upper garden with vigour and they have to give sway.
She divides snowdrops and primroses and spreads joy and makes me a cuppa when I am fatigued.
When she spins I wonder if she will change into a superheroine (can I say that?) superhero.

The swallows are back, a pair orbiting the house getting back their energy for eggs and stuff. Mrs Pheasant has gone awol so she must be sitting. He is still strutting his stuff. We had a moorhen on the pond this morning. 

The daffs have been fantastic this year though late and the persistent autumn planting of a sack a year has payed off. Soon the deadheading will begin, then a feed just to get the bulbs nice and fat for next year.
My sweet peas are trying to get out of the shed but it is too early at the moment so they will have to bide their time.
Seeds have been sown in the cutting bed - Ammi, Love-in-a-mist, Sweet Williams, Wallflowers, Honesty, Calendulas, Green zinnias, Rhidolphia and larkspur, hesperis and sunflowers. I know - capital letters all over the place but you cannot have everything.

The willow tunnel, more like a willow avenue now, is lined with daffs as shown (and mole hills) (hidden). The honeysuckles and clematis planted to clamber over the willows are doing ok and should look good later in the year.

I have a confession to make - I have fallen for an advert on the telly. In amongst some plants, especially the raspberries are some tenacious weeds - nettles, buttercups, ground elder and so on. I do not want to dig the lot up at this moment and replant so have succumbed to a small pot of Roundup gel. You spread it on the individual leaves and hope the victim does not suffer too much. I intend to try it on the bindweed amongst the herbaceous borders later on - will report back. 
I know - it is not all compost and organic stuff and that but I tried to live with the weeds and do best I could but it did not work.

Back to Brambles and stuff - time for a love poem from our distant youth -


We were in love
and blackberrying in the rain.
One wisp of hair
lay soaked upon her forehead
and water sequins
crystalised her eyebrows:
though we were drenched 
we did not care about the damp -
kisses laced with drizzle
are strangely sweet
like mulled bramble wine;
our lips and chins
were stained with juice
and all the furrows of our hands
were dyed deep red -
we did not care,
we were in love
and blackberrying in the rain.

Bramblin' Rose, bramblin' Rose . . . . . . . . .