Friday, 17 November 2017


Finally no rain, just a biting north wind yet sunshine - very welcome - need a month of this now - some chance! About as much chance as Brexit ceasing to be the chaotic mess the Tory Party has dug us into.

So what to do when the back is bad (apart from hoping R will go out and clear away some of the dead and dying plant material.)

A walk around with the blower clearing leaves off the paths and a bit of labour in the kitchen - notably making Redcurrant and Orange Jam and bottling the apple vinegar.

Whoops, the top label is wonky - will have to correct that (?OCD?)

Recipe - Redcurrant and Orange Jam - 
2 Kg redcurrants, 2Kg sugar, 4 oranges, pinch of cinnamon. (2Kg is about 4 pounds)
Put redcurrants, grated orange rind, cinnamon and orange juice into pan. Cook till currants soft. Warm sugar and add, stir till dissolved, bring to fast boil, test often as sets quickly, put in hot pots. Spread on warm toast, eat.

Looking out of my window the other day I watched the predatory cat from next door stalking a grey squirrel under the watchful eye of Doc.

The squirrel completely unconcerned eating fallen peanuts (the tits scatter them around) knowing it can shimmy up the shed if necessary.

Now to a question of courgettes that get out of hand - no, not mine, my daughter's. Looks like an awful lot of courgette (marrow) and mint soup going in the freezer?

And when there is not much colour in the garden the sunrise comes up with this -

Time to do a bit of the tidy stuff so elder cut back and I chucked the stuff on the bonfire heap but the stems shoved into the ground will root easily. Earlier I had vigorously dead headed some of the buddleia and they have come again with attractive grey new growth.

The chard is still thriving - in fact doing better now we have colder weather and the slugs and snails have gone. A memo to grow more next year (definitely not slugs and snails) and try the red stemmed variety as well as the white one.

Winter and leaf fall reveal surprising things like this bird's nest up a maple. We, and many others, walked right past without realising it as there - probably chaffinch?

Friday, 10 November 2017


There are a lot of flowers in the garden despite the weather and time of year.
Some things just do not flower, should not flower now but . . 

 . . . here we have a quince on the left and the fatsia on the right.

And then there is the question of the camellia - what is it up to?

There are many roses, by the shed, on the back banking, in the rose bed.

Grouse, a vicious ground cover rose to the left and one I cannot remember the name of to the right given to us by P and A.

The one below is in the rose bed and I think Emma Hamilton but a bit thin as it is late in the year.


 Then there is red one on the left and the last of the Rhapsody in Blue flowers on the right.

Naturally there are other plants - the nasturtiums have not been frosted yet and things like feverfew plod on as do the calendulas.

Some annuals plod on like the cosmos and the ammi.

Erysimum to the left, osteospermum to the right. 

And the delicate schizostylis or hesperantha, the Kaffir Lily. 

So, just when I need to dig and things I bend down and twang my back!😟

Went away for a few days admiring grandchildren and the garden camera took many videos - all of grey squirrels and the whizzing woodmice shown here. A night video so look for the eyes.

The dark days are creeping upon us and there is a lot to do - so I hope the twangy back is better soon.
😟 3 grey squirrels on the feeders - will no one rid me of these meddlesome beasts?

Friday, 3 November 2017


First the good news, the moorhen is back on the pond, alas this means winter approaches.

Ivy up a tree is a wonderful habitat for wildlife if it does not bring the tree down with its weight. I do not mind it on a couple of trees but it tries to climb them all - just a small tendril first, then a leader up the trunk and away it goes.

We have a window of drier but colder weather. R has been cutting back stuff and I dug up a load of alchemilla outside the kitchen which has got a bit past it.
Then R put in three Chinese lanterns, Physalis, and I took the alchemillas to the wood and dumped them - they might grow. Then I transplanted a geranium and comfrey and put in a variegated euphorbia. I also divided a rose root and put that at the edge with some snowdrop bulbs.
The campanula and dahlia R bought have also been put in, the latter deeply - it might survive. I have not put it in the shed to over winter as when I have done this before they snuffed it.

It was a very brief window, got up to a dank dark dismal morning. This was a summer and autumn to forget.

But still, if we are blessed with a burst of sun and the autumn leaves light up, especially the Acer sango kaku, its golden colours are splendid. It was given to us by my sister when we moved almost eleven years ago.

Of the three azaleas only this one still has its autumn leaves.

And finally a quiet day with little sun, no wind, no rain. Even so some things are strangely beautiful. This is the dead head of a wild angelica silhouetted against a cloudy dusk sky. Its delicacy is delightful.

R has been shearing dead stuff and taking it to the compost heap. I have been out with the scythe in the wood, cutting, picking up fallen sticks etc, Then I went down to the pond and raked out rubbish plus a flowering rush and a white water lily that is too large. I have offered them to P and his giant pond (lake).

The chives are dying back so, as we use them in
stead of onions, a strategy must be conceived - perhaps freezing some.

Pity we cannot eat ivy.
(Not a good idea!)

Friday, 27 October 2017


The garden is raucous with cock pheasants. Here are two of this years clutch squawking from the shed roof. 
And buzzards are circling above the trees imitating cats as I wander down the garden to cut the alstroemerias and pick some chard.

I am trying to think what I could do with grass that is always unmovable being too wet. (I know - smoke it - not that sort of grass.) I could create a bog garden but, in a way, it is already that. In many places above the pond there is little turf, just mimulus seedlings and a carpet of golden saxifrage.

I have finally had a very brief window and managed to mow the upper lawns and the wood. The lower grass is a no-no. The wood was cut on mulch. No frost - yet.

I mentioned that the fatsia is was flowering - and now there are flowers on the big magnolia. The seasons are upside down.

I have managed to save some seed and dry it - this is fennel - now in a brown paper envelope in my room. Of course it can be used as a flavouring as it is.

Back to the pheasants - they are now on the shed roof outside my study window, male to then left, female to the right.

One problem I am about to give up on is the purple sedum spectabile. I have tried staking it, the Chelsea chop (cut it back at the time of Chelsea Flower show and it flowers later but sturdier.) None of it has worked so I have settled for floppy sedum.
So now it is Monday, miserable misty drizzly Monday and it has rained all day and I have still not potted up the lilies. Sop I have had time to ponder on where to put the new bed - roses and stuff moved for the upsizing. When it has stopped precipitating on my head I shall stick a fork into the turf by the path to the veg beds and see if it is deeper than  a few millimetres - could do Okay for the new area.

Come Wednesday and the rain has stopped for a while. So out and took the skimmia out of its pot - it was not happy there now - and replanted it near the gate. 

Into the pots planted up with ilium regale I put some aeonium cuttings from the pot in the foreground - better than bare compost.

 There are still flowers in the garden if you look - marigolds, anthems and osteospermum.

And there is still autumn colour in some leaves despite the battering with the gales. This acer is determined not to let go yet.

One side effect of all the rain is the garden has been attacked by moss. Moss in then lawns is bad and so are then paths as shown here.
I do not mind it up in the wood or on the dry-stone walls but especially in the lawn it acts like a sponge and suffocates the grass.

Finally to my Halloween squash - age is having a deleterious effect on its complexion and I am not sure if it will make it. Anyway it is far too small for a candle.

And finally a bit of good news - though I have not won a prize my poem Sand has been shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize (as has my sister-in-law Kerry) so here is mine whether you want to read it or not.
And I was young and waist deep in the River Kent,
halfway between the Arnside shore and Humphrey Head.
The tide was at its lowest, dragged out to the far sea,
gathering its power, ready for the inward rush,

its bore roaring through the rills, sliding over shoals, 
faster than a man can run, scouring sand and scar.
Here level land is laced with sweeps of mercury,
its shallow gullies carved by moon-pulled pendulums

of liquid light - flood tides that pervade a desert,
wide and wet, where voices come, not go, no one lives,
where winter waders pipe aboard the wanderer
who wades the shimmery haze, walks out west from Hest Bank

through blind quicksands, the quags of watery granules 
that wait the unwary. Where sand and sky collide
long lines of stunted brogs implanted by the guide
designate a safe route through this land rendered fluid 
beneath the ebb and flow of the changeless changing sea. 
And I was young and new and walking Morecambe Bay.

Friday, 20 October 2017


Came home, the big pots by the door with tulips and yellow winter pansies on top had a hole in the compost - mice! What a place to chose. I wonder if they eat tulip bulbs? So off to my wife's cast off iPad and sure enough they do. I have put a layer of pebbles on the surface and perhaps that will put them off?
More woodmice up in the wood at night, 

and then a big one!

Actually it is a rat! Cheers R up immensely!

Last month I was asked what mature manure looks like so -

however once it has been spread on a bed and raked it does look somewhat better.

Just found half a dozen apples I had missed, late treat.

R had ordered some physalis (Chinese lanterns) and a campanula plus free dahlia - Bishop of Llandaff (the red one). Now I will have to think where to put them.

The willows are pruned and several branches made into cuttings for P and his pond (more like a small lake). The bonfire grows - and will in all probability never burn it is so wet. There are areas of the garden I have not been in for a month it is so sodden. All I can do is hope, no mowing possible, and in places moss is infiltrating the grass.
I have had a modicum of fun with the electric blower - sending leaves off the paths then realising I wanted to collect them and make leaf mould.

To the story of the wet postman and the Michaelmas Daisy by the way to the front door. It is rampant and a couple of metres high (two and a bit yards for my generation). I put in two stakes and tried to heave it up but it still flops.

R and I have begun the great autumn clear up, she assassinating the hostas which have turned yellow and I have removed some of the cardoon stems that have fallen over. One is nine feet tall (nearly three metres 😊).

There are two plants that seem to go on flowering week after week. On the right a mallow given to me some years ago by my sister which self seeds and on the left Erysimum Bowles Mauve. The latter has flowered all summer and only needs little dead heading now and again.

So Ophelia has blasted past giving us a blustery time but mostly missed us, worst problem is the number of ash twigs littering the place.

It got very Dark as the storm approached. more like January than October - this is the living room window in the middle of the day.
One cause was said to be due to Saharan dust blowing north but it might also be related to the terrible fires in Portugal.

All the rain has made the bird feeders be clogged with wet gooey seed so I have cleaned them out etc.
Picking up sticks, pruned hydrangeas etc etc.
I had this idea and took the rotten peanuts up the garden, scattered them and then put the video camera nearby.
Then I went back after 48 hours, had a chat with one of the cock pheasants who seems totally unafraid of me (R says thick in the head), pruned a rhododendron and brought in the camera. I had 211 videos off grey squirrels!

So, sitting by my window going through them I had a menagerie outside, usual small birds, pheasants sitting on the shed roof, greater spotted woodpeckers and finally I looked up and there was a squirrel sitting on the window ledge three feet away peering in at me!
Time to get the trap out again?

And finally - my lantern is so tired waiting for Halloween it will need a new set of teeth.