Tuesday, 29 June 2010

First fix

Progress in the little bathroom and it was relatively painless. Bill and David cleared up after themselves to a very high standard - perhaps it seemed so tidy because they are old enough to know not to make too much mess in the first place, saves so much time at the end of the day!

How can such a small space create so much rubbish. This doesn't include the wash basin and pedestal which Bill has taken. Apparently he knows someone who will want it - they are welcome the monstrous thing, two less items for us to take to the tip on Saturday morning.

The new bathroom fittings have arrived and I could not resist carrying a couple of things in to make sure everything fits the way we planned. Of course, now I have to carry them out again.

Now if Wayne could just extract the digit and make a start on the plastering . . . he's due this afternoon.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

NGS Garden Visit, Fleming Square, Maryport

Blazing hot sunshine and three new gardens opening for the first time. A particularly interesting visit for me because, 2½ years ago, we looked at a house in Fleming Square. Four huge and double-fronted floors of faded Georgian splendour were extremely attractive but the location was rubbish; far too close to the sea (200 yards), a tiny courtyard garden, no views and neither of us wanted to live in a town.

Good though to see the house was eventually sold and the new owners are working very hard to restore it.

way, way, too near to the coast ...

Thank you Google:

The Brown House

Home of Tim Longville, writer and columnist for Cumbria Life magazine, and author of one of my favourite gardening books of all time.

(if you're seeing this in Google Reader, the link to Tim's book doesn't show)

The largest of today's gardens but impossible to get a sense of size because the garden is packed ("completely overloaded" according to Tim) and one has to pick through narrow paths avoiding overgrown trees. I found myself having a long conversation with him about propagation through air layering - lovely man, utterly bonkers but quite lovely.

It was a pleasant space to spend some time in and I am sure some of the planting was important and would make knowledgeable plant collectors very excited, sadly I just felt hemmed in. Oh, and there were roses, lots and lots of roses. I'll talk about roses one day, but not today.

23 Fleming Square

Similar to The Brown House but thankfully with a little more breathing space.

The Priory

Being restored by a team of volunteers, this garden is 4 times the size of the other two and much more open, two lawns and mixed borders.

The information leaflet handed out apologises because many of the plants are in the wrong place. As overgrown, bramble infested beds are cleared, what can be saved is bunged wherever is clear space until such time as it can be positioned correctly. That made me smile, it is more like most people's gardens than either of the others and seemed very popular with the visitors.

Extremely healthy hostas, perhaps it is Divine Intervention but I didn't see a single slug hole!

An unusual place to find gunnera manicata but it seemed happy enough.

Canterbury Bells always make me think of gardens when I was little, glad to find they are growing happily here.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Unexpected dinner guests

Mum brought 8 babies back for tea, their second visit today, it is amazing and quite wonderful that she still has so many and they are growing fast. Unusually, the beautiful male was with them and he patrolled along the back fence whilst his family ate.

The Mum pheasant is amazing and seems to know that I am no threat. In order to get more corn near the babies I crept within 10 feet of her and she didn't move. I chucked the corn gently, small handful at a time and much of it landed on her back - she didn't flinch, just kept eating and as soon as I backed away, the little ones rushed out from under the grass and tucked in.

She then took them via the greenhouse to the front of the garden and I went indoors, not wanting to watch them cross the road. We may live in a small country lane but drivers go much too fast along it and tiny chicks are no match for a motor car.

Yes, this counts as "pottering"

Am taking my 'light duties' requirements very seriously therefore today's gardening was confined to messing around.

A combination of drought and lack of planting space means I have to make some difficult decisions. Many of the plants raised from seed since April have no homes to go to so will be joining the Great Recycling Heap in the Sky, also known as the compost bin. The few things I really want to keep will be moved into very large pots where they have a chance of not drying out and, possibly surviving, or the raised bed where I took the yew plants from, it's the only place with any space left.

Whilst I did this, Management set to assembling a small shed we bought many, many months ago. When purchased we thought it would might work to store the bird food outside but that never happened, instead, it is going to be a kindling store. Whilst we successfully managed to prepare an entire seasons worth of logs, last winter we regularly found ourselves running out of kindling and having to buy stuff in as it was too wet to be outside cutting any more.

Found another orchid, we now have 6 plants of which 4 are in flower.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A change in the weather

Despite warnings from United Utilities that we will have a hosepipe ban next week it has been much cooler here and a little breezy.

Keith came and finished the second support frame for an IBC tank. Once the guttering is altered we will be able to collect lots of rainwater, but no rain is forecast!

The soil where he dug for this frame is great, 18" of silt-based topsoil, hardly any stones, it will be fabulous growing space once the log piles are gone.

In the greenhouse, an aubergine has flowered. It is many years since I grew them and had forgotten how pretty the flowers are.

I did something I should have done ages ago - put lots of water on the potager wind-break hedge bed. Happily the addition of numerous barrows of rotted cow manure earlier in the year means that the soil is retaining moisture far better than I expected.

I then took a large hammer to this poor holly which we inherited with the house.

It has been settled at the road end of the hedge bed accompanied by most of the yew plants which have been in one of the raised beds. I saved them all from Extinction By Fencing and Tree Felling many months ago. They have put on great root growth since going into their nursery bed and once in their permanent home looked considerably better than I expected. More watering and a handful of chicken manure pellets and they looked quite at home!

The remainder of the yew plants are not suitable for the hedge, a couple are golden and the rest are a columnar variety, possibly Taxus baccata 'Standishii' and will do better as specimen plants somewhere else. I've put them in good sized tubs for the time being.

Finally gave in to the nagging of a friend and harvested our first pot of new potatoes. I didn't think they were ready because the haulms have not started to die back and I confess, am a little disappointed in the results. Not as many tubers as I expected and the flavour, whilst pleasant and definitely 'fresh', was not as distinctly 'earthy' and new-potato like as I would have preferred. Not remotely surprised by this - Flummery and Hazel had warned me that this variety (Rocket) was known for speed rather than substance.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

House Sparrow

Ever since moving to Bag End I am been envious (in a nice way) of a neighbour who has House Sparrows in her Rowan tree every day. This year we might not have them nesting, but some parents have finally found the Bag End Buffet and are bringing their babies for lunch.

Definitely time to fix a Sparrow Hotel under the house eaves.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


HRT = Horticultural Retail Therapy.

Went into Whitehaven for coffee beans (as you do) and called in to the small but lovely Whitehaven Garden Centre in Meadow Road. Even though the ground is so dry, if they had had a supply of Taxus baccata to supplement our bird-sown plants I would have bought enough to get on with the potager windbreak, but they didn't . . .

So I gave in to alternate temptation instead and lay the blame firmly on SewAli's Lumberjack. If ever we get him on Mastermind one of his specialist subjects definitely could be sarracenia and nepenthes.

I want more . . . even though I'm not quite sure what I already have. I suspect I will spend a long time at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants website, a well known specialist and expert for these plants.

Discovery of a stupendous second-hand bookshop in a Whitehaven backstreet. Does this also count as HRT?

I loved the plate inside "Field and Woodland Plants". I wonder if Mary enjoyed her prize - she certainly kept it in good condition (does this mean it went on a shelf never to be looked at?)

The only way is up

Dear abandoned blog,

What a patient little blog you've been. Abandoned and neglected but not once have you chided me or complained.

I do have a good excuse - nothing to say. OK, I have lots to say about the garden and a bit to say about the wildlife, but T'Other blog was always going to be about dogs, quilts, the house and fellwalking, and there hasn't been any of that to talk about.

(Edit: I've been asked about this picture, it was taken on Loch Shiel opposite the cottage where Mike Tomkies lived. Ollie loved boats and was made very welcome by MV Sileas' skipper Jim Michie. Highly recommend one of his trips if you are on the west coast of Scotland)

You all know why there is no Ollie, something which still hurts to the core on an almost daily basis, there is no quilt making because I've been working virtually full time in the garden, we've done nothing in the house because I've been in the garden and there is no fellwalking because I knackered my hip!

I do have plans however, although if the garden is anything to go by, having a plan is a pretty futile thing.

I've promised to make quilts for both of James' sons and I must get on with them, the acupuncture is wonderful and hopefully my hip will stop complaining about ascent or descent and I can get back on the fells, but today the plumber and carpenter arrived and the small bathroom starts its metamorphosis.

Before is not pretty

I've done all the tile removal and stripping out to this point, men in white vans are getting paid to do everything else!

There are compensations. In addition to the glorious view since we changed the window, at 7.15am I glanced outside and a hare was lolloping gently across the front garden, no time for a photo but what a gift first thing in the morning?

Monday, 21 June 2010


14oz of freshly picked unctuous, delicious gorgeousness! Thank you dear Flummery.

Truly a Solstice gift.

Pheasant update

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoon I saw Mrs Pheasant bring her babies into the garden and head for the Bag End buffet so that she could stock up on mixed corn. On both days it was impossible to count the chicks but I didn't see as many as Tuesday.

Friday afternoon - joy of joys! Mrs Pheasant munched corn outside the kitchen window for 40 minutes with her babies hidden in the undergrowth. She then took them what is now the "usual route" through the front garden to get to the field opposite and I counted 9 little ones - amazing that she still has so many. They are so cute, and she is such a caring mother, that I didn't even mind when she decided to march them directly through the Potager!

Sunday - we watched for quite some time as Mum brought the babies into the garden from the field opposite, crossed the driveway and went up the uncultivated side of the garden (where the bonfire pit is).

I felt so sorry for her - the youngsters are obviously getting to be a bit "teenage" and the poor bird was rushing backwards and forwards trying to get them all to stay with her. The little ones thought it was far more fun to rummage around in our long grass and do their own thing.

You could imagine Mum Pheasant standing with her hands on her hips yelling "would you all get OVER HERE NOW". Knowing she was on her way to the Bag End Buffet, I'd put out a big scoop of mixed corn and she fed well, although there were a couple of breaks whilst she tried to round up chicks who thought the large log pile was a fun-filled climbing frame.

There appeared to be 8 babies today, sad that two are missing but Mum is doing well. Praying that the stoat or weasel don't decide that now would be a good time to return.