Saturday, 30 April 2011

April calendar

There's only one word for April - riddikulus.

Another record-breaking dry month and a completely exhausted Hobbit. However, we are making progress, I can see a difference and I know that we're quite likely to have three weeks of rain when I cannot get outside at all.

NGS Garden Visit, Chapelside in the Spring

I visit this garden so often that I'm in danger of being handed a trowel and told to get on with some work. Robin and Tricia's first open weekend of the year and I wanted to see what damage last winter had done*, get a look at the evergreen structure which is harder to see once the season gets going and how their lush perennial borders look this early in the year.

Part of the huge perennial bed near the house - looks a bit different in July

A very bad photomerge of the pond

Camassia naturalising in grass next to the daffodils
This bed behind the house is very different in the summer

Inspiration for my alpine bed, if I can ever get onto the soil to dig it over.

* a couple of very large and elderly hardy fuchsias didn't make it, but that was about it.

I also shot some video which shows the beauty of this garden much better than photographs. Trouble is, my trusty PC running a Luddite OS (Windows XP) is kicking and screaming about handling HD video and flatly refusing to co-operate ... it may be time to join the 21st century which will be both expensive and mentally draining.

PS: If you'd like to live next door to this horticultural heaven, this is for sale. Do a search on Rightmove for Mungrisdale, Penrith.

Getting Political

I didn't blog about the stupid a*se plan to sell off our forests because at the time, Bag End was private and any ranting would have reached a limited audience. This time, however, the gloves are off.

This is taken from 38 degrees, the campaigning website who were instrumental in giving people like us a voice, which was heard, when the forestry plan was still on the table:

On Monday, The Guardian newspaper revealed that the government might scrap vital laws which protect wildlife and the countryside and help stop climate change. 278 regulations designed to protect wildlife, tackle pollution, protect the countryside, and reduce climate change have been branded ‘red tape’ by a new government consultation, “The Red Tape Challenge”.

The government says it wants to “free up business and society from the burden of excessive regulation”. But included in the list of regulations under review are very important laws such as the UK Climate Change Act, National Parks Act, Clean Air Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act. These aren’t little-known laws that no one cares about. The Wildlife and Countryside Act protects wild birds, their nests and eggs, and makes sure that national parks and marine reserves are protected.

The Red Tape Challenge website makes it clear that if we want to protect these laws, we need to speak out:

“Once you’ve had your say, Ministers will have three months to work out which regulations they want to keep and why. But here’s the most important bit – the default presumption will be that burdensome regulations will go. If Ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay.”

Friends of the Earth commented:

“News in today’s Guardian that all of the UK’s environment law is going to be reviewed is extremely alarming”

In the past, David Cameron has made headlines promising to run “the greenest government ever”. We need to convince him that scrapping these laws would be a disaster for his reputation. A huge petition will prove to Cameron that he can’t afford to break his green promises.

We know that when we work together we can make sure the government doesn’t get away with plans which could hurt the environment. When they decided to try to sell off our forests, over half a million of us got together and convinced them to drop their plans.

The government says it wants to hear what we think before scrapping these laws – so let’s give them a consultation response they can’t ignore! Please SIGN THIS petition telling the government to keep laws which protect our wildlife and our environment.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Spot the difference?

Looking fairly tidy over Easter

It wasn't just the obelisks which received the attentions of a large paintbrush generously loaded with black wood stain.

To say that I am pleased with the effect would be like saying there's a bit of a do on in London tomorrow. I keep stopping and looking at the potager and having trouble believing it's really mine, in my garden, and I made it! Am absolutely chuffed to bits - although it does need a bit of planting up. We have used black in a garden before and been very pleased with the effect but I had forgotten just how smart foliage looks against a black backdrop and how everything suddenly seems to have "come together".

Exhausted because this has been the best part of two days hard work. Painting on Wednesday afternoon was fairly painless but this morning Management suggested I had an opportunity to correct a moment of madness last year when I filled one of the long beds without fixing damp-proof membrane to keep the soil off the timber. Fortunately there was enough DPC left over in the shed and the staple gun made fixing easier but it was still ruddy hard work to move soil and I was kneeling down in the sun for far too long.

Now I've had a soak in the bath and recovered somewhat I don't mind at all. The job is now done, properly, and as a result the beds will last much longer - and it does look rather smart!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The obelisks have landed!

Patersons brought the remaining two obelisks.

Seeing as it hasn't rained properly for weeks and the ground is so dry you need a pickaxe to dig there is absolutely no chance of my having prepared the bed they are to stand on ... sigh ... another Bag End job started and not completed through no fault of my own.

However, having all 4 (very) large wooden structures here means it was time to get the woodstain out.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Strange goings on in The Shire

There's strange goings on at Bag End. First there was the planting out of garlic and strawberries. Not in and of themselves strange acts but sailing perilously close to Real Gardening, something we don't see much of at Bag End.

After much soil sieving and hard work by The Sherpa to fill one of the huge planters my first Clematis (of many) was planted. Clematis Montana Broughton Star - chosen for it's pretty almost double flowers, vigorous growth and scent.

(The not very pretty board is shading the Clematis root. C. don't like to have their roots in the sun and normally I'd use a large piece of slate or stone. However, despite tamping down I know the soil level in this bed will drop and need topping up. Once that has happened I can put something in place permanently and plant the heathers to cover the top of the bed.)

This was followed by the careful planting of two lovely roses which are going to be grown as climbers - Gertrude Jekyll and Winchester Cathedral, two David Austin English roses known for their fragrance. Then there was the selection and setting out of a number of plants which have been residing in the nursery, but they've been moved to a bread basket until I have added more compost to the bed. The Lasagne method has definitely worked - there is no trace of the cardboard, very little evidence of straw and a vast quantity of worms, all in all a success, but next time I will make the effort to turn the underlying soil over first, it will make digging planting holes much easier.

The original Marshmello strawberry plants are flowering their little socks off and some fruit has already set. I've been planning these cages for sometime but I think Management was a little dubious until he actually saw them in place. 2m sections of heavy-duty hosepipe anchored on lengths of bamboo, a section of pipe (with a cane inside it) fixed to make a ridge and netting fixed at the ends and top. I can push the netting up to get at the fruit and hopefully won't find any frantic blackbirds trapped inside.

The first major grass cutting of the year tidied up the Potager and Cottage Garden.

The Easter edition of Gardeners' World had me drooling with envy at Monty Don's huge compost bin set-up and I paid attention to his comments about chopping everything up and mixing all the contents as they were added. When I emptied last year's grass clippings bin earlier in the week I took the time to mix up the bin which is currently being filled. As I started to mix in today's clippings I got a bit of a surprise - STEAM rising from the centre of the bin and what felt like a colossal blast of heat. If I hadn't stuck an old thermometer into it and photographed the result *I* wouldn't have believed this and wouldn't have expected anyone else to either.

Happy day indeed and no comments about the continued disintegrating state of my sanity if I get this excited about a hot pile of muck! However, even Management came to see what all the excitement was about and agreed that compost this hot was quite a result.

Further excitement later in the day to find the Winter Aconites saved in the nursery area have set seed. Eranthis Hymelis seed has to be sown when very fresh so I've put them in a mix of 50:50 compost and vermiculite and fingers are firmly crossed.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Gardening

Friday: Moved all the timber discs which John cut yesterday and realised this was a good opportunity to try to tidy up the ground before (different) John starts moving soil around. Might not look much to anyone else but Management and I know how much muck was cleared up and it does look a little less like a battlefield. Saved all the nice dry sawdust as it will be a useful addition to mix into the grass clippings compost bin.

Rain stopped play outdoors on Saturday but that meant we made good progress in straightening out some of the furniture. The sewing room is taking shape nicely, although what can't be seen behind closed doors is all the fabric either in completely the wrong place or still in storage boxes.

Easter Sunday was going to be a full gardening day but our friend and excellent weather had other ideas and we spent most of it sailing on Derwentwater. Even so, I fitted in a couple of hours before we went out.

Finally emptied last year's grass clippings bin. Grass-boarding definitely works and parts of it were a lovely black compost but in places I think I made the layers too thick. Will try mixing it up more this year. In another (typical) Bag End change of plans, have now divided this bin into two, where would I be without pallets? The grass clippings were getting too wet and the leaves in plastic daleks were too dry so things are having a move around.

After sailing I filled a raised bed with garlic planted far closer than tradition suggests but I reckon they'll survive. Planted out a second strawberry bed with runners potted up earlier in the year. They've put on loads of growth and the roots were doing a good job of filling the bottom of 15cm pots.

The original strawberry bed, planted only a year ago with runners from Flummery, is looking wonderful. I've been able to pass this on by giving 8 spare plants to a neighbour, which is a fair exchange for the brace of pheasant he brought us earlier in the year.

In the far background is the remarkably floriforous rhubarb and in the bed behind the strawberries, an unexpected 'gift' from Hazel. Last year I planted some calendula in this bed and I didn't realise they had self-seeded. When they are a little bigger I will move them to other places.

Does it get much better than this?

Easter Sunday. Clear blue sky. Temperature in the 80's with just a little wind. An afternoon sailing a friend's boat on Derwentwater.

(click to see this properly)

I still don't understand half of what Russ was telling me about jibs and sheets, wind, tacking and other nautical stuff, but apparently Management and I are good crew and likely to be invited again :}

Very few photos because it was decided (I think there was a plot ...) that I was in charge of the tiller for most of the afternoon and therefore spent more of my time concentrating on where we were heading than playing with the camera :{

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Will chainsaw for beer vouchers

Amazing what you can do with a 20" chainsaw bar. Or rather, amazing what Wayne's cousin John can do:

No gloves, no helmet, no ear protectors ... shaking head, it seems to be a "Cumbrian thing".

17 large discs ( a couple of which are about 3 foot across) plus the green trolley absolutely full. That's a lot of timber, more than we expected.

The huge stump on the right is 3 foot across at the cut end, about 30 years worth of rings.

And whilst he was here, the 'last log' got sliced up leaving a six foot section to be placed near the pond.

Yes it's a mess, but it says something for how far we have come that I now consider that a "manageable mess"

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Log Pile? What log pile?

Last Friday and all day Sunday I moved logs. One small sentence which doesn't really describe how much timber was sorted, loaded onto the wheelbarrow, stacked somewhere else. Oh my aching legs doesn't really describe it either.

End result is fabulous though!

Management and I will chainsaw this last trunk into submission when I'm not so tired. Looks rather different from the end of March.

Breeding season

What a delight to see this beautiful Rook collecting nesting material. They have also stripped bark off some of the logs but I didn't manage to photograph a bird flying away carrying a piece about twice as long as itself.

We also have Blue Tits in one of the boxes and lots of pairs of Blackbirds around.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Will this make it rain?

Any chance that finally fixing up the shed drainage could stimulate some rain?

The original Heath Robinson arrangement had worked remarkably well but this is an order of magnitude better.

Very pleased to have started and finished something in one session!