Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nice weather for ducks

It started raining sometime during Wednesday night and carried on all day.  Lovely 'gardener's rain", soft, steady, everything good a thoroughly good soak without any battering and the water-butts are full again.  About time too, after the scorching temperatures of the previous week the plants badly needed a good drink and the top pond had lost over an inch to evaporation.

Over ¼" rain meant I caught up on all the laundry, nearly all the ironing, defrosted one of the freezers and achieved a worrying amount of cleaning accompanied by furniture moving.

In the greenhouse I've spent hours pricking out newly germinated seedlings.  After much debate-with-self  I bought these 35-cell trays from the wholesale side of LBS.  They are brilliant - much deeper than those normally available and as a bonus, fit into the mushroom boxes which makes carrying them around a doddle.

The shade netting is been great and makes a huge difference.  Trying not to feel glum about how late everything is.  I made a deliberate decision not to sow seeds too early but coupled with how cold it has been, everything is ridiculously small for the time of year. Perhaps I should have started things earlier?  I see pictures online of tomato plants that are nearly in flower yet mine are only a few inches tall, hey ho, perhaps one year I'll get the balance right.

Continuing to try to empty the nursery area - watering has been a chore the last few days.  

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Just WHERE did the week go?

Another week gone whoosh. Stopping to think about it, however, we do seem to have been rather busy!

A large part of last weekend was taken up with terribly enjoyable socialising.  Nutty Gnome and the Reincarnated Inventor picked the most glorious three days for their visit which was punctuated by G&T's, a wonderful supper at The Spice Club, Sunday morning sitting around the pond, and much taking & laughing.  The RI has gone home with Miss Daisy envy and I shall cherish the (sadly un-photographed) memory of him driving her around the Cottage Garden lawn, his knees up around his ears, with a look of intense concentration;  he is about a foot taller than me and the seat position wasn't ideal.  He was either focussing terribly hard on not driving her into the small pond, or working out how to squeeze one out of the garden budget!

Monday - take Hattie to Carlisle to have a new rear windscreen.  That took most of the afternoon but had a happy finish when I called in to Dobbies on the way home.  Six Irish Moss plants, Sagina subatula, to start to create a green edge to the top pond.  It's going to be a while before the ones I am growing from seed are ready for the great outdoors.

Two visits to a stonemason to select and then collect a large lump of Coniston slate for a new front doorstep.  Only had to go as far as Keswick but still time-consuming (no, we are not paying inflated visitor prices and using Honister stone).

LP was only here one day, Wednesday, which he spent digging over the ground by the top pond.

He was also allowed to get his hands on The Sherpa and has made a great start on sieving all the soil which has been stacked by the greenhouse.  This pile was originally the turf from what is now the long Middle Bed in the Cottage Garden and was placed here in March 2011.  It is now lovely crumbly loan, albeit with more stones than desirable, but that's because the lawn at the front was originally laid on builders' muck and nothing had been done to it for years. We will use the sieved soil to top dress the ground before the turf goes down and the stones have found a home at the back of the long side border.

Another Mighty Mouse day and we should be ready to order turf and the side of the greenhouse should be clear so we can use the space for much needed cold frames.  Finally. 

Hair cut, shopping, and occasional sleeping and all of a sudden it's the end of the week.

Friday, 25 May 2012


Do you believe in angels?  You should.  Don't want to call them angels? Try sixth sense, intuition, gut feeling if that feels better to you.

On Friday morning I nipped out to the supermarket.  Unusually I went to Tesco in Workington rather than Sainsbug in Cockermouth.  Travelling home on the A66, a ten minute journey at 60mph.

A sneezing fit.  Badly needed to blow my nose.  Pulled into a layby.  About to start off again, put the car in gear and   BANG !    Hattie's rear windscreen exploded, glass everywhere, incredible noise.  No-one has any idea why, maybe the heat, maybe a stone flicked up from a passing vehicle.

If I had been moving at 60mph the shock of the noise (and it was LOUD) would have caused me either to hit the brakes and the car behind could have ploughed into me or, more likely, I would have swerved across the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle which could also have been doing sixty.

 I never stop on that road, why would I, can almost see the house from most of it.  I stopped today . . .  Angels ?

A temporary repair and Hattie will be fixed next week when the glass arrives.  I spent the rest of the day in shock which might take a little longer to recover from.  

Thursday, 24 May 2012


We bask in an unaccustomed heatwave, no clouds, no wind, no rain, the lack of shade trees very evident.  Plants have started growing, new plants need watering, the pond is alive with little unidentified creatures darting over the surface.  A very busy week here, LP worked 3½ days and a huge amount was accomplished.  I don't know whether he can keep up this pace for much longer but I sure as heck know that I can't.

Mid-week, the progress looked like this:-

The bog bed needs more plants, needs some shrubs/evergreens to give structure during winter and basically just needs time to grow and settle but I've put everything into the ground that I have.  Big panorama photo that will open large when clicked.   Friends might remember that three years ago we had a kingfisher in the garden.  Sadly she was injured and did not survive despite my taking her to a wildlife sanctuary but it proves these lovely birds fly over the garden.  Management asked for a 'kingfisher stick' above the pond but so far the only birds seen on it are blue tits and blackies :}

Despite the heat it has been LP's week for doing a huge amount of digging.  A mark of how hot it is has been his acceptance that taking a large garden parasol and moving it around so he's standing in the shade would be a good idea!  He roughed over another small area on the edge of the Coppice:

There's a sliver of ground between the willow fedge and where the path will be, this is a good place for the orchids.  I'll add some 'meadow' type seeds and hopefully create a safe area where I grow add Snake's Head Fritillary and so on.

The pallets and stones in front of the pond have all been moved (but only to behind the bench so they're accessible for the stream).  Management heard about a local company, Cumbrian Turf, and after working in the next village they popped in to measure the area around the pond.  A sample roll of turf was left which I have 'planted' and we're stunned - it is truly the best quality grass we have ever seen and everyone else who has visited says the same.  Add to that a quote which is lower (per roll) than the cheapest online turf and it's a no-brainer.

LP is busy preparing the ground and maybe in a week or so we can have an instant makeover!

Greenhouse shading - doesn't look as messy in real life as the photo would imply.  More than a little fiddly to (single handedly) stitch five lengths of windbreak together using plastic string and hoist the resulting sail over the greenhouse roof (using brooms and a long bit of wood with a hook on the end!)  I'd like to think that in future years I would make something neater that isn't held on with clothes pegs but we all know that isn't going to happen!

What has happened, however, is that the greenhouse has been transformed from a blazing inferno to a pleasant shady place that's at least ten degrees cooler than it was.  

After far too long all the fruit bushes are now in the Potager.  Is it still a potager with no veggies?   Plans afoot for cages to protect the fruit because without 100% netting coverage the birds won't leave a single berry for us.

Here's a view you don't get very often - the path leading to the log store, shed, messy dumping ground for timber and supplies . . .

A home-made trellis is going to divide this space, break up the view, and when we eventually get the shrubbery cleared I've got all sorts of happy plans for this space!

A huge amount has been achieved and, with a couple of exceptions, most areas of the garden are looking semi-presentable and under control.  After four years of living in Fangorn Forest/a construction site/a complete and total bloody mess I badly need this order and structure.  I also need a rest so for those friends who joke and mutter about me doing too much - yes, you're right, all of you, and I am going to slow down soon.  Stop laughing at the back, I can see you, I know who you are  ☺

Plant hunting

For most gardeners, 'plant hunting' conjures up visions of Roy Lancaster or Tom Hart Dyke in far flung parts of the world seeking out new species. At Bag End plant hunting looks more like a crime scene.

A couple of years ago we had two orchids on the grass in the side garden.  Last year I could only find one and was worried that I had inadvertently mowed off the other.  Determined not to make the same mistake twice I have put off cutting the lawn whilst looking for the missing orchid.  In desperation we sectioned off the grass and over the last few days Management, LP and I have walked back and forth on numerous occasions but to no avail.

Sadly we're back to one orchid in this location but at least I can now get Daisy out and tidy the place up a bit, we've got friends visiting this weekend and I confess to wanting the lawns cut and the place looking vaguely tidy before they arrive. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mud, mud, glorious mud

And not just mud, but pond sludge, duckweed, oxygenator, taddies, snails, a couple of leeches and goodness knows what else.

A neighbour offered us as many buckets of 'stuff' as we wanted providing we took as much duckweed as possible with us, didn't need asking twice!

The crystal clear water in the small pond (Cottage Garden) is now brown and sludgy and the nearly clear water in the top pond (outside kitchen) is all churned up and mucky again.

Both ponds look infinitely better for the additions and there's a good chance I can go back again in a couple of weeks and get more duckweed if I ask nicely :}

What the f*rk?

Plainly, LP does not know his own strength . . .

Saturday, 19 May 2012

NGS Garden Visit: Chapelside, Mungrisdale

The first visit of the year and a return to one of my favourite gardens in Cumbria - Chapelside in Mungrisdale.   As always, inspiration and ideas abound. 

When I commented on this pretty Water Hawthorn, Robin Acland obliging pulled up a clump and sold it to me!  Added to the other plant sales, I came home with a lovely box of unexpected goodies.

Am I the only gardener who doesn't like tulips?  I'd go so far as to say I actively dislike them, and there are very few plants (other than leylandii) I can say that about.  They did get in the way of this big Angelica (some of which had been potted up and came home to Bag End, along with a couple of pots of Lovage).

Nice Rannunculus next to the pond, I was looking at R. seeds yesterday trying to decide which variety to grow and 24 hours later there's one of the plants I was considering.  I'll take that as A Sign ☺

I seemed to spend a long time looking at ground cover.

The unfortunately named Lysichiton, which sounds so much better than Skunk Cabbage.

Leaflet thoughtfully prepared by the owners:

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Some rainy day pictures

Rain stopped play today before it even started, I can't say I mind. Whilst it is wonderful to be making this much progress I've admitted before that keeping up this pace is brutal.  LP arrived shortly before 9.00 with a 'present' on the back of his van.  After finishing here yesterday he took his trailer to a friend and loaded up more horse manure; our compost bins are nearly empty of ready to use stuff and he had hoped to surprise me with a load of rotted muck.  Sadly, however, this isn't anywhere near as composted as he had hoped - these animals are bedded on shavings which don't break down as fast as the sawdust which Jackie uses and we're going to have to stack it for a while.  Never mind, it was still a lovely present and LP was very pleased with himself  ☺

After wandering around the garden for a few minutes we had to conclude that it was going to be wet all day and we'd have to try again tomorrow.  The trailer is parked up until the sun comes out.

I'm in a sad way when the prospect of a day "stuck" indoors catching up on laundry, housework and emails is thoroughly cheerful.  It is also a chance to catch up on photos I have taken but not used. Like the picture of my new trowel and hand fork, birthday present from Management.

I have known about copper tools for years but never felt ready to take the plunge and spend considerably more than usual.  To some, the anti-slug/snail properties of these tools will be New Age Whoo Hoo nonsense, nothing more than 21st century Magik.  Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

I'm of the belief that there are many things in this world which conventional science cannot explain but that doesn't mean those things are not real and that they don't work.  Hey, science cannot really explain how new life develops - how fertilised ovum divide and divide and how cells then know to differentiate and become bone, skin, organs. But it happens, every single day, that's why the earth is buckling under a population explosion that just cannot be sustained.

I have not yet had the chance to see if plants planted with these beautiful tools are able to resist mollusc predation better than those planted with traditional tools.  What I do know is that they feel sublime in the hand, glide through the soil with an unbelievable ease and are such a joy to use that they're worth it even if the slugs are not deterred.  Toddle over to the Implementations website and have a read about the theories of  Viktor Schauberger.   Many years ago I took the plunge and bought Felco secateurs.  They were eye-wateringly expensive compared to the £5.99 rubbish I bought each year from B&Q.  They were also the last pair of secateurs I will ever need to buy and worth every penny.  I think these beautiful copper tools are in the same mould (they're guaranteed for life).

OK, unexpected rant over, back to the garden.  Everyone who has visited recently seems very impressed with the Willow Fedge, and at seven metres long it is not something you can miss.  The exciting thing now is the new buds appearing on many of the rods.

We continue to be blessed with a wonderful variety of visitors.  Long Tailed Tits are always a welcome sight but damn difficult to photograph because they just won't stay still for very long.

Two different reds (this one and a blonde-tail) come every day to raid the hazelnut feeders.

The Common-Spotted Orchids have returned again in the Cottage Garden, Side Garden and behind the house.  When time allows I want to dig them all up and plant them together in front of the Willow Fedge where they can grow without the need for identifying 'spikes' in the ground or risk of feet/mowers.

That will do, the washing machine is ready to be emptied again ☺

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


I knew this week was going to be hard and tiring when, on Sunday, LP suggested he work nearly every day seeing as we missed last week and he's on holiday at the beginning of June.  Trouble is, I hit the wall about 8.00 this morning and never managed to get over it.  Crummy photos today because I took them all too late when the light was flat and horrid.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, firstly, Monday. We were in timber mode - extra fence posts near the hornbeam hedge to support windbreak netting, extra willow so the screening now goes all the way to the house, and a monster larch slab construction next to the top pond. 

I had the place to myself on Tuesday.  Much playing with a section of pond edge to create a pebble beach butting up to the edge of the new frame.  Then lots of black membrane and numerous trips with Miss Daisy moving shredded bark into the new frame.   Transformation #1.  With the bench in place it's a fabulous place to sit and watch the water.

I'm sure I did loads of other things too because when I came in at 8.00pm (ooops - lost track of time, no wonder I was hungry!) I'd been busy all day ☺

When I woke up this morning I was still asleep.  You know the days when your brain has moved to a parallel universe and any energy or impetus has evaporated into the ether?  As I had a 9.00am appointment in town, LP arrived at 8.00 so I could tell him what to do before I left.  It's codswallop, he knows as well as me what needs doing, he just likes starting early.  By the time I got home the remainder of the boggy bed behind the top pond was nearly dug over and by lunchtime it was finished.  Transformation #2.  All of a sudden this looks like it might one day be a proper part of the garden with stuff growing in it!  Bear in mind these pictures are all "work in progress". 

My contribution to the progress (apart from sneakily moving the logs when LP had gone home) was endless mugs of tea and sitting chatting.  Management thinks he just likes the company and someone to talk to a lot of the time;  Management is usually right about those sort of things.

I remember what else I did yesterday - I fixed up the windbreak netting to protect the new hornbeam hedge and that meant the felled silver birch logs which were defining the edge of the bed could move.

I put a couple of them in the Coppice to start to experiment with where a narrow path to the step-cum-seat could go.  When LP saw I'd created another little 'wedge' of ground that seemed ready for cultivation he suggested digging that next. No argument from me, especially as it led to the planting of our sweet cherry tree, Prunus avium 'Sunburst'.  Time will tell whether we ever get any of the ripe fruit but it has been planted with an eye to the possibility of netting the tree to keep the birds off.

Transformation #3.  More of the Coppice ready for planting.  The very straight edge will not stay but we needed a line to work to.  I want the eventual path to be quite narrow and have a little kink in it.  Management might say "why can't I just walk in a straight line" but I'm going to be Garden Designer on this one. 

LP went home, I trampled all over the newly dug boggy bed in the interests of starting to create a big log pile and then remembered the physio instruction this morning not to lift anything heavy for a few days to give a rather sore triceps a chance to recover ...  better put the tools away and go in then!  Experience tells that the (unfinished) log pile is going to get re-arranged a considerable number of times before I'm happy with it.