Monday, 30 July 2012


After all the hard work of the last couple of years it would be silly to let it go feral again.  This, however, is exactly what the weeds would like to do and if I turn my back on the soil at present the uninvited plants are trying to take over.

After I got back from Hallsenna on Sunday afternoon I managed a couple of hours on the bog bed which produced four buckets of weeds.  One day (in my gardening dreams) the planting will be dense enough that there's no spare soil available for weeds to re-grow, unfortunately that happy state of affairs is some way off.  I don't want to have to keep finding chunks of time to clear the ground again so after deliberation with Management we agreed on bark chip as an answer. 

As I get other cultivated areas weeded I will put bark mulch on them too.  Believe it or not, I'd actually like to reduce the amount of time I spend in the garden at present and cutting down on weeding will go a long way towards that.  I don't want to stop working at Bag End but realistically, creating the rest of the garden whilst maintaining the parts we've already built is just a bit too much ☺

Fortunately we've still got loads of bark chip sitting on the drive.  Recently Mike Graham was working nearby and needed somewhere to unload his truck!  I was happy to be the recipient of his "rubbish".

I ended up taking much of this log pile to pieces in order to excavate the 'right' lumps of wood to build up my little pond-side log terrace - without this retaining wall the aforementioned blackies will manage to chuck bark into the pond on a daily basis.  As it rained on and off most of Monday it took nearly all day to complete what should have been a small task.  Whilst sheltering from frequent showers I did manage to fill seven buckets with logs which is no bad thing :}

Sunday, 29 July 2012

NGS Garden Visit: Hallsenna

Once upon a time Hallsenna was a typical Cumbrian farmhouse in a tiny hamlet.  Now it is a beautifully restored house with a one acre garden. Chris runs a landscape company, Perfectly Planted, and it is obvious that he and Helen spend hours here.

My first view of the garden didn't fill me with joy, I saw every bed neatly covered with bark chips and thought "Parks Department" (which wasn't a compliment) but as I wandered around and spent time getting a feel for the place I realised it was nothing to do with Parks Department and everything to do with growing strong, healthy and weed-free plants to a standard that I can only envy and aspire to.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and since visiting Hallesenna, many beds at Bag End have found themselves covered with bark chip and more will follow.  Keeps the weeds down, stops the endless rain compacting the soil, provides endless amusement for the blackbirds and doesn't look bad either. 

The vegetable patch is surrounded by a hedge of Eleagnus.  Only 5 or 6 years old it provides essential windbreak - this garden is only a couple of fields away from the coast.

Once upon a time the site was a field and everything in it has been created by Chris and Helen, even the "old" walls.

Despite the gorgeous plants and endless attention to detail, sadly this isn't a garden I would want to live with. I covet all the old stone and outbuildings, but the photo below shows the back of the house and on the left, how much of the garden they can see from indoors, which isn't much.  I need a garden to connect with the house, be accessible, to be able to see it from indoors.  Thanks to our varied weather we spend a lot of time inside looking out and I want to be able to see the plants and wildlife, not just the big bank and a hedge.  Even so, definitely worth a visit, and I'll be back next year if they open again.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Weekend working

The word transformation has been used many times in the past and there is a danger of its over-use, however, Saturday was one of those landmark days when Bag End changes.  All the preparation and planning suddenly comes together and it becomes possible to see the end of a project (even if that end might still be some way off!)

At breakfast time the Big Pond looked like this; large steel frame laying upside down on the grass, a huge collection of empty builders' bags in the middle of the pond, many bags of soil heaped on the edge of a large rubbish-filled hole and no discernible order to any of it.  To be truthful, it all looked pretty messy . .

We drafted in some extra help and moving the frame proved much simpler than I expected.  Luckily, all the pre-dug holes were in the right places :}

If ever we get something resembling hot weather it will be fun to sit on the deck with toes in the water. I made Management test out the seating position, he wasn't terribly impressed!

Things looked a bit better by mid afternoon.  They would have looked better still if we hadn't lost the middle of the day to more rain but we took shelter under the covered area and cut more timber.  There is something lovely about the look of a nearly full log store.

(I may already have said this, but I'm too tired to check so I'll say it again.) When Geoff excavated the pond last autumn I asked for a bowl shape.  I've since decided that was wrong and have been busy putting turf, large stones and other assorted rubbish into the hole to build up deep shelves around the edge.  The plastic bags in the first photo are filled with soil (excavated from the holes dug for the steel frame legs), they're now neatly acting as a buttress for part of a shelf and we're starting to put various bits and pieces in the bottom to protect the liner from stones.  The huge pile of old builders' bags are going to get cut open and the black stuff is the old roof felt from the log store.

Even though the sun came out at one point it was remarkably chilly for the end of July and by supper time it was pouring - again.  This photo isn't out of focus, it's a wall of water lashing onto my study window    The top pond doesn't look much better either.

Friday, 27 July 2012


It's rained nearly every day, the ground has been too wet to work and I've been too tired to care.

Had a lovely trip to the other side of the county and met Country Bumpkin's new puppy, Breeze, and brought home more of the super blue geranium which she has given me before.

Breeze is an absolute darling; her current future career choice seems to be Under Gardener if the chaos she is causing in the flower beds is anything to go by!

Keith made more progress welding the frame for our pond decking and on Friday managed to get all the holes dug for the legs.

The warm, wet weather is perfect for weeds and the bog bed behind the Top Pond is in danger of going feral.  I managed to get a small part of it completely weeded but endless interruptions means I haven't got very far.

Muck, muck, glorious muck!

Having a muck heap right next to the access ramp is proving to be a great success, I wish we had done it sooner. Unloading the quad trailer is really easy and my shoulder is much happier at no longer having to lift big tubs of pony poo into the timber compost bins.

Despite sunshine today, the weather continues to be unhelpful.  The ground is far too wet for LP to continue digging the area behind the Big Pond and it looked as if we would have another week without him working here.  Until I had a brainwave - our friends are in the process of the annual clear-out of their covered field shelter.  The muck which is coming out of it is already half-rotted being a mix of pony poo, straw and lots of wee :}   My brainwave was for LP to take his trailer down the road to their field, fill it up and unload it into our new area.

Access into the field is very difficult, the track is steep, narrow and bends half way down.  Normally we leave the trailer just off the road and use the quad bike to move the muck.  Fortunately, today Jackie's son-in-law had turned up with a big 4x4 and was happy to help.  

Everyone mucked in (groan) to load it up, and then unloaded it back at Bag End. Three times!  We reckon in 2½ hours we moved over three tons. Everyone happy:  LP got half a day's work, Jackie and Bert got rid of a load of muck, Hobbit received a load of muck.  If only everything in life could be so simple ☺