Sunday, 31 March 2013

The miracle continues

Daisy has such a hard life - she either goes for walks in the greatest National Park in England or has to endure days outside in the garden with me, her time divided between sitting watching the world go by and chasing maniacally after a ball.  Today we were due a fellwalk but the morning was spent in the garden.  Another miracle as I actually managed to do all of what I set out to accomplish.  Cleared all the semi-rotted bark chip from the other half of the nursery area, tidied up the pallet staging and moved everything out of the greenhouse into the nursery.

Although I hate to do it, the greenhouse needed to be emptied so I could burn a sulphur candle.  Horrible, toxic things but the last two years I've had bad infestations of greenhouse whitefly. 

Another small miracle is the view from the vegetable patch.  Until LP cleared this area of shrubs and assorted detritus it was somewhere we couldn't access - finding we had this view across to the fells was a heck of a surprise.

After lunch Daisy and I went over to Sale Fell which, surprisingly, was not busy for a Bank Holiday.  The wind was brisk and bitter but that didn't seem to deter Her Ladyship when we found a large snowdrift against a fell wall.  It's extremely difficult to throw snowballs for an ice-mad dog AND take pictures at the same time.  For a little girl who remains very worried about water she's got no qualms when the stuff is cold and solid.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

A sense of achievement

Much as I love creating our Bag End garden there are many times when it's as frustrating as hell.  I go out to do a job and have to give up half way through - either the weather turns, I don't have the strength to lift/carry/chop whatever needs attention or more usually the task is just too big to be accomplished in one session.

Unusually however, today was not one of those days.   The plan was to rake off the ground next to the greenhouse, lay black membrane and move chippings.  And that's what I did :}  Management was working in the garage and filled most of the tubs for me which saved a lot of shovelling, and using the tractor and trailer meant I could take six huge tubs of material each trip, it was surprising just how fast I got done.

Still time to do a little more so, almost a year after Extreme Pond Planting*, the top pond finally got it's edges finished.  I was going to use the reed screen to cover the liner edges but it's not the easiest stuff to work with.  Bit of lateral thinking and I unearthed a roll of hanging basket liner from the back of the shed.  (Last year I had such Grand Plans for the baskets which hang over the balcony but thanks to the endless rain and non-existent summer they came to nothing, hence handy materials which just happen to be laying around!)  Basket liner over the edge, black membrane up to the logs, and a few more tubs of chippings.  Did the section under the bird feeders as well and when moving the old stuff found dozens of buried hazelnuts.

I'm putting a stone edge to stop the chippings being kicked into the water and we're going to plant ivy and other ground cover directly through the basket liner to fill in the edge - well, that's the plan :}

* which, worryingly, is still sitting in the Draft folder - hey ho, it will see light of day eventually :}

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Day out with Daisy

All the years we came to Cumbria on holiday, visiting Ambleside and Keswick were treats, rare events to be savoured and remembered and I still pinch myself that (with no visitors dawdling along at 20mph) Ambleside is only a 45 minute drive away from home.  Close though it may be, it's too far for us to go, shop, get distracted and take a detour, and still be home within the three to four hour window which is the longest time we're prepared to leave Daisy alone.

Whilst she travels well in the car on 20 minute trips to the fells, this was her first full day out and she was brilliant.  First port of call was a half hour run in Rothay Park.  A long time ago we stayed in a house near Miller Bridge and walked through the park every morning to get fresh bread.  The trees growing through the rock are even larger, it is still a lovely place and always reminds us of the peace and serenity of Japanese gardens.  Daisy voted for the patches of snow and played snowballs with enthusiasm.

After a wander through town and lunch we left her alone in the car for half an hour and she seemed to cope extremely well.

Errands accomplished, we decided not to go straight home and headed for Windermere.  Management remembered a small NT picnic area just off the Bowness road.  Another good run for Daisy, more snow to mess around on, and a quiet stroll along the lakeside before back to the car.

     She was not at all happy walking onto the jetty, this is about as far as she got before turning tail and sprinting for the safety of the shore.

Her Ladyship seemed unphased by another half hour on her own whilst we bimbled around Lakeland.  We then made a typical decision to come home via something of a detour and drove up through Troutbeck over the Kirkstone Pass.  Ploughs had cleared the snow leaving banks at the side which in places were higher than the car.  No photos because I was concentrating on the road which occasionally narrowed to just one lane with no warning.  It was beautiful though, blue sky and the fells looking stunning.  No photos either of our stop at the top of the Pass.  The road down to Ambleside (the aptly named The Struggle) was full of snow and impassable but we walked a short way down it just for fun.  Off the lead Daisy went nuts in the deep snow drifts and I was enjoying playing with her too much to think about taking pictures.

We finished off a lovely day by visiting friends near Greystoke for an excellent cuppa and a chance for Daisy to meet their year old Springer, Breeze.

Home safe, a Grand Day Out.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Flowery stuff

Despite the endless winter and bitter wind there are flowers at Bag End.  The heather bed on the driveway is in full bloom but the bumblebees are not here to take advantage of the early flowers as in previous years.  I saw one bee about a fortnight ago but nothing since.

This time last year the Coppice was virtually unplanted.  At the moment it is one of my favourite places in the garden.  The hellebores have been brilliant and it's exciting to think how they might perform in the future as the plants become more established. A couple have even managed to set seed which is remarkable considering how few insects there are around at present.

Primula vulgaris grown from Sue's seed

Crab Apple - Malus 'Evereste'

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Continued enthusiasm

LP obviously didn't get cold enough when we finished in the dark last night and came back again for more.  This time he started at 4.00 and was having 'one of those days' when he sets to with his spade like a thing possessed.

Barrow after barrow of big heavy wedges of soil, not exactly turves (not enough grass) and not loose either.  By the time it was too dark to do any more he'd completely cleared the section between the greenhouse and log pile ready for me to lay black membrane and bark chips.

Having the sods over more than half of the new front bed also means I can start to spread the old half-rotted bark chip and the new shredded stuff that's already breaking down and building up heat. There's a lot of nearly composted pony poo to be added as well. It's starting to look as if we might need to buy in considerably less top soil for this section than we expected :}

Monday, 25 March 2013


The four week contract which LP took on in February has now run to six and there is no immediate end in sight.  In a way I'm not unhappy at this situation - the weather has been challenging so far this year and it's rather nice to have my weekday schedule mostly at my own control. We are, however, so very, very fortunate that his enthusiasm for seeing Bag End, if not finished (is any garden ever finished?), mostly completed remains undimmed and he's champing at the bit to get back.

His solution to the current scheduling 'conflict' is to do a full day (which begins at 7.30 and ends around 4.00) and then start work in the garden as soon as he can get here.

On Monday he arrived at 4.30 and despite the bitter cold immediately set to moving soil.  Accomplishing more in 40 minutes than I could achieve in a week, he pulled out the largest stones and roughly levelled the soil heap near the Big Pond.  Something of a miracle that it has only been in place for a month - normally things sit around here for much, much longer before they're dealt with!  Weather permitting we will soon be able to finish preparing this soil and turf the whole area.

Attention then turned to the Cottage Garden.  All the rubbish was raked out of what will be our new front bed and set aside for a bonfire.  LP then made a start on digging out the soil in our working area.  The soil gets piled into the bottom of the front bed as we start another 'lasagne bed' build up, and the cleared working area will have black membrane and bark chips to give me a mud-free surface to move around on.

I made LP stop digging at 7.00 and do something else - I have yet to meet the man who is not a pyromaniac deep down inside when given the opportunity to have a garden bonfire.

He left at 7.45 and all the rubbish was gone!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Nursery revamp, part one

Quietly over the past few days, when time and the cold wind have allowed, I've been taking out the old bark chips from the top section of the nursery area.  It's taken ages because this part of the garden has become a horrible dumping ground over the last few months so there are no 'before' photos to provide a permanent record of my slovenliness.

Friday's plant hunting acquisitions were delivered on Sunday morning and are waiting patiently for the weather to improve so I can get them in the ground.

Slightly amused Hobbit to find that I last did this exactly two years ago.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A seaside walk with no snow

Reports of our demise were greatly exaggerated and generally completely misreported by a headline hungry media more intent on sound-bites than facts.  There is no snow in our part of Cumbria.  There was however, a bitingly cold easterly wind which meant that going anywhere near the fells was completely out of the question this weekend.  We wanted a walk and Daisy needed a good run so Management suggested the Mawbray sand dunes.

A lovely, albeit slightly bracing, 3 mile walk which all three of us enjoyed.  We only saw one other person in the distance the whole walk but when back at the car Daisy could not believe the two huge dogs who wanted to play with her.  She may never have met two 2½ year old Irish Wolfhounds before but it didn't take her long to outrun them and assert her position as boss dog!

We set off for home talking about the mutual need for hot food.  Five minutes later we were at the chippy in Allonby where our lunch was cooked to order.

We drove 50 yards to the beach front to sit in a rapidly steaming-up vehicle and devour a delicious treat whilst the strong winds battered the car.  Although not allowed batter or chips, Daisy was happy to help me with a huge portion of fish.  We did wonder if there were any other idiots people eating fish & chips at the seaside anywhere in England at the same time?

The last time I remember having fish & chips was in Maryport about four years ago so I think the arteries will survive.

Friday, 22 March 2013

First HRT of the year

I didn't mean to - honest,  I didn't even set out with the intention of going plant hunting.  Weekly trip to supermarket and other errands went much more speedily than I expected and Management was at home to open doors and generally act as Dog Servant should Daisy want anything :}   It was cold and windy, and sort of trying to snow in a half-hearted way so I figured a ten minute detour to a favourite nursery in nearby Distington wouldn't do any harm.

I only went to look ...

I came home with six lovely pots of Snakes Head Fritillary in the car and 20 laurel allocated for delivery over the weekend.  The laurel makes a start on the large amount of evergreen hedging we want for the side bed and behind the vegetable patch and when the ground has warmed up a little I will put the Fritillary bulbs in the mini-meadow.  They'll look nice near the orchids :}

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cyclamen planted !

Given my atrocious track record for how long plants sometimes sit in pots before making it into the ground, it is something of a miracle that all the cyclamen which Sue & Martyn brought me are planted within a week or arriving at Bag End.

I'd originally thought to put them in the Coppice however the shady side of the willow fedge bed was looking very bare.  It will be good to be able to see the flowers next winter from the kitchen window.

I've also managed, after far too long, to plant all the snowdrops which have been sitting in pots.  They were rescued from Certain Death By Size 12 Boot when our trellis fence was put in and have been waiting quietly ever since. Now safely planted in the Coppice and under one of the laurel hedges I'll cross my fingers that they find themselves happy and ready to reproduce.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wintery Whinlatter

Another Whinlatter bimble.  I set off on one of the forestry roads with no particular destination or intention but the outcome was one of the loveliest walks Daisy and I have had.  We heard nothing, met no-one and in all covered 5 miles which is Madam's longest walk to date.

As we got to the snowline I wondered how Daisy would react knowing her dislike of being cold and wet.  Nothing to worry about - she bounced, cavorted, chased her tail, caught snowballs and generally had a marvellous time.

After 2½ miles I decided to stop, have a banana and a bonio and then start to walk back.  That's the fruit for me and the dog biscuit for the dog in case anyone's wondering :}  Our timing was perfect - as we set off downhill the snow started falling gently.  There was no wind so it wasn't particularly cold.

Whilst the snow might have been clean, that was not the case closer to the car.

Daisy continues to be scared of water and I still wouldn't try to put her in a bath.  She had our own version of a bed-bath when we got home which results in a lot of wet towels but a much cleaner little girl. There were serious ZZZZ's in front of the woodburner for the remainder of the day.