Friday, 30 November 2012

End of Month Review - November 2012

Ok this is getting beyond a joke now - what happened to November?  It started then it finished, what happened in between?  (I think mainly rain, frost, cold and a bit of sun and more and more rain).

Its been a fairly standard November really, a month I feel that should be more cherished.  It is just before the festive madness truly kicks in.  The nights are getting longer but still have a distance to go before the shortest day.  The month starts with leaves still on some trees but ends generally with few left hanging.  I took the photos for today last weekend as I rarely see the garden in daylight during the week.  It was a misty frosty morning, leading to a rainy, blowy afternoon, what I like to call 'autumn'.
It is a time of year when I look for signs of hope.  The magnolia by the front gate is covered in flower buds for next year.
I am still happy with the knot garden and I have discovered an added benefit; the lightness of the gravel has added more light to the front of the house in the dark evenings.  It is not quite so pitch black out there at night now, this is a definite bonus.
The Rosa Gertrude Jekyll by the front door is still trying to flower. 
The gravel garden still looks green.  The mexican daisies have had a good year.

The back garden is largely shades of green and brown.  The annuals have now been cleared allowing more light into the bare bones of the borders.
The borders are a mix of dead looking stuff, t brown lumps and some new growth starting to show.
The nigella seedlings are on the way up, as are some verbascums and lychnis.
These rudbeckia give some welcome colour.
The prairie borders are holding up well.  These rudbeckia are still going, the echinops are largely blackened shapes and yet still beautiful so they will not get cut down yet.
The woodland border is a bit scrappy, but lots of new growth is showing and I think next year it will do quite well.  There are lots of forget me nots coming up, I edit them in this border but I do let quite a lot grow as it makes a lovely pool of blue.
On the edge of the woodland border is this clump of teasels.  As I walked away I saw several goldfinches land on them and start to feed, as I walked back camera in hand to take the photograph of the decade they flew away.  Such is life.
The ivy in the hedge is covered in berries and in slightly warmer days is usually buzzing with life.
I think the persicaria orientalis is now finished.  I have collected some seed in the hope that it is viable.  This is the second year I have grown these wonderful annuals and I think they are amazing.
The veg beds are cold.
There are still rose hips in the hedge, I am pleased to see such a good show of them, I love the colour.
I finish on the pond, which has a light cover of ice today.  It is overflowing it has rained so much lately.  I need to clear out the leaf fall and debris from the water but it has been a good year for the pond as it has rarely suffered a large drop in water.  This does mean it has been a wet year.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Train Journey

So it was one of those days when I had to go by train, Manchester was the destination.  I had to be there fairly early and driving felt like too much petrol and too much hard work.
I took my essentials train supplies with me.  Gardens Illustrated obligingly arrived the day before and the book, Miss Garnet's Angel, was recommended to me and also arrived the day before, the fates dictated what my reading would be.  One of the things I enjoy most about a train journey is the chance to read magazines properly and not to skim.  This might sound odd as I read a lot, but often when reading magazines I am also watching TV or picking it up and putting it down, I rarely just stop, trains make me stop.  (I don't have the same issue with books, I read those in peace).  It also helps that I have recently cleared my backlog of garden magazine reading so I don't feel the pressure of all those magazines whispering 'pick me pick me'.  Reading on the train gives me the chance to be in my own bubble, my own world and I sat back and absorbed (and made note of the camellia on p 39 that I now want to buy).
Train journeys are also a chance to look out of the window and watch the scenery go by.  This time of year there are the autumn colours highlighted by the silver birch bark that picks its away along the tracks.  I also enjoy looking at the back gardens that occasionally line the rails.  Some are more affluent than others, some look like they are designed for train-viewing whilst others look less maintained.  It struck me that it was not affluence that really defines these gardens, what sets out the gardened from the less gardened is the effort and love that has gone into them.  I love this anonymous viewing of anonymous gardens.  I do not do this viewing whilst driving, it would lead to too many accidents.
I had to change at Chesterfield, what a lovely Victorian looking station.  Thankfully a short wait as it was cold.

Back on the train again and I am looking again at the world flying past.  There is a lot of standing water in the fields and as I travelled I knew more rain and gales were due.  The ground is already totally soaked so it was not a happy thought.  

The landscape has changed from a midlands to a northern landscape, yet still the underlying theme of the ubiquitous rolls of hay wrapped in black plastic dot the land.

There are mole hills dotted across the fields, I can't decide if they are recreating star constellations (moles are keen observers of the stars that's why they look like they are squinting.), or maybe they are spelling out messages in morse code to passing flying saucers?  I sometimes think I ought to learn more about moles and their ancient ways.
Then the landscape changes to more urban.  I start thinking about getting off the train and doing that rummaging around checking I have everything (seated) dance, it involves bag shaking and pocket patting and there where have I put my scarf twisting.  

The journey home is unremarkable, it is dark, there is no world outside just the occasional sprinkling of lights showing that life is continuing.  I start reading my book on the way home so I can block out the darkness.

Whenever I go on a train journey I usually enjoy it (if I get a seat) and think to myself that I should do it more often.  Then I get in my car and forget again, one day......

Thursday, 22 November 2012

An Autumn Reveal

This willow, which I think is Salix 'Scarcuzam' but I am happy to be corrected, was bought from Painswick Rococco Gardens a couple of years ago.  It is planted by the pond and whilst it is always pretty, for some reason it is easy to over look for most of the year.  It grows there patiently enough, wafting in the breeze, yet I do not spend time admiring it.
and then Autumn comes and this small tree starts to shine
The red of the stems seems to gain in colour as the leaves turn a mustard yellow before they fall.
The leaves are as curly and wiggley as the branches, it is a static display of constant movement (until the wind blows, then it is a moving display....)
I think part of its appeal this time of year is that the Autumn sun really suits it, the gold of the pale sun brings out the colours in the stems and leaves to perfection.  So to make up for my ignoring of this fine tree for most of the year I have taken a moment to recognise and salute it in the glory of its Autumn reveal.  Well done tree.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A day of weeding

Today has been a glorious sunny autumnal day.  It started with frost but that soon thawed away leaving a bit of soggy but sunny lovely day.  It took me a while to get outside this morning, I had a carpet to finish cleaning which turned into quite a long session of carpet cleaning as I got a bit carpet-cleaner-happy.  Anyway, when I reached the point that there was no dry carpet on stand on I decided I really should stop and go outside.

I needed to get outside.  I did not get to see much of my garden last weekend and as I only see it at weekends this time of year (dark when I leave the house, dark when I return) I was feeling in real need of some good garden time.  Yesterday I planted out the wallflowers that needed transplanting to their final home but I mainly just faffed around in a faffy sort of way.  Today I decided I needed to focus and get down to some serious weeding.

I like weeding as it serves several purposes.  Obviously it removes weeds, I hesitate a little before using the word weed as the old cliche 'a weed is just a plant in the wrong place' is indeed true.  So many of the weeds that I remove on a routine basis are Stipa Tenuissima seedlings, purple orache, teasels and ox-eye daisies.  These are all plants I am fond of but they need keeping in their place, of course their view of where their place is differs considerably to mine!

I also suffer from the belief that every weed removed today saves me 100 weeds in the Spring, I have no idea if this is true, but it is a belief that sustains me as I weed on a cold damp day.

I also find that weeding is about observing and checking.  I can see what is coming up, what is happening where.  So after today I know that my iris are on the way up already, I also know that there are a myriad of nigella seedlings already rampaging around.  Both of these things make me happy.

Weeding serves another crucial purpose.  It gives me time to clear my mind and just think about the weeding, I can focus on what I am doing and just concentrate on the garden and what it is doing.  It makes me reconnect with the garden in a very real way and that is what I needed this weekend, I needed to feel that I know what is happening in the garden and that all is well. 

So the garden has fewer weeds in it now (it can never be weed-free, anyway, I still have the prairie borders and the veg beds to tackle) and I feel back in touch with the garden.

All is well.
postscript:  if you ever decide to find out about the Patron Saint of Weeding: a word to the wise, internet searches appear to mainly give results for the Patron Saint of Weed, which is not the same thing at all.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

After the rain

Sometimes I like to just stand in the garden and listen.  At this time of year there is that moment when the sky is just starting to dip into pink before it goes grey, its around 4ish at the moment.  Better still is this moment after a full day of rain, that perfect moment when the rain has just stopped and you finally can get outside into the cold, damp air.  Often the garden gets that rotting leaf/sluggy kind of smell this time of year, its sort of pleasant in an unpleasant sort of way.

I stand and listen, I can hear the ring road & motorway loudly.  Most of the time the sound does not encroach into my consciousness, but today it there through the post-rain stillness of the garden, loud and proud.  The stillness also makes me think I can smell the cars, the petrol and fumes, not a clean smell but the smell of fumes, the air is very still and nothing is blowing away

Through all this now I can hear the birds high pitched calling and calling to each other.  They seem very loud too.

There is the dripping from the trees, the rain that is still falling to the earth.

Then I hear the jingling from the bell on the cats collar, he is wandering up the garden to see what I am up to, why am I standing there just listening (when he thinks I should be feeding him no doubt).

I stand, I listen, I get a bit cold actually too.  It is a moment that is good.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


"There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path" (The Matrix 1999)

I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about paths.  Should they be hard or soft, should they be straight and narrow, wide and curvy, uphill or downhill.  Paths take a lot of thought.

I have only ever created one definite garden path which was in a previous house where I dug up the strange slate-disc path that was a death-trap when it rained.  Never have I slipped so much or so often when using a path!  It became a rather fine (if I say so myself) york stone path.  It was 55 foot long (I measured it) and led to a row with the refuse collectors who refused to take away the refuse it created as they said they could not pick it up, so I picked up the bags and carried them to the lorry myself to show that they were not that heavy (believe me I am not a weightlifter, they were not that heavy).

Now in my garden and in particular the back garden I often stand and stare and think about paths.  Should the lawn just really be a series of grass paths?  Are the paths I cut through the wild garden in the right place?  Is there a natural movement around the garden that is facilitated or inhibited by the paths (or lack thereof)?  Is the crazy paving that makes up the path to the front door really at the fore-front of retro design and in fact totally cool?

I am very aware that I tend to walk around the garden to a certain route.  I have to make myself vary it at times as otherwise I only ever see things from the same view.  Approaching from a different direction and angle can reveal all sorts of interesting things.

This all matters for the garden is more than the plants and the composition, there is also what makes the garden whole.  The paths around the garden are there to guide and shape how you view the garden but most important of all are the times when you go rogue and just wander around irrespectiveThe paths matter and wandering from the paths matters too.

So there might not be a spoon, but there is always the garden and for me it contains the soul, the essence and the essential.   

Crikey – think I shall watch the Wizard of Oz next, as I definitely not in Kansas anymore......

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Blackberry Tales 4 - the bowl

I have owned this bowl for many years, long before I moved to this house. It originally belonged to one of my great aunts who lived to be a great age dying not long before her 100th birthday. As a child she was the oldest person I knew and I found her and her house fascinating. When she had to leave her house this bowl became mine and I cherished it. I loved the green and the trellis work both inside and outside the rim. It is not made by anyone special, it has only sentimental value, but that value is incalculable to me.

So imagine my horror to come home one day last year to find that the kitten Chesney had done this:
I was mortified, I collected up the pieces and put them to one side so I could try and repair it.

I bought special glue, I kept looking at the pieces and thinking that I must tackle this task.

A year passed.

Then the other, rainy, day I realised it was time. So I began to fit the jigsaw together.

Ta Da!
However, if you turn it around you can see that I have not got all the bits and my talents do not lie in ceramic restoration.
So I have two choices, it is currently sitting on top of a bookshelf with the bad side turned to the wall, it looks ok from a distance so it could just remain as it is,


It could go into the 'one day I'm going to be a mosaic' box. One day I shall make a mosaic for the garden but I have to break a few more plates and mugs first.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Tombs and plant stands

I recently had a rare trip up to London for recreational purposes that did not involve the Chelsea Flower Show.  As I was sitting on the train I realised that in a usual year I go there for work and for Chelsea, rarely anything else.  Anyway, the day started off at Tate Britain where we had gone to see the Pre-Raphealite exhibition which was pretty much as I expected, a crowded but pleasant experience.  There was then some general wandering around the galleries, a very minor bit of gift shop purchasing (cool calendar, see below) and then we wandered outside to see what else we could do with the day.
After a bit of touristy sitting on a bench, looking at a map and studying the phone app, I realised we were a short walk from the Garden Museum
I had first heard of the Garden Museum several years ago, when it was then the Museum of Garden History.  I remember driving past it on a bus after visiting a community garden somewhere in Lambeth (a great community garden, sadly I have no idea what it was called as it was part of a garden tour and we sort of whizzed in and out). Anyway, we drove past the museum and I thought it looked interesting and that one day I would visit.  That was probably about eight or nine years ago.  So we wandered over the bridge and into the museum.  I have to say, from the outside it looked shut.  It was a cold and a bit rainy day so most things seem to get that 'out of season, we're shut' sort of look.  It wasn't shut, we went in in the hope of some lunch.  We failed, lunch had been and gone so I had a slab of rather nice chocolate brownie for lunch.
Following the cakey lunch, we went outside.  The knot garden is of course far superior to my meagre effort in my front garden.  It was nice to see how it could look with some proper care and attention, but I got distracted.
In the garden there are a variety of tombs, there is of course the Tradescant Tomb around which the museum is based.  It is a very fine tomb, if I wanted a tomb (and I don't), then one like this would probably be my choice.
I really like the hydra and skull effect, very apt for a visit just before Hallow e'en.  I also liked the idea that if you dance around the tomb twelve times Big Ben strikes midnight that a ghost appears.  I imagine that consuming alcohol might help in this endeavour too and I have no intention of trying it.  I am one of those people who get worried about walking around thing 'widdershins' just in case someone grabs you by the shadow.  I have digressed.....
Then I got distracted by this tomb, the family tomb of Admiral Bligh of the 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame.  I found this rather impressive as I had not expected to find this there (not that I was looking for it). 
But most of all I liked this:
There were other tombs in the garden, where I could not find names,  but were also serving as plant stands.  Now as previously said I have no wish for a tomb at all, but to be plant stand seems to  me to be a noble calling and one that I could subscribe to.  To be useful and decorative, what more could one ask?

and I have found that thinking about this has made me sing this a lot - so I decided to share:

Thursday, 1 November 2012

End of Month Review - October 2012

As much as September was short, October has felt long.  It has been foggy and frosty and damp and dank and also a bit sunny at times; it has felt like the weather's practice month.  So a pretty usual October actually, the month that Autumn really kicks in.  October starts with Goose Fair weather and ends with Hallowe'en, the nights draw in dramatically meaning that the fire is lit and life snuggles down to prepare for Winter.

It is also a good time for garden projects, its not too hot to do stuff, its not too dry to plant things out and the soil has not quite got too cold yet.  I like Autumn in the garden.
This month's significant development is the renovation of the front garden.  I took this photo from a bedroom window as I once read somewhere that knot gardens are designed to be looked at from above and it has always been the way I have checked what it looks like.  I remain happy with how it now looks, the gravel has cleaned up and simplified the design and it is now far more satisfactory.
As you walk through the front gate the knot garden is to you right and to the left is this shady lawn.  I have had plans at one point to remove this as well, but I have never decided what I would replace it with.  As time has gone on I have realised that I like the peaceful green of it as a foil to the knot garden.  It might one day disappear, but only if I can think of something better to put in its place, so for now it is safe.
The borders in front of the house are also looking quite nice at the moment (damned by faint praise), the anemones and the purple salvias are particularly making me happy.  The purple salvias are from the Thompson and Morgan trial and have been excellent.
In between the shady side front lawn and the gravel garden on the other side of it is an arch thing, that does not really serve a purpose as to my knowledge I have never walked under the arch, however it is home to various clematis which are currently flowering well.
There are three or four different types and this winter clematis seems a little early, but it is welcome.
The gravel garden has had its gravel refreshed too (anyone would think I had had a large delivery and had some spare).  It looks better and is now more crunchy than before. 
This self-seeded verbascum got a bit battered during the re-gravelling, but it will recover.
The garden has that Autumn colour about it, sort of golden and brown mellowness.
The shady courtyard (ha! courtyard, really?  that bit of concrete between the conservatory and the utility room that I have no idea what to do with) it home to some pots, some gnomes and a green hose pipe.  Believe me, that is an improvement.
Within the die back in the borders there is still colour.  These chrysanthemums have been wonderful.  They have flowered late and given some welcome colour.  I love these burnt orange ones.  Next year I will grow more.
The leaves are now falling with momentum.  Last week there was one or two, now they form a carpet.
The pall of death hangs over the borders, the tithonia are on their last legs.  After weeks of amazing flowers they will be pulled up soon.  Some have already gone as they have been blown over.  I will definitely grow these again, they have been such performers this year.
Once things have died back a bit more the pleaching will need some attention.
The borders are getting that patchy look now.  There are some nigella seedlings appearing and also there is the space for the wallflowers to be put out.  Once I have cleared away more of the annuals, the cosmos, tithonia and nasturtiums, then the wallflowers will move to their final places.
The prairie borders are still looking good.
The Autumn colour is good, this acer is fairly ordinary most of the year, but now it is ablaze.
The catalpa and the euonymus in the background are doing well.  The catalpa was one of the first trees I plants in this garden and it feels like it is really starting to grow now.
The amalanchier is looking wonderful too, it is still very young but has settled in well.
The view back across the woodland border shows leaves and leaves and leaves.  I am sure there are more fallen leaves this year than other years.
The dahlia border is clinging on to the last few days of colour.  Soon the frosts will do its work and end the flowers.
The persicaria orientalis make me happy, they are wonderful.  I am still hoping I can collect some viable seed from them.
The veg beds look Autumnal.  There is green manure, looking a bit patchy, the onions and garlic are also now planted.
The cauliflowers are definitely cabbages, I will start eating them soon, if I wait too long they will go too far and I am really looking forward to eating my first ever home-grown cabbage (even if I did think I had sown cauli seeds).
and the pond is full, full of water and full of fallen leaves, I will have to do some cleaning of it.  I will remove more of the parrot weed too, if I could remove it all I would be very happy.

Thanks as ever to Helen for hosting this meme.