June view 2009

June view 2009
View of rose and herb garden, June 2009

Small Garden Story

Over some 15 + years, I have been photographing the evolution of my small (85 x 15 foot) garden and it seems a waste not to put these records into some sort of context. Beginning here in April 2010 this Blog is intended to both act as a diary and to share past and present successes (and some failures), pleasures and disappointments with fellow garden-lovers. In due course, I intend to fill in some of the background and early days but that will have to wait until the winter months!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

My own bit of frozen planet

Winter finally hit the south east this week with some serious frosts.   This morning's beautiful clear blue sky accompanied some of the lowest temperatures we've had since the spring, barely breaking 5 degrees on my outside thermometer.   Time to break the ice and take the tops of my ceramic bird baths in for shelter, but not before enjoying the beautiful ice shapes, patterns and reflections which formed in them.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Frosts at last - and a black cap

Last week we finally had a decent frost which set the last of the leaves falling and made things seem right again for the time of year.   At last everything is going into its winter retreat.

I was delighted to draw the curtains to see a black cap sitting next to a black bird on Saturday morning, then a chaffinch, a blue tit, sparrow, rook and red kite all in close succession.   But the black caps are my real favourites, the male with his smart black hat, the female with her pink blush cap.   I haven't seen them for the best part of a year.

Planted up the last tulips bulbs and enjoyed some rocket and land cress from the greenhouse.   Then put my feet up.   Seems like tie to hibernate now!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Ladybird interest

Not much happening in the garden this past week.   Things are very gradually shutting down in readiness for the inevitable cold - although a small number of French beans are still growing in the green house and my first ever pak choi are coming on nicely.  

But I did find a 10 spot lady bird and it reminded me of a fascinating programme about them I heard on BBC Radio 4 - The Living World, November 20th.   It explained why we so often find them apparently hibernating in upstairs rooms!   I am a great fan of The Living World even though I often manage to go back to sleep trying to listen to the Sunday morning edition.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bulb planting and treasure hunting

Fucshia Dollar Princess (?) through the kitchen window
As if Dan's "hour of power" at Oakley Court first thing on a Saturday morning wasn't energetic enough yesterday I decided that a serious day's gardening was due and set out on a clearing and bulb-planting exercise until it got too dark.

I always enjoy sweeping up leaves and cutting back perennials (although I am leaving most of the latter for a while as a lot of things are still growing) and there are real treasures to be found amongst the dried leaves and seed heads.   Yesterday I found a tiny poppy seed-head skeleton and a beautiful perennial sweet pea which had also rotten back to its delicate framework.   Holly skeletons are also prized finds and they all have great photographic potential even thought they do rather clutter up the kitchen.

I planted the tulips really densely this year and tried to remember to put the shorter, earlier-flowering ones to the front.   I still finished up with a bag of 25 Princess Irene which I will have to plant in pots and didn't quite get round to finishing my planting at the front.   The soil was moist but not too heavy and easily mixed with a good few handfuls of bonemeal.

Mum told me that squirrels have been digging up the bulbs she has planted which set me thinking, so I firmed down the soil well and strewed holly and a thick layer of fallen leaves over the areas I planted.   I'm sure it won't make any difference to squirrels but it may deter cats!

I have decided to leave the dahlias in non-tulip areas in the ground to over-winter as an experiment.   I am still drying and cleaning the ones I lifted which should be ready to put into store next week.   Some of the tubers are huge so I really hope I am successful this year.   Maybe I could divide some of them to give away or do some swapping...?

There is little left in flower now; evergreen honeysuckle, the odd rose and a few early flowers of winter jasmine but the hardy fucshia opposite my kitchen window (Dollar Princess - I think...) is still giving me a great show.   They go in and out of fashion but I still really like them in moderation.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mean, thrifty or green?

Golden wisteria and a carpet of hazel leaves but the dahlias are still green and budding...
Every so often I become aware of having inherited a little of my Yorkshire Dad's "waste not want not" philosophy.  I don't think it's meanness, I just hate waste and equally hate being exploited.   This tends to come to the fore in gardening activities, plant labelling being a prime example and as at the weekend I finally decided I would have to start lifting the dahlias - green and thriving as they were - to make space for tulips I realised that one of the things that was making me procrastinate was the labelling issue.   Last year I spent ages making labels for my dahlias from old wooden lolly sticks.   What a waste of time - they all faded!   But this year I was really chuffed to find that the labels I had made with indelible marker pen written on to strips of cut up plastic milk bottles were mostly still legible next to the plants when I dug them up.   So I have wrapped each tightly around the remaining stub of stem with a bit of garden wire or string re-cycled from the plant supports.   Great if they don't fade over winter; will have to remember to check them.
Digging up the tubers was satisfying work - enjoyed equally by a hungry robin!   It also threw up another dilemma - what to do with them over winter.  The last 2 years have been fairly disastrous as I failed to protect the tubers from 1. extreme cold and 2. mildew.   So I began lifting them and putting them to dry on a rack in the greenhouse still pondering the best method.   Happily, a lovely guy I was shooting with on Sunday, who runs his own landscape gardening business near Portsmouth, had a bright suggestion - a garage - the ideal compromise.

Next weekend I will have to finish the job and get down to some serious decision-making with my tulip combinations.   It can't possibly be as warm and sunny....

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Tulip planting time

I read in The Garden that November is the right time to plant tulip bulbs.   Having just taken delivery of a batch of over 200 from Parkers (www.jparkers.co.uk) I think it's time someone told the weather to give us a good hard frost so I can lift my dahlias - which are still growing in the space I need for my tulips!   I suppose I could cut them down and plant very carefully around them but somehow I don't feel confident about leaving the dahlia tubers in the ground as I suspect we may be in for another hard winter....   There probably wouldn't be room anyway!

I've gone for powerful contrasting colours again.   Oranges are Ballerina, Jimmy, Apricot Beauty and the gorgeous, smaller-growing Princess Irene which is flame orange with purple hints.   Purples are Ronaldo, Burgundy, Purple Dream, and Purple Prince.   As I couldn't resist them I also ordered some Marilyn - white with deep pink stripes which were such characters last year and seemed to last for weeks and weeks.   Lulu has also given me some Dolls Minuet - deep pink with a fine green stripe - which, unusually, have a fine scent so I shall plant them in a pot near the house with the correct mix of John Innes No.2 and grit - and see how that works out.

Am being seduced by the prospect of winter-flowering clematis (another article in this month's The Garden) and thinking about getting a Cl. napaulensis which is such a winter treat that its. leaves die back in the summer.  Sounds like I might be able to fit that in!

Sarah Raven is offering some luscious dahlia collections (at a price!) in my favourite colours - the pinks purples and reds with some good oranges thrown in for contrast.   I love her sense of colour.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Another star plant - Coronilla valentina citrina

I popped in to my Mum's at the weekend and saw a coronilla valentina citrina I had brought back for her from a photography shoot - for a "green" car braking system !! - had burst into flower.   I am generally very unenthusiastic about yellow flowers but this is such a delicate pale lemon yellow and such a remarkably fragile-looking plant to flower at this time of year - and most of the winter if it behaves like last year - that if I had the space I would get one myself!   It even smells divine.

Oh for some more space....

Wootten's have these on special offer at the mo. along with some gorgeous irises I also don't have space for.   Boo hoo!!  

See  www.woottensplants.co.uk

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Monday, 24 October 2011

Autumn's pink fireworks

If I were to write a shortlist of garden "must-have's" it would certainly include Nerine bowdenii.   Just as almost everything else is fading these shocking pink flowers burst into brilliant life like fireworks brightening up a dark sky.   Given to me by my next door neighbour I tend to forget about the corms amid the dense chaos of my flower-planting and certainly don't give them any special attention but they are remarkably good-humoured about it.

Nerine's grow best planted shallowly in a sunny spot where they can get nice and hot during the summer. I must remember to transplant some to where I can see them from the house next year.

Another "must-have" is evergreen honeysuckle Lonicera Japonica Halliana which seems to me to have flowered at virtually every time of year but is currently flourishing and wafting its gorgeous scent around the garden.   Smelling it always makes me feel happy and it's a great addition to any little bunch of odds and ends I can find for the house.

 In the greenhouse the beans, rocket and land cress are doing very well.

We had a first light frost this week but it didn't touch the dahlias - even though I had rushed out with a torch to pick the best of the last blooms!   It has been incredibly dry with hardly any rain for weeks but the leaves are still hanging on most of the trees incredibly well, the colours barely beginning to turn.   Only my little amelanchier has shed its leaves so far.

More remarkably, I am still picking a few raspberries and strawberries!

Monday, 17 October 2011

October mist and worthwhile days out

Sculpture at Waddesdon Manor
On Saturday there was really never a single hint of a cloud in the sky and a beautiful day it was to visit Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury.   The leaves were only just beginning to turn but the low afternoon light showed off some of the Rothschild's sculpture collection to its best.  

Unsurprising then that Sunday dawned really misty.   But the sun had broken through by lunchtime.   Couldn't resist these comparative shots.   Will not be featuring this view for a while!!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Autumn harvest

Some of the late strawberries have ripened to the most beautiful and delicious I have had from these plants.   The French beans in the greenhouse are also doing very well - when I manage to stop the slugs and snails from chomping on them.

There isn't all that much left to do just now except clear up fallen leaves, enjoy the dahlias and the odd little delights which surprise - including the discovery that my Clematis Pistachio that I thought had died is actually sending up new shoots (a bit late!) and the nerines are bursting into life among the dahlias - a strange and rather garish combination!
Beautiful Pompon Dahlia Natal
Still haven't solved the mystery of the "sawdust" accumulating under the dead cherry tree but have posted an ID request on bbc's Ispot.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Stag beetle maybe?

"Sawdust" on fungi on decaying cherry tree trunk

I am finding the piles of "saw dust" down the sides and at the base of my old, dead cherry tree trunk are growing!   Seeing some hornets building a nest in an old tree in woods at the weekend prompted me to mention this to a game keeper.   He said it might be stag beetle larvae eating their way into the trunk to hibernate.   I looked for holes but can't see any....   It really looks like someone has been sawing branches off - but they haven't!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A second crop of strawberries!!

While for the most part I have simply been enjoying the wonderful Indian summer which seems - miraculously - to actually have materialised with temperatures well into the 80's both yesterday and today, I have also noted some very extraordinary occurrences.   In particular, I have a second crop of strawberries developing.   Not just tiny little things but a really healthy-looking lot which actually promise to be better than the first.
In addition, there are primroses - both the true and hybridised varieties - flowering.   A very strange year indeed.

The dahlias are at last all in flower and flourishing - enough to take a good bunch round to my Mum once a week without making an noticeable difference and the air is still filled with the scent of honeysuckle which always seems to have had strange timing habits.   Even as the first leaves of the amelanchier are turning and the odd autumn crocus is popping up cheerfully the grass is still growing fast.   The garden is still rewarding to eye, nose and palate.   Enough to make yet another apple and raspberry crumble again this week.   It will be strawberries and cream next!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Dahlia review

 Just about all the dahlias are in flower now (except The Baron), so I have been reviewing my selection.   In terms of height I think I have made better choices although the intermittent harsh rain and winds of the past couple of weeks have proved my staking to be inadequate.   Several times I have found plants flattened to the ground but luckily they all seem to have survived.   The trouble is, I hate seeing plant stakes.   I will have to invest in an improved system for next year - even if it's only a really good batch of tough twigs from the cob nut tree when I take it down.

In terms of colours,  I have been a bit too subtle - for me.   There are rather too many whites - nice but a bit too sober - and I really need a complementary note to the pinks and reds, preferably a rich orange somewhere.    Could do with some really good mauves/purples too.    Jura has turned out to be a bit too much like last year's Hayley Jane and I was really disappointed that Rose Cottage nursery never replaced the 2 of 3 The Baron which failed to grow.   I hope it was just an oversight on their part.   I will remind them of it if I order from them again.   Otherwise the dahlias are a cheery bunch.

Object lesson for 2012 - be a bit bolder and order earlier!

I will be posting pics of the individual varieties in due course....

In the "working patch" behind the greenhouse I was astonished to find a second crop of strawberries coming.  Must protect them from the huge slugs which have been appearing for the last fortnight.   Have just made a crumble with some of next door's lovely apples and 4 small stems of rhubarb I thought I shouldn't waste.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Squirrel stand off

I came down this morning to see part of the cob tree wildly thrashing about in a manner which reminded me of my first sighting of a beaver in France who had given himself away by frantically waving a small sapling from side to side as he battled to break it off.   He succeeded before promptly plunging into the river with it.  What a delight!  

The squirrel activity was not so heartening.   Regardless of the time I rushed down the garden clapping my hands and shouting shoo and soon came face to face with the creature about 8 feet above my head.  For what seemed like minutes we stared at one another before finally he gave in and - still clutching a cluster of nuts in one paw and hissing and chattering - he hurtled off into the Judas tree before a rather ungainly leap onto the fence and off.   I am pleased to say he does not seem to have been back today!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Cob nuts or no cob nuts?

Suirrel-devoured cob nuts!

An article in this week's Metro answered my question about whether my tree is a hazelnut or cob.   It's a cob.  But my disquiet at the thought of cutting it down and loosing the lovely harvests of nuts was rather settled last night when I went down the garden to find shredded cob nut calyxes and nutshells all around.   A squirrel - or more! - has beaten me to it.   (I know it's squirrel damage rather than mice as they simply tear the whole thing apart and bite into the shell any old how.   Mice do it nice and neatly making a little round hole - goodness only knows how.   I don't have an issue with the mice - they are not so greedy!

Cl Princess Diana
The torrential rain during the week had beater some of my favourite dahlias to the ground but they seem to have forgiven me and have survived being tied upright again - much more securely.   They have shot up during the past few weeks.   Of the two clematis I planted in pots Diana seems to be doing best.   Charles seems to be sulking - I may have to move him.

There was a good dish of raspberries to be picked and I climbed up my ladder to pick the best of the Cox's which were threatening to fall on the greenhouse.
Aquilegia seeds from Sicard in France are coming up well.
The seeds I have been planting are coming up both in and out of the greenhouse.   I am intrigued to know how well things will do planted this season for next.   An unwelcome discovery was that the seeds I have been nurturing indoors for about a year have not come up - the earth is just growing moss!   I am thinking of just sticking them outside to let them take their chances - they couldn't do worse!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

First fall of nuts

 The weather forecast actually correctly predicted a fine day yesterday and I really made the most of it with a thorough tidy up in the garden.   The new grass seed I put down has taken really well - although I realised the very strong growth underneath the bird feeder is actually a very dense crop of wheat!  Still, it blends in well.

Put more Miracle Grow on the dahlias, planted a grow-bag in the greenhouse with assorted salad leaf crops, picked a reasonable bowlful of delicious autumn raspberries and collected the first hazel - or cob nuts - I still haven't figured out which.   They are quite hard to find amongst the dense growth but worth the effort both to eat and also to limit the number of saplings which emerge each spring.   I must have pulled up about a dozen this year....   

The best part of the day was early evening,  settled with my book and a glass and reading until the dusk became too dense to read.   Good job I made the most of it.   This morning we got absolutely drenched shooting in woods.   It reminded me of the jungle rain storms I had been reading about in Ingrid Betancourt's book about her captivity in the Colombian rain forests "Even silence has an end".   It smashed a few dahlias but I am surprised how fresh the garden is still looking for late summer.

Monday, 29 August 2011

August Bank Holiday

It has hardly been sun-bathing weather but the long weekend has turned out much finer than anticipated.   I even had lunch in the garden today (Bank Hol Monday!).   Compared with previous years the most predominant feature of the garden is how green it is.   I have hardly had to water - except taking the landlord of a pub with wonderful flowers" advice and watering regularly with Miracle Grow (regularly for me being I managed 2 fortnights in a row).   

After a slow start the dahlias have started fulfilling their promise and my efforts in pinching out the growing shoots and flowers seem to have resulted in shorter much bushier plants with plenty of buds.   Not all of them are out yet so I have yet to assess the success of the pinks, reds and whites colour scheme.   Next year I must find a really deep purple - I know they exist.   I am growing Arabian Night again - a gorgeous deep red - but it suffers from weak stems which mean the flowers flop over.   Must find an alternative next year.
Extraordinary - lunch in the garden!
Dahlia White Star

Dahlia Edinburgh
   My replacement Prince Charles clematis and the deep pinky-red tulip-flowered Princess Diana (yes, it WAS an accident) I have    planted in deep pots and placed in the (erstwhile) herb/rose garden, the pots shaded with old roof tiles.   I am hoping this way I can feed them well and stop the ants getting too badly into the roots (I put ant powder in the base of the pots!).   So far, so good.

As everything has been growing so fast there's been a lot of cutting back to do and on Saturday I went round to my neighbours and did a massive cut-back of things which were growing over from my side.   It looks a whole lot better and will help prevent the fence from being forced apart by too much ivy, hops and R. Kiftsgate.   I have now really learned my lesson about fast-growing plants to screen things.  Treat these situations with patience and caution.   Time passes very quickly in gardens.

This also applies to the tress and shrubs I have planted.   I have been having a serious review and decided that the hazelnut tree will have to go, the Judas tree needs a major cut-back and one of my hibiscus also needs removing.   It's flowers are really pretty - a deep mauve-pink late in the summer - but it has grown so tall that I never see the flowers, only when they have died and drop off onto the grass where they quickly decay into a soggy, sticky mess.   I will keep one and cut it back but give the garden a bit more light from the other.

I'm hoping this reduction in tree-dominance will give me more light and encourage the roses to grow a bit better too.   Eight foot echinops are dramatic and make lovely heads for cutting but I'd rather be able to have a better crop of roses at eye level.

One climber which is very well-behaved is the eccromocarpus scaber I grew from seed last year - which miraculously over-wintered.   I would put it down as a must-have in any garden!

Eccromocarpus scaber

The aquiledgia seeds from Martine in France have started germinating and I planted some seeds of astrantias today.  Am also experimenting with French beans in Grow bags in the greenhouse.

Wildlife note:   Have seen the mice scampering about around the garden again and had to break hard to avoid a big hedgehog crossing the road nearby on Saturday night.  A big splendid fellow.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The unexpected

I went down the garden to look at the first dahlias but got seduced by the maturing allium seedheads...   How often is it the joy of the unexpected which gives us the most pleasure in a garden?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sun and showers

It must be the school holidays again!   So much for an afternoon in the garden - every time I stick my nose outside it starts raining again.  Not that I'm complaining.  It's much better than watering.   It can also be quite beautiful.   Everything shines and the garden has a green glow and a smell of things growing which is quiet energising.   I can almost hear the snails shouting out in celebration at their good fortune!
I picked my first green beans this week - and they really do taste better than shop-bought.   So I planted a few more in the hope they will keep going until the frosts (horrible thought).   I also picked my last sweet peas.   I pulled them up in despair.   Mildew, yellowing leaves and very few straggly flowers were not what I had in mind but I think the problem was down to lack of regular watering.   Another "must try harder" if I can really be bothered....
Spent several hours pouring Miracle Grow on the dahlias, pruning and tidying - not least the hop which really has its own plans - not least wrapping itself around some incredibly tall globe thistle flowers.   I was at the top of a step ladder when I took these 2 shots.
This group of fading globe thistles reminded me of a bunch of unruly teenagers.
A few nuts have fallen off the hazlenut tree - very early and rotten inside when I cracked them.   There are a lot more to come, promising a good crop if they hang on.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Very tasty

Did I say that Rabbity from the other neighbour's garden never tried to get out?   Well, as Saturday proved, I was wrong.  I was doing some tidying up when I looked up to see this friendly fellow bounding towards me - before he turned round and had a good nibble at some plants I had just bought for the studio tubs.   No real harm done but initially I foresaw a potential repeat of the previous rabbit incident - except this time the neighbours were out and I had shortly to go out shopping.

I needn't have worried.   This rabbit is very friendly and once he had sat and let me stroke him for some time he had a bit of an explore before being apparently shocked to see how bold the horrible hairy cat from "down the end" is when there isn't a dog about and soon shot back under the fence from whence he came.   I then filled in the gap!

Another pleasant surprise this weekend was the discovery that at last - after well over a year - the seeds I have been trying to propagate by carefully following the instructions of periods in the cold followed by periods in the warm - and then again - have finally begun to show signs of life.   I had to think hard to remember that they are Tropeolum speciosum - a lovely perennial climbing nasturtium with small deep red flowers and Lilium formosanum - a white autumn-flowering lily which I could not find for sale as either plant or bulb.   Now I have the huge responsibility of nurturing them to maturity.   Still, it's a less responsible task than rabbit care - even though yesterday I was sorely tempted to adopt a small black and white dutch rabbit from the local pet shop who "needs a loving home"....

Lots of tidying up over the past couple of weeks and cutting the gorgeous heads of alliums and poppies to dry.   Anyone like some?   The French beans are making valiant efforts to produce a handful of beans enough for a small feed and the autumn fruiting raspberries have started to ripen.   Also an exciting package of seeds of purple and white aquilegia arrived from Domain Sicard in France.   I am hoping they stay true rather than cross-polinating with my varied collection but will hold some seeds back just in case.

Last but not least the dahlias are beginning to show colour.   I am so looking forward to them this year.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


No, not Art, ART - the Agroforestry Research Trust.  The organisation is a registered charity in Devon run by the energetic and much-talented Martin Crawford based on the concept of Forest Gardening or Agroforestry., i.e. "the integration of trees/horticulture to create a more diverse growing system."  Find out much more at:   agroforestrey.co.uk

ART publishes a quarterly journal covering such topics as Truffle growing, Trees and shrubs yielding edible oils, The importance of bees in nature, Forest products from insects.   Some of them are fairly whacky ideas but equally fascinating and inspiring.

But I am mentioning it now because I have recently received their annual catalogue of Fruit trees, nut trees, plants, seeds, books and sundries and I strongly recommend any enthusiastic gardener to get it.   Not only does ART aim to offer the most comprehensive range of fruit and nut plants in Europe - everything from an extensive range of apple trees to mulberries to ginko and pecan nuts, grapes to goji berries, but it is also a fascinating read.   This is obviously where I discovered the origin of Mahonia aquifolium as an edible fruit plant but where else would you discover Aquiligia vulgaris (Columbine or Granny's bonnet!) listed under Vegetable and salad plants.   Three varieties of fuchsia are also sold for the fruits!   

ART runs courses and can also be visited - it is definitely on my list.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My first apricot

Yesterday I dodged the showers in the garden (having got drenched going for a walk!) and picked my first ever, one and only, apricot.   It looked very unpromising with some deep brown scars from irregular watering but it was absolutely delicious.   I will definitely make the effort to protect the flowers from the frost next year.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Deceptively peaceful-looking evening view

Unfortunately, it's not as peaceful as it looks.   Hence view from inside...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Blacks and whites

I was having my constitutional first cup of tea in the garden yesterday when I wondered what the crashing about by the house was and to my delight discovered that the blackbirds have not forsaken me and my mahonia bush.   There was one beautiful glossy black male doing his best to get a good tuck in - but not very quietly!

I picked a few handfuls of loganberries, the remaining red gooseberries - ouch! - and then the black currants - only a pound and a quarter but just enough to make a few pots of jam, my first ever black currant jam.   I was surprised to discover that you add water to the fruit - but it worked out OK, only OK.   I think I should perhaps have picked the fruit a little less ripe and made allowances for the small quantity in the pan as it cooked very fast and set so quickly I had to scrape - rater than pour - the last potful out of the pan.   Still, it was a start.

More picking flower buds off dahlias this week to encourage stronger growth and I remembered to give them a good feed with Growmore.   Elsewhere the different forms and textures of foliage are coming to the fore with a few exceptions such as bright red crocosmia Lucifer,  a prolific clematis "Minuet" hiding from the house behind the trellis (bad design move!) and the white perennial sweetpea providing about the most prolific flowers at present.

Normally white, this Iceberg rose has been discoloured by the rain

The odd, quaint, bloom sometimes provides the most satisfaction at this time of year.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Of burglars and berries

Mahonia berries
Ivy, rampant roses and clematis seem a brilliant idea when you plant them - but they are also very good at taking over, forcing their way between fence panels and shading out just about everything in a space-limited garden - unless you are prepared to put in the hours and collect the scratches.  I spent a very large part of a beautiful Saturday pruning and have just about succeeded in getting the jungle under control. Satisfying.  

Fierce spiny thorns on gooseberry
Next on the list is picking the gooseberries and black currants.   This week brought a revelation about gooseberries.   I have always thought you had to cook them with sugar to make them edible but a friend told me to just leave them on the bush until they are almost falling off - and he is right - they are divine.   No sugar necessary - at all!   But their picking is not a job I relish as their prickles are so fierce - more like spines.   In fact when there were some attempted burglaries in the area I was most distressed that someone had jumped over my (high) fence and demolished half of my precious pink gooseberry bush.   But maybe I had the last laugh - I bet in REALLY hurt!   That was the last straw before I decided to get a burglar alarm fitted (not that it will help the gooseberry bushes much!).

Another very spiny plant that produced the most beautiful berries is mahonia, also known as the Oregon grape as apparently the berries are edible, although I have not plucked up the courage to try them.   Usually I don't get chance as the blackbirds go crazy for them - developing all sorts of unblackbirdlike acrobatic tactics of hanging upside down, jumping and diving at them.   This year - for some strange reason - they are leaving them alone!

Mahonia berries showing very spiny leaves

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Swifts and lillies

Lilium regale

I notice that the RSPB are on the look-out for sightings of swifts.   I was only just wondering what these dynamic swooping, peeping birds were - I always confuse swallows, swifts and martins - but now I know and I am very chuffed that they have been whizzing about in the most dynamic fashion over my garden for years and particularly this week.   

It has been a good week for unusual flying things.   I had to rescue a bat which was flying in a panic round the gym. last night - to the horror of the staff!

The garden is really way ahead of its self this year.   So much so that it is almost about to enter what I think of as its high summer quiet patch, before the dahlias and late shrubs get going.   Best at the moment are the regal lilies which, along with honeysuckle, are filling the air with heady scent.   I could never have too many of them.  

Lilium album reflecting in bird bath
Lilies with Rosa Pat Austen