It was Friday and a day to take an early morning walk. It wasn’t particularly warm at seven o’clock when I stepped out and throughout the walk there was a chilly wind from the south east. At first the sun was shining but soon it was covered with clouds and it felt cold. Although the walk itself was enjoyable the wind made it a little uncomfortable. Back home and it was time for breakfast. As the morning progressed it became sunnier by the hour and by lunch time it was quite a warm day. The wind persisted though not as strong and not as cool as it had been. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I might do some work in the garden over the weekend and perhaps today too but I decided against it and sat on the patio after lunch sunbathing again! Sunbathing in the UK in February? Well it has been quite unusual weather for the month. One of the things I had intended to do in the garden was to remove more bluebells. Two years ago at this time I had been digging them out by the hundreds as well as montbretia plants too but the main reason for that was to enable me to repopulate the main once almost barren flowerbed that had begun to look untidy. There were some trees that needed to be removed and others requiring straightening and pruning but I wanted to organise the bed and put in more plants. All I saw before me was an overgrown flowerbed filled with bluebells, montbretia, weeds and grass. There had been a similar problem on The Mound though not as bad. I made it my business to clean it all up and remove the unwanted plants and weeds. Bluebells though are very difficult to eradicate for their minute seeds can lay dormant in the soil and pop up later. That has been the case for the past two years.
Now that the flowerbed has established plants and shrubs in it the bluebells are less of a problem and can be kept to a respectable minimum. So I have decided to stop trying to eradicate them but to allow them to grow and keep them under control. I do like bluebells despite all my past efforts to remove them but they do need controlling. However I will remove any montbretia that I find growing in the rear garden for they really do look untidy and especially after the growing season when all the leaves die and lay there still attached to the bulbs. We do have montbretia in the front garden but they are in places where they are not a problem.
As the picture shows the montbretia though looking very nice can and do take over any spare ground and grow quite tall. Unless other plants in the same bed are taller they will be hidden. Having made the decision not to be too enthusiastic in removing the bluebells but only the montbretia (which are far easier to remove) I can concentrate on other things.
A dull Wednesday and a little chilly in the morning didn’t prevent me from taking my walk. About half-way along the seafront however I decided to turn inland in order to get out of the wind. It wasn’t blowing strong but I was simply fed-up of it constantly in my face. When I arrived back home E was eating breakfast and I joined her. I did little else for the remainder of the morning but after lunch I told E I was going to do some gardening, specifically to uproot the chrysanthemum or ‘mum’ from one of the little flower beds on the patio. The one shown in the picture taken last summer. Also in the picture are a couple of beetroot plants which have long since been removed. The ‘mums’ itself had taken over the space where they had been but we decided it was too large for the flowerbed. I may decide to place stones or pebbles in the bed to cover the soil and surround the palm tree there and do the same in the other small bed up there.
So where did we plant the mums as we didn’t want to throw them away? Since removing the plum trees there was now plenty of space on the mound where they could be replanted so that’s what we did. I say ‘we’ because I had asked E to tell me where she would like them planted. Whilst out there in the same area we did some pruning and tidying up too. Then ‘hawkeye’ better known as E had spotted a couple of bluebells so I dug them out. We moved up the garden to the greenhouse and E spotted more bluebells which I duly removed. At every step along the way more bluebells were spotted and I spent quite some time digging them out. I wouldn’t mind so much but it had only been two days since I last dug bluebells from the borders! That is how persistent they are. Even so what bluebells remain are only a fraction of what used to grow in the garden. It made a pleasant change to have company in the garden. E doesn’t do much gardening these days but when she does she tends to find all sorts of extra things for me to do!
Do you find yourself discovering a way to do something but later on find out there might have been a better way to do it? During my experiences in the electrical industry that was often the case for me. I have to say though after years of working in the industry the better way to do things came naturally, well for most of the time. Last winter we had some really nasty weather for a couple of weeks and some of the garden plants suffered as a result. I was therefore determined to find a better solution or an easier way of implementing the precautions I had taken at that time. The plants which suffered were those where the protection I had provided had come adrift. During the year I have been giving much consideration in regards to finding that easier solution. I had fixed some anchoring points by which to secure the protection around the two small beds on the patio but they were the easy ones to protect. One is shown below and the plant at risk from frost damage is the fan palm.
The longer of the three beds shown below is the one most difficult to protect as wrapping the two fan palms isn’t as easy at it sounds especially if the older leaves are to be protected from wind damage too.
I had purchased some bubble wrap and bamboo canes earlier this year and was going to use them to construct a makeshift frame to cover the whole bed but having given that idea much thought since then I think I have come up with a better idea, I decided to purchase a walk-in ‘tunnel’ to place over the top of the bed. Designed for use as an alternative to a greenhouse for growing certain plants under cover the tunnel would be the ideal solution and probably much sturdier. As the one I have purchased is two metres in width it will overhang the bed on the inside and make access to the bed possible if required. Of course it will need support beneath the overhang and some fixing points with which to tie it down.
As far as the bubble wrap and canes are concerned they will still be used in the bed adjacent to the patio as planned.
Following on from yesterday’s post where I had gotten outside at five am to remove the remaining turf from the new plot I rested a short while before driving to the supermarket for the weekly shopping. On my return E rose from her slumber and came downstairs for breakfast by which time I had packed all the food away. I sat with her and ate something myself as my breakfast had been almost six hours earlier. We are like ships passing in the night, she likes to stay up late and rise late whereas I like to retire early and rise early. Anyway an hour after eating I returned to the garden project and E came outside to help decide which of the plants went where. She returned indoors to her workshop and I planted the shrubs….
There are only five but that is because they grow outward as well as upward and much of the space will eventually be covered. The two on the right at the back (or nearest the path on the right) grow to a height of around two and a half to three metres with a two metres spread unless they are pruned of course. The two on the left either side of the dwarf conifer grow to around a metre and a half with a similar spread. The conifer mainly grows upward with only a little spread. As there is only around 250 mm of topsoil before the sand beneath is reached I had to dig wide and deep to remove some of the sand before refilling the hole with about a metre of soil and compost for each of the plants. That was stage four completed. There will be more to follow before it is completed.
No walk for me this morning as I went yesterday. It is the 25 th and the first thing I did when I arrived downstairs at three o’clock was to prepare and bake an apple pie using the left-over pastry to make a small blueberry- filled pasty. Who makes pastry and bakes pies at three in the morning? It is great being retired as I can please myself what to do and when to do it, a luxury I couldn’t enjoy when working. anyway the result was this..
I think they are an improvement on the first ones I made the other day and the apple pie is larger too. This time I rolled the pastry a little thinner and coated the top with milk before adding a sprinkling of sugar. If you remember I hadn’t baked a pie before, that is one covered in pastry. I tended to make crumble instead. After the baking I ate breakfast but I really wanted to get into the garden to do a little work. I had to wait a couple of hours before that could happen of course unless I was to work in the moonlight! When I did get out there all I did was to scrub the cobbles with a stiff brush and water. I wasn’t able to remove all of the cement from the tops of the cobbles but I would be tackling that job again later on. Rubbing a piece of stone or brick over them will clean off the cement but it will be a down on my hands and knees job. When E came down for breakfast I suggested we might go to the garden centre to purchase the plants we would be putting inside the new plot and whilst I was waiting for her to finish her breakfast and get ready I decided to mow the lawn then off we went to purchase the plants.
There are five of them and they are standing on the path immediately in front of the small greenhouse and behind the main flowerbed there. They would have to stay there until I was ready to plant them. After a little something for lunch I went out again into the garden for an hour or so and began digging out the grass inside the new plot..
It isn’t much to look at but the main work was in removing the soil from the sods and dumping it in the flowerbeds. We are not allowed to dump soil in the green waste wheelie bins so the soil must be removed beforehand. Even when the grass is fully removed the remaining soil level needs to be dropped a little too. At least the work is moving along in the right direction!
A gardener’s life is a constant battle with weeds or should I say wild flowers or wild plants. I’m good at laying out gardens placing plants in them and then looking after them but I get a little frustrated when each time I go into the garden I end up picking out weeds. They grow absolutely everywhere don’t they? Short of plucking them out or maybe spraying them if they are not close to wanted plants there is little else that can be done. Some weeds behave themselves and are easily controlled whilst others can be very difficult if not impossible to eradicate. I’m no gardener in a professional sense and probably only an average amateur but I do know how much hard work is necessary for the upkeep of a garden especially if the garden is larger than the average. We have two gardens at home, one front and one in the rear and both are reasonably large in area though the front garden has less planting area and is also the smaller of the two. Although it is smaller it has the greater weed problem both by variety and volume. However I have to admit that a large part of the front garden namely what I call the front mound where the flag pole stands has been deliberately left to grow a little wild. It is covered in rocks with a few bushes in it so it looks natural and wild. There are some weeds I pluck out and some I leave but the problem is the ones I leave like spreading themselves all over the place and indeed that is how they grow by blanketing the ground. During the summer one of them has tiny pink/purple flowers which attract bees and other pollinators…see above. Below is the same plant as it was on Saturday now with less flowers.
It is I admit quite attractive but it does grow anywhere it finds a foothold, on the walls, in cracks in the concrete, and just about anywhere else. We call it Southport Weed for it is prolific here. On Saturday (25 th) I lifted so much of it that I had left growing on top of the raised white gravel area behind the plants in the front garden it half-filled the wheelie bin. it had almost covered the gravel completely.
Despite the amount there it was fairly easy to lift as it puts roots down in one spot and spreads from there though there were a few spots where it had done so. I sprayed the area afterward with a herbicide. Unfortunately the herbicide has a limited effect and I know the weed will return, it always does. In the flower borders other small weeds constantly appear and if left they too pop up all over the place. There must be thousands of invisible seeds waiting to germinate just to annoy me! Who said gardening was easy?
For some weeks now we have been enjoying dry and warm weather and I have been able to go for walks wearing the lightest of clothing. This morning (13 th) I was up and out of the house at seven doing just that. I arrived back home two hours later and was able to sit at the table with E for breakfast. She had only just gotten up as I entered the front door. Anyway I sat out on the patio after breakfast relaxing with a cup of coffee for a short time but I knew I had things to do so that didn’t last. The first thing I wanted to do was to erect some sort of temporary barrier to block a gap in the Laurel bushes to stem the wind so that the space could fill naturally with new leaf growth. New growth is already there but shielding it from the wind will encourage it to grow quicker….
I used some of the fire-clay floor tiles which I had removed from the gym room when I dug the pit a couple of months ago and propped them up with bricks though they were capable of standing unsupported. That little job didn’t take long and I went on to do the next which took far longer. The rear door frame of the garage in which I keep my van had become rotten on one side at the bottom. We suspected a mouse had recently been trying to gnaw its way though the rotting timber of the frame because there were a lot of .wood chippings around. I had to remove the door, which is very heavy, in order to saw off the rotted timber. I made the cut at an angle and manufactured a replacement section to match. This was to prevent the ingress of rain. A level cut would have allowed water to seep between the joint. This is the finished work before it was painted the following day. I had treated the timbers with preserver before fitting it.
I re-hung the door but left off the automatic closer to prevent the door closing by itself as it once did. Sometimes ‘auto-closers’ can be a nuisance. It was twelve-thirty and E made me a cup of coffee which I again sat and drank on the patio before returning indoors within the hour for lunch. The afternoon was mine to do as I pleased, which was almost nothing! I did take a walk around the garden though and took some photos as I went. In front of the large greenhouse…
The dreaded Ivy. It makes deciduous trees look like evergreen trees in the Winter and chokes them during the Summer.
The picture above shows a close-up of a neighbour’s ivy-covered tree which stands less than a metre from the garden boundary wall. You can see it on the right in this older photograph. It isn’t the only one with an ivy problem either but it is the one which stands closest to our garden wall.
This tree itself is a bit of a nuisance for it constantly sheds twigs and small branches whenever there is a strong wind and we are forever picking them off the lawn. Naturally it sheds its leaves in Autumn too but that is something we expect so clearing away the leaves isn’t a problem. However the ivy that clings to its trunk and branches is an added problem we could do without. At the moment it is shedding leaves and has been doing for several weeks. I suppose it is part of its normal cycle but even so I have had to sweep up leaves every couple of days to keep the garden tidy. The worst part of having ivy is that it likes clinging to things and isn’t fussy what things it clings to. A couple of years ago another neighbour had ivy spread over into her garden from the same garden where the tree I write about stands. At that time we too had to deal with it and rebuild part of the garden wall in the process. All I can do is to try to keep the ivy from spreading over into our garden. If it were my responsibility I would eradicate it wherever I saw it growing in my garden. On Wednesday (30) I did just that, well part of it. I leaned over the wall and cut it back. The bare patch on the tree in the top picture is the result. I cut the ivy in several places which should stem its growth for a while. It would be nice if our neighbours would take more of an interest but they don’t. Personally E and I think they can’t cope with their large garden and simply lose interest in the more out-of-the-way or out-of-sight spots in it.
It was Thursday morning and I had the unenviable task of doing the weekly shopping once again. E had been taking things easy for the past few weeks in order to recuperate but had in fact driven herself and her mom into town yesterday. Maybe next week she will resume doing the shopping but if not it will be down to me again. Actually next Thursday (31) I have a dental appointment late morning so will have to shop early if it falls to me to do the shopping. I digress. Today therefore I went shopping early and about an hour after returning home first went into the front garden to water it with the hose then I got out the larger watering can in order to apply a weed-killer/lawn feed mixture onto the lawn in the rear garden. Last year after doing exactly the same the lawn looked much better having been rid of the weeds and moss. It took about six cans to cover the lawn and not long after I had finished I could see it taking effect as the moss began to turn black. Having already mentioned to E that I would like to leave the house together for a few hours she went to dress whilst I was doing the lawn treatment. I had left the van on the driveway on my return from the supermarket rather than putting it in the garage as I would normally do for I was determined to go out for the afternoon. We drove down to the pub/restaurant about two miles away and had a meal there. It is a well-known local eatery offering a set meal or something from the carvery.
We chose the carvery as most people would do dining there. One thing you can say about a carvery is its value for money, as many vegetables as you can eat together with your choice of meats and a one-off payment (£2) for an unlimited amount of soft drinks of choice add to accompany it. We paid a mere £19 for two with drinks included. After the meal we drove off to the garden centre and browsed for more plants to put in the gardens. This time we purchased Verburnum Davidii (a large shrub), Lewisia, Diascia, Weigela Foliis Purpureis, Jacobinia, Oxalis and Alstroemeria (smaller shrubs and plants).
I name them for the botanists and gardeners who may be reading. We planted them immediately upon returning home late in the afternoon. Three went into the front garden beds and the remaining seven into the rear garden beds. I think the only other planting out will be the beetroot presently growing in pots in the greenhouse and we plan to put them among the plants in the flowerbeds in the near future. The last task of the day was to water the rear garden plants with the hose. Overnight and throughout the whole day tomorrow, Friday, we have been informed to expect heavy rain. For a few days after we are told it will get very warm and dry.
It was a dull but warm day on Sunday (20). I had gotten up reasonably early for I wanted to water the plants in the front garden. I have often neglected the front garden in that respect and know I shouldn’t. In the rear garden we have a hose permanently affixed to the tap so it is easy just to run it out when watering the plants there, whereas in the front garden we don’t.
We have another tap in the front garden but of course we don’t leave a hose attached to it in case it goes ‘walkies’. We store a hose truck in one of the garages and connect it to the tap when we need it. The truck is basically a reeled hose sat on a metal frame that has wheels on it and a handle with which to pull it along. It looks almost exactly as the one shown in the picture below. So I was out there around eight-thirty giving the plants, the whole garden, a thorough watering.
Returning indoors later for a coffee and a chat with E who had not been up long I somehow got around to talking about cakes and ended up making some more rock cakes! They are so easy to make and in the space of twenty five minutes from scratch they can be on the plate and ready for eating. It’s a treat for us as we don’t eat cakes that often, well one has to think of one’s waistline…….ahem! Nothing really happened on Sunday, it was just a dull day all round but we made the most of it and spent most of the time relaxing.