A couple of days ago (I write on 12 th April) I purchased several heather plants and at the time thought I should have purchased more for there were still some empty spaces here and there around the garden. I chose heather because first of all I like it but it flowers too and spreads itself out a little more than many plants at ground level. Heather was the ideal plant to fill in some bare spaces. When I went to the garden centre I had forgotten I had a couple of vouchers in my purse. As you buy at Dobbies you are credited with points for every purchase as well as getting a reduction in the price if you are a member. A couple of times each year they send out vouchers reflecting your points total converted to currency, a kind of cash back if you like. There is a catch though, the vouchers have a limited life so must be spent or you lose the credit. A crafty way to ensure your return! That’s fine if you purchase things on a regular basis for you cannot lose. Anyway I thought I would put the vouchers toward another purchase. Their value amounted to £11.12, not a great amount but I only had to pay an extra £3 or so when I returned to purchase four more plants which normally would have cost £14. Whilst there I had one of the two of my free monthly coffees too. E wasn’t with me this time else she would have taken the other one! I had been for my usual walk then had breakfast before driving to the service station to fill my van with diesel and to purchase some petrol for the new mower. It looks as if I will be needing it again soon. Once that was done it was off to the garden centre. Here are the new plants which I dug in as soon as I returned home. The top picture is in the Plot and the heather is dead-centre next to the capping stone. It should fill much of the surrounding space when it is established
The next picture shows the Mound and the two extra heather plants are at dead-centre and top-right between the Camellia and the small conifer on the right.
The last picture shows the so-called tree heather which will grow to a height of 1.2 metres. It is the bright green plant right of centre at the top. Just left of the conifer is a small plant which is struggling to grow where it is so I might try and place it somewhere else and replace it with another Phoenix Canariensis or similar plant. It will be easy to protect in Winter as it backed by the greenhouse. There is no such thing as having nothing to do in a garden!
Quite a busy day was Monday. I took my early morning walk in the cool morning air, so cool I had to wear warm clothing but at five-thirty it was always going to be cool. The eighth day of April and the day looked very promising. After breakfast I spent a little time online before putting on my work wear to paint the garage door. With it being a gloss paint it would take hours to dry so the earlier I did it the better. When the door is fully closed it doesn’t make contact with the brick wall because I fitted spacers behind the door frame when installing it. There were however two bricks which were protruding very slightly which I had to dress with a chisel. I chose the mahogany colour as I said I would…
I also painted the concrete beam as I said I might do. The inside face of the door was left unpainted as I explained in yesterday’s post it didn’t need painting. When the door is fully opened I now have the complete width between the bricks to get the mower out with plenty of space either side. My next task was to get out of my overalls and drive off to the garden centre for I wanted to purchase some heather plants. I bought fourteen of them but on reflection I think I should have bought a couple more. I could always go again if necessary. On Saturday I was pottering about the garden later in the day and I removed the large overgrown and unkempt lavender shrub we had in the west wall border. When it was first planted it was small and compact but I didn’t realise it would grow much bigger though I should have pruned it back. I wanted to remove it anyway and replace it with heather which is why I planted them today, that is the same Monday as I write. They are small but will grow to around a half-metre in height and width. Hopefully they will fill the spaces in the border more effectively.
You may not be able to see them all but there are nine of them in this flowerbed. One is hidden behind the green foliage bottom left and two are further along out of sight. Another is in The Mound facing them on the right of the path and out of sight whilst the remaining four are also in The Mound out of sight. I will probably take pictures later when they all fill out. Once I had all fourteen bedded with bone meal and watered I gave the whole garden a good soaking too. It was a lovely sunny day throughout and I took advantage of it by relaxing on the patio for an hour or so but by then it was already three o’clock.
Earlier in the day I had received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs. It was a (short form) tax return for 2018/2019. As I have been retired for two years and my final return was 2016/2017 I should not have received it but with everything the tax office sends it has to be processed one way or another in case of incurred penalties. The form does say on it that if you don’t need to fill out a return then contact them. First of all I went online to make sure I was not required to fill in a return. That went well and confirmed what I had thought but how to tell them that? Option one do it online, option two telephone them, option three write them a letter. Well I tried option one and got nowhere. In frustration I opted to phone them. A complete waste of time. They have an automated response which uses AI (artificial intelligence). It is essentially voice recognition and you are asked to tell the machine what you are attempting to do. It just didn’t work though I tried several times. In the end the machine disconnected! So now it was old faithful, snail mail. I wrote them a letter ensuring all my details and concerns were listed. Sometimes the old ways are best.
I am referring to gardening and the beginning of a new season. Although as I write this at the end of February there is still another three and a half weeks to go before the official start of Spring it certainly feels like it has arrived already! This afternoon for instance I spent a couple of hours out on the patio sunbathing! According to the forecast at the moment (4 o’clock) it is 17 deg C. That is most unusual but very welcome. It had been a pleasant day yesterday too and I did spend time in the warm sunshine though it wasn’t as warm as today being 14 deg C. As there was little wind it felt that much warmer. I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing all day for this morning I have been quite busy. I was looking out of the window after breakfast and remembered that I had intended to feed the birds so that was my first job. The bird feeder was empty and the bird table was also empty so both were filled again. Then I noticed the bird bath was dry so that got filled with water too. We haven’t had much rain lately which normally keeps it filled. My next task was to empty out that bag of sand I mentioned in yesterday’s post though when I started to do it I found it was filled with soil. I had forgotten that was where I put some of the soil I had removed from the lawn when constructing the feature late last year. The sand had been put into smaller bags and placed inside the garage to free the bag for filling with soil.
I removed the soil and put it into individual smaller bags for use later elsewhere.
There is still another large bag filled with soil and grass sods which I had at that time placed under cover behind the second garage. That has yet to be sorted but it will take a couple of hours to do. I left it for another day, preferably when it would be cool though it is located in a place which never gets direct sunlight. Having done that work I began removing dead stalks from many of the flowers and shrubs in the borders and generally tidied up where necessary. The lawn needs cutting but as you now know from yesterday’s post I am without a mower at the moment. That isn’t strictly true for there are two old electric mowers in the garage but I doubt they would be able to tackle the longer grass and would take ages to do if they could.
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!
‘I’m sorry Shirley Anne but it’s just got to go’, I told myself on Thursday morning. It was a very miserable day on Thursday just as it had been a couple of days earlier, wet and windy, very windy. I had gone to bed the evening before feeling rather down and tired and hoped the new day would be an improvement but it wasn’t. I was feeling a little down because I was tired and some of the events in the day had given me some irritation. It had been one of those days as we say. So Thursday promised better things but it didn’t fare that way for me. In the first place I woke up with a horrible bout of Cystitis and all that comes with it. I have an interim solution for Cystitis which helps until I can get some medication if I haven’t any to hand but it only helps soothe the burning sensation and kill the surface bacteria. It was enough to allow me relief until I went shopping later. However, back to the foul weather. No matter what I tried to hold down the tunnel structure over the patio the wind loosened it and I would have to try something else. There was no way I would get the upper hand and I knew it. When the weather is less windy all is fine but the wind destroys and shows no mercy. Did I mention I hate the wind? Well I do. So what’s got to go? The tunnel. As soon as the weather would allow I would be out there removing it and mark it down as a failure. What would take its place? Well I mentioned that I think in yesterday’s post. Two tee-pees or wigwams if you prefer would replace the one tunnel and should hopefully withstand the wind better. Oh the joys of gardening eh? I did no work on Thursday for not only did I have nether regions problems but I was feeling the effects of maybe a cold but definitely the bad weather.
Wednesday was my walk day and it started off well. It was the end of November (28), more than two-thirds of the way through Autumn and the weather had become noticeably much colder during the preceding week. This morning was no different but at least it was dry but not for long! It had rained the previous evening and into the night but had stopped until twenty minutes into my walk. It wasn’t the rain which bothered me but the wind driving it. Although I enjoyed the walk I was very glad to be back home. I hadn’t taken the route back along the seafront because of the driving wind knowing there would be no shelter from it. I walked home through the back streets instead. As I approached the top end of our road a fox ran across my path and over a wall to my right where there is a large plot of land filled with trees and undergrowth, an ideal place for foxes to live. It is unlikely to be built upon because of its location, the age of the trees and because it stands in the grounds of an apartment block. I carried on homeward to the warmth and breakfast. After some catch-up tv I decided to put on my overalls and get ready to resume working in the cellar. I wasn’t able to do much at first in case I disturbed E from her sleep for I had much sawing to do. I was going to begin cutting and fitting the plywood panels for there was no plasterboard left to finish off the ceiling and I couldn’t leave the house to purchase any. I was expecting the delivery of the pebbles and E had to go out too. As it happened the pebbles were delivered around ten-thirty but the guy had a lot of trouble trying to manoeuvre the pallet truck to get the pallet out of the wagon. Eventually he mustered the help of another delivery driver who just happened to to be making a delivery further up the road. Up until that point I had done very little work but then I continued and got this far..
The far left hand panel with the white cup washers will be readily removable should access to the gate valves ever be necessary. It was whilst working down there that E took a shower in the wet room and I saw the leak from the drain above. It appears that the floor seal around the grid in the wet room had cracked. What an absolute pain! Something else for me to do. In the picture below you can just about see two black streaks running top to bottom on the grey drain housing. The picture below that one shows the frame surround beneath the drain which will have a removable inspection cover too. Just as well it seems!
Later in the afternoon it got very windy indeed and I was fearful that the tunnel on the patio would either be damaged, get blown off or both so I spent a little time out there securing it with more rope. On reflection I don’t think the idea of using the tunnel was a good one and I may simply dismantle it and erect another two tee-pees as I had done with one of the plants in the border close-by.
Nice as it is to have something to do during retirement I sometimes feel I am neglecting some things in favour of others. On the one hand I am keen to sort out my projects and get them completed as soon as possible whilst on the other hand I am keen to keep the gardens as much in order as I can. The weather has been fine for carrying out work in the garden but unfortunately I have not had much spare time to do it because of my indoor activities. However I have made every effort to keep as close a watch on things as I can. At this time of year it can turn cold very quickly and some of the plants suffered because of that last year. I did manage to put up some frost protection but not soon enough and some plants were damaged. This year I took time out from my projects to erect better frost protection for the more vulnerable plants knowing we were in for cold spells. Everything seems to be in order but I still keep an eye out for any damage to the protection screens. At the time of writing (25 th Nov) we haven’t had any strong winds blowing. I am hoping the frost protection is strong enough to withstand any wind coming our way and again I will need to be alert and keep an eye out. Today is Sunday and I have been in the garden checking things out though I’ve not done any work. The garden does need tidying up I admit for there are still fallen leaves gathered in places and scattered elsewhere. Twigs from the neighbour’s tree lie fallen on the grass and in the flowerbeds which we are forever picking up. All these things can be tackled sporadically but I would really prefer to spend a day at least to get it under control. Well I have a couple of months yet before the weather turns warm again, plenty of time for gardening duties. In the meantime most of my work will be concentrated on my projects.
The picture was taken today and yes, those pebbles still haven’t arrived!
Or…for my American friends and some others….a wrench in the works. Somehow ‘wrench’ doesn’t seem to express it as well as spanner but I suppose that is due to my living in the UK. I would prefer to say England rather than the United Kingdom because I am English, I was born here. I do have Scottish ancestry though on my father’s side of the family but I was born in England. Now we say ‘spanner in the works’ to express a condition whereby a planned activity has been forced to a stop by an outside influence or objection. Well it seems that E has thrown such a spanner in the works having raised tentative objections to my planned garden project. I think however she would prefer something slightly different from my proposals though not entirely different. At the moment therefore the plans are on hold until we can agree on what to do. I suspect that won’t take long and I’ll soon be making inroads but who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime I can rest up though with me that will be difficult. This morning, that is September 1 st I had to water the garden again because we’ve had little rain lately and one or two of the plants were beginning to wilt a little. I had watered the garden on Friday evening and the plants were looking healthy afterward but a second watering was needed to ensure the soil was moistened through. For today and the following few days the weather forecast says it will remain dry. Anyway I did that and on the way back upstairs I glanced at the pit in which the cross-trainer stands and noticed a small amount of paint flaking off in one corner. When I first constructed the pit a few months earlier I had used paint we had in storage but was never really satisfied with the colour after painting the walls in the room white. The paint in the pit was more creamy looking. Having painted the floor red it magnified the differences between the wall and pit colours. I decided to scrape off the flaking paint and redo the whole pit in a gloss white though I couldn’t of course paint beneath the cross-trainer itself.
It didn’t take long to do, about twenty minutes but now it looks much better for it. Later in the day it was time for more garden maintenance, sweeping up leaves and mowing the lawn.
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?
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.