Moving along

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!

Shirley Anne

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Moving on slowly

After breakfast on Friday (16th) I once again put on my overalls and began working on the pit. There wasn’t much I could do other than skim the edge beneath the newly fitted handrail I had installed on Thursday afternoon and to roughly fill in the edge on the opposite end of the pit. That end would hopefully be smoothed out and finished on Saturday leaving only the floor of the pit to be covered with a screed.

I should be able to get the floor done on Monday and Tuesday if all goes to plan. When that is done all that will be left to do will be cosmetic, sealing the concrete, painting and such. So I only spent an hour working on the project and decided I would take a short walk down to the beach for an hour. I hadn’t been out for a walk for over a week and had simply taken exercise on the equipment instead. To be quite frank I was too tired to go for long walks and fitting in some time on the equipment had been much easier. It was such a nice warm and sunny morning but by the afternoon it had turned a little cooler and dull. After lunch E and I spent a few minutes in the garden preparing the soil in the raised bed between the greenhouses for planting potatoes. I had already planted rhubarb at one end of the bed a few weeks ago and recently had separated the area using paving edge stones…

The rhubarb is at the far right of the bed and some has already begun to grow. As you can see we have made four rows of mounded-up soil and each has around six potatoes in them. The remaining two potatoes were planted in a bucket though I may change my mind and transfer them to the bed if I can. We had strawberries growing in the bed two years ago but they grew wild and too much of the fruit was eaten by woodlice so we dug them out. I transferred a couple of them to pots and grew them in the large greenhouse last year where I could protect them from being eaten.

Shirley Anne

Not quite to plan

In yesterday’s post I mentioned I was leaving off working on any projects at home until the new year. However, as I am too active a person I didn’t include that to mean I wouldn’t be doing anything! For a time now I have been considering moving the rhubarb from the small bed the corms were in and putting them in the raised bed between the two greenhouses. I had cleared the bed some months ago so it is lying empty at the moment.

With that in mind I dug them out and now have a small spare space in which to plant something else.

For the time being (as I write this on Fri 22) I have placed the corms on the large empty bed. I intend to dig in some compost from the compost bin before planting them. They will occupy the far end of the bed next to the main garden wall as E wishes to grow some vegetables in the same bed later. I think she’s intending to plant beetroot and maybe some other root vegetables though not potato, not this time round anyway. I have been wondering what to put in the spare space, another dwarf fan palm? A dwarf conifer? Flowers? I am not sure right now but I would prefer something on the taller side rather than ground-hugging. I have also been busy digging out a few montbretia plants that have been popping up here and there. If my readers remember I spent the first three or four months of the year digging out those rascals along with bluebells. I expect I will be doing much the same these next few months too although on a much smaller scale as I expect there to be far fewer.

Shirley Anne

 

More beach combing

I went for another long walk on Wednesday (25) and at the same time gathered some pebbles and stones for the garden. For the past few weeks I have been doing this. I take along a small shoulder bag and fill it with the stones of which there are many lying on the beach. Gradually I collected enough for what I wanted them for, putting in one of the flowerbeds in the rear garden. The pebbles and stones are not native to the beach at Southport for it is one of those beaches where only sand can be found, apart from coal, marram grass and a few other plant species. The stones and pebbles are what remain from  the construction of sea defences built a few years ago and were simply not removed. Why would they be?

The stones are there for the picking though I suppose not many folk do. In fact I never did until recently. A few posts ago I wrote about coal deposits on the shore here at Southport. That is the only other thing apart from sea shells of course which can be freely collected when it is washed up on the shore. 

Just a few more and there will be enough to complete those parts of the bed I wish to cover. The exposed soil you see in the pictures above will be filled with small flowers, the leaves of which can be seen in front of the stones. They have yet to grow but the variety of plant does eventually spread to give the cover and colour required. In the picture below the same variety of plant is in amongst the stones and around the base of the holly tree trunk in the centre of the picture.

When in bloom they have yellow, red and purple flowers. They are more or less maintenance free too which is a bonus. A week or so back I posted a picture of a couple of ‘mums’ just beginning to bloom as they do in October. I took these pictures on Wednesday too… 

Big balls of colour!

Shirley Anne

Strawbs and stuff

I was feeling just a little tired after my early morning walk on Thursday but after a bit of breakfast and a short rest I was eager to do some gardening. My first task was to separate the two Fan Palm plants we had purchased the day before. They were growing in the same pot though we were able to purchase them for the price of one. It can be difficult separating plants if they have been growing in the same pot for any length of time and these two were no exception. It was like separating spaghetti without damaging it. Their roots had intermingled but with a little patience I managed to untangle them without damage and without losing too much of the medium in which they were growing. Adding new growing compost and extra feed I replanted one in the pot and gave it a thorough watering. I took the other into the front garden and planted it there giving it the same treatment as its twin.

The other I placed alongside the Olearia ready for planting out later, probably well into next month for a special reason. Here they are and will stay in the meantime….soaking up the sun in a warmer part of the garden..

I have to wait in order to plant them out because one of them will be going in the space already occupied by a deciduous bush which will be planted elsewhere. I need to wait until it dies-back for the colder months and in this plant’s case it will be sometime in September. It is already showing signs of doing that….

It is the plant just right of centre against the wall. It produces bright yellow flowers in Spring but the leaves as you can see are now wilting. Last year when I planted it there the same thing happened and I thought it was simply wanting water but I had been watering it every day as it was still establishing itself. I hope to place the Olearia there as it grows quite tall and in the space to the left and forward I hope to plant the Fan Palm, The wall is south-facing in case you were wondering. After doing that work I planted the Azalea in front of the Phoenix Canariensis in the west flowerbed and set into the soil a couple of stepping-stones to the left of it. You can just see the first one at bottom left. The second is out-of-sight top left. The Phoenix will grow much taller eventually. 

Following that I planted out the new Dahlia near to the bird bath. The deciduous bush will be planted against the wall in the space directly behind the Dahlia which is at the front in this picture…

I should have stopped there for lunch but as I had a late breakfast I worked on and applied the lawn weed killer using a watering can. That took some time but it got done and then it was time for lunch. It was much later when I gave the whole garden a watering and I took these photos as well as this one through the greenhouse glass….

This plant has produced many strawberries this season.and as you can see there are more ripening up in the sunshine.

Click on images to magnify.

Shirley Anne

Before I forget

Tired and Emotional
Tired and Emotional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I arose very early on Tuesday morning and was soon up and about though still remaining a little tired. I have had these feelings for quite some time, tired, listless, drained and not wanting to do anything but sit or lie down. I don’t give in to such thoughts of course, I keep active instead. One of the reasons I awoke was to do something about that tree stump in the front garden which stubbornly refuses any attempt to remove it. After breakfast I donned my overalls and gave it another go but was soon defeated, the saw made only a small amount of progress so I put it away. Attempt number two was a better idea. I took my cordless drill and a wood bit to the stump and drilled several deep holes in it. Next I poured into the holes some herbicide until they were full. Now all I have to do is wait and see if that gets results. Hopefully it will otherwise I will have to think of something else, a chainsaw perhaps? Anyway I returned indoors to chat with E who had just come downstairs for her breakfast. She’d asked what I had been doing so early in the morning and then we chatted about other things. I mentioned a dream I had dreamt but at first I couldn’t remember it’s content. Immediately upon waking I kept the dream in my thoughts in the hope I could write it down later as I usually do. In the dream I was visiting a building site, the house someone was building. On my arrival there I saw a tower of scaffolding standing about seven or eight metres high and I started to climb it in order to reach the person whose house it would become when finished. I thought it was extremely odd that this person, a guy, a colleague from my past was involved with such a project as that sort of work was foreign to him, he just wasn’t capable. His wife was with him and it seemed that she had more knowledge of what to do than he had. Just then the scaffolding fell away from the house, though it no longer appeared to be a house but an open-sided factory of some sort. I fell to the ground surrounded by the scaffold and severely injured. Somehow I managed to dig myself out and was furious with my ex-colleague. I somehow pushed the scaffolding back to its original position and upright as I argued with him. I have no idea where the strength to do that had come from! I then found myself carrying out some work before I woke up rather abruptly. Now what I am about to write you may find as strange as I did, I had blood on my night-clothes. It was fresh blood and was easily washed off (I washed the whole garment later) in the hand basin. I checked my body for evidence of any wounds and could not find anything! What can I say?

Shirley Anne

Now and then

Wednesday had been a really hot day, well insofar as it normally gets around here it was hot. Although the average temperature only hovered around 21 deg C there was no wind. Out on the patio it was a sun-trap and probably hotter. Doing anything much was out of the question soon after midday. In the morning I had spent an hour or so in the front garden chopping down an unruly and overgrown tree. I am not sure it could be called a tree as such but it grew from a central base from which several ‘trunks’ and smaller shoots rose into the air to a height of  four metres. Here it is to the left of the tall holly tree ( picture taken  earlier in the year ).Many drooping purple-coloured flowering heads hung down among the leaves. It had begun to mingle in the branches of the large holly tree too. I say ‘chopped’ it down but in fact I had to use a saw, the axe simply bounced off the stems if used. E and I spent an hour cutting down the branches in order to place them in the wheelie bins. We neither of us worked during the afternoon but spent it, most of it, on the patio. The root ‘ball’ would have to be dealt with another day. On Thursday morning therefore I donned my overalls, boots and gloves to get stuck into digging it out. The day was beginning to get hot so I had little time in which to do it. However, I first had to saw off the remains of the trunks and offshoots in order to get at it. Another go with the axe proved useless though had access been better it might have worked. It would take a lot of time and effort to shift the roots which undoubtedly were mingling with the roots of the other plants and trees there. I had to give up on the whole idea. I remember the problems we’d had removing two other trees of the same variety when we started work on constructing the Mound in the rear garden a few years ago. They took a long time to dig out even though we had open access. It was only recently that I had cut up the remains of those root balls which after those three or four years had finally begun to dry out. Here they are on the ground which I have since worked on and call the Plot (bottom picture)

Even then it was hard work cutting them. At the moment of writing this I am not sure what we’ll do about removing the one in the front garden border. I have to check out and research some possible solutions, perhaps pouring herbicides into holes drilled into it to kill it off. I do remember I used salt around the roots on those other two plants which did stop them from growing new shoots but of course salt would kill off the other nearby plants too in this instance. Soon after I had stopped work I sat in the rear garden in the shade for a short time before an old customer called me asking if I would solve a couple of electrical problems for her. The work was local, easy and paid well. How could I refuse?

Shirley Anne

Different work in progress

Today, Tuesday (22 nd) as I write this post, I have been busy at home all day long. I actually received a call an hour ago asking if I would do a small electrical job! Now there’s a thing but I am waiting for his return call at this minute to let me know for sure. So this morning my first job was to cut and fit four lengths of semi-circular molding to cover the joints on the pillar/stand I have made and then paint them with primer. An hour later I gave the whole unit another coat of gloss paint and left it to dry, which will take it at least 24 hours. Gloss paint takes time to dry and even then it will be a few more days before it becomes rock-hard. It will probably be the weekend before I attempt to use it. Following that work I removed the top hinge on the door to the small lounge in order to set it further into the frame by chiselling out a little wood beneath it. This has the effect of lifting the leading bottom edge slightly so that it clears the floor covering, the carpet. The new carpet pile was restricting the door moving over it. That work took me almost to lunch time and after lunch I decided to water the gardens because of the dry weather. As I went into the rear garden however I saw that the lawn was looking a little unkempt due to the daisies and other plants growing in it. I think it needs treating to eradicate weeds but at the moment it isn’t too bad. Anyway I had to mow it. Rain threatened, that is I could just about feel tiny drops of rain falling on my bare skin now and then but it didn’t materialise and I got on with the mowing. Once that was done I could water the garden. When I say water the garden I usually mean the border plants and those in planters or on the patio. I only water the grass rarely at this time of year though in the warmer months I try to give it a watering regularly. That took some time as once again I had to stop to dig out Montbretia shoots. I moved into the front garden and to give the plants there a good soaking too but first I spent some time removing a few weeds from the flowerbeds. I got stung by the rose-bush as I reached between the stems to get at a weed. I wasn’t wearing gloves and I had forgotten the fact that rose bushed have thorns, large thorns! The flowers are beautiful though in this picture only one has at yet fully opened..

I wish it were possible for you to smell the scent, it is a heavy and powerful aroma which can be sensed far away from the plant. Other plants in the front garden are in blossom too, like the small rhododendron in the Mound. The Mound has been left to grow a little wild though some wild flowers such as dandelions and thorny weeds I remove.

The flowerbeds I worked on last year have been growing back well but a few plants, supposedly perennials, haven’t grown back for some reason. See bare patches at the front.

Shirley Anne

Wilderness

I suppose, well know for a fact, that nurtured gardens and man-made places never remain that way once the nurturing stops. Anyone who is a gardener will know that maintenance is necessary to keep things in order. My Sunday was spent just pottering about and doing nothing special, certainly no work. My house projects take a break on Sundays as I try my best to relax from my usual routine. I do find it difficult to do absolutely nothing at all but anything I do on my days off is very minimal, mowing the lawn and removing a weed or two is about as much as I will do. I did spend a ;little time in the rear garden and in the greenhouse tidying up and looking after the plants. In the garden itself I placed a bucket load of natural stones around the base of the fan palm as I did with the yucca close-by recently. The stones were filtered from the three buckets or containers that I had filled with all the rubble I had been digging out when removing bluebells. There seemed to as many rocks and stones as bluebell bulbs in some places. Anyway I filtered out the natural stones from the rest a few weeks ago but never got around to using them. Apart from picking out a weed or two as well I did no more. During the day I spent a little time in the small lounge, not to work but to sit and play guitar. I had borrowed a chair from the kitchen on which to sit when taking a break from work so it was handy for sitting on to play. I was near the window and so couldn’t avoid seeing the garden itself.

Obviously not all the garden can be seen in the picture but the section shown is that which I could see from where I was sitting. The picture is a poor reflection of the naked-eye view but if it is magnified it will show the detail. (click on image). On closer inspection it can be seen as a miniature wilderness which is the way it was intended to be. The flowerbeds in the front garden are cultivated and the bushes at the rear were planted. There are four other plants in the front part which I planted a year or two ago, everything else at ground level is wild, that is they are wild flowers and weeds. Those ‘weeds’ I don’t want to be there. like dandelions for instance, I remove when they show but the rest I allow to grow. One particular plant  is known locally as Southport Weed though obviously not its real name and neither does it just grow in Southport but yes it is a weed or wild flower. It blankets the ground like a huge web and has tiny pink or purple flowers which are now in bloom and last throughout the summer. The bees love it and so do I. There is a problem with it though, it can spread all over the place if not controlled. It makes its home on brick walls and anywhere else it can get a hold but as long as it is plucked free it isn’t a real problem. There are other weeds amongst it which also have nice little flowers too and I leave them all to grow. It is the only part of both gardens I have deliberately allowed wild flowers to be a feature. Together with the rocks it really does look natural, something different from the cultivated parts of the garden.

Shirley Anne

One addition……

….and one subtraction was the name of the game on Monday (24th). Again I was eager to resume work after Sunday resting. I actually got the opportunity to lie down on the patio, out of the wind but in the warmth of the sun. It wasn’t that windy but sitting in it too long would be uncomfortable unless the sun was shining. I did sit in it for a time then decided to get out one of the mats and lay on that for a time. So it was now Monday morning and I was up and ready to go well before nine o’clock. I wanted to complete the application of the first coat of gloss paint on that wood work which remained with only an undercoat. That meant all the skirting boards and the fire surround or mantlepiece. I had already completed the door, door and window frames on Saturday. The skirting took less than an hour but the fire surround took around two hours and if you look at the picture you can see why….

…it is quite intricate in detail. So now I had all the gloss paint done but I have to give it all a second coat and do a little filling-in with caulk in a few places beforehand too. The second coat should be quicker to do. What I like about the gloss paint I am using is that it appears to have a slight grey-green tint when applying it but it turns pure white as it dries and that makes it very easy to apply over the first coat as far as seeing where you have done as you paint. Looking at the picture again you will notice that the fire has gone. Before I began work at nine I had already visited the local fireplace installer to organise an engineer to call to give me some advice regarding the existing fire and the hearth itself. Just before I had finished the painting their engineer called to the house and we discussed the alternatives available to me. The problem is that the existing hearth and back granite (reconstituted) is of the wrong colour now that I have or will have changed the decor and I want it to be a shade of grey instead. The fire itself is now 28 years old and I decided to replace it after our discussion so with that in mind I asked the guy to disconnect it and take it away. I said I would call into their office after lunch to arrange and pay for the work to be done which is to tile over the back and hearth and install a new fire. I went to the pub for lunch (this is becoming a regular habit) and then drove to the office, chose a fire and tile colour, paid the fee (£800) which includes labour costs, and returned home. I was informed that the work might be undertaken at the end of the following week. Perfect. I didn’t stop at home long as I had to go out and purchase the tube of caulk which I had forgotten to buy earlier and at the same time visit the garden centre. One of the shrubs in the long flowerbed hadn’t taken root and had died and I wanted to put something else in its place. The shrub was merely an off-shoot of a plant already growing in the bed (the one on the extreme left in the picture) which I had removed when digging out bluebells a couple of months ago. I gave it the chance to grow further along the bed but it didn’t work. Anyway I bought another Prunus Novita (Cherry Laurel) to plant in the space…..

It is the tall dark plant against the wall dead-centre in the picture. The other one I purchased a couple of weeks ago I planted in the west wall flowerbed which has had more plants put in it since.

So one addition (the plant) and one subtraction (the fire).

Shirley Anne