Thursday, 27 June 2013

Rain Stops Play

Almost completed the pond makeover when the heavens opened so I didn't have time to sweep up or top up the water levels.  Did get time to photograph the delightful edging I bought today though!

Obviously it will look better minus the soil but you get the idea.  I went to buy some wood and these were on offer as the pallet had broken.  Instead of £8.50 each he let me have them for £5.  He must have been in a good mood because I asked for a price on this paving slab .....

and he said, "Fourteen pound fifty plus VAT .... Oh, I'll let you have it for ten quid."

Haven't worked out where to put it yet but I think it's lovely!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


I woke to a sorry sight a couple of days ago .... a pile of woodpigeon feathers on the doorstep.  Now woodpigeons have the knack of 'exploding' their feathers if caught to enable them to escape so, not immediately finding a body, I thought it had been lucky.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  An adult bird was sitting on the path near the small body of a fledgling at the back of the garden.  To make it worse Andy found a second young woodpigeon on the lawn.  They had been killed but not eaten. My cat had been in all night but a black tom visits us quite frequently.  Such a shame: all the effort of rearing them wasted in a couple of careless seconds.

Where's the ladybirds when you need them?  Last year I was tripping over them but I don't think I've seen one recently!  My lupins are covered in greenfly so I've had to cut them back to save them.  My mother used to spray them with soapy water .... not sure how effective it was but I think that might be preferable to chemicals as my bees nest is thriving and I don't want to poison them!

My cornflowers have been over-run by black aphids.  There are THOUSANDS of them; they are all female and capable of producing thirty live young (again all female) without mating!  They live about fifty days.  Once the host plant is overcrowded they give birth to winged young that fly off to spoil another part of your garden!  In autumn they lay eggs to overwinter then all the adults die.

Cuckoo spit is protecting the immature offspring of the froghopper bug and something else is decorating the leaves!

A large holly tree sits next to our front gate. Twenty years ago we stuck a single twig of ivy into the ground and now we have to hack our way through it every autumn.  Nothing grew under the holly tree so I had the bright (!) idea of hollowing out the ground, covering it in plastic and stones and creating a shallow pool.  A bit more interesting than bare earth I thought. Well I got carried away and it turned into a proper pond with frogs and everything!  That was a few years ago.  Yes, the holly leaves do fall into the water and make it untidy but I deal with it.  Anyway, I was pottering about this week ... like you do ... and decided to add a few bricks under the pond liner to make it a bit deeper.

I haven't finish it yet but I'm quite pleased with it so far.  Mum's garden has provided lots of London Pride and creeping succulents to cover the sides and I have raided my sister's garden for Solomon's Seal and wild garlic which I hope will take to the dappled shade under the tree.  There's a large rock in the water so birds can get a drink and the frogs have somewhere to sit and it's all watched over by the large brass dragonfly floating in the air.

Things are moving on a pace at the allotment.  Phil (my allotment partner) has built a shed.  The third bed has now been cleared .  Mum's house has been sold so her peonies are settling into the first bed together with my iris collection.  The second bed has a few lupins at the moment but the delphinium seedlings will soon join them.  Garden's World Magazine gave me 48 lavenders for the price of postage last month and there are 48 perennials on offer this month plus I have a collection of carnations to plant.  Over the course of the next couple of days the end beds will be dug as I have a few vegetables to get in. 

Here's a shot of the lane opposite our house.  I've been guerrilla gardening under the farmer's hawthorn hedge.  To the right of these I've planted a few peas which are in flower, so hopefully the neighbours can have a tasty snack in a couple of weeks, and I have put out pots of mint, parsley, sage, chives and corriander to share.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Bennison Peonies

Bennison Peonies is a small nursery specialising in Peony Roses.  They are open this weekend to allow visitors to wander round their planting area and cutting garden.  There are flowers for sale but the peonies are sold as bare roots so you can place an order now to be delivered September/October time.

I liked all of them but this one was definitely my favourite ... Court Jester ... £50 a plant ... I have a knack for picking the expensive one!

The others were £10. £15 or £20 but the expensive ones were the Itoh hybrids - produced by crossing an herbaceous peony with a tree peony.

You can see the collection by visiting on line if you can't get there in person.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Peony Roses

I made two discoveries today.  Whilst photographing this peony I was aware of a persistent buzzing which I tracked down to a nest box.  Last year it was home to a family of Great Tits, this year it's a bee hive!  I think they are Honey Bees.  I couldn't stop watching them.  They actually hovered round the hole, queuing up, waiting for a bee to leave before another one went in.  They noticed me watching and started to circle round so I left them to it!

The second discovery was the fact that these two peonies are different species.  Because they are the same colour and in different parts of the garden I didn't notice they were different shapes. 

A few years ago a lovely National Trust gardener gave me a small tree peony for free after I enthused about a large plant in her care. It is now two feet tall and about to flower for the first time.  Hopefully it will produce seeds.  Apparently it takes two years to progate from seeds as they need two cold periods before germination is complete.  I've always increased my stock by dividing the roots but I want to try growing seeds now I've read about it.

Well now my interest has been picqued: I have been to Claire Austin's site.  I read an article about her a while ago ... her father, David Austin, started the peony and iris collections but decided to concentrate on his roses.  Claire stepped in and took over the plants he didn't want.  She has a huge variety on offer.  Another site I visited was Bennison Peonies.  They have an open day this weekend and they are not very far away so a visit is in order.
I'll have to save up before I visit Kelways Nursery though ... they have a very rare salmon pink peony for £199. 

Here is a link to The Peony Society

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Highland Lass

Scotland is a beautiful country ... especially when the sun shines!  We couldn't have asked for better weather.
We stayed in Inverkip so we were close to Gourock and Greenock where mum was brought up and we could visit Largs where she went dancing.  The pipers paraded in the streets to welcome mum home!

       A short ferry ride took us across to Dunoon where the statue of Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) looks out to sea.  Robert Burns was in love with Mary.  In 1786 she visited her brother in Greenock.  He was ill with typhus and she was nursing him.  Unfortunately she caught the disease and died a few days later.

Burns was a busy man around that time though - his first child was born to his mother's serving girl in 1785. Burns didn't marry her as he was in a relationship with Jean Armour who would become pregnant with twins in March 1786.  By May 1786 he was exchanging bibles and plighting his troth to Mary Campbell but when she died he returned to Jean and they married in 1788 - they had 9 children but only 3 survived infancy.

The first Burns Night was celebrated in Greenock in 1802.

Anyway, in 1932 mum was 10 years old and living in Newton Street, Greenock.

The house belonged to her grandparents: her mother (Georgina) and father (Thomas) divorced.  Georgina was bedridden with TB so the children (Mum, Bobby and Georgie) were cared for by their grandparents.  When Bobby was 14 he came home from school one day to find his bag packed and his grandmother had signed him onto one of the ships!  Apparently he told terrible stories of child abuse during his early years aboard!

A few years ago my elder sister took mum to see Bobby as he was ill in hospital.  On the way up the motorway they stopped off at a service station and mum left her handbag in the cafe.  They had to turn round to retrieved the bag before continuing  their journey.  Sadly, Bobby died about an hour before they arrived.

We found the old house.  Aunty Georgie made the trip with us so she stood in for Bobby - but she stood on the wrong side!

Quick up-date on the allotment.
While I was away the raised beds were created:

Now I just have to dig them!!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A BIG Thank You to Andy!

My sisters and I are taking mum on holiday to Scotland tomorrow.  She was born in Greenock and left at the age of 25 when she married Dad.  She is 91 now.  There's a 1932 photo of her standing outside a large house: my younger sister went on Google Earth and the house is still standing looking exactly the same.  So we are off down memory lane for a few days.

In the meantime Andy will be left at home with a pile of wood which will miraculously transform into seven raised beds for my allotment.  He'll deserve something better than a stick of rock when I get back.
He has already made a MASSIVE difference to the place.  Here's what it looked like on Saturday:

AWFUL!!  To make matters worse the new neighbours plot looks like this:

So challenge was on!  I spent all day Sunday there and reclaimed ..... one bed!
Monday morning Andy turned up with the lawn mower and muscles and reclaimed the whole thing!

So a BIG thank you to Andy!!
Obviously I still have some digging to do!
Once he has put the new raised beds down I'm going to grown biennials this year instead of lots of veg.  I think there's still time to plant a few spring onions, carrots and beetroot.

In the meantime does anyone know any good recipes for clover ??