Saturday, 31 May 2014

End of the Month : May 2014

WELCOME to my garden.

Hope you enjoy wandering around.  The rain has been stealing the Aquilegia petals but there are still a few at the gate here and the roses are opening beautifully.

The plants are filling out in the 'new' front garden but I have got to tie up the sweetpeas tomorrow.  The honeysuckle has recovered from the drastic chop a few months ago so that need fastening round the front door frame too (but we are having new windows fitted in the porch next week so the honeysuckle will have to wait).  The poppies are adding a wonderful splash of colour - shame they only last a few days.

Here is the monthly record shot from the greenhouse door.  I like to compare these photos to see the differences from the same spot:

Its looking a bit washed out this week - I've started taking the Forget-me-nots out now they have gone over.  I scatter the seeds for next year as I pull them up.  I think the other plants sigh with relief at having a bit of room once they have gone!

Here's the view from the back gate.  The smell of honeysuckle and lupins surrounds you as you walk in.  There are Sweetpeas at the foot of this trellis ... some still in pots but some in the ground.  They don't seem to be growing very quickly this year or perhaps I'm just impatient!

This is the view from the kitchen door.  A couple of the lupins are now passed their best but if you could hear the bees in this border .... there are far too many to count and as for identifying them ... I gave up trying there were so many this afternoon.

The rose arch is my pride and joy this week.  We bought it three years ago and the roses grown on either side are just about to meet now.

Well, thanks for visiting.  Pop over to the Patient Gardener's blog for more End of Month views.

Friday, 30 May 2014


A spent a couple of hours weeding today.  I filled the wheelbarrow with dandilions and dock leaves, bind weed and ground elder - I never allow those to stay and yet thinking about it my garden is actually full of weeds!
In Scotland lupins grow at the side of the main roads and in Wales crocosmia springs up all over the place.

If a weed is a plant not introduced by the gardener then those daisies are definitely weeds.
A small patch appeared a few years back and I liked them so they stayed.  You can go off things though: I select where I let them grow now otherwise they would be EVERYWHERE!

I like daisies in the lawn so I never pull them up and I let the celandines stay too but I dig the dandilions up before they spread.

These get to stay.  It's orange hawkweed or Fox and Cubs.  No idea why it's called that unless it's the orange colour and the way the buds clump behind an open flower (?).

The poppies are positively encouraged:

How can you dislike foxgloves when the bees love them or neetles with such pretty foliage?

It's very odd.  I pull up bind weed the moment I see it yet it too has lovely flowers.  I think dandilions are quite beautiful but I've been brainwashed to dig them out!
A few yards away on the lane there are all sorts of things growing that I like the look of but wouldn't let them invade my patch.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Dining Out

I drove passed a man pulling an elder to bits yesterday and loading the flowers into a black plastic bag.  The traditional annual harvest is underway and Belvior Castle Fruit Farms are paying £2 per kilo for flowers.  A good flower picker can collect 45 kilos a day without breaking sweat.  That's a lot of flowers but there's still loads of elderberries on the trees come autumn .... especially at the top!
So what do they want with so much blossom?
They have taken the idea of homemade cordial to a whole new level.

 Landlove magazine has a whole feature on it this month and it includes some lovely summer recipes.
The website is not bad either.

Thoughts of summer are a bit far fetched in these parts at the moment though! I think we have had everyone else's rain dumped on us this week.  We did get one dry day and ventured out to the Burghley Country Fair. 

The air was filled with the sound of chainsaws as bearded blokes carved owls and bears from tree trunks.  Some were surprisingly cheap to buy too (£35 to £75 on average for an owl).
We made a sort of 'impulse' buy as we purchased a set of garden furniture.  We had decided to buy new seats but hadn't intended to do it that day! Well, the opportunity was there - we liked it and the price was right.

 We had ordered the cushions and arm trays but someone stole them from the stand.
They are on the lawn at the moment getting soaked in the rain.
Here is an unloved part of the garden which will make a great outdoor dining area with a bit of work.

Behind the old bench is a lilac tree that smells delightful at this time of year; next to that is the herb patch - sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint and chives compete for space with strawberries and weeds.
There are two problems - the gas metre box needs covering/painting/hiding and the washing pole is in one corner (can't think where else to place that).  Otherwise a bit of a spruce up; possibly add a pergoda or an awing; decide on the menu and invite folk round!

Found this beautiful object on the internet -

 - and this quite scarey one!

 Drop two Hula Hoops in a cup of coffee and you get your own owl to drink!

Saturday, 24 May 2014


My beautiful allotment lupins have been chewed to bits so I've had to hack them to the ground.

An aphid attack in the garden can be sorted with the hose pipe or soapy water.  We don't have a hose pipe at the allotment so when I saw the flowers were being attacked I knocked the spires around and threw lots of buckets of water over them.  It didn't work.
My next visit was a couple of days later and the problem was worse.  I cut off as many aphid covered leaves as I could and began squashing them but I knew spraying was the only way to kill them. Thinking of the bees I hacked them all down and I'm hoping for new growth.

The problem is I know the aphids will come back.  They were lupin aphids.  Native to North America they appeared in Britain in the 1980s and have multiplied as only aphids can.  Our ladybirds don't eat them so numbers have risen and they are now a real pest all over England.

I've been told to mix 2 cups of vegetable oil with half a cup of washing up liquid to form a concentrate.  You then dilute the mixture by adding 1 tablespoon to one litre of water and spray the affected plants.  The oil makes the soap stick to the foliage I presume.  I haven't tried it personally but I'll give it a go if my lupins survive the chop.  Apparently it is important to stick to the dilution ratio or it could cause leaf burn if the mixture is too strong. Oh, and don't use it on sunny days ... leaf burn again.

Lupins belong to the legume family and there are over 200 different species.  I knew that, yet I was a little surprised to read that the seeds are edible and can be used as an alternative to soyabeans.  High in protein and fibre but low in starch they tend to have a rather bitter taste so sweeter varieties are being developed.  They are stored in salt solutions in the same way as olives and are commonly consumed with beer in large parts of Europe and the Middle East.

Lupins are very good for the soil because they improve the nitrogen content.
I just think they look lovely!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

GBBD May 2014

The borders have lapped up the sunshine and rain.  Everything seems to be blossoming at once.  Unfortunately the greenfly are having a feast!

Aquilegia .... my favourite flower.  The white ones stand out but the variety never ceases to amaze me! Pink/ dark purple/ pale blue/ yellow or combinations of the above.  Helen The Patient Gardener has highlighted her aquilegia too this week.

These osteospermums were my best garden buy.  One small pot spread over the years until I have five large clumps in different parts of the garden: friends and family have shared the bounty too.  
They flower all summer.

My award for the best packet of seeds goes to .....

Verbascum from Thompson & Morgan two years ago.  Again I have beautiful pink/ purple/ cream spikes dotted around the place and new ones appearing through the borders.  
The bees love them.

This seems to be a GREAT year for my honeysuckle - I will reclaim about two feet of garden when I prune it back this year!  It has gone completely mad which means lots of cuttings.

Did I just say the Aquilegia was my favourite flower?  How could I forget the peony ... my favourite flower!
The peony tree cutting the nice National Trust lady gave me a couple of years ago has successfully produced two pink flowers which are just turning to seed pods.  The seeds need two cold winters to germinate as they produce roots in the first year then shoots in year two so I will have to be patient.
I have devoted half a bed at the allotment to peony plants - I have ten small specimens this year only one of which is showing signs of flowering but who knows, next year I might be filling vases with them!

Visitors are welcome to admire the blooms but ignore the weeds!

Visit May Dreams Garden blog for more GBBD posts.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Baby Quilt

We have had two new additions to our family in the last few weeks - one new daughter - in - law and a new baby girl belonging to my niece.  Obviously this makes the baby my Great Niece but there is no way I am going to be called Great Aunt!

Well, we have had two days of rain so I got out the sewing machine.  My original intention was to make an alphabet patchwork quilt but when I went to buy the material I found this so all the hard work had been done for me!

Instead of fiddling round with measuring squares and cutting out letters and using twelve bobbins of cotton and spending hours unpicking stitches I just changed the design.  Simples!

 Andy said I cheated but it was finished in an afternoon ... the alphabet quilt would probably have ended up in the UFO cupboard!

 (UFO = unfinished objects)

The sunshine returned today so I now have fewer greenfly on the lupins; less rust on the hollyhocks; a bin full of weeds; a selection of plants ready for the Garden Club plant sale and an aching back!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Skye and Beyond

 White Tailed Sea Eagle

We left Bute and went to Skye to see the Sea Eagles.  They are difficult to miss with a wingspan of between 5 to 8 feet!  They can be seen from the land but we took a boat trip and got amazing close as fish are thrown into the water and the birds swoop in to feed .... brilliant!

They were extinct in the UK early in the 20th Century but they have been reintroduced.  Not everyone is happy about that and police are investigating the disappearance of a bird which had been radio tagged but the signal went dead.  It is a constant problem as farmers and game-keepers are convinced the eagles pose a threat to their livestock.

Our 2 for 1 pass was useful again as we visited the home of Clan Donald.  
This was once a very large and beautiful house but the family moved out and just left the building to the elements.  Here's what the hall used to look like:

Here's the same staircase today:

I found that incredibly sad.
They did have a beautiful sensory garden though.  Scents filled the air wherever you walked.  It was an absolute delight.

We also visited Dunvegan Castle.

As you can see it was beautiful; it had a walled garden; a woodland walk; sea views and all the things you expect to see but for some reason it didn't inspire me!  The next place inspired Andy though. A trip to Skye had to mean a trip to his favourite whiskey distillery.  Talisker... "the King of Drinks".

Our next destination was Aviemore but we called in at Cawdor Castle on the way.  I wanted to picture Macbeth wandering round his old home but the building was erected years after his death.  Never mind.

This was a great garden ... but we had arrived too early!  The borders will be full to the brim with blossoms and flowers in a couple of months so imagination was required.

 It will be stunning in Summer.
Obviously there was some Spring interest too:

The woodland walk took you through 200 year old pines towering above the place ... the Victorian Scots certainly liked their Secoyas.
Then there was a secret garden tucked away behing a huge hedge:

I thought I had found my favourite garden of the trip but there was more to see!


Not exactly my favourite place ... I have awful memories of this place with a freezing, howling wind and snow stinging our faces.  Andy always comes here to find the Ptarmigans.  I normally stay in the cafe while he walks to the top unless the weather is warm.  This visit the sun was shining so we took a leisurely stroll from the car park up to above the snow line and there we were greeted with AMAZING views of the Ptarmigans.  Up close and personal!  They obviously don't get many human visitors as two were feeding a couple of feet away and they allowed us to creep right up to them!

We didn't get photographs of the Golden Eagles or the Capercallie or the Crested Tits but we found them all.


As I said I thought I had found my favourite garden at Cawdor but then we went to Ballindalloch:
Manicured lawns and hedges are not my thing but I fell in love with the rockery and the red squirrels running around everywhere!

All in all a lovely holiday.

We spent two nights at Seahouses on the way home so we could have a trip to the Farne Isles.  It's always nice to see the puffins ... and the terns, guillemots and shags.

You know how the rocks are covered in bird poo on the islands they breed on?  You know how you can smell the place before you get there?  Well that's what our living room was like when we got home!

Two woodpigeons had fallen down the chinmey. One was in a pretty feeble state but had survived.  The other was dead behind the sofa.  They must have been stuck in the house for quite a few days.  Birds mess, feathers and broken ornaments all over the place!  Nice young man with a carpet cleaner has sorted us out now though.