Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Wild Side

I have spent quite a few hours at the top of our lane recently trying to improve the place.  As I have already mentioned this is a road verge separating the top of our road from a fast flowing and busy by-pass.  I was fed up of seeing it over grown and filled with litter so I went in to do a little pruning .... and got carried away!

This ....

 ... now looks like this ...

 The area was filled with piles of dumped garden waste including large tree trunks.  Most had been there so long the branches snapped off very easily to form a large pile of firewood .... and a great place for any homeless hedgehog mad enough not to want to move into my hedgehog box (see previous post!)

The other problem was the huge brambles that had grown over the shrubs and trees and were cutting out all the light.  It was hard work cutting them down and pulling them out of the vegetation.  Anyone looking at my scratched arms and legs might think I have been self-harming!

Thirdly there was the problem of litter.  I was okay with the food wrappers and beer cans; disturbed by the pants and stockings but rather disgusted when I was confronted by used toilet paper and a smelly place!  That particular area was avoided.

 This area ....

... was quite straight forward.  Just litter and dead wood to shift and it turned into this ...

Here is another before view ...

This isn't quite the same angle but it is the same area (look closely at the tree on the left and you can tell from the V shaped branches).

Next I dug up part of a large nettle patch.  I know what you are thinking but I didn't destroy the nettles, just incase there were any insect eggs, I took them to a compost area next to more nettles.  There are plenty of other nettles here!

The ones I dug up were growing from an old pile of dumped garden waste that over the years had formed a small hill of compost ... perfect for the 200 spring bulbs I had received from a Gardeners' World offer (paid just £5.60 for P&P).

It might look like I have buried someone at the moment but by spring we should have daffodils, crocus, snakehead frittilaries, chionodoxa and anemones covering the bare earth.  I have put a couple of primulas in, some foxgloves and aquilegia.  Bluebells and grape hyachinths have been planted in the middle and I scattered some wild flower seeds around (yes, I know it is rather late but it is still warm).  

An old plastic box filled with stones and plant pots made the basis of a small watering hole for birds and frogs.  I have placed it well away from the path and fenced it off to avoid any stray children falling in face first (but the water is very shallow just in case).

Four bird boxes are on the way from Amazon.  I will set up a small feeding station: in the meantime I have hung a couple of fatballs from a tree.

I have been beaten by this section.  

I made a start but after three hours I was worn out!

I made a small hedgehog house out of the twigs

I am pleased with how it is looking now as I walk passed.  More importantly though a robin has started turning up everytime I go up there and on my last visit a flock of long tailed tits kept me company so I just need a hedgehog to move in and I will be very happy.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Paint & Posts

I had a bit of a crafty day today.  The morning began with the front gate.  We painted the front windows and doors last year but ran out of steam before we got to the gate needed fixing at that time anyway so it was left.  Andy got round to fixing it over the summer and it was up to me to paint it ... so it got left again!  On a warm day last week I gave it two coats of dove grey and then spend ages on Pinterest looking at photos of gates.  I can get lost on that site for hours ... there are some amazing gates, honestly! ... but all I wanted was a simple stencil design.  The one I chose was printed onto thick card and this morning I stuck it onto the gate ...

The stencil has been filled in pale green (to match the front windows).  It is the first time I have tried anything like this and I am quite pleased with the outcome.  The photo below makes it look very pale ... it stands out a bit more in real life!

 While I was waiting for the first coat to dry I got out the tool box and bits of wood from an old fence.  Now you may not believe this but I can assure you I have never had any woodwork lessons in my life ... mine was the last generation where girls did cooking and sewing and lads played with wood.  Well. I measured the pieces; I sawed the pieces; I hammered the bits together; I realised too late that one piece was upside down and the door was too small so I had to pull it apart and start again ... but after a LOT of sweat and swearing I was the proud owner of .....

 .... if you are still wondering it is a luxury hedgehog house!  I am just glad I don't have to make a living from woodwork .... how anyone can saw in a straight line I do not know!  Yes, it looks a mess but I had a lot of fun making it and Andy had a right laugh when it was finished!  Anyway it doesn't matter because the hedgehog won't mind as long as the roof keeps her dry (which it will) and I took it up to the top of the lane (really need to think of a name for this place) and covered it in dead leaves so no-one can see what it looks like anyway!

I put a few cat treats round the door to entice a new owner to find it.  Unfortunately my lovely pet, Isis, died this week so she won't be needing the treats.  We had eighteen loving years so she is missed. x

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mad as a Box of Frogs

Happy Halloween!

Well, summer has gone then! How did that happen?! The clocks have gone back and we are plunged into dark evenings ... so how do we cheer ourselves up .... we dress kids up as ghouls and stuff ourselves with pumpkin soup and parkin. I used to love Mischief Night as a child and a week later was the Bonfire party.  Great!

Obviously this is a busy time for us all trying to get the garden ready for winter.  All our apples have been picked and the veg patch cleared.  The green bin has been filled to overflowing with things I have chopped back and I thought the place was looking okay ....

... yes, the grass could do with a cut but we still have a bit of colour about the place .... then a friend came round and gave me her view!  All she could see was the weeds and the moss on the paths and the untidy parts!  We have completely different ideas on gardening.  I don't do tidy gardening.  Everything has to muck in.  I don't have blue or pink borders: I see a space and fill it. Weeds survive in my garden because I don't see them in the chaos!  The path gets swept sometimes but this is outside so it doesn't have to be spotlessly clean. One of my neighbours is not impressed by my attitude either.  He likes to see neat shrubs with clear soil, or better still bark chippings, in between. I won't change.  Too many plants: too little space!

This sorry state of affairs is a small wooded road verge at the top of our lane.  I wrote to the town council last year asking permission to go in and plant a few bluebells.  They told me the land didn't belong to them so I should contact the Borough Council.  The Borough Council didn't own the land either so I should contact the Highways Department.  The Highways passed me on to Direct One (or something!) and the nice secretary told me my enquiry had been passed on and Mr ---- would be in touch.  I never heard another thing.


The brambles are as thick as my arm and saplings and shrubs are being strangled by ivy.  People dump litter and garden waste in there which just makes it worse.  I can't do the whole lot but I chose a spot in the middle and went in!

I cut back the brambles and rescued what I could (a couple of lovely red dogwoods now stand a chance).  There were lots of beer bottles thrown around one part and empty packets of tobacco but I was very surprised to discover a pair of stockings and black pants!  Someone is going to be disappointed when they see my handiwork then! 

Once my area was cleared I planted bluebells in the middle and some daffodills at the edge.  I have a few foxgloves and stinking hellebores to transplant from my garden and some spotted dead nettles.  I left piles of wood and dead leaves for the local hedgehogs to find and I think I will add an insect hotel before the cold weather sets in.  I don't want to make it into a cultivated garden, just a great space for wildlife that looks better than the mess it was becoming.

Part way there ...rubbish removed

Dead wood stacked at the back; nettles left in place; almost ready to plant spring bulbs.
In my working days I always wore heels and smart co-ordinated outfits.  I think I was viewed as being a sensible career woman.  Since my retirement I know my neighbours must view me as being slightly odd when I am still working in the garden even though the light has faded around me!  I must be "that mad gardening woman" to people who do not know my name.  This impression was confirmed when a neighbour saw what I was doing and laughingly told Andy, "She's as mad as a box of frogs, your wife!"


Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Plan?!

I worked out I need a minimum of ten full days in the garden just to get on top of the jobs I want to do before Autumn.  The main job is at the back where I am removing plants to create a proper place for a vegetable patch. Old photos of our house when it was two farm labourers' cottages show a vegetable plot in the rear garden so I feel like I am returning it to its original state.  I made a small start earlier in the year before we went to America ... I have a bucket of potatoes from the area under the trellis but the cabbages were overtaken by weeds!  The leaves taste okay though.

Well, that side has now been dug over and the other side will be cleared over the next ten days!  The rest of the plot is being cleared of everything (it feels like mostly bind weed and ground elder but there are a few things worth rescuing!) then I will move my strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and gooseberries into a sunny spot where I can use the fence as one side of a fruit frame: then root crops, onions and cabbages can over winter in the rest.  According to the books I can plant beans and peas now ... seems a bit late but I will give it a bash.

To make the plot a little larger I removed three paving slabs from a small patio area ... unfortunately one was the roof of an ants' nest.  They swarmed out in a very angry mass and I had to leave them for a while to let them sort out my mess.  I am doing a better job with the bees and butterflies ... and the frogs.

My sister surprised me with this lovely bird bath.  (SO pleased with it so Thank You!).  The magpies love it too ... it is just the right size for their bath tub! I watched two line up on a branch while a third one took a dip then the others took their turns!  Obviously British magpies!

 I have a massive To Do list!

1. Prepare new veg plot; move the fruit then sow/plant some veg. Replant primroses, aquilegia etc in other parts of garden.
2. Clear the hedge bottom and plant daffodils and spring bulbs (plant up pots for Xmas).
3. Clear path near apple trees, chop back the evergreen (what was I thinking planting the old Xmas tree there?!) and generally sort it out .... this sounds so easy but part of a forsythia has died so it will probably take me hours to saw through the tangled branches!
4.  Finish tidying the front garden ... what will I do with the thousands of crocosmia bulbs I am pulling up!? 
5.  Bring geraniums etc inside.
6.  Fill the freezer with apples.
7.  Store the furniture.
Ten days may not be enough! 

 I just sent for 200 spring bulbs for £5.65 through the Gardens' World Magazine!  Lidl also have a good deal this week .... 5kgs of large British daffodil bulbs for £4.99.  Money CAN bring you happiness!


Monday, 1 August 2016

Chain Saw Attack

The laurel before the chop

The holly in 2011
Andy happened to be on the lane a few days ago when Richard came by.  Richard chops hedges and trees for a living so he could not resist commenting on our holly tree.  It has grown next to the front path for the last twenty odd years with its roots causing the paving stones to scrape against the under side of the gate. Here is a photo from 2011 when it was already large ...  Every winter it is covered in enough berries to provide food for a couple of mistle thrushes and the rest of the year it is home to robins, wood pigeons and tree bees.  It is a lovely tree but it had never been pruned and it was towering over the chimney.  A deal was struck and Richard returned a couple of days later ....

Holly now

The chinmey will now survive the winter without being pumnelled to bits in the wind.  The top third having been removed.  It looks a bit odd at the moment but it will soon push out new growth.

The ivy growing up the house wall was also chopped back and neated up.  I watched them very carefully this time .... last time I paid someone to do it I had to got out ... I returned to disaster ... all the honeysuckle round the door had gone too! These guys did a good job and tidied up really well afterwards. 

The main part of their work was in the back garden where the laurel bush had completely taken over!
You can see it in the top photograph just above the rose and here in the middle of this photo:

Laurel before the chop
As you can see it dominated the whole border.  Nothing can grow near it because it shades the light and acts like a vacuum for any water.  The kids were junior school age when we moved in.  The laurel was large then and had one branch that grew out at an angle.  The lads would sit astride it, bounce up and down and enjoy the bucking broncho effect ... until one day it split.  They didn't tell me and I didn't garden then so I didn't notice.  By the time I found what had happened the split branch had rooted itself into the ground so the large shrub was twice the width.  Well, one half now had to go so....

.... it went!

I have spent two days picking up bits of laurel and tidying up the rest of the border.  I have planted lots of tulip bulbs that we dug up from the allotment last winter (no idea what they will look like as all the colours have been mixed up!  Might be interesting!) but I have a large empty patch of bare soil now just waiting for me to decide what to grow in it!

Brilliant!  Should have done it ages ago!

August 2016
At the front of the house the farmer has been out with his plough this afternoon.  He is normally cutting wheat or barley this time of year but it has been fallow for a few months so he is obviously getting ready to plant something soon.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Fight Back

I put it off long enough .... I kept wandering round in despair at the state of the place instead of reaching for the shears. The pond had completely disappeared under the pond weed and the paths were becoming impassable.  

The crocosmia had to go.  I love it but it just spreads too much and flops everywhere.  It has gone into three large pots because it is about to flower .... I have lots of clumps elsewhere in the garden but this lot can be used as cut flowers if I haven't killed it!!

Next I totally surprised the frogs by pulling all the Parrot-feather pond weed out. It came off in one huge piece.  Suddenly the frogs were blinded by sunlight.  I counted twelve little heads staring at us but there are probably more under the water. Andy chopped back the honeysuckle and the snowberry bush: in half an hour the green bin was full and the wheelbarrow was overflowing but the pond had reappeared.

Still need to tackle that side border but the pond is looking better.

You can actually see the pump again. I will have to keep an eye on the hosta as it will probably be attacked by snails so close to that pond.

Improving the seating area was easy ....

.... just move the chairs and give it a quick hose down.

Chopping the vegetation at the back took some time though.

I then had far too much waste for my green bin.  Fortunately the bin men came today.  Now we are always first on their round.  They ALWAYS arrive on Monday morning at 9am prompt.  Always!  I can not count the number of times I have had to rush outside semi dressed because I have heard the van reversing sound and realised in a panic that I haven't put the bin out! This morning I was up very early as Iknew I had work to do.  I had already filled my bin to the very top but a couple of kindly neighbours allow me to add to theirs if there is room. Well, I filled their bins too and still had loads of waste!  It was five to nine when I noticed one neighbour's almost empty bin.  He can be a bit grumpy to say the least and I didn't want to cause any trouble but I knew he had gone out and the bin men would be here any minute wouldn't they?  ... so, yes, I filled the sack and dumped it in his bin!

Ten minutes later ... I heard the car stop and I knew he was checking to see if his bin was empty and, yes, the bin men were bloody late! Typical!  Hiding was an option, but I thought I'm not a child, so I  rushed out to apologise before he had chance to blew his top ... luckily it wasn't his bin!  The lady who did own the bin didn't mind at all! Phew!

I turned my attention to tidying the other borders. 

A very satisfying day in the sun but I am feeling rather stiff now!