Tuesday, 24 April 2018

More spring cleaning, Top Pond

There used to be a 'thing' which did the rounds on email groups that I rather liked, part of which went along the lines of:

I am thankful for:
...my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine. 
...a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means that I have a home.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
...my huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.

and so on. For the 21st century I might add "I am thankful that I do not have time to blog because it means I am busy with the garden".

This Bad Blogger hasn't updated Bag End for 2½ weeks because I've been cracking on in the garden and then went on a little holiday. Today, however, it is cold and drizzly; the perfect conditions to make a start on a mahooosive backlog of photos!

Although we had a generally mild winter during the "winter months", just when I would normally think of getting outside and clearing up all the winter detritus, March turned bitterly, bitterly, miserably cold and it was pretty much impossible to get out and do much.  Whilst it feels like I am incredibly "behind" with plant-related tasks, I wasn't the only one not wanting to be horticultural - plants that were growing strongly last March had done nothing by early April so the usual early-season mental frazzle of getting behind before the year has even started was also (thankfully) delayed.   With the little pond straightened out, and the cold frames operational it was time to move on to a favourite part of the garden - the bed behind the Top Pond.  Believe it or not, there is a stealthy 'master plan' at work in the background at Bag End, and that plan is to set up all the beds and borders so that they need a good sort-out at the beginning of the year, and then very little attention/work for the rest of the season.  In the areas where I have managed to be really focussed it actually does work and this bed is one of the current successes!

A couple of sunny days, and only working three or four hours each day, and the bed was completely weeded, the {supposedly} evergreen honeysuckle no longer clambers over the trellis and deposits leaves all over the stones, the ivy border on the house-side was pruned, and with Management's help, a reed that was blocking the view from the kitchen has been removed.

Being a tardy blogger at present I then sprinted away to the next fun thing (the Coppice, that comes in the next post!) and took no photos. Two weeks later - and a few days with warmth and sunshine - lots of new season growth and it is looking lovely 😊

Friday, 6 April 2018

Are we nearly there yet?

The work we’ve done over the past couple of weeks has made me think about the number of different iterations of the nursery area we’ve created.
Please let this be the last . . .

June 2010: In which we establish that EVERYTHING FROM THIS POINT ON IS MANAGEMENT'S FAULT 

June 2012:  A distant memory is that this setup was fairly stable, but at the time just did not provide enough space.

May 2014:  Sawhorses, pallets and netting.  Worked surprisingly well but was never level or stable enough to be really safe.

February 2015:  a completely over-designed idea for "cold frames"
In the end, the only thing which was "wasted" was a few hours of LP's labour, we have reused all the materials

It's welded in, "of course it won't be moved" 

and finally - as it is now, just waiting on cleats and pulleys.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Whilst I was on a roll

This follows on from my "out of sequence" post about the Fruit Cage.  After two days solid weeding the fruit cage looked fantastic and I would have been quite happy with a day off, but co-operative weather meant I could not bring myself to relax on the Monday.   Weekend discussions had produced a plan to get Management to a point where he can have an Obsy, so I chose a long-outstanding task adjacent to where M. was working on the cold frames bench.  That way I was on hand to help lift things and make decisions about how long, how high, how wide.

The little pond on the edge of the Cottage Garden has been bugging me for a very long time. It was the first pond we created and is a success in some ways and not in others.  On the success side it is relatively deep for such a small area and the water remains lovely and clear most of the year.  As it is directly outside my bedroom and bathroom windows every morning I see various birds having their own ablutions and my attention is quite often caught in the mornings by hearing a blackbird splashing around with great intensity :)

On the less successful side I have never been happy with the planting in the water, and there were really too many large stones submerged.  The other problem is the perennial one of trying to make the edges look nice.  This is May 2016 - ghastly mess.

We went through the massive job of putting slate chippings on most of the paths in May/July 2015 but for various reasons there was an area at the front which got missed out until August 2016 (yes, things do tend to drag on at Bag End ...)

Despite my request that chippings were kept two - three feet away from the pond, you've guessed it, they were stacked up as close to the water as the wheelbarrows could get, and the whole area has been a miserable mess ever since.  Try as I might I cannot locate photos of the carnage, but that is most likely because I tend not to take pictures of the parts of the garden which depress me!  So, with all that preamble out of the way, this is how it looked on a bright Monday morning:

By lunchtime I had cleared away stones which really should not be there, and created space for two huge slabs which needed a home.

What I failed to clear away was the frogs - these two kept insisting on returning to a particular spot regardless of how many times I moved them, so I just had to be terribly careful I didn't squash them whilst moving the heavy rocks.

Typically, no pictures of 'in progress' because I was too busy actually doing the work to photograph it, but a few days later (in the rain) it is looking much better.

In the ground leading to the pond I've planted a dozen of one of the most glorious of the primula family - Primula florindae, also known as Giant Himalayan Cowslip.  When in bloom the flower stalks can reach two feet tall or more with a fabulous lemony vanilla scent.  Happily it tends to grow well here and the new transplants have already started to show this season's growth.

Once I make a start on tidying up the Big Pond there will be plenty of surplus plants to add to this pond, and I need a couple of "interesting" bits of log to cover up the liner at the back.  But finally, and perhaps for the first time ever, it is looking reasonably OK :-)

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Closer to completion - and more "wildlife"

Today was fairly skanky - windy, rain, cold, not helped by Daisy getting me up in the middle of the night and whilst she went straight back to sleep after a trip to the garden, I did not . . .

But the day was not a complete wash out.  On the spur of the moment I jumped in the car and went to our favourite nursery where I was delighted to find I'm still getting trade rates.  I am embarrassed at how little I paid for three trays of heather plants but not complaining about it!   They are destined for various beds at the front of the house.

Towards the end of the day things brightened up considerably and we popped outside for an hour.  Unimpressed with the flimsy bits of wood provided to fix the "glass" to the lid of each cold frame I found some corner brackets at Screwfix and not only are they holding the perspex [or whatever it is] nice and firmly they're acting as braces for the frames.  Also took the opportunity to screw each pair of lids together to make just one for each cold frame.

Need to order some boat cleats and then I can sort out the pulley system.

At the weekend we discovered some unwanted"wildlife" in the garden in the form of woodworm in the bottom corner of the little shed we got from LP.  I vaguely remember him saying it had been treated and dealt with but we're not convinced.  Whilst at Screwfix Management picked up a can of particularly noxious liquid and as soon as it's dry for a couple of days we'll be doing what we can to save the shed and prevent the damn things from spreading.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Out of sequence

I had to write about the cold frames and nursery area before I lost momentum, which means that the achievements of the previous weekend got sidelined and out of sequence:

Last weekend (24th/25th March) we had unexpectedly lovely weather - sunny and no wind, so incredibly it was warm in the shelter of the fruit cage.   Management took over nearly all of Daisy’s walks and care and for two days I did nothing but weed, and mulch, and tidy and prune,  and move self-seeded foxgloves.  All the strawberries have been moved to the other cage and the net house.

Deliberately there are no "before" pictures because, frankly, it's too bloody depressing.  It is also moderately depressing that there seems (to me) so little photographic evidence of such a lot of work.  But hey, I know that the beds are now set up for the coming season.  The blueberry bushes are starting to break bud although they are much later than last year.

All the plants have been trimmed as necessary, and well fed, and heavily mulched in an attempt to slow down the weeds.  The only other job is to bring in two obelisks to support the 'Honey Berry' plants I put in last year.  I have to extract the digit and repaint them, and I'm waiting for Management to powder coat the huge ground spikes.

Daisy enjoyed the weekend, it was obvious she was pleased to be able to wander in and out at will, and spent a lot of time laying on the grass just outside the cage, but close enough she could keep an eye on me.

It never occurs to me to hit the 'video' button on my camera . . . so the best I can do is make a GIF of the photos I took, perhaps one day I will learn?

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Motivation and dependencies

So, it goes something like this . . . The Astronomer wants an Obsy.

Or in plain English, Management would very much like a small shed in the garden in which to site his telescope, a shed which shall be grandly known as The Observatory (Obsy is much easier!)

Of course he can have his shed but, as is ever the case with Bag End, there are dependencies - a myriad of other work which has to be accomplished first; sadly (for M.) the Obsy will be the very last thing to be completed in this current string of dependencies. A string which goes something like this:

The only place a telescope shed can go (to provide best view of the sky, not be forward of our building line and therefore need Planning Permission, and be screened from streetlights) is where there are already two other sheds . . . and a log pile, a bloomin’ HUGE log pile.

More logs need to be moved than we can cut for the next couple of winters and fit in the log store so we need somewhere to put the rest (oh joy, more moving bloody logs from one place to another). The only place I can currently think they can go is on the beds at the very back of the vegetable patch. Those beds aren’t being used for much else right now . . .

Apart from temporarily housing some cold frames  😕.

For months Management has been talking about “doing something” in the nursery area to properly site the cold frames but we’ve had one of the most miserable winters anyone can remember and nothing has happened. Until last Monday {insert evil grin}. Freshly back from Kielder Star Camp and enthused again about observing - Motivation is a wonderful thing!

I have a ludicrous number of cold frames - seven to be precise. I only meant to have four. When Management retired last May we bought ourselves a couple of ‘stuff the day job’ presents - mine was cold frames. Four were ordered, three arrived. Phoned supplier, many apologies. A couple of weeks later, four more arrive - and the driver refuses to take back the extra three. He says I have to contact the company and arrange for them to be collected. Which I did. They did not. After the third attempt I gave up - sod ‘em, and sod their stock control as well. This many cold frames needs a fair amount of space, but the ground slopes in the nursery and try as I might I could not get the damn things lined up and straight.

Enter The Welder . . . who moved two water butts, repurposed the steel frame they sat on, raised it so I don’t have to bend down and extended the whole to 16 feet long (which conveniently is the length of some planks I had left over), and in the space of a week we went from messy dumping ground to TA DA!


A couple of days we didn’t get outside because of the weather, but we’ve progressed at what is, by our normal standards, breakneck speed.

He did the steel-stuff, I did the paintbrush-stuff - Hammerite for the frame and basic Cuprinol for the wood;  and I built the wooden top. 

Everything is screwed to everything else so, in theory, nothing is going to get knocked over or blown off . . .

We still have to finish the lids, and I plan to rig up cord system for opening them.
Sort of like this:
(c)  https://www.sunset.com/garden/backyard-projects/alaska-style-coldframe

Thank you sweetie, just teasing about the “motivation” thing (well, maybe - maybe not). I’m a bit in awe of the whole set up at present, looks incredibly tidy and professional and I am a little daunted as to whether I can do the darn things justice.

And for the eagle eyed - yes there are only four here, we’re working on the other three 😊