‘it is the season now to go…

about the country high and low, among the lilacs hand in hand, and two by two in fairy land.’ 

          Robert Louis Stevenson

The Open Garden season is in full swing and our first of the year was a garden at Hognaston in Derbyshire a couple of weekends ago.  I chose this because the leaflet said the garden owners have a woodland garden complete with a pond.  Intrigued to know how they managed their pond in a woodland setting (as we have similar in our Scottish garden) I just had to have a visit so that I could quiz the owner.

Picnic Lunch

We set off with a picnic lunch (cheese and beetroot rolls, a mixed salad with chopped up left over veggie sausage and a Higgidy Feta and Red Pepper veggie roll) – it was a gloriously warm, sunny day – just nice for eating outside.

When we arrived at the garden it was really busy and many of the visitors seemed to be regulars and knew to head straight for the tea tent to get the best of the cakes on offer!

The garden did not disappoint – although on a much smaller scale than the Himalayan Garden we visited last weekend I felt it had more interesting aspects for me and a particular ‘casual wandering through a wood’  feel about it  – not too overpowered by planting if you get my drift.

Hognaston Open Gardens

As with the Himalayan Garden the Primula were out in force but a beautiful sight set against the tapestry of greens.

Primulas

Like our garden in Scotland they have a natural stream running beside their garden – only a bit wider than ours – you can just see a glimpse of it in this photo below.

They also have a pond that fills with water only when the water table is high – there is no membrane, the pond is purely a part of the garden that has heavy clay that acts as a liner – at times there is no water in there at all.

Woodland Pond

It was so natural and delightful surrounded by bog loving plants and a network of crunchy gravel paths with one of the paths forming a modest bridge over the two ponds (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the bridge).

Being under a canopy of trees like my little pond in Scotland I was curious to know how the gardener maintained the pond after the leaf fall.

He told me there is no magic answer to keeping the pond clear  – you can try covering them over before the leaves begin to fall – but mainly it is down to emptying the pool every year and scraping out the sludge that collects. 

This was not what I wanted to hear but at least it confirms that it can be done and I couldn’t bear to part with our pond in the wood even if it is going to be an absolute pain to manage.  Anyone following this blog will know that I completely cleaned it out a couple of years ago – (see here) then covered it with netting over the Autumn / winter period.  I have pulled some sludge out this year and will aim to give it a good clear out next Spring.

The cover we made was a flat frame and the weight of the leaves made the netting sink into the water and the leaves rot.  Then recently I came across a handy universal cover for odd-shaped ponds on the internet from Agriframes which is raised in the middle to throw off the leaves – so I am madly saving up my overtime to buy one – sometimes all the overtime does come in handy!

Rubra

We spent a glorious 2 hours wandering in the garden – taking notes of course and collecting names of plants we had not come across before as well as taking time to leisurely sit in the warmth of the sun with a cup of tea and home-made cake…perfect!

It is a delightful secluded garden, peaceful and relaxing with the distant sound of running water and so much birdsong.  If ever you get chance to go I don’t think you would be disappointed.

We are headed up to Scotland now so there will be a break in transmission for a few days, no communication up there for us, but I will pick up any comments, should you care to leave one, on my return.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend.  back soon x

so much sadness here…

The beautiful area I live in by the Pennines that divide Yorkshire and Lancashire has been in the news recently but sadly not for good reasons.

We live just below Wessenden Moor which leads onto Saddleworth Moor where the moors murders took place and Keith Bennett’s body remains unfound.  It is an isolated place but going over the hill from here that eventually drops down into the valley and Greenfield at Dovestones reservoir is one of those views that takes your breath away.  You will have seen on the news that Ian Brady died taking with him the knowledge of where Keith is buried.  Going over the moors for me is always a poignant reminder of these poor children and their families.

And now more recently the suicide bomber in Manchester – we are only 22 miles to the city centre of Manchester with the Pennine Moors between us so it was always likely that we would know someone who attended the Arena on Monday night.

My colleague, who joined my team when Helen died, was there with her 12-year-old daughter – it was a Xmas present that she had been waiting for excitedly.  Luckily they stayed for the last song and were safe inside at the time of the explosion and not making their way through the Foyer as it was detonated.   They immediately just ran out as fast as they could for safety -not knowing what was happening, but the sights and sounds they saw on the way out has traumatised them so they are unable to sleep at the moment.   Another colleague at work knows one of the girls that died and another that is seriously injured.

The sad loss and the heartbreaking stories that people have – our thoughts and prayers reaching out to them.   There are no words that can express our feelings it is all beyond comprehension but on the good side the Manchester people will come together and offer whatever they can to help.

 

 

 

 

up hill and down dale…

I had quite a busy weekend but mostly enjoyable.

I did my two hours of paperwork over Friday and Saturday (mentioned in my previous post) and filed all the papers and then moved on to the Mount Everest of an ironing pile and finally managed a half-way clean in our office and main bedroom.

A half-way clean in my books is one that isn’t exactly a deep clean of moving furniture or emptying cupboards but neither a lick and tickle with the duster.  It always feels good to me to have a good clear up – tidying up loose ends as I go and then giving all the surfaces a good clean.  What a shame it doesn’t stay in shape for longer!

On Friday afternoon I took my good friend and neighbour out for Afternoon Tea for her birthday at a local Garden Centre called Totties – only when we got there did we find we should have booked!  We settled on a Cheese ploughman’s with hummus instead followed by ice cream – both courses were delicious.  We both agreed it was probably more enjoyable than Afternoon tea as we both like savoury foods more than too many sweet cakes.  We will definitely go back though to sample the Afternoon tea another day – remembering to book next time.

We travelled up to the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday to meet my daughter and granddaughter at the Himalayan Garden at Grewelthorpe between Ripon and Masham. 

I was a bit disappointed that it was overcast and in places quite cool but depending on where we walked in the garden we came across unexpected pockets of warm micro-climates.

It is quite a stunning 20 acre garden with a mass of very colourful and showy rhododendrons and Azaleas on wooded slopes with winding paths that lead down into a valley with two main lakes.

Dotted amongst the planting are modern sculptures – some I liked better than others and although it is an interesting garden I personally found some of the features a bit too themed but it didn’t really detract from the beauty of the place.  

These are the sculptures we did find interesting…

perhaps not a sculpture but I quite like this feature below!

The Primula here grow in abundance…

and this jetty is my favourite spot…

You have to admire the sheer scale of the planting and dedication that has gone into this place and it is still a work in progress.  The garden has an interesting history which you can read about in the new visitor centre.  It is a private garden that is only open for a limited number of weeks in the year and you have the added bonus of being able to talk to the head gardener in the Nursery for planting advice.

In all it was a pleasant day we had a picnic in the grounds and a cup of tea from the new chalet tea room and a play on the roundabouts then set off gathering pine cones, sticks and fallen leaves for granny to carry.  I resembled a nature table by the end of the walk.  In the Plant Nursery we were tempted to buy a delicately flowered white Azalea (see below) which is now waiting on our patio for a trip to Scotland.  It is not too showy and likes shade and will blend in well in our wood at the cottage.

At the end of the day we went home with one happy little girl…

and one happy granny…

My garden tonight – a little smaller in scale than the 20 acre garden but my little corner of tranquility and how quickly everything is growing.

And now its back to work while the weather is warmer and sunny!

 

 

economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x

catching up…

You name it I am catching up with it, even at work, and this is one of the reasons I am behind at home because of the amount of overtime I am doing after work and some weekends, preparing for our firm’s year-end – if we exceed targets we get a bonus – simple as that – I would be happy though with just getting some sleep!

Last Thursday I had a day in the garden – catching up on the weeding – it was heaven to be outside in the warm sunshine.  Apologies for the poor quality of photo my battery was about to go!

 

Everything in the sunny bed is suddenly growing at a rate of knots and will soon be in full bloom.  I have peonies with nice fat buds and even the two most recent additions look like they have a swelling flower bud.  They have not flowered since I bought them two years ago – a bit temperamental – I am not even sure what colour they are.

I spent quite a bit of time in the shady bed at the other side of the garden – here the soil is poor despite the amount of compost we dig in the subsoil is not far from the surface.  The fence between ourselves and the neighbour’s garden is a bit of a problem as last year our new neighbour decided to remove every last shrub and flower from his garden in favour of all grass.

The fence was a run of 6 foot high sturdy trellis panels and the planting here was once one of my favourite spots.  The shrubs planted on both sides of the trellis intertwined and mingled together and formed a good screen whilst allowing the wind coming down off the moors to blow through.

On our side we have a Cotoneaster horizontalis and Hydrangea Peteriolis climbing the trellis –  whilst on my neighbours side there was a beautiful variegated Kalmia and various other shrubs that spilled through to our side.  However, not only did he dig out all his shrubs but he chopped off all our climbers growing through to his side – result  – our climbing plants died back almost to the ground.  As you can see they have now started regrowing but at the moment our privacy has gone.  Then our neighbour filled in the trellis with additional slats and then highered the whole fence – result –  a bit of a mess, although I suspect it looks better from his side.

 

I have been trying to stop the climbers growing through the fence and getting the chop once again this has been a tricky operation as climbers like to climb and twine themselves in and out of the trellis.   Then I had the idea of stretching some windbreak fabric across the bottom half of the fence to protect the climbers low down and we will add wires at the top to encourage the climbers to stay on our side.  We also bought a free standing Gazebo to match the one on the sunny side of the garden and we will grow Honeysuckle on this to fill in the space in the middle of the bed and make the garden private once more.

Hopefully by the end of the summer we might have some good growth.

back home and back to work…

I have been back home now for over a week but not had the time to put pen to paper (so to speak), not that I have anything very exciting to say – life has just been rolling along in the usual non-eventful way.

I spent a lovely few days in the woodland garden in Scotland rumaging around in the undergrowth like a wayward squirrel but this was followed by a few stressful days on my return to work which has thrown up that question again of ‘just how long do I intend to go on working’?  I am a few years off collecting my state pension but to tell the truth I don’t feel I want to work to sixty six as life is short and there are new challenges I would like to attempt before I get too old and creaky!

So I am in deep thinking mode at the moment which has been robbing me of quite a bit of sleep.

On the domestic front…

We have a number of projects on the go – far too many – both at home and in Scotland.  I should have named this blog My Double Life or Coming and Going – some days I wake up and don’t know which place I am in!  We never intended to have 2 homes for long but the flood at the cottage has delayed our plans to move up there.

Here at home we are decorating my younger daughters bedroom to use when my granddaughter comes to stay. It was a bit tricky taking a decent picture and didn’t help facing into the light that floods in from the Velux in the roof.

 

bedroom makeover

As you can see it is looking quite dated now with the lacquered pine that has mellowed and yellowed over time and is in need of a revamp. My daughter and her friends loved this room with the mezzanine sleeping platform over the shower room accessed by a ‘Samba” staircase.  You can lay in bed at night and see the stars.

The other end of the room has a normal window overlooking the back garden.  The room is quite narrow only about ten feet wide as it is directly above the garage and laundry room.

bedroom makeover 2

Sometime in the nineties whilst at art college my daughter added the stencilling feature to the staircase but this is really past its prime now.

Nineties stenciling

So it will be covered up and all the pine wood painted to give it a whole new cleaner and fresher look and bring it up to date.  More posts on the makeover later.

In the garden in Scotland…

By the pond

I spent more time around the pond – cutting back the Fernery and clearing the water of dead leaves.  We added a plank on top of the two wooden posts I discovered beside the pond last time so we can sit there, have a cuppa, and admire the garden – I planted a few more Primula in and amongst the stones and transplanted lots of Foxgloves into the wild flower patch just out of sight of this photo.

I have the Fuchsias  to prune back at the edge of the pond but then we can sit back and wait for everything to grow and flower.

 

a different kind of leak…

We are headed for Scotland today – yeah – a whole week of gardening – I hope the weather improves – looking quite cold and only sunny in the earlier part of the week.  Never mind we will be snug in the caravan but better order an extra-large bottle of gas – the central heating is great but obviously it drains the gas quickly.

The Swift engineer will be coming to replace the carpet in the caravan – we had a leak from the radiator when we first put the central heating on – the anti freeze is very sticky so the carpet dried stained and stiff – hence the replacement.

Whilst we are up there I have a long list of jobs one of which is to attend to a different kind of leek and make further in roads in clearing the wild garlic – after having a bit of a google I have found that our wild garlic is actually most likely to be Allium triquetrum – the three-cornered leek – looks like a white bell in flower (good in ham sandwiches they say – no use to us vegetarians then).  Spreads like mad and difficult to get rid of it.  I was hoping perhaps the rabbits might like to eat it instead of my Delphiniums!

See you in a week. x