Sunday 16 December 2018


To say I feel like a rusty old bike that has been sitting in a shed for a few years is an understatement, but as a few of you have asked for an update here goes.
So my last post was about putting in a pond, well that was done and it is lovely. Very hard work to achieve of course and anyone who has tried digging a pond in rocky land will understand where I am coming from, but I achieved it after a lot of back breaking days and was very gratified when within 2 days of completion a frog moved in. It was almost like she had been hanging around the garden waiting for me to make her home and then said 'FINALLY' and jumped in. She was soon joined by a boyfriend and lots of frog babies followed. I am very lucky when I read of others pond misfortunes that mine has not given me one second of trouble since I finished it, it is healthy and happy with pretty much no help from me and is the easiest gardening I have ever done in that I don't do anything to keep it looking nice. What they say about bringing wildlife into the garden is so true, and I have been delighted by the frogs and dragonflies and other things I can't name. I am kind of lacking in pond photos though but here is a rather stark one from when I was just finishing it.

Another big change has come in the form of me taking the big decision to lose all the grass in my back garden. It was not a decision taken lightly but in the end I realised that although it looked beautiful for about 2 months of the year, the other 10 it was a muddy, weedy mess and I had to put wellies on just to pop outside to put washing out. So I set to learning how to lay patios. Yet more back breaking work but it was worth it as I can go out in my slippers now, and although I sometimes miss the look of all that green it is more practical and still looks nice. 

Here I found a picture that shows a bit more pond although you have to look carefully.

So other things that have been happening have been big. I converted my garage into a bedroom and so freed up another room to become my music studio. I bought a beautiful grand piano with some money I inherited and the result is that my house is finally finished.

I am very pleased with the results and my teaching practice has really benefitted from it. I also learned a few skills in the process, one was to lay a floor and I have done the above floor through the whole house. I also learned to fit a kitchen and so managed to put in a brand new kitchen for £500. Gosh, learning skills certainly does save you a lot of money.

I am still going off doing some occasional operas, but for the most part I am very content with a more home centred life and am even in a very new relationship (will wonders never cease) so life is good.

My future project is making a secret garden. I am getting on with it slowly but it is not yet totally secret as a few large shrubs have to grow before that happens. But the slope down to the greenhouse is now raised beds and I am making a space under the big berberis tree.

Here is how it looks so far and I want something a bit more comfortable to sit on but next Summer will do for that.

Anyway, I have enjoyed doing this update. Thank you for your kind messages, those that sent them and for those that sent me spurious messages advertising their own blinds business or other crap, then don't bother. I do keep involved and up to date reading others blogs but I think I just ran out or words with my own. I am happy to update but didn't really want the pressure I was feeling to do it so often and so ran away for a bit. I think it could be nice to dip my toe back in but in a more informal and occasional way.

Sunday 17 May 2015


I've wanted a pond since I was about 6 years old. My mother tells me how at that tender age in 'my' part of their back garden I once dug a small dip, put in a black bin liner and filled it with water then sprinkled some leaves on, you could call this my first pond although I can't imagine it was very successful and only probably lasted 5 days before they discreetly removed it.

So my pond plan has developed a lot over the next 40 odd years - as these things do. I am now going to include a bridge over it, this will allow me to make the pond slightly bigger. I think the view of the little Summer house with a bridge over a pond to it will be rather lovely.
The thought of all that digging is a little daunting, but after all that is just hard work and not exactly requiring great skill. I have, as is my nature, been doing my research and decided that a good quality butyl rubber liner will be the best option for me, both from the point of view of price and versatility, that way I can go to the exact shape that I want.
Today I started the process putting the plan down on paper. The raised bed will come out - it has not been a huge success and as it went in before the summer house, it has always been in a slightly annoying place so I'm not sorry to lose it. So between the pond and the summer house will be a gravel garden making access far better and reducing yet further my lawn area (fine by me, there'll be none left soon at this rate!). Meticulous planning has always been my best way of success in the garden so here is the first draft of the plan (artist I'm not):

These things are always subject to change before the spade hits the soil of course, but I am happy with the look as it stands. The important thing to me is that it looks as natural as possible, I've never been a fan of ponds that don't blend in to the surroundings well, so the planting will be very important and so far I'm no expert on pond plants - far from it.

So now I will think about it for a bit, modify here and there and then off we go. Progress will, of course, be recorded.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Requiem for an Apple Tree.

I've had to cut down a tree today, it is a bit sad because it was one of the first things I did when I moved in here, planted an apple tree. It felt like a real occasion when I did this Being rather inexperienced when I first came here I did think it was odd that the tree only ever had about 20 leaves, never flowered and didn't produce one apple, but I thought that perhaps these things took a while to establish. It was only when my mother was here earlier today that she pointed out that it was riddled with canker. Suddenly it all made sense as to why it was so sick looking and never did anything. I suppose I could have tried to rescue it but honestly I think it has been sick since the day I got it with hindsight.
So I cut my losses and cut the tree down.

Here it is, when it first went in 3 years ago, a milestone.

and now I have a new space opening up.

All gone.

So what to do now?

I'm guessing that putting in another apple in that same spot is probably a mistake, no idea if this is true or not, but rather not take the chance. Might take the opportunity to put a nice apple tree in the front garden now where there is more space.. I want to replace this one with a nice small and compact tree perhaps, Or maybe even no tree at all. I'm thinking of it as a nice opportunity to think creatively again.

On another note, I am thinking of ripping out the raised bed and putting in a pond this Summer, I like the idea of having some water in the garden, which would hopefully attract some wildlife, especially some frogs, who could gorge themselves on slugs and snails! I am having a think.......all that digging, aargh.

Another fabulous day today with the French doors open onto the garden. Hope you all enjoy the good weather as much as me.

Saturday 4 April 2015

April, seedlings and seeds.

Looks like it is going to be a great bit of weather for a few days at last. The last nice spell saw me doing hours of weeding and getting most of the back garden beds ready for the year ahead.
My house windowsills are full to busting. My sweet peas and nasturtiums have come on a treat although I tentatively potted on the nasturtiums today and they have all fallen down so fingers crossed, I know they don't really like their roots disturbed too much. If they fail I still have time to start again though. Tomatoes are coming on ok, I am growing a few different varieties and will probably just keep two of each in the end.

A tangle of sweet peas

nasturtium all lying down.

The other windows are full of trays covered in plastic bags, which I can't wait to see green shoots emerging from.

So this is what I am growing at the moment:

Tomato - Gardener's Delight
Tomato - Moneymaker, both tried and tested before and very succesful plants.
Tomato - Tigrella
Tomato - Marmale
Tomato - Golden Sunrise
Cosmos Purity
Cosmos mixed
Sweet peas.  Alan Titchmarsh, Purple Pimpernell, Chelsea Centenery, Winston Churchill
Nasturtiums, Mixed climbing and Moonlight
Turks Turban Squash
Sunflower Valentine, Vanilla Ice, Claret
Lime Basil
Padron Chilli

And a few more besides. Lots of these were courtesy of a lovely blogger who sent me some left over seeds.

I've planted my lilies in pots as Monty Don said to in Gardener's World last night and I always do what Monty says, put some crocosmia lucifer corms in the ground and now I am going to have a cup of tea.

Nice day and weed free beds (sort of)

My daffodils and narcissus see to be behind everywhere else in the country.

Tulips coming up nicely.

This is a great time of year for lots of exciting things and over the next month or so lots will be happening to report on. Not just in the garden. I am in the middle of getting quotes to convert my garage which is very exciting stuff too.

Happy Easter everyone.

Saturday 14 March 2015

I'm now a writer for something else!!!

I have been asked to write gardening articles based on frugal living for the Frugality Hub website, which is a great website that I heartily recommend. It was lovely to be asked to do this and do please check me out under 'Grow Your Own' and leave me comments over there if you like them as I am still a newbie with no followers commenting. I have just submitted a new article to them which should appear in the next few days as well.

This is the first article that I wrote for them last January so I thought that I would repost it here now that a couple of months have passed. I won't usually repost but wanted to let you know that I am writing over there as well as continuing over here on my blog.

Gardening – the original frugal pastime.

Amongst gardeners there has always been an unspoken rule that it should be cost cutting and it is only in recent years that it has become an expensive hobby. Thanks to the birth of the Garden Centre and TV shows that inform you how to ‘transform your garden in a weekend’ we have somewhat lost the way and want instant results with none of the patience. 

True gardening is, I think, an exercise in patience and that has always been the joy of it for me, instant gardening while giving you impressive results is expensive and a lot less rewarding in the long run.
The first garden centres opened in Britain in the 1950’s and up until the 70’s they were still few and far between. My grandmother had a wonderful cottage garden and never visited a garden centre in her life. Instead she relied on collecting seeds, taking cuttings and swapping all sorts of these with friends and neighbours. I have memories of her porch, always filled with wonderful red pelargoniums with their rich scents. She never bought new plants when she lost one, rather she took cuttings and produced more so she had a constant and free supply. Nowadays it has become the norm to visit the garden centre and buy 4 trays of these lovely plants every year, throwing out last years. Taking a cutting from pelargonuims and many other plants is child’s play and you could easily have more than you could use with just a little time, effort and patience.

Growing from seed is a pure joy.

There are two occasions in the gardening year from which I gain a special happiness. One is in late Autumn when I start thinking about what I want to grow from seed the following year and the next is in Spring when the seeds I have planted begin to show their first small shoots. Instant garden centre planting means you completely miss out on this joy. With the latest advent of online seed shopping and seed swapping it has never been easier to get your hands on relatively inexpensive seeds in varieties you could never buy as plants, however hard you searched. The brilliance of it is that at the end of a season you can collect the seeds and start the whole process again for free the following year. There are also plenty of people online willing to swap seeds (or in fact just give them away) for the price of a stamp. Just a quick search on the internet for ‘seed swapping’ will find you numerous results.
So next time you are thinking of going to a garden centre to spend plenty of money take a moment to think if, with some patience, you could grow the plants from seed or from a cutting instead, the satisfaction is unbeatable. You don’t even need a greenhouse, they can be started off on a window sill or you can get (or make) yourself a small cold frame. You just have to think a little in advance of Summer and start them off around March or April.

Thursday 12 February 2015

In Need of my Spring Fix

The weather seems to have subtly changed here in East Lancashire. It is still cold, but finally all the snow is melted and there have been no frosts for a few days now. When this happens I find my mind turning towards Spring time and all that joy to come. I love seeing the first snowdrops, which are nodding their white heads in my garden now.

My small narcissus are  growing nicely too although my daffodils are yet to appear.

At this point I would usually be reaching for the compost and seed packets, desperate to get growing things, but I am forcing myself to wait this year as I am always too early. I have decided that the first week of March will be my first planting, desperate though I am. For someone who isn't interested in gardening this itching to start planting must seem like a strange desire, but anyone who has grown plants from seeds knows that this is one of the most exciting times of the gardening year.

I have given into my planting fix by buying an azalea which is going to go in a pot. One afternoon I was sitting in my arbour with a cuppa looking at the garden from a different angle and I realised I was misssing a trick. At one end of my deck is a lovely azalea that has rich purple flowers when they come and on the other side of the deck was nothing. I thought a pair would look nice at opposite ends. I am not usually one for symmetry but this appealed to my gardening eye. The other factor was that it is in a very pretty pot that I got for free from freecycle and I had another one exactly the same with nothing in it currently so they really will be symmetrical. Just to mix it up I got one with pink flowers though instead. It is currently residing in my greenhouse awaiting potting up - this afternoons job so photos will follow.

Has anyone else given in to the planting temptation?

Sunday 1 February 2015

Any ideas anyone?

I have a gardening dilemma.
I have a planter with trellis attached that I have had for 2 years. It is a cheap and nasty thing but if I could get something to climb up it then it could look really nice over Summer.
Here is a photo of it:

The problem with it is that it only fits a window box planter in so I can't use it to grow anything that needs lots of space for deep roots, so I am looking for annual climbers that don't need lots of root space. So far over the last two years I have had zero success with it - first year I planted sweet peas and because they grow deep they did absolutely nothing, second year I planted morning glory and black eyed susan and these were both also a complete non starter.

So it is time to ask the people who follow my blog if they have any good ideas, I do want to grow annuals in it and am planning growing from seed.
Here are some ideas I got off the internet:

Spanish Flag
Cup and Saucer Plant
Twining snap dragon
Purple bell vine.

I have never grown any off these before so rather than make a mistake for a third year running and end up with nothing has anyone any experience of growing these or any other annuals in fairly shallow planters?

All ideas welcome.