Sunday, 30 November 2014

Not looking my prettiest

Hello everyone,
So much for my vow to blog more, Since my last post things have not gone altogether to plan as I have been in hospital. I'm now recovering gently at home. It was nothing too major, just a small operation that made me look quite awful, don't worry, but I am certainly not at my prettiest best right now. Big aaaawwww

As I say, everything is fine although I did a concert looking like this last Friday (actually looking slightly worse) and horrified the audience I think - probably should have cancelled but I don't like to let people down if I can help it :-)

All that remains is for me to horrify my students this week with my frankenstein look.

Hopefully I can now continue my blogging as I vowed to.

See you all soon.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Steps part 2

I took advantage of the very sunny Sunday weather to do the next stage of my garden steps project.

I am very pleased with the result - it may not be pretty, nor as expert as a professional's would be, but the concrete (my first ever attempt at making it) has hardened well and I have been able to walk on it succesfully.

The path along the side of the greenhouse at the bottom of the steps is not finished yet as I ran out of concrete materials (it doesn't go nearly as far as I had hoped) but I have put the gravel base in, next just a fairly thin layer of concrete to stabilise it all and then I am done.

So here is how it looks.

No more scrambling, slipping and sliding down to the greenhouse. My plan at the moment is to plant a small lavender hedge along the side of the steps to soften the edges and then to put a trellis along the side of the decking and grow some small plants up there. I'm very pleased all in all.

I reckon the whole project has cost me £150 which is quite a lot, but I really couldn't have done it cheaper I don't think, the materials, quite simply, were expensive! Still I am sure a builder would have charged me at least £500 considering the amount of hours it has all taken, so I am very pleased to have only spent that much. I am quite keen to lay a path from the house to the top of the steps now and have plans brewing in my mind.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Autumn and Garden Steps

Hello all,
It is well and truly Autumn now but here in North England it is unbelievably warm so I am taking the opportunity to do some hard graft outside. I have been up on the roof and cleared the gutters and now I am getting on with the big job I started months ago - the garden steps and path down to the greenhouse. For those of you familiar with my garden layout you will know that I have a treacherous slope down to where my greenhouse is sitting and it makes trips to the greenhouse in Winter months or in the rain virtually impossible unless you are willing to risk a fall - I'm not.
So I have been slowly getting my act together to build some steps. At first this seems like an impossible feat for an amateur like me, but like everything else, having approached it logically and theoretically, and bit by bit, I am slowly getting there and I think I am getting it right.

First I excavated the site, then I built wooden things (I have no idea what the technical terms are but they will all eventually screw together and be filled with an amount of concrete - so far not screwed.

Here is how it is looking.

This will form the path alongside the greenhouse.

And the framework for the steps themselves - the posts will be concreted in and I will use a couple of small sleepers to form the three steps. Then fill with some concrete and maybe put some gravel on the top surface - not decided yet.

and this is the view down to the path - it all looks very wonky because the wood is just balanced here in this photo, I will screw it all together when everything is ready, sleepers etc. but it gives you the idea.

I am then going to put some stepping stones into the lawn from the house to the top of the steps so hopefully I will be able to get all the way to the greenhouse without having to put wellies on every time, even in the pouring rain.

Everything else is going well, I now have 16 students plus five whom I teach at a 6th form College and I am so enjoying teaching. Meanwhile I popped to London last month to do a performance of Don Giovanni, so I am keeping my hand in as it were. I am singing in a concert in Ely at the end of November too if any of you find yourselves in the area :-)
So considering this time last year I didn't have any students, I was totally unsure which direction to go in etc I am very pleased as to how all of it has turned out.

Bye for now.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

June is busting out all over.

I have been so enjoying the weather. We have been very lucky over the last few weeks with weather here in East Lancashire, glorious day after glorious day with just enough occasional rain soakings to keep the garden very happy. My house is full of sweet peas which fill every room with their glorious scent and, as is the way with sweet peas, as soon as one batch is finished there is another huge crop ready to pick, they really are a wonderful Summer treat.

As you can see, the garden is at it's absolute best at the moment, with flowers galore, all spilling out on top of each other, with something to look at in each direction.

The hebe turned out to be a good choice to replace the blighted box, I just have to try and stop it from getting leggy as time goes on.

Finally I can safely say that the tomatoes are the best year ever. This is great news after 2 very poor years. I have 9 plants, all of which are doing well. Keeping them in the greenhouse for their whole life has definitely been the answer and the growbags have really come up trumps. I should have masses and masses before long.

Couldn't quite get a good enough angle on the photo to get them all in, but you get the idea.

I have been dieting and am only 4lbs off my target of 13 stone, (if you'd asked me last week I was 2lbs off target but something went wrong this week). Meals are so easy to plan at this time of year I find and it is also pretty easy to eat healthy food (as long as you like salad that is haha)

So life is ticking along well, my budgeting is going like a breeze right now, not much spare money but enough to be happy and certainly that is what counts :-)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

I had a job interview....

and I got it!

I am now the piano teacher at a 6th form college in the area. It is only one afternoon a week starting in September but that, combined with my private teaching will make all the difference financially (and I wouldn't want much more hours there than that anyhow. Things are going well and there are no regrets and a lot less worries now. I am embracing my new life and really enjoying it all.

The garden continues to thrive and being here to enjoy it and work in it makes all the difference to its progress. I haven't got any further with my steps and path project yet, but thank you all those who gave me advice, I have a lot of good ideas now.

Now I am thinking of putting a pond in too, in the future.................

And thinking of converting my garage into a music studio..................

Dreams are great.

Friday, 27 June 2014

New project started

Hello all,
Well it's been a fantastic bout of weather here in the UK with glorious hot days. That spell seems to have passed for now and it is grey and significantly colder, but I'm really enjoying the Summer (especially as I am not working away from home for the first Summer in 18 years).

So I have begun a new project which for me is the most head-scratchingly difficult I have attempted thus far so anyone who has any knowledge and tips will be welcome to give advice.

The slope that leads down from my garden proper to my greenhouse is annoying and unmanagable in bad weather and so I have started the groundwork to create steps down and a path along the side of the greenhouse, this should make trips down there in winter or when it is wet much better.

I have started by doing the initial groundwork of cutting out the turf where the path will be

and then I started to cut out where the steps down will be

Finally leaving me with the complete area cut out.

Now that the site is cleared I need to move onto stage 2 as there is no going back now.
My plan at the moment is to put in wooden sides and posts along the path and then to fashion the steps using wooden sides and posts also, three steps down to the path should do it. When that is all in place I will put down hardcore, sand and then concrete and hope that the whole thing works and is stable. It's at times like this that I wish I had a friend with knowledge :-)

I will continue to mark my progress but the next stage will certainly be careful measuring and wood purchase.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Take a tour of my garden.

This Midsummer's day I thought I would do a short video tour of my garden as it is looking so lovely.
Stephen Spielberg I aint, so I'm sorry about the shaky camera work but you get the idea.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Tatton Park

I went to Tatton Park at the weekend and what a lovely trip it was, the gardens are magnificent as the azalea and rhododendron were in their full glory and what a lot of them they have. The house itself is very interesting and being a National Trust property I got in free as I have membership until the end of July. But it was the gardens that I loved so much. There was a walled veg and fruit garden that could have fed an army.

 The view across the lake
 and another.
 The view of the azaleas was spectacular.

 The photos just don't do the blaze of colour justice.
 The flag iris were only just beginning but by now they are probably a wonderful sight.
 View to the Japanese gardens.
 I liked this old bridge.
 The entrance to the maze.
And this is what I found in the middle of the maze.

It was a lovely trip, topped off with a jacket potato for lunch in the not too overpriced cafe. Most of the food in the cafe is grown in the walled garden when possible.

Today is beautiful so I am off to cut the lawns.

Monday, 2 June 2014


Hello all,
I keep on apologising for lack of posting but I'm going to stop that. I am posting what I can when I can but things have been a bit hectic of late, which is probably a good thing.
I am finally breaking even financially which shows that slowly but surely my new career path is beginning to work. No spare cash but now my savings are not really being touched which is good news except for the untoward. I have 9 students now when they all come which is good, taken 5 months but it is slowly starting to happen and word is getting about that I exist at least. The best bit is that I am really really enjoying it, especially when I think that in my old life I would now be battling up to London weekly  and misssing all the joys of my garden at home. No regrets and completely my own boss.
I have had a productive weekend and have opened new bank accounts, changed my gas and elctricity provider to Ovo and am exploring changing my internet service provider to Sky, all in a bid to make monthly cash stretch a bit further.
So I continue to shop carefully, and am becoming a dab hand at stretching a single chicken out to 4 or 5 meals making it super good value even for a greedy man like me.

Enough about all that.

Meanwhile every day brings fresh joy in the garden. My pride at the moment is for my lupins and my alliums.

There are 17 healthy looking flower heads accross just 3 plants, which, for me, makes a lupin record. These majestic flowers are among my very favourites.

And 30 alliums in the big bed make a very happy view. I had hoped the astilbe would be out by now and that the alliums would be surrounded by clouds of pink frothy flowers, but the best laid plans and all that.

Also my gladioli and dahlias are all growing away happily, as are the delphiniums.

Dahlia patch wants weeding I think. 3 varieties, Bishop of Landalff and more.

A usual my veg plot is poor at the moment (one day I will get good at veg), although the tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing very well this year, far better than the precious two years.

The veg bed is looking a higgledy piggledy mess and that is because after a poor beginning I have planted crops in no particular order as my original ones all died (my green fingers turned very grey on that day). I've decided to call it a cottage garden bed and to pretend that it was supposed to be random by design. I have 2 courgettes, some runner beans, French beans, peas, broad beans and a cucumber. I think I will plant some complementary flowers to make it look better. Given time it might look ok, here's hoping there will be some crop at least.

Finally a photo of lovely iris hidden away in the whale bed.

 Blue is never captured very well on my camera, but they look lovely in the flesh.

Monday, 12 May 2014

It finally flowered

It has been 2 years since I planted my deciduous azalea (red kosas)

Here's when it went in 2 years ago, gosh it all looks so bare.

Well it imeediately begain to suffer from mildew and I thought it was a gonner but I nursed it through.

Last year the Spring was so cold so late that it just didn't flower at all, but luckily no sign of mildew so I was relieved about that.

So it was with great excitement that I have been waiting for it to show itself off in all it's glory and my long wait was finally over this week.

It is not quite all open but it is quite a spectacle, such a rich colour and it draws the eye everywhere you are in the garden.

Not sure a photo can possibly do it justice but I just wanted to share it with you.

Other things I have done today are to plant my gladioli bulbs which were already sending out roots in their paper bag. I have actually moved my small camellia from the back garden to the front, I realised that I had planted it in the wrong place as it would become overcrowded once it grew and now I have the large new bed in the front thought it was better to move it now before it starts to grow over the summer. So the gladioli have gone in where that was. I have no memory at all what sort I got, but I think there are two sorts, a red and a white. Time will tell.
That's all for today.
Thanks for all the hedge suggestions, it is on the back burner while I mull it over and decide exactly what I will do with the whole front garden.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

I'm turning my attention to...

my front garden. Finally after 2 years it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of sorting out my rather neglected front garden.

It started off like this

This was the only flower bed (I added the plum tree 2 years ago and this was when this picture was taken. The bed was an uninspiring mix of groundcover plants, heathers, cotoneasters and unnamable beige and brown things none of which I liked. However I left it and for the last 2 years, as you know have been spending a lot of time in the back. Now this has changed, the back is happy to just grow now as all the hard designing work has been done, so over the last 2 weeks I have been working in the front.

I cleared everything from the bed as I didn't want to keep any of it,

and in so doing discovered this cute little 'wall' that I didn't even know was there. It took a lot of work and many trips to the tip with garden waste (was far too much for compost) until I had it completely removed apart from the plum tree and a lavender.

I have added lots of well rotted garden compost as well as horse manure. to this bed and the soil was looking good and healthy.

So today I have been planting it up. Lots of my plants from the greenhouse were more than ready to go in and as I had so many it has been great because it is such a big bed.

So here is the result of my labours

and a close up

4 big chrysanthemums (red wendy) at the back left, 4 more chysanthemums (gompie pink) at the back right. Foxgloves dotted about that I have been growing on for an age, 3 good sized lupins in the middle. Some red bacopa and a red trailing geranium which will hopefully trail down the wall and a ton of mini white chyrysanthemums (snowland) at the front. Just out of shot on the left are 6 shasta daisies I have been growing from seed.

When it all fills out it should be really lovely. I still have a large gap on the far right and I think I will put in a floribunda rose.

Now I have to keep my fingers crossed that I don't have more sheep visiting as I know they could decimate this bed in about 10 minutes.

So I have plans afoot to put in a hedge accross the front and down the side. I can't decide if whether to just be boring and put in a privet or to actually use a bit of imagination and plant a load of different bushes that can be shaped nicely. I am erring on the latter but I have to wrack my brains for lots of bushes that will fit the bill.I think it would be the nicer option. I still may use privet on the side. When I drive around and look at other 'open plan' front gardens I like lots of bushes I see, the ones that shape beautifully like big pompoms, just never know what any of them are, so all suggestions for nice trimmed front hedging bushes are all welcomed.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Long long overdue garden update.

I always seem to be apologising for my lack of posting at the moment, time is just running away with me as I have been busy. That is probably a good thing however so no complaints.

Anyway, as we are nicely into Spring now every day seems to bring fresh joy in the garden and I have at least been keeping up to date with my photographs of how things are changing.

My bath of tulips of a mysterious colour finally came out and it turned out I had planted...


Or had I?

Once the white had been blooming for a good couple of weeks and began to get past their best I noticed I had obviously thought a contrasting pinky red would go nicely with them. Clearly miscalculated on timing though as they are not really appearing together.

Oh well, better luck next time. I will cut the whites heads off when they are completely finished and then enjoy the pink.

My other tulips have been wonderful though, three long tom pots of creamy yellow that have just gone on and on for weeks and are still going strong.

They are an absolutel pleasure to look out on.

My most exciting thing in the garden at the moment is my beautiful azalea. I have been waiting 2 years for this to flower as last year it didn't ever make it with our peculiar Spring weather. This year flowering is imminent and every day I look hoping today it will have opened. It still hasn't but any second now magnificent scarlet flowers will appear. I will capture the moment when it happens.

The forget me nots around the base of the azalea don't photograph well enough to show off their wonderful blueness.

The alliums (30 purple sensation) should put on a great show later in the season. I have interplanted these with some pink astilbe so the two should look lovely together I think (hope).

Hanging basket gone up now, with a proviso that if it looks like it is getting very cold again I can whip it back into the greehouse. I have never planted up a hanging basket before (hard to believe I know) so it was all a bit experimental. I tried to keep to pink and yellow but I have a sneaky suspicion that I have accidentally put something else in there. Time will tell.

My herb pot has filled out nicely and I have used all of them in something or other so far.
Also bought some tarragon (French) and am trying again with another rosemary, something that I have successfully killed off (hard to do, I know) in the past.

This photo cannot do justice to the glory that is the bright orange berberis next to the greenhouse. It has put on quite a display this year.

Meanwhile I have started work on clearing out the hideous front garden beds. This has all been completely untouched in the 2 years I have lived here so this Summer I will start to make it look nicer, hopefully. It will look worse before it looks better though as you can see.

Finally here is a shot of the garden as it looks today, from the usuall spot.

It's going to be a good gardening Summer I think.