Tuesday, 20 September 2016


It might be the last mow of the lawn for the year. It might be the penultimate time I cut it. It could be the antepenultimate mow. I just don't know. However, the lawn is mown.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Autumn Fruit

It's been a long time, because the blackberries have been ready in August for several years, but this year it's September and they're ready. It feels more like the 'proper' time for us both, as we remember picking blackberries in September when we were small.

Anyway, we managed to collect a number of tubs from the orchard.

Start of the blackberry harvest (© Ian 2016)

And also a number of apples. These are Yorkshire Greening, from the apple walk.

Yorkshire Greening apples (© Ian 2016)

We also spent a while sorting out some firewood, and the wood shelter is almost at capacity, which is a good point to be at.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Willow Arches

The honeybees have been settling in well, and enjoying the late good weather. We had a thorough look through the hives this morning to check on them, and tidied up a few bits of extraneous honeycomb (brace comb) they'd built. Which means it was immediately necessary to make crumpets so we could have the honey contained in the brace comb for tea.

This afternoon, we've been sorting out the willows that form the arches to either end of the pond garden, and disguise the sheds on the septic tank. They had got rather out of control, so it looks an awful lot better pruned and tied in.

The Pond Garden (© Ian 2016)

The Long Border (© Ian)

The arch from the pond up to the colour wheel (© Ian 2016)

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Winter Hanging Baskets Planted

After getting the plants for them a week ago, we've now planted up the winter hanging baskets. They're hanging about on the arbour, for now, until the summer ones are past their best, when they'll go up on the front of the house.

Winter hanging basket (© Ian 2016)

We also discovered that we had a bowl full of plums on one of the Victorias on the hillside. They are utterly delicious.

Victoria Plum (© Ian 2016)

Sunday, 4 September 2016


It's been a weekend bracketed by visitors: Katie and son were here Friday night, and back again tonight, breaking up a journey to the north east. Liz's parents were here for the day today, coming up for fosterling contact.

It's been good to see them all, and we've had a nice time today, especially. Yesterday was more practical, making huge progress on the workshop. We've tried to get the room sorted many times before, but have never quite got it to a point of tidiness with workspace left— there's always simply been too much stuff.

This time, though, I think we've got it under control. For one thing, this is the first attempt since the massive amount of DIY work that started in 2014 when we insulated the walls. We only have relatively small jobs to finish in the house, which means that my stocks of material and supplies have dramatically reduced. I only have a couple of cans of expanding foam, now, down from a couple of dozen. And a mere three cases of screws.

So I'm not exactly underequipped, but there's considerably less than when we had eighty-odd plasterboard sheets, rolls of insulation, dozens of timbers, cans and cans of sealants and foams, and a score of bags of plaster.

We also finally installed a wall full of shelves above the worktop that backs onto the preservatory, which is the things that's really made a difference, as it's enormously increased the storage space. There's still a number of things to sort, including a couple of the cupboards, which I think might get seriously culled. Ideally, I'd like to get the shelved workshop clear to have tools on, and the other worktop permanently clear, so that you can actually work on it. I'd really like to get a table saw, and a spindle moulder, which would enable us to make a much greater range of things. Another half day tidying, and I think we'll be in a position to decide whether that's achievable.

Thursday, 1 September 2016


We planted summer hanging baskets a while ago, and they've done well. Blue Crystal and Blue Fountain lobelia (I think), some becopa, a fuchsia. They're nice, and they've been a really welcome bit of colour on the front of the house. However, apart from (probably) the fuchsia, the plants aren't hardy, and will either die, or look rubbish as soon as it gets frosty.

Clearly, that won't do. Over lunch today, we went to a B&Q, and found a combination of foliage plants that will take the hanging baskets through the winter: a gold-edged ivy, a holly-leaved fern, a black ophiopogon, and an acora.

We've got enough of them to plant up the four hanging baskets that go on the house—we don't intend bothering with the two from the arbour for winter—and got a set of baskets so we can plant them up soon, so they settle and grow together before autumn.

Planting combination for winter foliage basket (© Ian 2016)

Sunday, 21 August 2016


David and Ann have been here for the weekend, which has necessitated the consumption of baked goods, games, and much coffee. Much, in fact, as it should be. Aaaand relax.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Badminton, Bees, Babies

Today, we went over to Cheshire to celebrate friends' second child, who arrived early this year. It was a nice trip, and it was good to see them.

Newly arrived honeybee colonies (© Ian 2016)

Our long-awaited honeybees arrived yesterday. We made the platform (in deference to the sloping hillside) some time ago, but the bees were a bit delayed. They've arrived today. The far colony is slightly stronger, but both are doing well. They need proper stands, and I have a plan for strapping them down directly onto the platform.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Diamond Anniversary

We've spent the weekend in Shropshire, celebrating the Diamond Anniversary of Liz's paternal grandparents. It's been good fun, and our first chance to meet up with Liz's uncle and his family since he moved to Australia many years ago.

A walk in the woods (© Ian 2016)

The journey home, this afternoon, was not entirely straightforward, because of a crash on the A49, which sent us on side-roads. Single track side-roads lacking the capacity of an A-road. Or even the capacity to deal with two streams of traffic.

We detoured briefly, therefore, into a field, while things sorted out.

Monday, 1 August 2016


It's been a long weekend for us, including a day trip to Leeds to go bowling with my family. But we also made a trip to the garden centre on the way somewhere else, intending to pick up slug pellets.

We did manage to get the slug pellets...

A shopping trip for sundries (© Ian 2016)

...and a few other bits. It turns out that they had a lot of climbers 50% off. And we need climbers for the pergola that's going along the sides of the driveway, so it seemed opportune. No, the pergola isn't built yet. Details, details...

We also got some heavily reduced sedums (which are always good value), and some purple sprouting broccoli plugs (ours didn't make it, for some reason, and they'd be missed in the kitchen garden over winter). There was also a nice variegated Chlorophytum which I fancied, and a few ivies to plant around my new(ish) Calathea in the Victorian plant stand in the sitting room, to soften it a bit.

Anyway, the climbers: variegated jasmine, golden hops, climbing hydrangea, and a grape. No, I don't expect a crop; but the leaves are pretty, and they get good colour progression through the seasons, so it'll earn it's place.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

RHS Tatton Park 2016

Today was our fifth year going to RHS Tatton Park, and it's been an excellent day. I actually went yesterday, too, with my mum, and we had a brilliant day. It meant I'd scouted ahead, effectively, for Liz and my visit, which was quite helpful in many ways.

We may, just possibly, have gone mad on the plant buying.

How to cram a lot of plants into a Corsa (both © Ian 2016)

We came home with a lot of plants. 92 of them, in fact.
  • For the herb garden:
    • 2 Germander 'Summer Sunshine
    • 3 Black physic root (Veronicastrum)
    • 3 Winter savory
    • Chilean guava
    • 2 Calamint
    • Banana mint
    • Gold-tipped marjoram
    • Creeping white thyme
    • Chocolate peppermint
    • 4 Oregano 'Country Cream'
    • 2 Hedge germander
    • 2 Betony
    • Meadowsweet
    • 3 Ornamental oregano 'Hopley's Variety'
  • For the colour wheel:
    • Yellows:
      • 2 Inula hookeri
      • Helenium 'Waltraut'
    • Reds:
      • 3 Rudbeckia 'Cherokee Sunset'
      • 4 Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty'
      • 3 Potentilla 'Monsieur Rouillard'
      • 3 Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'
      • 3 Campanula punctata 'Alba flora'
    • Blues/Purples:
      • Campanula rotundifolia 'Harebell'
      • 3 Verbena rigida
      • Russian sage
      • 5 Scabious 'Blue Note'
      • 5 Caryopteris 'White Surprise'
      • Euphorbium 'Ascot Rainbow'
    • Whites:
      • 3 Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
      • 3 Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web'
      • Lychnis flos-cucula (Ragged Robin) 'White Robin'
  • For the long border:
    • 4 Scabious 'Barocca'
    • 3 Geranium wallichianum 'Havana Blues'
    • 3 Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'
  • For the pond garden:
    • Gunnera magellanica
  • For the quince bed:
    • Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver'
    • Heuchera 'Grape Soda'
    • Tiarella 'Pink Sky Rocket'
There were also four climbers, to go on some trellising (next to the driveway, and next to the greenhouse): two winter jasmines (Jasminum nudiflorum) and two evergreen clematis (C. armandii and named variety 'Appleblossom').

Some other photos from the show:

An impressive, if expensive, addition to a garden (© Ian 2016)

The plant crèche (© Ian 2016)

Lovely calm planting (© Ian 2016)

Chainsaw carved Gruffalo (© Ian 2016)

Can you spot the red valerian? (© Ian 2016)

Wonderful foliage collection (© Ian 2016)

Sunday, 17 July 2016


We've had a very enjoyable weekend in Cambridge, with some of our oldest friends.

Heading towards Clare College, Cambridge (© Ian 2016)

The Gardens of Clare College, Cambridge (© Ian 2016)

Pond garden, Clare College gardens (© Ian 2016)

The Bridge of Sighs, from the Kitchen Bridge, St John's College, Cambridge (© Ian 2016)

We had a lovely picnic on the backs, and spent a lot of time chatting, drinking tea, and playing games. Just as it should be.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Bee Platform

For many years, I've wanted to keep honeybees. We're finally getting round to it, partly because we discovered that a colleague of Liz's keeps them, and is set up to provide equipment and colonies. They need, obviously, somewhere to go, and we decided that one of the clearings on the hillside was ideal. However, the ground slopes rather dramatically, so we needed to create a stable and flat platform for the hives to go on, as well as stand on when working on them.

Bee Platform (© Ian 2016)

I don't like to do things by halves! The platform's about 8' by 5', which is big enough for two hives (with space for one or two more later); because of the slope, the right hand edge is only slightly above ground level—but the balustraded edge is about 4' tall. I think this justifies a construction. It's made of 100mm posts in drive-in stake/supports, with 6x2" joists and subjoists, with 6x1.5" decking, and although we need to make a set of steps, it's basically good to go. The hives will go on the back (right) edge, with the entrances facing uphill (away from the prevailing weather) towards the heather.

Cat basket/trug (© Ian 2016)

While we've been busy, Chess found a comfortable spot to sleep.

Sunday, 19 June 2016


I managed a mid-week mow of the lawn, which always makes things run better, as it doesn't have to fit in at the weekend. That was nice, because I then had yesterday to spend with my sister, playing badminton, and going to a local dog shelter's show.

Today, we met Liz's' parents for lunch in Halifax (while their fosterling was at a contact session with her brother) and then after that at home. After they'd gone, it was wood stacking time! We're making decent progress on getting the driveway cleared, and the wood shelter refilled.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

RHS Harlow Carr Flower Show

This weekend was the RHS Harlow Carr flower show, which we've never been to before, but made it to. The parking is off site, with a shuttle bus, which meant we had to carry everything back on a bus...

...which was inevitably a lot/more than intended, given the number of good displays and stands.

For the colour wheel purple bed (© Ian 2016)

The rest of the plants! (© Ian 2016)

The geraniums, Purple Ghost, have nice foliage, and should flower soon. The Mathiasella bupleuroides have—as you'd guess—very similar flowers to the Bupleureum rotundifolium we've grown in the colour wheel. However, unlike the annual, this perennial will stick around, which makes life easier.

The cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) are for the herb garden. Instead of making more trellis pyramids, we're going to alternate them with the cardoons. They're perennial, and reasonably evergreen, so they should form a softer, but still architectural, and living repeating element. They're not huge, but the grower seems to have similar conditions to us, and thought they'd get on well.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Ideal Home

Yesterday I went to the Ideal Homes Show at the Trafford Centre, with my parents. I've never been to either show or centre, so it was interesting from that perspective, and the show was fun.

There were a lot of good exhibits—from one or more of a culinary, practical, or aesthetic standpoint. For instance, reasonable fakes of timber framed windows in uPVC.

Sash window (© Ian 2016)

Candle holders fashioned from the oak stave of a barrel (© Ian 2016)

A rather high-class summer house (© Ian 2016)

Modern take on Victorian tiles (© Ian 2016)

An array of quilted upholstery (© Ian 2016)

A TV unit that could fit in to a more traditionally furnished room (© Ian 2016)

Wood fired pizza oven! (© Ian 2016)

Inside a summer house... (© Ian 2016)

...with a quirky exterior (© Ian 2016)

Today, Liz and I actually went back to the Trafford Centre for shopping purposes. And an ice cream.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Long Weekend and New Start

I've spent most of this weekend in Thirsk, relaxing thoroughly with a lot of badminton and table tennis, some films, and a large quantity of coffee. It's been really good; I came home mid-afternoon today.

I've actually just bought an espresso machine, which will hopefully arrive soon, having discovered how much I enjoy lattes (which have been instrumental, really, in learning to enjoy coffee without sugar).

Today is Liz and my eighth wedding anniversary. Over the last few weeks, we've decided that neither of us want to separate, and we'll be remaining together. It's going to be tough, and involve a lot of work, but I'm hopeful.

On the bank of Loch Awe (© REM 2008)

Sunday, 22 May 2016


It's been a weekend in Kent, with David and Ann. I really enjoyed it: plenty of food and games, and a visit to Emmett's Garden.

Wedding cake tree (Cornus controversa 'Variegata') (© Ian 2016)

Lovely bright rhododendron (© Ian 2016)

Bracts and flowers on a hankerchief tree (Davidia involucrata
) (© Ian 2016)
Also known as a dove tree (the bracts are meant to look like roosting doves) (© Ian 2016)

It makes a very pretty tree, though it's quite slow growing (© Ian 2016)

Perennial borders (© Ian 2016)

A new (well, being renovated) pond (© Ian 2016)

Sunday, 15 May 2016


Yesterday, I had lunch with Cath & Jason at a new burger place in Lindley (delicious; a blue-cheese sauce'd burger, with sweet potato fries), which was a lot of fun. The rest of the weekend has been effective, but less outright fun: a lot of cleaning, tidying and sorting inside—and I've managed to do a load of weeding and mow the lawn.

Sunday, 8 May 2016


I've spent the weekend in Thirsk, which has been very relaxing.

Earlier in the week, I made a little door for the soot hatch in the chimney in the master bedroom. It will need securing, when I re-point the chimney breast, but I like it.

Chimney breast in the master bedroom (© Ian 2016)

Monday, 2 May 2016

Hall and Woodwork

My mum came through for another weekend of decorating, and we've got loads done.

We: repainted the entrance hall, and the last niggling bits of paintwork upstairs; repainted most of the windowsills; cut and attached the skirting boards downstairs (and a few bits upstairs); finished opening up the fireplace in the front guest room; put the cornices on the fitted wardrobes; did the last bit of tiling (fiddly bits I'd never finished!) in the guest bathroom; replaced a power socket in the utility room (that's been on the to-do list for three years, and is the completion of a job itself on the list for three years—things get done, eventually...); put back up ten shelves in the master bed and dressing room; and repaired the floor in the dining room. We also vacuumed quite a lot, and I believe all the windows & frames were cleaned.
We drank a lot of coffee.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Garden Design

Yesterday I went to Wilmslow to have lunch with a friend from my old job (and her newly augmented family). They've been in the house for a couple of years, and have just finished a major extension, which means they're turning attention to the garden. We spent quite a while wandering round, thinking about what they might do. I've suggested a beech hedge to...well, disguise a trampoline, and compartmentalize the garden, as well as some ideas for a couple of beds (a sharply draining rockery one that I think would be good for herbs, and a herbaceous one in front of an established hedge).

I got home mid-afternoon, and my mum joined me to help decorating. It was a late night (she was indefatigable and determined), and a productive day today, so we managed to paint the master bedroom, the dressing room, most of both bathrooms, and the sewing room.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Window Reveals

Another busy week and weekend. I've been working on window reveals and boards upstairs, getting them fitted, secured, filled, and so on, ready to paint. It's rather time-consuming, but I am winning. Evenings this week have been spent putting skirting board on upstairs, and plastering the chimney breast in my bedroom. That's looking really good, now.

The re-plastered chimney breast in the master bedroom (© Ian 2016)

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Porch Floor

Most of the weekend has been spent laying a new floor in the storm porch, to bring it up to the same level as the floor in the preservatory (which, in turn, was raised to be similar to the floor inside).

The floor, as it was, is large York stone slabs, on the same level as the drive (and, therefore, the old garage floor's level, which was raised for insulation and damp-proofing reasons).

The original porch floor (© Ian 2016)

I had a set of new stones delivered, which then needed trimming and arranging to suitably cover the floor. As ever, I needed more mortar than I expected (I never get it right!).

Working out where each stone should go (© Ian 2016)

Eventually, I managed to get them all laid, by the end of Saturday.

The laid slabs (both © Ian 2016)

And today I pointed them. I used a mortar dye to get a buff colour. It's a little mustard-y right now, but I think it will cure to more what I intend. I hope.

The completed and pointed floor (© Ian 2016)

After that was done, I've pricked out brassicas (purple sprouting, sprouts, kale...) into module trays; planted out the dahlias (I've not potted them up and grown them on, though, so we'll see how they do), and sown some of the seeds needed in the colour wheel.