Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Yesterday I caught sight of this twig caught in a spider's web stretched across the pond but...
it turned out to be a stratagem for luring unsuspecting prey into the web...

I've not seen a web across the pond before but I suppose 'someone' had to think it might be a good idea.

There's nothing there this morning just a single thread...

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Down at the bottom of the garden is this swathe of what I always used to call Agrostemma aka as Corn Cockle, then it was improved to be a garden plant and renamed as something  which I can't remember - that's a good start! It also comes in a white version as well as this bright pink and self seeds itself without any trouble.
The jasmine on the bottom shed has grown so much this winter, not just the leaves and flowers but the stems, too.
Back in 'April Garden Pt 2'  I posted a photo of what I thought were going to be cones on the Norway Spruce which has gone berserk in this part of the garden. Well, the red thingys did turn into cones after all and very pleasing it is, too, to know that at last it's doing something other than just growing!
Opium poppies have popped up everywhere this year, pink doubles and red singles like these below.
There are a lot of green pinheads showing through the soil all round the garden so I reckon these are what I'd thrown around where ever there was a space and now they're all emerging at once. Since they're annuals, unlike the other poppies which I've posted in other Garden months (which are perennials) these should flower later in the year.
This is the main flower head of the sea holly Eryngium giganteum aka as 'Miss Willmott's Ghost'. It's a striking plant with stiff strongly veined leaves, the flower being a steely blue, when it arrives.It's surrounded by other, less pronounced flowers on stiff stems. It's a biennial but seeds fairly easily and the 'Mum' of this plant was bought about 15 years ago...
Miss Willmott lived from 1858 - 1934 and apparently scattered the seeds in gardens she visited, which is how it got its name!  She was a strong character (with money and influence, which helped) who spent her whole life advancing the cause of horticulture. When she inherited the family home it's said she employed 104 uniformed gardeners - a bit like mine. I jest!
When she died the garden was neglected, the house was demolished so that smaller houses could be built on the site but, because of Green Belt policy, these were never built and now the Essex Naturalists' Trust run it as a nature reserve. Just as well it's in Essex or HS2 would probably carve its way through it, Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or whatever. Sorry if I sound bitter. Information from the book I've mentioned previously.
Coming back up towards the house there's this feathery fennel, well, two of them, also self seeded from plants which I bought years ago. They can be a bit of a problem as they're not easy to get out unless you catch them as small plants. The eryngium is on the left hand side, copper beech hedge in the background, cedar, trellis which has fallen apart and the huge walnut tree which is three gardens away. The 'tree-man' came to trim my lilac a few days ago and says you should prune walnut trees now. I wouldn't have so many little walnut trees popping up everywhere if it was cut down a little bit! Planted by the other gardeners, the squirrels.

A little while ago I posted about the mullein but well before it got to this size - it's still got time to grow some more. The flowers are quite small but they are a nice plant to have in the garden. And no mullein moth this year, either.
Just as a PS I have no end of trouble with the new editor - it won't behave as it should and even Sarah, who's my Blog expert, can't find out why it behaves as it does so has concluded my PC is running a system which is too old. It's almost as bad as the original system I began with - it's one reason why I haven't posted recently. I have a long post about a day out when Gillian and I went to Elton Hall in Northants but it took over a week to do and it's still not finished - I'm bored with the hassle so won't go back to it.

Monday, 13 June 2011


Did your Mum have a button tin when you were small? Unless you're a crafter of some description I bet most people don't have one these days. My Mum kept all kinds of 'treasures' in her Taverner's Wine Gums tin which I used to enjoy playing with even though I didn't know what half of them were, or where they'd come from.
The item above was one thing which intrigued me - what on earth was it? Not a pencil, why did it have a knob on the top and a tiny hole in the bottom piece of metal? Years later I found out that it's a lace bobbin made of bone but where did it come from because neither Mum nor Granny (who lived with us) made lace?   

Then this pretty green bead.I wonder why she kept this. Was it just because her favourite colour was green?
It looks a bit like the amazonite I had in a ring - before I lost it at White Waltham airfield several decades ago. In those days I had long hair and had rewound it into a coil to repin it - and took my ring off. Forgot to replace it and so lost it.
This is a spinner from a game called Put and Take, a weighty bit of brass wth a textured 'stalk' at the top by which to spin it. I think it was a pub game played for money so how on earth did we get it?
The pug's head was a favourite of my Dad - but what is it for? Looks a bit like the Wade figures you see from time to time but this must be Edwardian or Victorian as I remember it in the 1940's. It's only 3/4" high, too. It's standing on a modern pencil holder, given to me as a present years ago but just the right base to stand this little object on.

Something from WW2 - the only piece of shrapnel I have. After a raid we children in the road would go out searching for shrapnel and I had quite a good collection of various bits and pieces which disappeared over the years. Henry Shrapnel didn't how his invention would be used in the two centuries since he invented it...
This is the first of two pieces from WW1 - a piece of a Zeppelin which was shot down in 1916 by Lieutenant Leefe Robinson who won the VC for this.  He died on 31st December 1918 during the flu epidemic which swept the world. The label was written by Mum and I've never seen handwriting like hers anywhere else. I have a photo of her in class about 1910 which I also found in a book.....

And the last piece is a map of Australia carved in the trenches by the Australian soldier who married my aunt Ada and took her to Australia, never to be seen again by her family in England, as was usual in those days. He was a sapper digging tunnels under the German lines in order to fill them with high explosive and detonate them. (Not personally, you understand.) Mum used to say he could hear the German sappers nearby digging their tunnels and it seems to have been correct. I believe there's an exploration of new tunnels taking place 'now'. The metal shape has writing scratched on it but I need someone with a thingy scanner - what's the word, ultra violet? - to pick up the indentations.

Apart from these pieces there was a sample block of Rose and Hubble cotton  pieces stapled together. I think the pinked edges fascinated me as much as anything. There was an ?Edwardian shoe buckle, only one, with a diamante frame and moveable prongs on a bar - I discovered what that was on Antiques Roadshow!
A small, soft, baby's hairbrush though not mine, as far as I know, in a case which didn't belong to it. A marriage of two odd pieces. There must have been buttons, too, including those white linen discs which were used on men's underclothing - you punctured them with your needle wherever you happened to come up through the material...But not the colourful buttons we have in our boxes these days - Mum's collection was mostly black or brown coat buttons, trouser buttons or salvaged buttons for cardis or jerseys.

I think the shoe buckle must have belonged, or at least come from, a lady for whom my Granny scrubbed the outside doorsteps of her house.She often sent us hand-me-downs which weren't of practical use but I liked them for dressing up clothes - I've just remembered I have a piece of real diamante 'material' which must have been like wearing chain mail if it was a garment! A cut steel little ?evening bag on a chain with spiky pendant beads hanging from the bottom which went into the dressing up box - ah! where is it now???

What's in your button box - if you have one???


Have you ever made Bread Pudding, or Navvy's Wedding Cake, as it's also known! I haven't made one for years and years...back in the dim and distant past. Yesterday (Saturday) I'd bought a new loaf but there was too much of the old one left in the bread box so I decided to make a bread pud this Sunday morning.
I threw out the crust for the birds after I'd scraped the soft part into a mixing bowl and added water for it to soak in while I went to a tiny car boot in the drizzle with friend Brenda.
When I came back I squeezed as much water out of the soggy bread as I could leaving what looked like a blob of papier mache, to which I added a small amount of flour to absorb any water I hadn't got rid of. I shovelled in lots of sultanas, some sugar, a dollop of melted soft marg, lots and lots of mixed spice (judged by smell, not teaspoons) and an egg.
This sloppy pale brown mixture went into the largest container I had - a shallow dish - and into the oven at Mark 5 for about 35 minutes. I didn't weigh anything, just guesswork.
Considering the size of the chunk of bread I began with it hasn't ended up as large as I'd expected. Perhaps I should have used the crust, too, but nevertheless it's a tasty munch. Most of it has gone already - eaten hot and cold.
Have you made bread pudding?

Thursday, 9 June 2011


I recently ordered another package of random choice wool on eBay - the seller's choice, that is. It's ideal for blankets and I still have left-overs from the previous package I bought from her. At £10 for 16 balls plus £6 for postage that's just £1 a ball, no slogging round the charity shops to see if they sell wool (some do) and paying about £1.30 for it, though admittedly you are buying your choice of colour, if they have it. Wool shops are hard to find, in fact, I don't know where there is one! This comes to my door neatly packaged..
I reckon 5 strips make a blanket about 45" wide and I've just started strip No.3 of blanket No. 3 in the current series.

Monday, 6 June 2011

D-DAY, 6th June 1944

As a country we're uncaring about knowing dates of historical importance.

Today is the 67th anniversary of D-Day when 150,000 Allied troops landed in France at Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches. And many died.
As far as I'm aware World War 2, for schoolchildren, seems to be Evacuation and that's about it.

The Battle of Bosworth, April 22 1485, is another important date in English History - the last of the Plantagenet kings died in battle and the reign of the Tudors began. Who remembers? Who cares?

The second battle of El Alamein began on 23rd October 1942 - so what? It marked the turning point in the war in North Africa against Rommel and the Afrika Corps.

September 15th each year - why is that celebrated?- and a public collection made. It's Battle of Britain day.

When's Trafalgar Day? Not that we celebrate it, of course, it might upset the French! And why would we want to remember our greatest Admiral? You know who I mean.

We could do so much more about teaching our history to schoolchildren but - who cares?

No wonder we have no pride in our country; Wootton Bassett's care for casualties returning from Afghanistan shames us all.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Why shouldn't chickens have attractive houses? This is Stuart's idea for making lighter work of cleaning chicken sheds as these Little Tykes play houses can have the roof removed and be hosed out. The chickens seem to like their home, at any rate. The house is bolted to a wooden platform for safety's sake. The manege is behind this one.Yesterday he and Helen went to get some more birds and these are being introduced to their new home, and each other, while being confined to a spare stable for a while. There's plenty of space for scratching in the litter on the floor.
A few of the older inhabitants in one area
and more in another space, having fallen on the scraps as if they hadn't eaten for a week!

These too, poor starved creatures! Helen has made sure there's a mix of breeds for different colours.
Is this all that's left???
There were three cockerels in one batch which was hatched and eventually, as they grew more mature, a couple of neighbours didn't like the noise. The birds were given to more sympathetic chicken lovers many miles away. The stables are in open countryside but still a couple of neighbours complained...

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Hooray! The Add Icon button is working today though I've gone back to the 'old editor' as I can't understand the new Post panel that's come up...

Do you recognise the plant above?- it has furry leaves and a tall spike of tiny yellow flowers which sometimes gets a kink in it! Below is a photo from a few feet away. Yes, it's a mullein and it self seeds around the garden. You can see another one in the background. The one above just happens to be right under the bird feeder so is also decorated with sunflower seed husks...
I have to keep an eye on them as these plants can have mullein caterpillars on them happily munching their way through the leaves - so they have to be sprayed to get rid of them since I can't pick them off and squash them...!

I've had to cut down and burn my clematis Polish Spirit as I discovered what I thought were small brown ladybirds on the dead stems. There were dozens of them, not moving. I emailed the picture to Gillian to see if she could identify these creatures; she came back later with the information that they are scale insects...
The control seems to be spraying but - safety first - since the plant is dying, has wilted leaves all over it and not just a few, we decided the best thing to do would be to cut it down and hope that, being clematis, it'll shoot again from the base in due course. I haven't had a bonfire for decades and nowhere safe to burn anything now so we decided the wheelbarrow would do. Scrunched up paper went in first then all the clematis - and a cloud of burnt paper scraps floated up, up and away...no one's complained, yet! I've since discovered some more scale insects on my decorative vine which has had tiny leaves and no flowers to speak of this year, so that'll probably be added to the list of things for the tree-man to do. Too big a job for us.I took this photo a couple of weeks ago though the plant is in too much shade and needs to be moved - it's a 'Nora Barlow' aquilegia. She was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, studied genetics at Cambridge as well as raising a family of 6 children. She experimented with hybridising flowers, including aquilegia and this double flower has become known as 'Nora Barlow' though it's probably not bred by her. My book says a similar form was known in the 16th century. (The book's called, 'Who does your Garden grow?' by Alex Pankhurst.)
I first got interested in the idea of flowers being named after people as - long ago - I had a Dianthus 'Mrs. Sinkins'. Her husband was the Master of Slough Workhouse and she was Matron and it was he who developed this scented pink. Slough's town arms has a Bucks swan holding a Mrs.Sinkins flower in its beak.
I realise that I haven't posted any foxgloves and there are enough (self-seeded again) round the garden and there's a cone, one at least, on the Christmas tree at the bottom of the garden, which a knowledgeable friend has identified as a Norway spruce.
I'll post some more pics later.
I have a bit of Stone parish family history research to do for a lady in the south of England now. Must put my thinking cap on...

Thursday, 2 June 2011


I haven't posted for a while because of the hassle with leaving comments on other blogs but I'm still having to sign in every time I open my own blog. How annoying is that!
But I thought I'd walk down the garden this morning and see what flowers are still about, coming or going.
The plant at the top is catmint, Nepeta 6 Hills Giant which I've had for years. Cats love to eat the leaves or roll in it - and it's a spreading plant, taking up a lot of room, which is why it's sort of confined in a wigwam of canes and string. There's a large Dryopteris, the bracken, on the left and a cornus is on the right.
Below these but nearer the front of the bed is this spreading plant called London Pride. This saxifraga has been with me as I've changed houses over the years and probably came from my childhood garden. Unfortunately I can't get any closer to the ground or I'd be able to show it to advantage.
The pond is behind me and the yellow irises, which have been flowering well these last few weeks, are beginning to go over. This clump is where the grass snake likes to rest, body wrapped round the plant and tail in the water. If it's a hot summer I expect it'll be back. It frightenedthe life out of me when I first saw it several years ago. About 2' long, green with a yellow 'collar', I had no idea what it was - but the frog it was swallowing was looking at me as it disappeared down the snake's throat. Last year Ashley was patting something on the patio with a cat's interest in a living creature but not sure whether it would bite or not - it was a baby grass snake curled up but watching intently - it must have been about 7", I think. There's somewhere nearby that the snakes like and the pond is handy for cooling off. Below is the snake on 3 June 2006... Look carefully!
Delphiniums are growing well this year and this, so far, is the tallest of them. It's disappearing into the lilac tree, but not for much longer, hopefully, as it'll be trimmed. (The tree, that is..)
More alliums are in flower,these are allium nigrum. The seed heads are the purple flowers which were out a few weeks ago, now getting ripe to shed their seeds into the path - again...
Allium cristophii has these star-like flowers which catch the light.
Some of the large flowered clematis are out, too, but these aren't as successful as the smaller flowered montanas this year.This has a Japanese name, 'Sho-Un', and the one below is one that hasn't done well for many years but has perked up this year - 'Niobe'.
Further down the garden there's a trellis arch which supports a honeysuckle and another clematis, 'Ville de Lyon', which hasn't flowered yet. There's also a rosa glauca hedge tangled in with the honeysuckle, the tiny bright pink flowers showing at the top. It needs a good prune later in the year or maybe early next year - not by me, though, it's very thorny!
The poppies by the cotoneaster are almost over, the others have finished now. They've done well this year without rain to batter them down.
The cotoneaster Rothschildianus is alive with 'hundreds' of bees so there should be a good crop of yellow berries this winter - it sounds like the 'bee-loud glade', perhaps, in WB Yeats' 'Lake Isle of Innisfree'.
Lysimachia punctata seems to take itself round the garden without me knowing! It's named after King Lysimachos of Thrace (c 360-281 BC) who is said to have pacified a bull with a piece of loosestrife. I wouldn't like to try that, would you???
Strange as it may seem, it's the same species as lysimachia nummularia, aka Creeping Jenny, that ground cover plant which begins by being 'nice' then gets to be a pest with its way of, well, creeping where it's not wanted.
I'm not too keen on roses as they seem to need such a lot of attention. But this one, 'New Dawn', is a repeat flowering version of 'Dr. van Fleet' which was grown by a neighbour when I was a child. I've never forgotten the scent as it drifted into our garden or the showers of petals from this once-flowering rose. I don't do anything with it except trim it a bit now and again and tie it up to the scruffy trellis. You can image the petals falling from the going-over flowers which are just touched with pink in comparison to the buds with a much stronger colour. Not my shrub, by the way. The present tenants are definitely not gardeners!
There's only one of these irises which came, I think, from a freebie handout from somewhere like Radio Times or the local paper, I just can't remember. A brilliant colour, especially if you are a painter of flowers.

I like tall herbaceous plants like the delphiniums and here's another which self seeds round the garden into the most awkward places, such as the edge of the pond one year and this year this one is just under the bird feeder...

Oh dear, the Add Image icon has frozen again, I'll have to add these pics either later today or tomorrow. Another bit of technology I can't cope with...
See you later.