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Garden Progress

Making a Start on the Back Garden

In a week or so, stone to match the front face of all our retaining walls is being delivered. Before then we need to make some preparations in the back garden. We had a good few hours trampling around in the muddy soil on the 8th April and I’ve done a few hours this morning. So…what are the plans?

At present the small retaining wall holding back the upper part of the back garden from the lower part has a front face made of large stacked logs.All the other retaining walls, front and back (the house is built on a very steep slope) are stone.

Logs in front of retaining wall
Logs in front of retaining wall

 

 

Back Garden - lower lawn
Lower lawn

Roger has removed some of logs and laid a foundation for the new stone wall. Once this is built, the space between the new wall and the remaining logs will be back filled with concrete. Heavy rain turns our back garden into a beautiful (and disturbing, at the same time!) large water feature, as it flows from the field at the back, through the drainage already set in the garden and walls, down the steps, around the back door and into the drains built into the driveway. Which means, it’s probably a good idea to add drainage pipes within the concrete as a precaution against any random fountains appearing in the top lawn!

Whilst this was going on, I decided to tackle the overgrown corner at the top left.

Top left corner of back garden
Top left corner of back garden – before

After some extreme pruning, I found a fern tucked up at the back, waiting for the right time to unfurl and some purple shoots, which I now believe is a peony.

After tidy up
After the extreme tidy up

Two weeks later, the peony is thriving.

Peony
Peony – 2 weeks after discovering the shoots

The sunshine this morning called me back into the garden. Once the stone wall has been completed we plan to hire a turf cutter to remove the top layer of grass/weeds/moss. The grassed areas are very uneven, as well as sloped, and a mole moved in a few days after we did. It can never be a manicured lawn.

I put forward my idea of a wildflower meadow on the lower lawn, seeding it after removing the current grass. It would only need strimming down once a year and would attract lots of bees and butterflies. My proposal was accepted…and developed.

We have now decided (although all plans are open to discussion and change!) to sow wildflower meadow seeds on the upper area and sow a low growing wildflower lawn on the lower area, which will only need mowing about every 3 weeks. Anyway, watch this space to see how we get on.

But, getting back to the point, what did I do this morning?

I trimmed back the neglected bushes along the fence and weeded all around them. They all looked a bit sad, so I’m hoping, now they can breathe, they will be much happier.

Very sad Camelia
Very sad Camelia
Today's hard work
After this morning’s hard work

I’m finishing with pictures of leaves appearing on the lovely apple tree (I will learn how to look after it), the beautiful magnolia next door and a glass of well deserved wine, in the sunshine, admiring the progress so far. Cheers!

Apple Tree
Leaves appearing on apple tree
Magnolia - next door
Magnolia in the garden next door
Cheers!
Cheers!

 

Garden Progress

Weeding, Planting, Bees and Bikes

After my enthusiastic start on the front garden in February, progress has been slow, mostly due to frozen ground, high winds and snow.

February saw me clear the bed at the bottom of the drive, order some woodland plants and plant them. The snowdrops made a brave attempt to flower despite being covered in snow several times. One Snakeshead Fritillary flowered beautifully before losing it’s lovely purple colour after the last covering of snow. But the remainder are definitely growing, as are the bluebells, but I’m not sure I’ll see any flowers until next year.

At the same time as working on the woodland bed I started at the very top of the main front garden, which is on a steep slope and tiered. My plan is to tidy all the tiers up, see what pops up over the summer, add a couple more shrubs and plant some herbs.

Herb and Shrub Plan
Herb and Shrub plan and shopping list

One of our first jobs when we moved in was to clean the windows. Not an easy task with the house on a steep slope as it’s difficult to find safe places to put up ladders. Even the local window cleaner refused! So, the shrubs at the very top of the garden needed cutting back to allow a ladder to anchor into the soil.

Shrubs at the very top
Shrubs had to be cut back to allow space for a ladder in order to clean the windows

I can’t wait to see the twiggy one come into leaf, there are plenty of small buds. It looks like it has an amazing colour in the autumn, if not the summer too.

A few days later I was able to get out into the garden again. Now those two shrubs were cut back I could tackle the weeds underneath them.

Whoever created this tiered garden put in a lot of work. Each layer has a weed suppressing membrane covering the soil with a few inches of bark on top. It must have been done many years ago as most of the bark has decomposed and the membrane just tears when it’s touched. Needless to say, the weeds are growing through. It soon became apparent that as much of the membrane as possible needed removing in order to dig out the deep weed roots. It was going to be a slow project.

I now have a process – weed the top layer and then move it to a cleared section. Pull up the membrane (which rips away in small bits) and dig out the weed roots, then put the top layer back. Much to my surprise, it’s very satisfying!

Looking down on the tiered garden
Lots of work to be done!

Whenever I needed a break, I pulled out all the old Crocosmia leaves. I like Crocosmia very much but it does spread everywhere. This is the case in my new garden, so I’m digging out lots of Crocosmia bulbs with the weeds, on purpose!

Croscosmia die back behind white Heather
I think the Crocosmia needs to be tidied up!

Once I’d weeded around the top two shrubs, I moved down to the next tier and ended up with a bare patch, crying out for another plant. So off we went to the garden centre, returning with a Mahonia. I love it’s spiky looking leaves which contrast well with the more regular shaped leaves of the other shrubs. Next winter I should have some beautiful yellow flowers to match the yellow in the leaves of it’s neighbours.

Mahonia
Newly planted Mahonia

Then came the “Beast from the East”. Twice!

No more work on the garden until last weekend, when the sun came out and I got warm enough to strip down to a T-shirt!

The poor Mahonia looks a bit worse for wear, with browning leaves. I think it may have winter burn. It hadn’t had chance to properly settle in. I’m keeping an eye on it and hoping it’ll recover.

Continuing my process – clear top layer, pull up membrane, dig out roots, put top layer back – I ended up with another gap. I had two small lavenders and a rosemary waiting to be planted out. So in went one of the lavenders. Although the soil is quite heavy, it’s very well drained, due to the steep slope, so I’m hoping any lavenders I plant will thrive. Next door has quite a few, which look a bit sad after the snow but they were lovely in December when we moved in.

Lavender and Mahonia
Found space for a Lavender

Sitting on the wall to admire my work, I realised there were lots of bees in the Heather. I was sooooooo happy! Bees and Butterflies, the name and inspiration for this blog. I want to attract wildlife into both the front and back gardens, especially bees and butterflies. And here were the bees!!! Unfortunately no matter how still and patient I was with my iPhone camera, I couldn’t capture a photo of any of the bees.

Then came another first for this year.

The gardening tools were put away, and the motorbikes came out. A ride out into Derbyshire to enjoy the sunshine, the never boring scenery (no matter how many times we see it), spotting new lambs and getting a bit chilly at the top of Snake Pass which had only been reopened a few days ago. There was more snow up there than I expected and the small lake/mountain pond was iced over.

What a lovely day. Here’s to many more beautiful days ahead, sharing my time between gardening and motorbike riding.

Pure Pleasure
Motorbike adventures or gardening?
Walking Discoveries

Afternoon Canal Walk

As the wind and snow had mostly disappeared, I could finally get out to discover more of the surrounding area. My daughter was home from uni and wanted to practice using her new camera so she came along too.

From our house in Disley we took the path almost opposite which leads to the Peak Forest Canal. Turning right we headed along the canal path towards New Mills. We continued past the Swizzles factory and New Mills Canal Basin until we reached a footpath across the fields down to the River Goyt.

Canal in Disley
Starting our canal walk, heading towards New Mills
Reflections in the Canal
Perfect reflections
Canal in Disley
Following the canal path
Painted Canal Boat
Beautifully painted canal boat
New Mills Canal Basin
New Mills Canal Basin

I didn’t see as much wildlife as I expected. In the trees on the opposite side I caught a glimpse of a squirrel racing through the branches. Most of the ducks and geese were gathered in the canal basin amongst all the moored canal boats. There was a large friendly black duck with beautiful feathers that changed colours as he moved, which I’ve not seen before. Some of the residents of the boats further down the canal had seed feeders and fat balls in the hedges for the birds which attracted plenty of sparrows and I got a brief glimpse of a long tailed tit which I’ve not seen since I was a child.

But, quite a surprise, were the lamas in a field as we approached the river! They were quite happy munching on the grass. Despite plenty of effort to attract their attention they ignored us completely, much to Esme’s frustration, as she wanted a photograph of one with it’s head up.

Railway bridge over River Goyt
Magnificent railway bridge over River Goyt

Following the river brought us to Torr Vale Mill which used to be a cotton mill and is now being developed into office space and an arts centre. Along side the mill is a beautiful double arch viaduct and a weir. Leading from this stunning area is the Millenium Walkway, suspended over the rushing water. We crossed the bridge over the river at the end of the walkway and climbed up into New Mills. We were then able to rejoin the canal at the basin and retrace our steps back home.

I’m still amazed at the beauty and peacefulness just over the road, but not visible, from my house. I can see myself using the canal path to get the New Mills all the time and can’t wait to see it come to life through the Spring and Summer.

Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
New Mills Millennium Walk
New Mills Millennium Walk
Soulful Sunday, Walking Discoveries

Soulful Sunday: My Seaside Sanctuary

I’ve been meaning to write this for a week, inspired by Soulful Sunday started by Ali, the Mindful Gardener.

About four times a year I’m very fortunate to have a weekend break with a very special friend, Vikky. It’s my seaside sanctuary. We’re barely in contact in between and spend 48hrs chatting, walking by the sea, eating cake and drinking Prosecco!

We head over to Vikky’s beautiful flat overlooking the sea at Scarborough, a sanctuary in itself. All troubles and worries disappear as I walk through the door. The following day is a long walk, whatever the weather, usually along the coastline. A shorter walk is squeezed in on Sunday before heading home, refreshed and revived!

Scarborough sea
Sea at Scarborough (waves look much flatter than they were)

Last weekend was to be our first Seaside Sanctuary of 2018, and it had been a while as the previous one was in October. I was really looking forward to it.

Then the wind and snows arrived.

We both kept our fingers crossed and an eye on the weather forecasts. Here, on the edge of Derbyshire we had a fair amount of snow but the main roads were clear. Our house has overhead electricity cables and the first power cut came on Thursday (only for a few hours). I still kept my fingers crossed.

Vikky lives in a small village outside Doncaster. She’d not had too much snow and even the track to her house was drivable.

Reports from the east coast weren’t good though, very high winds, rough seas and drifting snow.

I was thinking it would be better for me to travel over to Doncaster using the motorways, when it was reported that lots of motorists were trapped on the M62, near Leeds, in drifting snow, the very part I would need to travel on. At the time I wasn’t aware just how bad the situation was for these poor people.

Friday morning, decision time, to go or not to go? It looked as though the route from Vikky’s house to Scarborough was probably going to be OK but part of my route to Vikky’s house was not. Many people were still trapped on the M62 and, according to the AA website, several roads on other options I had were closed too. Then came another power cut, which helped me make up my mind. I can’t work without power or internet. So I abandoned my partner and son (!!) and headed out, with plenty of warm clothes and a full container of spare screen wash in the boot of my car.

A couple of the roads I’d thought of using were closed, but I just kept to the cleared ones, heading out towards Chesterfield. In some places the snow was piled up at the sides of the road much higher than the car. This was my first thankful moment, to be living near vast farmlands on the peaks where farmers have no choice but to get out to their livestock. It ended up a very easy, stress-free, beautiful journey. Not many people were out and the views were stunning.

[Just in case you thought I’m not a very nice person, leaving my loved ones with no heating or power, it was all fixed before I arrived at Vikky’s house].

The second leg of the journey, to Scarborough, turned out to be trouble free too. My second thankful moment.

We’d heard on the radio that the stranded motorists on the M62 had finally been able to move. Other dreadful stories of people stranded all night on trains and still more people with homes that had no water or heating. To arrive safe and sound in Scarborough was a very long third thankful moment.

Whitby harbour entrance
Looking down over Whitby harbour entrance

The weekend was lovely. Friday evening and night was very windy, the waves were breaking far out in the very churned up sea. Some roads and paths were fenced off due to flying roof tiles. This died down quite a bit by Saturday. We didn’t go too far away for our walk, just to Whitby for our very favourite walk, along the beach to Sands End and back. The power of the sea was very evident, with huge boulders washed up on the beach. I’m always in awe of the sea; it’s power and beauty. Every walk along the same stretch of beach is always different, but always restorative and always full of thankful-to-be-alive moments.

Heading to Sands End
Heading to Sands End from Whitby

Sunday brought some rain and the start of the melt. Almost all the roads were clear and life was returning to normal for much of the UK.

A week later and I still think about how lucky I was to be able to go on my Seaside Sanctuary when so many others were having an awful time, to experience and enjoy nature and to spend time with a special friend.

Prosecco by the fire
The inevitable Prosseco, by the fire, at the pub in Sands End
Whitby Abbey
The beautiful Whitby Abbey

 

 

 

Walking Discoveries

Discovering Disley

Before moving here 10 weeks ago, I’d driven through on the A6 many times but I knew nothing about the surrounding countryside. I get an amazing view from my front door over adjoining villages and Kinder Scout, the highest hill in the Peak District, but so far I’ve only looked at it and taken photos.

Roger grew up in Disley and has many tales of mischief and adventures which took place all around where we now live. Sunday was finally a sunny, if very cold, day and he could keep his promise to start showing me my way round the many footpaths.

Map of walk 25th Feb
Map of walk, each number represents 1km

Wrapped up warm and reluctantly accompanied by two of the teenagers, we set off down towards the Peak Forest Canal, which is barely 0.5km away. It’s a wonderful waterway and I’ll be investigating it more in the near future. There were several inhabited houseboats moored alongside the pathway. I imagine the warmer weather brings this stretch of water alive with many more boats, people and wildlife. The ducks and geese were keen to say hello, but they weren’t so happy when they discovered we hadn’t brought any food with us!

We discovered community built dirt jumps just off the path, which perked up the male teenager. I think he might be back with his bike! Just a few metres further on, wooden steps down through the trees led to a view of a steep drop down to a fast flowing run off from the canal.

Near the 2km mark, gazing out over the fields towards Hague Bar we spotted a large bird of prey drifting on the thermals. On the other side of the canal, which still had icy patches, were happily grazing sheep.

A cheeky robin watched us cross the canal to start heading back up through farmland onto the busy A6, which was a very sudden sharp contrast to the peacefulness of the canal. A quick refreshment break at The Rams Head and we were ready to complete the second half of our loop.

Climbing up again, through the gardens of St Mary’s Church there were plenty of beautiful woodland plants to brighten up the way. Following the footpath with fields, and the odd house, either side I felt very lucky to be living so close to such stunning scenery.

Just before turning left at around the 5km mark, I could see The Cage (an iconic folly that can be seen for miles) at Lyme Park and Bollinhurst Reservoir. I’ve visited Lyme Park, and The Cage, many times before but it was a surprise to me that I’d never seen this reservoir and didn’t even know it existed. I think I might be taking a walk in this direction before long!

The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees

Crossing Buxton Old Road we were now heading downhill, along a track which resembled a stoney old river bed and back to where we started.

What a fabulous couple of hours. I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful area.

There are Pixies living in Disley!
There are Pixies living in Disley!
Garden Progress

First Planting!

Last week I placed my first plant order for my garden. Some woodland plants, inspired by a walk through local villages and seeing the snowdrops and crocus in front gardens. I returned home, determined to have my own woodland garden.

Box of plants
Exciting arrival

With my intention to attract wildlife, I searched the internet for a wild flower supplier. Naturescape caught my eye and I’d soon placed an order. They arrived on Friday, perfect for a weekend planting!

Wild Honeysuckle

Snowdrops

Bluebells

Wood Anemone

Wild Cyclamen

Snakeshead Fritillary

I soon found out what the hedge was at the foot of this raised bed, a hawthorn. It made it’s mark on my arms as I trimmed it back into shape! I’m looking forward to the tiny buds bursting into life and seeing the berries towards the end of the year.

I’m not sure what the tree is (I’ve added a pic at the bottom of this page). It has bean-like seed pods, of which there are many still attached, but even more were all over the drive and path. Sweeping these up filled much of the green bin. I’m hoping this tree is a beauty so that cleaning up after it is worth it.

There weren’t many weeds to be dug up, and not many roots hiding below the surface. I know this might not be the case once the earth has warmed up a bit. What did need to be removed were various sized stones, pieces of wall stone and old mortar. The raised retaining wall around this bed needs a little bit of work where some of the capstones have become loose or completely detached. I was surprised at how much difference forking over the soil and removing the debris made. Now, I was ready to start planting!

Just planted snowdrops
Just planted snowdrops

 

I eagerly began with the Snowdrops, at the lowest front corner. The bulbs are “in the green”, meaning they have just flowered and still have foliage. The instructions said “plant 10cm deep and 10cm apart”.

I don’t think I’ll see any flowers this year but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year, and a stunning drift of them in a couple of years.

 

 

Wild Honeysuckle
Wild Honeysuckle

I then calmed down my excitement to actually think about where I should plant the rest of my box contents. I needed to start at the back and work forwards to avoid trampling on freshly planted bulbs. I had two Wild Honeysuckle which were to grow and spread across the boundary fence.

There were plenty of roots when I gently lifted them from their pots, so I have hopes of a fair amount of growth in the next few months and a few beautiful fragrant flowers to greet me as I enter my driveway in the summer.

 

The Bluebells went in front of one of the honeysuckle and behind a small shrub with strange, but lovely, curly red/green leaves (pic at the bottom of the page). Again, these were “in the green”, so there might not be any flowers this year. Like the Snowdrops, they were planted “10cm deep, 10cm apart”.

Just planted Snakeshead Fritillary
Just planted Snakeshead Fritillar

In front of the other honeysuckle, I planted the Snakeshead Fritillary, another “in the green” bulb. I’ve been fascinated with these beautiful flowers since I first saw them a couple of years ago. I can barely believe I’m growing them in my own garden.

The strange squashed round tubers (a thickened underground stem, like a potato) of Wild Cyclamen went in front of the Snakeshead Fritillary. The instructions said “plant very shallow with shoots uppermost”. Most didn’t have shoots, so I took a guess by comparing with the ones that did. Let’s hope they’re the right way up and I get some leaves and flowers.

As advised, I soaked the twig like rhizomes (continually growing horizontal underground stems) of the Wood Anemone before planting them along the front side of the bed in front of the little Pieris Japonica. If you’re wondering how I know the name of this shrub it’s because it still has a label on it!

There’s a couple of gaps. I love hellebores and might just buy a plant or two from a garden centre. Or I might just scatter some forget me not seeds around in a month or two. Or maybe add some Oxlips or…

All that’s needed now is a bit of patience whilst the plants, hopefully, get used to their new home and become established.

Woodland garden - before and after
Woodland garden – before and after
Woodland Garden Plan
New plants added to the plan
Mystery Tree
Any ideas what this tree is?
Mystery shrub
What is the name of this shrub?
Mystery shrub 2
I’ve seen this before, but can’t remember the name
Garden Progress

Front Garden Plan

It’s taken two muddy measures in the rain, lots of viewing through various windows and a few false starts getting it down on paper, but at last, I have a front garden plan (back garden plan is still in progress).

Front Garden Plan
Front garden Feb 17

This is how it is February 2017 (although I’ve added leaves to some of the shrubs that don’t have them at the moment!) and there’s probably some plants yet to wake up and show themselves.

I was hoping to get out there this weekend, do a bit of weeding and tidying, and to get up close to the plants I can’t identify. But, this morning was driving sleet and freezing cold. Instead, I’ve had a delightful few hours with some watercolour pencils, keeping warm in the conservatory listening to the rain and letting my imagination run wild.

A bit of research on the internet and I’ve come up with some preliminary planting plans.

On a lunchtime walk this week, I saw so many signs of spring in the front gardens I passed. Lots of snowdrops, primroses, crocuses, leaf buds and catkins. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from winter blues (I do suffer from motorbike adventures withdrawal though!!) but my spirits are still lifted and I can’t help smiling when I see spring is on the way. I made up my mind to get some of these things into my own garden.

So, the small bed at the bottom of the drive is to become a woodland garden; Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Snakeshead Fritillary, Bluebells, Wild Honeysuckle and Wild Cyclamen. And yes, I have placed my order! With Naturescape, a wildflower specialist. Some of the plants will be in the green, so this won’t be their best year in my garden but I’m hoping the woodland garden will improve over the years. I might scatter some forget-me-not seeds in a few months, to help fill in the gaps.

 

I’ve noticed a few small birds flitting in and out of the hedge, which has a few berry remains and birds like berries! This has made me consider making the bed to the right at the bottom of the drive, a bird garden. I can hang some feeders in the tree and put up a bird table and a bird bath. As birds like the seeds from thistles and I’m a thistle lover too, I’m going to try and grow some here. It might not get quite enough sun, but I’ll see how it goes.

 

The main bed in the front garden is tiered and runs from the front of the house alongside the steps to the drive. It already has quite a few established shrubs, some very pretty white and purple heather, as well as lots of Crocosmia (which needs a good cutting down to allow the new shoots through). Next door successfully grow Lavender and Rosemary in their corresponding bed, two of my favourite perennial herbs, so I’m assuming that the front garden is as well drained as the back, despite the water that makes it’s way down from the fields at the back. I’ve already purchased two potted Lavender and one Rosemary. They’re waiting for their new home on the steps in the back garden. I’m gradually going to pick up pots of other herbs such as Mint, Sage, Thyme and Chives to fill any spaces.

 

As I don’t know what the hedge, two trees and most of the plants are, I will be posting close up photos with the hope that you can enlighten me. Any comments on my plans are also very welcome.