Monday, 30 September 2013

Silence in the garden

Not much has been going on in the garden this past week as my mum has been visiting and I'd feel a bit rude going outside and getting lost in chores out there.
I've been out to deadhead a few roses etc and to water a few plants in the polytunnel but that's about the extent of it.
Mr TG on the other hand has made a start on turning over some more of the land - he completed a huge area in the spring which is now laid to grass but had to give up once the summer hit and everything was growing quicker than he had the time to clear.
It's all go now that Autumn has arrived though but I don't envy him the work involved with rotovating, weeding, raking, flattening etc of these areas.

I've been assured that this will look just as green and lush as that in the background soon enough. Once it is though he has to continue right down the land to that tallest tree to the far left of the picture - rather him than me!

My daughter got me a few more goodies out of the skip at work, it's always touch and go as to whether they will survive but I've had brilliant results so far. It's also a bit of a puzzle working out what some of the plants are because they're removed of all pots and ID tags before they hit the skip.
I currently have a cold frame full of plants with no name - I can ID some of them but not all of them

There's a couple of quite big Fuchsia in there, a Dianthus cutting that I actually managed myself and a heck of alot of what looks like Mint though I'm not sure what sort. Also there is some kind of perennial plant that I can't ID. (it's to the right hand side of the Fuchsia that's in the top left area ).
Here's a couple of what I think are Mint, I'm wondering if the flowers help to ID it.

On a completely different note, MrTG, Leanne and myself completed the Baxters Loch Ness 10k yesterday. Leanne managed a personal best time of 1hr 4mins and I managed a pb time of 1hr 11mins - Mr TG got the same time as me simply because he was my trainer, I feel sorry for him sometimes because he could easily run a 40 min 10k but he insists he's only in it to help me so I'm grateful for that because it really is down to him that I manage to get round.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Winners, Spring colour and the dregs of summer

*Free Seed winners:- Pack 1 goes to Sue Garret of 'Our plot at Green Lane Allotments'.  Pack 2 goes to  'Stella on Age' and pack 3 goes to Snowbird of 'Gardens & Wildlife'.
If you gals could email your addresses to me at I will get those packs of seeds out to you straight away. Thank you for taking part and I hope you enjoy your seeds ladies.

It is so nice to be able to potter around the land knowing I'm on top of all the urgent gardening chores, it makes such a huge difference to motivation.
My mum is flying up for the week tomorrow so it will be nice to be able to show her around, especially as there's been a huge difference since she was last here. I'm a tad concerned though because in our last conversation she stated that she wanted to help dismantle pallets when she comes up - I tried to explain just how hard pallets are to take apart but she insists that she's capable and stated "I took an entire chair apart by myself you know" by way of proof of her ability. I have to admit my mum is agile and certainly doesn't act like a 70 something year old and she may well have another 30 years left in her judging by the past females in our family but still, dismantling pallets? I think not mother!

Anyway, today while I pottered and mused over the changing of the seasons (though summer appears to have decided to show its face again the last few days) I decided to put together a bunch of flowers to put in my mums room while she's here.
Pretty much all the cut flowers are spent now and the garden flowers are on their way over too and I'm not exactly the most imaginative when it comes to these things (I stick to basic cut flowers only) so I really had to think outside the box to get a pretty looking bouquet (to me, thinking outside the box means using flowers other gardeners would probably use as the norm).
Not too shabby looking me thinks - this one has Coral Bells (who knew that would work!), the very last cosmos flowers, Montbretia, Himalayan Honeysuckle, Verbena, a rose from my patio rose, a 'Nostalgia' rose and a stem of Hydrangea for greenery (the stem is actually Black on this variety - maybe 'Zorro'?)

After making one bouquet I decided to try for another (actually I cut these bunches the other way round. The top one was cut second, this next one was cut first.)
Hydrangea again, Verbena, Coral bells, 'Virgo rose', red rose, Cosmos & Dianthus.

I also checked out that Asiatic Lily bulb that was about to flower - the one I had thrown on the waste heap without realising. It's now fully open and rather than leave it where no one will ever get the pleasure of seeing it I cut it and added it to one of the vases.
Pretty huh? I'll be digging those bulbs back up pretty soon.

I got a lovely parcel in the post from Thompson & Morgan. I wasn't going to bother with the free Allium offer in Gardeners World magazine but I've been stocking up on spring bulbs lately and thought it would be great to go from zero Alliums in the garden to 100 and they arrived today.

Now I just have to plant those little bulbs of goodness and wait for them to spring into this

Top left - bottom right:- Purple Sensation, Caeruleum, Ostrowskianum, Roseum, Sphaerocephalon, Neopolitanum.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

First line of defence - chickens!

The fish in Mr TGs pond were extremely active yesterday - a highly unusual sight for this lot. From early morning till late evening they were chasing a particular Goldfish around like a posse of mad men, this flurry of activity though caught the attention of Saffy, our Birman cat.

Now before y'all go "Ahhhhh what a beautiful puddy cat", beauty is as beauty does and there is nothing beautiful about the antics of this cat. Bought as a house cat along with her sister they were the cutest kittens we'd ever laid eyes on - too cute even for here cos you'll lose yourself in their cuteness. Oh ok, here's the cuteness, but don't be fooled

Drunk cat and Devil cat.

Anyway these cats turned out to be THE most destructive house cats I have ever had the displeasure of owning - they could (and did) strip a house of its wallpaper over night. They also had a killer instinct second to none that saw them bringing back live rabbits to the house, thankfully these were wild rabbits, not someones prize Angora 'Mr Squiggles' rabbit - see where this is headed?
Anyway, like I said the commotion in the pond got the attention of Saffy and twice I had to run downstairs and chase her off the garden - though chase is hard to do when the cat just lays on the floor and wants you to rub its belly!
The third time this happened, I chased Saffy off but saw her lick her paw, that's when I realised she'd actually been dipping into the pond the entire time. I figured I'd remove her completely (No, not kill her!) and then let the dogs out cos she'll steer clear while they're out.
So there I am carrying her to her sleeping area in the shed, telling her off while she looks all cute and stupid and then I almost stepped on a ruddy Goldfish! The little moo had snagged the biggest fish, carried it round the garden, dropped it at the shed door and gone back for more - typical senseless killing from a cat.
I dropped placed the cat on the floor and picked up the rather dirty Goldfish which surprisingly started flapping away in my hand, so I legged it back to the pond and held it in the water figuring it would die anyway but nope, it started gulping, then flapping and then sped off.
It didn't look too agile, in fact it looked drunk as a skunk as it banged into things and kept laying on its side and I did feel terrible for it when the rest of the fish resumed their chasing of it. I did consider taking it out and putting it elsewhere to recover but then I figured while it's being chased it doesn't have time to think about dying - logic!

It's the big Goldfish in the middle being mobbed.

Poor thing!
I watched the fish for half hour or so (ssshhhh, I didn't admit to that) but it seemed fine so I decided to work on defences because the cat was surely going to come back now it knew what to expect!
I decided on a two pronged tactic, the first line of defence being a posse of hens led by the notorious 'Big Momma' who was up on a murder rap a few months ago (reduced to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility) and head Honcho 'Romeo' who's name is deceiving.

Should Saffy make it through this first line of defence I had back up installed on the garden in the form of 'Atlas' who is a bit doddery now and prefers to ignore the cats but has done enough chasing in his past to warrant a reputation

And Huntly who would most certainly enjoy capturing a cat and forcing it to be his best friend cross dribble cloth

Suffice to say the fish were safe for the rest of the day because Saffy is too lazy to access the pond via the other 3 unmanned garden fences and as for that fish, well it's still alive - amazingly. once the water had cleaned it the scratch or teeth marks from the cat are evident but by the end of the day it was whizzing round as easily as it was before Saffy played tag.

On a relevant note, I decided I hate the pond, it's not big enough or deep enough and that next year the whole thing is being re-done. Mr TG agreed - of course!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A funny kind of few days.

I'm on top of the gardening at the moment so over the last couple of days I tackled a job I have been putting off - jet washing bird aviaries.
Not just any old bird though, this particular bird is my daughters Buzzard, Darla.
First I needed to jet wash the aviary next to her that is now empty (my daughter recently sold her Harris Hawks) then move Darla into it so I could then jet wash her aviary and then knock the two aviaries into one.
I don't have much to do with any of the Birds of prey here because they're my daughters and Mr TG's but I chat to Darla every day and I stupidly believed this daily chat would be sufficient to endear me to Darla who would then be completely cooperative during the moving procedure.
Let's just say I soon realised my folly. Darla doesn't have mews jesses for some reason which would have made her easy to catch and despite my chatting to her every day it seems she didn't like me quite as much as I'd thought. It took me about 10 minutes before I could even get close enough to entice her onto a glove but no way was she going to let me move her. After a couple of attacks from her feet I figured I needed a new method and it needed to be a quick method, Darla wasn't freaking out though - I was!
In the end I put on two hawking gloves and simply picker her up - yep, it was that easy. After all that effort before I just needed to pick her up.
With Darla safely in the first cleaned aviary I could get on with cleaning hers and then began taking down the middle partition, all under the watchful eye of Darla who now has a very large perfectly clean aviary.

Thankfully all the other Birds of prey (Barn Owl, 2x Eagle owls & 1 Great Horned Owl) all have external flight aviaries with inside nest areas so they don't get in the same mess as Darla's (hers is an internal flight with external areas) and just need daily raking of pellets etc (NOT my job).

It's a shame I'm not so careful when it comes to the cleaning of my PT. Look what I found growing in the waste heap dump

Looks like a lovely Asiatic Lily to me!

Not sure what this one is but it's certainly not a weed

I've also been taking pallets apart with my super duper pallet taker aparter, looks like I'm going to have a good supply of scrapwood for all those winter projects I like to do (and I have a whole load of them). This is the wood from just 2 6ft pallets - even the stringers are perfect for re-use.

The only problem I encountered while stripping the pallets was the weather, well the sun in particular. It's hard not to climb on top of the pallets and soak up the sun when the sky is this colour

So why fight it I say!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


It's not very often I give my seed box a clear out, I usually just accumulate packets of seeds and then when I come across ones I know I'll never grow or are past their 'sow by' date I throw them out. Yesterday however I was having a sit down in the PT for ten minutes and decided that I should clear my seed box and get an idea of what I have that I will use and what I'll need to buy next year - I ended up with 18 packets of various seeds that were headed for the bin despite them all being well within their 'sow by' date, simply because I know I'll never sow them.
But then I thought why not give them away? I've just joined a UK seed swap group on FB so that would be the ideal place to start however I cannot be doing with all the keeping tabs on so many packets so I thought I would give them away on here instead.
I have 3 sets to give away, all are unopened packets, all are within their 'sow by' dates which run out next year at the earliest and I'm also happy to post them free of charge to any UK address.
If you'd like the chance to win a set - or if you want a chance to win more than one set - just leave a comment below telling me which set/s you would like to win and then on Wednesday 25th September (one week from today) I will put the name of interested people in a separate hat for each pack and then choose names at random.

Aster - 'Milady mixed'.
Cerinthe Major Purpurascens.
Cornflower - 'Blue Boy'
Sweet Pepper - 'Bullhorn mixed'
Morning Glory - 'Heavenly Blue'
Basil - 'Red Rubin'

Broccoli - Purple sprouting.
Kale - Nero do Toscana
Pepper - Cayenne
Chard - Vulcan
Beetroot - Detroit 2
Onion - Bedfordshire champion.

Squash - 'Patty green tint'
Basil - Sweet
Coriander - 'Cilantro'
Kale - Nero di Toscana
Pepper - Hungarian hot wax
Broccoli - Early purple.

Hopefully some of you guys can make use of these seeds, I know I'll never get around to growing them either because I've tried and failed in the past or because I have more packets of them than I'll ever need.

I must say it's really very nice to wander round to the PT and the greenhouse areas now that I finally got my act together and cleared them - I actually enjoy looking around there now instead of focusing on what's straight ahead so that I don't have to face the mess, the best bit though is that it seems to have cleared my mind when I'm working in the garden, I'm no longer stressing about finding the energy or motivation to deal with those 2 areas.
It's also allowed me to tend some of the cuttings I took a few weeks ago but ignored cos I couldn't face going round there - after years of trying to get a decent cutting to produce a standard Fuchsia I finally have 2.

The one on the left is 'Hawkshead', it's a very hardy Fuchsia and survives the winter outside in the ground here but I don't know whether it will make a good standard as I've noticed the ones in the garden have really suffered from the wind this year and don't look so hot.
The one on the right is a cutting from a wild Fuchsia I have in the garden which in turn was a cutting taken from a plant growing wild up the road (Mr TG bought me back half the bush after I asked for a couple of stems). The wild one is certainly vigorous in growth and is showing the 3 leaves that are supposed to produce better canopies once fully grown but we'll have to wait and see.
They're both still a bit green for this time of year and there's no way those stems will survive the winter without freezing, not even in the polytunnel so I think I'll have to bring them indoors for the winter though I'm still not sure if they need to be more developed than this before they stop growing for the winter, so this could be a pointless exercise. But I have cuttings - yay!

Having tidied the PT and greenhouse areas (did I mention that already ;) I was free to potter about in the garden today so decided to do some weeding of the new beds and then begin spring bulb planting.
I don't grow bulbs very often because I am lazy and always forget to mark where I put them and usually end up putting a spade through them or digging them up (which I did today), so this time I made some more Cork markers and stuck one in the ground wherever I planted bulbs - such an easy solution and yet I've never done it.

I found it quite difficult to imagine where I would want them to come up in the spring time because there is so much summer growth on other plants at the moment - I'm 99% sure I'll regret 99% of where I put them.

Monday, 16 September 2013

September Blooms

Yesterday was Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and I missed it again, but I'm going to join in with it today anyway so I've just been out and snapped images of what is blooming in my garden this rainy, windy September

This is my first year of growing Verbena as it's not a plant I've ever really thought about growing. I only grew it this year because I got 4 plants pretty cheaply early on and managed to get cuttings from them super easily. I don't know whether they will survive the winter outside here so I have taken more cuttings just in case but they certainly like where I planted them - they've grown to at least 4ft in height!

I'm not too sure of the name of this Heuchera, I have all the names listed but unfortunately the markers I put in the ground with them appear to have disappeared. This is it's second flush of flowers this year because I dead headed the last lot.

Montbretia is still flowering prolifically, I have the red variety 'Lucifer' but I do like this Orange variety 'Mistral' I think.

Hosta 'Golden Tiara' growing in a pot. It's not look at its healthiest because I think it gets a tad too much sunshine but it still adds some interest.

This unknown variety of Honeysuckle smells absolutely delicious and is the only one out of 4 Honeysuckles in the garden that is actually growing never mind flowering.

Escallonia 'Red Carpet'. I've tried many times to propagate this shrub via cuttings and haven't managed to get one to survive.

I've tried a few times to kill this grass but it just seems to re shoot regardless of what I do, if it wasn't so rampant I'd let it stay but .............

Leycesteria Formosa, this shrub looks lovely when it's dripping with flowers. It readily seeds itself so there's always seedlings available and the hollow stems look pretty cool in the winter.

Blooms of Fuchsia 'Tom Thumb' ready to burst open - this little Fuchsia is so hardy it handles even the coldest winter here in the Highlands.

Why not pop on over to May Dreams Garden and check out the other gardens that have taken part in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Be careful what you wish for!

I have moaned quite a lot lately to Mr TG regarding the lack of scrap wood I currently have, in fact I don't remember my supplies ever being this low - non existent actually.
With this lack of scrapwood in mind you can imagine my horror as we pass a derelict barn that is being renovated and every time the scrapwood pile seems to be growing and growing, it's obvious from the design of the pile that the guy is intending to burn the stuff too - probably on bonfire night.
I finally begged, grovelled convinced Mr TG to pop in one day and just find out whether the owner would mind me hauling as much of it away as I can. Apparently Mr TG claims he did pop in but that the wood is so naff that even I wouldn't use it, it's just old lath out of an old building and it's rotting and no good for nothing but a bonfire. I was gutted because that bonfire looks like it's getting larger by the day!
I've noticed some of the wooden reels that electric cable arrives on at the same guys house so I'm currently begging grovelling convincing Mr TG to go ask about them for me, in the mean time I just kept moaning and moaning and moaning about my lack of scrap wood and all the containers I need to make for the garden.
It would seem that Mr TG actually does listen though and does take on board my problems and even tries to sort something out for me - I only want scrap wood. New wood is a waste of money and doesn't have the same appeal to me, I want to produce something for no cost - but his latest solution wasn't quite what I had in mind.
While I was out collecting my daughter from work Mr TG had a delivery of scrap wood arrive at home, the only problem with this particular scrap wood is......well.....take a look

At first I wasn't sure whether it was an act of kindness, sarcasm or evilness but then I had to admit I've moaned so much lately about needing wood - even pallets - that Mr TG was just doing something nice. It seems his friend has a waste licence and redirected a container load of wood at his request, Mr TG had hoped there would be some sleepers included because the stuff comes from SubSea 7 and that's where we got 50 or so sleepers from earlier in the year but it seems the sleepers have to go straight to landfill now. We assume it's because they're treated and therefore not 'clean' wood but it seems such a shame.
The initial horror of being greeted with 15mtrs of dumped pallet soon made way to excitement as I worked out all the things I could make once they're taken apart - sheds, fences, pots etc but then reality dawned and I understood that I was going to be the one taking these things apart.
I don't know if you've ever tried taking a pallet apart before but it's nigh on impossible, the wood just splits or snaps rendering it no good for anything but burning.
So I had a dilemma to think through!
Not for long though - look what I found on FB

Sounded too good to be true so I watched the Youtube video

Yup, I had to get me one of those!
I emailed Gareth (the maker) straight away and he gave me the price £45 plus shipping costs of £17.50 and said he would ship immediately from Norwich.
I'm now waiting for my bar to arrive and then I'll show Mr TG just how quickly I can dismantle a pallet - I mean even forget to mention that I have a tool for the job lol.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Rogue Potatoes and feral cats

I'm still working on the greenhouse veg beds at the moment, who knew they'd take so long! It's not actually the mess that is holding things up though it's more that I don't seem to have the time to get much done round there over the last few days. I'm not worried though, it's not getting me down as it once would have done (just last week actually lol), I know the work will get done and as I'm covering the beds as they're cleared I know I won't have to repeat the weeding any time soon - yay!
During the last lot of weeding there I dug up 2 Potato plants that must have grown from a rogue Potato I left behind - the surprise is that I haven't grown Potatoes in these beds for 3 years now, just goes to show what nature is capable of.
It's hardly a fantastic crop BUT it's an unexpected crop and further more it's given me the desire to grow them again next year in the hope that blight won't affect them as it has done so many times before

My unexpected but welcome crop of Potatoes!

I'm now going to introduce you to a cat! I know a cat has nothing to do with gardening but this cat is quite unusual because it isn't wasn't our cat due to the fact that he/she is was feral.
This is Felix (named by my daughter due to looking like the cat food ad Felix), he (we assume) arrived here about 4 years ago. When I say "arrived" I mean he simply turned up and decided to sleep in Mr TG's shed. We tried everything we could to entice the cat or catch it because we worried he was someones lost pet but everytime we approached him he ran off. Over the space of 3 years we'd see him around the shed eating and sleeping (we suspect we feed many feral cats) but then he'd be gone again, this cat would not let a human near it.
Then one day this feral cat actually stayed within 10ft of Mr TG while he prepared the cats food (all cats are fed outside in the shed) and over the next few days he would actually approach the bowl as Mr TG put the meat in it, eventually Felix was eating the meat out of Mr TG's hand. Felix still would not let you touch or stroke him though, attempt to do it and he'd run and not come back.
This year we realised that Felix has not actually disappeared at all, it seems he has decided this is where he wants to stay and one day early in the morning Mr TG left the kitchen door open while he fed the other cats milk inside (he's not supposed to do that but it's become a daily ritual) and surprise surprise in walked Felix. He may have drank the milk and legged it but that was just the start of his beginning to trust us and now he comes in every day for his milk and lets Mr TG stroke him. Felix has been getting friendlier by the day but he soon reminded us of his feral ways when we tried to pick him up to treat what looked like a very infected leg - he literally went mad and scratched Mr TG to pieces then ran off. The leg looked so bad that Mr TG did then try to catch Felix with a towel (at my coersion I admit) but that just resulted in a ridiculous comedy sketch of Mr TG running around flapping a towel unable to catch a limping Felix. We didn't see Felix for 2 days after that but when he did come back he was right as rain, his leg perfect and I suspect he hadn't actually gone further than hiding out in the shed.
We now have an understanding with Felix, he is happy to be around us, loves to be stroked (though until recently only by Mr TG) and comes in every day for milk BUT if you move when he's around he runs off, if you call him he runs off - everything has to be on his terms. This is fine by us, he's a great cat and we love having him around but this means we cannot worm him or treat him, we tried wormer in his food and he refused to eat it!
Anyway the last time I was weeding the veg beds I was surprised to see that Felix had followed me round there so I sat down just to see what he would do - well, he came straight over and was rubbing his head all over me. This is a complete first for Felix, he's never been so friendly with me, in fact I was sitting stroking him for a good 30 minutes before I had to break the spell by standing up, at which point he ran off. But I just had to share Felix' story with you

We had to pop to Inverness yesterday although when I say "pop" it's actually a 2 hour drive there and 2 hours back but I love the chance to soak up our scenery here and of course nosey in other peoples gardens as we go by

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Clearing more veg beds.

I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to see the polytunnel area so tidy and organised, I still couldn't help smiling to myself when I went round there this morning.
Todays agenda was to make a start on the greenhouse area and veg beds - it's a smaller area than the polytunnel but has much more weeds and the grass was going to take a lot of mowing.
I maybe didn't get as much done as I had hoped but I didn't berate myself because I was a little stiff from yesterdays weeding and because I went out for quite a hard run last night - don't know if I've mentioned before that I run? I talk about it on my running blog but basically I have 2 10k's this month and I've even roped Mr TG in to running them with me and Leanne, in fact he's my trainer because I don't like running! I want to like it and I want to be good at it like I was when I was younger but my joints and age make it quite difficult!
Anyway I digress, back to the gardening. The veg beds are currently in this state

Poor old Bob the mannequin, he's become quite undressed and lost a few limbs from the wind. I think I may have to make him new snazzy clothes and maybe some kind of straw hat, his builder clothes have about had it now

But look what I did find among the weeds, a few climbing french beans on plants that I thought had given up the ghost weeks ago because they never grew and I basically deserted them

I also found a few potato plants thriving, though I haven't actually grown potatoes in this bed for the past 3 years

And this is an Apple tree that was grown from a pip, it's a few years old now

Here's evidence of just how little rain we have had this year. This is a natural pond and we've never seen the water level this low  in all the 10 years we've been here. Please excuse the fact that Mr TG put a formal fountain in a natural pond, I really don't know what goes on in his head sometimes (it's not even centred) but just to give you an idea of the lack of water, it usually covers that fountain right up to the bottom layer. In fact in winter that far wooden bridge is usually covered right up to about 3" from the top - we seem to have lost a serious amount of water this year, I'm just hoping it's the dry weather (though it's usually dry in the summer) and there's not something else going on (like all the willow I planted at the side of the pond sucking up all the water before it drains into the pond).
BTW that fountain is coming out next year and it's going to be filled with succulents to give a waterfall effect and have pride of place on the patio I intend to build. Mr TG still needs to be talked into helping me with this though because it will take 2 of us to move it and he isn't keen on fountains being used as plant holders.

Having done all that weeding yesterday at the PT veg beds I was quite pleased to see that the Cabbages are actually doing better than I've ever managed before and there's no sign of caterpillars despite them growing outside and uncovered.