Wednesday, 12 October 2011


As always we continue to chop and clear, it does not make for an interesting blog unfortunately but it is the work we still have to do. I therefore thought I would simply post some early autumn pictures from the garden.

Tea Lawn

Japanese Anemone

A bonus of clearing part of the dell was opening up some new views from this area of the garden.

Naturalised cyclamen

Newly planted crab apple

Friendly neighbours watching the activity

Not so friendly resident trying to move neighbours on!

Strawberry tree fruits ripening

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Clearing out the pond (and bees)

Keiren spent quite some time cleaning the pond and emptied bucket loads of sludge which have been accumulating for years. Hopefully it will be good for the garden as that is now where it is spread. He also chopped back many the plants around the pond. There were a few nice azaleas which we have pruned hard, hoping they will come again, but it had to be done as everything around the pond had got too large.
The pond is made of concrete and we think it is connected to the gutter drainage on the house, there is a pipe from the house, under the lawn, which leads to a (dried up) waterfall feature at the pond. At one time I believe rainwater would have flowed into the pond but I think the pipe is probably cracked under the lawn somewhere. There are other strange things around the pond these include another drain hole site, which I have no idea what it is for, and a fountain which is not pumped but simply fed from the mains? It is a really peculiar set up and I wonder if it all dates from the time when the water was pumped to the house from the stream.

We think we found the source of the leak in the pond and Keiren spent ages cleaning and drying the area and carefully refilling and sealing it with mortar. After refilling the pond we realised either the repair hadn't worked or there was another leak. One of the lovely features of the pond is a granite bridge across it but this also means trying to find a further leak will mean moving this granite and that will require some machinery. We are a bit disappointed that the leak is not repaired but the pond is now clean and cleared which is a step in the right direction.

Mains fed fountain and patched pond

We are currently having the roof replaced at the house and last Sunday I heard one of the roofers Ross, screaming for help, I knew he was using an angle grinder so I thought he had cut himself, I grabbed the first aid box and ran outside to hear the other roofer Brendon shouting at Ross to get down the ladder quickly. I looked up to see thousands of bees buzzing around our chimney. Poor Ross who has a phobia of bee's and who thinks he is allergic to them was face down on the roof too terrified to move! We eventually coaxed him down and sat him down with some sweet tea until the colour came back to his face and his legs stopped wobbling. The builders gave up working for the day and Keiren and I called our local beekeeper, who keeps hives just down the lane from us, to get some expert assistance. A few hours later- 'Dangerous' Dave as we have now christened him came around with all his kit. Despite no experience at working at heights he proceeded to spend the next 4 hours trying to smoke the bees out of the chimney, periodically spraying clumps of bees off the chimney with a hose and stuffing old carrier bags into the numerous cracks in the chimney. Keiren and I were in continual fear for his safety as well as the safety of the very old and crumbling slate roof! During Dangerous Dave's time on the roof a steady stream of bees were heading down the chimney into the living room, they would then crawl across the room and buzz at the window or fly out again through the french doors. Many of them died as they came down the chimney and we ended up vacuuming bees for 2 days, filling up the dyson.

Eventually Dangerous thought he had done all he could and went home leaving a 'bait hive' in case the bees decided the chimney wasn't a great place after all. Later that evening, many of the bees had re-swarmed in a much smaller clump on the porch and Keiren called Dave again. His advice this time was to kill the bees, he did not think he could collect them and said it was the only solution. Reluctantly, but also in need of being able to have the roof work continue, Keiren dressed in a home made bee suit and sprayed the bee's with Tox wasp spray. It worked very effectively (and quickly)on this group but in the morning we still had hundreds of bees coming down the chimney. We were really sorry that we had to kill so many of the bees and that the rest of them died after their route down the chimney, but it there was little else we could do.

As a footnote our neighbours at the end of the lane had a swarm in their chimney a couple of weeks ago, they quickly lit their Rayburn and that got rid of the bee's. 'Dangerous' admitted those bee's were probably his but did not think the swarm in our chimney was. We are a bit concerned about his beekeeping credentials as he has been tending the hives down the lane ever since we moved in last year but has NEVER had any honey. I think he needs a bit more instruction/practice in looking after the little mites.

I think Dangerous Dave might be better suited to being a fireman

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Foxglove in the Lane

We spent quite some time in the lane that runs alongside the garden last week, cutting back and tidying up. There was a solitary foxglove growing out of the dry stone wall. It looked so pretty.

The lane is so lovely, I love wandering up it early in the morning and seeing all the birds and flowers and the paths across the lane used by badgers and foxes. The lane has been there since the bronze age and is a magical place. There are cows in the fields on either side and they often pop their heads over the wall to see what's going on.

It amazes me how much we have to cut back all the time, it's relentless. Some of it is just pruning as any normal garden would need but most of ours is still clearing the tangle that is the Dell and the orchard.

Pruning the laurel

The Dell

The small apple, pear and plum trees are doing well but since we have cleared this area of the garden the weeds around the trees are going mad. I call them weeds but they are beautiful wild flowers. We have kept a distinct clear area around the trees but felt that we did now need to cut all the wild flowers as they will compete for the goodness in the soil.

Apple Tree
Wild flowers

The stream at the bottom of the paddock is beautiful, with a huge Gunnera, and another large leafed plant I don't know the name of ?

My friend the buzzard is always around, I tried to take a picture of him but it's a bit blurred.

In April I was really worried about my strawberry tree as it suddenly shed most of it's leaves- not a good thing for an evergreen. However it seems to have recovered and is covered in beautiful flowers.

Strawberry tree

Next week we are going to tackle the leaky and overgrown pond as I think any amphibian reproduction activity should be over by now.

A splash of colour

Foxgloves and lupins

Friday, 27 May 2011

Chopping back

As I have already said most of our gardening at the moment consists of chopping things back, particularly in the dell and the orchard. The orchard was actually four struggling apple trees which could not thrive due to the canopy of sycamore and maple trees around them.

Orchard before chopping

Keiren has enjoyed purchasing a number of petrol garden tools one of which is a chain saw and he has spent a significant time, with the assistance of my nephew Ben, cutting down and chopping up trees. We now have enough logs to keep us going in fuel for a few years!
We have now planted a new orchard consisting of 5 apple trees, two pears and a cornish plum. We took advice from  Cornish Garden Nurseries  about varieties suitable for our location. They were very helpful.
We enjoyed the blossom at Easter and found it hard to go with the advice were were given to remove the blossom to assist the trees to establish in their first year, however we did this, so no fruit this autumn. 

New trees waiting to be planted

At the bottom of the orchard there are three large pine trees, I told Keiren I was worried about the stability of them and his response was 'they've been there for 50 years or more they're fine'. A couple of weeks later he was proved wrong when one of the three trees blew over. Luckily no-one was around and it fell in a perfect line at the top of the bank which leads to the paddock. It now makes a perfect barrier at this drop. We enlisted the more professional assistance of David, our occasional gardener and handyman, to chainsaw the limbs from the fallen tree. I think we will have to call in the services of a tree surgeon to look at the other two.

The garden is absolutely teeming with birds and it is wonderful to hear the dawn chorus. The wildlife around us is amazing and I am particularly pleased to have an almost resident buzzard in the pine tree in the field next door. 
I put up a couple of nest boxes in February and even though I have seen various tits showing an interest they have settled for a small hole in the eaves of the  house.

Apart from the fruit trees we have not planted anything in the garden yet, but there are already some beautiful flowers.

On the 29th April we held a small Royal Wedding Garden Party. It was nice to relax in the garden for a change.