Posts Tagged ‘astilbe’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who met this nose diving elephant at a Regent’s Park art fair.

An elephant balancing on its trunk - Frieze scupture Fair - Regent's Park

Unfortunately, it was another fine day today.  I say unfortunately because my back was still giving me trouble and I had to waste it by doing nothing more energetic than wandering about the garden and groaning theatrically from time to time.

The sunshine brought out the best in the poppies.





And once again the bees were very busy.

From the shade of the walnut tree, a blackbird stared at me.


The most striking flower was a pot marigold pretending to be a dahlia.

pot marigold

Though I did like  a modest dahlia against a background of phlox.


My back kindly lets me lean forward without trouble so I got the hedge clipper out and trimmed two of the box balls on the front lawn and I was just about to put the clipper away when I was visited by my South African correspondent Tom, who was returning from a cycle ride.  He is staying with family in Langholm for a few weeks and called in to see how I was going on.

He asked me what pictures I would like him to send and I have requested some South African wild flowers so I will wait with interest for what he sends me. Listening to his tales of a months long drought, thorny bushes and venomous snakes made me grateful for for the gentler surroundings of Langholm even if does rain quite a lot here.

We saw a coloured butterfly, probably a red admiral,  whizz past us as we talked but even though I had several searches later on in  the day, I couldn’t see it in the garden and had to settle for one of the frequent white visitors.

white butterfly

There are a lot of these about

A recent picture of an American spirea in a blog that I was reading made me take a look at one of the bushes in our garden.


It has very tiny flowers

One of the astilbes is in top form.


Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see Matilda.  Sitting in  a train didn’t seem like a good idea to me so I stayed at home.  This turned out to be a very good decision as her train was held up by a broken down train in front and the journey took an hour and a half longer than it should have.

This left me still wandering about the garden as sitting down for long is not an option at the moment.

The first rudbeckia is out…

rudbeckia and clematis

…and the Cherokee or Ooh La La clematis is lasting very well.

The day clouded over in the afternoon and I spent most of it inside relearning and instantly forgetting songs for the Carlisle choir concert in a month or so.

I did go out and look at blackbirds.


Then I set the camera up on a tripod upstairs and looked out of the window to see what the blackbirds were doing.  It mostly seemed to involve sitting on hedges…


…sometimes with friends.

blackbird and sparrows

I feel that there are more blackbirds about in the garden this year than ever before.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s return train journey was more successful than the outward trip and she got back safely.

I did go out on my slow bike to deliver a letter during the afternoon and I passed Mike and Alison hard at work in their garden on my way.  They gave me some sound back treatment advice and although I rather dismissed it at the time, I followed it when I got home and it turned out to be be very good.  It is possibly a sensible idea to take advice when offered from a retired doctor and nurse.

I nearly got a genuine flying bird of the day today.



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Instead of guest pictures, I am going to use some of the phone pictures from our recent trip to London for the next few days.  They are not great pictures but show some of things we saw but couldn’t put in the posts.

The Dalesman steam engine

There was steam excursion in the station at Carlisle when we went down to London

I had a very weather dependant day today.  After several days without cycling, I was keen to get a good few miles in today and the forecast yesterday was encouraging.  Sadly however, the forecast for today when I woke up was far less encouraging, promising rain by lunchtime.  As I needed to mow the lawns as well as cycle, this limited my cycling to a twenty mile trip up the main road to Mosspaul and back.

The route choice was good because the main road was closed fourteen miles north of the town and this meant that very few cars passed me and I had the road to myself for most of the time.   It was rather grey once again and the brightest thing that I saw on my trip was this thistle….


…on the final climb to Mosspaul.


This is the point where East meets West in our part of Scotland and once over the crest that you can see in the picture, all the rivers flow into the North Sea unlike ours which flow into the Solway Firth and thence into the Irish Sea.

Thanks to the wide roads and light traffic, I had a quiet and reflective ride.

When I got back, I checked on the Shirley poppies….

shirley poppies

…which looked a little more cheerful than yesterday but not much.

Then I dead headed the opium poppies which are going very well….


….cut down some of the delphiniums which are going over, enjoyed a new cornflower….


…and one of the day lilies which brightens up even the gloomiest day…

day lily

…and then mowed the middle lawn.

It was rather muggy and I needed a rest after that so I had another look round to see what was going on.

The bees on the privet were in full flow and I could hear a continuous hum as I stood nearby.  The flowers are above my head so it is hard to see the bees…

bees on privet

…and these were on the lowest flowers.

A second buddleia has come out..


…but there are still no signs of butterflies.

I looked at an astilbe….


…and then rushed to mow the front lawn just as it started to drizzle gently.  It stayed raining very lightly after I had finished the mowing so I picked some blackcurrants and then went in for lunch.

After lunch, the drizzle had slowed to about one drop a minute so I had another go at picking blackcurrants until I had enough to make a jar or two more of jelly and had a look at the clematis as I came back in.

As well as the white variety whihc has green on its petals….

white and green clematis

…I saw that one of our red ones has green colouring too.


Look closely at the one on the right and you will see that what looks like damaged petals is green colouring.

Our white and green one always flowers like that but the red one is more unusual. On researching it, I found  that it is probably a quite common problem.

I rang Sandy up and arranged to have a short walk with him while the going was good.  but before we had even got out of our respective doors, the drizzle had changed to steady rain and we retired inside.

I used the time to put in some much needed flute practice and also to sit down and enter a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  We checked on the weather again after an hour but decided that it was still too damp and gloomy for a walk so I settled down to watch the last day of the Tour.  I will be at a loss for things to do on a wet afternoon now that it has finished.

I was still hoping that the day might brighten up enough for a late walk but it stayed gloomy and so did I.  Life is definitely a lot duller when Mrs Tootlepedal is away from home.

I am trying to keep up with the vegetables while she is away and had turnip, beetroot, peas and potatoes with my evening meal of fish cakes.

The fish diet is obviously not improving my brain as I had a little panic when I checked on our house insurance by chance and found that we didn’t seem to have had a renewal notice yet even though it was due in March.  A very nice young man on the phone pointed out that 11/3/2017 meant the third of November not the eleventh of March and that doubtless a renewal notice would arrive in due course.    I blame Google for using funny dating systems on their emails.

During the day, I saw a young but ferocious looking sparrow on the lawn….

young sparrow

…and what I think must be a thrush on the hedge.


Neither of them were flying.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my son Tony who has been experimenting with my old Lumix which I gave to him on Thursday.  This is his ‘flying birds’ taken at none  o’clock in the evening..

Tony's moon

We had a really lovely day today with a cool underlying temperature (17° C at its hottest) and wall to wall sunshine.  For me, this is just perfect as I don’t like it when it gets too hot.

I had to take some Archive Group heritage disks up to the Welcome to Langholm office in the morning so I took my camera with me and walked back by way of the Kilngreen and the new path round the Castleholm.  It was pure pleasure to be and about on such a day.

I took a couple of pictures in the garden before I left….


second poppy

…and enjoyed my extended walk back from the town.

The Sawmill Brig

The Sawmill Brig

grass beside the The Sawmill Brig

Rather ghostly grass along the river bank above the bridge

Ty Penningham's path

The ‘new’ path

Langholm Castle

Langholm Castle is getting smothered in growth on its ruined walls

I stopped to have a look at the two noble firs at the corner of the path as they are always interesting.  They were more interesting than usual today, I thought.  One of the pair was covered in more cones than I have ever seen before.

noble fir cones

The other had no cones at all but the remains of many flowers.

noble fir cones

I walked on, passing wild flowers….

wild flower

….and hearing odd sounds in the distance.

When I had crossed the Jubilee Bridge….

River Esk above Jubilee Bridge

The river Esk seen from the bridge. The trees make an impressive canyon for it to run through.

…the source of the sound became obvious as I was assailed by the playing of the Langholm Pipe Band…

Langholm Pipe Band

…who were entertaining a crowd of parents and children which had gathered for a junior cricket event.

I had time for a look at two very spiky flowers as I went round the playing field…

nettle and spiky flower

…along with a flower doing aerobics and a fly not flying.

hawkbit and fly

When I got back to the garden, I considered the down side from a lawn maintenance point of view of having a very prolific Philadelphus near the lawn….

philadelphus petals

…and then stopped moaning to myself and enjoyed combining clearing up the petals with mowing the lawn.

Middle lawn

When I had finished the lawn, I turned compost Bin B into compost C.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal came out to give her new secateurs a test.


They passed.

The secateurs come with a special sharpening stone of their own and every part is replaceable individually.  They are Swiss made and are well worth the 600 mile round trip to get them.   I was allowed a go and can report that they are as smooth as butter in operation.

There are always roses to look at at present so I looked at some.

special grandma and Lilian Austin

Special Grandma and Lilian Austin

I noted the two different astilbes in the garden…


…and was just going in for lunch when Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a butterfly.

small tortoiseshell butterfly

I was doubly pleased to see this small tortoiseshell, not just because it is always good to see a butterfly but also because the small tortoiseshells are said to be getting rather scarce.

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle.

Mrs Tootlepedal did some very good quality shopping (including dates, prunes, tea, coffee and cheese) while I went to a pub and did some unofficial bonding with a group of the basses and tenors from our Carlisle choir.   This involved beer and conversation and while I had very little beer, I did have a lot of conversation.  The bonding was the idea of one of the basses as the choir doesn’t meet in the summer months and a very good idea it was.

The odd thing about the affair was that on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, most of Carlisle seemed to think that packing into a pub was the best thing to do and the place was full  to bursting.  I had thought that we might be the only people to be in there on such a good day to be outside.

When I left after a couple of hours to go home with Mrs Tootlepedal, the rest of the bonders were still there chatting away merrily.

Once home, I thought of a cycle ride but the call of the compost was too strong and I finished the compost turning by putting the contents of Bin A into Bin B.  The new demountable wooden compost bins make this a very easy task but I was happy to have got the job finished.  The compost in Bin A was really quite hot in the centre of the heap and I hope it doesn’t get so hot in Bin B that it sets fire to the bin.  That would be a tragedy.

I took a couple of evening sunshine flower shots…

sweet peas

Sweet peas in their protective cage

lupin, foxglove and delphinium

Lupin, foxglove and delphinium

Checked out a bee on a hosta flower….

bee on hosta

…and went in to enjoy some fishcakes, with new potatoes and turnips from the garden, for my tea.

Altogether a very satisfactory day.

Here are two sitting Kilngreen ducks for the flying bird of the day slot today.

Kilngreen ducks

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our daughter Annie along with the comment, “Guess where I am.”  It turns out that it’s not Naples….or Middlesbrough.

Annie in Paris

Wherever it was, it was a lot nicer there than it was here today.  It was raining when we got up and it is still raining, albeit in a rather half hearted way as I write this in the evening and it didn’t stop in between.

Annoyingly the first poppy in a flower bed chose this to be the day to come out…


…so I braved the rain to take a celebratory portrait.

I did go out a couple of times during the day but I was extremely well wrapped up.  Luckily it wasn’t windy so a good umbrella helped.

The dull weather helped me get some tasks that were on my ‘to do’ list onto the ‘have done’ list which was good but otherwise it was a very quiet day indoors.  The Tour de France provided some very restful viewing of attractive French countryside in the sunshine for several hours until the peace was rudely interrupted by an unexpected outbreak of excitement in the last few hundred metres of the stage.

About tea time, the rain eased off to the merest drizzle so I nipped out into the garden  to pick a few gooseberries for stewing and I took a few pictures while I was there.

Raindrops figured largely.


Ligularia with raindrops

Queen of Denmark

The Queen of Denmark with raindrops

Lamb's Ear with a big raindrop

Lamb’s Ear with a big raindrop

wet poppy

The poppy looking the worse for wear

day lily

A rainy day lily

There were flowers without raindrops…



…but not many.

I saw a bird on a wire standing on one leg…

bird on one leg

…as my neighbour Gavin passed the garden, taking advantage of the slackening in the rain to have a short walk.  He said that there wouldn’t be much for me to photograph today and I replied that there were plenty of raindrops and took one more shot of them…

lily with raindrops

…and went in and stewed the gooseberries.

It was such a gloomy and chilly day that I lit the stove.  I am going to start a campaign to bring back summer.

The flying bird of the day was another that had settled on the wire, this time using both feet.



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Today’s guest picture shows sunset over the Mersey.  My brother is in Liverpool.

sunset over the mersey

It was a calm day with a good forecast so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir, I got the fairly speedy bike out and made good use of some light Sunday traffic by cycling up the main road to Hawick and back again.

There were some rather fierce looking black clouds about which delayed my start a bit but they passed over and by the time that I got to Fiddleton, there were glimpses of sunshine…

Sun at Fiddelton

…and the rest of the ride was mostly sunshine or fluffy clouds.  I was in a bridge sort of mood so I stopped quite a few times to record bridges over the Teviot, the river which I followed down from Mosspaul and into the heart of Hawick.

The main road has meant that some of the Teviot road bridges are quite modern….

Teviot bridge

This is the first one I crossed

Teviot bridge

And this is the second.  It has a plaque saying it was built in the 1930s.

Once I got into the town, I had to get off my bike and walk onto a smart new pedestrian bridge….

Teviot bridge

…to look back on the third bridge that I crossed.

Teviot bridge

The last bridge that I passed…

Teviot bridge

…is now reserved for pedestrians but I wouldn’t have crossed it anyway as I stayed on the left bank of the river and continued pedalling along the river until the road ran out and changed into a rather nice looking pedestrian walk.

Hawick riverside walk

As my bike computer said that I had done more or less exactly 25 miles, I took this as a sign and stopped to eat a roll and a banana and then turned and headed for home on the same route.

There is only one hill between Langholm and Hawick with a summit at Mosspaul but as you can see from the elevation for the ride….elevation for Hawick trip

…it involves a steady 10 mile climb up to Mosspaul and then a longer 15 mile drop into Hawick.  Of course the homeward trip involves the longer and shallower climb first and then a good brisk whirl back into Langholm.

I only stopped once on the way up to Mosspaul on the return journey and this was to admire the little church at Teviothead….

Teviothead church

…and check out the things to be found on the graveyard wall on the other side of the road.

Ivy leaved toadflax and lichens

Ivy leaved toadflax and lichens

…though I did pause for a moment at the Mosspaul summit…


…to have a banana before dashing gratefully down the hill to Langholm at an average speed of 19mph for these last ten miles.

I had had a light wind in my face on the outward trip and although it was still helping a bit on the return journey, it had died away to almost nothing by the time that I got back to Langholm.  You can’t win them all and at least it hadn’t changed direction.

I got home in perfect time to watch the end of the first stage of the Tour of Britain bike race which finished in Castle Douglas, a town about 55 miles away from us to the west.  It is fun to watch cyclists on familiar roads.   They are setting off from Carlisle tomorrow.

After a shower and a refreshing cup of tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a walk round the garden.


She has quite a few astilbes on the go at present


A painted lady butterfly I think.  A rarity for us.

…and then she went off to collect some muck from her new manure mine and I set off on the slow bike to check out the riverside bird life.  I covered two miles at an average speed of 6mph and stopped for many photos and a Pelosi’s ice cream on the Kilngreen on my way.

I saw a single collared dove, and many black headed gulls and wagtails by the waterside.

collared dove, gull and wagtail

I enjoyed the trees on the Castleholm catching the evening sunlight.

Trees on castleholm

…and I rounded off the trip by going to Pool Corner to visit the slow worms.

slow worms

The slow worms enjoy the warmth under the covers on the wall.

There was just time when I got back to mow the front lawn before we sat down to a splendid meal of roast chicken and vegetables from the garden.

The flower of the day is one of the dahlias in the front beds…..


…and the flying bird is a herring gull which kindly flew up and down in front of me several times until it was sure that I had got a reasonable shot.

flying gull

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Today’s guest pictures are of a couple of harebells on the hill which my neighbour Liz met on one of her early morning walks recently.

harebellsThe day started with a farewell as I drove Mrs Tootlepedal down to the station in Carlisle where she was going to catch a train to London on her way to visit her mother.   She sent me a message later in the day to say that she had arrived safely but it was raining quite hard.

Had she stayed at home, she would have enjoyed a lovely day, cool and misty in the morning but sunny all day and warm in the evening.

On my way back from Carlisle, I bought some more bird seed to top up my supplies as the birds are eating a lot.  They were still busy munching away when I got home but I was more interested in the flowers.  The poppies are wonderful at the moment with new colours appearing every day.

poppiesThese are just a sample of what is on offer.

I like the huge variety in the evolution of flowers so that you wonder what circumstances can have led to such difference.

nasturtium and astilbe

Simplicity and complexity

My walk round the flowers was accompanied by a frenzied chorus of buzzing as the insects were out in force enjoying the fine weather too.

sedum with insectsI like the very stylish specs on the fly on the right of the sedum head.

sedum with insectWho knew that flies have a stripey pattern on their backs?

Michaelmas daisy with insectI was hoping to see butterflies on the Michaelmas daisies but this elegant insect was there instead.

Michaelmas daisy with insectI had to wait until the morning dew had dried off but then I was able to mow the middle lawn today. It has survived the terrible summer remarkably well, although it is now past its best by some way.

I feel that I had quite a busy morning but looking back, I can’t actually remember doing very much so maybe I have forgotten something really interesting which I did, or more likely, I didn’t do much and what’s more, I did what I did do very slowly.

I certainly spent some time being entertained by a blue tit gymnastic display…

blue tits…and watching blue and coal tits sharing the new feeder.

blue tit, coal titAfter lunch, I got ready to go out for a bike ride but saw a puzzle in the garden before I went.  What was this on the fence?

blackbirdIt turned out to be this.

blackbirdOther birds were available.

robin and chaffinchThe chaffinch is in a better position than the robin.  The birds have to keep a good eye out for danger as the garden is infested with several neighbours’ cats which prey upon them.  I saw a cat making off with a chaffinch in its mouth today.  I once went up to a lady who was collecting money for the Cats’ Protection League and said I would give her plenty of money if she could protect me from cats.  She was most offended.

A greenfinch was keeping well above ground.

greenfinchMy cycle ride was gentle and undemanding. callister …and very enjoyable in a Gerald Manley Hopkins sort of way as it was a day of dappled views.

WhiteknoweThere were signs of autumn on every side.

signs of autumnMy route took me as far as this fine pond which someone has just created and which is already looking promising.

pond on wauchope roadMy way home was slower than I would have wished, as half way along the road someone took the stuffing out of my legs and what had been two finely honed steel pistons became two sticks of spaghetti al dente so progress was slow.  Still, I wasn’t worried as they have had a fair bit of use lately and were due a rest and I got home safely with time to admire the views.

Once home, I was pleased to see a goldfinch again….

goldfinch…and amazed to see that it was the parent of not just two hopeful youngsters….

goldfinch…but three.

goldfinchIt seems very late in the year to be bringing up a new family but it has been a funny year so perhaps that explains it.

The day ended with a welcome.

In the evening, I went to the first meeting of the season for our Langholm Community Choir.  We have acquired a new conductor and accompanist and I think they are going to be very good.  The conductor is an accomplished singer herself and has some very useful tips to pass on.  In no time at all she had got all the sopranos singing top Gs with relish.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by their father, shows two more children of a Langholm exile.  William and Sara, grandchildren of Mike Tinker, are standing in front of the monument to the 29th chieftain of  Clan Macdougall in Oban where they are on holiday.  A nice contrast in posing styles here.

William and Sara

It was another good day today, warm and dry and not too hot for a change.  There was just a light wind blowing when I went off for a pedal up to Mosspaul and back and this allowed me to keep up a good pace.  I didn’t g0 as far as I might have done on such a good day as I had an outing with Mrs Tootlepedal pencilled in for the afternoon.

I only had one stop which was when a large buzzing insect flew through one of the ventilation slots on my helmet and got stuck.  I screeched to a halt and let it out post haste and was relieved when I found that it was just a buzzing insect and not a stinging or biting one.

Mrs Tootlepedal had finished singing with the church choir and was busy in the garden by the time that I got back.  I was in the garden too but just looking rather than doing anything useful.

There were new flowers….



…and old flowers…

lupin and eryngium

long serving lupin and eryngium

…and flowers that signify future meals for us….

runner bean and courgette

Runner bean and courgette

…and berries for the birds.

rowan berries

Rowan berries

One picture baffled me a bit when I looked at it later.  I couldn’t remember try to shoot the sky.


I worked out that I had been trying to catch a pond insect and had caught both it and my reflected camera…

pond insect

…which had the insect again.

pond insect

I am not quite sure what happened here. Is this a reflection in a reflection?

There are two clumps of astilbes coming on with more waiting in the wings.


The rambler roses are doing amazingly well considering that they have been absolutely covered with mildew all season and didn’t look as though they were going to come out at all.

rambler roses

And I took another look at my favourite astrantias.


After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set out on our bikes with the intention of visiting Waterbeck, ten miles away over the hill, where they offer a cream tea every Sunday in July. However, things did not go to plan.  The weather was still fine but the wind had got up a lot and was blowing straight in our faces as we pedalled up the Wauchope road towards the hill at Callister.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been very busy in the garden lately and has been also looking after our many recent welcome guests so she has not been out for any long rides for quite a time.  As a result, she wisely thought, when we had battled to the top of Callister into the teeth of the wind, that enough was enough…especially as there are still two cream tea opportunities to go in July.

We turned for home and enjoyed the reward for our hard work as we whizzed back down the hill in style.

We were also able to watch the last miles of a very interesting stage of the Tour de France while we recovered which was a bonus.

It wasn’t long before Mrs Tootlepedal was out in the garden again though.  I followed and mowed the drying green and came out again with my camera to take advantage of the evening light to capture some pale flowers..

The phlox are beginning to arrive.



Our hostas are flowering furiously


The ligularia are standing tall but are dying from the bottom before the top is out.


A pretty euphorbia fading in style

I found a bee in clover.

bee in clover

…and then went in to rest.  I was much less tired today than yesterday and I was relieved to find that the strawberry jam wasn’t as bad as I feared, although it is not as good as it should be.

I didn’t have much time to watch the birds during the day but I was entertained by our young blue tit.

blue tit

It also appears as flying bird of the day although I must admit that I didn’t know it was in the picture when I pressed the shutter button.

flying blue tit




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