Posts Tagged ‘oriental poppy’

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan, who while having a cup of coffee with my sister Mary beside the canal at King’s Place, was entertained by two swans.

King's Place Swans

We spent a lot of the day waiting for it to rain.  It is very rare to find Mrs Tootlepedal roaming the garden saying, “Come on, rain!”  Usually she is to be found indoors looking out of the window saying, “Please stop raining.”  It has been a very unusual spell of weather.

We started the morning by going to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre.  It was enhanced by people selling plants today and while I bought fish and meat, Mrs Tootlepedal bought a meconopsis and two geums.

Then we went home and waited for the promised rain.  We put in a lot of work while we were waiting.  Mrs Tootlepedal did planting out of her purchases and other seedlings from the greenhouse, some weeding and endless improvements to the soil.  I mowed the middle lawn and edged it too.  Then  I sieved some compost….

sieved compost

…which finally cleared out Bin D.  Then, in an exciting development, I shifted the material in Bin C into Bin D.  I must say that the weather has been kind to the compost and it doesn’t look as though I will have to wait long before starting to sieve the new intake.

Compost Bins C and D

I also took time off from these labours to wander around taking pictures.

We are not short of strong colours…

azaleas and rhodie


icelandic poppy

…but there are more delicate shades to be seen too.




I really feel grateful to my camera for making me look closely at flowers that might only have merited a swift glance from me not so long ago.  I would never have realised how intricate a lupin flower is and how beautiful an astrantia can be….and a bunch of chives would just have been a bunch of chives and not a carpet of jewels.

I stepped out of the front gate and went round to the dam.  A party of sparrows was enjoying a swimming outing.

sparrows on dam

A second oriental poppy has come out.  It is hard to beat for sheer impact on the eye.

oriental poppy

At the corner of the house, a fuchsia has been flowering for many years.  It got a bit sick last year and I wondered if it had come to the end of the road.  However, although it is not looking fully fit, it has got a lot of flowers on it once again.


We think the the blackbirds might be starting a second family as they seem to be busy.


The clematis round the back door is at its peak…

back door clematis

…but splendid as it is, I am tending to appreciate the more modest front door clematis even more.

front door clematis

We are getting into the rose season and the Rosa Moyesii has been joined by Roseraie de l’Hay, newly purchased this year by the head gardener.

Rosa Moyesii and Roseraie de l'Hay

From time to time, I needed a quiet sit on the new bench and this gave me a chance to consider the curiosities of perspective.


The green patch in the foreground on the lawn has been created by Mrs Tootlepedal who who is employing little by little stealth fertilising tactics behind my  back.

The rain finally arrived in the afternoon, starting so weakly that we thought that it would come to nothing.  But as time went by, the intensity increased and by tea time, we were enjoying exactly the steady light watering that we would have ordered.  The forecast says that it should rain gently for most of tonight and tomorrow and then we should return to fine dry weather.  The garden will be most grateful if this is true.

The rain will do no harm at all to the fruit and veg which has been enjoying the warmth..

apple, blackcurrant, gooseberry and peas

The blackcurrants are looking very perky and Mrs Tootlepedal’s pea fortress has successfully kept the sparrows at bay.  The apples are looking good and the gooseberry hasn’t got the sawfly yet.  What could possibly go wrong?

While it was just gently drizzling, I went upstairs and took some general views of the garden as I know some readers like to see these as the seasons change.  I took the three ‘rooms’ from left to right.

Front lawn from above

Left: The front garden, home to the azaleas

Middle lawn from above

Centre: The middle garden with the new bench

Veg garden from above

Right: The vegetable garden looking busy.

Because the plum tree obscures some of the middle garden, I took a picture of the hedge that divides the two rooms from a different angle.  Ally’s Allium Alley runs along behind the back hedge past the rhododendrons.

Azaleas from above

And I looked down on the little flower garden round the chimney pot where the bird feeder is.


sundial garden from above

The sharp eyed will be able to spot the new bright red geum that Mrs Tootlepedal bought this morning just in front of the green box ball.

This is a good time of year.

We both had to spend some time looking at the songs for the summer concert of the Carlisle Community Choir which takes place tomorrow.  This will be the final time that we will be taken by our excellent conductor Andrew, who is moving on. As a farewell gift, he is making us do four of the songs from memory. …with gratuitous clapping in two of them.

I did find time to catch a flying bird of the day but as the light wasn’t very good by the time that I came indoors and set the camera up, it is a rather fuzzy siksin.

flying siskin


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The guest picture of the day was sent to me by my older son, Tony.  He was much impressed by this robot lawn mower mowing a public space in Edinburgh.  I was too so although it is not the sharpest photo, I have used it.

robot mower

We had another day of incessant sunshine and I was pleased to have been able to get up, eat breakfast and get out for a 25 mile cycle ride by half past seven in the morning.  The temperature was perfect when I started off but it was already getting too warm for comfort by the time that I finished.

I took a picture with my phone to give a general impression of the ride…

sunny day at Glenzier

…and was pleased to find an early silverweed flower at my foot.


They seem to like the salt that gets put on the roads in winter.

Apart from avoiding the worst of the heat, my early start allowed me to be home in time for coffee with Dropscone and since it was Friday today, this involved treacle scones.  He had laid out some of his cash on a better quality bag of flour and this had paid off as the scones were first class.

While I was awaiting for him to come, I killed a little time chasing butterflies in the garden.

female orange tip butterfly

This is a female orange tip butterfly

small white butterfly and bee

I don’t what type this very plain white butterfly is. I liked the neat pollen bucket on the bee nearby.

I couldn’t help noticing a few flowers too.  Some were big and brash….

oriental poppy

Our first oriental poppy of the year


Several peony flowers are on the go now.

Some were more delicate….

Welsh poppies

A floating cloud of Welsh poppies

Welsh poppy

A near perfect one

And the sunshine made for a couple of quite classy close ups.

Welsh poppy

Dancing feet


Delicate petals

It was good though to get back into the cool indoors out of the sun and enjoy the coffee and scones.

After Dropscone left, with a few sticks of rather weedy looking rhubarb in a bag, I thought about mowing a lawn but decided that discretion was the better part of valour today and went back in and did the crossword instead.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been having coffee with ex work colleagues at the Buccleuch Centre but after lunch, she got busy in the garden and I went out to supervise.  I did manage to sieve another bucket or two of compost for dressing the vegetable beds and we put some netting on the strawberry beds,  but mostly I drifted about, trying not to get too hot.

I noticed the first yellow rose of the year…

Scotch Rose

…and enjoyed peering into an allium.


Whenever I did get too hot, I went indoors and practised songs and/or flute and recorder pieces for the concert in the evening.

While I was out in the garden at one point, a tremendous racket announced the arrival of a bunch of starlings which sat on the electricity wires and chatted.



They didn’t stay long though and were soon off in search of food for the youngsters elsewhere.

Other birds were available.


Sparrows checking out some red pellets

I noticed that a blue polemonium had come out…


…and the lupins are now going strong.


I went back in and made a feta, tomato and potato bake for our tea and then we picked up another choir member and set off for Newcastleton where our choir concert was being held in the church.

The thermometer in the car said 30°C when we got in and even driving along with the windows open didn’t cool us down at all.  I was hoping that when we got there, the church would be dark and cool but it was just as warm inside as the day was outside and by the time that the choir and a very satisfactorily large audience had piled in, it was a bit like a furnace.

The heat didn’t affect the singing too much but playing instruments when your hand is hot and sticky is not quite what you want so although the recorder piece went not too badly, the flute accompaniment was rather streaky.  The pianist complained that he too was making mistakes because his hands were slipping off the keys.

The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the concert.  As well as the choir, there were poems, solo songs and a terrific contribution by three of our conductor’s students from Carlisle who sang songs from musicals and some crisp close harmony work as well.

All in all, the audience got quite good value for their entrance money, though there was enough scope  for improvement in the choir to warrant a another practice before we repeat the concert in another church next week.

The almost flying bird of the day is one of the starlings.


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Today’s guest picture shows the sea front at Ullapool where Sandy is spending a few days with friends.  When the weather is like this, it is hard to find anywhere more beautiful than the north west coast of Scotland.


We had another fine day here today but it was, if anything, a little too fine.  The wind had gone round to the south west and had little or no intention of cooling anyone down.   The temperature was up to 24°C by lunch and the humidity had gone up for most of the day.  The result was a series of thunder rumbles in the afternoon but at the time of writing, no actual thunderstorms.

All this made for a rather heavy day and although I thought of cycling,  I also thought about melting tar, recent gravelling and potential heatstroke so I didn’t go out.

I did pop out into the garden at regular intervals both to do useful things….

hedge trimming

Our neighbour Betty and I co-operatively trimmed our joint hedge.

…like hedge trimming and lawn mowing and weed killing.

The warm weather has brought on a host of weeds in the middle lawn.  Usually I don’t weed kill because it means that you have to collect and throw away the grass trimmings but there were places where the weeds were threatening to overwhelm the grass so there was no choice.

These things were interspersed with spells indoors.  Our house is quite cool in these conditions so I adhered to the golden rule: If you can’t stand the heat, go into the kitchen.

I also took the camera out from time to time but very bright sunshine is not ideal for flower photography (some people are never happy) so the results were a bit mixed.  Strangely there was no sign of the painted lady or any of his/her friends today.


There was large strident colour…

cow parsley

…and delicate tracery

There were new reds….

Sweet William, potentilla and a rose

Sweet William, potentilla and a rose

…and old and new yellows.

Welsh poppy, rose and musk

Welsh poppy, rose and musk

And lovely smells on every side.

There were comings and goings.

azalea and weigela

The very last blossom on the yellow Azalea and the first on the Weigela

The Astrantias are coming along nicely.


And the lupins are almost at their peak.


Recently we have been visited by what sometimes seems like an army of sparrows and there were plenty to more to watch today.  The reason for the great number is some very successful breeding.  Little sparrows flapping their wings in a pleading way are to be seen on all sides.

baby sparrow

At first there was one….

baby sparrow

…and then there two…..

baby sparrow

…who looked really hopeful…..and then they all flew away and one lucky child got special treatment later.

baby sparrow

I saw the first goldfinch for several days.  They have become very scarce and there are more redpolls than goldfinches at the moment.

redpoll and goldfinch

 One of our residents is getting more and more shy.


It got hotter and hotter as the day went on but Mrs Tootlepedal had plants that badly needed planting out so she kept busy.  She was putting in cosmos plants and the weather has been so good lately, that some of them are in flower before they have been put in the beds.


I sieved a little compost.  The dry weather has made this task very easy but I needed to put some water on the heap in bin C as it was in danger of drying out completely.

In a quiet moment, I had a word with the power company about my outstanding unresolved complaint with regard to the supply to the Archive Centre and unintelligible billing.  They are a month late in a promised reply.  It turned out that this was because the complaint had been marked as resolved.  How could this be when I haven’t been spoken or written to?   The answer came: “The computer has done it.”  I intimated that this was not and entirely satisfactory response and that I hoped the matter might be resolved before my death.  The customer service operative made no promises.

I was cheered up when my flute pupil Luke came in the evening and we started work on a duet for two flutes in canon by Telemann, which will be an enjoyable challenge for us. His music reading is improving all the time so we don’t need to spend nearly as much time as we used to in getting familiar with a piece and can get down to playing it seriously much sooner.

In the evening, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and there were moments after such a hot day, when my music reading left a little to be desired but we had another enjoyable evening of music all the same.

There are two flying birds of the day today, a standard siskin….

flying siskin

…and a snatched shot of a swift disappearing as it swooped over the garden in the morning.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Gavin.  It shows him in front of an enormous hedge in the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh yesterday.  By coincidence, Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda were there too yesterday but they didn’t meet Gavin. Perhaps they were on the other side of the hedge.

gavin and hedge

I had a wonderful plan to leap up early and pedal 40 miles in the early morning sunshine before breakfast.  The alarm went off on cue, I woke up, the sun was shining, I rolled over and went back to sleep again.  Sometimes, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans….

I was wandering round the garden after a late breakfast, taking pictures of a fine oriental poppy…

oriental poppy

…when who should appear on a bicycle but Dropscone.  He wasn’t cycling far though, merely crossing the town to pay a bill. Having discharged this obligation, he returned for a cup of coffee and a dainty biscuit.

He has been away for a few days acting as a golf referee at an international children’s golf tournament near Edinburgh.  He would have had a better time if he hadn’t had to spent eleven hours on the course in pouring rain and lashing wind on Wednesday.  He was very cheerful all the same.

When he left, I completed my tour of the garden.

rosa moyesii

The Rosa Moyesii is looking better by the day.


I would have to lie on my back to see the colour in these Nectaroscordum

allium and insect

I am not sue what sort of insect this is on an Allium

Burnet roses or Scotch briar

These are Burnet roses or Scotch briars

When I finished my tour,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the Moorland bird feeders, as I had been asked to fill them today in the absence of the regular volunteer.  Mrs Tootlepedal was armed with binoculars and was hoping for a sight of a hen harrier on the moor behind the feeders.

She didn’t see a harrier but I was happy enough with a woodpecker and some spring cones.


I also liked this view of the woods on the other side of the Tarras valley.

Tarras woodland

We couldn’t stay long as I had an appointment to meet a lady from our camera club in Newcastleton who was bringing over some pictures for our photo exhibition which starts next week.  I just had time to mow the middle lawn before going up to find her. She was on time and will come over again next week to see the exhibition.

After lunch, I looked at another fallen walnut tree branch which Mrs Tootlepedal had tidied up in the garden.  The yellow lichen seems to like walnut…


…and then we put our bikes in the back of the car and drove the eleven miles down to Longtown.

The attraction of Longtown, an otherwise unremarkable town, to Mrs Tootlepedal is that it lies in the middle of the Solway Plain, a very flat piece of country.  We intended to ride a gentle fourteen mile  route but thanks to missing a poorly signposted turn, we managed to achieve a fifteen mile circle.  In the beautiful sunny weather, with a light breeze to keep us cool, we didn’t mind the extra mile at all.

I stopped from time to time to take a picture as we went along.

Longtown pines

There are some very striking pine trees in this part of Cumbria

buttercups verges

Many of the verges were lined with buttercups

The sharp eyed will have observed Mrs Tootlepedal disappearing into the distance in the two shots above.  She was in fine fettle and we kept our average above 10 mph for the journey.

Road side spectators watched us whoosh past with barely concealed amazement.

pony near Longtown

Near the end of our journey, we passed one of my favourite buildings, Arthuret Church, and I added yet another shot of this impressive edifice to my collection.

Arthuret Church

When we got home, we had a cup of tea by way of refreshment and Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do those things that a gardener does in the back border….


…while I mowed the front lawn.  Luckily, the two forms of physical exercise which I enjoy most, cycling and lawn mowing, are not much affected by my sciatica.  Leaning forward and taking your weight on your arms must be the secret.

I had another look round when I had finished mowing.


The Astrantia is a treat whichever way you look at it.


The Primula by the pond was worth looking down on too.

Flag Iris

The Flag Iris at the end of the drive was in full flower after a sunny day

It was such a lovely evening that we decided to drive up onto the Langholm Moor and have another look for hen harriers.  This time Mrs Tootlepedal saw a male flying low over the hill as soon as we stopped and we had an entertaining time watching it swoop along the ridge.  It was well in binocular range but a little too far away for my camera.  At one moment we saw what looked like both a male and a female together.


I had time to look at Tinnis, my favourite hill….


…before we headed home for tea.

In the evening, I updated my cycling stats and found that this year I have done more miles by the end of May than I had by the end of June last year.  This is very satisfactory but may also explain why I feel a bit tired.  I am still working my way back to full fitness after the illness that laid me low two years ago and have to be careful not to overdo things.

The non flying flower of the day is another view of that pond-side Primula.




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Today’s guest picture is the result of another visit to Edinburgh by Mrs Tootlepedal in her role as grandmother.  It shows Matilda being transported by a personal travel solution.


We were all being transported today.  Mrs Tootlepedal was physically transported  by car and train to Edinburgh where she was spiritually transported with joy at seeing Matilda.  While there, she reverted to Shank’s pony and walked six miles during the day.  Her journey home was made miserable by the fact the the train company had sold tickets for an eight coach train but had absent mindedly only provided four coaches so she had to stand in a very cramped vestibule for over an hour.  She had enjoyed her day nonetheless.

I, after a quick blackbird shot…


…and an admiring glance at an Allium…


…was transported to Carlisle by bus.  When I got there, I joined a good turnout of members  of the Carlisle Community Choir for a rehearsal and performance in the old Fire Station building.  This was abandoned as a fire station after the great floods of 2005 and is now lying empty but in good condition.  It was never quite clear to me why we were doing a half hour lunchtime concert in a deserted shell of a building but I have no doubt that there was some good reason.  The choir sang quite well and and the small audience received us enthusiastically so it was very enjoyable.

My satisfaction was compounded by the timing working out so that I walked out of the concert and more or less straight on to the next bus home.  This left me plenty of time for a 25 mile easy pedal in warm sunshine.  Cycling is always a pleasure but there is no doubt that the pleasure is enhanced by a bit of sunshine and the chance to get some suntan on one’s knees.

I had a walk round the garden when I got back.

A large flag iris has appeared.

flag iris

And in contrast, two more delicate newcomers are another geranium and a white Icelandic poppy.

geranium and poppy

More sensational poppies of a different sort are about to burst into flames.

oriental poppy

I had a busy time because the warm afternoon had brought things out.  Flowers…


An astrantia, a quiet but wonderful flower.


A spirea

…and other things.


The bees were out in force too.


A frog was keeping an eye on things

Sandy came round for a very short and gentle walk and we started by driving to the Kilngreen where the regular heron was standing on yet another rock…


…and a wagtail was rocketing vertically up into the air off the stones beside the river to catch insects.


Then we parked the car at the Episcopal Church and strolled across the Castleholm.  It was still pleasantly warm but the sun had gone behind clouds by this time.  We caught a glimpse of a nuthatch but there was no action at the nest so we walked up beside the race track. It was looking very orderly having recently been mown…

Castleholm racetrack

…and at the top corner it was framed  by buttercups.

Castleholm racetrack

We walked across the grass to look at another possible nest site on a branch.  On our way we passed these..

tree fruits

Beech nut with extra tiny spider

…and a rabbit who had obviously read John Updike.

rabbit running

The nest was occupied  by blue tits and we watched while they busily went in and out, mostly too quickly for a photograph but once or twice, slowly enough to get some sort of record.

blue tits

Ominously, we couldn’t stand watching for too long as the midges were beginning to bite.  The miserably cold winter of 2012-13 meant that last year was almost midge free but I fear that we will pay for this year’s mild winter in multiple midge bites.

Still, we moved off in time and got home safely.  When he had arrived for the walk, Sandy had looked at our garden from an angle that I don’t often use as I normally look at the garden from the house. He suggested that bis view would make a charming picture.

Cottage garden

I agree.

I was going to use a pale Aquilegia as the non flying flower of the day…


…but Mr Grumpy took off (catching me by surprise) while I was watching so here is a traditional flying bird of the day.  I am always slightly surprised that a bird that looks so slim while standing, can look so broad when flying.

flying heron






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Today’s picture shows my sister-in-law Catherine admiring a South African locomotive in a Welsh station at Porthmadoc on their recent Welsh holiday.

welsh railway

It was another lovely morning and this time, I had nothing to stop me making the most of it on my speedy bike. It was warm enough for me to shed all superfluous layers and sunny enough to call for some sun block.  I had intended to start early but as is all too often the case, I didn’t get away on schedule so I was worried in case the midday sun might be a bit too hot.  In the event, a fair bit of light cloud kept things from getting too hot and a very light wind made for a perfect cycling day.

My route was simple; head north for 25 miles and then turn round and head south again.  I followed the Esk valley for the first 20 miles to the very head of the river  and after crossing the county boundary at 1100 ft, I dropped gently down to the Ettrick valley

Here is the Esk on my way up….


It bends away from the road here for a a couple of miles..

…and here is the top of valley where the Esk has dwindled into the Tomleuchar Burn.

Esk valley

On my way up this hill, I passed this undistinguished building….

seismological station

…which is much more important than it looks.  It is the base for the Eskdalemuir Seismic Array. It has a large set of recording pits spread over the surrounding countryside.

It records all sorts of sesimic activity from all over the place.  I stopped and jumped up and down three times rather heavily on their doorstep just to give them something novel to record.

I paused at the watershed to have an egg roll and a rest and my camera took a rather wobbly picture of me eating the roll.

cycling chic

Hard to beat for cycling chic.

The sun was shining when I got to Ettrick and the bike had a rest in the shade of a fine tree…


This is a geographically important place as it is exactly in the middle of nowhere.

…while I popped off to take a picture of a bridge over the Ettrick Water.

Ettrick Bridge

On the Dumfries side of the border, the countryside was very open but on the Selkirk side, the road ran between trees up a narrow valley.

Tima road

The little stream beside the road is called the Tima and near the top of the hill I stopped to take a picture of Loch Tima.

Loch Tima

The five and a half miles from Ettrick to the top of the hill are my favourite five miles of cycling.  The road rises 100m over the five miles and the road engineers have created an extremely steady gradient over the entire distance.  Together with a really smooth road surface, this means that it is possible, even for an old man like me, to pedal uphill at an average of 15 mph on a calm day.  Somehow, this is better than whizzing downhill as you are purchasing small chunks of gravity as you pedal for a very low price in terms of effort and you know that these same chunks of gravity are going to push you down the other side of the hill at speed.  It is all very satisfactory.

So well did the gravity chunks work, that I did the 12 miles from Ettrick to Eskdalemuir (100m climb and 150m descent) at 17 mph which is a speed that I haven’t managed for a long time.  The energy gel that I had taken at Ettrick might have helped but it was all too good to last and I had to slow down a lot to make sure that I had the legs to get home.

I got home bang on schedule just in time to enjoy a plate of leek and potato soup which Mrs Tootlepedal had been making while I was out.  The leeks had been a gift from Sandy’s garden.

After lunch, I went off with Sandy.  He had noticed a promising bluebell wood from the windows of the bus which he takes to get home from work so we went to investigate.  It certainly had bluebells….

bluebell wood

…plenty of bluebells….

bluebell wood

…really a lot of bluebells on every side.

bluebell wood

I have never given this wood a thought as I have passed by along the road.  I thought, if I thought about it at all, that it was probably just one more sitka spruce plantation.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

beech wood

It is a beech wood.

We waited for a while to see if the sun would obligingly come out but it stayed behind the clouds so we went off along the river to look for further photo opportunities.  These were not hard to find.


The esk at Skippers

The esk at Skippers

path to the railway

Then the call of a cup of tea and a caramel biscuit became too strong to resist and we returned to Wauchope Cottage.  After our cuppa, we had a meeting with a fellow photographer who is keen to produce some postcards of Langholm and the surrounding area from the pictures of local photographers.  We are going to explore the possibilities of this as they say.

While we were doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal took her mother for a scenic drive up part of the route that I had pedalled in the morning.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to a practice for our choir.  After the committee had decided on Monday to cancel our forthcoming concerts due to the serious illness of our guest artist, it has become magically uncancelled again so frantic arrangements are now being made to fill up the programme.   Still a short concert is always better than a long concert so we are hoping for the best.

In the continuing absence of a flying bird of the day, an oriental poppy, the first of the season, will have to do.





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