Posts Tagged ‘stachys’

Today’s fine guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was luckier than us and was able to enjoy the eclipse of the moon last night.  We were clouded over.

moon eclipse venetia

Although I had promised myself a bike ride in the morning before forecast rain arrived, I was not at my perkiest when I staggered out of bed this morning, and I allowed myself to be persuaded by the Met Office website that the rain would pass and I would get a cycling opportunity in the early evening instead.

It was all too easy then to waste a lot of time doing the crossword, drinking coffee, making a loaf in the bread maker and wandering aimlessly round the garden.   Though to be fair, I did take aim from time to time.

I couldn’t decide whether this was the poppy of the day…

pale poppy

…or this, so I took them both.

red poppy

The salvias look better every day.salvia clump

I like the stachys which are probably the furriest plants in the garden….


..and the calendulas which are the sunniest.


The nectaroscordum is going over in a very dignified way, looking like the ruined turrets on some fairyland castle.

nectaroscordum ruins

On the vegetable garden fence, Bobbie James is flourishing…

bobbie james bunch

…and the first of the Ooh La La clematis flowers has appeared.

ooh la la clematis

My neighbour Liz passed the front gate and while I chatted to her, a blue tit rested on the wire cage that Mrs Tootlepedal has put up to protect her plants from marauding pigeons…

blue tit on wire

…while the delphiniums stood up very straight…

delphiniums standing well

…and a bee visited a hosta.

bee on hosta

Mrs Tootlepedal and I took the pea fortress off one of her rows of peas and picked a good handful for our lunch, and then I checked out the ligularia which was sticking its many tongues out at me…

ligularia close up

…and we went in for lunch with peas, beetroot, lettuce and potatoes from the garden on the menu.

And then it started to rain so I watched the birds.

As soon as I topped up the feeder, siskins started to arrive..

five siskins

…but there was a good selection of other birds too, including this chaffinch which missed its footing as it flew in…

chaffinch missing landing

…and a greenfinch being rather careless with its eating habits.


A blue tit looked down on the feeder from above…

blue tit looking down

…and another youngster tried out the nuts.

fluffy blue tit

I put a wet afternoon to some use by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database and practising a song that I am trying to learn for my singing teacher.

Then I gave up any pretence of activity and sat down to watch the last 50km of the Tour de France Stage.  It ended in Toulouse, a city through which Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled on our way from St Malo to Carcassone about thirteen years ago.

It is surprising how easily a few drops of light rain can persuade you to watch other people cycling rather than actually going out and pedalling yourself when you reach a certain age.

All the same, my plan was to go for a pedal when the rain stopped, but as it didn’t stop, I didn’t go.

Mrs Tootlepedal picked some carrots and I picked some broad beans and we ate them with a second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie for our tea.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow. A fortuitous setting of the shutter speed shows just how still a bird can keep its head and body even when its wings are flapping like mad.

flying sparrow



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who got the chance of a ride in a hot air balloon.  Her picture shows how far I would have gone on the journey before finding something else to do.  I don’t like heights.  She was very brave and has put lots of pictures from her flight on her blog.

filling the balloon

It rained again here….

wet philadelphus

…but once again only very lightly and not enough to register on the scientific rain gauge.

I had time to put in a load of washing and  do a little gardening after breakfast before a visitor arrived.  It was Murray, an old university friend .  His wife was working for the day in Carlisle so he took the opportunity to come up for a coffee.   He brought some very nice biscuits with him and Scott the minister’s finely tuned biscuit radar must have been working well because he  arrived not long afterwards.  As Murray is an ex church organist and from a family of ministers, he and Scott and plenty to talk about.

Scott says that his chickens are enjoying the coconuts and as our birds don’t seem to like them, I think that the coconuts will soon  be returning to the manse.

Murray, who has spent most of his working lifetime in the theatre, went off to inspect the Buccleuch Centre before going back to Carlisle, promising to come again soon when he and his wife return to the area.

I had the bird watching camera up both before and after the visit (but not during it, of course).

The birds got stuck in early today…

chaffinch and siskins

…and were still at it when the evening came…

siskin, greenfinch, sparrow

…though some wasted time in shouting…

siskin shouting

…when they could have been eating.

A sparrow concentrated on the important thing in life.

sparrow on feeder

There were plenty of insects about in the garden, some more welcome than others.

greenfly on cornflower

The stachys is going over but it still has enough flowers to make it attractive…

bee on stachys flower

…to all and sundry.

bee on stachys

There are still no coloured butterflies about but I did catch a moth, which obligingly stopped right in front of me.

moth on hairy leaf

(The general whiskeriness of plants when you look at them closely continues to delight me.)

For a cloudy day, there was plenty of sunshine about…

tall sunflowers

…and the zinnias would brighten any day.


After another bowl of nourishing green soup for my lunch, I went to hang out the washing before going cycling and, of course, it started to rain.

However this was another false alarm and it soon stopped and I got the washing hung up and my new bike out.

It was windy again.  The new cooler weather pattern is bringing winds from the Atlantic across the country and while the relative coolness (18°C) was most welcome to me, the wind was less so.

It was strong enough to make me concentrate on cycling so I didn’t stop for many pictures but the mass of meadowsweet near Wauchope Schoolhouse did stop me in my tracks.

meadowsweet at wauchope Schoolhouse

And I like the little carpet of birds foot trefoil beside the cycle track at Hagg on Esk.

birds foot trefoil

I stopped for a breather, a drink and a wildflower check at Irvine House before the final push back to Langholm.

I have passed a lot of these over the past few weeks without recording them.

wild geranium

And I managed to find an umbellifer without a red soldier beetle on it.

hoverfly on umbellifer

We have had another new bench delivered from our local benchmaker and it provided a handy place to sit down and rest when I got back after 32 miles.

post cycling selfie

In  spite of several hundred miles in the sunshine, my legs refuse to acquire a cyclist’s tan and remain as peely-wally as ever.  It is embarrassing.

As the sun had come out by this time and there is still no rain in the forecast, I set about doing as much watering as I could bear before going in to make my tea.

The usual beans were accompanied by fresh carrots today.

carrots and beans


I think Mrs Tootlepedal may have won this year’s battle in the eternal war against carrot root fly. (Fingers crossed)

Mrs Tootlepedal returns later this week so some serious time will have to be spent tidying up before she comes, both indoors and in the garden.  You just don’t realise just how fast weeds grow until you are personally responsible for them….and the same applies to piles of dust.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

flying sparrow








Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from Tom in South Africa.  He thought that we might need a touch of snow to cool us down.

south african winter

I have had a long day and I am pretty tired so although I am back at my computer, this post will be another brief one as I need an early night.

I left London by train and thanks to a fire along the side of the track ahead of us which held us up a bit, my train managed to get in after the bus to Langholm had departed and I had a hot and unwanted forty minutes to kill in Carlisle before the next one came.

I finally got home about five and had time to walk round the garden to do some watering, pick some peas and beans and gooseberries, dig up a potato and of course, take a picture or two.

I cooked the peas and beans and potatoes and had them for my tea and then went off to a choir practice at the church.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and feel that my voice may be recovering a bit.

I got back home and did some more watering.  We have been asked to try to avoid using garden hoses during the dry spell so there is going to be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with watering cans until it rains.   The current forecast says that this is unlikely to be in the next ten days at least.

I had  stewed the gooseberries earlier and I ate them after choir practice.

The garden has survived our absence surprisingly well, perhaps because our friend Mike has kindly been doing some watering while we have been away.

Here is the evidence.


Nasturtiums in a shady spot by the front door

rose Wren

The Wren, showing the dead heading is needed…

rose wren bunch

….but unbothered by the eager dead header, it has produced a fine bunch of flowers.

poppies tired

The poppies have come and gone while I have been away.   I dead headed them and hope for fresh flowers soon.

moss roses

The moss roses are in excellent shape


And I don’t think that  I have ever seen the stachys looking better.


The delphiniums are less tall (on purpose) than last year and are standing up well.

rambler rose

The Common Riding rose is looking very charming but it is a lot earlier than usual


Marigolds are coming out in various parts of the garden

special grandma rose

Special Grandma is a fitting tribute to both the gardener and her mother, two special grandmas.

small sunflower

The sunflowers in the vegetable garden have come out while we have been away.

dutvh iris

This Dutch iris couldn’t look any better if it tried.

red poppy

One poppy didn’t need dead heading

I am due to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda tomorrow but that might depend on the heat.

No flying bird of the day today but I was pleased to see that we still have blackbirds in the garden.




Mrs Tootlepedal is staying with her mother for a week or two.  Both the garden and I will miss her.


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture shows an art installation by Christo in Hyde Park in London.  My sister Mary saw it and tells me that it is made up of 7,506 barrels.  I can see that it is really big but whether it is good art, I cannot tell.

Bulgarian artist Christo's pyramid in the Serpintine made up of 7.506 barrels

Our new spell of fine weather continued today with a fresh feel brought on by the brisk wind.  It was dry and sunny though and Mrs Tootlepedal got through a power of work in the garden.

Our neighbours Ken and Liz dropped in to say hello to Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden.  They were very impressed by the number of bees on the astrantias.

bee on astrantia

I was too.

I had to leave the gardener working as I went off to see the doctor.  The result was a clean bill of health, though I have to keep taking the iron tablets, and permission to go back to the church choir and try some singing.  I am going to take care to try and avoid straining my voice by improving my technique if I can.

As I crossed the suspension bridge on my way to the Health Centre, a passer by pointed out something strange under the town bridge.

tree at bridge 2

I had a closer look when I got back from seeing the doctor.  It was a substantial tree, snapped off near the base.

tree at bridge


The recent strong wind must have done for it and the rain that followed must have floated it down the river.  I don’t know how long it has been pressed against the bridge.

Back in the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal and Liz had looked at the cotoneaster and been even more impressed by the number of bees on it.  I went to check it out.


They were right to be impressed.  There were bees all over it.

bees on cotoneaster

I thought that the roses were looking well today and I took pictures of some of them.

lilian austin rose

LIlian Austin

rosa complicata

Rosa complicata

yellow rose

Crown Princess Margareta

rose goldfinch


Among all these riches, our single Melancholy Thistle….

melancholy thistle

…did look a bit lonely.

As I like furry plants, I was happy to see that our Stachys or lamb’s ear has started to flower.



After lunch, I decided to face the brisk wind and go for a pedal.  It was hard work going uphill and into the wind at the start of the ride and I was happy to stop for a breather and a picture after 5 miles.

Callister gate

The countryside is very lush at the moment and the grass is growing at a good rate.


As are the docks at the top of Callister.

I stopped again at 10 miles and saw plenty of vetch beside the road…


…but the most noticeable thing was another snapped off tree. This one was sticking through the hedge but luckily had fallen away from the road.

fallen tree

It is always a hard time for trees when strong winds arrive when they are in full leaf.

After the first 14 miles, the wind was less of a nuisance and I was just getting up some speed when I had to stop because of a number of these.


I like to see orchids and hope to see many more but these were the only ones that I saw today.

A friendly wind blew me home and made up for the struggle on the outward part of the trip and I managed just over 30 miles and this brought me up to my target for the month.  As there are several days of the month still to go, I am hoping to make a dent in my mileage backlog which is too large for comfort.

I stuck to my good resolution and instead of going for a walk or doing some mowing when I got home, I went in and put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  I was inputting data for 1897 and noticed a report of a car being seen in the town.  Modern times are creeping up.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a good time playing sonatas while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike caught up on the news and sipped beer.

The flower of the day is another bee on the cotoneaster.

bee on cotoneaster





Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture was sent by my sister Mary in response to my plea and is another of her excellent series of Regents Park studies. She plays tennis there nearly every week so she has ample opportunity to catch the gardens in all seasons.  This was yesterday.

Regents Park

There was no frost on the ground when we got up today but it was still calm and fine and so for the first time for a week, when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir, I got the bike out and went off for a pedal.

On the precautionary principle, even though the temperature was just above four degrees, I went up and down the main road to Mosspaul on the grounds that it has been regularly gritted and there would be no danger of hitting a surprise icy patch round a shady corner.

I pedalled the eleven miles north, uphill and into a light wind, at a stately speed and arrived at my turning point in exactly an hour.  I was hoping to do the easy eleven miles back at 20 mph but I let my mind wander over one section and ended up missing my target by a minute or so and averaging a meagre 19.6 mph.  This was a bit annoying but the annoyance was outweighed by the pleasure of getting back on the bike.

What was a bit more annoying was the fact that I couldn’t make full use of this rare cycling day as we had to go to Carlisle after lunch for some shopping and a choir practice.  But then, you can’t have everything.

I did have time to make some lentil soup for lunch and have a look at the birds. Since it was a calm day. I tried to take some calm portraits.


A goldfinch enjoying a snack


A chaffinch saying grace before tucking in.


One of the robins posing

There really are a lot of blackbirds flitting about the garden at the moment and it is rare when you can’t see one.  This one was standing on the hedge….


….looking at this one which was also standing on the hedge about four feet away.


I was tempted into the occasional action shot but it was very calm action.

chaffinch in cruise mode

A chaffinch in cruise mode

There were occasional burst of sunshine and I caught a chaffinch with the very embodiment of a twinkle in its eye.


The lentil soup turned out well thanks to additional red and yellow peppers and a carrot, not to mention a touch of smoked paprika.

After lunch, there was just time for a quick visit to the garden where I liked these grasses….


…and was spied on by a pair of beady eyed jackdaws in the walnut tree.


Then it was off to Carlisle to get some dates and cheese (and some other less interesting food) before going to the choir practice.

This turned out to be a very good session with some useful technique lessons being squeezed in among the fine tuning of our concert songs.  Now the problem is to remember what we were taught and then to remember to put it into use next time we sing.  Easier said than done.

Both Mrs Tootlepedal (who doesn’t look a day older) and I enjoy watching Strictly Come Dancing on the telly and we were very pleased that the worst dancer was finally eliminated from the show tonight after having been preserved by whimsical voters long after his sell by date.  After recent shock election results, this was a relief.

The leaf of the day is a soggy lamb’s ear….


…and the flying bird of the day is a sunlit chaffinch (with a goldfinch jumping before it got pushed).

flying chaffinch

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture was taken by my brother Andrew who was visiting Uttoxeter.  He is working his way back to fitness after a health setback and instead of climbing big hills, he is lurking in the lowlands at present…..and not visiting hostelries, however attractive.

UttoxeterWe had a day with no engagements in the diary at all and I was helped in a scheme of utter idleness by a wet and gloomy morning.  I did manage to summon up the energy to get up to the High Street to order more bird food and I returned by the monthly Producers’ Market in the Buccleuch Centre.  I returned home laden with fish,  good cheese and the first honey of the new season from a bee-keeper in Eskdalemuir.  She told me that it was mostly based on hawthorn blossom.  It tastes delicious.

As I had been out cycling at coffee time yesterday, Dropscone kindly arranged to make some Friday treacle scones although it was Saturday and we enjoyed them with some Peruvian coffee when he brought them round.

Apart from a little gardening activity from time to time as the weather improved,  I did nothing that took me more than forty yards from my easy chair for the rest of the day.  I would have gone for a relaxing pedal in the afternoon sunshine if it hadn’t been accompanied by a 25 mph wind.

I picked up my camera often enough to catch a bird or two.


A pigeon looking strangely out of place in the plum tree


A very fluffy looking greenfinch thinking about things

I read in the paper that blue tits have had a disastrous breeding year in Scotland this year so I was pleased to see a couple on the feeder even if I haven’t seen any young.

blue titsThe sun drew me out of my chair and into the garden from time to time and there was lots to enjoy.  There had been heavy rain overnight but the flowers by and large had taken no hurt.  Even the tall delphiniums were still standing up proudly.

delphiniumsIn spite of its demure appearance, each delicate blue flower has a snarling tiger at its heart.

delphiniumsI missed out the roses today and instead looked closely at some other flowers.


A clematis gradually unfurling


Several campanulas are out


The ornamental white clover conceals an interesting interior

poppy seed head

A poppy seed head with additional sparkle

As we are getting nearer to the Common Riding, the sound of horses hooves can often be heard on our street.

Jock Corrie

Jock gave us a cheerful wave as he passed.

I did a little compost sieving and almost as soon as I had finished, Mrs Tootlepedal had dug it in to a flower bed where she had removed some surplus daisies and planted some cosmos.

The day got better (apart from the wind) as it went on and it was very pleasant watching Mrs Tootlepedal toiling away.  A new Philadelphus has come out with flowers as big as roses on it.

philadelphusI had to ask Mrs Tootlepedal what this decorative plant is called.

heucheraShe tells me that it is a Heuchera.


The tiny flowers on a spirea reveal considerable co0mplexity in a close up.

A lone knapweed has come out, far ahead of the rest of the flowers in the clump.


I am hoping to get some good insect shots when the others arrive as insects love knapweed.


Nearby a stachys puts in a claim as hairiest plant in the garden.

The peonies have survived the rain very well….

peony…but since I learned on a TV programme tonight that they are from the Himalaya regon, I suppose that this should not be surprising.  The coral peonies have gone over leaving a stand of seed heads looking for all the world like a small flock of baffled chickens.

peonyDuring the day, two more photographers brought round pictures for our exhibition and I will take them all up to Eskdalemuir tomorrow and see how many I can fit into the exhibition space.  I think that a system of rotation will have to be devised.

It was good to have a relaxing day.  I couldn’t choose between these two flying siskins so they are jointly the flying bird of the day today.

flying siskins

Read Full Post »