Sunday, 26 October 2014

Of Cheese

After a frankly hellish week, the contrast with a delightful weekend couldn't be starker. Although we've had a couple of hours each morning helping Jenny and Philip load their removal van—the culmination of their relocation to Shropshire—while Ann and David enjoyed a well-earned lie-in, the rest of both days has been entirely relaxing. We've made far too much food, played many games, and enjoyed a film or two. They've been excellent company, and we've all benefited from a revitalizing rest. Although we're back at work in the morning, they're still with us, and will make an early start too.

The work to get to this point's been pretty tough, and taken a lot of energy. However, we're glad that we had something to aim for, and a motivation to get to where we are, without which the work might have dragged on. The end, now, feels in sight. Still to come:

Finishing off both bathrooms: the en suite needs some worktop fiddling, a couple of bits of plasterboard, and tiling on walls and floor; the master en suite needs basin and worktop attaching, bath plumbing in, and tiling throughout.

The locks for both en suites need installing.

We need to dismantle the pink/house bathroom, including taking down the walls making the airing cupboards, and insulate the external walls. That, including some electrical work, is the best part of a weekend.

The cupboards in the front guest, and the new guest room replacing that bathroom, need to go up.

There's a few small patches of external walls to finish: behind the cellar door, in the kitchen, and a plasterboard that's mysteriously missing on the landing (the mystery is why we never put it on).

The back door from the utility needs replacing with a better one: that door's being recycled upstairs.

Skirting boards, and a lot of injectable foam insulation, need putting up.

Then, we need to plaster the whole house, ready to paint. The next deadline is a visit by Jenny and Philip just before Christmas (when we need two rooms, two bathrooms, which have working locks); and then late January, when we need everything to be functional ready for a Cambridge-crowd house party.

However, comparing the list above with what we've managed since July, I hope that things can slow down somewhat for the next two months, and we can have fewer 15-hour days, no more 18-hour days, and certainly no more 42-hour marathons.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Forty-Two Hours of Madness

(This is retrospectively posted, as I was in no fit state to be writing at the moment it's time-stamped, but posterity calls.)

David and Ann have long been scheduled to visit for this weekend, which has given us a key milestone and deadline to aim for in our work. Quite reasonably, I think they'd expect a functioning bathroom, and a live-able bedroom.

They were due about 2300 Friday night. Unfortunately, as of 0800 Thursday, neither bedroom nor bathroom were ready.

Also unfortunately, the tiles for the bathrooms, which I ordered some time ago, have been badly delayed (they need to all come from the same batch of stone, for consistency), and instead of arriving last Wednesday, were eventually due to turn up Thursday morning.

Perhaps predictably, the delivery didn't go smoothly, and they ended up arriving 1745 Thursday evening.

In order, then, to get a guest bedroom and working bathroom, we stayed up from 0700 Thursday morning, until about 0100 Saturday morning, working basically non-stop for the forty-two hours in between. I was functionally narcoleptic by then, and we collapsed in to bed as soon as we'd had a cup of tea with Ann and David, after they arrived at about half-midnight (a much delayed journey on the M1).

It has not been fun.

In the last couple of days, in the new en suite alone, we've:

  • installed the cabinets;
  • connected the bath to the drain;
  • levelled the bath;
  • affixed battens to the wall;
  • tiled the critical few square metres around the shower (the rest will have to wait);
  • grouted the tiles;
  • silicone sealed the bath;
  • constructed the toilet cabinet;
    • built the cistern into the unit;
    • plumbed it in;
    • modified the door to attach the pan through--both flush connection to it and soil pipe from it;
    • connected the flush button;
  • attached the water supply to the basin;
  • built the trap and drain;
  • cut the worktop;
  • mounted the sink and waste; and
  • made a frame for the small worktop at the foot of the bath.

In the guest bedroom, we've mounted four wall cupboards above the bed, and two full-height units on one side. One full-height unit is up in the front guest (the old study), but that's it: the wall units will wait.

In our bathroom, taken out the suite, and installed the cabinets, repeating the toilet cabinet work, and cut the worktop. I've not plumbed the toilet or basin in, yet, though.

A massive tidy-up of the house has made the dining room passable, and the living room is now basically normal; the master bedroom is fine, the landing is tidy, the old house bathroom (the 'pink bathroom') is less cluttered, thanks to the new wardrobe/cupboards; and although the garage is pretty full, the house is actually miraculously straight. Thanks to this go entirely to Liz, who's been madly tidying while I stumble in a sleep deprived haze through many of the construction jobs.

We just about managed to hoover, too. So, when David and Ann rolled in after a particularly messy journey up the motorway, we had a respectable suite to accommodate them, and I'm delighted that's the case.

To paraphrase Churchill: this is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; it is, perhaps, the beginning of the middle.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Cabinets, Bathrooms, and Blinds

On Tuesday, the order of cabinets arrived. Nominally, they're kitchen units, because this, for whatever reason, is the most economic way of obtaining cabinets with hardwood doors, even for bedrooms or bathrooms. Anyway: they've safely arrived, a collection of eighteen or so cabinets, with extra packages of shelves, side-panels, shelf supports, and a massive, 4m piece of worktop, which had to go all the way round the house and in through the patio doors. That was rather hairy, as the weather on Tuesday was atrocious, with high winds and heavy rain at the time of delivery...and peace to either side.

It's since been cluttering up the downstairs, although we're gradually taking cupboards up. The 'broom cupboards' that we're re-purposing as full length wardrobes are slightly tricky to manoeuvre: they're 210cm tall, 40-50cm across/deep, and not light. We're getting there, though, doing a couple in a sitting, then taking a break.

Once upstairs, we've positioned the two cabinets for the new en suite, with the basin and toilet placed 'dry' with them, to get a feel for the room. Actually attaching everything is next.

We've also ordered blinds, one for each bathroom, a big one for the patio doors (which are as draughty as predicted), and two for the kitchen, replacing those on the big window behind the sink, and on the old outside door.

It took the best part of a day, but I've also done the plumbing and wiring works for the shower, ready to install the bathroom suite.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Window Reveals

For the last three days, we've mostly been putting in window reveals and heads, and, in a few cases, windowboards. Because of the difficulty installing the insulation foil into small thicknesses, many of these have been foil laminates, and they've all been plyboard sheets, rather than plasterboard. It's given the windows quite a consistent, and nicely-framed feel. Also advantageous has been the way it's really well sealed the windows, which were previously very draughty. There's still some improvement to be made, as I shall go around injecting insulating foam behind each board, to fully seal it.

The best one has been the big window in the master bedroom. When we stripped off the plaster, we found that what appeared to be a square lintel had only been 'regularized' with the plasterwork, and was in fact a beautiful wonky shape. We were loath to lose this behind squared boarding, so for this one window (and the dressing room, to complement it), we have used plasterboard, and followed the curves of the reveal, rather than box it in. It's worked really well, to our delight, and this one window has a uniquely organic shape.

While doing these, we've also put the planks (curtain boards, we're calling them) above each window, onto which are mounted the curtain rails. These can't be reliably supported by the plasterboard, and there's never (a quirk of of the design of the battening) an appropriate batten, so we have to have a board to span several battens and carry the load of the curtain to them. They're almost all up, now, and Liz has begun re-hanging rails and curtains.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Plumbing Woes

I don't enjoy plumbing. I much prefer electrics, despite their greater inherent danger, because I know what I'm doing, and I can normally tell if it's not working properly. Plumbing, with the potential for leaking pipes (worse, leaking pipes sealed behind expensive tiling), troubles me more.

Partly, of course, it's because it often takes me a while to get things nicely sealed up. Today I've been getting some of the plumbing ready for the new en suite. That's meant identifying the cold water supply where it runs through the room, breaking into it to install a pair of equal-tees (one to feed bath and shower; one for sink and toilet cistern), and getting pipe and valves to roughly the right places. Trickier was identifying the little-used hot supply, and doing the same. It's all done, but I'm sure that something's not quite sealed properly, as there's a bit too much water around. Some's inevitable, as I'm cutting into pipes that are full of water, and they won't drain fully, even with a low-level tap opened. But I think there's too much...

Other than that, we've finished insulating and dry lining the new en suite with plasterboard, now that the drain is in, and I've made a big shopping list of the last (hopefully) things we need to finish the bulk of the work, starting on Saturday.

Monday, 13 October 2014

New Drain

On Wednesday last week, work started on the new drain for the new en suite. They didn't manage to get it all done in the day, unfortunately, as access to the drain was more concrete-y than expected, for one thing. Today, though, they arrived after lunch, connected up the soil stack and diagonal drain, and waited for us to arrive.

Once we could let them into the house, they were able to diamond core drill the hole through the gable wall, and add the exit pipe. As the light had gone, they'll have to pop back in the morning to make the final connections, but all being well, we'll have a complete drain by this time tomorrow. It's just as well, as the bathroom suites arrived last Wednesday evening, and so we can now finalize the last few orders.

All being well, we plan to catch up with a lot of the part-insulated windows on Wednesday, before starting work on fitting the bathrooms next weekend. That might take a while, but we've got seven days (Saturday onwards) to get to the point of having at least one functional guest room, and two working bathrooms, before David and Ann arrive...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Finishing the Dining Room

We insulated the front wall of the dining room in two stages, having started in early August, but breaking for other rooms. We've now gone back, and yesterday insulated the back wall of the room. This was relatively simple, with just a couple of sockets, a light, and the big patio window; but there was also the old cellar landing, which we have bookcases in, and which is a slightly awkward shape. Anyway: we stripped most of the plaster off on Friday night, and finished the insulation by relatively early on Saturday night (midnight, or thereabouts...which is a definite improvement on some days).

We discovered that there was, at one point, a back door at the top of these stairs.

Unfortunately, I accidentally screwed a plasterboard screw through a cable, which necessitated a thirty minute delay while I repaired it and replaced the fuse.

We got there in the end, though. Today, we've insulated our walk-in-wardrobe in the corner of the master bedroom, thus completing the master bed. This afternoon was spent putting up the new stud wall that will separate our en suite from the new small bedroom that the house bathroom is becoming, and plumbing in the two radiators that go on this wall. One will be replaced by a towel radiator later (probably in the spring, really), but the other's permanent.

Finally, this evening, we've put up the removable insulation on the gable end of the dining room. Removable because we want to retain the stone wall, so we've come up with a way to insulate it over the winter, but have our stone wall back for the summer. We'll have to see whether it works: if not, we may have to sacrifice the exposed stone wall.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


This weekend's work has been focussed on dividing the end compartment of the first floor, which contained the two spare rooms, into more equally-sized rooms, and an en suite bathroom. We had to start by taking down the rest of the stud wall dividing the two (Saturday morning), and stripping off the remaining plaster from the guest room, and the back of the study (Friday evening). Although that meant a late night on Friday, it did pay off in a much pleasanter start to Saturday.

Once we'd stripped the room back to bare stone, we were able to put up the insulation on the back wall of the guest room, and the gable end a bit further than where the new wall of the en suite was going. It went reasonably smoothly, not least because that stretch has only one window and one radiator; and we added some sockets, as normal.

Messing around with the electrics took, as normal, a little while. We had to separate off the light at the end of the study, which will now be the light in the bathroom; add a switch for this light; and add double-throw switches for the lights in both bedrooms, so that they can be controlled from next to their door to the landing, and to the bathroom. It was a little complex, but we got there. We also added one ring main looped socket, which we shall extend to further sockets later.

The stud wall itself was reasonably straightforward; two roughly 2m walls defining the bathroom, with a door into each bedroom (we're recycling doors for now, with the intention of getting nice new ones when we can...), and then a slightly longer one joining the square bathroom with the square lobby diagonally opposite.

It was a little hard, without the wall, to get a sense of the two rooms, but they've turned out really well: they both feel ample for double guest rooms, or permanent single rooms.

On Wednesday, work on the new drain for the en suite starts: they'll be drilling through the gable wall to create a 4' drain, taking it across the gable end of the house, and dropping it into an existing septic tank sewer behind the greenhouse. While they're here, they're going to reline that sewer, which has been damaged by the berberis growing straight over it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Wiltshire Cured Ham

As I noted, we collected the half-pig from the butchers after getting home from Ludlow yesterday. As normal, we're turning some of it into bacon and hams, and leaving some as joints for casseroles or roasting. There are also a number of chops (which, it turns out, are huge), and we've also got a bag of 'bits' (tails, trotters, kidney, heart, liver), which need different processing.

In previous years we've also made sausages, but we've actually still got loads left from last year, so we're not doing that. (It must be said, we also don't really have time for sausage-making at the moment.) Instead, we're mincing the trimmed scraps of meat (about 5lb), mixing them into sausagemeat, and freezing them in patties. If we do run out of sausages before next autumn, and want to, we can always make them as needed, after all.

The sausagemeat made, we mixed up the curing brine for the bacon and hams. We're repeating the Wiltshire cure, which is a beer-based brine:
  • 4l beer (again, the Harvest Mild I brewed a few months ago)
  • 1900g salt
  • 1000g black treacle
  • 65g saltpetre
  • 50g black peppercorns
  • 50 juniper berries
Once mixed, that's brought to the boil, and simmered for 10–15 minutes. I'll chill it overnight, and add the joints in the morning. They're refrigerated, stirring whenever I remember, for 36 hours (the bacon) or 3.5 days (the hams).

Monday, 29 September 2014

Malvern Autumn

We've had a weekend away, visiting Ludlow, and spending Sunday with Liz's grandmother at the Malvern autumn show, which we've not been to before.

It's less of a garden show than, say, Tatton Park, with only a few gardens, and a lot of 'country living' stallholders. However, there was a very good apple pavilion, with an impressive display of apples from RV Roger (who supplied all of the maiden trees for our apple walk earlier this year). We watched a very entertaining, and pertinent, 'conversation' between Joe Swift and Monty Don in the Good Life theatre, and spent a lot of the afternoon browsing the plant nursery stalls, and wondering over the size of the mammoth veg. The prize-winning pumpkin was 472kg, which was, frankly, astonishing, but only slightly more so than the 152kg cabbage, or the 6.3(ish)m beetroot and parsnip, each, apparently, world records. How one digs up a 6m parsnip root, I know not.

(Why, I know not, either.)

Anyway, we managed to fill grandma's not insignificant boot, with thirty-five plants of our own, and a number of hers, and we added a few from her garden to take home, meaning our little Corsa was well loaded for the return journey.
  • Two Crocosmia 'Sunglow', and two 'Buttercup'
  • a 'Twyning's After Eight' dahlia
  • Three white Japanese anemones, 'Honorine Jobert'
  • Two giant scabious
  • Three new heucheras, 'Fire Chief', 'xxx' and 'xxx'
  • A pair of variegated sedums, 'Frosty Morn'
  • A painted fern, 'Burgundy Lace'
  • Three Panicum grasses, 'Squaw'
  • An astrantia, A. major 'Lars'
  • And a tray of obscenely cheap Cyclamen hederifolium; fifteen at a pound apiece.
We finally, definitively, learnt the reason for the riduculously low end-of-show prices. Apparently, the nurseries want to offload the last of their stock at almost any price, because for the quantity involved, the cost of transporting them back to the nursery exceeds the market value—hence selling things at a pound/pot is actually financially better than transporting the stock 'home', and selling it at market value later. I'm happy to help.

We got home about five, and I nipped out to pick up the rest of our pig, having collected the bucket of blood last Wednesday, before planting everything out.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Autumn Cut

We've enjoyed the wildflowers in the orchard this summer, which is one reason why I've left large swathes of it uncut for some time, only clearing paths through it. However, as autumn enters, I've now gone over the entire orchard, cutting it back as close as I can, so that it stays neat, and walkable, over the winter. Heavy work, even in the milder temperature, but it actually only took about three hours, which isn't bad. It looks a lot neater, even with the strewn vegetation.

Before doing that, though, this morning I've painted the arches of the apple walk, coating the steel rebar with cream-coloured metal paint. The arches now really stand out, and will stand the weather much better.

I've planted out the autumn-planting onions (100 Radar) and garlic (30-odd Marco) in the herb garden, through weed-proof membrane.

Last thing, I managed (just, before the light faded and drizzle set in) to mow the lawn. I managed to do the games lawn a while ago, but it's been some time since the rest has been done, and it really needed it. Hopefully, as the weather cools and the days shorten, it'll be a while until I have to do it again. I am hoping to manage to keep trimming it through the winter, weather permitting, this year. I do still need to take the brushcutter to the copse, though, and tidy the verges of the lane, so my grass-cutting isn't over for the year...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Fitted Furniture

As hoped, I've been able to order the cabinets today. There's a lot of them, because it includes cabinets for both bathrooms, and wardrobes for all three guest rooms. All being well, they should arrive in late October, ready to go straight in when we have a few days off. And in two weeks, the drainage works will happen, meaning there's actually a pipe for everything to plumb in to.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Doors & Studs

Moving doors took longer than expected. The doors into the guest room and study have always had a relatively large lobby outside them, which is another example of space we'd rather have in the rooms, rather than the landing. Today's first work was taking them, and the bit of wall they hung in, down, and rebuilding the walls in a more efficient position. It took a while, though, to get the doors straight, level, and latching, which meant it was late before we got on to the other part of today's work, removing the stud wall dividing the two rooms.

As a result, it's not entirely down. 90% of the plasterboard is out, and a good fraction of the timber frame. With a couple of sheets hung up, the eventual feel of the front room is there, but the remaining frame makes it harder to get a sense of the back room. However, it seems to be working.

Getting the wall down, and the front wall insulated, has allowed us to finalize the measurements of both, which means I'll be able to order the fitted furniture this week.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Chimney Breast

It's proving, inevitably, to be another long weekend of work on the house. Today we've been working on the current study (the larger spare room, at the front of the house; it's going to wind up being one of two similar-sized guest rooms). We had hoped that the chimney breast in the room would turn out to be an attractive bit of stonework, hidden behind plaster and awful wood-chip wallpaper (soon to be entirely banished from the house: only a small quantity remains...).

It turned out not to be: instead the original stone lintels and mantel have been built (rebuilt, I assume) around with bricks (scuppering my long-held belief that the bricks we dig up in the garden are rubble from elsewhere). We'll have to see whether it's worth exposing those stones, and the fireplace, or better to plaster in the whole stack. The fireplace, like in the master bedroom, is on the left of the breast: to the right is the flue for the fireplace below—in this case, the unused one in the dining room, which is capped in that room. Of course, neither of these two are useable, as this chimney ends in the loft space, and no longer penetrates the roof.

Having established that, we turned to stripping the front wall of plaster, and getting the other preparations made. In this room, that meant preparing an extension to the ring main (that wall has a single socket, which has never been enough), and moving the pipes for one of the radiators ready to rehang on the bathroom stud wall that we'll be constructing in a few weeks.

The usual work then followed: horizontal battens, insulation foil, vertical battens, and plasterboard. There's one radiator staying, which went on with only minor kerfuffle (a slight mismeasure by me, sadly).

Quite enough for one day, with an 0200 finish (this is, as before, timestamped to the Saturday, nonetheless: at 2355 we were busily working, not blogging!).

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Apple Harvest

It's not been a good year, at all, for apples—the fruit, at least: the apple trees have all grown well, especially the apple walk, which despite only going in at the end of last winter, have established extremely quickly. We spent half an hour yesterday tying in the last of this season's growth, and several will be ready to be cut back to their third tier in January.

Fruit yield, though, has been rather poor. I've collected everything this evening, while Liz picked blackberries, and we've only got a couple of crates full. The best have come from the two established trees right on the left of the orchard. The taste and texture are good, and they're a decent size, it's just there aren't very many. Never mind: we also had about eight fruit off the James Grieve and Falstaff (planted February 2013), which are very attractive, and taste great.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Insulating the Landing

After yesterday's 17 hour day, we've stacked up another 15 today. Distressingly, that does mean that we've spent 64 man-hours on the landing, but at least there's something to show for it. Much of the insulation work doesn't actually leave one with much impression of what's been done. That's no bad thing, in some ways, as we always hoped that the insulation would make little visual impact, and not reduce the room size noticeably—but it's a little depressing, after hours and hours of work, to have nothing much to see that's changed.

The landing's rather different, though, as the room's changed shape and size, even if the external wall doesn't look that different.

It took nearly three hours to get the old plaster off, not helped by the fact that it's not all the softer lime plaster, but had cementitious plaster over large sections, and the section outside the guest room was a horrible laminate construction of two sorts of plasterboard, and two sorts of plaster, which was a dusty mess to get off.

We took a break from the wall to get the bathroom sink moved, which went surprisingly well, once I'd figured out how to remove it without destroying it. The tap connections have been 'sealed' (read 'bodged') with some sort of foam, meaning they're impossible to ever remove, if watertight.

As normal, the process of stripping the wall back, and then getting the horizontal timber battens attached, is what takes the time. As well as limited windows, there was only one single switch to replace, too, and a smallish radiator to take down and re-hang. The other, we moved yesterday to the opposite side of the room, as this makes the space rather more flexible.

Attaching the horizontal battens takes so long that Liz was able to keep pace with cutting these to length while I put them up, and also had time to cut the insulation foil to size. That did, though, mean that as soon as I had all the battens up, we could very quickly work together to hang the foil and attach the vertical battens. Attaching the plasterboard's always slow, but one does make reasonable progress, as they're tall enough to span the height, and 120cm wide. Rehanging the radiator has been made much simpler by a tweak to the insulation foil (basically, using a sort that doesn't have a non-woven mat of polymer 'wool' inside it, which is impossible to drill; making it a nightmare to mount the anchor bolts into the wall to hold the radiator brackets), so even that was reasonably simple.

A big tidy-up later, and the landing's done. Next weekend will, all being well, see us empty the guest room and 'old' study at the end of the house, into the 'new' study and house bathroom (as the en suite is now fully functional). We'll then be able to strip the walls and dismantle the stud wall dividing the two, ready to reconfigure the space into two guest rooms and a shared en suite.

Like I say, 'all being well'.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Reconfiguring the Landing

It's been a horribly long day: I've set the timestamp for this entry to be just before midnight, so that the date is 'right' for Saturday 13th...but we only finished the work involved at 0230 on Sunday morning, in fact.

Today's big exercise has been taking down the stud framework of the wall that divides the landing from the master bedroom, and replacing it with a new drywall a couple of feet further into our room. This takes the landing from being big but too small to use other than as a landing, to big enough to function as a study, too, with room along the new wall for a couple of desks, while still having room for shelves. It also has room for the chest of drawers/dresser that's been at the foot of our bed, which—because of having 600mm less space in that dimension—needed a new home.

While we were building the new wall, I've taken the opportunity to add a new switch for our bedroom light, so that there's one near the door, and one on the other side of the room (by my bedside), which I'll change, later, to a clever programmable timer switch. Similarly, although there was a double socket on one side of the bed, and a single spur socket on the other, this was never enough, so I've extended the ring main to give us a double socket on both sides. As there were no sockets at all on the reverse of the wall (the landing side), which wouldn't work for a study, I've also added two further double sockets on that side. In retrospect, I'm not sure that three on each side wouldn't have been excessive, in fact. Perhaps before plastering, I'll add more.

As well as this, we've moved the radiator plumbing for the en suite's radiator across the room, so that it will go on the (yet to be built) internal stud wall, not under the sink. The radiator in the house bathroom (which won't be a bathroom, soon) also needed preparing for its move onto the same unbuilt room, which meant fishing the pipes out from under the floor, and sending them under the newly discovered cement-block wall, to emerge from what is currently the floor of the en suite.

Through all the works on the house in the last weeks, we found that the construction (in this case, of a stud wall) was relatively quick, but the associated plumbing and electrics are what eats up the time. There we go.

Tomorrow, which we shall no doubt start later than today, given the time we're going to get to bed, we plan to relocate the sink in our bathroom (to the opposite corner: I've done some of the preparatory plumbing, but the sink needs to be attached to the water supply and waste pipe), and insulate the external wall of the landing. That could take a while, as it's actually the longest single stretch of external wall, of about 9m length. A double-edged sword is that, despite this, it only has two 'small' windows (relatively, I mean; they're about 100x120cm): that means there's more wall, but less awkward apertures to work around.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Planting Out

It's been a little while since we actually spent much time in the garden, so it's been nice to get out today. We spent the morning at Harlow Carr, enjoying the start of the transition into autumn in the shrubs and trees, and the long borders are glorious in their late-summer show.

Once we were home, we started by doing some weeding in the herb garden, which really needs it, although the addition of the membrane & chippings path has significantly reduced the impact of walking on the ground. It did get very compacted, which made weeding hard work, and although there's a lot of grass to dig out, it's much better. The grass will, I'm sure, continue to be a problem for a year or more, as we weaken the remaining, creeping roots.

We didn't have time to finish the herb garden, though, so once we'd made a dent in it, we went down to the kitchen garden. Having weeded those beds, I planted out a few clumps of spring cabbages (Durham Early), which may not amount to much, but might provide some useful leaves. Spring cabbages aren't, for us, a particularly useful crop, as they seem to come ready a little late, when actually we want to be putting in new plants in their space. Much more effective, to date, have been the winter Savoy cabbages (January King, the last couple of winters), which is harvested at a more useful moment. Anyway, we had some Durham Early plants, so in they've gone.

We've cut down the fruited raspberry canes, leaving only the stems that have grown this year. Getting the pruning right (last autumn) has made a big difference to the plant health and the size of the harvest this year.

The spring cabbages are the last thing that we'll be planting out in the kitchen garden until spring, now, so the remaining empty space was weeded, raked, and sown with green manure. This is a winter mix of crimson and red clover (leguminous nitrogen fixer and weed suppressors), Italian ryegrass (good soil stabilization, and deep roots for mineral up-lift), and mustard (bulky foliage for digging in). We added extra Caliente mustard, which is a particularly good biofumigant, improving soil health when it's chopped into the ground in spring. The current weather is good for sowing green manure: the soil's still warm, and moist, so it should germinate well, and get a few weeks growth before it gets particularly cold. The mustard nor the crimson clover are particularly hardy, so they won't survive a bitter winter, but there's a window for them to do some work, at least.

The kitchen garden sorted, we spent half an hour tidying the long border, before planting out the plants we bought at York Gate and Wisley.

From York Gate: a white salvia (into the copse bed: Salvia paniculata, I think), a white Jacob's Ladder (P. caeruleum subsp. caeruleum f. album), a white phlox (P. paniculata), a helenium, and a golden oats (Stipa gigantea). Wisley yielded three variegated eupatorium ('Pink Elegans'), two variegated phlox (P. paniculata 'Norah Leigh'), three agastache ('Blackadder'), a crimson sedum ('Red Cauli'), and a molinia ('Skyracer'), which have, apart from 'Norah Leigh', gone into the long border.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


We tried to get an early start today, as we spent quite a lot of time first thing yesterday checking that we were happy with how, particularly, the master bedroom was going to work once re-sized. We're sacrificing about 60cm from the room to make the landing bigger, and moving the door to the other side of the bed, closer to the stairs, so that you don't come through the landing (soon to be the study) to get to the bedroom. Losing the space means that the dresser that was at the foot of the bed will need to find a new home, and the bed will need to move sideways as well as forwards, but not by much. All in all, we're happy with how it will turn out.

Master bedroom from three angles, before moving around into new layout (© Ian 2014)

As a result, after we finished insulating the bathroom, and fitting (and checking!) the new shower over the bath, we spent the last few hours of today hanging up a curtain to screen the bedroom from dust, and started dismantling the stud wall that separates landing from bedroom.

The en suite insulated and lined out (© Ian 2014)

From the ensuite through to the master bedroom, with the new shower and replaced bath on right (© Ian 2014)

The en suite's basin is still waiting to move... (© Ian 2014)

...over to this corner: the pipework's in the floor, ready. The cavity slab now fills the void where an old (first floor!) external doorway was: this was blocked up with a single skin of stone, and a timber frame inside. Interestingly, the tilework ran all the way to the door, so it was, presumably, a door into a tiled room before it was blocked, probably at the same time as the kitchen extension was built (the roof of which covers the blocked door) (© Ian 2014)

Before we did this, we actually spent a little while figuring out how the airing cupboard, currently between the two bathrooms, was constructed. In preparing for the shower installation, I spent some time in the loft, getting cable access sorted, and realised that the two bathrooms have a false ceiling. The original ceiling, about 10' tall and matching in finish the guest room and study ceiling (in the original cottage at the other end of the house), has been replaced some time ago (1970ish?) with an 8' ceiling that matches in finish the master bedroom and landing (the middle cottage). However, it's the only ceiling that was that high.

I'd never noticed, though the evidence has always been there to see: the ceiling in the airing cupboard, through which one ascends into the loft, is higher and different; and the loft itself is much shorter than elsewhere (much less space to stand). However, I only properly registered while trying to put a cable hole through the bathroom ceiling, and couldn't find it in the loft...

This has created a couple of complications. The airing cupboard is being taken out, and the space it occupied (plus a foot from the en suite) is being given to the bathroom (soon to be guest bedroom). That means all its walls are soon to be dismantled: but the ceiling is supported by them. Secondly, these walls, counter to my foolish assumption, are light cement block walls (not studs, as they are dividing bedroom from landing, and study from guest room).

We'll just have to cope with the extra work of dismantling cement block walls (fortunately, they're weak blocks, and not ridiculously strong mortar, like in the garage, which I eventually replaced with a deliberately weaker wall)

The unsupported ceiling, we'll probably deal with by removing the false ceiling from what will be the guest room, leaving it only in the en suite.

As this was not the job we had envisaged, we moved on to taking down the landing stud wall. It's come down reasonably easily, and we're now left with the timber framework.

The landing, with the shelves taken down, before we ripped off the plasterboard (© Ian 2014)

Landing from bedroom end, with shelves (© Ian 2014)

Landing from stairs end (© Ian 2014)

Saturday, 6 September 2014


Today we've spent working on our en suite: we're now finished insulating all the walls, taking out the bath to do so and replacing it. I've created new pipes to supply the basin in its new position (opposite corner: strictly, I've re-purposed the bidet's pipes), and we've had installed a new electric shower above the bath. Once the insulation is complete, we'll be able to come back, and install the fitted furniture (yet to be ordered), and the shower-bath, basin and toilet (all ordered, to arrive later this month).

Tomorrow then we'll finish fitting the shower (the electrics and plumbing are ready, it just needs attaching), insulate the walls, and put the floor back together.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Near the End of Mowing

I was a little pushed for time, and only managed to do the games lawn, but I've mown some of the lawn tonight: that bit grows fastest. It's nearing the end of regular/frequent mowing, and hopefully I'll only have one or two more 'weekly' cuts to make. I shall try to do it once or twice over the winter, if there's a dry spell, to keep it neat.

On the other hand, I also need to cut the grass in the orchard in the next month or so. When I have a spare day.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Bathroom Planning

Today we've ordered some of the parts for new bathrooms on the first floor. Over the next few months (hopefully), our en suite will become a shared en suite for the master bedroom and a small guest room converted from the current 'house' bathroom next to it. Although we started this room about five weeks ago, we actually left off part way through, partly because we hadn't, at that point, decided whether to combine the wall insulation work with the remodelling of the first floor—which had implications for how we handled the toilet, sink, and bath.

Having now decided on a layout for the first floor, we've ordered the shower bath, basin, and toilet for both: fitted cabinets will follow once the walls are in place (so that they can be measured for the final space), and we'll have the work for a new waste drain in the new bathroom done. For now, though, I've ordered my first bathroom.

Friday, 29 August 2014

RHS Wisley

After a very long day yesterday, we got away from Ludlow as soon as we could (eleven), and made the long journey down to Surrey over lunch. We'd resolved to visit RHS Wisley, as we were in the area without Katie and Dan (staying elsewhere, though we're all using their house for two nights).

It's an impressive garden, though, actually, I think Harlow Carr compares well, and has the advantage of being a more locally representative climate.

The orchard, particularly, we enjoyed: there are hundreds of decades-old apples, which give a beautiful impression of what, eventually, we hope our orchard will come to be like.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Flower Arranging

[placeholder entry: awaiting photos]

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Down to Ludlow

Need list of the morning's work. We had a rather longer list of things to do today than ideal, but we managed to get them done, and set off for Ludlow at half-two, with a car full of presents, foliage, luggage, and flowers. We got to Ludlow castle at about half-five, and then had two hours to get the flowers arranged, with Jenny, and Dan's sister and aunt helping. Amazingly, it all got done, and we staggered back to Molly's for a late supper. The big day awaits tomorrow...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Finishing the Kitchen

A busy day, today, finishing the kitchen. To start with, we pulled the cooker and two side units out of the cooker alcove (the old fireplace), and stripped that wall to stone, as well as the small bit of external wall near the deprecated front door.

We then had to work quickly to get the cooker's wall insulated (with some difficulty getting the foil behind the pipework near the floor!), before our helpers turned up: Philip and Clara came down to help get everything back into the kitchen. Clara was particularly useful, cleaning the cupboards before things went back in.

Meanwhile, I went back to the dining room, which we started some weeks ago, with an unexpectedly free afternoon after the last houseparty. Once the kitchen was re-stocked, Liz joined me, and we've finished insulating the front wall of the dining room, as well as replacing the windowboards on the back of the sitting room, and the front of the dining room. We need more cavity-fill batts/rockwool slabs before we can do any more of these, though.

There's a list of things we want to squeeze in to tomorrow morning, and then we'll hopefully be able to set off for Ludlow shortly after lunch.

Monday, 25 August 2014

York Gate

In between work on the kitchen, we decided we deserved a break, and took a few hours off to visit York Gate. We went about this time last year, and got good ideas: we hoped for the same again. It's given us a few ideas for plants that will help fill what we find is a slightly 'subdued' period in the garden, where there's less flowering than we'd like.

Photos to come...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Insulating the Kitchen

We've been putting off insulating the kitchen, focussing instead on the other downstairs rooms, until we've had several consecutive days to work on it. There are a number of reasons why, although it's a smaller area of wall than, say, the sitting room, it was always going to take longer. The kitchen units on the external wall, which include the sinks and the water heater (that is: lots of plumbing and electrics) all needed moving; so did the little units to either side of the cooker; the pantry is fiddly (the shelves are, for various reasons, basically un-removeable), and so it was always going to take several days. If it weren't the kitchen, that wouldn't be so bad, but we really couldn't face doing the work over two weekends, and being without use of the kitchen for nine days.

And that's assuming it all went to plan.

So, instead, we've waited until this weekend, which comes at the start of a week off. We only have four days, as on Wednesday we're travelling down to Ludlow, ahead of Katie's wedding on Thursday. Hopefully, though, four days are enough.

It took a long time to get the units removed (inevitably, they weren't installed with ease of removal in mind), but we got them out of the way, and have stripped the wall back and insulated it. Unlike in the other rooms, we've done the window reveals and boards as we've gone.

Tonight's gone on rather, but we've probably broken the back of it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

More Perennial Plugs

As expected (though we didn't think it would follow quite so hot on emptying the module trays last night), today we received 96 perennial plugs: 24 each of 'Mussinni' catmint (nepeta), echinacea 'Deep Rose', achillea 'Cassis', and a dozen each of 'Blue Queen' salvia, and 'Lady Strathden' geum. Interestingly, the cats don't seem as interested in the catmint as our other plants, grown from seed or 'Walkers Low', which bodes well for actually being able to plant it out.

Forgot to mention: I was finally able to mow the lawn yesterday, too, after not being able to coincide good weather and time for three weeks. The games lawn really needed it, but actually the rest wasn't too bad.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Late Summer Flowers

After weeks of sweetpea arrangements, they're starting to come to an end, and so this week's centrepiece arrangement is a bit different (apologies for the shaky photo).

Golden rod, achillea, echinacea, grasses, and lysimachia in this week's flower arrangement (© Ian 2014)

We went up on the hillside, too, and it's very pleasing how the apple walk and graftlings are coming on. The apple walk's structure is a lot clearer than I thought it would be, in its first year, and the shoots need tying in again. In the graft bed, I'm delighted that we seem to have three viable Hessle pears, two each of the apples, Crimson Superb and Craggy's Seedling (a third, of each, is in the walk, grafted directly). There's only one of each of quinces Ivan and Vranja, and medlar Dutch, which is, admittedly, all we needed to make the effort a success. Sadly, the medlar Royal didn't take, in any of the three attempts, but there you go. I make that a 12 out of 21 success rate, for my first grafting attempts.

Tonight, we potted on three giant scabious, a load of Lysimachia ephemera, and a tray of Hidcote lavenders; all seed-grown, the first and last from the RHS. That's freed up a couple of module trays for some perennial plugs that will arrive soon.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Back Sitting Room Wall

After finishing very late last night (early this morning), we only got started today at 10-ish, but wanted to press on to get the room back to normal today. We had a few problems with the radiator, but the electrics and plumbing were much simpler, as predicted, with only two radiator pipes dropping down the wall.

We think we've worked out that the big window was, originally, a door on the left (looking from inside), because the bottom part of the wall has been rebuilt with some cement blocks and newer mortar. Similarly, we think there was a window on the other end of the current window, for the same reason. The new window is much bigger, of course, and has a new concrete lintel inside. It's good fun, uncovering how the house has changed over the past two centuries.

Back wall of the sitting room, stripped back to stone (© Ian 2014)

We managed to get the battens on, the insulation in, and the plasterboard back up, apart from the right hand end. There's less space here, because of the cellar door, so we need an even-thinner insulation solution. Maybe next weekend, when we tackle the kitchen, which needs the same thing, we'll finish up.

Sitting Room

Although we haven't finished insulating the dining room, it's a much less inconvenient room to have half-done than the sitting room, so this weekend we focused on getting the sitting room done, in the hope that two consecutive days would suffice, and it could return to normality by the end of them.

Front wall, before work (© Ian 2014)

Back wall, before work (© Ian 2014)

We started with the front wall, which we knew was going to be trickier, stripping off the plaster to reveal the stonework. In doing so, we uncovered some complicated wiring for the room's lights, as well as the outside lamp-post in the front garden. Additionally, the wall under the window was, like that in the dining room, much lower on the internal leaf than the external. This was a bit of a pain, as it meant that the radiator brackets go partly onto stonework, partly onto timber frame. We're also going to need some more cavity slab to fill the space.

Eventually, though we sorted out the wiring, and radiator pipes: the former's now much improved, as there are two double sockets (was a double and a single), provision for an outside RCD socket (much desired, as it will allow Christmas lights in the front garden), the switches for the room lights are now in a more sensible location (inside the doorway into the dining room), and the outside lightswitch is separate.

We got the battens on the wall, the insulation secured, and the plasterboards attached, and all by 0220 on Sunday morning. Oops.

Horizontal battens attached; verticals ready; insulation is next (© Ian 2014)

However, it was done, and this was the much trickier of the walls (having electrics, a more complicated windowsill, and being a little larger), so we'd pushed on to get it finished. As a note: we're deliberately leaving the tops of the windows, and the reveals: we need to get the walls proper, with the radiators, done before we can turn the heating on. We'll then have some finishing up to do, but the heating won't be affected.

The insulated front wall, taken the next morning (© Ian 2014)

Friday, 15 August 2014


We had thought we might get some weeding and lawn-mowing done this evening, but discovered two problems with that plan when we went outside.

Firstly, it was still a bit damp, and the mower doesn't collect wet clippings very well, which means a big raking-up job in addition to the mowing, of which I am not enamoured.

Secondly, there have clearly been deer rampaging through the garden in the last few days, and they've done distressing damage. They've stripped the leaves, flowers, and pods from the runner beans, climbing beans, peas, and French beans (no legumes this year, I suspect, now); nibbled the chicory and Japanese ginger; damaged a forsythia in the copse bed, munched some of a neighbouring heuchera or two; eaten a lot of the strawberry foliage (not necessarily a problem, this one, as that was due for trimming back, anyway); destroyed the last of the spinach; eaten several stems of tay- and loganberries (losing next year's crop); and—as best I can ascertain—done some sort of deer dance on top of the onions. I think it's their route from kitchen garden to games lawn.

Fortunately, the onions were pretty much going over, and ready to be lifted, although they also did a lot of damage to the weed membrane we grow the onions through, which means I'll have to replace, tediously, some of it. Nonetheless, it meant that this evening's job was lifting the onions, trimming their tops, and setting them out on racks in the wood shelter to dry.

We've put some deterrent barriers in what we think the deer's routes in have been: a few gaps in the bottom hedge, some tunnels between kitchen garden and games lawn, and over the wall behind the beech bench. Hopefully that will help. Liz is more sanguine about this than me, and reckons it's a price we pay for enjoying deer roaming on the hillside. I look at the losses and damage to plants, crops, and trees, and think thoughts of venison.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Preparing the Dining Room

Since Friday afternoon, we've had Rachel, Philip, Luke, Elizabeth, Robert, Liz, and Ash with us. We were really lucky with the weather, which meant we could spend yesterday afternoon outside, and have a barbecue. Today's been a lot worse, with high winds and heavy rain. However, as they left yesterday evening and after breakfast, respectively, we've had an opportunity to do some work inside.

This is what the dining room looked like at lunchtime.

Garden side of the dining room (© Ian 2014)

Front side of the dining room (© Ian 2014)

And this is what it was like when we finished for the day. We still need to fix the rest of the horizontal battens, and then attach the insulation, vertical battens, and plasterboard, but we didn't think we'd get any work done this weekend, so that's good.

Stripped dining room wall (© Ian 2014)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Wall Insulation

We've had a long and rather tiring weekend, making a start on the internal wall insulation. Although we'd hoped to get started straight away (which would have meant we got further), we suspect that our potatoes have been hit by blight, so we actually started by digging up the remaining earlies (a few Royal Jerseys, the British Queen, and the main crop Lady Balfour). Especially in the case of the maincrop, it's several weeks earlier than one would ideally harvest them, but the haulms have collapsed, and so the tubers won't get any bigger. If it is blight, too, the sooner we get the tubers out, the more likely they are to store and be usable.

The yield, however, is somewhat lamentable.

We're going to rethink potato growing, I suspect, and decide whether, in light of a couple of poor years, it's worth the space and effort, for a crop that isn't actually expensive to buy. We might decide to grow a couple of packs of Lady Christl, say, which come out early (leaving useful later space), taste really good, and have been very reliable; but ditch the maincrop. Instead, we'll have a think about some alternatives, possibly including Jerusalem artichokes (possibly in the back corner, where perennials might do better than annuals, and where their height would help), oca, and maybe dahlias. We'll have to see. I'm also going to consider whether we should turn off the automatic irrigation, as this might be exacerbating blight—it's not been a damp summer, so blight is a little unexpected. Certainly, we need to continue our plan of heavy mulching.

While out there, I also watered the vegetable garden with chafer grub/wireworm nematodes, Heterorhabditis megidis.

Having made it back inside, we only started work inside at about three, and had to stop at six because Cath and Jason were round for dinner. In that time, we managed to make a complete mess of the master bedroom and ensuite, ripping the old plaster off the external walls, including the plain white floor-to-ceiling tiles of the bedroom. Quite the mess.

The master bedroom before IWI work (© Ian 2014)

The dressing room before work (© Ian 2014)

En suite before work (© Ian 2014)

The en suite before work (the most tasteful of the three, a blue floral pattern) (© Ian 2014)

Today, we got an early start, and having moved the bidet and toilet out of the way, finished the de-plastering. Then we battened, insulation foil, and plasterboarded the bedroom, taking the oppportunity to move the single socket on the left of the room to a more useful position, while making it a double, and added a second double to the right of the room, using a previously 'lost' socket hidden behind the radiator.

The master bedroom's wall stripped back to stone (© Ian 2014)

Horizontal battens in place (© Ian 2014)

The master bedroom with vertical battens, and one of the plasterboards (© Ian 2014)

The end/gable wall of the en suite stripped back to plaster, and with the 'missing' wall on left under the window (© Ian 2014)

We still need to do the same in the bathroom, as well as sort out the window reveals and windowsill, which may actually be rather later. We need, really, to get the walls proper done as soon as we can, because the radiators will be impossible to work round once the heating's on: we can do the other tidying up bits in more leisure in later autumn and winter.

In taking down the tiles in the bathroom, I was very surprised to find that the wall under one of the windows is a single stone skin, with a timber frame, which explains why that wall was always cold: it's even less insulating that the rest of the (500mm sandstone) walls, as it's only about 200mm thick. We'll replace the timber frame, but I'll fill it with glass wool slab, which will really help.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014


I've made the most of decent weather today (it looks a bit dodgy for the next week), and painted the window frames in the garage. For the same reason, I mowed the lawn last night: very little growth, because it's been dry, but that did make it easier).

The windows look a lot neater now, although this photo's from the (unpainted) inside.

'Garage' interior (© Ian 2014)

I spent a bit of time messing around getting ready for installing an outside tap near the back door (near the greenhouse): there's only an internal tap, which isn't ideal, so I'm going to add a pair of external ones. Hole duly drilled in thick stone wall, and parts ordered for completing the job on some later date.

Other than that, I wasted a lot of time resolving a botched delivery that should have brought us plasterboard, plaster, and battening timber for the wall insulation, which tried to arrive on a 22t lorry, in clear contrast to my clear instruction to bring nothing bigger than 7t. Irritating, as they'll now have to deliver on Saturday morning, which, hopefully, won't badly delay getting started. I did manage to start getting the shelves up in the bedroom, though, and they're rather nice. We ordered planed oak boards from our friendly local timber merchant (ages ago, in January): I'm very fond of oak. I'll be finishing them tomorrow night, hopefully, but it might spill into Friday.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Planting and Plastering

The first jobs for today were planting out the plants we bought at Tatton Park yesterday. Apart from the carniverous plants (kitchen and sitting room), and the brunnera (copse bed), the rest have gone into the long border. I need to add proper labels before we lose track of them, as they all came from show gardens as they were dismantled, and thus without labels.

This afternoon, we've stripped the wall paper from the side wall of our bedroom, and from the main wall of the dressing room, and re-plastered both. That's in preparation for putting up the new shelves on both these walls that we've had planned for several months, which I hope to do on Wednesday, all being well. That gets the shelf boards out of the way, along with everything that will go on these shelves, and should make installing the wall insulation easier: that starts next weekend, we plan.

Customary 'before' photo (© Ian 2014)

And gratuitous sleepy/supervisory cat photo (© Ian 2014)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

RHS Tatton Park 2014

This morning, at about 0815, we set off for Tatton Park, as we have the last couple of years, to the RHS flower show. It takes about an hour, and having parked and walked to the showground, we were in the queue at about 0940, giving us a quarter hour to start looking at the show catalogue (and map) before being let in at just before 10. I've been impressed, this year and last, at how quickly they scan the bar-coded tickets and get you in.

There were some really good show gardens, this year. We particularly liked a heritage/allotment fruit and veg stall from a group of local allotmenteers, and were struck by a scarlet mountain spinach (orache) that we've never seen in the flesh before. It's a possible potager plant next year.Grasses were much in evidence, as well as chocolate cosmos, sanguisorba, crocosmia, and brunnera. That suited us nicely, as we've many grasses that could be used in combination. We have one sanguisorba, 'Tanna', and a brunnera, 'Jack Frost', both bought at Tatton last year, and came looking for more brunnera. We have a few crocosmia, but one caught our eye today that is apparently a fairly new introduction; Twilight Fairy 'Gold'. It has lovely bronzed foliage, but sadly wasn't for sale from the show garden (the Young Designer of the Year garden by Sam Ovens).

We saw a couple of water features we liked, which might inform later plans.

(© Ian 2014)

(© Ian 2014)

This garden had a rebar construction for its runner beans: apparently I'm not the only one using rebar to construct supports! It also had a rather good green wall, one of which Liz still wants to find a space for.

These garden seats were very good, and next door we saw some very weather resistant swing seats by the well-named Yorkshire Swingseat Company.

(© Ian 2014)

(© Ian 2014)

One feature that we enjoyed was a collection of eight vignette gardens that encapsulated larger gardens' feel in small plots. They're all from Cheshire, and included Arley Hall, which is actually just down the road from Tatton Park, and we thought looked worth a real visit, based on their 'taster' garden.

(© Ian 2014)

The floral marquee was, as ever, phenomenally stocked by nurseries, and although we only bought two plants, the other displays were excellent, and gave us contact details for a number of specialist nurseries. One, near Cambridge, might be a good source of alpines, if we do decide to put a green roof on the mini-sheds. There were a couple of hosta specialists, too, for when we dig the bog garden.

(© Ian 2014)

The two plants we bought were both from the Hampshire Carnivorous Plants: one was a Sarracenia hybrid (a North American Pitcher Plant), which suited us because it actively requires a good cold winter spell, probably in the unheated greenhouse. The other is a dangling/hanging sort of plant, a Monkey Cup called 'Linda' (a hybrid, Nepenthes cv 'Linda') despite being a dioecious male. It now hangs, slightly threateningly, in the sitting room.

For us, though, the Young Designer Gardens were the best. We felt that the television coverage (Thursday and Friday evening) actually let these down, and all three, but particularly Alex Schofield's, were much better in the flesh. In fact, everything else we purchased came from these three gardens.

(© Ian 2014)

Acquisitions were:
  • From Alex Schofield's garden:
    • Brunnera; I need to check the cultivar
    • Astrantia 'Gill Richardson'
    • Sanguisorba (S. officionalis)'Tanna'
    • Sedum (S. spectabile) 'Matrona'
  • From Clare Broadbent's garden:
    • Echinacea 'Secret Love'
    • Eupatorium, I think E. purpureum
  • From Sam Ovens' garden:
    • Scabious 'Pink Mist'

(© Ian 2014)