Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Reading 

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Lawn bird bath hosepipe  Starlings in birdbath  Sparrows in birdbath  Great tit in birdbath


Just to get us in the mood, the hosepipe just about says "shorthand". The bird bath is often full of starlings having a splash and sometimes a pigeon will sit in it and have a soak. Of course the grass grows a lot greener around the base. The marks on the grass are where I left some trays of sunflower seedlings for a little too long. Even in dry weather the grass is always green and I believe the subsoil in my area gets rain run-off from the surrounding land further uphill.


Basketweave pot with pelargonium  Pot with variegated pelargonium  Stripey pyjama pot


My garden soil has a lot of clay, making it very dry and hard most of the year. After many years, I have found that the best way* to garden is to have permanent* shrubs and perennials, and then have the flowers in pots around the back door. They can be moved at will and are all very near the outside water tap. It makes a big difference having coloured pots, providing extra interest. I am rather fond of the stripy pyjama one. In winter I empty the pots down by the compost bins and bury the tender plants such as fuchsias in the spent soil. I do not want to risk the pots getting damaged in a hard frost.


* Omission phrase "bes(t) way"


* "permanent" See www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/distinguishing-outlines-list3.htm for prominent/permanent/pre-eminent


Concealed water butts 

We had these two water butts near the house to collect rainwater, which we saved for filling up the fishpond. Because it is natural soft water it is much better for the fish than chlorinated tap water. I put some plastic netting in front and grew some long floppy euonymus stems through it, to provide a soft screen that hid the containers, but which was flexible enough to open like a door when maintenance was required. In the photo there is also some plastic ivy and nylon poinsettias to help fill the gaps. The problem was that the butts were only full in rainy weather, and at those times the pond did not need topping up. The mosquitoes breeding in the stored water were a source of annoyance and so the butts were moved to another part of the garden. They will be used occasionally to store tap water for the few days that it takes for the chemicals to evaporate, before filling the fishpond. This will* avoid storing water for long periods and at the same time* solve the mosquito problem.


* "this will" Downward L in order to join the phrase


* "at the same time" Halving to represent the T of "time"


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Rose Maid of Kent 1  New Dawn rose and clematis


This rose is called Maid of Kent and is a very prolific grower, although not much scent but plenty of small thorns. It is leaning on the garden shed and has travelled along the trellis in both directions. I have many climbing roses around the garden and I think it is well worth braving the thorns to get the blooms in summer. The only care they get is tying in where necessary and a good chop back after flowering. It is always worth preserving any new long stems, which should be bent down horizontal to make the buds break and produce new shoots for next year. The roses are never sprayed and the sparrows enjoy nibbling the greenfly.


Fish pond  Fish basking in blanket weed

Beyond the lawn is the fish pond.  As soon as you walk past, the fish come swimming at you from all directions, expecting food. I believe they sense the vibrations of feet before they see the person. Sometimes they make a big splash so it is not a good idea to sit by the pond with your food on your lap. We have some tench at the bottom, who are there to eat up the leftovers, but they are difficult to see as they are dark green and stay below. Sometimes all you can see is their red eye. Goldfish are easily tamed so long as you don't make any sudden movements. You can train them to eat bread from your hand. The fish like to settle in the blanket weed and snooze amongst the oxygen bubbles. Blanket weed is very good for lining aquatic baskets.


Goldfish at filter outlet  Frogs and frogspawn

We have a large water filter box and in hot weather the fish line up at the outlet to enjoy the fresh oxygenated water. This is normally a sign that the water lilies have too many leaves and are depriving the water of oxygen by blocking the surface. The fish also enjoy this corner because there is a lot of pond weed and small insects for them to eat and I often see them pushing into the corners to flush out any edibles. This is also a favourite place for frogs, who spawn every year. The tadpoles and froglets hide behind the pots of irises.


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Creeping jenny and pond netting  Water droplets on pond netting

Creeping jenny is a very good "semi weed" to have around the pond perimeter, as it spreads everywhere and provides good cover for the frogs. It also likes to grow down and root into the water, and so covers the butyl liner at the edges. Very early one morning I looked out the kitchen window to see a huge heron, which soon flew off, and since then we have plenty of netting around the pond. It is important to get the height and width of the defences right as they are very big birds, with greatly extending necks. In flight in the sky they appear smaller, but you realise their actual size when they land in your garden!


Spartan apple tree  Spartan apple blossom

At one corner of the pond is a Spartan apple tree. I planted the tree in 2004* and right from the first year it has produced a large number of clean pest-free apples. I never spray any plants and this apple tree is completely trouble free. The apples mature to a very dark burgundy red with white flesh which has a delicate perfumed flavour. It is not crisp or sharp at all. I am always looking for Spartan apples to buy when they are in season, and when my ancient Bramley apple tree eventually died, this was my chance to have my own supply of Spartan. It is on a medium rootstock so it will not grow too big. I think it enjoys having its roots underneath the pond where the soil accumulates rain water and does not dry out.


* "2004" Long slash to represent the current century, arbitrary sign with no phonetic value


Dianthus pink 1  Dianthus white  Dainthus pink 2


I wish you could smell these lovely pinks. I used to think the name came from their colour, but it actually comes from the word "pinch" referring to the serrated edge of the petals remember pinking shears? They are growing in a circle around the base of a pear tree. I am surprised they have done so well as they normally like a lot of sun. It may be that in the shade they have more moisture. No man-made perfume can improve on natural flowers. You only need one of these flowers in a room to fill it with perfume and you can enjoy it knowing that you are not breathing in harmful chemicals.


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Honeysuckle  Peacock butterfly

Honeysuckle is also highly perfumed with a very heavy scent, and not everyone likes it. I enjoy it in small doses, which is exactly what you get in a garden as the breeze moves the perfume around. The flowers are followed by bright red berries which will feed the birds. Honeysuckle makes a very good fast-growing screen, but it does need firm control and periodic chopping back if it is not to take over completely. Even the clothes line* post is covered in plants, so much nicer than grey metal, and often the clematis grows along the clothes line as well. We always seem to have tiny spiders making webs around the pegs, so socks are always pegged up toe first! After gardening for many years, I don't mind spiders, but I prefer the butterfly.


* "clothes line" Downward L in order to join the phrase


Sunflowers in pots  Sunflower

Every year we grow sunflowers. We have better results* when we grow them in pots, because the garden soil is so dry. The snails love to chew them and I have found it most effective to smear the stems with a thick layer of vaseline (petroleum jelly).  It seems to work, but you must not leave any gaps near the base. The snails will bite through and fell the plant, as surely as a beaver felling trees! Putting vaseline round the rim of the pot should work in theory, but the snails may possibly get sealed in, rather than out, especially if they have already laid eggs in the soil. These sunflowers are the mid-size variety and have reached about one metre. Hopefully they will put their energy into flowers rather than producing tall stems. When the flowers are fully open, they are alive with bees, and later on occasionally goldfinches and greenfinches may come to eat the seeds.


* Omission phrase "better (re)sults"


Lathyrus  everlasting sweet pea 1  Lathyrus  everlasting sweet pea 2

Sweet peas are the most delicate scented flowers, but I am cheating a bit here because this one is the perennial variety and it has absolutely no smell whatever. It is a very vigorous grower and always produces lots of seed pods, which must be removed before they dry out and propel the seeds everywhere. It is not one to grow over the fence where your neighbour may get frustrated as the dried crackling pods fling unwanted seeds in all directions. The rootstock gets bigger and thicker every year, and I remember digging one out that was as thick as my arm. After flowering the top stems all die, and then the plant comes back again next year.


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Feverfew and garden seat  Feverfew flowers

The middle part of the garden has paving and a circular path, with seats and more bird baths. I like to bring a meal out here and enjoy the flowers, and not be always gardening and pulling out weeds. The white flowers are feverfew which is growing through what should be clean neat gravel, but it is so lovely that I could not possibly pull it out. The bright yellow-green leaves are as decorative as the flowers. Feverfew is a very variable plant and only those with the best flowers should be allowed to seed themselves. It is not troublesome and you can easily remove any unwanted seedlings.


Middle of garden with birdbaths and pots

This is the central part, looking back towards the house, with the blue seat out of sight on the left. This is early morning sun coming from the left, on a warm October day before any cold weather has finished off the plants. Top right you can see the black water filter box for the pond. This area used to be one big shrub bed but one day I was working in the middle of the bed and realised what a good view I had from there. I also had nowhere to sit and admire it all, apart from perching three feet of my wobbling chair on a narrow and sloping curving path. I was too greedy for plants and ended up working but not admiring. The decision was made there and then to reduce the work and increase the enjoyment. Now the plants are established, flowers are in pots, and the seats provide different viewpoints.


Gravel and ivy 1  Gravel and ivy 2  Bluebells

The end of the garden is very dry because of the surrounding trees and after many years I found the only solution was to make decorative stripes out of gravel and variegated ivy, which does not mind the dry conditions at all. Skimmia bushes do very well in the dry, and these young ones are growing well. A lot of bluebells come through the gravel in the spring, as well as a good covering of forget-me-nots. I did have some pots down here but it is a long way from the water tap! If you sit down here, you are at eye level with the surface of the pond. When we moved here in 1982, this part was solid with saplings, weeds and brambles, and when viewing the house we did not realise that this was part of our garden.


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Compost bins  Pots at end of garden


This is the final far corner of the garden, either gloomy or shady depending on the weather. These compost bins are looking very smart with the shadow patterns and I am tempted to draw round the shadows with some chalk! They are always full of creatures, working hard at chewing everything. Sometimes ants nest in there, so I have to wait until they have flown before making my excavations. I always put the sticks and harder stems in, to ensure there are plenty of air pockets, to keep the compost fresh. When the bins are emptied, it is easy to rake off the sticks and put them back in the bins. I leave it in heaps around the garden to weather over the winter. Any seeds remaining can sprout and then be raked off.


Blue glazed pots with osteospermums  Blue glazed pot with daffodils

I keep lots of pots near the back kitchen door. Blue glazed pots are my favourites, as they set off the colours of the flowers so well. Not a single one of them was bought new, they have all come from boot sales. Someone got tired of them, or maybe moved house. One person's trash is someone else's treasure. Fortunately for me, the price of trash is much lower than that of treasure! It is best to have big pots so the compost does not dry out too quickly, although this really depends on the size of the plant in it. They are mostly near the outside water tap, so watering them is not too much hard work. I always empty them before winter so that the frost does not break them. (2217 words)


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