Archive | June, 2012

Perchcrows (and mice) who want to live in glasshouses…

29 Jun
The historic glasshouse range at Quarry Bank Mill

Project: The historic glasshouse range at Quarry Bank Mill

My friends Bubble and Squeak, the mice who live in my hat and pocket, would love a new home for the winter. Although Amanda’s shed is nice and cosy, it’s quite dark and they long for somewhere light to spend the months when we’re not open to the public.

This inspired me to have a chat with her about the possibility of having a Georgian-style glasshouse built in our lovely garden. It would allow us to have brightly coloured Pelargoniums to adorn the house – Amanda tells me they were very popular indoor plants in the 18th century. And it would make a splendid winter home for my friends – and for me.

She got very excited about this possibility and dashed off to Quarry Bank Mill, a living, working cotton mill run by the National Trust, near Manchester. Ann, the gardener there, is involved in a project to restore their range of historic glasshouses.

Amanda and garden volunteers Jean and Kat had a fantastic time with Ann seeing behind the scenes, and were thrilled to be given two pieces of overlapping Georgian glass to bring back to Wordsworth House for us to have copied. Now, all we need is to raise enough money to start building.

Amanda, Jean and Ann at Quarry Bank Mill

In cognito: If you want to see Amanda from the front, you’ll have to come and visit us – she hates having her photo taken. PS: Jean doesn’t normally look this cross – she was squinting into the sun


A marriage of diverse floral talents

26 Jun
House steward Rachel decorates the bannisters

Floral art: Rachel preparing for the wedding pics

I’ve often watched Rachel, our very creative house steward, collecting swathes of flowers and evergreen foliage from my beautiful garden to decorate the house, but there were far more swill baskets of blooms going indoors than normal the other day.

In between flower forays, she stopped for a quick chat and informed me that she was decorating the banisters with a “garland of perfumed flowers and architectural foliage arranged in a natural and haphazard fashion”.

Being of a curious mind, I enquired what she meant. Apparently, it was a popular way of arranging flowers in the Georgian period. As Batty Langley suggested in 1726, “Flowers in the house should be arranged in a free loose manner, so as not to represent a stiff bundle of flowers void of freedom.”

The display was for publicity pictures for our new venture: weddings at Wordsworth House. If I were the marrying sort, I couldn’t think of anything nicer than to get hitched in such a lovely house – with photos taken in my glorious garden, of course.

It was a great moment for Cockermouth when the Olympic torch passed down Main Street, right in front of Wordsworth House, last week. So I could join in the festivities, Rachel and gardener Amanda moved me to the front garden and Rachel gave me some flowers of my own, made into a splendid Olympic torch fit for a perchcrow – she really is multi-talented.

Rachel gives me my Olympic torch

Flaming brilliant: Rachel gives me my Olympic torch

A flood of poems and (cream) crackers for the iPhone

14 Jun
Maid Sophia shows me the iPhone app

High-tech: Sophia shows me the iPhone app

I love listening to the poems and flood stories (from 2009, when central Cockermouth was submerged) coming from the wind-up audio unit in my summerhouse. It really adds to the atmosphere in the garden.

Zoe, the house manager, tells me you can also download them to listen any time on the new Wordsworth House and Garden iPhone app – and it’s a snip at only 69p.

My favourites are Rachael, one of our maids-of-all-work, telling the tale of her cream crackers (it’s brilliant!) and her colleague Peter, the manservant, reading from The Prelude:

O Derwent! travelling over the green Plains
Near my “sweet Birthplace”, didst thou, beauteous Stream
Make ceaseless music through the night and day…

See, I am a cultured perchcrow – you won’t find many of us that can quote Wordsworth. I must confess I haven’t had the stamina to read the whole thing, though – it stretches to several hundredpages.

Peter and Rachael with Bovril

Toast: Peter and Rachael drink to the new summerhouse, built courtesy of a grant from Bovril

Hi hoe, hi hoe, it’s off on holiday Amanda goes

14 Jun
Volunteer David collects fallen holly leaves

Tidy: Volunteer David collects fallen holly leaves

Alison and Jean tackle the weeds
Hoeing: Alison and Jean tackle the weeds

Amanda’s volunteer team have been keeping me company for the past week, while she’s been on a well-earned break at home with her family. Work hasn’t stopped though, just because she’s been away.

The team have been busy hoeing the heritage vegetable beds as the weeds are suddenly flourishing. Because we’re fully organic, conventional weedkillers are simply not an option, so thank goodness the volunteers are happy to hoe.

When it comes to garden pests, we’re equally principled. We use a range of organic options, including the wonderfully named “nematodes”. These microscopic creatures love nothing better than munching on those pesky slugs who’ve been making the most of the recent damp weather.

As for the aphids that have been trying to colonise all our lovely plants, a soap spray does the trick. Amanda says if you want to give it a try, there are lots of good brands available on the internet.

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