The Stump

Between showers today we got quite a bit of planting done.  We managed to insert three different varieties of fuchsia; a centranthus; phlox; two types of lingularia; various cranesbill geraniums; nasturtiums; two heliotrope; comfrey; two companula and a verbascum, all under the guidance of Jackie who has masterminded the garden design, building on Elizabeth’s original ideas.  An obsolete bed I had cleared a couple of weeks ago was seeded with grass; and Jackie and I re-staked a wisteria.

I have often written about our regular trips to The Firs, but have not yet explained how these came about.  Elizabeth has a lovely garden attached to a house which was the home of Richard Barbe-Baker (see 26th. May post).  As she is now on her own in the large house, the garden has proved too much for her to manage.  Jackie and I have each, for different reasons, in recent years, had to leave gardens of our own, and been unable to find suitable accommodation in London which includes one.  In my case I left an acre in Newark when I returned to London after Jessica’s death. The three of us have always got on very well; it therefore made sense for us to spend most weekends at The Firs. Jackie and I enjoy the company, the hospitality, and, mostly, the exercise. Elizabeth enjoys the company and the help.  Another happy coincidence is that Elizabeth’s home is 10 minutes’ drive to Southampton airport from whence I travel by Flybe plane to Bergerac en route to my house in Sigoules.

My individual project for the day was making a feature of the stump of a false acacia felled some years ago.  Retaining as much moss as possible I weeded it a bit, took up some couch grass, and composted the hollowed out centre.  The centranthus mentioned above is now part of this, as is a staked climbing fuchsia.

For afternoon tea we were joined by the artist Margery Clarke and her son Paul, who have become good friends.  This was in honour of my birthday.  Margery had made me a birthday card, but Elizabeth could not remember where she had put it.  She had phoned Paul in the week to see if she had left it at their home.  She hadn’t.  Margery came armed with a duplicate ‘to save [Elizabeth] embarrassment’.  However, after a frantic search before the artist’s arrival, Elizabeth did find the first card.  I now have two Margery Clarke originals.  Each is slightly different, Margery having wittily incorporated the theme of crosswords into a 70th. birthday card.

Given that we’d had what Danni called a ‘quaint’ tea of cucumber sandwiches; scones, cream and jam; and lemon cake, neither Jackie nor I thought we’d be able to manage either of the culinary options Elizabeth proposed.  We therefore picked over the leftovers with a glass of wine/beer.  This was after we had set a bonfire. There had seemed to be a break in the weather so Jackie had got one going and I had joined her in breaking up material for it.  A very bad decision that turned out to be.  No native American or Australian rainmaker could possibly have had the success we did in conjuring up the opening of the heavens.  By the time I’d got the tools away and we’d fled inside, the bonfire was extinguished and my shirt had become a second skin. Nothing for it but to open a second bottle of wine.

Rather later than usual we returned to Links Avenue where the concrete path from the road to the front door was full of snails risking their lives.

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