Over The Fence

Virginia creeper cornerKnackered at the end of the day yesterday, I chose to ignore one encroachment of foliage onto the path. This hinged upon a Virginia creeper no longer adequately supported by a partially collapsed wooden arch. It was beset by one of our own expansive trees and rambling bramble. I knew, however, if I ventured into the undergrowth, I would find that what was pushing everything forward would be the invasive jungle from next door. I wasn’t up for that. Until I got up this morning.

First of all I had a wander round the garden trying to put off the beckoning task..PhiladelphusThalictrum aquilegifolieumPampas grass The philadelphus is doing well, and a thalictrum aquilegifoleum now blooms alongside a pampas grass that echoes the unidentified evergreen I photographed yesterday.

Until they are given a permanent location, the plants recovered from Shelly and Ron’s are deposited in various spots in the garden. Diasca and gernaniumsThese geraniums and diasca flank the bench:

That’s enough prevarication.

Holly, brambles, ivy and Lonicera were all seeking new accommodation on the other side of their ramshackle fence. One ivy entwined around our unidentified tree had a stem a good inch and more in diameter. Everything in our shrubbery fled in the path of the invading army.

I set to with the loppers, and when I eventually reached what was left of the fence and trimmed enough to look over it, this is what confronted me:Garden next door

I had no choice but to pursue the lonicera along the boundary until I met the rest of it by the reclaimed patio shrubbery. No doubt had I continued in the other direction there would have been more.

All this makes me rather relieved that the garden on the other side is all laid to gravel.

This afternoon Helen came for a visit. This meant I had the perfect excuse to come inside and chat, and to leave the task unfinished. Wire netting pushed inwardsBefore that,Shrubbery clearance I had reached a section of wire netting that our home’s previous owner had attached to the iron posts that seemingly were once supporting a fence. This had been shoved forward by the neighbour’s lonicera. I have begun to fix it back, although must remove more of the invader before I can make it taut. The cleared space shown is part of what I have hacked out.

Jackie produced a chicken jalfrezi (recipe) as marvellous as ever for our dinner this evening. We enjoyed it with boiled rice, vegetable samosas, and Cobra beer.

‘Last One To The Chimney Pot’s A Sissy’

Brick radial path intermediate stageJackie has, on and off all week, been working at clearing the longest radial brick path. We determined today to finish it together. I began at the far end and Jackie continued working away from the house.Brick path original being cleared

The radial paths, we think, were laid down in the 1980s. This one joins a much older one, contemporary with The Heligan Path, and probably dating from the 1930s. It is made of brick and was revealed to be beautifully undulating with a pattern somewhat like herringbone.

My totally uncompetitive lady jocularly cried, as we began: ‘Last one to the chimney pot’s a sissy’. The marker in question can be seen at the far end of the paths in the first two pictures. It will be apparent that, by lunchtime, when the shots were taken, there wasn’t much likelihood that I would be able, at the completion, to have any pretensions to machismo.

Finally, in the true spirit of Chris Brasher’s 1981 London Marathon, there was no single winner. Dick-Beardsley-and-Inge-S-001When American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen crossed the finish line, they did so together, holding hands, in an inspirational gesture which fired many previous non-runners, including me, to enter the event the following year.

Jackie and I each arrived at the chimney pot at the same time. Brick radial path clearedBrick path original clearedThese photographs of the completed task are taken from the marker itself.

The green hosepipe seen snaking along beside the older path is part of an irrigation system rigged up by the previous owner. We have yet to test its operation and efficacy.

Dianthuses and aquilegiasDianthus

Along with aquilegias and many other attractive plants, dianthuses of various colours crop up all over the garden, as here alongside Jackie’s path. There is even a white one.

A number of different evergreen trees that we cannot identify are sprouting new needles. Here is one of them:Evergreen unidentified

Jackie had, yesterday, made off with enough food from the Hordle Chinese Take Away to suffice for today as well. So that was our dinner taken care of. With it, I finished the Bordeaux.

Afterwards we drove down to the beach at Milford and watched the gulls and the waves.

Jattie’s Sculpture

bullfinchbullfinch femaleA pair of bullfinches visited the garden this morning. They are shy birds, and scarpered pretty sharpish, before I could snatch a photograph, so I nicked these images from the internet.

Today we made two trips to Ron and Shelly’s home in Walkford to collect more of the plants they have been carefully fostering for us.

It is Jackie’s birthday in three days time. She had expressed a desire for solar powered lights for the garden. She also wanted a tower for a clematis she has planned to put in a large stone planter in the bed outside the dining room window. This afternoon, therefore, we made a journey to the splendid Stewart’s Garden Centre in Christchurch. Started in the eighteenth century the concern is still in the ownership of the founding family. There we bought the tower and a pair of lights, of which we ordered six more. As she drove away Jackie realised she hadn’t got a clematis after all. That meant a trip to the Ferndene Farm shop where she bought one of the Marie Boisselot variety and a couple of heucheras.

We had always thought the flowers of bottle brush plants were red. Ours turns out to be a bright lemon yellow which is already attracting bees.

Bee in bottle brush plant cropRose

The recent clearing has revealed a number of comparatively small hidden plants, one of which is a tiny delicate peach coloured rose, whose bush is barely a foot tall with even less of a span. This actual bloom is about one third of the featured image. PalmMore visible also now is a very delicate and elegant scented palm, the precise identity of which we do not know.

Some twenty years or so ago, Jessica’s much-loved aunt Janet, known as Jattie, Ellen took up sculpture and revealed a considerable talent.Nude by Jattie My late wife gave me one of her early pieces – a reclining nude, who has perched on my desk for some time. Having always had a penchant for garden sculpture I thought she might go well in ours. Jackie created the very spot in the patio corner. The climbing rose above the young woman is a complementary peach, and the heuchera to her right is one of those bought this afternoon with the sculpture in mind.

We had fun assembling the tower which was less straightforward than it looked. It didn’t help that we kept dropping the nuts and having to search for them. The one that fell into the gravel was an interesting challenge.garden with clematis tower This photograph of the bed in which the clematis has been placed also demonstrates the change of heart we have had about the ginkgo. It will stay in its pot in front of the clematis. That way, apparently, it will not grow into a forest tree.

This evening Jackie departed from Hordle Chinese Take Away with our dinner, which we soon enjoyed eating. She drank Hoegaarden. My wine was Cotes de Bordeaux superieur 2012.


Supporting Big Ben

Jackie and I began the day with a trip to Ferndene Farm shop for more gravel, for the patio corner and the path completed a couple of days ago that I am freshening up.Patio corner We didn’t quite have enough for both, but I think you will get the picture. A few more flowers were planted in the area cleared yesterday, including some Japanese anemones moved from the gravelled platform.

After this my chauffeuse drove me to New Milton for my trip to London.

From Waterloo I took the Westminster Bridge route to Carol’s in Rochester Row.

Westminster BridgeDespite the dull day, the South Bank was so crowded as to be almost impassable. The lovelocks, which have become a menace in so many major cities, have been removed from the handrails beside the steps up to the bridge.

Everywhere, as usual, cameras and mobile phones were brandished in the direction of the targeted sights. Piper and visitorsYoung woman supporting Big BenThe piper had his customary entourage of visitors recording his image. One beautifully smiling young woman took direction from her male photographer crouching low on the ground guiding her positioning of her hand for a shot in which she was to be seen supporting Big Ben.

On leaving Carol’s, I travelled by the Circle Line from St James’s Park to Edgware Road tube station from where I walked to the Akash restaurant for an enjoyable time and meal with my friend Jessie. This gave me an opportunity to exchange greetings with other friends from my favourite Bangladeshi establishment.

On the train I finished reading Desmond Seward’s history of ‘The Wars of the Roses’. From the very first paragraph of the author’s introduction we are dramatically drawn into this description of the fickle family feuds over the throne of England that occupied the country during the last decades of the fifteenth century. The maps, chronology, who’s who, and dynastic family trees that supplement the well researched and lively text make a good job of unravelling the story. I only wish I could hope to remember it all.

I moved on to Victoria’s Park, a novel by B. J. Haynes.

Jackie met me at New Milton station and drove me home.


Today Jackie and I almost finished working on the boundary mentioned yesterday. She worked on planting in various parts of the area around the house, in particular the blue painted butler sinks, which she did a grand job of disguising.

My task was to continue trimming the invaders from next door. Jackie helped me to post the back to where they had come from. Boundary trimmedBoundary and sinksBy lunchtime the pruning and lopping was complete, and we had made our contribution to the cobbled fencing that separates us from the uninhabited land alongside us.

One further item has been salvaged from the skip pile and now forms part of what passes for a fence. There is an archway inside the house between the entrance hall and the sitting room. Once there was a perfectly fitting door occupying this space. When we viewed, that was in the garage. It had been replaced by a latticed door, straight at the top and therefore leaving a gap beneath the curved top of the framework. We were looking forward to putting the original back where it belonged. Unfortunately, when we took up occupation it had disappeared. I still removed the replacement door and left the archway open.

We fixed the lattice door to the metal posts that are all that remains between the gardens, now that I have removed lonicera and holly branches that were pushing our own shrubs forward and sticking through the makeshift substitute fencing placed there by our predecessors. We tied our large, but leggy, climbing rose back as best we could.

The red painted iron railing was unearthed from further up the garden. Beneath the light green pot is revealed the septic tank cover that Ian Norton has been unable to find as long as he has been pumping out the effluence.

From the photographs it will be evident that we will have to do the same with many yards of foliage.Crow in tree

tree with interesting leavesA shaggy headed crow emerged from the undergrowth looking as if it had just come through hedge backwards.

After lunch I performed some heavy pruning on our fig tree and another unidentified one with interesting leaves. This was in order to give them and the rose space to breathe now that they were not so oppressed from next door and were to receive much more light.

Jackie continued with the planting. She completely camouflaged the blue painted sinks and tidied up the corner adding a few finishing touches like the hanging basket. All that is required now is the application of fresh gravel on the raised area containing the sinks.Rose, fig, and unidentified treePatio corner

Mo and John visited this afternoon, brought a case of wine they had transported back from France, and joined us for a meal at The Jarna. We all enjoyed the company and the food and drank Cobra beer.

A Tale Of Two Climbers

Today was another wet one. That put paid to any continuation of the pathfinding project, but we worked on others in brief spells between the rains.Gladiolus

An interesting variety of gladiolus has emerged outside the back door to the kitchen.

Jackie drove off to Everton Garden Centre to buy some annuals. She returned with quite a few. There were enough to plant up the urn and the chimney pots, and to provide marginals for the pond.

Butchers blocks potting shedFirst, she needed a potting shed. Our predecessor used a sand tray in the garage for this, but that was one of the many items removed to make way for the utility room. Among the pieces left for us by the previous owners, thinking they might be useful, were two butchers’ blocks. They were relegated to the skip pile from which they were retrieved this morning to make an improvised potting shed.

Three extremely heavy stoneware chimney pots had been brought from Amity Grove via 4 Castle Malwood Lodge. They had stood in our front garden since 31st March. They needed two of us to lift each one into a wheelbarrow, and to manoeuvre them into place. Chimney triangleThe awareness that they now formed three corners of a triangle caused Jackie once more to reflect on the lack of one in the kitchen.

While Jackie planted her purchases, I wandered around randomly weeding, then brightened up yesterday’s path with a partial application of gravel.

I have mentioned before the nature of the boundary between our home and the unoccupied bungalow to our right. This is sometimes rather problematic, as in the case of the Lonicera which has been so invasive as to push our neighbouring shrubs right out of position and across the patio. BoundaryOne particular climbing rose has been forced to extend leggy limbs above and beyond what is sensible. It is tied to a tall wooden stake that, in turn, is tied to a metal one. It looks to me as if the thick honeysuckle-like stems and branches are all that is keeping anything in place at all. Bird's nestI found an empty birds’ nest in the tangled mess. Seeing this object, as if floating on the reflecting metal garden table, alerted me to the fact that I was becoming a little damp.

Pondering how to dispose of the mounting pile of pruned plant pieces, I thought of my good Newark friend and neighbour, Malcolm Anderton, and another climbing rose which was itself perpetrating the invasion.

A long, high, stone wall separated our two properties. Covering this, on our side, were three large red climbing roses which tended to peep over to Malcolm’s. When, around the turn of the millennium, some of the boughs were found cut, and on the ground in our driveway, Jessica approached our neighbour to see if he knew anything about it. Indeed, he did. He had been pruning the invader whose stems he was chucking back over the wall. He informed us that that was the legal thing to do.

Our next door garden here is completely overgrown, so no-one would probably notice if I tossed the limbs of Lonicera back where they came from. I am grateful to Malcolm for the idea.

Having given up on the garden after lunch, I just nipped out to get wet photographing Jackie’s planting:Pond plantingUrn plantingChimney pot plantingDinner at The Jarna was as good as ever this evening. We know, because we enjoyed some, both drinking Cobra.

A Pair Of Frogs

Path along back of house a.m.Path for clearanceJackie and I spent the whole of this gloriously sunny day on path clearance in the garden. She worked on the brick one at the back of the house, whilst I concentrated on a gravelled track further along our plot.

The plastic bucket on my path has no bottom. There are a number of such receptacles in the flower beds. Perhaps they had a protective role with seedlings.

Because this thoroughfare has a fabric lining and has been more recently trodden, my task was easier than when working on the last one. There was, however, much weeding and defining of borders to carry out, with the usual final raking smooth. A cotoneaster that had obviously been cut back a few times was quite an obstacle to progress. This is because I decided to remove it, first removing the branches, then extracting the tough old stump, following the same process as with the hollies. Here are a couple of photographs of the finished job:Path clearedPath cleared 2Poppies

We are fortunate that the glorious red poppies are still such a focal point, because they took quite a battering in the recent storms, but are now finding the strength to stand proud again.

The flower beds and shrubberies also need extensive weeding, but we have chosen to focus on the paths first because that gives a generally tended appearance if you don’t look too closely at the rampant brambles and suchlike elsewhere. Inevitably some of these other areas do receive some attention, if only to prevent further invasion of the paths. Garden through weeping birch leavesCrow on rooftopThe result is that it is not only the footpaths that are seen in a new light, but new vistas across the garden are opened up. Crow on chimney potsThe beautiful rhododendron in these photographs was largely obscured from across the garden just a few days ago.

I took some time out to watch a considerable corvine conflict on our chimney pots. There is usually one crow or another perched up there shouting the odds or playing sentinel. This afternoon there were often three of four flapping, croaking, and pecking at each other. They didn’t stay around to be photographed, so I had to settle for one lookout and one guardian portrait.

Jackie clearing up after crearing pathFrogsJackie made a beautiful job of her path, and went on to tidy up the surrounding areas. There are a number of small home made ponds in the garden stocked with aquatic plants. One of these was in the bed behind the patio. It needed clearing out and freshly watering for the sake of the atmosphere as much as for the plants. She did this, and in the process, not content with her recent amphibian discovery, found a pair of frogs hibernating in the undergrowth. She returned them, a bit mossy, to their rightful position on the edge of the pond. Rose climbing peachIrisThe whole area around this water feature needed tidying up, which she did, and went on to carry out some heavy pruning of various shrubs, thus liberating a mature peach climbing rose. I rather colourful iris was also exposed for the first time.

We dined on Jackie’s sausage and liver casserole, mashed potato, carrots and green beans. And very good it was too. I finished the Languedoc whilst she drank her customary Hoegaarden.

We finished our drinks on the garden bench. One of the many trees that we don’t recognise, has a rather colourful green and yellow sinuously striped bark. Snail on tree trunkWe noticed that a snail was hoping to use it as a camouflage.

Can anyone identify the tree? This is what the branches carry:Leaves of stripy tree                            P.S. Jackie’s research has revealed that the tree is a member of the snake bark maple group, probably Hers maple, native to China.