Fireworks

The sun today made fleeting, peeping, appearances in the garden.

These elegant, slender, gladioli are proliferating outside the kitchen door;

as does clematis Marie Boisselot in-urned in the Kitchen Bed alongside a deep red peony,

single petalled examples of which stand in the Dragon Bed.

Other clematises include Niobe on the corner of the kitchen wall, and on the wisteria arbour,

also home to Paul’s Scarlet;

and flamboyant Doctor Ruppel climbing the arch spanning the Brick Path beside the West Bed.

Delicate pink rose Penny Lane shares the arch.

One view from the Kitchen Bed leads to the distant entrance to

the Rose Garden, where

Festive Jewel, For Your Eyes Only, Love Knot, and Gloriana are among the parade.

Splendid Fireworks alliums burst forth in the Weeping Birch Bed,

while gentler pink stars mingle with Erigeron and euphorbia in the Kitchen Bed.

From the Weeping Birch Bed we are led through the Cryptomeria Bed to the eastern fence.

Pink campion and a bright red rhododendron stand sentinel on the south west and south eastern corners of the grass patch.

The red rhododendron emblazons these views down the Gazebo Path.

Elizabeth popped in this afternoon for a cup of tea.

This evening Jackie and I dined on pork spare rib chops on a bed of her mushroom rice fried in sesame oil. Mrs Knight drank Hoegaarden and I drank The Long Way Round Reserve Carmenere 2018.

Back In The Garden

Stormy weather and a heavy cold have kept me indoors for the last week. Today the wind has dropped to 20 m.p.h. and the sun has shone. I therefore took a walk in the garden. Jackie now has the cold and is currently housebound.

Our winter flowering cherry remains bright against the blue sky above.

The copper beech and the weeping birch still display their skeletal frames;

pruned roses are biding their time to burst forth in bloom.

Golden forsythia glows beside the patio.

Whichever way you look at them, the old cart wheels and the gazebo arches have designs on the gravel path,

visible beyond this end of the Phantom Path.

Camellias still bloom and bud throughout the shrubberies.

Daffodils still abound. Those in the patio are accompanied by tulips, pansies, and violas.

Primulas, bergenias, hellebores, cyclamens, comfrey, alliums, grape hyacinths, and pulmonaria all await discovery in the beds.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese served with rashers of bacon, followed by lemon Bakewell tarts.

War Of The Voles

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This afternoon I made a rather pathetic effort at clearing up some of the Head Gardener’s laborious pruning cuttings, then allowed myself to be diverted with a camera.

Leaving the house by the stable door gives a forked view down the Gazebo and Brick Paths.

We are led under the wisteria arbour which also supports a couple of clematises,

and beneath which lie other plants such as fuchsias and dahlias.

Other clematises scale the gazebo.

White sweet peas thrive on the arch linking the Weeping Birch Bed with the raised bed opposite.

Elizabeth's Bed

Elizabeth’s Bed is nicely fluffed up;

Bacopa in Florence's basket

Florence sculpture’s basket of bacopa is responding well to careful nurturing;

Phlox, petunias, lobelias, begonia

happy planting is displayed along the Shady Path where phlox in the bed; and petunias and begonias in the basket above  blend in a diagonal punctuated by lobelias.

Bees on alliums

Bees are particularly attracted to these purple alliums.

Clematis in Rose Garden

A true blue clematis climbs the potting shed in the Rose Garden;

Snapdragons

and a bright red snapdragon hangs by the kitchen window.

One evening recently Jackie spotted a little furry creature that we thought to be a vole. She has been nurturing an ailing Bishop of Llandaff  in the New Bed for a while now. This morning the whole plant had disappeared. Just behind the vacant space was a tiny tunnel. A vole had struck. They are apparently partial to dahlia corms. So far, others in the bed have survived. Apparently there is little defence possible against their tiny teeth.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak on Mexican burgers, fresh salad, coleslaw, and French fries. the meals were very good, as was the service. Jackie drank Amstel and I drank Ringwood’s best.

The Fifth Child

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A cooler temperature and continuous overcast skies returned today. This gave me a more satisfactory light for photographing pale flowers which I always find difficult in sunshine.

Our later daffodils tend to be more white than yellow;

defying all attempts at eradication white alliums thrust their way through the soil throughout the garden, iberis thrives on the edge of the New Bed, and;

similarly hued tulips, daffodils, and primulas contrast with brighter reds and yellows;

tulips continue fully to open;

as does prunus Amanogawa at the front of the house.

Blue flowers include the first bluebells and prolific forget-me-nots.

I didn’t like Doris Lessing’s ‘The Fifth Child’. But then perhaps I wasn’t meant to. Even the author stated that she hated writing it. Nevertheless this most unpleasant child demanded attention from start to finish, at which I arrived this afternoon. It is a short modern horror story, details of which I will, as usual, refrain from revealing. Save to say that it involves a nightmare birth and terrifying childhood that puts unbearable strain on a happy family. The essence of its success must be that it comes so close to credible and touches the deepest fears of any parent.

The Fifth Child

Published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the selection of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Boy Reclining’ as the jacket cover is a masterstroke. The distant, unfocussed, eye in the portrait conjures up our current character and there are echos of the artist’s ‘Gormenghast’ Gothic fantasy series of novels in Ms Lessing’s work. It also reminded me of a cover I once drew for the Queens Park Family Service annual report.

This evening it was warm enough for us to have drinks on the patio before Jackie drove off to Hordle Chinese Take Away to collect our evening meal. While she was out we experienced a heavy hailstorm. This developed into a spectacular electric storm. I drank more of the Fleurie with my dinner.

 

What Has Been Happening

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Today, shyly, a warm sun peeped periodically through the slow moving clouds, which released no rain. This gave an opportunity to wander around the garden to explore what has been happening whilst we have lurked inside.

The winter flowering cherry still has no idea that its season is over.

Views from the paths are enhanced by

continuing varieties of camellia,

daffodils,

 hellebores,

and pansies.

Comparatively new arrivals are epimedium, honesty, comfrey, aubretia; and

wallflowers, blending with

euphorbia, that with its fly, like the alliums, attracts insects such as the bee and the tiny creature on the wing to the right of that.

This evening we enjoyed a second helping of Oliver’s Chinese takeaway, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Ribera del Duero Camino Nuevo 2016

 

Back In The Garden

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Wandering down the garden paths today

provided very few corners without snowdrops. The Daphne odorata and camellias are blooming and budding. little blue irises, have and yellow crocuses are out. The white alliums easily confused with snowdrops are beginning to grace the beds. Pulmonaria, primulas, and pansies offer a little alliteration.

Red Admiral on bergenia

As so often at this time of year, a tattered Red Admiral basking on a bergenia revels in surviving the winter.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla. The food, service, and atmosphere were as excellent as always. My main meal was davedush; Jackie’s was murgh noorijenani. We shared special fried rice, an egg paratha, and onion bahji, and both drank Kingfisher.

 

 

 

Reprising Ice Cream Selection

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Most of the beds in the garden are threaded with stepping stones placed for access. They have become rather overgrown. This morning I began opening them out, starting with

this one leading off the Dead End Path. You should be able to distinguish between the before and after photographs. There is, incidentally, no view of the garden that doesn’t include the smelly white alliums. They bring early delight to the beds, but need an enormous amount of thinning out. Not only does each plant grow on a bulb, but each single bell on the flowers contains another bulb which it drops onto the soil. Each of these grows a new allium the following year.

Owl and owlet

Regular readers will know that The Head Gardener can never resist an owl. This morning she excelled herself by buying this one with an owlet in a jumble sale.

Elizabeth came to lunch and stayed on for dinner.

Sears Barbers

Jackie drove us to Milford on Sea where Peter, at Sears Barbers gave me an excellent haircut which is visibly reflected here.

Wikipedia has this to say about the traditional red and white striped barber’s pole: ‘The red and white pole outside barber shops references a time when barbers were expected to perform bloodletting and other medical procedures to heal the sick; red represented blood and white represented bandages. “Barber surgeons” in Rome also performed teeth extraction, cupping, leeching, bloodletting, surgery and enemas. However, today’s barber poles represent little more than being a barber shop that cuts hair and does shaves.[10] Barber poles have actually become a topic of controversy in the hairstyling business. In some states, such as Michigan in March 2012, legislation has emerged proposing that barber poles should only be permitted outside barbershops, but not traditional beauty salons. Barbers and cosmetologists have engaged in several legal battles claiming the right to use the barber pole symbol to indicate to potential customers that the business offers haircutting services. Barbers claim that they are entitled to exclusive rights to use the barber pole because of the tradition tied to the craft, whereas cosmetologists argue that they are equally capable of cutting men’s hair too (though many cosmetologists are not permitted to use razors, depending on their state’s laws).’

A couple of doors away from the barber’s is situated Polly’s Pantry Tea Rooms, first featured in ‘Portrait of a Village’ a couple of years ago.

Here are some of the home-made cakes on display.

Jackie and Elizabeth enjoyed cakes, tea, and coffee served by the delightfully friendly Julie, while they waited in this establishment for my shorn appearance. I joined them with a pot of tea. As I sat facing the window I observed a number of passing visitors examining the cakes. It seemed to me that this would make a good photograph. However I had no wish to deter prospective customers by shoving a camera in their faces. Yet I did have a couple of available models.

I sent them outside to pose.

Boys choosing ice cream

Earlier, two little boys, noses pinned to the cabinet, had come in to choose ice creams.

Jackie and Elizabeth choosing ice cream

As my two ladies came back inside the shop, they reprised the youngsters’ pose.

Wreck in harbour

After this Jackie drove us on to Keyhaven, where the wreck has developed a lurch.

Gull and mallard 1

As I watched a mallard fishing, a gull homed in on it.

Gull and mallard 2

The duck sped off. Fortunately the gull gave up the chase.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s scrumptious cottage pie, runner beans, and carrots and Brussels sprouts cooked to such perfection that all the flavour was retained. Chocolate eclairs, cream slices and Madagascan vanilla cheesecake were the desserts from which to make a selection. Elizabeth and I drank Vacqeyras Côtes du Rhône 2015.

After a session of reminiscences Elizabeth returned home to West End.