High Maintenance

In a recent exchange with my Facebook friend Kanan Buta, who had, from afar, been admiring the garden in pictures, I commented that because this was our first year it was full of surprises.IKEA wardrobe fence ‘Pleasant ones, I hope?’, she replied. ‘Not always’, was my answer. One of the less pleasant ones, as my readers may know, is the amount of rubble including chunks of concrete and broken tiles we have been bagging up and taking to the municipal dump. Today, I found a use for the next batch for disposal. The untended garden next door lies at a somewhat lower level than ours. This means the path I have been clearing between the two properties, in parts, drops away steeply, leaving an uneven trench. Several bags of rubble filled the holes and helped to keep the last sections of the IKEA wardrobe fence, added this morning, in place. The whole is not the most beautiful example of garden design, but at least it will help to keep the triffids at bay. That reminds me – the morning’s efforts included cutting down an adolescent bay tree.
Main gravel pathHelidan pathDead end gravel pathAs I spent the best part of the afternoon hoeing, raking, and sweeping the gravel paths, whilst Jackie dripped around with her watering can, I reflected on the fact that, at an age when many of our friends are turning to low maintenance gardening, we have done exactly the opposite. I can, of course, comfort myself with the fact that most of the really heavy projects that have occupied the last three months will not require repetition. But a myriad of potted plants will always need water in hot weather, and weeds will need to be removed. I learned today, too, that the bamboo removed from the oval path will continue to crop up in the middle of it. The hoe was inadequate to deal with that. Brute force to pull up the trailing root, and a pair of loppers to cut it off where it joined the main plant were required.
Hebe - New Zealand

The New Zealand hebe identified by Tess is now full of blooms.

Sweet peasTomatoes

Readers will have gleaned that we do not intend to go in for kitchen gardening. Jackie has, however planted sweet peas and tomatoes, probably as  token gestures.

Seriously, sweet peas are among  our favourite flowers.

I don’t know whether the chef at Hordle Chinese Take Away felt like cooking tonight, but we didn’t, so, thanks to Jackie and her Modus, he provided us with our dinner. This was the usual excellent melange from this establishment, accompanied by T’Sing Tao beer.


An unseen bird in a neighbouring garden has, for some time now kept up an incessant, repetitive, day-long warning cry. This is no doubt related to the fact that a possibly predatory crow patiently waits perched on the branch of a high tree. Perhaps awaiting a chance to plunder eggs, or to pounce on newly hatched chicks? Yesterday evening Jackie clapped her hands and shooed off the vigilant avian. As soon as it flew off the other bird became silent.
Two days ago a magpie was spotted in our garden, suspiciously close to the blackbird’s nest.
Empty nestThis morning the nest was empty, only its cleanliness and two downy feathers attached to a twig, indicating any occupation. There were no broken shells. Sadly, on little more than circumstantial evidence we suspect either crow or magpie of theft of the eggs.
Today I finished weeding yesterday’s bed. In the process, I found a honeysuckle and several more passion flower plants entwined among the other plants. BambooTrying not to replicate the McDonalds logo, I erected my own golden arches out of bamboo to give the climbers something else to scale. Perhaps the honeysuckle was seeded from this wonderfully scented specimen, bordering the kitchen garden: Honeysuckle                                   Jackie has continued her creative work. WaterboyThe water boy is now well established in his little corner, complete with more shells and planting.Granite sets and bricksGranite sets and bricks 2Path tidied
She is now focussing on further improving the edging of the paths. In many instances, the earlier brick edges have been covered by stones and granite sets. These have tended to be obscured by covering plants, and have not stemmed the flow of soil into the gravel.  Sieving the earth from the gravel, and placing the bricks on their sides lifts the edges.
Granite setsGranite edgingThe sets will be used elsewhere, where they attractiveness is more apparent. We began with the border between the patch of grass and the long path. I was the labourer to Jackie’s artisan. This meant I searched out more sets, loaded them onto a wheelbarrow, brought them to the mistress craftsperson, placed them roughly where she would need them, and ambled off for some more. Some, in the furthest regions, were covering ants’ nests.
We didn’t quite finish the job before preparing for a visit to Danni and Andy’s new flat. Jackie drove us over to Shirley, where it is; we were joined there by Elizabeth, and all dined at a very good Indian restaurant nearby, the name of which I did not register. We all enjoyed the food; Andy drank Magners, and the rest of us, Kingfisher.

Bamboo, Brambles, And Ballerina

RoseFor the time being at least, the crow has conceded defeat and alternates with the wood pigeons in patrolling the area beneath the bird feeder and picking up scraps, of which there are plenty, because the smaller birds aren’t all that tidy.
The finial of the new arch has opened into a rich apricot coloured rose with a hole in one petal. Given the treatment it has had, one little blemish is less than could have been expected.
I set about the bamboo immediately this morning.Bamboo roots I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that the roots tunnelled under the gravel to the other side of the path, and were rather rampant in the oval bed. I wanted to save the parent clump which is quite attractive, and really just needs managing. I reduced it somewhat. Having to clamber over the other plants in order to remove the bamboo, there were bound to be some accidents. Pink abundance accidentThe head of one of the Pink Abundance roses was dislodged from its stem, so warranted its own accident saucer.
It hadn’t been my intention to do much weeding of the bed, still less to those further back or to the right of the path. By the time, however, I had taken out the the bamboo, and the bramble that was choking the life out of anything in the other beds, I had done quite a bit. The brambles at this end of the garden seem to emanate from that behind ours.Oval path day 2
I broke the back of the task of renovating this path, but downed tools before breaking mine. Hopefully I will finish the job tomorrow.Wall of raised bed - a glimpse
Beyond the right hand rock boundary of this walkway one can just glimpse a raised stone walled bed which had been completely hidden by the brambles.
Jackie continued to blaze a trail into the kitchen garden.Kitchen garden The ballerina rose seen dancing around the red bird box, was invisible last week.
Tree faceBay trees seem to have self-seeded and grown quite big all over the garden. We each encountered a couple that had to go. They have a cunning system of taking root between those of a more mature tree, so all we could actually do was cut them down. It seems a great shame to remove such a plant, but there really are too many in the wrong places.
Whilst we dined this evening on Jackie’s sausage casserole (recipe) with new potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, we watched, through the kitchen window, a pair of woodpeckers enjoying their meal on our bird feeder. Jackie drank Emilia lambrusco 2012. My wine was Baturrica tarragona gran reserva 2007. It seems that we, too, were being observed from outside by a little potted fir tree.

Isle Of Wight Tomatoes

Early this morning the crow, having adopted the back of the bench as its new taking off strip, flew directly onto the top of the bird feeder, but didn’t stay. It can only scavenge from a tray in the construction, not the closed containers. Jackie is wise to that, so isn’t filling it at the moment. The blackbird, with her partner perching guard on the snake bark tree,  continues to sit on her eggs.Garden to kitchen garden entrance It is now possible to see through the entrance to the kitchen garden from some distance away. Path before clearancePath before clearance 2Pictured here are two sides of a path surrounding an oval flower bed at the far end of the garden, as they appeared at the beginning of the day. They are in there somewhere. It was my task to begin restoring them to their former glory, whilst Jackie continued transforming the central gravelled walkway. Here, the brambles were rampant and well established. A certain amount of eradication of them from the beds was required. Bloodsucker on day lilyThis revealed more hidden plants, like the day lilies, the colour of one of which seems to have confused a bloodsucking insect into thinking it was clamped on to my forearm.Central path Oval path intermediate satgeBamboo coming through pathWith some painstaking sifting of earth and gravel Jackie completed the central path today. I, on the other hand, although making a good impact on the left hand side and far end of the ovoid ring, came to an abrupt halt when I encountered the bamboo. A number of strong stems had penetrated the path and defied my fork. That was a battle I was prepared to fight another day. It had taken three months completely to eradicate a clump of the insidious roots of this grass at The Firs, so I wanted to be fresh for the job. Mañana.
On a sunny day such as this, the light streaming through the kitchen windows at lunchtime is stunning. Placed at random at the end of the table when preparing it for the food were a vase of tulips Shelly had given Jackie, an accident pot containing alliums and a petunia,   and a bowl of tomatoes. Pots on kitchen table These tomatoes were a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. And they were delicious. Jackie had purchased them at Setley Ridge Farm Shop, to which a couple from the Isle of Wight travel weekly to supply them. Apparently supermarkets cannot sell them because they are not uniform in size, redness, and rotundity.
We received a very warm welcome from the family at The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton where we dined this evening on the usual good food and Tsing Tao beer. SunsetThe streaks in the sky on our way home were of the equally warmest hues.