The Fascinator

This morning Jackie drove me to New Milton where I bought a pair of sandals and delivered some dry cleaning. We then continued into the forest for a short trip giving us time to return home for a FaceTime date with Sam and Malachi.

Our first tail-twitching ponies were encountered alongside

Holmsley Passage, where,

pausing for the occasional bite, a group of ponies emerged from the woodlands;

crossed the road,

and made their way onto the moorland;

tails twitching in efforts to deter flies.

As we neared home, on Holmsley Road, two foals accompanied another group.

One fascinated infant snuggled up to the bonnet of a small van, the driver of which disembarked and persuaded the traffic hazard

onto the verge.

Back at home I enjoyed a torchlight FaceTime conversation with my son and grandson in Perth. Sitting here in our summer mid-day it was fascinating seeing Sam and Malachi in pitch-black darkness, just after their 7 p.m., enlivened by the flames of a garden fire and Mal’s bright reading aid. The torch was also shone on the chooks in their coop. I was reminded that the sun sets very rapidly over there.

This evening we dined excellently on lamb leg steaks; roasted parsnips and butternut squash; Lyonnaise potatoes; carrots, cabbage and mange touts. I finished the Carinena while Jackie abstained because she had drunk her Hoegaarden on the patio when we had pre-dinner drinks overlooked by a

goldfinch perched atop

a towering bay tree.

A Living Palisade

One of the gardening tasks I am most ambivalent about is the removal of trees, especially specimen ones like that I tackled today, or heavy pruning of shrubs that have been allowed to grow into them.Fir tree

Those who followed last summer’s posts detailing the adventure of discovering our garden will know that such removal and pruning occupied several months. Possibly the last victim of the eradication process was the fir tree I extracted from the gravel path at the front of the house. Although still quite young this was more than three metres high and less than two metres from the bay window. Its roots were making their way towards the house. Although I had cut off some of the lower branches in order to get through the garden last year, I could not bring myself to take out the tree entirely. Until this morning, when, not having Aaron’s array of power tools, I worked on the trunk with a saw and loppers, and on the roots with fork, spade, and axe.Axe separating fir and bay

Bay trees, which abound in our plot, are crafty beasts, in that they shelter snugly up against other trees. There was one embedded with the fir, so that had to come out first. I should have a clearer view from my study window now.Gravel after fir removal

So many trees were in the wrong place, hard up against fences or the walls of ours and our neighbours’ buildings, that one would be forgiven for thinking that our predecessors were intent on creating a living palisade to keep out invaders.

I hit ‘Publish’ prematurely just after lunch, so will add a bit more later on.

Owling With Attitude

The blackbird still sits on her nest. Peering through shrubs at a safe distance, sometimes her bright little eyes are visible to the viewer, sometimes her upturned tail.

Brambly bedToday’s task for me was to clear one bed of brambles and other unwelcome growth. Simple enough for a day’s work. I thought. In fact the wild blackberry bushes were the least of my problems.

As I began to feel my way into the undergrowth I came across a number of previously unseen plants. Passion flower chokedOne was a heavily-budded passion flower which had become entwined in a hebe, and, of course brambles. The necessary disentanglement was a most delicate operation.Passion flower support Having carried out the surgery I gave it a leg-up by means of netting attached to a metal post set in concrete that Jackie had found elsewhere in the garden. Another such climber had clung to the weeping branches of the birch tree, but had many stems trailing in and out of the bed grasping at anything in its path. Further similar treatment was required. This time the netting was strung between two wooden stakes.

Two types of tree that are abundantly self-seeded in this garden are hawthorn and bay. There was one of each in this bed, their roots, as always, taking shelter among those of  other plants; in this case the weeping birch and some lilies that have not yet flowered.Bed head screwed to birch I had no chance of reaching them unless I removed the wooden bed head nailed to the tree. No doubt this once had a decorative purpose of sorts.  I couldn’t prise it off. Once the rust had been scoured off the nailhead it turned out to be a screw, so dilapidated as to be bereft of a slot. I tried to make one with the trusty hacksaw. I couldn’t get it deep enough.

Then along came Superwoman, who saw that if we removed the rickety slats and the other end, we could leave the post where it was. D’oh!

That is what we did. I dug out the offending trees and replaced the rest of the bed head. Two of the joints had by now disintegrated, so nails will have to be used, when I have bought some of sufficient length. In order that it does have a decorative function, I optimistically fed a passion flower stem through the secure bit.

Jackie speaks of the June gap, which is that unproductive time between the finishing of the spring flowers and before the arrival of those of the summer. The planting here has been so well planned that there is no such hiatus. Water lilyPhiladelphusWhite bush roseRose - pink abundancePetuniasPetunias - magentaDiasca and pelargoniumBegoniaPoppiesVerbascumRodgersiaClematises Star of India and Rouge CardinalI took a break after lunch and photographed water lily, philadelphus, roses, petunias, diasca, pelargonium, begonia, poppies, verbascum, rodgersia, and clematises which are just a few of those we currently have flowering.

Our blackbird is still awaiting the emergence of her chicks. Not so the owl in my friend Hari’s tree. Her two are about three weeks old, and able to reach the ground, but do need to be returned to their Mum. If I am able to photograph our fledglings I am confident that my pictures would not be as striking as the one Hari e-mailed me today.Owling by Harri She believes the creature was displaying a mind of its own when it stared back at its rescuer. I rather like her term for a baby owl, especially one with attitude, which has provided today’s title.

This evening’s meal was Jackie’s beef and mushroom pie with mashed carrots, swede, and potatoes; and crisp cauliflower and broccoli. Tiramisu ice cream was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the tempranillo.

If you have a shop that can sell you ready prepared pastry and have saved enough beef casserole (recipe) you, too could make the pie. Simply drain off the sauce from the casserole and use it as gravy; roll out the pastry, insert the filling into it, and bake it in the oven for about half an hour on 200. The chef, when pressed for her timing, said: ‘Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t time it, I just stood and looked at it until it was the right brownness’. I don’t expect she did this for the whole time, but I think that gives you the idea.

The Bay Tree

On my way to continue attacking the lonicera and its companions, I made a pleasant discovery. Red rosebudI mentioned yesterday that the clearing of the area around the collapsed arch had revealed a red rose. This is because a pointed red bud provides a finial for the new gothic version. White roseWhat I noticed today is a tiny white rose bloom with quite a number of buds. We have two roses on the arch.

Four hours later I had almost cleared the lonicera from our side of the now virtually non-existent boundary. I followed the familiar process of lopping, uprooting, and tossing into the jungle anything that emanated from the other side. I thinned out our shrubs and tied up a rambling rose. The myrtle required special treatment. The leaves are meant to be variegated but sports have taken over. Taking them all out hasn’t left much vegetation, but the ochre coloured bark is very attractive. A sport is an abnormal result of spontaneous mutation. In this case the leaves were no longer two-toned. Netting fenceAfter lunch I dealt what I hope is the killer blow to the lonicera. It has, of course, rooted all over the place, but I think I found the original thick bunch of stems, sawed through them and smashed out what I could without going to the trouble of digging out the tangled clump. We now have a clearance all the way from the new arch to the patio, so I will wander along every now and again and see off any invaders before they become colonists. We also have a fence of sorts, constructed of various sections of wire netting found around the garden, that I attached to iron posts that once probably held a proper boundary. For artistic merit my handiwork would doubtless score a perfect 0, but it forms a marker for any stray vegetation wandering through.

I made the mistake of asking Jackie to bring me some of the netting. This led her to divert from her own allotted task. Most of the netting came from a tangled heap behind a makeshift wooden screen near the side entrance to the house. She thought she would rather like to clear that space and make herself a den. This gave me the job of heavily pruning a holly and a bay tree that had got rather out of hand.. As I did this and smelt the wonderful scent of that culinary aromatic, I though of other bay trees I have known. The garden of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society in West Hill, Putney, possessed a beautiful bay tree, the elegance of which I always admired. In Newark, we had an enormous such tree, as high as the house and surrounded by pretty mature suckers, giving it the appearance of a very large bush. One day in the early 1990s I told Sylvia, the agency’s administrator, about this and asked why theirs was different. She explained that they had cut out all the surrounding growth to give it shape. I went home and did the same.

Jackie got her space, cleared it, and furnished it with further items from the skip pile. Jackie's denDiamond set in pathCentral pathThe shelves had once been in the garage, but I didn’t think they were quite up to scratch for the library. The rubbish heap has once more been somewhat depleted.

My lady’s main task today was to continue the renovation of the main central path through the garden. She did a good job on this, and added a tile with a concrete base she had found behind the screen to a path I had cleared some days ago.

For dinner we enjoyed chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and mushroom rice. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I had some more of the Languedoc.