Spot The Difference

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In today’s gardening division of labour my contribution was weeding the back drive, while Jackie continued planting, weeding, and watering.

My main focus was on the bed alongside the new fence.

This involved clambering between dead stumps and the fencing and digging out stubborn brambles and sticky Willies. I had not anticipated needing to use a fork on all this, but, most unusually for April, there has been so little rain that the ground is rock hard. Consequently I didn’t get very far. For those readers interested in the scale of things this drive is 75 yards long and the width of a terraced house plot.

Jackie filled the Rose Garden urns – one on the brick pillar we have just rebuilt – with compost

in readiness for these lilies bought from the Hordle Post Office a couple of days ago.

Other plantings in the Oval and Elizabeth’s Beds and the Rose Garden are mostly represented by labels.

Corner of Palm Bed at Fiveways

In this corner of the Palm Bed we have tulips; a yellow Japanese maple that clearly needs the pruning treatment;

Rhododendron 1

and a pink rhododendron just coming into bud.

Tree peony

A yellow tree peony competes with the latter over which will be the first in full bloom.

Daffodils, honesty, and hellebores continue to thrive.

This cream verbascum stands on the Back Drive bed,

Clematis Montana

and this clematis Montana spills over the front garden wall,

behind which a yellow potentilla is flowering. Can you guess what, when I put the first of these pictures of it up on the screen, got me rushing out there?

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips, Garner’s pickled onions, and Tesco’s gherkins. I drank Doom Bar beer.

Lurking In The Shade

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Today Aaron and Robin levelled out the soil flanking the new fence and cleared away our last items of debris in preparation for building a log store.

Bath and other debris

The rubbish included the buried bath, now in its last resting place on the Back Drive, before removal to the dump.

Walking in The Sea Back 002

I finished reading Barrie Haynes novelette ‘Walking in the Sea’ this morning. The illustrator is Barrie’s young granddaughter whose cover appeared on https://derrickjknight.com/2016/08/05/deadheading/

The blurb accurately describes the essence of this scurrilous romp which would probably, perhaps slightly Bowdlerised, provide the basis of a good TV detective series plot. Written almost entirely in the present tense, with direct, uncomplicated, and amusing prose, the book carries the reader along, keeping its essential secrets to the end. It was certainly easier reading than Jane Austen, its humour requiring rather less work.

Brambles 1

I have occasionally mentioned our ongoing battle against invading brambles. This is what happens if we relax for  week.

Brambles 2

This time I reached over the fence with the long loppers in order to stem the flow at the lowest possible level.

Dragon's Bed 1Dragon's Bed 2

On my way back down the garden I spied The Head Gardener lurking in the shade beside the Dragon’s Bed.

Crocosmias

There are two types of crocosmia in this bed. The yellow one did not flower at all last year.

Cosmoses with bees

Drowsy bees clambered in and out of the cosmoses.

Florences's view

Here is Florence’s view past the hanging geraniums to Compassion rose climbing across the Dead End Path;

Hollyhocks

whilst beside the Phantom Path to the left, Margery’s hollyhocks soar aloft.

Rudbeckia

There are several clumps of Rudbeckia. This one is in the Palm Bed.

Ornamental grass, petunias, lobelias, nicotiana sylvestris

At the corner of the Cryptomeria Bed, ornamental grass; petunias, lobelia, and geraniums in hanging baskets; nicotiana; and buddleia stand in line.

Sprinkler

We enjoyed a drink in the Rose Garden where Jackie operated the sprinkler, and

Fuchsia and beyond

a fuchsia leads us past phlox and through the arch beside the hollyhocks featured above.

Jackie’s dinner this evening consisted of pork medallions baked in mustard and brown sugar topped with almond flakes; courgette, tomato and onion gratin; crisp carrots and green beans; boiled new potatoes; and tasty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Becks and I drank sparkling water.

Soil Transfusion

Dawn

An early bird atop the oak across Christchurch Road admired this morning’s dawn sky which presaged a fine day.

Washing in garden

And so it was. Warm enough to put the washing out.

North Breeze garden 1North Breeze garden 2North Breeze garden 3North Breeze garden 4North Breeze garden 5North Breeze garden 6

My meagre task of the day was to begin the ongoing battle with the triffid invasion from our neighbour, North Breeze.

Bramble uprooted

It is important to tackle the aliens early enough to prevent them from rooting on our side of the ramshackle border, as had this bramble.

Greenhouse

When they burst through the greenhouse glass, as they did in the film (see the above link), then we will surely need to watch out.

It is a sad aspect of this jungle that it was once a wonderful garden, where the ghosts of such as

Rose

this rose,

Blossom

this fruit tree,

Magnolia 1

this camellia,

Magnolia

and this magnolia, battle through to the light.

North Breeze garden 7

North Breeze neighbours the whole of the West side of our property, and turns the corner along the North side of the Back Drive,

Sparrow

where, watched by a sparrow,

Jackie planting back drive

Back Drive border 1

Jackie was putting the finishing touches (just for the moment) to her creative planting.

Soil transfusion

Another regular operation she performs, on which she was engaged later, is soil transfusion. Much of the soil in the garden is rather anaemic and needs replenishing. Here, the surgeon has cut out a poorly section, removed the spent matter, and inserted a healthy supply.

She will then sift through the choked plants she has carefully preserved, extracting the smelly allium bulbs, and replant what she wishes to keep.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb jalrezi with savoury rice and parathas. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I drank Kingfisher.

Close Encounters Of The Asinine Kind

Although The Needles lighthouse fog warning could still be heard, last night’s mist eventually cleared from Downton to reveal a splendid warm and sunny day, on the morning of which my garden meandering revealed:

Forsythia

a forsythia,

Azalea

and, now budding, the azalea transported from Sutherland Place.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom can now me seen emerging from the North Breeze brambles,

Greenhouse and brambles 1Greenhouse and brambles 2

which are choking that abandoned garden’s greenhouse,

and, ‘imitating the action of the [triffids]’, again sending their tentacles across our makeshift fence. This afternoon I cut them back.

Ponies on greenPony 1StreamStream and ice cream van

This afternoon Jackie drove us around the North of the forest. On this balmy day we knew we would see the usual animals wandering on the roads and through the villages. Ponies chomped grass on the green and by the stream at Ibsley where an ice cream van was doing a good trade. A boy paddled in the water sucking on his ice cream while his parents sat on a rock eating theirs. I didn’t think it politic to photograph them. This area had been waterlogged when we brought Flo there for a photo session last year.Pony 2

Pony 3

On the banks of the stream the dappled sunlight enhanced the strawberry ripple of a grey pony, and another looked as if its dye had run into the gently flowing ruddied water.Donkey on roadDonkey 2Donkey rear view

Donkeys abounded in North Gorley. One, sleepily, lay in the road for a good hour or so, only lifting its head when a car sped past. It pricked up its long ears and raised its nose quite suddenly, but dropped it slowly to the ground once the danger was past. It seemed to know exactly how far to let it fall before coming to rest. At no time did it move the rest of its body, any more than did the grey/white one on the grass outside The Royal Oak pub. These two animals were treating their different heated surfaces as electric blankets.Pheasants on roof

Perched on top of the thatch of Cobweb Cottage in Hyde, were two pheasants. Jackie thought there would be no chance of their flying away at the sight of the camera, so I might get a decent shot in. Perhaps the person who fitted the weather vane was a cricket fan.

It was on the approach to this village that encounters with the fauna became, to varying degrees, disconcerting. Having been attracted by the long shadows cast by the donkeys as they grazed beneath the trees, I emerged from the car, camera at the ready. But they were onto me. Almost literally. One in particular advanced at a steady, silent pace, merging its shadow into mine. Backing away didn’t help, so I settled forDonkey 1

another grazing,

Donkeys necking

and two of its companions necking.

I gave up and returned to the car. No sooner had I sat in the passenger seat and closed the door than my more attentive acquaintance pushed its head through the open window, poised its muzzle inches from my crotched started moving it up and down. I felt particularly uneasy, not to say queasy, until I realised that my persistent suitor was scratching its neck on the window frame. That is what caused the rhythmic movement and the flaring of the nostrils. There was nothing for it but to use it as a photo opportunity.

Donkey's eye 1Donkey's eye 2

Donkey's eye 3 - Version 2

When Jackie asked me if I had taken any shots that showed the animal in the context of having penetrated into the car, I replied that I couldn’t get far enough away to have anything in the frame but the asses head. It was like photographing Shakespeare’s Bottom from centre stage.

I am sure that the donkeys themselves are harmless. But what they carry is not. These creatures bear the ticks that give humans Lyme disease  when they bite them. A visit to Google will provide details of this unpleasant affliction. I did rather hope that my amorous friend wasn’t dislodging its ticks into our car.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her superb sausage casserole, mashed potato, cauliflower and broccoli. I finished the rioja and my lady abstained.

P.S. Becky has pointed out that three of Jackie’s fingers on the steering wheel are reflected in the donkey’s eye.

Over The Top

Shady pathOnce Jackie had finished her recent clearing job in the bed on what was originally ‘the shady path’, the very wobbly line of the edging tiles so upset my sensibilities that today I reset them into a more pleasing curve with suitably concentric parallels. This required a little more gravel in the sections where I had moved the bend inwards.

We still hadn’t taken our trip to Ace Reclaim at Hurn, so we decided to do that and divert to Ferndene Farm Shop for the decorative stone on the return journey.

At the architectural salvage depot we did not find anything suitable for restraining the rampant rose, but we did find something which readers may be forgiven for thinking we had quite enough of already. View left from Ace Reclaim benchView towards house from Ace Reclaim benchJackie had noticed when clearing her patch that there was an attractive view either to the left or the right, suggesting it might be quite a good position for a perch. She had in mind a single seat, but we spotted a two-seater bench that could just be squeezed into the car. So we bought it.

We bought two bags of Dorset stone at Ferndene. While we were there, if we were going to place the bench on recently dug soil, it made sense to buy a couple of heucheras and a vinca ‘Illumination’ to enhance the site. Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 1Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 2Back at home we positioned our purchase, and Jackie planted the flowers, with three begonias for good measure. I then spread and raked the gravel and we had a sit down.

The rooms in our garden can now be described as fully furnished.

Whilst setting the tiles, I reflected on the fact that, for all the work I have done in the garden during the last three months, this was the first satisfyingly creative piece I had managed. The rest was all clearance and destruction. I also thought of how I had come to be rather a dab hand at positioning these attractive boundary markers. This was in the late 1980s in Newark. Our, albeit still very large, garden there had once been much more extensive. A big section of it had been sold for development, but, for our first few years there, nothing was happening. The original Victorian garden had been bounded by these attractive tiles. Some were now buried by a century’s accumulation of soil, but Jessica and I dug them up for use in creating divisions in a vegetable-growing area out of a rough piece of ground. That was also, incidentally, my first effort at laying gravel paths. I had crushed up bricks and road stone to produce about ten inches of hardcore, and covered this with sand before applying the top surface of gravel. This rather amused John Parlett who had bought the aforementioned building plot and erected his own bungalow. He thought I had gone a bit over the top. He was too tactful to say so, but his knowing smile and the twinkle in his eye said it all. This amazing man, a plasterer by trade, used a Readers Digest manual to teach himself how to instal his plumbing and electricity. John had saved our ceiling, as described on 2nd March 2013.

To return to the tiles, I wasn’t sure I would have enough. It was Mum who came up with the idea that the tiles would have extended into what we then called ‘the waste ground’. There was as yet no boundary, and the land looked pretty much like the deserted jungle next door here. But Mum was right. More tiles were there for the taking. Enough to complete the task.

MaizeMaize 2Early this evening I wandered down Downton Lane and turned right into the field, ploughed in April, where a fine crop of maize was coming to fruition.

Deadly nightshade

Deadly nightshade now blooms in the hedgerow.

Bramble across back driveIt is becoming rather more hazardous to use the back drive to enter the lane, as the brambles sporting the blackberries that I still want to pick when they have ripened, stretch right across it.

The final evolution of the splendid sausage casserole, supplemented by pork rib rack in chilli sauce, mashed potato, and vegetables provided our dinner this evening. Jackie drank sparkling water whilst I consumed a glass of Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon 2012.

Privilege Customer

Bramble blossom

BrambleNo matter how thorough you try to be in pulling up and eradicating brambles, there are always some that catch your eye as you wander around. For this reason I went on a bramble hunt today. Some, by now, are announcing their presence with blossom and budding fruit; others are so long and straggly they make you wonder how you missed them. So skilled in the art of camouflage are these thorny ramblers that I was constantly amazed at how much space was opened in the shrubberies simply by removing them. No doubt if I repeat the process in a day or two, I will be equally surprised.

Jackie continued weeding, watering and planting.

EchinopsagapanthushoneysuckleHibiscusAmong the recent discoveries more welcome than the unwanted growth have been echinops, agapanthus, and honeysuckle whose pink blends quite well with the blue arch around which it clambers.

Not knowing what colour to expect, we have been eagerly awaiting the blooming of the hibiscus in the front garden. We were not disappointed by its interesting pink hues.

For a late lunch today we visited the Needles Eye Cafe in Milford on Sea. Jackie enjoyed a cheese omelette, chips, salad, and diet coke; whilst I, once I had jogged the waiter’s memory, relished a maxed-up breakfast with tea. This large fry-up comes with toast and marmalade. For the second time, my toast was forgotten. I assured the staff member that I did not take it personally as I was not paranoid.

Beach sceneBeach scene 2We had not been to this beach in hot holiday weather before, so it was something of a shock to walk to the path at the top of the shingle and be confronted by a picture postcard scene. ‘Oh, yes. We live here’, we said.

After our meal Jackie drove us on to Stewart’s Garden Centre at Christchurch and back. Just before my last trip to France, I had signed up for a Stewart’s Privilege Customer card. One of the benefits of this is that you may buy two samples of specific plants at half price. The choice changes monthly. The July selection is agapanthus. After dropping me off at the airport on 8th July, Jackie hot wheeled it off to Stewart’s to choose her agapanthuses. She found two marvellous full-budded specimens. Taking out the coupon from the monthly magazine, she proffered her pennies. She was asked for the Privilege card. Ah. It was in my wallet in Sigoules.

The card is now safely in Jackie’s purse, so off we had gone to choose some more of the perennial blue plants. Agapanthus and clematisesUnfortunately there were only a few, decidedly past their best for this year, left. Never mind, we could still have two of them – and we found two that will do very nicely next year – and, in compensation for their condition, a clematis also at half price. we chose Inspiration ‘Zoin’.

LilyThis evening I wandered down to the postbox. A lily has escaped into the hedgerow in Downton Lane.

An Alfresco Bath

Bottle brush plant

 

The red bottle brush plant, which I passed on my way to continue work on the kitchen garden, is now looking resplendent.

 

Nettles, honeysuckle and raspberriesRaspberriesSt John's wortThere are a great deal of treasures hidden in the undergrowth of today’s target area. Peeking through nettle leaves, for example, are raspberries. A blackcurrant bush bears fruit, strawberries soon will, and St John’s wort lies at the bottom of the green cage.

A previous post, in which I described mistaking an acanthus for a thistle, demonstrates how it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between somewhat similar plants. Today, until the head gardener informed me that raspberry bushes are less thorny than brambles, I was uncertain in the application of my loppers. Neither was I sure about stinging nettles which look very similar to another plant that bears a spire of purple flowers. When I was faced with a plentiful crop of both, there was nothing for it but to remove my gloves and clutch the leaves. These particular nettles bear slow acting poison, so I rubbed them a few times before I was sure I had been stung. They were a little like a strong curry that doesn’t betray its chilli content until you’ve taken a few mouthfuls. And rather less pleasant.

AcanthusI am pleased to report that the acanthus has recovered from my savage attack, and has produced new shoots,  one in bloom.

By mid-afternoon it was apparent that the expected rain, which had deterred me from thinking about a bonfire today, was not going to arrive. I therefore left the kitchen garden clearance for another day, and began the fire. This was rather fortuitous, because I had reached a stumbling block near the back fence. This came in the form of a box hedge which had got beyond itself and barred access to the back section. I cleared this as best I could of weeds, convolvulus, and the ubiquitous bramble, by stretching over the obstacle. I then struck something I could not clear without circumventing the box. Jackie had transferred a number of the finds, like a pleasant saxifrage, the St John’s wort, and several kinds of mint, to other parts of the garden.

Bath in gardenWhat I had found needed to be emptied before it could, no doubt, be moved and filled with colourful flowers. It was a bath.

Jackie planting clematis texansis Duchess of AlbanyTowards the end of the day I was grateful for some assistance from the head gardener in cutting up combustible materials and placing them in a wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to practice touching my toes to pick them up. This helped to ensure that I didn’t topple over while doing so. In fact, even in what Sam would call my able-bodied years, I never could touch my toes without bending my knees.

Knotty faceBefore dinner Jackie planted a clematis texensis Duchess of Albany in a cleared part of the kitchen garden, and trained it against an existing pergola. Our rose garden will also contain clematises. She added a shell to the fence, for the humorous touch.

After this we dined on chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas, followed by Post House Pud based on strawberries. The strawberries were eight days beyond their ‘best before date’, so they were a bit furry, but with a certain amount of judicious cutting, we saved a few.  Jackie drank her customary Hoegaarden and I enjoyed a Longhorn Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012.