Imperial Leather

Jackie spent the morning weeding and planting. I chipped in with an hour of clearing up the leaves and other debris from our recent burning session.

After lunch I received a call from BT level 2. This is a more experienced adviser than the poor cannon fodder who field the first problem calls. Since we have had no interruption for the past eighteen hours or so, and I am convinced the problem is outside the house, I was not willing to waste my time or hers by going through the checks all over again, whilst I hung on to the phone when I could be doing something else. We compromised. I hung up. She asked me a few questions, then ran the checks, and called me back.

Well. What do you know? The problem is outside the house. Something I have been saying for a fortnight. There was a term for this, which I didn’t catch, since it was spoken in an Indian accent. There are three possible areas of difficulty: the exchange, the cabinet in the street, or underground. At least that is what I understood. An engineer is to be given the task of investigating this, and I will receive a phone call in three to four days time.

I was at last being given some sense, but we won’t hold our breath.

Our new bath was delivered on Thursday when I was in London. The man who brought it would not help take it upstairs because he wasn’t insured for that. At least he put bit in the hall, which is where it stayed until Jackie and I took it up ourselves. It helped me relax after yet another long distance technical conversation.

Sprinkler and cosmos

We then planted up yesterday’s three rose purchases and gave the whole of the rose garden a good sprinkling.

Rose Garden 1Rose Garden 2

These are two views from the bench by the orange shed.

Clerodendron trichotomum

The clerodendrum trichotomum undergoes quite a metamorphosis during its flowering. In future posts I will demonstrate this.

Butterfly Speckled Wood

Butterflies, such as the Speckled Wood, are enjoying the sunshine.

18108983_Soap_167533cWhen our new bath is installed our visitors may well be supplied with Imperial Leather soap. Alexander Tom Cussons 14.7.1875 – 20.8.51, chairman of the eponymous company, is best known for manufacturing this body cleansing agent.  He also manufactured a number of others which have since been discontinued. These included Apple Blossom, Linden Blossom, Lilac Blossom, Blue Hyacinth, and beautiful rose perfumed soap that led to the naming of the famous Wendy Cussons Rose. The rose was bred by Gregory & Sons of Nottingham, and was intended to be named after Tom’s daughter Marjorie, but instead she asked for it to be named after her brother’s wife, Wendy as she bore the name Cussons. This extremely successful fragrant hybrid tea has won many awards, and is still available today, over 50 years after its introduction.

Rose Wendy Cussons

Ours is now blooming.

This evening we dined on pork spare ribs in spicy barbecue sauce, savoury rice, and boiled new potatoes, followed by vanilla ice cream. Neither of us imbibed.

The Agriframes Arch

Rose CompassionBirch leaves, verbena petals, nasturtium leavesAfter yesterday’s constant rain, a bright morning lent a sparkle to everything in the garden. The Compassion rose was sprinkled with raindrops; as the broad nasturtium leaves that had halted the descent of those of the birch, and petals of verbena bonarensis.
Clerodendrum trichotomumClerodendrum trichotomum 2This clerodendrum trichotomum had the appearance of a parasol-shaped cocktail stick bearing a drop of Delboy’s pina colada, as featured in the long-running TV comedy series, ‘Only Fools And Horses’. It should have had a dark blue cherry fixed to the ferrule. Perhaps that has been eaten.
I took my usual Hordle Cliff beach Families on shinglewalk. On this sultry summery morning, ringside seats on the shingle were filling up fast.
Soon after midday we took delivery of an Agriframes Classic Gothic Arch, and set about assembling it and putting it in place. This was to occupy us until the light faded as the sun began to settle itself down for the night.
Jackie pondering instructionsEven Jackie was flummoxed by the totally inadequate instructions that were enclosed. She needed my input to help decipher them, which, as my regular readers will know, is really saying something. A favourite of the R.H.S. gardens at Wisley, this elegant structure comes with a fifteen year guarantee. This is quite crafty really because it could take several of those years, before it is exposed to the elements, to construct it.
At the midway stage, we were advised to fix the bottom poles into the ground. A hole-maker was provided for the purpose. This metal pole was easily driven into the soil on one side of the path the arch was to straddle. On the other side, a few inches down, I struck an immovable object. Stone? Concrete? I wasn’t about to find out. We moved the site until all four holes could be pierced to the required depth. From then on it was comparatively plain sailing. Until we found we had two screws left over. A minor panic ensued as we carefully checked each spacer bar. There were none missing, so we decided someone on the assembly line must have been feeling generous.
White bush roseThe need for the arch was occasioned by a beautiful mature white rambling rose that was, during the summer, running rampant over the surrounding shrubs. Jackie had pruned it heavily earlier in the Agriframe archyear as it was becoming a danger to passers by. Once we had erected the arch we trained much of the rest of the rose onto it. There is still tidying up to be done, but we had had enough for one day.
This evening Jackie will drive us to New Milton to collect Louisa who will stay overnight and leave with us early in the morning for Chris’s funeral. We will all be early to bed with Jackie’s lamb Jalfrezi inside us.

The Secret Garden Gate

Clerodendrum trichotomum

The clerodendrum trichotomum now wears its autumn colours.

Encouraged by our weekend’s progress on the back drive we decided to clear the other side today. Since most of this runs alongside the back of the unoccupied garden, it is a different prospect – more a question of determining which shrubs are ours and which our neighbours’. We are intent on clipping back rather than taking out. Except for where we started. This was the area behind our compost heap. It is a small inset corner that was completely overgrown, largely with brambles, to the height of the ornamental grass which is all that we have retained. That is as far as we got this morning. Once we had taken out the greenery, we had to remove possibly decades of rubbish that lay beneath the foliage.

Garden gate 1Garden gate 2The major discovery was a secret garden gate leading into the jungle plot. A thick electric cable still adheres to the post. Beyond the fence stand rows of bins and buckets full of rancid water that Jackie is convinced is the source of the mosquitos which plague us. We have both been covered in bites since I returned from France. Having cut her way through the foliage she entered the other garden and skilfully tipped out the foul-smelling liquid without bespattering herself. That should get rid of some of the larvae, although the adults are still plentiful. We also know there is a stagnant pond that Jackie has already done her best to clear. There may, of course, be far more incubators hidden away.

It was when I found evidence of at least a path leading to the gate that I decided to take a break. After all, as you may have suspected, I only took on this task to avoid digging up more slabs in the former kitchen garden.

Ploughing with seagullsAfter lunch Jackie drove me to the bank at New Milton and back. I then walked down to Shorefield post box. With his usual avian entourage Roger Cobb was ploughing his upper field.

Garden gate pathWhen I returned home we continued our work in the garden. Further clearance of the area around the garden gate involved transporting wonderful compost to other parts of the garden. Much of this matter had been stored in plastic bags which were piled up and had, themselves, reached such a level of decomposition to have become virtually shredded. Separating these from the soil was a painstaking task. By the time this was mostly removed, I hope I had unearthed the path to the little gate. But I have learned the hard way that you never know what you might find down there. Even though they would obviously be easier than the kitchen garden concrete, no way am I digging this lot up. Maybe we will one day learn the history of this erstwhile point of access.

For dinner this evening we enjoyed smoked gammon, cauliflower cheese, chips, and baked beans, followed by egg custard. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I opened a bottle of Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009, and drank some of it.

The Fender

Morning glory

The garden looked glorious in the morning light. In fact the morning glories lived up to their name. New flower bedIt was difficult to remember that the newly created bed through which runs the head gardener’s path was a jungle of bramble and overgrown shrubs completely obscuring the fence behind, on which were trained unseen clematises and camellias.Clerodendrum Trichotomum

A clerodendrum Trichotomum is coming into flower. These delicate blooms have various transformations to go through before they are done with delighting us.Fuchsia

A very leggy hardy fuchsia, rescued from the jungle at the far end of the garden now clings to the netting fixed to a tall dead tree stump.Japanese anemones

Most of our Japanese anemones are white, but there are some strategically placed pink versions, like this one growing through the red leaved maple.

Lacecap hydrangea

The lace cap hydrangea attracts insects like the hoverfly in this picture.

I have mentioned before that the small white butterflies flit about barely settling for a second. They are partial to the plants in the iron urn. Small white butterflyIf you have managed to find the hoverfly above, you may care to try your luck with this well-camouflaged butterfly on the lobelia.

Derrick staking gladiolusThis afternoon I read Hisham Matar’s introduction to Ivan Turgenev’s ‘On The Eve’, then started on the novel itself. I also did a little watering of plants, and staked up a gladiolus.

Early this evening, Becky, Ian, Flo, and Scooby, came to stay for a few days. With them, they brought birthday presents for Jackie and me jointly from them and Mat and Tess. FenderThe major shared present was a beautiful copper Art Nouveau fender Lamb jalfrezi, chicken korma, samosas, pilau ricewhich fits quite well in front of our wood burning stove. On each side of the stove itself tands one of a pair of bookends that Becky had given me about five years ago.

We all dined this evening on a splendidly authentic Jackie curry meal, consisting of lamb jalfrezi (recipe), chicken and egg korma, vegetable samosas, and pilau rice (recipe). Hoegaarden and fruit juice was consumed by the others whilst I drank Castillo de Alcoy 2010.

After this Ian and I walked with Scooby around the maize field.

‘You Know What You’ve Got’

My sinus pain was so acute this morning that I hadn’t much idea of doing anything that required getting out of a chair.  After all, I’d already got out of bed.  Jackie, however, visited the GP surgery for advice and medication.  A combination of this and another glowing autumn day made me think I really ought to get outside.

She bought me a copy of New Forest Post, a newspaper that is sold for 20p, which reminded me of an ‘Independent’ cryptic crossword clue that I had rather liked.  The subsidiary indication for the letter i was ‘what you can buy for 20p’.  That is the price of the truncated version of the newspaper which is named ‘i’.


Maple leavesFar more significant for today, however, was an advertisement for Exbury Gardens which is staying open another week and boasts considerable autumn colour.  So Jackie drove us off after lunch in search of splendid foliage. John blowing leavesJohn blowing leaves 2 We didn’t have far to go to find it, because now is the time for John to gather up the leaves in our garden.  Next week’s sweepings stubbornly clung to the trees above his head.


On the way to Exbury, where the house we short-listed is still for sale, we passed through Beaulieu, the river of which was reported by the newspaper to have overflown its banks.  We wondered whether this would have caused any traffic problems.  Although the surrounding forest is now being swamped by its winter pools, the river seems to have subsided.  We were, however, held up on the way back by tree clearances necessitated by the storm of a fortnight ago.


Jackie on pathExbury Gardens seemed to be devoid of arboreal corpses, although we could hear machinery operating in parts we didn’t visit.Trees and shrubs  Two days ago I Maples and rohododendronsspoke of the lack of red trees in the forest.  Now I know where they all are.  Created in the 1920s, the gardens extend over 200 acres of natural beauty, and are world-famous for their collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, rare trees, and shrubs.  The colours of these latter plants were quite spectacular, whether seen individually or laid side by side as in a painter’s palette.

Many of the trees here I have never seen before.  It is helpful that they have labels attached for our information. Lichen onmahogany barked cherry That describing the mahogany barked cherry tree was suspended by a copper wire complementing the stripes around the fresher sections of bark which hosted bright green lichen.Path beneath pines

Maple leaves on groundRed maple leaves on ground

No Persian carpet could rival those provided by the maples and the pines.

Some of the shrubs, for example the Clerodendrum trichotomums, are clearly grown for their fascinating berries.

Clerodendrum trichtomum

In the Five Arrows Gallery was a fine display of Nerines, of which the gardens have a splendid selection for sale.

Nerines exhibition

Pampas grasses and trees

Whether it was the air, the exercise, or the combination of Sudofed and Ibuprofen, I did feel somewhat better by the time we returned home.  It doesn’t really matter which it was, does it?  Notoriously resistant to taking anything for a headache, I am mellowing somewhat in my old age.  This would please my one-time Deputy, Carol Elstub, who once tried to persuade me to take paracetamol.  I said I didn’t like to take anything because if it made me better I wouldn’t know whether I still had whatever it was.  ‘You see’, I said, ‘I like to know what I’ve got’.  ‘You know what you’ve got’, she replied, ‘you’ve got a headache’.  There was no answer to that really.

This evening Jackie fed us on her Moroccan pork, couscous, runner beans and cauliflower; followed by bread pudding and custard.  And very good it all was, too.