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.

Keep Off My Roof

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We carried out a little more gardening maintenance today.

Jackie concentrated on conditioning beds and pots like this sweet pea trough.

Jackie preparing sweet pea trough 1

It was not her own hunger that caused her to apply her teeth to the seal of the Miracle Gro tub.

Sweet pea trough

This was food for the plants.

Compost on oval bed

In addition to my usual clearing up after the Head Gardener, I transferred more barrow loads of compost to the Oval Bed.

A sleek jackdaw patrolling our ridge tiles, head turning this way and that, uttered repeated warning cries of ‘Keep off my roof’.

This evening we dined on roast chicken; sweet and ordinary roast potatoes; sage and onion stuffing; with green and orange mixed veg, namely Brussels sprouts, carrots, and green beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and i drank Cimarosa Limited Edition shiraz 2014.

A Lost Shadow

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Ronan the Boilerman fitted a new thermostat to our hot water cylinder tank this morning. That means we no longer scald our hands and have to turn on the cold tap every time we want to wash them.

Jackie spent much of the day weeding and planting.

Elizabeth's bed

Once The Head Gardener had prepared it, I covered Elizabeth’s bed with compost. It took eight bags.

Brick path

The gradual burgeoning throughout the garden can be seen, for example, along the Brick Path – and, yes, Jackie has smuggled in another owl since this was las displayed –

Margery's Bed

and along Margery’s Bed, in the foreground of which a geranium palmatum has pushed its way into the light.

Tulips and pansiesTulips

We have varieties of tulip,

tulipa saxatilis lilac wonder

including tulipa saxatilis lilac wonder;

Daffodils

daffodil;

Aquilegia

and aquilegia.

Japanese maple

elegant leaves stretch their fingers out from this Japanese maple.

Pulmonaria and heuchera

Pulmonaria crops up everywhere,

Bee on pulmonaria

attracting equally hirsute bees clutching petals as they suck the nectar.

Butterfly Small White and honesty

Butterflies, like this Small White flitting from honesty to honesty, are also back,

Poppy and shadow

as are poppies, one of which, like Peter Pan, has lost its shadow.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice Ferndene Farm Shop chilli pork sausage casserole, mashed potato, carrots and Brussels sprouts, followed by chocolate eclairs. The Cook drank Hoegaarden, whilst I consumed more of the madiran.

‘You Wouldn’t Like To Do That Again, Would You?’

On another warm and sunny day that, once we had got going in the garden, felt like the height of summer, we continued soil preparation. In addition to all her other maintenance tasks

Palm Bed

Jackie dug in the compost she had laid on the Palm Bed yesterday,

Rose Garden

and I completed the mulching of the rose garden with three more 100 litre bags of Landscape Bark. I swear they are becoming heavier by the day.

View from Back Drive to Roase Garden

Looking from the Back Drive towards this section,

View across Heligan Path

or across the Helicon Path towards the house,

one can see the burgeoning new growth popping up everywhere.

Bluebells Spanish

We now have profusions of Spanish bluebells,

Forget me nots

and of forget-me-nots.

Pigeon 1

Permanently perched on the telephone cable over Christchurch Road is a male collared dove,

Pigeon 2

pretending he is nothing to do with the nest in our holly tree upon which his lady is incubating.

Even when paying a visit, he first lands on the flowering cherry photographed yesterday. Since he is quite a ponderous creature he shakes the boughs freeing many cherry petals,

Hannah, Ben and Sam 5.83 1

just as Matthew did to the delight of Hannah, Ben, and Sam in May 1983.

This evening we dined at Dynasty in Brockenhurst with Elizabeth, Danni and Andy. My choice was lamb shatkora, special fried rice an onion bhaji. Along with Jackie I drank Kingfisher. The others drank red wine, cobra, or coke. Service and food were excellent.

The restaurant is close to the ford which we could see was waterlogged. As we were ten minutes early, I sniffed a photo opportunity and wandered down the road.

Ford and car

This was the scene as I approached, directly into the sun.

I was a bit slow to catch two cyclists wheeling through their spray. As they passed me I cried: ‘You wouldn’t like to do that again, would you’. ‘Do it again?’ was the reply. ‘Yes’, I answered.

Cyclists at ford 1

They immediately turned tail, sped through the water,

Cyclists at ford 2

Cyclists at ford 3

and, returning quite happily, enjoyed another shower.

Not Quite The Man I Was

Bay branches

When Jackie heavily pruned a bay tree in our front garden last autumn, some of the branches escaped into the untended jungle next door.

This morning, I decided to do the decent thing and remove them. I cut them to size and filled one of the gravel container bags with them. Later, Jackie and I donated them to the Efford Recycling Centre, along with another bagful we had collected during the week. We only came back with a large cut glass bowl.

This afternoon we visited Mole Country Stores where we bought a new post for the uprooted side gate and three bags of Landscape Bark. This outlet hast vast areas both inside and out where can be acquired most garden materials I can think of, and quite a few I wouldn’t have known about. Among other goods, the outside yard alone displayed

Stakes

 stacks of timber stakes in all shapes and sizes;

Mole yard 1

house coal;

Mole yard 2

Irish Moss Peat;

Mole yard 3

compost, topsoil, and landscape bark.

The company also caters for equestrian needs, such as harness and bedding. Unless someone is breeding very large rabbits, I imagine

Carrots

these bright orange carrots are intended for horses.

As I make my way through my eighth decade, it is only time that travels faster than it did in earlier days. Certain adaptations have to be made. It was when my arthritic right wrist, perhaps suffering from this morning’s exertions, made me aware that I could not lift my share of the Landscape Bark bags that I was reminded that I am not quite the man I was.

Young women carrying Landscape Bark

The offer of help from two beautiful young women was therefore gratefully accepted, and I did my best not to feel embarrassed, but to stand back and enjoy it.

Back home, it was almost warm enough to sit down with drinks. Instead, we wandered around with them.

Daffodils

Daffodils lining the Heligan Path have a marked, pleasant, scent.

We dined on Jackie’s excellent lamb jalfrezi, succulent savoury rice, and vegetable samosas; followed by chocolate sponge pudding and custard. While The Cook drank Kingfisher, I finished the madiran.

Chips And Gravy

Vine weevil larvae have been feeding on the roots of Jackie’s prized heucheras. Our eagle-eyed Heucherahead gardener spotted the wilting plants yesterday afternoon, lifted what was left of them, scraped off the infestation, and placed them in water to encourage new growth. The rubber duck is keeping its eye on them.

Vine weevilsFavouring those in pots, these voracious intruders, less than the size of a little finger nail, destroy the roots of plants, requiring a painstaking process of filtering the soil to eradicate Filtering weevil infested soilthem. This is made more difficult by white material often found in compost. Jackie dons rubber gloves and weeds them out, repotting the affected plants. This is the damage that they do:Heuchera roots

She continued the task this morning.

Not being tempted to repeat yesterday’s trek, I took my normal walk to Hordle Cliff top Friesan cattleFriesan cattle 2and back. Friesan cattle occasionally amorous, clustered on the slopes at the bottom of Downton Lane, created fascinating random black and white patterns as they huddled together. When any one was subjected to an attempt at mounting she simply walked away, leaving her suitor with no alternative but to flop back in embarrassment onto all fours.

Street lamp replacementAlong the coast road, a tidy up crew were clearing away the barriers and filling in the holes left during the replacement of the street lighting. Interestingly, there is no street lighting on our stretch of Christchurch Road, with its 60 mph speed limit, approaching a crossroads, although there are three or four lamps on Downton Lane, each one placed on a bend.MushroomsMushroom

Possibly flourishing in the sea air, the mushroom crop, producing its own intriguing symmetrical patterns, increases daily.

On an early morning shopping trip, Jackie had noticed Lidl were selling oil filled radiators. You never know when you might need one, and with this store’s surprises you have to be quick to catch them before they disappear, so we went back this afternoon and bought one.

Afterwards we put in a good stint on the back drive. Jackie continued the creation of her lengthy flowerbed on one side, and I dug up more bramble and ivy roots.

A mixed grill to rival that of The Plough at Tiptoe was produced by Jackie for our evening meal. With the addition of peppers and onions hers was rather less dry than that of the pub. She included neither beef steak nor lamb chop, but the large gammon steak made up for that. I could just about manage to eat a tiramisu afterwards. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the Lion’s Gate wine.

One of the attractions for me of The Crown Inn at Everton is that chips and gravy comes as standard with their steak and kidney pudding. It is otherwise infra dig to pour gravy over chips. Chips must be dry, and it is mash that must be dowsed in gravy. Having witnessed me betraying my penchant for this culinary crime at The Crown, Jackie provided gravy for my meal tonight. She didn’t think it really appropriate for a fried egg, and therefore didn’t partake, but for me it was perfection.

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.