Our Joint One Good Knee

Last night I watched a recording of Saturday’s breathtaking rugby match between Wales and South Africa; after lunch today the soporific contest between Scotland and Argentina.

Bright sunshine had taken me into the rather cold garden this morning.

Winter pansies and trailing ivy adorn hanging baskets on the sitting room walls.


and Japanese maples brighten several vistas.

Surprises include lingering snapdragons

and nascent honeysuckle.

Ubiquitous flamboyant fuchsias continue to flounce among the beds.

Clematises needing warmer weather have died back from the gazebo, but the Cirrhosa Freckles will enliven their support right through until spring.

Carpet roses, like this one in the Weeping Birch Bed, pile on the blooms.

Serpentine stemmed bobbles of Japanese anemones cavort before a spider web in the Rose Garden.

A few crinkly leaves are still to fall from the copper beach;

the Weeping Birch has shed all hers.

Being possessed of our one joint good knee, it fell upon Jackie to fit a new toilet seat in the print room.

This evening we dined on Jackies’s splendid lamb jalfrezi with savoury rice followed by profiteroles. My wife drank Hoegaarden; sister Elizabeth drank Hop House lager; and I drank Tesco’s finest Médoc 2016.

A Little Bit O’ Bloomin’ Luck


Today began dark, wet, and windy. Thinking we would be unable to do much more in the garden we transported the results of yesterday’s crab apple pruning to Efford Recycling Centre.

Plant pots

As is the Head Gardener’s wont, she bought two more fibreglass faux terra cotta plant pots from the sales area.

The sun did put in brief appearance this afternoon, so I was able to present a snapshot of the first official day of Spring.

Jackie has also started buying plants, like these violas,

Snakes head fritillaries

and these snake’s head fritillaries just plonked in an urn for the moment.

Kitchen bed 1

Both are visible in this shot of the kitchen bed.

Camellias 1

These camellias shed their confetti-like petals on the Dead End Path.

Garden view from Margery's Bed

Others are visible on either side of the decking in this view beyond Margery’s Bed;

Dragon Bed 1

more in the Palm Bed;

Head Gardener's Walk 1

and beside the Head Gardener’s walk which also displays cyclamens.

These two were buried in darkness when we arrived three years ago. Now they are able to flower,

Dragon Bed 1

being visible from across the Dragon Bed.

Head Gardener's Walk 2

Figures lining the walk include dragons and a cherub.

There are, of course, hellebores and daffodils everywhere;


and pulmonaria, such as these clambering over a brick boundary.


A small mahonia planted last year is thriving along the back drive,

Vinca and hellebores

where a periwinkle has been stencilled on our neighbours’ wall.

A little bit of luck is essential to a successful photoshoot. As I was focussing on the garden it was appropriate that mine today should be blooming.

Epimedium 1

I was unhappy with my first shot at the epimediums, so I went back out to make some more efforts.

Then came my first ‘little bit o’ bloomin’ luck’. A bee had decided it was now warm and dry enough to flit from bloom to bloom.

As I clicked away at this insect, I received a second stroke. More clicking above my head alerted me to the fact that a pair of long-tailed tits were using the weeping birch branches as trapezes.

This warranted a tribute to Stanley Holloway:

This evening we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese takeaway with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Callia magna Malbec 2014.

A Pot Of Dragons

Following a request from Paul, I made two more prints for the exhibition today.


Shady Path 2

This A4 of the shady path on 20th October last year was another I had forgotten,

Chair and bed head

and we now have an additional A3 copy of the Weeping Birch Bed from 12th March that same year.

Before the welcome rain set in early this afternoon, Jackie planted many flowers, back and front; and we jointly filled and transported to the dump four more large bags of hedge cuttings.

Dragons in pot

As is her wont, The Head Gardener did not take home an empty car. On our first trip we returned with a hoe, a plant pot rack, and a large plant pot which she filled with a collection of dragons and lotus flowers. Well, they are made of metal, and we do have a Dragon Bed. On our way back from the last trip we bought tw more bags of compost from Otter Nurseries.

Jackie folded a few more flyers for me to distribute locally.


So important is colour in curry that I have often marvelled at those clinging to my empty plate after eating one of Jackie’s authentic meals like tonight’s lamb jalfrezi served with vegetable samosas, chick pea dhal, pilau rice, and parathas. With this wonderful meal Jackie drank Kingfisher, and I finished the madiran. Cremes brûlées were to follow.


WoodpeckerJackie’s patience in watching the bird table from her kitchen hide has paid off.  The two most timid feeders are the woodpecker and the blackbird.  BlackbirdThrough the glass of the French windows she managed to photograph each of them this morning.

It was a much cooler and duller day today.  This afternoon we motored out to Burley to buy birthday presents which cannot yet be revealed in this forum.

Depending on how one defines the term grockle, we, once arch grockles, may no longer warrant this disparaging local term.  A grockle, especially in the SW of England, is a tourist or an incomer.  It was Hugh Lowther, sometime in the 1970s or ’80s, in Cumbria who first introduced me to the term.  Although he had spent much of his life outside the area, he, as the eldest son of the Earl of Lonsdale, could definitely consider himself beyond that epithet.

As we drove into the grocklesville that is the New Forest village of Burley, we speculated that the tourists who swarmed around may be thinking that the forest was a wonderful place and they wanted to live there.  And we did live there.  We felt sad for them that, as we wandered into the main street with its gift and tea shops, the rain set in.  On our way back it was windscreen wipers all the way.


Nevertheless, the brave were tucking into New Forest ice cream.

Burley has a reputation for the occult.  Dragons and witches and everything to do with them fill the gift shops.  Indeed, when our granddaughter was younger, Jackie bought many a dragon here for Flo, who, at the age of twelve, created her own dragonology website, such was her fascination with the mythical creatures.

The legend of the dragon originated in olden times.  There was said to be one living in a lair just outside the village.  One local tale is that the monster flew every morning three miles away to Bisterne, where it would be supplied with milk.  It was slain by a man who lay in wait for it and administered the decisive thrust whilst the victim was diverted by his two dogs.  A pedigree roll preserved at Berkeley Castle contains marginalia relating the story and naming the hero as Sir Maurice Berkeley, lord of the manor of Bisterne in the 15th century.

WitchcraftLegends should be age-old.  One could therefore feel a little cheated to learn that the witches of Burley, who one may be forgiven for imagining cast their spells at least as long ago as the seventeenth century, were only one person, and she lived there in the late 1950s, when I was in my teens.  To my younger readers this may seem historic, but only if I do.  Sybil Leek, a self-styled white witch, lived then in the village, around which she walked with her pet jackdaw, or familiar, on her shoulder, before she moved to America.  There are a couple of antique shops selling jewellery among other things.  Did the jackdaw, a member of a race of notorious thieves, I wonder, leave a hoard for these shopkeepers to discover and market?  And does Sybil retain the power to look down on her one-time home and see the industry she has spawned?

Unable to resist the temptation to serve up my third roast pork dinner in four days, Jackie did so.  Rice pudding and custard was to follow. Only I had the custard.  It was worth being called a philistine for.  I drank some of Terres de Galets cote du Rhone 2012, bottle number 012919.  Jackie’s choice was Prestige de Calvet semillon chardonay 2011.