Dressing Chef

I wandered around the garden in today’s early morning light.

Alongside the magnolia Vulcan stand the first of our rhododendrons in full bloom.

The small diurnal yellow and orange poppies that crop up everywhere have woken up;

forget-me-nots also thrust through soil and gravel at will;

even more ubiquitous are honesty,

and bluebells.

Iberis, aubretia, dicentra, hellebores, daffodils, and primulas are thriving, although perhaps the ant has nibbled the last of these.

Rusty Duck keeps an eye on some of the primulas and the lamiums.

Hairy pulmonaria breathes in the sunshine.

Florence sculpture has a good view of the yellow Japanese maple.

The Shady Path catches the sun.

Camellia petals carpet the soil.

Greenhouse geranium cuttings will soon be planted out.

Elizabeth and Jacqueline came for coffee and stayed for lunch for which

Jackie mixed the coleslaw, after which, she regretted that she hadn’t left it for the superbly competent Louis who

mixed the salad and its dressing. It was only after he had crushed peppers using a couple of dishes that he realised we had a pepper mill. Each ingredient to the dressing was carefully added with a little tasting.

Seven of us sat down to the meal. I am not in my place because I was behind the camera.

My two sisters left to visit our mother this afternoon. The rest of us dined this evening on roast duck; roast potatoes; yellow and orange carrots; cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli; sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, and tasty gravy. Louis drank Corona, I drank Dragon Hills Pinot Noir 2017, and the others drank Portuguese Rosé.

Spot The Partridge

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Jackie

While I lurked with a lens, Jackie continued, carefully, to cultivate the garden this morning.

Red tinges through garden

I had been struck by the trail of red from near tulips at the window to distant rhododendron.

Other touches of red are provided by the geraniums in the iron urn at the head of the Gazebo Path, rhododendrons, tulips, pieris, Vulcan magnolia, and heucheras;

Fly on poppy

little orange poppies have now opened out,

Forget-me-nots

Vinca

and forget-me-nots and vincas are ubiquitous.

Today there was no lull in the gloriously sunny weather when we went for a drive this afternoon.

We took a short walk round MacPenny’s garden at Bramsgore where rhododendrons and azaleas are beginning to enliven the beds and the pathways.

Most fields of cattle, like these at Thorney Hill, contain cud-chewing cows and languorous calves. They seem to be able to ignore the flies that surround their eyes and noses.

Partridge

Elusive partridges seemed to be darting everywhere. Can you spot this one?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s juicy lamb biriani with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the pinot noir.

 

 

No-one Will Buy Any Ice Cream Today

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Today the Met Office threatened us with continuous steady rain. It didn’t come. We were also promised a stiff breeze. We received that. It was to be cold. It was. 6 degrees centigrade to be precise.

Mrs Knight drove us to Ferndene Farm Shop. While I loaded the Modus with three bags of compost she entered the hut to pay for them and emerged with a tray of geraniums. And I had thought we were only going for compost.

There was much on display in the outside garden centre. Rows and rows of plants like pansies, pierises; heucheras, hottuynias, heathers; and cellophane swathed bouquets.

Numbers of people who had time in the day to shop wandered around making plant selections.

Jackie was one. She sought and found a suitable climbing rose.

Dead-heading Marguerites

The young woman from the sales department, who had been in shorts a couple of weeks ago, offered me the opinion that it was too cold for sandals (sans socks, you understand), upon which I stabbed the air with my right index finger and exclaimed vociferously “I always go into sandals at the first sign of summer and I am not going back to more suitable shoes just because we’re having a little blip. Brrr”. She suggested that the blog-bound photograph I would publish of her tidying up marguerites would make her famous.

New Forest Ice Cream sign

As it was a bit nippy I nipped back into the car while Jackie visited the shop for some carrots. Noticing the advertising sign beside the door I speculated internally that no-one would be buying ice cream today. As my lady returned to the driving seat she announced “I have bought some New Forest ginger ice cream”.

Just to be perverse, the sun crept out this evening, enough to brighten the garden.

We dined on Jackie’s succulent roast pork with perfect crisp crackling, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potato, ratatouille, runner beans, and carrots bought this morning. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the merlot.

 

The Fifth Child

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A cooler temperature and continuous overcast skies returned today. This gave me a more satisfactory light for photographing pale flowers which I always find difficult in sunshine.

Our later daffodils tend to be more white than yellow;

defying all attempts at eradication white alliums thrust their way through the soil throughout the garden, iberis thrives on the edge of the New Bed, and;

similarly hued tulips, daffodils, and primulas contrast with brighter reds and yellows;

tulips continue fully to open;

as does prunus Amanogawa at the front of the house.

Blue flowers include the first bluebells and prolific forget-me-nots.

I didn’t like Doris Lessing’s ‘The Fifth Child’. But then perhaps I wasn’t meant to. Even the author stated that she hated writing it. Nevertheless this most unpleasant child demanded attention from start to finish, at which I arrived this afternoon. It is a short modern horror story, details of which I will, as usual, refrain from revealing. Save to say that it involves a nightmare birth and terrifying childhood that puts unbearable strain on a happy family. The essence of its success must be that it comes so close to credible and touches the deepest fears of any parent.

The Fifth Child

Published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the selection of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Boy Reclining’ as the jacket cover is a masterstroke. The distant, unfocussed, eye in the portrait conjures up our current character and there are echos of the artist’s ‘Gormenghast’ Gothic fantasy series of novels in Ms Lessing’s work. It also reminded me of a cover I once drew for the Queens Park Family Service annual report.

This evening it was warm enough for us to have drinks on the patio before Jackie drove off to Hordle Chinese Take Away to collect our evening meal. While she was out we experienced a heavy hailstorm. This developed into a spectacular electric storm. I drank more of the Fleurie with my dinner.

 

The Big Beast Barrier

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Today, Jackie did a massive shop and I shifted a little more compost.

Orange streak on Honesty

Fluttering about the garden is what I think is, despite its yellow colouring, an Orange tip butterfly which stubbornly refuses to stop and pose. Instead this one held a mask of Honesty.

Azalea

This dwarf azalea is one that I brought from Sutherland Place when I left there in 2009. It had been part of the contents of a filled pot given to me when I stopped working with Parents for Children a couple of years earlier.

Bluebells (Spanish) and heucheras

Most of our bluebells ring Spanish tunes. Here a clump separates a pair of heucheras.

Forget-me-nots

These forget-me-nots have taken over one of the paths leading from the Rose Garden. We cannot bear to pull them up until they have flowered, so I guess we will continue to go the long way round to the orange shed.

Big Beast Barrier

Jackie’s new Big Beast Barrier has withstood the nocturnal marauder for at least one night. My original round peg has been staked in position and placed alongside one of the concrete blocks I dug out of this plot three years ago. The poles in the foreground are part of an obelisk which held up a clematis that appears to have died, having, according to Jackie, been subjected to the intruder’s urine. She is hoping to preserve the cyclamen from a similar fate.

Father Christmas left a bottle of Spice ‘n’ Easy fresh red chilli sauce in Jackie’s stocking. She found it a little too hot. She thought that sloshing a fair amount of it into tonight’s chilli con carne with savoury rice, might be a good way of eventually dispensing with it. I loved it. The Culinary Queen managed it. I drank Trivento Malbec reserva 2016. This could possibly have helped Jackie cool her meal, but she didn’t fancy it.

 

Blue Ice Cream

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Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots are now blooming throughout the garden, especially, like these, springing up through the paths.

Our resident robin began the day in the shrubbery before taking up his station and serenading us in the weeping birch.

We spent a sunny morning that began quite chilly, but managed to reach temperatures in double figures, driving around the forest.

The first stop was

Whitten Pond sign

Given the restrictions applied to activities there I can only assume that the numerous muddy, rutted, tracks leading to it had been made by thirsty ponies.

Lying off Pound Lane on the way to Ringwood, this pond, with its choppy wavelets slapping and bubbling against the banks, looked attractive enough,

although the surrounding moorland was pretty wet.

Cyclists were out in their numbers speeding across the moorland roads and the winding lanes. Some, in large groups, switched from single file to two and three abreast in what seemed a rather aggressive attempt to hold drivers back. At one point the third in a trio headed straight for Jackie who, not speeding anyway, had already slowed down.

I wondered whether the man in the red jacket had noticed the ponies to his left.

This spot is not far from Burley at which we arrived before most shops had opened. The village’s pair of geese patrolled the rather empty car park.

Magpie Antiques

10 a.m. is the usual opening time. Magpie Antiques already welcomed visitors,

Jackie buying fudge

as had Burley Fudge which, after sampling the wares, Jackie patronised.

Ice cream tubs

In the forecourt of the antiques shop stands an ice cream stall. This photograph is for Maximus Octavian who likes blue ice cream.

Honey Lane

Honey Lane in Burley Street is as enticing as ever.

Horses in the corner field to the right of the entrance still wear their winter rugs.

At Bramshaw donkeys shared the task of cropping the grass verges with ponies of differing sizes.

Magnolia

Magnolias are blooming throughout the villages. This one near these animals is rather splendid.

We took a diversion around the bottleneck that is Lyndhurst during the holiday seasons.

Along Bolderwood Road I debarked and wandered among the trees, crunching on the dry leaves underfoot, admiring the long shadows, and examining the fallen trees and crumbling stumps.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi, special fried rice and vegetable samosas; followed by apple pie and custard. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Beaujolais.

One Day Of Life

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I can spot a dandelion or a bramble when it grows big enough to be difficult to eradicate. The Head Gardener can spot any sort of weed as soon as it pokes through soil. She can distinguish that soon between a plant she will welcome and allow to live and another that must die. I am not safe in that department, so I don’t weed. Except for the few paltry dandelions and small cluster of brambles from one parent root that I removed today.

Jackie continued her phenomenal soil replenishment programme, sensibly choosing the Shady Bed for her main focus because it was pretty warm. It is worth repeating that this involves digging out poor soil, finger fishing thousands of tiny superfluous allium bulbs, adding spent potting compost, then

Planting in Shady Bed

planting, in this case begonias, mimuluses, and geraniums.

Aaron and Robin spent the morning working on the fence.

Rose Garden 1Rose Garden 2

In the Rose Garden the forget-me-nots in each picture have self-seeded around the base of Mum in a Million, planted in honour of my late mother-in-law, and just coming into bud. This seems rather thoughtful.

Poppies etc

These self-seeded orange poppies pop up all over the garden, only last a day, and are rapidly replaced.

Day Lily

The same applies to the similarly hued day lilies, so called for obvious reasons.

Irises

Fortunately these orange irises, along the Back Drive, having a delightful scent, bloom a little longer.

Clematis Niobe

The clematis Niobe enhancing the kitchen wall is now very vigorous;

Chilean Lantern tree

the Chilean Lantern tree is coming into flower;

Alliums

and different alliums emerge daily.

View From Decking 2

On the right of this view from the Decking the Cordyline Australis, otherwise known as Cabbage Plant, is coming into bud. It will soon bear sweet-smelling cascading floral filigrees.

Bird's nest

Beneath this palm Jackie found another bird’s nest that has served its purpose.

Sadly, this evening, we came to the end of the last batch of Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi, served with egg fried rice, parathas, and onion bhajis. I look forward to the next one. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta malbec 2014.