A Wildlife Garden

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CLICK ON IMAGES (ESPECIALLY THE CRICKET) TO ENLARGE. REPEAT (ESPECIALLY THE CRICKET) IF REQUIRED.

DID I MENTION THE CRICKET?

It is two years since we were last assisting our friend Giles in opening his garden in Milford on Sea. Once more, today, we took the first stint in his rota.

Jackie on the door

Overnight rain had only recently desisted at 11 a.m., so Jackie, on the door, had plenty of opportunity to work on her puzzles,

Giles and visitors

while Giles and I chatted until the first visitors arrived.

Wildlife Gardening Award Certificate

Blu-tacked onto the entrance window is a well-deserved certificate.

Giles's sculpture 1

Beneath this is one of the gardener’s creative sculptures, made from found objects. The upright stone was once part of a window in Southwell Minster.

Giles's sculpture 2

Here is another from the bottom of the garden.

Giles's sculpture 3Giles's sculpture 4

This one contains examples of his stained glass work,

View through sitting room window

as does this view from the sitting room, showing the artefact on which stands his tree encircled by butterflies.

Giles's sculpture 5

A further creation on the decking is seen through the French windows.

Giles's garden 1

Visitor

Pebbles and granite sets creating paths and other features were all collected over a number of years from on and around the nearby beaches.

Giles's garden 3Giles's garden 4Giles's garden 5Giles's garden 6Giles's garden 7

Seventeen years ago, this rambling haven was almost completely grassed over. It is now packed with trees, shrubs, and other features attractive to wildlife.

Raindrops on smoke tree

Raindrops still pilled on the fibres of smoke tree;

Raindrops on foxgloves

foxgloves;

ClematisClematis, thistle, wildlife hotel

clematis;

Raindrops and cricket on osteospermum

and osteospermum – even on the little cricket’s antennae.

Wild Life Hotel

A notice visible in the second clematis picture indicates and lists the uses of the wildlife hotel;

Viper's Bugloss

another extols the value of viper’s bugloss to bees.

Lupins

I expect these latter enjoy delphiniums, too, although blue is Giles’s favourite flower colour.

Hut

Had the rain persisted, no doubt this hut, with its natural seat, would have filled up with visitors;

Pond

certainly the pond would have topped up with water.

This evening we dined on the rest of the Chinese Takeaway, and both drank Kingfisher.

Before And After: The Back Drive

A good part of the day, until I set the incinerator going at 4 p.m., was spent in selecting and printing the next section of the garden development album.

If there was any task more daunting than anything else in the Old Post House garden, it was the back drive.

Jackie in back drive

This is what it looked like on 14th June 2014. An extremely careful examination of the picture will reveal Jackie at the far end embarking on spraying herbicide. After about a metre this was abandoned. The gate in the foreground didn’t fit and was roughly attached to a rickety makeshift fence.

Wheelbarrow prepared for bonfire

Nine days later the main burning pile, which will be featured later, had encroached onto this area and the old wheelbarrow that was to hold the pyre, had been put in place. The barrow itself stands on a few inches of soil forming a shallow raised bed on which vegetables had been grown. A ring of granite sets held this in place. There were several such booby traps lying about. The panels leaning on the new fence are, we think, part of what was described in the inventory as ‘greenhouse, unassembled’. further down, the older fence has been pushed over by the neighbours’ firs.

Back drive

By 21st July, further encroachment made combustion seem an impossible task.

Bramble across back driveThick brambles attacked from both sides, rooting freely in the earth strewn gravel. This one was lopped on 28th July, because It kept clawing my head.

Jackie with bonfires 1

By 19th September we had made some little headway on weeding, but were still burning branches, many of which, of course had come from other parts of the garden.

Back drive 10 a.m.

Two days later, felt we were getting somewhere. This was the scene at 10 a.m. when we began taking out the shrubbery and trees growing up the side of our neighbours’ house;

Back drive 1.30 p.m.

and this at 1.30 p.m.

Pruned conifers

Another four days and Jackie had made considerable progress in keeping the invasive firs in their rightful place;

Back drive entrance

and by 1st October we had begun defining the entrance, making yet more use of the excavated concrete slabs.

Aaron working 2

In the new year it became apparent to us that we were definitely in need of help. I reluctantly had to admit that there was a limit to what we could manage alone. By 21st February 2015 we had had the good fortune to engage Aaron of A.P. Maintenance. As I told him today he has had a far bigger impact on what we have achieved than by his work alone. Here he is digging out a clump of ornamental grass which I couldn’t lift. We now call this plant ‘the Phoenix’, because it resisted all attempts at destruction, including burning. It flourishes in Elizabeth’s Bed.

Back drive

Aaron only visits on Sundays, but this is the progress he had made by 8th March, in levelling of the soil, much of which was transferred to the rose garden, and edging the right hand border with found bricks. Jackie and I had pruned the griselinia hedging which has been allowed to become an avenue of tall trees.

Jackie executing four point turn 4

On 5th April, Jackie was able to use the strip for its intended purpose. On the left hand side, Aaron has used the granite sets for edging.

back-drive 26.4.15

Three weeks later, he and Robin had covered the drive with most of the gravel.

aaron-concreting

This was completed on 10th May, after Aaron had cemented a retaining bar outside the entrance.

Back drive

By 11th October the drive was in full use. Jackie has lined both sides with flower beds. No doubt I’ll have to tackle the fallen leaves soon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi, special fried rice, vegetable samosas, and onion bhajis.  She drank Hoegaarden and I drank another glass of malbec.

Frith’s Postcards

Granite setsIt is quite a pleasant stage we have reached in the garden project. We are able to tackle tasks in tandem, rather than each being occupied at different ones. Thus, we did some planting together, notably the agapanthuses purchased a day or two ago. This involved digging through what felt like ironstone, moving other plants to make room for it, and transporting better soil from elsewhere.

Path round fir treeSimilarly, to enable me to border the shady path with granite sets, a couple of clumps of trespassing geraniums were dug out and offered alternative accommodation. The sets were required because the line of edge tiles petered out near the decking. There is no one material used throughout the garden, so it is quite fun to make a patchwork quilt with what is available.

Stones in pathWe fine-tuned the end of the head gardener’s path as it winds around the fir tree, and, bit by bit, as the day progressed set the slabs firmly in their bed of stony soil. There then ensued a search around the garden for stones with which to fill the fissures that create the curves winding through the inchoate shrubbery. It must be sod’s law that when you are digging a bed you find loads of them, but when you want some they are hard to come by.

When we moved in here we found on the orange-painted home-made mantelpiece, a welcoming note and a tiny framed black and white photograph. The image measures 11 x 7.5 centimetres. It is picture of our house as it was, we estimate, in the 1960s. Then it was the village shop. One set of chimneys has since been removed, and we have a garage extension. A bay at the front has replaced the shop front. Old Post House from the rearThe current view from the rear displays, centrally, our kitchen extension with its skylight. To the left of this was originally a pitched roof. To the right of the modern picture can be seen the more recent roof over our master suite.

We were intrigued to learn what were the signs standing at the front and the legend on the side of the house, but these were indiscernible to the naked eye, and a magnifying glass didn’t help. I removed the picture from its frame, and discovered it was a Frith’s postcard.Old Post House c1960Old Post House c1960 - Version 2 I then enlarged the image and was able to read:Downton Stores

Notices in the forecourt announced that the shop was open, and sold Players cigarettes and Lyons cakes. The Players Please board was on display in London’s Lime Street in August 1963. The story of the tobacco company was told on November 27th 2013.

Francis Frith was a pioneering mid-to-late-Victorian photographer who founded the postcard company in the 1850s. There is now a massive archive which is a fascinating collection of UK views. Although Frith died in 1898, his company lived on, with the occasional hiatus. The archives were bought from Rothman’s by John Buck in 1977, and continue to function as the Francis Frith Collection.

Interestingly, Frith’s places us in Lymington Road. Local maps, for example the one outside New Milton railway station, vary as to whether we are in Christchurch Road or Lymington Road. The modern Post Office gives our address as Christchurch Road. Where one merges into the other remains a mystery.

This evening we dined on a refreshing salad based on pork pie and pastrami. I drank half a glass of Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012 and Jackie had a few sips of her Hoegaarden. We then drove down to the beach and bagged a few stones to supplement those in the path completed today.

Sets

An unseen bird in a neighbouring garden has, for some time now kept up an incessant, repetitive, day-long warning cry. This is no doubt related to the fact that a possibly predatory crow patiently waits perched on the branch of a high tree. Perhaps awaiting a chance to plunder eggs, or to pounce on newly hatched chicks? Yesterday evening Jackie clapped her hands and shooed off the vigilant avian. As soon as it flew off the other bird became silent.

Two days ago a magpie was spotted in our garden, suspiciously close to the blackbird’s nest.

Empty nestThis morning the nest was empty, only its cleanliness and two downy feathers attached to a twig, indicating any occupation. There were no broken shells. Sadly, on little more than circumstantial evidence we suspect either crow or magpie of theft of the eggs.

Today I finished weeding yesterday’s bed. In the process, I found a honeysuckle and several more passion flower plants entwined among the other plants. BambooTrying not to replicate the McDonalds logo, I erected my own golden arches out of bamboo to give the climbers something else to scale. Perhaps the honeysuckle was seeded from this wonderfully scented specimen, bordering the kitchen garden: Honeysuckle                                   Jackie has continued her creative work. WaterboyThe water boy is now well established in his little corner, complete with more shells and planting.Granite sets and bricksGranite sets and bricks 2Path tidied

She is now focussing on further improving the edging of the paths. In many instances, the earlier brick edges have been covered by stones and granite sets. These have tended to be obscured by covering plants, and have not stemmed the flow of soil into the gravel.  Sieving the earth from the gravel, and placing the bricks on their sides lifts the edges.

Granite setsGranite edgingThe sets will be used elsewhere, where they attractiveness is more apparent. We began with the border between the patch of grass and the long path. I was the labourer to Jackie’s artisan. This meant I searched out more sets, loaded them onto a wheelbarrow, brought them to the mistress craftsperson, placed them roughly where she would need them, and ambled off for some more. Some, in the furthest regions, were covering ants’ nests.

We didn’t quite finish the job before preparing for a visit to Danni and Andy’s new flat. Jackie drove us over to Shirley, where it is; we were joined there by Elizabeth, and all dined at a very good Indian restaurant nearby, the name of which I did not register. We all enjoyed the food; Andy drank Magners, and the rest of us, Kingfisher.