Plants Carry On Regardless

Ian from Cleansing Services Group emptied our septic tank this morning. As always, he got on with it without our interference.

This afternoon I ventured into the garden to discover what had been occurring whilst I have been holed up indoors.

Very brisk north east winds sped fluffy clouds along helping the sun to put in periodic appearances; and hurried me around my colder than expected trip.

Japanese maples and shrubs like spirea bent this way and that.

Although tulips and violas in the iron urn, and some of those potted in the Rose Garden stood firm, others remain windblown, like the covers ripped from wooden benches they were protecting.

Martin progressed with his work on the Back Drive yesterday, and

Flo has continued chopping back dead stems, opening views of such as the Pond Bed.

At the front the spring flowering cherry shares honours with its winter relative.

Cyclamens, fritillaries, bluebells, and honesty have burgeoned everywhere.

Despite the cold there is much promise of next week’s warmer weather.

A New Zealand flax has suffered a broken stem, but other beds look comfortable enough.

This evening the three of us dined on more of Jackie’s tasty cottage pie with fresh vegetables, including the fried potato topping; followed by the last of the rice pudding.

Surviving The Cold Weather

Having progressed comfortably past the halfway point in Charles Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, this morning I scanned the next six of Charles Keeping’s imaginative and skilful illustrations.

In ‘Mrs Hominy stalked in again; very erect, in proof of her aristocratic blood’ the artist perfectly displays her haughtiness.

‘Three or four meagre dogs; some long-legged pigs; some children, nearly naked; were all the living things he saw’ sprawls across a splendid two page spread.

Two more leaves are partially occupied by ‘In a moment the stick was spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawled in the ditch’, thus depicting a sense of distance.

Mrs Gamp, being ‘Only a little screwed’, i.e. somewhat inebriated as usual, clearly afforded her young witnesses a sneaky source of amusement.

‘He stood at his shop-door in even-tide’ is one of Keeping’s authentic period street scenes.

‘That fiery animal confined himself almost entirely to his hind legs in displaying his paces’ bursting out of the text shows the horse’s stubbornly combative nature. The artist faithfully demonstrates the driver’s diminutive stature.

The day remained cold with occasional sunny periods, one of which lasted for only the first of the photographs I produced on a walk around the garden this afternoon.

This was a fanning euphorbia providing shadows; we have a plethora of primroses and pansies, some of which are now planted in an owl flown in from Mum’s garden. The other ornamental raptor pictured is the Head Gardener’s latest purchase. Later daffodils continue to bloom, as do tulips and camellias. Honesty is widespread; spirea sprays forth; fritillaries flourish. I think it is safe to say that the garden is surviving the cold weather.

This evening we dined alfresco at The Lamb Inn, Nomansland. I will report on. that tomorrow.

A Plethora Of Snowdrops

Before Jackie discovered that, for the first time in 15 years, we can now view Test Matches live on free to air terrestrial television I listened to the first day of the England v India match on BBC sport. I watched the last couple of overs on Channel 4.

This morning I took advantage of a break between showers to wander round the garden with my camera.

The irises reticulata are all now in bloom, with tulips beside them pushing up.

Other irises and numerous hellebores still collect raindrops.

Camellias are quite prolific.

Honesty seed pods now have a skeletal presence and the metal plant Louisa gave us for Christmas will live on for a while.

Some winter flowering clematis cirrhosa Freckles have survived their recent heavy pruning.

Wherever we go we encounter a plethora of snowdrops.

This afternoon we paid a brief visit to Barry and Karen to deliver his prints.

Afterwards we took a brief drive along the lanes, like Coombe Lane largely waterlogged.

Sunlight streamed across the landscapes, lit the lichen coated hedges, and silhouetted the bones of an oak tree.

A small shaggy haired pony eyed me as I photographed its more delicate be-rugged cousin.

Jackie photographed a pair of rooks – or were they crows? – conducting a corvine conversation.

Several donkeys were installed on Wooden House Lane.

The stream running under Church Lane reflected the trees above.

This evening we dined on the varied flavours of Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese; creamy mashed potatoes; smoked haddock; with carrots and petits pois for splashes of bright colour. We both drank Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

Lin Brook In Spate

On a day of sunshine and showers we each took our cameras into the garden during brief sunny spells.

Madame Alfred Carriere seems to think it is spring, despite sharing the Rose Garden entrance with hips from Summer Wine. Everlasting sweet peas are equally confused. These wear raindrop pearls

which glisten over the Gazebo Path and bejewel leaves of iris and New Zealand flax; seeds of agapanthus; fuchsia Garden News; and pansies topping the iron urn.

Another fuchsia which continues to thrive is Hawkshead; skeletal honesty plants display their seeds; Penny Lane still soars over the Gothic arch; Puerto Rico dahlia proliferates; and Amistad salvia continues to delight.

The mauve dahlia alongside the Dead End Path is even more prolific but has collapsed beneath the storm although it should recover.

This lime green Japanese maple does not usually produce such a range of autumn hues.

Jackie’s contribution to the garden photographs was her cobaea scandens hanging beside the greenhouse.

This afternoon we set off for the north of the forest and remained beside the

swollen Lin Brook which had burst its banks across the ford at the bottom of Hightown Lane and its junction with Gorley Road.

Vehicles had no option but to traverse the flood. From the road I photographed both a white van and a blue car in the process, while Jackie pictured the car from the window of hers.

The Assistant Photographer added her perspective on the water lapping the road; a splendid oak; a woman striding along the field in which I had photographed the horses; and a bonfire in a garden on the dry side of the road.

We passed landscapes with varying overhead skies, then Jackie

parked the Modus on the verge of Hightown Lane while I wandered over banks

of golden brown bracken, mossy roots and colourful autumn leaves streaked by the late afternoon sun.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s potent pork paprika; creamy mashed potatoes; and carrots and green beans al dente, followed by her splendidly aromatic apple pie and cream, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Malbec 2019.

Avian Courtship

Jackie spent this, the hottest afternoon of the week, continuing her work of tidying and planting the garden,

I spent some time collecting up debris for the compost bin and sweeping paths like those named Brick

and Gazebo.

 

The strong sweet scent of the swinging wisteria penetrates

the closed stable door during the evenings.

A pair of Orange Tip butterflies seeming to savour honesty flittered about.

The clematis Montana Mayteen planted to mount the

now limbless cypress overlooking the Dragon Bed.

The light magenta blooms of Magnolia Vulcan beside the tree have benefited from the light revealed by the amputations;

while this red climbing rose we inherited, no longer having the arboreal arms to reach for, may follow the Head Gardener’s directions.

The velvet petals of these deep mauve tulips Queen of the Night

were intended by Mrs Knight to blend with the potted varieties planted in the Rose Garden at the same time.

Unfortunately the recent winds stripped the earlier blooms until, almost overnight the late risers yawned, stretched, and opened their eyes a couple of days ago.

These red wallflowers complement various locations;

similarly hued rhododendrons,

like these in the Palm Bed, are beginning to burgeon –

bench, box, and bluebells indulge me by continuing the alliteration.

This evening, as we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on the patio, we witnessed an avian courtship.

On the far side of the garden a wood pigeon who didn’t fancy his chances, turned his back on the proceedings on the eaves where

another, attempting to look suave, winked

at his prospective mate – for life – prostrated himself

and gradually nudged towards her. She feigned enough interest for him to repeat the movement until he became close enough for her to fly off teasingly. Naturally he played his part and followed in pursuit.

We dined on tender roast lamb; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire; crunchy carrots; tangy red cabbage; and meaty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Mezquiriz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Head Gardener’s Photoshoot

We had fun this morning helping Louisa – on the telephone, of course – to provide clues for an Easter Egg Hunt for Jessica and Imogen. Jackie came up with one of the best: ‘Toying with this clue will shed light on the answer’ would lead them to the toy shed in the garden. Because there are no sport programmes on Sky, Errol has cancelled his subscription to the sport section of that provider. Louisa and I between us managed ‘Not so much Sky can be seen here. Poor Dad’ – this for the family T.V.

This afternoon I entered the front garden with the intention of watering the pots. I found Aaron had already done it. That was a result.

Jackie took the garden photoshoot today, so all I needed to do was put all this together.

It was a good wheeze to place tulip pots on a table to obtain these angles.

As can be seen from these shots and the view across the garden to the bare copper beech, Aaron moved the blue wooden table and chairs back onto the patio for the summer.

A range of daffodils continues to delight.

For her focus on honesty the Assistant Photographer chose the bed beside the greenhouse and the Dragon Bed. This year she could have found it almost anywhere.

Her ammi seedling is progressing nicely.

Ajugas are often small and retiring. This one stands proudly erect.

The large wisteria is sending out its grape-like blooming bunches.

Buds about to burst include perky peony

and ornamental onions.

Stained glass songbirds swoop over a startled metal owl.

Erigeron bend well with either iberis,

or osteospermum;

angels wings contrast with red Japanese maple and carmine pelargonium.

Jackie is particularly enamoured of the yellow maple in the Palm Bed

Aubretia brightens edges of paths.

Whoops. I pressed publish prematurely. We are having wholesome soup for dinner this evening. Like me, you will have to guess what it is.

 

Cleaning Out The Frog Pond

Jackie spent most of this gloriously sunny and warm spring day working in the garden.

In the front she photographed budding Amanogawa

and crab apple blossom,

and a row of different coloured cyclamens.

I took tours before and after lunch, choosing to focus first on a variety of daffodils;

these, alongside the Dead End Path, are strongly scented and aptly named Park Perfume;

 

iberis cascades over the New Bed wall in front of more;

nodding to the dreaded all-pervading white allium another masquerades as a cheery scarecrow.

The sunshine has encouraged one of yesterday’s tulips to open wider,

to blend nicely with these marigolds.

Camellias continue to shine and to discard their heavy blooms, some of which persist in

growing old gracefully.

Varieties of wallflowers are blooming;

these yellow ones kneel at the feet of euphorbia in the back drive border.

Honesty is bursting out all over. It will be a brave individual who sits on this chair in the Weeping Birch Bed.

The burnished Japanese maple near the Fiveways corner

takes the eye across the Gazebo Path to North Breeze,

skirting the peeling-pastel-sheathed eucalyptus on the lawn, beside which

clematis Cirrhosa Freckles still festoons the iron gazebo.

Looking south east from the above-mentioned maple takes us into the Rose Garden whence

we have a view towards the house. I will be in dire trouble for leaving that blue plastic trug in the shot.

Given that during the Covid-19 pandemic bedding plants cannot be purchased

Jackie’s pelargonium cuttings in the greenhouse are even more important than usual this year.

They are even attracting ladybirds.

 

This view from the Kitchen Bed leads to the Nottingham Castle bench;

this one across to the greenhouse.

It is through a kitchen window that I managed to catch Burt, the long tailed tit, playing on his honeysuckle trellis. Like a child who will run endlessly up the steps for another go on a slide, Burt swung through the air time and again, incessantly hopping back up for a repeat performance. The bird can be seen peering in beside the window catch – it is well worth bigifying.

The Head Gardener’s main task today was cleaning out the weedy Frog Pond. This is how she pictured it this morning,

and this with clear reflective water this afternoon.

This evening we dined on roast duck breasts; roast new potatoes; meaty sausages and fried onions; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender cabbage, leeks, and runner beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

 

 

 

 

Sunshine And Shirtsleeves

Today was one of sunshine and shirtsleeves.

While Jackie worked on the Oval Bed I carried a few trugs of refuse to the compost bin, and a few cans of water to the Head Gardener. It may seem hard to believe that the plants need watering at the moment, but we have not received rain for a while.

We have bright magenta aubretia.

Bees are very much in evidence. Interestingly they seem to prefer yellow flowers, selecting that hue from this pot of tulips, particularly ignoring this

pale pastel specimen nearby.

Celandines have nestled beside one of the

two pots of tulips

brightening the Rose Garden.

We have a number of creamy yellow primroses

and golden cowslips.

Hoping that some would successfully germinate Jackie had buried clusters of wood anemone corms around the beds. We now have numerous clumps.

She is even more delighted to find the first blooms of her new camellia Jury Yellow.

Various euphorbias are also flowering.

Overhead, the copper beech still bears bare branches

The winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles continues to adorn the iron gazebo;

while summer snowflakes defy the season.

Jackie also photographed snowflakes with daffodils;

honesty which promises to be prolific;

new shoots on a pink carpet rose;

backlit honeysuckle leaves;

and her own perspective on the Rose Garden.

Nugget put in a few fleeting appearances, showed no interest in the worms the Head Gardener was unearthing, and declined to spare the time to pose.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid chicken soup with crusty bread from the freezer. The soup consisted of the compost base made yesterday with plump chopped chicken breasts, crispy bacon, peas and sweetcorn. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mezquirez reserva Navarra 2013.

Hide And Seek

Nugget was singing outside the stable door this morning at 6 a.m.

I stepped out early to take advantage of the bright morning light. Jackie tells me that our little robin was perched on top of this kniphofia yesterday evening for quite some time, chirping away. Other images are entitled in the gallery.

Here are more of the red hot pokers and heucheras.

Somewhere among these Weeping Birch branches Nugget began a tuneful game of hide and seek with me. Please don’t search for him in this picture. I couldn’t find him, and if you do I will be upset.

However, today’s “Where’s Nugget” (23a-e) offers five opportunities for his fans to find him – as many or as few times as you wish. You may notice he is singing in one of them.

He dropped down later when I began raking the paths. I fear I disappointed him on the insect front.

Heidi, our much loved former daughter-in-law visited today and stayed the night. We lunched on Jackie’s usual spread of cold meats, pies, salads, and cheeses with which we drank Prosecco.

We spent our time reminiscing and exchanging thoughts and feelings about Michael’s death. During one period I took Heidi on a tour of the garden.

Verbena bonarensis continues to attract bees and butterflies, mostly Small Whites.

Mama Mia looked quite splendid in the Rose Garden.

Japanese anemones are as prolific as ever.

Heidi was impressed with the quantity of seating. We enjoyed views across the lawn and down the Phantom Path while we spent some time on the Westbrook Arbour bench.

Elizabeth joined us for a while and we all four sat on patio chairs enjoying pleasant conversation.

Jackie, Heidi, and I dined on The Culinary Queen’s delicious cottage pie; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender runner beans from our garden. I finished the Shiraz and the ladies drank Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio 2018.

Silent Companions

Today the light was dull; the weather warm and dry.

This afternoon we visited Ferndene Farm shop to buy pork for tonight’s dinner.

I joined a young lady happily photographing chickens on her phone. We had noticed that she had chosen a good vantage point. It was a matter of seconds before I discovered that she had no speech and couldn’t understand me. Her carer approached and told me what I had already gathered and that she loved chickens. I said that perhaps she wouldn’t mind me continuing. That was the case and we became silent companions for a while.

I then sought out the resident pigs in order to reassure myself that we would not be eating them.

We continued on through the forest, taking an unnamed lane alongside which refuse had been dumped. At least it had been bagged up;

as had these drink cans on Braggers Lane.

If you are going to dump old fridges on the verges of Fish Street, I suppose you wouldn’t bother to wrap them.

Further along Fish Street we encountered a pair of inquisitive goats, the Billy of which sported a splendid beard.

This evening, when the sun emerged, Jackie went into the garden to plant some bulbs. Nugget kept getting under her feet, so she gave up and photographed a few garden scenes, including

this area she had planted yesterday;

honesty, rudbeckia, and Japanese anemones;

the lawn, eucalyptus, and hanging baskets;

the decking and its planting;

Florence sculpture, petunias, and nicotiana.

Oh, and “Where’s Nugget?” (13).

Later this evening we dined on Jackie’s spicily piquant pork paprika and toothsome mushroom rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Hardy’s Chapter and Verse Shiraz 2018.