The First Foal

We took an early morning trip into the forest today.

A favourite route takes us through Holmesley Passage which links the A35 with the Burley Road.

Each time we drive along this slender, serpentine, disintegrating rat run we wonder if it will be our last – so rapidly is the tarmac crumbling.

Nevertheless, the landscapes it affords, with its resident ponies and cattle, makes the risk of winding up in a ditch worthwhile. The intrepid creature in the last of this set of photographs has sunk up to its knees in soggy turf.

On Bisterne Close, Burley, we encountered our first foal of the season. Already steady on its feet, just two or three days ago this infant would, having emerged unaided from its mother’s womb, have immediately, in ungainly fashion, tottered to its feet on the end of stick legs, and maybe wobbled a bit on its first visit to the milk bar.

The couple walking down the lane told me they had seen the new-born the day before and thought it could not have been much more than a day or so.

It had been the first of the year for this horse rider, too. She confirmed the newness.

At the junction of Bisterne Close and Bennets Lane a tree, probably precariously placed in the recent windy weather, had been felled.

It was in Bennets Lane that we came across Abbotsfield garden open today as part of the National Gardens Scheme in which approved gardens are open to the public for an entrance fee donated to charity.

For me, the highlights were a splendid display of tulips in most of the beds.

I was also impressed by the erythronium pagodas.

Jackie was disappointed that there was no scent to an unknown shrub, but she did enjoy the cherry blossom.

The garden views included magnolias and Japanese maples.

The honesty in Abbotsfield was of the white variety.

I probably didn’t need to be enjoined to be careful, but this was a helpful sign placed at ground level.

This evening we dined on zesty lemon and herb chicken, creamy mushroom risotto, spicy ratatouille, crunchy carrots, and tender mangoes touts and green beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I enjoyed Toro Loco Superior Organico 2017, given to me for Christmas by Shelly and Ron.

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.

Geraniums

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.

Regeneration

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Today I was mostly digging up brambles and pruning dead branches from a yellow Japanese maple in the Palm Bed,

seen here beyond the Cryptomeria Bed stepping stones.

The red one was looking rather splendid in the morning light.

Magnolia Vulcan

The magnolia Vulcan, one of a row of shrubs lining the fence shared with Mistletoe Cottage, is about to flower for the first time. Like the others this was choked by the jungle that was the garden when we first moved in.

Rhododendron 1

Similarly a poor, spindly, little rhododendron that Jackie brought back to life, now shines its beacon in the middle of the Palm Bed. The roots of this were, like those of so many shrubs we inherited, pot-bound, and not properly planted.

Rhododendron 2

The pink rhododendron

Tree peony

and the yellow tree peony, have tied in the race to full bloom.

Iris

I am happy to say that my weeding of the Back Drive borders has freed rows of irises.

The viburnum plicatum is now brightening the West Bed shrubbery,

Weigela

and weigela drapes the south fence.

Apple blossom

Today’s final example of our efforts at regeneration has been affected by the light frosts we have been experiencing recently. The apple blossom suggested the tree has benefited from pruning, but the petals are now somewhat charred.

Hardly credible in April, the traditional month of showers, Jackie has today performed a considerable amount of watering.

The Raj is the current incarnation of the Indian restaurant constantly changing hands in Old Milton. Tonight we dined on their good quality takeaway food. My main choice was prawn Ceylon with special fried rice. We shared poppadoms, paratha, and onion bhajis. I drank Château Plessis grand vin de Bordeaux 2014.

The Garden Map

Come for a further wander down the garden paths.

Rose

Stepping out of the utility room stable doorway, we meet this little rose that was bramble-bound last year.

Poppy

This frilly new pink poppy sits quite well against the red Japanese maple, visible from the kitchen window.

Grass patch

Opposite our small patch of grass, we think designed for a dog loo,

Penstemon, thalictrum, New Zealand flax, Japanese maple

against the backdrop of a yellow Japanese maple, speckled New Zealand flax arches over red penstemon and budding thalictrum.

Phantom path

Passing the other end of the Phantom Path, at the far end we see a yellow-green-leaved tree, only one branch of which seemed alive last year, before we lopped out all the dead wood.

Orange Hawkweed

Jackie transplanted the outspoken orange hawkweed, regarded in other parts of the world as an infestation, from the former kitchen garden. It now enlivens the Oval Bed.

Sambucus

This Sambucus, planted not so long ago, now blooms behind the potting shed.

Back drive

The back drive is now framed by new planted troughs. In the top right hand corner of the picture can be glimpsed a basket suspended from the slender arch through which we now walk into the garden. Please don’t tell the head gardener that I keep banging my head on it.

From the end of the drive we turn left to see how Hallmark Builders are getting on with their ‘massive’ project on the recently sold The Spinney at number 11.

Wall building

Two men are building a beautifully curved wall.

Rodgersia

Back down our own brick path we see the delicate pink rodgersia, yet another member of the saxifrage family.

Dead End Path

Just past this plant lies the Dead End Path.

Rosa Gallica

Back at the house, the pink striped Rosa Gallica is now blooming against the kitchen wall,

Rosa Glauca

and the Rosa Glauca soars above the patio.

Taking visitors on a meandering trip is rather easier than the task on which the head gardener has been engaged during much of the last two or three days. Jackie working on garden map

John Whitworth recently expressed his need of a garden map.  We are not lovers of straight lines, but, had we had a few more, Jackie’s task would have been so much easier. When she proudly presented the finished chart, I then had the task of reproducing it. Since it had been drawn on A3 paper, which is too large for my scanner, I had to photograph it with my little SX700 HS Canon. Having the benefit of neither Ken Morse’s equipment nor  his expertise, it was difficult to achieve an unwarped rectangle from above. Here is the finished masterpiece:

Garden map

Later this afternoon I had transferred the bonfire ashes to the compost heaps, and raked back the shingle that I’d scraped out for a makeshift hearth.

It is hardly surprising that there had been no time for cooking. There was nothing for it but to go out for dinner. It was Spice of India that was graced with our presence, for which we were rewarded with an excellent meal. My main course was naga chicken with special fried rice; Jackie’s was chicken shaslik and salad. We shared a paratha, and both drank cobra.

Diverted From The Task In Hand

A stiff breeze set our flaming foliage flickering in the strong morning sunlight casting shifting shadows. As I gently ambled around, I pulled the calf of my dodgy leg. Following the last two stormy days, I now have another excuse for avoiding weeding. Beech leaves 1Beech leaves 2

The beech is now fully plumed;

Maple 1Japanes maple 2

as are the Japanese maples;

Prunus pissardi 1Prunus pissardi 2

and the prunus pissardi

Prunus pissardi 3

to which a few stubborn cherries cling, reflecting glints of light.

Heuchera

Only a few minutes after I discovered that my shot of a hot heuchera was out of focus, the sun had moved on to a slightly cooler one. (please Mr. WordPress, you should know by now that when I type ‘heuchera’ I don’t mean ‘heaters’).

Starling

Later there were more clouds and less sun. I sat outside for a while, which was rather disappointing for the starlings who would fly towards their nest behind our kitchen fascia board, and, noticing my presence, do a mid-air about-turn and wait patiently on one tree or another wondering what to do next.

Here are three of the prints from 1985 that I scanned today:

Louisa 1985

Lousia’s attention wandered a bit in this one.

Jessica and I and our children spent several holidays at Instow with her brother Henry, sister-in-law Judith and their two children Lucy and Nick. On an early one of these, that same year, we drove somewhere in Devon, where Jessica’s cousin was a vet. I don’t remember the name of the village where we enjoyed a summer fete, but I did record the event at which

Sam 1985

Sam was so transfixed by a Punch and Judy show, that his attention was also diverted, from his apple.

Matthew 5.85

At Louisa’s third birthday party at Gracedale Road, Matthew enjoyed amusing the children.

This evening I tucked into the scrumptious cottage pie that Jackie had left me, adding green beans and cauliflower.

Then There Was One

I don’t always remember to take my painkillers. All they do anyway is reduce the acute pain in my knee. It doesn’t take long, however for me to realise my omission. So it was this afternoon when Jackie drove us to New Milton to catch up on some banking. On the way back we stopped off at Redcliffe Nurseries to buy a hoe and various other items. I very soon had to give up and return to the car, leaving the head gardener loose in the store. Afterwards she dropped me off at home to take my pills and continued alone to raid Otter Nurseries.

Garden 1Garden 2JPG

We are in for a spell of dull weather, which began today. It failed to dim the colours of the garden, especially as the red and yellow Japanese maples are now in leaf. Against a post on the far left of the broader picture the splash of orange is our first poppy. Very soon, in different sizes, and of varying hues, the plot will be peppered with them until late in the autumn. These pictures will repay maximum enlargement. Fennel, tulips, daffodils, and pansies are among the plants on display.

On 22nd February, an ailing baby bird we had thought to be a pigeon, perished after a frosty night. We then realised that a pair of young collared doves, seeming to be searching where the chick had succumbed, were probably its parents. They have seldom since been seen apart. FeathersOvernight a predator has struck, leaving the feathers of one of these birds beneath our largest bay tree. Now its mate waits its turn beneath the bird feeder alone. Nature can sometimes be so cruel.

Yesterday’s nicely matured chilli con carne and savoury rice with a side of haloumi, followed by syrup sponge pudding and custard provided our evening sustenance. Jackie drank sparkling water whilst I quaffed a little more of the chianti.