First Out Of The Traps

A heavy slate canopy kept the light dull and the rain away today.

Jackie continued her clearance work in the Pond Bed (so named because it has been laid out by our predecessors on the shallow base of a pond). She has cleared most of the invasive alliums and even enjoyed the pleasure of planting up a pot.

The Japanese maples are now freer features. “Where’s Jackie?” (7)

My task was weeding the Shady Path. Starting at the Rose Garden end I just about reached Florence sculpture, from where I could observe the

burgeoning of the rhododendron on the corner of the Palm Bed, and listen to the birdsong which had been absent yesterday.

It wasn’t exactly the song of birds that entertained Jackie – more the baby starlings clamouring for food, until their Dad, as soon as the Assistant Photographer raised her camera, sounded the alarm and all became quiet. With considerable patience, she managed a shot of the infant she thinks will be first out of the traps.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent fare from Hordle Chinese Take Away, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Seeking The Shot

A chill wind belied the sunny periods today.

This morning Jackie continued with her general garden maintenance, including pruning, while I dug more weeds out of the Gazebo path gravel.

I can just about manage this for half an hour, but imagine the exercise is doing me good. Crouching is now possible; it is rising from the crouch that has me thinking I might not make it. So, after the pain barrier had been reached, with the gait of a man on stilts, I stumbled indoors for my camera and recovered my questionable flexibility wandering around with it.

Various Japanese maples are exhibiting their vibrant colours;

The crab apples at the front are blossoming, and the Amanogawa cherry is having a second flush. The blossoms of this Japanese tree that I photographed more than a month ago were on the lower branches; those higher ones, reaching to the skies, have now burgeoned at a more usual time.

Shadows fell across the lawn and across mosses and ornamental grasses.

Variously hued heuchera leaves join forget-me-nots and bluebells waiting for roses to bloom in the Rose Garden.

Although the sun was clearly taking a long siesta we took a drive into the forest this afternoon.

We stopped to admire the new crown to the thatch on the Woolpack Inn at Sopley with its attendant peacock.

Overlooking both the pub and Mill Lane stands

the 13th Century grade II listed St Michael & All Angels Church around which graveyard atop a steep hill I wandered.

The inscriptions on most gravestones and sarcophagi are largely obscured by colourful lichen.

Although some of the images above display the drop down to Mill Lane, this view from very close to a corner of the building demonstrates the vertiginous nature of this ancient place of worship.

Two woolly schoolchildren seem to have been left inside this currently Covid-locked church, which will definitely be worth a further visit when it is possible for visitors to enter once more. Services are held following strict regulations.

From the churchyard I could hear the rush of the mill race to what is now a wedding venue. Maybe the people in this photograph were checking it out for such an event.

It has recently been necessary to cut down a tree.

When we spotted a small herd of deer on nearby hillside,

Jackie parked on Rockford Lane,

along which I walked in search of the final shot.

For dinner this evening Jackie produced succulent baked gammon; piquant cauliflower cheese; stir-fried leeks with pre-boiled cauliflower leaves; and crunchy carrots with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

No More Dado Rails

Although the fierce winds that we have experienced for the last few days continued to pound us for much of the day, it was warm, sunny, and bright, encouraging me to wander round the garden with my camera.

A few trugs were transported, and a few pots blown down;

some trees were being stripped of their foliage,

although others still sported autumn hues.

Flower beds remained reasonably colourful.

The good news of the day is that Nick Hayter was able to start our decorating project on time and that the impending lockdown allows him to work on. Living up to Barry’s recommendation he is a relentless, thorough, worker, and, given the atrocities we inherited he needs to be.

He began today with a zinsser primer on the false ceiling rafters, and progressed to

the momentous removal of the equally fake picture rails, which longer term readers will remember are in fact dado rails – still bearing the supplier’s bar codes – and as such flat topped and therefore useless for picture hooks.

It was later that Nick realised that the original wall paint had not been thinned and consequently simply peeled off like stiff paper.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy lamb jalfrezi and aromatic savoury rice with a plain paratha. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Coudougno Faugeres 2019.

Spotlights

General garden maintenance this morning included Jackie’s replanting of the

Iron Urn consisting of pansies underplanted with purple tulips, having replaced the root-bound soil; and much more clipping, chopping, and bagging of wayward shrubs.

The winter pansies now blend well with the pale purple colchicums or autumn crocuses, phlox, and Japanese anemones while contrasting with Puerto Rico dahlias.

Pelargoniums and lobelias hang happily over the Pond Bed with its Japanese maples, neighbours to

red and white dahlias.

Japanese anemones,

many attracting hoverflies. continue to proliferate.

The hoverflies enjoy other flowers such as this rain-freckled pale pink rose; you will probably need to access the gallery and bigify the ginger lily to spot its fly, but perhaps not the bluebottle on the tiny diascia.

Numerous happy plantings like pelargoniums and sweet peas; eucalyptus with suspended petunias and cascading bidens; and fuchsia Delta’s Sarah with more pelargoniums continue to produce.

Further fuchsias include the red and purple Mrs Popple and the delicate white Hawkshead;

most petunias also hang from baskets.

Yellow antirrhinums have bloomed non-stop since early spring; many sweet peas persist; pieris produces red leaves.

The sun spotlights mossy stones at the edge of the Gazebo Path.

We now have so many full garden refuse bags that Jackie tried to book the one permitted half hour slot at the recycling centre. This, of course, can only be done on line. There are none available for the rest of the month; more distant appointments will be ‘posted soon’.

Later in the afternoon we carried out extensive watering.

Unfortunately I submitted yesterday’s post without realising that I had omitted the virgin beef pie picture, with the result that those who viewed it first will not have seen the complete rudbeckia bas relief. That has now been rectified by the inclusion of the original, and here is an image of today’s second serving. We have consumed the stem and most of the leaves, and despite the small shark emerging from the right of the crust, no marine animals were harmed in the making of this production.

With this delicious pie we enjoyed boiled new potatoes, crunchy carrots and, cauliflower, tender green beans, and tasty gravy; Jackie drank Hoegaarden while I started on another bottle of the Bordeaux.

Behind Every Great Man…..

This morning I e-mailed a drawing to a fellow blogger as an offering to illustrate one of his posts.

While I sat in the car waiting for Jackie to emerge from Tesco with a fortnight’s shopping that I would load into our vehicle and into the kitchen at home I finished reading

Lent to us by Giles, this is a truly inspirational book charting the despair following a catastrophic turn of fortune partly brought about by physical- and mental ill-health; a loving relationship and the struggling creativity that, phoenix-like, surmounted disaster and contributed to remarkable success.

Depression, anxiety, unemployment, severe physical pain, all experienced while raising a young family are all honestly described. Sub-titled ‘A Story of Despair and Redemption’, this work is about the emotional turmoil the writers have experienced; it is also a tutorial on planning and planting a stunning garden; a journey through the seasons and the effects of sunshine, light, water, and soil. The constantly repeated cyclical patterns of each year from gloom to brightness and back again could be seen as a metaphor for the couple’s journey through life.

In his dynamic media presentation of such as BBC’s ‘Gardener’s World and in his writing Monty Don has been the public face of this partnership. Sarah, however, in their collaborations, of which this work is one, produces equally eloquent descriptive prose. I must refrain from giving away any more detail but ‘The Jewel Garden’ supports the phrase ‘behind every great man there is a great woman’.

Finally, I would suggest that anyone – TanGental, for instance – planning a garden event at any particular time of the year would do well to read this book.

After lunch I finished pruning the poplar, the chopped branches of which, supplemented by a few more of Jackie’s rose clippings, filled another bag for recycling.

I managed to knock this dahlia from its stem while wheeling the barrow of poplar cuttings. Never mind. We have an accident pot indoors.

Petunias still proliferate,

as do the ubiquitous Japanese anemones.

Today’s roses are represented by a pink carpet variety; a paler pink Generous Gardener, planted to scale the lopped cypress; and Shropshire Lad, bearing the freckles formed by raindrops.

This pink gaura is the most successful we have tried in this garden; the white begonia has always delighted.

Just one hollyhock bloom has so far resisted adding to a column of seed pods; clematis Julia Correvon has shed her colourful petal-like leaves.

At the end of the afternoon Jackie finished trimming the lawn.

This evening we dined on plentiful scrambled egg on toast.

Damage Report

As I sit drafting this post bright sun shines, speeding clouds scud; wild wind howls along Christchurch Road sweeping through the garden, rustling the kitchen door curtain and setting tinkling charms jingling.

We are now into our third consecutive day/night of fierce breezes. Tentatively I ventured out to survey the damage and was able to report to the Head Gardener that she was in for a pleasant surprise.

Even the patio chairs had stayed upright, while its planting, and that of the Pond Bed, remained intact. Bigifying the third picture in this gallery will show that the whirling ladybird with the white wings enjoys full gyration whereas her red-winged sister has been somewhat restrained by an amorous verbena bonariensis.

Other views of the Pond Bed are equally encouraging. Dahlias remain strong and a solitary bee was attracted by the hibiscus;

Japanese anemones feature there and elsewhere. The Brick Path in the second picture here needs no current sweeping, although that is not a task we will undertake until the wind drops.

A few trugs have been blown about, although this bright green one remained static whilst being photographed from two separate angles. The first of these two pictures shows an empty brick plinth with the pot that should stand on it having been blown down. The container is a bit chipped and the planting spoiled, but it will no doubt recover.

Of the very few other broken plants we have this pretty, elegant, gladiolus, and the unfortunate Mum in a Million.

The tall red climbing rose in the Oval Bed has bowed enough for me to photograph it head on;

The yellow crocosmia has also dropped a little, but remains intact.

Rose Alan Titchmarsh has drooped a little and a stem of Super Elfin has come adrift from the Gothic arch where

a somewhat aged Doctor Ruppel remains in place.

The weeping birch, the copper beech, and the cordyline Australis, although swaying somewhat, are not shedding too many twigs.

White begonias shaded by the wisteria, and similarly hued petunias in the rose garden still have all their petals.

This final triptych shows the Oval Bed pictured earlier from the corner of Margery’s Bed; nicotiana sylvestris towering over the rest of the Dead End Path planting; and a small owl toppled beside the Shady Path.

All in all we are getting off surprisingly lightly.

This evening we dined on baked gammon; crisp roast potatoes, the sweet variety being soft-centred; piquant cauliflower cheese; crunchy carrots; and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Saint-Chinian 2017.

A Paint Job

This morning, before dawn’s light had penetrated neighbouring trees, I photographed

the wakening garden from above.

Aurora first fingered the wisteria;

the crab apple

and the Amanogawa blossoms.

 

 

Aaron of A.P. Maintenance gave the shed two coats of paint,

then drank a mug of tea while, at a suitable distance, I admired his work and we came to the conclusion that we should have a crack at running the country together.

Afterwards I made him prints of this set of photographs and those of “Where’s Aaron?”.

This evening we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on the decking and watched tiny airborne hoverflies floating around

red and gold Japanese maples;

flecked laurel leaves;

 

Brown Turkey ficus fingers;

and deep magenta rhododendrons – all kissed by the evening sun which

pencilled patterns around the Copper Beech bole,

and imparted a gentle glow to Florence’s sculpted cheek.

Our subsequent meal consisted of Jackie’s perfect pork paprika, cayenne and three chillis speciality, with which I drank more of the Bordeaux, her Peroni having been consumed on the decking.

 

Versatility

During the power cut yesterday evening I finished reading

being the fourth of Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire novels.

I have to say I found this one rather ponderous in its political and philosophical passages, giving the impression that the periodical pattern of its publication promoted such prolixity.

Trollope’s familiar themes of love, marriage, and matriarchal machinations; the mores of the period; the importance of appearance over authenticity, and status over sincerity; devious deception, and struggles of conscience, are treated in this continuing chronicle of clerical kinship.

To my mind the author is at his best when dealing with the characters of his subjects, in particular through his easy command of dialogue, and his descriptions of his period.

Julian Symons has written a helpful introduction in which he acknowledges that he is at odds with many critics.

The Folio Society aims to commission illustrators commensurate in style with the periods of their publications. Peter Reddick’s elegantly delicate drawings perfectly fit the bill. Each is placed within the text of a single page, on a rather smaller scale than these I produce here.

A comparison of these with the same man’s woodcuts for Hardy’s ‘The Return of the Native’ provides ample examples of this illustrator’s versatility

On this dull but dry day Jackie continued with her planting as in this orange themed chimney pot,

and tidying along the Gazebo Path. She watched the blue tit at top right of this picture

feeding on sunflower seed hearts which it

carried up to the wisteria,

placing it beneath its foot with which it gripped the nugget while it nibbled away. This was done repeatedly.

Our very own Nugget, still skittish and clearly occupied elsewhere, is back investigating Jackie’s activities.

“Where’s Nugget?” (70)

The pieris behind the Nottingham Castle bench in the picture above is one example of the red/green complimentary colours that Jackie photographed along with all today’s photographs.

 

Another is shown by these geranium palmatum leaves turning red to warm up in cold weather.

The red Japanese maple stands beneath the golden one behind it;

 the red leaves and gold flowers of this heuchera repeat that combination.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower, carrots, runner beans, and red cabbage with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Cap Royal Bordeaux Supérieur 2016.

 

“Some Wet Things”

Throughout the day the promised rain fell steadily.

Early this evening we experienced a power cut for a couple of hours. The meat was in the oven; nothing worked; because of lockdown no alternative eating establishments were open; I had not prepared a post.

Fortunately the Culinary Queen had stocked up yesterday on salads and cold meats and had hard boiled a couple of eggs this morning. We therefore dined comfortably on an uncooked meal while watching Nugget swooping onto his feeder and making off with mouthfuls.

I finished reading Anthony Trollope’s “Framley Parsonage”, and will report on that tomorrow.

Also fortunately the Assistant Photographer had toured the garden earlier in the day to “photograph some wet things”.

Here they are. Notice all the raindrops. I trust the pictures can speak for themselves because I am knackered.

 

 

 

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.