Not Quite Mid-May

Today’s tour of the garden began with

clematis Marie Boisselot in the Kitchen Bed which also contains an as yet small wisteria, clusters of ferns, Japanese maples, the now ubiquitous erigeron, and self seeded bronze fennel which will have to go when it outgrows it’s welcome.

Other clematises include Niobe, now rivalling the fading wisteria and the burgeoning rose Paul’s Scarlet for space above the Wisteria Arbour; and Doctor Ruppel, one of which is beginning its ascent up the arch facing the Westbrook Arbour.

At the Brick Path corner of the Dragon Bed a deep red peony prepares to top off the happy planting of phlox and geraniums.

At the far side of this bed the magnolia Vulcan is beginning to relish the light now permitted into its corner.

The pink rhododendron in the Palm Bed sits opposite the deeper variety in Margery’s Bed.

There are a number of vantage points along the Brick Path.

The yellow diurnal poppies alongside the Gazebo Path

can be seen slightly above the centre of this view through the Cryptomeria Bed.

Before Aaron left this morning he had mown the grass patch which is beginning to warrant the epithet lawn.

Rose Madame Alfred Carriere soars above the entrance to the Rose Garden; Jacqueline du Pré adds harmony; Laura Ford a splash of yellow beside Roserie de la Haie; and Gloriana a touch of majesty to the side fence.

Aquilegias dance with ferns in the South Bed;

weigela festoons the fence above them.

Three hawthorn trees, swathes of libertia, and carpets of erigeron give a distinctly white hue to the Back Drive borders.

These are glimpses of the garden in not quite mid-May.

While we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on the patio a pair of pigeons settled down for the evening in the copper beech.

For our dinner we travelled around the world in 60 minutes. We enjoyed Jackie’s special fried rice with Japanese tempura prawns, Chinese pork spare ribs, Indian tandoori chicken, Belgian Hoegaarden beer and more of the Chilean Carmenere wine.

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



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,



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.


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.





Mirror and mantelpiece

Yesterday morning Jackie visited Molly’s Den where she bought a mirror for the wall above the fireplace. On the left of the mantelpiece stands the miniature mock Ordnance Survey Map that Becky made for us almost two years ago. Please ignore the fact that we have not redecorated since the fireplace was put in.

It seems a crime to obtain the bevelled glass and wonderfully hand-carved frame for £40, simply because such craftsmanship is now out of fashion. Observant readers may have observed the finial to the left hand vase. When these ornaments were in Jackie’s parents’ home her father had used plasticine to make good the break. She has made good the break with Blu-Tac.

Reflected drawings

The reflected images in the glass are of two family portraits. That on the viewer’s left has appeared before, on May 3rd 2014:

The other

is one of my proudest possessions. It was produced by Flo when she was about 8 and asked at school to draw something that made her happy. The placement of herself is quite brilliant. The drawing stayed on the wall for a year and was presented to me at the end of that time.

Magnolia Vulcan

In the garden the blooms of the Vulcan magnolia are now opening out;

Clematis Lidl blue

and the clematis Lidl blue, so named because it was an unnamed cheapie from that store,

Rose Penny Lane

and the rose Penny Lane, benefitting from one of the Rose Garden mirrors, climb up one side of the potting shed.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver, bacon, and sausage casserole, with creamy mashed potato, crunchy carrots and green beans. Jackie drank Peroni, and I finished the Madiran.



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.


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,


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.

Fifty Years After The Party

Today was polling day.

Junk mail is a fact of life. I understand that it doesn’t take many punters for the cost of sending out such paper material by the normal postal system to be recouped. Recipients can, however, just bin it. Cold telephone calling is more annoying, because you have to get out of your chair and answer the phone, before replacing the receiver with, or without, expletives. The machines are frustrating because asking them politely not to call you again is a waste of time. For the poor unfortunates who actually ring in person, it is their bad luck they they may have to hear a piece of your mind.

Now we have the internet and e-mails, so we can be flooded with spam, far less palatable than its processed meat namesake. Naturally, therefore, this morning I received my usual message, allegedly from David Cameron, who will never have heard of me, thanking me for all I have done for him over the last five years, and encouraging me to help him get back into power. It was the same last time. Numerous mailshots from various members of the Conservative party on the run-up to the election, and, afterwards, one from the leader, thanking me for tramping the streets on their behalf. In fact, I did no such thing. As a floating voter who attempts to make up his mind based on what he has experienced and what he gleans from all the media coverage, I never nail my colours to the mast in advance.

I do not flatter myself that I have personally merited this attention. My e-mail address has simply been purloined and added to a data base somewhere in the clouds. With the press of one button, no doubt everyone on the list is similarly intruded upon. None of the other parties pesters me in this way. Are they crediting us with making our own choices; are they so backward in the use of I.T.; or do they have less resources?

On a calmer, balmy,  morning, I ambled down the garden and the lane as far as Roger’s field and back.

Red hot poker

The first of our red hot pokers proudly stood erect,


as did the sinuous tellima saxifrage, flexible enough to have withstood yesterday’s blasts.

Magnolia Vulcan

The magnolia Vulcan basked in its hour of sunshine.

Tree peonyAzalea

The tree peonies and the dwarf azalea have survived intact.

Cow parsley 1Cow parsley 2

Cow parsley, in its rightful place, on the verges of Downton Lane,

Cow parsley and dandelion clocks

passed the time of day with dandelion clocks.

Blossom 2Blossom 1

Pale pink blossom I cannot identify has appeared in the hedgerows,


as have the first golden buttercups.

Fern unfurling

Ferns were unfurling,

Petals on pool

and petals floating on a puddle were reminders of the gales.

As I sat down to upload these photographs, Louisa rang me to announce that she had a project for me for the day. Tomorrow being V.E. (Victory in Europe) day seventy years on, my granddaughter Imogen has to prepare a presentation for her school class. My daughter thought it would be good for Imogen to produce the image of her grandfather and great uncle Chris taken when they attended the Victory Street Party of 1945. She wondered if I had any more of interest.

I had this one taken by Jessica in the garden of Lindum House on 8th May 1995: Derrick 8.5.95 001

Seated on a circular bench built around the acacia tree by Errol’s Uncle Frank, I point to myself in my photograph album. The 1945 picture of that memorable event is featured in ‘Holly’.

I e-mailed both the pictures to Louisa. Apparently it took granddaughter Jessica less than a second to pick me out of the Street Party group. She said I looked like my grandson Oliver.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Milford on Sea where we cast our votes at the Church Hall, and our empties at the car park bottle bank.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of sausages roasted with peppers and mushrooms; mashed potato in superb, thick, chunky, gravy which could have been a meal in itself, and crisp carrots, cabbage, and runner beans. Custard tart was to follow. Jackie’s beverage was sparkling water, whilst mine was Doom Bar.

Could You Have Done That If You’d Tried?

Last night Andy drove us home from Spice of India in Danni’s car. We were some time getting under way. Perched on the front passenger seat, I was unable to fit the seat belt. Now, this is a fairly automatic task which doesn’t normally require too much attention. Stretching out the belt with my left hand, I passed it to my right, and groped for the receiving slot. The slot was unreceptive. Thinking my aim must be awry, I had several stabs at it. To no avail. In the gloom of the car park, I peered at the stubborn fixture. There seemed to be a coin therein. A search for a nail-file ensued. One was produced from a handbag in the back. Andy prised out the offending item, which revealed itself to be a button. It seemed, as was subsequently confirmed, likely to be one from my back trouser pocket. Andy dropped it on the floor. We didn’t find it. Could you have done that if you’d tried? Rose stem loosenedArch strut dislodgedRose stem retied Today’s gale force wind was even stronger than yesterday. The North West of our garden seems to suffer the most. As I wandered around today I noticed an untied rose stem hanging down from its arch, one of the struts of which had been blown loose. I refixed the the arch and tied the rose back up.Rose stem on seat 1 Rose stem on seat 2Rose stem hanging The buds on that particular section had remained intact, but others had been torn off. One rested on the Ace Reclaim bench; another hung by its neck. ClematisMagnolia Vulcan Nearby, an as yet unidentified clematis clings to the helping hands of a fir tree, and the magnolia Vulcan risks blooming. Clouds, too, were sent scudding across the sunlit sky, giving us alternating light and shade, which meant for shadows to appear and reappear, never in the same place. This can be seen in the two bench seat shots. In the first, foliage had been blown into position, not to return for the second. Weeping birch and beech The weeping birch was not permitted to droop its flimsy filigreed branches for long before they were tossed aloft. Japanese maple yellow Flames of a yellow Japanese maple flickered like those of the red one pictured yesterday. Bee struggling A solitary, hungry, bumblebee, struggled to gain purchase on a cluster of heucheras. It had about as much success as I did in keeping it in focus. Cow parsley We have what I consider to be an invasion of cow parsley, which also bent its back in the face of the violent gusts. I am all for pulling it up before it drops its seeds, but, unfortunately, the head gardener has overruled me, and I am no Alan Titchmarsh. Jessica, too, had found these plants attractive. She collected seeds from the wayside around Newark and scattered them in the orchard, where they rapidly germinated, flourished joyfully, and spilled their seed in turn. It took us several years of taking out the tops to eradicate it. PierisCalendula The pink-leaved pieris on the lawn shelters under the protection of the Nottingham Castle bench, and low-level plants like calendulas smile in the sunshine. Rhododendron Another rhododendron has battled its way through the North Breeze jungle next door. It is probably grateful now that it is surrounded by brambles. This evening we dined on Mr. Pink’s exquisite cod and chips and Garner’s pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the Bordeaux. It wasn’t a good idea to ruin the taste of the wine by contaminating it with the vinegar from the onions, but it had been open a day or two, and may soon have tasted of vinegar itself. Alternating it with water helped a bit.