How He Hinders

In yesterday’s fading evening light Jackie photographed

her helianthuses Lemon Queen, complete with bee, against the phormium and mahonia reaching for the gentle sky.

Today’s skies resembled damp fleece and the air was fairly breezy. She spent the morning attempting to get on with her planting. She managed two in as many hours, including a

delicate blue and white petrovskia and an ailing

similarly hued campanula.

You might have a couple of questions about this. Why still planting new additions? And why ailing specimens? That is because this is the season that the garden centres are virtually giving away stocks and Jackie operates an excellent floral hospital service. Not only that, but the need for soil replenishment in preparation for the winter means that multiple trips to buy compost are required and it is not possible to pass up special offers whilst she is at it.

A further question might be why at the rate of just one per hour? This is where her little friend comes in.

He has various hampering techniques.

Whenever she digs a hole he plants himself on it;

whenever she tackles a root he offers assistance;

he dives between her legs;

and is continually under her feet.

Now, “Where’s Nugget?” (20).

Apart from a short break for her own lunch, Jackie spent the entire day in the company of her little robin.

This evening, while Nugget tucked into mashed peanuts outside the back door, the real humans dined on Jackie’s flavoursome liver and bacon casserole with champ and cabbage, with which she drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Rearing Hellebores


The first clear sky at dawn for some time promised a sunny day which was appreciated by the garden, especially the winter flowering cherry that has been blooming for seven months now.

Sunshine, shadows, and birdsong returned to the garden paths.

Cryptomeria and eucalyptus trees from the antipodes brightened considerably.

Some of the hellebores even reared their heads.

Bright yellow mahonia blended with paler daffodils.

Although those nearer the soil were a little mud-spattered, primulas that had drooped a little now stood proud.

This afternoon Margery and Paul paid a visit as congenial as ever.

Afterwards Jackie drove me to catch the last post at Everton Post Office and on into the forest. Much of the terrain was still waterlogged, but the ford at Brockenhurst was dry.

Beef pie meal

This evening we dined on the second half of the smaller of Jackie’s splendid beef pies; served with crisp carrots and Brussels sprouts; and sautéed potatoes, peppers, and onions. I drank Serabel Lirac 2015.




A Little Bit O’ Bloomin’ Luck


Today began dark, wet, and windy. Thinking we would be unable to do much more in the garden we transported the results of yesterday’s crab apple pruning to Efford Recycling Centre.

Plant pots

As is the Head Gardener’s wont, she bought two more fibreglass faux terra cotta plant pots from the sales area.

The sun did put in brief appearance this afternoon, so I was able to present a snapshot of the first official day of Spring.

Jackie has also started buying plants, like these violas,

Snakes head fritillaries

and these snake’s head fritillaries just plonked in an urn for the moment.

Kitchen bed 1

Both are visible in this shot of the kitchen bed.

Camellias 1

These camellias shed their confetti-like petals on the Dead End Path.

Garden view from Margery's Bed

Others are visible on either side of the decking in this view beyond Margery’s Bed;

Dragon Bed 1

more in the Palm Bed;

Head Gardener's Walk 1

and beside the Head Gardener’s walk which also displays cyclamens.

These two were buried in darkness when we arrived three years ago. Now they are able to flower,

Dragon Bed 1

being visible from across the Dragon Bed.

Head Gardener's Walk 2

Figures lining the walk include dragons and a cherub.

There are, of course, hellebores and daffodils everywhere;


and pulmonaria, such as these clambering over a brick boundary.


A small mahonia planted last year is thriving along the back drive,

Vinca and hellebores

where a periwinkle has been stencilled on our neighbours’ wall.

A little bit of luck is essential to a successful photoshoot. As I was focussing on the garden it was appropriate that mine today should be blooming.

Epimedium 1

I was unhappy with my first shot at the epimediums, so I went back out to make some more efforts.

Then came my first ‘little bit o’ bloomin’ luck’. A bee had decided it was now warm and dry enough to flit from bloom to bloom.

As I clicked away at this insect, I received a second stroke. More clicking above my head alerted me to the fact that a pair of long-tailed tits were using the weeping birch branches as trapezes.

This warranted a tribute to Stanley Holloway:

This evening we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese takeaway with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Callia magna Malbec 2014.

Folding Flyers

Moon and mahonia

Last night a full yellow, pink haloed, moon was framed by limbs of garden trees such as an evergreen mahonia

Moon and beech

or rolled in the grip of deciduous fingers of beech.

This morning we collected Paul’s mount board from Wessex Print in Pennington and delivered this, the flyers, and exhibition prints to The First Gallery, where, whilst enjoying coffee and Margery’s mini hot cross buns, Paul and I checked over my work, and

Jackie and Margery folding flyers

Jackie and Margery had fun folding flyers.


On the moors between Beaulieu and Lymington linger many pools in which trees stand.


On one, another grey pony slaked its thirst in its own bath water (I am indebted to Johnna of for the bath water).

Ponies and pool

Suitably replenished, the dripping animal bounded onto the turf, circled the neighbouring pool above, and settled down to graze beyond its bay companion.

Table top

Unfortunately I had overlooked one of the A3 prints. This was the table top abstract which I therefore made on our return home. I suppose one out of fifty isn’t bad.

This evening Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi was served with pilau rice, chick pea dhal, and parathas. We both drank Kingfisher

Honey Bees And Christmas Lights

Giles visited this morning and stayed for lunch.

Bee on Mahonia


On a wander round the garden he was pleased to notice that the mahonia was still attracting bees.

Rose Jacqueline du Pre

Jacqueline du Pre was enjoying a resurgence in the rose garden.

Before lunch, our friend and I took a walk across the field by the post box, through the wood to the road, and back. My phone battery needed recharging, so I couldn’t take it with us.

It is six months since Jackie and I last dined at the Family House in Totton. We know that because Lennox, the latest member of the family was due a day or two after our visit, and he will be six months old in three days time. We ate there tonight and were amused to see his parents sharing the tasks of running the restaurant and holding their son, given that that is just what Matthew and Tess were doing in their establishment yesterday.

We received our usual warm welcome and excellent food, accompanied by Tsingtao beer.

En route we enjoyed Christmas lights at

Christmas lights 1


Christmas lights 4


Christmas lights 5

and Lymington.

In the left foreground of the Lymington photograph can be seen the gold-painted postbox, so decorated in honour of Ben Ainslie who won his fourth Olympic gold yachting medal in 2012.

As Wikipedia puts it: ‘To commemorate British and Irish gold medal winners at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics, various postboxes around the United Kingdom, plus one each on Sark and the Isle of Man, were repainted [by the Royal Mail] from their traditional red into gold. It marked the first occasion in modern times that the colour of post boxes in the United Kingdom had been changed from their traditional red. Originally intended to be a temporary measure, it was later decided the colour change would become a permanent tribute, with boxes additionally receiving their own special plaques.’

This is the story of Ben Ainslie’s: ‘For sailor Ben Ainslie, the Mail initially painted a box in Restronguet Passage, Cornwall, the place [where] he grew up and learned to sail. A member of the public then vandalised a box in Lymington High Street, Hampshire, on the basis that Ainslie was a long time resident and considered somewhat of a local legend. After initially filing a complaint, the Mail relented to a public campaign and decided to officially paint the Lymington box.’

A Remarkable Year For Flora

UnknownEarly this morning we kept a GP appointment in Milford on Sea. I was given a referral for my Dupuytren’s contracture. This photograph from the internet best shows the stage mine has reached. I know it looks unseemly, but it is awkward rather than painful. I cannot straighten the finger.

Afterwards, on this exceedingly mild day I took a stroll round the garden. Apart from the cyclamens, pansies and other flowers normally blooming at this time, we have mahonias, hellebores, roses, and bidens.CyclamenPansyMahoniaHelleboreRoseRose CompassionbidensCamellia budNasturtium

More camellias are budding, and even nasturtiums have survived. This really has been a remarkable year for flora.


A pig with a ring through its nose winked and smiled out of one of the multicoloured stumps on the back drive.

Paul and Margery came for a visit at midday and brought back unsold framed photographs from the Ruby exhibition. Our friend is pleased to have become a dab hand at the difficult task of leaving our front drive and emerging into Christchurch Road.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jafrezi (recipe) and savoury rice with egg custard to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I consumed a little more of the cabernet sauvignon.

20 Is Plenty

At 30 mph today’s wind was six miles per hour faster than yesterday’s. Colin, the former marathon runner I had met yesterday, had taken the different route in order to avoid being blown off the cliff top. Fighting my way down Bob‘s steps to the deserted shingle on my Hordle Cliff walk this morning, I rather saw his point.

Bridge Cottage hedgeThe owner of Bridge Cottage had told me how impossible the salt wind to which the corner of Downton Lane is exposed has made growing a hedge. Trees bentIt was also clear why so many trees grow bent away from the sea.

SeascapeEven in the lane the roar of wind and waves that were pounding the shingle was thunderous.

Demolished chaletThe older chalets in Shorefield Country Park are being demolished to make way for more modern structures. The woman who explained the pile of flammable material fenced in by a high barrier regretted their passing because they were a ‘cheap and cheerful’ way of taking a summer holiday.

MahoniaA mahonia on the approach to the footbridge over the stream leading to the rookery was a gleaming beacon.

Apart from the Bridge Cottage photograph, those taken after the sea spray coated my camera lens bear traces of the film this produced.20-is-plenty-226x300

To put today’s blasts in perspective, 30 miles per hour is the traffic speed limit in UK’s built-up areas. Not so long ago a series of television adverts alerted us to the fact that a child on impact with a vehicle travelling at that rate would almost certainly be killed. At 20 mph there was more of a chance of survival. For this reason, many zones, particularly in the vicinity of schools, like the one in West End, signed with the slogan ’20 is plenty’, have reduced the limit to 20.

For our dinner this evening we repaired to The Red Lion at MIlford on Sea. With my rib eye steak I drank a large glass of valpolicella; Jackie drank peroni with her piri-piri chicken; and we both chose caramel apple pie and custard. This was all as enjoyable as last time.

Once again our Royal Oak neighbour has closed down. It does seem to be difficult to make this hostelry, which relies on holiday trade and has no real local clientele, pay.