Two Dawns

In the early morning chill I girded my loins with a thick cotton dressing gown and stepped into the garden to photograph the pink-streaked dawn.

Keen arboriculturists may be interested in the sylvan skeletons of copper beech, larch, weeping birch, and lopped bay tree.

Our great-niece, Ella, was two years old in January. She and her parents have been unable to visit since before Christmas. We haven’t heard her form clear sentences. Danni texted me this morning to say that her daughter has been shouting out of the window: “Where has Uncle Derrick gone?”

My late son, Michael, was not much older when I had to try to answer his question: “Why did my Mummy die?”. So my feelings prompted by the very welcome text were somewhat ambivalent. It was very pleasing to know that Ella, who will be able to visit at the end of the month, could remember and missed us, yet that memory of Michael, who would never see Vivien again, has always been most poignant.

For much of the day Jackie occupied herself trimming dead material from plants with which she filled a succession of trugs. I operated a relay service transporting the contents to the compost bins and returning the containers to the Head Gardener for refills.

Of course I did not undertake my Under Gardener duties without carrying my camera. Featured here are euphorbia, mahonia, leucojum Spring Snowflakes, primulas, pulmonaria, tulips, daffodils, camellias, hellebores, hyacinths, cyclamen, and viburnum bodnantensis Dawn. The first camellia shrub shows blooms browned by an earlier frost.

I was calm and contented when I produced the Dawn skies gallery. That was before WordPress had chosen to apply another simplifying process to operate from the sidebar. Until I got my head around this system to construct the plants gallery culminating in another Dawn, it was only reasonable to inform Jackie that it wasn’t her I was shouting at.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice served with plentiful green salad and three prawn preparations, namely tempura, hot and spicy, and salt and pepper. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.

They Keep On Coming

The moon was out of bed this morning when Jackie took her camera into the garden, yet cloud cover soon rolled in. She crouched low to offer the Cobaea Scandens cup to the lingering orb. Fennel seeds, sweet pea pods, and mahonia completed the collection of silhouettes. The Assistant Photographer finished with pastel shades of verbena bonariensis against New Zealand flax.

This afternoon I cut the grass for which the expression ‘mowed the lawn’ would be a little pretentious. It seemed somewhat ambitious to hand-clip the edges so I will live to fight them another day.

The hanging basket in the top centre of the first picture contains a bright lime-green heuchera.

For a little light relief I transported Jackie’s clippings from her weeding and taking cuttings to the compost bin and bagged up some of the woody material.

Beside her the Dragon Bed’s Polish Spirit clematis and hanging baskets petunias display vibrant colour.

Bees, like this one in geranium Roxanne, went about their business undisturbed.

This variety of rudbeckia has prove quite prolific this year, whereas several others have failed.

Recents storms virtually stripped this pink climbing rose of its leaves, yet buds keep on coming,

as do those of Flower Power, Lady Emma Hamilton,

Absolutely Fabulous,

and Crown Princess Margareta, who encourages the coexistence of different generations.

The Weeping Birch Bed, like most of the others, still contains a variety of colourful blooms.

There aren’t many without a dahlia or two.

Preferring the ebb and flow and artistry of Test matches, I am not fan of T20 cricket, but, as I watched England’s innings against Australia on TV this afternoon I began to wonder whether my apathy might be a teeny bit prejudiced.

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

Cold Soup

Jackie took advantage of the early morning sunlight to photograph

a variety of colourful daffodils;

a striking range of hellebores;

a bee probing pulmonaria;

my dwarf azalea, still thriving after twenty years and several moves;

pale yellow primroses

and their brighter primula relatives;

mahonias,

companula,

wood anemones,

summer snowflakes;

and burgeoning tulips blending with light blue pansies.

When Jackie delivered my muddy red jacket to White’s cleaners last week she was diverted by the purchase of a weighty brass owl, now perched on a lurching post. Its relatives may be glimpsed throughout the beds.

We collected the dry cleaning this afternoon and went on to visit Mum, who, although not quite aware of the global nature of the pandemic, is certainly fully au fait with the precautions at Woodpeckers and the reason for them. Conversation included Spanish flu and the death of Mum’s aunt Holly.

We were required to wash our hands on arrival when our temperatures were taken and pronounced perfect.

As we approached Brockenhurst we spotted a contented pony enjoying the now familiar New Forest vichyssoise soup.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent cottage pie; crisp Yorkshire pudding, sweet potatoes, cauliflower carrots, and broccoli: and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016.

Nature’s Umbrellas

Storm Jorge is not due to hit us until tomorrow. Just to get us in the mood, dispiritingly drizzly rain seeped from solid slate skies throughout the day. Even heavy rain would have been more stimulating.

Mostly I read, except when I donned a raincoat and wandered around the garden testing my camera’s imperviousness to the water that

glistened all surfaces

and bejewelled crocuses sagely keeping closed;

camellias on the bushes and

on the ground;

head-bent hellebores –

even those standing proud.

I realised today why these flowers invariably hang their heads.

They come equipped with their own umbrellas.

Daffodils,

primroses,

and mahonias brighten

the beds.

Raindrops cling to boughs until sliding down to drop to the ground.

This evening we dined at The Wheel Inn. Portions are so plentiful that we both opted simply for mains. Jackie enjoyed the thick, meaty house burger with chips and salad while I chose beer battered cod, chips and peas with tartar sauce. The crispy batter was better than most fish and chip shops could produce. Mrs Knight drank Kaltenberg and I drank Rioja.

 

Mud-caked

I have to acknowledge that I seem to be out of step with more regular reviewers of The Favourite which we watched on Prime after dinner yesterday.

I am not competent to comment on the historical accuracy of this story of the last years of Queen Anne, a very sad eighteenth century English monarch; nor for the depiction of Court life of the period. But maybe that is not the point of the film which focusses on the battle between two women for the position of Royal Favourite.

The three stars of Yorgos Lanthimos’s alleged tragicomedy offer undoubtedly excellent performances. Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz certainly deserved their awards. Emma Stone was also very good. Unfortunately, although one could sympathise with each of them in their own struggles I found it impossible to like any single character in the film.

It was an assault on the senses, not least for dirge-like banging music(?) and weird cinematography seemingly making use of a fish-eye lens and dizzying panning effects. Tragic, yes. Comic, not for me. Maybe I just don’t find it easy to laugh at people who are struggling.

Today was another of unceasing gloom.

This morning we each took our cameras into the garden at different times.

 

My pansies were photographed in the front garden, Jackie’s, somewhat nibbled, at the back;

Jackie photographed bright magenta cyclamen while I pictured the stone cherub reclining  against the tree trunk beside them;

the first two pelargonium images are Jackie’s;

two more are mine;

The Head Gardener produce her own photos of her pelargonium cuttings in the greenhouse;

she also photographed her stumpery, with watching owls and brown grasses;

vinca;

bergenia;

hebe;

viburnum;

mahonia;

cineraria;

 

euphorbias Silver edge and Rubra;

and primulas.

I contributed a range of camellias.

Soon after lunch we drove into the soggy forest, where the green at Bramshaw has been ploughed up by the hooves of

 

mucky sheep;

dismal donkeys;

and mud-caked cattle.

We each photographed a weather vane. Jackie’s bore Father Time,

mine a pair of geese.

A pair of riders road past.

Nearby a robin tweeted to one of a trio of

miniature be-rugged ponies.

Further on, approaching Newbridge we encountered

another herd of cattle. The second of these two photographs of Jackie’s includes a redwing and a crow, two of the avian entourage

accompanying the bovines.

Here is a redwing

and a wagtail.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken Jalfrezi, savoury rice, vegetable samosas, and parathas with which I finished the Garnacha Syrah while the Culinary Queen abstained.

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Mrs Nugget?

Jackie planted a clutch of primulas this morning.

While she was at it she kept tabs on the winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles,

and the mahonia that has grown into a tree.

She observed an encounter between a snail and an owl;

and admired the burgeoning Daphne Odorata Marginata and the

Chilean lantern tree.

By far the most exciting discovery, however, was that Nugget had become exceedingly frisky, as was his companion who followed him around.

Yes.

A Mrs Nugget has arrived.

“Where’s Mrs Nugget” in this picture? It is only fair to say that she is not on the feeder, and has her back to us. The Assistant Photographer worked very hard to capture them both in the same shot.

Today I finished reading

Because of the proliferation of pictures in this volume I could do no more that scan them before we set off to The Darbar restaurant in Emsworth where we were to dine with Becky and Ian. I will describe the book and feature the illustrations tomorrow.

We were given a pleasant surprise in that Miche also joined the party and the enjoyable conversation over the meal.

I chose a goat curry the name of which I cannot remember; Jackie’s pick was paneer shashlik. We all shared onion bhajis while Jackie and I shared mushroom rice and a plain paratha. We both drank Cobra, along with Ian and Miche. Becky enjoyed a pomegranate cocktail.. I’m not sure what the others ate.

On our return home we were sent off a closed section of the M27 and diverted into the centre of Portsmouth from which, so confusing were the diversion signs, it took us an hour to escape. The consequence is that it is now 11.15 p.m.

 

 

Backing Up

Knowing that we were to expect further stormy weather today, Jackie helpfully took her camera into the garden at dusk yesterday and photographed

primulas,

cyclamens,

bergenia,

hellebores,

camellias,

clematis cirrhosa Freckles,

a pelargonium,

a mahonia with accompanying New Zealand flax,

snowdrops,

and Daphne odorata marginata all in bloom.

The Generous Gardener rose set to climb the recently heavily chopped cypress has taken well.

While she was at it the Assistant Photographer also added a fern owl for Pauline’s benefit.

Just about avoiding the rain that was to follow we drove early into the forest.

On Barrows Lane a row of daffodils were already in flower.

We were, yer honour, proceeding at a gentle speed along the narrow, winding Lower Mead End Road when

distant headlights reflecting on the wet tarmac alerted us to the approach of an oncoming vehicle,

As always in such a situation someone has to back up. Jackie is of the opinion that this is very rarely a BMW driver. So it proved today. My Chauffeuse did the gentlewomanly (You are chauvinist, WP – I did not type gentlemanly) thing and reversed until there was some degree of passing space.

Polite waves were exchanged as the gentleman in the other vehicle sailed by and we continued driving through the pools ahead.

The woodland and Boundary obscured grazing ponies,

yet cattle were quite visible among the moorland gorse.

You could be excused for imagining that this picture of Sway Tower against streaky pastel skies was produced either at sunset or sunrise. In fact it was 11 a.m.

After lunch Jackie brought back my first Easter egg from Tesco’s where these delicacies had been on sale for at least a week. Like the pictures that began this post her intention had been that I might like to “put it on the blog”.

This evening we dined on succulent roast beef, crisp Yorkshire pudding, creamy potato and swede mash, and firm, tasty, Brussels sprouts and carrots with which I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah and Jackie drank Maury 2013.

 

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

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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

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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;

Pulmonaria

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

Mahonia

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:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jfkaf70SYM&w=560&h=315]

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.