Canine Companions

Scooby and pheasant 1Scooby and pheasant 2

A day or two before the Emsworth family joined us for Easter, whilst out walking with Scooby, Ian found a pheasant that he gave to their dog who has brought it with him. I have been very remiss in not mentioning it before, but it is probably why Eric and Scooby ignore each other in the garden,


where tulips are now blooming.


The North Breeze magnolia is now looking even more magnificent.

Jackie and I accompanied Becky and Ian on a drive to Curry’s at Christchurch where they bought a new Toshiba laptop charger. Afterwards we visited Stewart’s Garden Centre for coffee. The others also enjoyed scrumptious scones.Carp

Before entering the store we stopped to watch the carp enjoying the sunlight on their large pool.


In the restaurant area I engaged in conversation with a very friendly couple, the gentleman of which sported a beard that the current breed of rugby players would envy.


Towards the exit we met Chica the chihuahua who shared her basket with a fox and a duck. She is thirteen years old and can’t walk very far.Derrick

Knowing how she felt I was given a head start when walking back to the car. I got there first and waited on a conveniently placed chunk of rock.

This evening the five of us dined on set meal M4 at the most friendly Family House in Totton. Jackie, Ian, and I drank Tsingtao; Becky Diet Coke; and Flo Apple Juice.It was very enjoyable.

Privilege Customer

Bramble blossom
BrambleNo matter how thorough you try to be in pulling up and eradicating brambles, there are always some that catch your eye as you wander around. For this reason I went on a bramble hunt today. Some, by now, are announcing their presence with blossom and budding fruit; others are so long and straggly they make you wonder how you missed them. So skilled in the art of camouflage are these thorny ramblers that I was constantly amazed at how much space was opened in the shrubberies simply by removing them. No doubt if I repeat the process in a day or two, I will be equally surprised.
Jackie continued weeding, watering and planting.
EchinopsagapanthushoneysuckleHibiscusAmong the recent discoveries more welcome than the unwanted growth have been echinops, agapanthus, and honeysuckle whose pink blends quite well with the blue arch around which it clambers.
Not knowing what colour to expect, we have been eagerly awaiting the blooming of the hibiscus in the front garden. We were not disappointed by its interesting pink hues.
For a late lunch today we visited the Needles Eye Cafe in Milford on Sea. Jackie enjoyed a cheese omelette, chips, salad, and diet coke; whilst I, once I had jogged the waiter’s memory, relished a maxed-up breakfast with tea. This large fry-up comes with toast and marmalade. For the second time, my toast was forgotten. I assured the staff member that I did not take it personally as I was not paranoid.
Beach sceneBeach scene 2We had not been to this beach in hot holiday weather before, so it was something of a shock to walk to the path at the top of the shingle and be confronted by a picture postcard scene. ‘Oh, yes. We live here’, we said.
After our meal Jackie drove us on to Stewart’s Garden Centre at Christchurch and back. Just before my last trip to France, I had signed up for a Stewart’s Privilege Customer card. One of the benefits of this is that you may buy two samples of specific plants at half price. The choice changes monthly. The July selection is agapanthus. After dropping me off at the airport on 8th July, Jackie hot wheeled it off to Stewart’s to choose her agapanthuses. She found two marvellous full-budded specimens. Taking out the coupon from the monthly magazine, she proffered her pennies. She was asked for the Privilege card. Ah. It was in my wallet in Sigoules.
The card is now safely in Jackie’s purse, so off we had gone to choose some more of the perennial blue plants. Agapanthus and clematisesUnfortunately there were only a few, decidedly past their best for this year, left. Never mind, we could still have two of them – and we found two that will do very nicely next year – and, in compensation for their condition, a clematis also at half price. we chose Inspiration ‘Zoin’.
LilyThis evening I wandered down to the postbox. A lily has escaped into the hedgerow in Downton Lane.

‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’

We began the day by transferring our waterboy from the edge of the kitchen garden to a suitable spot nearer the house. WaterboyThis meant two trips by wheelbarrow, one for him, and one for his shell. Before going off to Stewart’s Garden Centre we needed to make sure the whole feature would fit where we planned, and to take measurements of the depth of the water and the diameter of tube required to link a pump to the lad. By ‘we’, as usual, I mean Jackie.  ‘Trust me, I’m a doctor’, said she as she performed a delicate endoscopy with a piece of flexible curtain wire. It was necessary to ensure there would be no internal blockages to impede the regular colonic irrigation of the water that would be flowing through the body. Satisfied in all respects that our find would work we drove to the garden centre. In fact the size of pump we required was purchased from Maidenhead Aquatics, an outlet on the parent company’s campus. At Stewart’s itself, we collected the rest of Jackie’s birthday solar lights, one of which is seen suspended over the patio behind the water feature.
Unfortunately, four of the components were missing from one box of lights, so we had to go back to the shop to replace it. There was no problem with this. As we were out, we stopped off at Ferndene Farm Shop and bought six more bags of gravel.
Hordle Chinese Take Away provided our evening meal, but Jackie had to go and fetch it. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I imbibed Tsing Tao.
Afterwards we dead-headed a large rhododendron, in order to promote next year’s flowering.Solar lighting 1Solar lighting 2Solar lighting 3 It was almost 10 p.m. by the time the solar lights came on, because we are nearing the longest day. Solar lighting 4These lamps gather their power from the sunlight, but it is only triggered when the night draws in.

A Result

Today being Jackie’s birthday, her choice of activity was to work in the garden. Oh joy.
We managed to postpone finishing off yesterday’s task by going on an arch hunt. Otter Nurseries in Everton didn’t have metal ones; Everton Nurseries had some but they were too small; so we went off in the opposite direction to Stewart’s in Christchurch where we had seen the very thing when we bought the tower/obelisk. Albeit more expensive than the Gardman product, this was much more robust and exactly the right size.
They only had the model on display. We could have it with a 25% discount because it was the last one, and a bit dusty. The very helpful young man dismantled it for us and helped us into the car with it. I commented that it was a pity we didn’t have a bigger car then he wouldn’t have had to dismantle it and we wouldn’t have to reassemble it. Jackie commented that her drive was much easier than had been the one with Elizabeth’s rose arch occupying all three passenger seats and part of hers. We had bought that at the Bishop’s Waltham Garden Fair in May 2012. It did not come flat-packed, as it had been handmade by a local craftsman. There was no room for passengers in the car, so Jackie had to drive alone with the lanky rustic creation attempting to cuddle her all the way to The Firs.
The trip to Otter Nurseries wasn’t exactly wasted because they had a special offer on four bags of gravel, so we bought some.
Straight after lunch I attacked the lonicera, brambles, and ivy once more. Yesterday I showed you what the view over the fence looks like.

This is what the lonicera looks like through the remnants of fence after I have hacked it back:
Again, a sister and brother in law provided an opportunity to take a break, by making a visit. This was Shelly and Ron who also brought more of the plants they have been fostering.

All the flowers, including these geraniums, have thrived through a comparatively mild winter under Shelly’s attention.
Ron, having broken his heel, was somewhat restricted, but I was able to take Shelly round the garden. Among all the other interesting

specimens we have, the Chinese lantern tree is now in full bloom, and a red climbing rose enhances the back of the house.. While Jackie joined Shelly on her tour, I sat and chatted to Ron.

The bird feeders have now been erected and he and I watched a young robin trying them out.
Before and after enjoying our visitors’ company I tackled the undergrowth behind the broken arch,and Jackie cleared the front, and fully exposed the edge of the path. The Virginia creeper and all the brambles mentioned yesterday had choked and obscured a very leggy climbing rose which possesses one red bud.
Before attempting to reassemble the new gothic arch, we needed to untangle, and free from the surrounding vegetation, the creeper and the rose. We decided to give the Virginia climber a most severe skinhead haircut in order to allow the rose to toss out its tresses. Jackie climbed the stepladder to tie up the limbs. The arch was fairly  straightforward to put together, a little less so to set astride the path. But we managed it and are very pleased with the result. In fact, in football parlance, to obtain the last one the store was ever going to stock, at such a discount, was in itself a result.

This photograph was taken from the Heligan Path, which would not have been possible much more than a week ago. Yesterday, the large tree to the left of and behind the climbers on the arch, was obscured by undergrowth, as was the metal rail and knotted jumble behind that, which is the subject of the first picture above. Incidentally, this clearance seems to be adding about four feet to the width of our shrubbery.
Dinner this evening was delicious chicken jalfrezi (recipe) with mushroom rice and vegetable samosas accompanied by Cobra beer.

Jattie’s Sculpture

A pair of bullfinches visited the garden this morning. They are shy birds, and scarpered pretty sharpish, before I could snatch a

photograph, so I nicked these images from the internet.
Today we made two trips to Ron and Shelly’s home in Walkford to collect more of the plants they have been carefully fostering for us.
It is Jackie’s birthday in three days time. She had expressed a desire for solar powered lights for the garden. She also wanted a tower for a clematis she has planned to put in a large stone planter in the bed outside the dining room window. This afternoon, therefore, we made a journey to the splendid Stewart’s Garden Centre in Christchurch. Started in the eighteenth century the concern is still in the ownership of the founding family. There we bought the tower and a pair of lights, of which we ordered six more. As she drove away Jackie realised she hadn’t got a clematis after all. That meant a trip to the Ferndene Farm shop where she bought one of the Marie Boisselot variety and a couple of heucheras.

We had always thought the flowers of bottle brush plants were red. Ours turns out to be a bright lemon yellow which is already attracting bees.

The recent clearing has revealed a number of comparatively small hidden plants, one of which is a tiny delicate peach coloured rose, whose bush is barely a foot tall with even less of a span. This actual bloom is about one third of the featured image. More visible also now is a very delicate and elegant scented palm, the precise identity of which we do not know.
Some twenty years or so ago, Jessica’s much-loved aunt Janet, known as Jattie, Ellen took up sculpture and revealed a considerable talent. My late wife gave me one of her early pieces –

a reclining nude, who has perched on my desk for some time. Having always had a penchant for garden sculpture I thought she might go well in ours. Jackie created the very spot in the patio corner. The climbing rose above the young woman is a complementary peach, and the heuchera to her right is one of those bought this afternoon with the sculpture in mind.
We had fun assembling the tower which was less straightforward than it looked. It didn’t help that we kept dropping the nuts and having to search for them. The one that fell into the gravel was an interesting challenge.

This photograph of the bed in which the clematis has been placed also demonstrates the change of heart we have had about the ginkgo. It will stay in its pot in front of the clematis. That way, apparently, it will not grow into a forest tree.
This evening Jackie departed from Hordle Chinese Take Away with our dinner, which we soon enjoyed eating. She drank Hoegaarden. My wine was Cotes de Bordeaux superieur 2012.

Agnes and Gert

Roughly at dog snot level throughout the ground floor of our house was a dado frieze painted by nose with pigment it is best not to enquire about.

There was a concentration on door jambs. Jackie and Elizabeth between them did excellent work cleaning this off. This morning Jackie found one she had missed and gave it her best attention later on.
One of the piles of rubbish for eventual removal, photographed previously, lay on an imaginatively textured set of patio paving fronting the French windows to the sitting room. This rather ruined the view, so today I decided to move the detritus to join that on the larger heap at the side of the house.

Next, I weeded the cracks between the stones, returned the overspills of earth to the surrounding flower beds, and gave everything a good sweep. I also tidied up the numerous tubs and window boxes our predecessors had filled with delightful spring bulbs to welcome us. Each time I carried weeds to the compost heap, I pulled up lots of sticky Willies on the way. One set of these tentacles was entwined around stinging nettles, the welcome of which continues to throb as I type. Between showers this took most of the day, apart from a shopping trip to B & Q, to Stewart’s Garden Centre, and finally to The Ferndene Farm Shop.
Close observers of what our daughter Becky calls the hobo on the bench in yesterday’s photograph, will have noticed that the grass needs cutting. We went to B & Q for a strimmer and a few other things, one of which was a garden kneeler.

They didn’t have the latter piece of equipment there so we bought one in Stewart’s.
Those same close observers may have noticed the dirty knees of my trousers, indicating a certain amount of genuflection. Should they be under sixty they will probably have no idea of the difficulty that this movement can present. I know I certainly didn’t when I was.
I remember my Dad saying to me: ‘You know you are getting old when you have to  use your hands to get out of a chair’. The same is true of rising from a penitent pose. As can be seen from the photograph above, this kneeler provides supports for that very movement.
This bring me to AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) and GERT (the GERontolic Test suit). These are the usually tortuously contrived acronyms, but never mind, what they represent are age simulation suits. Originally introduced in the motor car industry they are now used for training in the caring and health professions to give younger people, who are after all those working with the aged, an idea of the restrictions that come with advancing years.

So-called ageing suits are made of materials that restrict movement of the knees, elbows, back and neck, and use gloves to reduce the sense of touch, goggles to simulate blurry vision, and ear muffs to reduce hearing.
One aspect of the arthritis which causes most of the problems of flexibility, that the suits cannot reproduce, is the associated pain, but maybe experiencing the restricted movement and apparent deterioration of other faculties will enable the need for pain relief to be better understood.
We dined this evening on Jackie’s superb chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice, followed by Post House Pud which consists, like The Firs Mess, of merangues filled with whatever fruit, cream, ice cream and suchlike is available. I finished the Marques de Carano.