No Discount For Amusing Dog

This afternoon, with Elizabeth and her friend, Cathy, we visited Spinners Garden in Pilley, open in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. Jackie and I had visited four or five years ago when the steep slopes and terraces of this wonderful, well established, venue were of no consequence. Not so today.

The long downward path between splendid varieties of rhododendron and camellia was more than I could manage without continuous pauses.

As soon as possible I sat on the edge of a decking platform and photographed a tree peony, a very large magnolia that had suffered from the attention of the recent Storm Hannah, and the neighbouring landscape.

I watched others, including Elizabeth and Cathy who had made their way down the sloping lawn to a pool with a wooden bridge at the bottom.

I did my best to avoid the attentions of the owner’s dog, keen to have his ball thrown for him. This was something else I had forgotten from our earlier visit. There was unfortunately no discount for amusing him. Cathy had the right idea. Her throw was so powerful that the ball landed in the pool. The owner had a spare to hand.

Jackie photographed the other three of us after we had taken refreshments on the patio. She then went up to the street to collect the car and bring it down for me – this at the suggestion of a member of the team.

There is a very attractive woodland walk up to the highest level which I was unable to contemplate on this occasion. Before entering the Modus, while my Chauffeuse waited patiently, I photographed this terraced scene rising from a pool containing yellow irises;

and other visitors climbing the path to the top.

With a last look at the beds at the bottom of the entrance road, I entered my waiting carriage.

Elizabeth joined us for dinner this evening, for which, after an amuse bouche of tasty spinach soup, Jackie produced her choice chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by apricot crumble and custard. My sister and I drank more of the Pinot Noir while The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden.

Great Nephews

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Many of the blooms on the still quite small pink rhododendron, seen in this sculpture’s eye view from Five Ways, are now fully open.

Others recently flourishing include the yellow tree peony, various geraniums, and elegant libertias.

The flamboyant red and yellow tulips are changing their hues with age, while the euphorbias have reached full sculptural maturity.

A clematis Montana festoons the mauve lilac tree.

Orange poppies lead the eye to the marigolds alongside the greenhouse. Similarly the heuchera alongside the Dead End Path echos the recently flourishing copper beach leaves.

This latter path is visible from the patio where we sat with Helen, Shelly, Billy and Max who visited us this morning.

Although his usual cheerful self, poor little Max has chicken pox, so he was a bit thirsty and drowsy. Helen administered the bottle.

Billy was as active as ever, manoeuvring his vehicles, wandering about the garden, and munching chocolate bars. The two boys are Helen’s grandsons and Shelly, Jackie, and my great nephews.

This evening we dined on prawn toasts and Jackie’s superb egg fried rice with a rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce followed by Easter bread and butter pudding. Should anyone wonder what this is, I would ask what else would you do with weird hot cross buns purchased in error, not having realised that the currants were in fact chocolate chips, other than put them in the freezer in case they might come in useful. Jackie drank sparkling water and I drank Tesco’s finest Médoc 2016

 

 

Regeneration

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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.

Iris

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,

Weigela

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.

Spot The Difference

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In today’s gardening division of labour my contribution was weeding the back drive, while Jackie continued planting, weeding, and watering.

My main focus was on the bed alongside the new fence.

This involved clambering between dead stumps and the fencing and digging out stubborn brambles and sticky Willies. I had not anticipated needing to use a fork on all this, but, most unusually for April, there has been so little rain that the ground is rock hard. Consequently I didn’t get very far. For those readers interested in the scale of things this drive is 75 yards long and the width of a terraced house plot.

Jackie filled the Rose Garden urns – one on the brick pillar we have just rebuilt – with compost

in readiness for these lilies bought from the Hordle Post Office a couple of days ago.

Other plantings in the Oval and Elizabeth’s Beds and the Rose Garden are mostly represented by labels.

Corner of Palm Bed at Fiveways

In this corner of the Palm Bed we have tulips; a yellow Japanese maple that clearly needs the pruning treatment;

Rhododendron 1

and a pink rhododendron just coming into bud.

Tree peony

A yellow tree peony competes with the latter over which will be the first in full bloom.

Daffodils, honesty, and hellebores continue to thrive.

This cream verbascum stands on the Back Drive bed,

Clematis Montana

and this clematis Montana spills over the front garden wall,

behind which a yellow potentilla is flowering. Can you guess what, when I put the first of these pictures of it up on the screen, got me rushing out there?

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips, Garner’s pickled onions, and Tesco’s gherkins. I drank Doom Bar beer.

The Darling Buds Of May

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Today being drier and a little brighter than yesterday, there were enough glimpses of sunlight to be more conducive to garden photography.

New clematises are emerging daily.

clematis Piilu

Mostly, as with this Piilu, I am grateful for the identity labels, because they all look so much alike.

clematis Star of India

Star of India, blends well with geranium palmatum.

Petunia

Petunias abound;

Pansies, petunias, and honesty

some share their pots with pansies. The new urns, like this one, are all planted up now. Everywhere, honesty is turning to seed medallions.

Lilac

Lilacs are in full bloom;

Tree recovering

and this tree, that had only one leafing branch when we first arrived, is making a remarkable recovery. New trunks have begun to swallow the original pock-marked member.

Bee on poppy

A few bees, such as this one plundering an orange poppy

Bee in pansy 1

and another burrowing into a somewhat perforated pansy risked getting wet for the good of the hive.

Rose Altissimo

On the edge of the rose garden, a single Altissimo bloom lives up to its name,

Rose For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only burgeons within,

Roses Absolutely Fabulous and Special Anniversary

and most other bushes, like Absolutely Fabulous and Special Anniversary, are on the verge of bursting forth the darling buds of May.

Rhododendron

This rhododendron

Grass bed

enhances the Grass Patch Bed, at the end of which stands the recovering tree mentioned above.

View from behind viburnum plicatum

This pivotal patch can be viewed from the tree peony hiding behind the viburnum plicatum;

View from Dead End Path

from the Dead End Path;

View across grass

and from the Brick Path.

Palm Bed

Elsewhere, sculptural alliums, like these in the Palm Bed, are opening out all over.

For our dinner this evening the Culinary Queen produced pork chops coated in mustard and demerara sugar and topped with almonds; boiled, sautéd, and sweet potatoes; cauliflower and carrots; and  peppers, tomato, leek, and onion sauce; followed by bread and butter pudding and custard. She drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2012.

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,

Tellima

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,

Buttercups

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.

The Task Ahead Of Me

Back drive

A.P. Maintenance have done a grand job on the back drive. The section in the foreground, abutting the road, is to be concreted next weekend.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana is now spreading down the dead trunk.

Rhododendron

More rhododendrons are in bloom.

Fly on tree peony

Yellow flowers, like those now appearing on tree peonies, attract insects, such as this iridescent-winged fly.

Today I finished reading ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’, Harper Lee’s masterpiece from 1960. So many people have responded to yesterday’s post saying that it is one of their favourite books, and even more that it is on their reading list, that I will not give details here. Instead I will describe its impact. Set in 1935, this is a tale told through the eyes of a little girl from the ages of four to eight. It can be seen as an insightful piece of character building based on keen observation and a knowledge of what childhood was like. It also deals in a sensitive way with a profound social issue that was still relevant in 1960. For good measure there is a side-issue of a mystery beautifully solved at the end.

The writing is fluid. It has a gentle pace that picks up fast as the story unfolds. Characterisation and descriptions of small-town life are perfectly credible.

I did not want to put it down, and therefore consumed it in two sessions, one of several hours.

If it’s on your list, read it. If you intend to return to it, do so.

To Kill A Mocking Bird illustration

I probably won’t, because I’ll never manage to open many of my unread books. As I popped my Folio Society edition, that is enhanced by the fine pen and ink sketches of Aafke Brouwer, back onto it’s shelf, I was reminded of the task ahead of me.Bookshelf

The eight volumes on the left are some of my Heron Books set of the works of D.H. Lawrence from 1969, a reasonably produced cheap illustrated edition within the budget of a young family man. I have read most of them, which is more than can be said of the John le Carre quintet. I have read The Night Manager, but don’t remember much about it. ‘Our Game’, hasn’t even been removed from its cling film wrapping. The Aladdin I bought because of Errol le Cain’s illustrations. The next four I haven’t opened. I may have read ‘A Very Long Way From Here’, which I think was aimed at teenagers, although I was much older. Of the rest, only Doris Lessing’s ‘The Fifth Child’, and the two by Andrea Levy have been read. ‘Small Island’ describes the disappointing experience of early Jamaican immigrants to England; and ‘Fruit of the Lemon’, the, equally disillusioning  visit of a descendent to the island from which her family originated. If you like ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, you will like these. Doris Leslie’s ‘Peridot Flight’ is part of my Auntie Ivy’s collection, given to me when she moved into a care home at the end of her life. Maybe I’ll read that before my days are over. Maybe I won’t.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole (recipe), mashed potato, with crisp carrots, cabbage, and runner beans, followed by profiteroles. I drank Alexis Lichine cute exceptionnelle, Bordeaux superieur 2013, and Jackie imbibed Hoegaarden Belgian beer best before 15.08.16.