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.

On The Rocks

On another sunny day, insects, particularly flies and bees, were busy in the garden, where

Hellebore seeds

some hellebores are now turning to seed,

Tree peony buds

whilst the tree peonies are budding,

Euphorbia

and the euphorbias flowering.

This afternoon Flo added two photographs of bees,

Bee on daffodil

one on a daffodil,

Bumble bee on pansy

and another on a pansy.

Whilst engaged in that, she heard the wings of a dove, turned, drew like Clint Eastwood, and got a distant shot, of which this is a very small crop:Corraed dove landing on chimney pots

Later Jackie drove our granddaughter and me to Milford on Sea where Flo clambered on the rocks and I hobbled along the promenade.

Reminiscent of ‘Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer’ of Nat ‘King’ Cole, ( YouTube it if you are below a certain age) the shingled beach was as crowded as we have seen it.

Girl brushing hair, Flo in backgroundFlo among rocksJPGFlo on rocks 1Flo on rocks 2Flo on shingle

A young lady, legs swinging from the sea wall, arranged her hair, as Flo made her way down to the rocks at the water’s edge, where, after contemplating the waves, she sat for a while watching the spray before getting her feet wet, and slipping up the shingle slope with her customary crouching gait. She explains that stones in the wet shoes made it too painful to wear them, so she had to put them on her hands.

Flo on rocks 5Flo on rocks 6Boy (and Flo) on sea wallFlo on sea wall 3Flo on sea wall 5

Flo left her soggy shoes in the car and found a more bearable barefoot route to sea-smoothed boulders further along towards the Marine restaurant. She explored these for a while and, after waiting for a young boy to finish his tightrope act, ran back along the sea wall. Like the boy, when she negotiated the narrow wooden section, she spread out her arms for balance, and concentrated a little more. Zola Budd, the South African born British Olympic athlete, who competed barefoot in the 1980s, comes to mind.

Couple on sea wall

During all this time a couple basked on the concrete structure, oblivious of anything else.

This evening we dined on pork rack of ribs marinaded in barbecue sauce, with special fried rice, and green beans, followed, some time later, by Magnum ice creams,courtesy of Ian. I drank Louis de Camponac cabernet sauvignon 2014; Becky and Ian chose Echo Falls rose, and Jackie drank an alcohol free one bought by mistake. This latter error was not as disastrous as the alcohol free Cobra I once bought from Sainsbury’s. I don’t mind the lack of alcohol, but I do like it to taste a little like the real thing.

Blue

Two days ago I was diverted from planting out flowers from pots, by beginning to clear a path. Yesterday, cutting the grass diverted me from that.

When I began the clearance, the path was not visible. It just looked like an overgrown shrubbery with a couple of blue painted sinks dropped into it. Sinks in pathBy this morning the work had revealed an elderly gravel path with the remains of dry stone walls either side of it. Shrubs, brambles, and weeds had severely encroached upon it.

And what was to be done about the sinks? They were each filled with earth, and contained a number of interesting little plants.

Thyme transplantedWell, I had to move them, and knew I had no chance of doing so unless I emptied them. I did that, and transplanted various items, such as two different kinds of thyme placed in the patio area.

This path is really an access route to the shrubbery, and leads simply to a cemented stone wall dividing off the patio. It seemed to me that the sinks could be useful if placed against the wall. I asked Jackie for her views. She thought they would look good on top of the wall, thus giving them height. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? No way could I lift them the extra couple of feet up there on my own. And I didn’t think we could do it together.

I manoeuvred these heavy stoneware kitchen sinks to the far end of the path and stood and scratched my head. Then I was summoned for lunch, which seemed rather a good idea.

Snails dormintoryIn the process of moving their bed I disturbed a group of slumbering snails. Their dorm master had not been alert to the danger. They dropped off one by one.

On one of my trips to the compost heap my eye was caught by a large blue bloom peering through a shrubbery by the decking on the other side of the garden. Clematis large blueThis was a newly flowering clematis which I cannot name.

After lunch I managed to hoist one of the sinks onto the lower wall at the side of the path and was beginning to gird my loins for the higher heave when Superwoman arrived. Together we raised the blue painted containers into position.

It would not be surprising for my readers to question the aesthetics of bright blue paintwork that was bound to peel off and leave shreds mingling with the gravel. Anyone who has done so will empathise with our thoughts and feelings about a similar hue, among others equally strident, having been liberally splashed around inside the house, leaving spatters on shelves, fixtures, and carpets. In no way do I exaggerate.Path to sinks

Finally I repositioned the stones at the sides of the path, finished the weeding, trimmed back some shrubs, and raked the remaining gravel as smooth as I could. The large plant in the foreground of the picture is a mature geranium palmatum. The flowers of another can be seen further down on the right.

Tree peony rescuedFinally I planted the frail-looking rescued tree peony. This plant had not been given a pot. It lay on its side on sandy soil. It has spent two days heeled in a large container, and now stands, reasonably erect, in its allotted home. It is to be hoped that, if it does survive, it is appreciative of the efforts that have gone into accommodating it.

Another excellent meal was served at The Jarna, where we dined this evening. We sat under blue spotlights this time. Blue light on riceThey lent an interesting colour to my rice. We both drank Cobra.