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.

Reversion

This afternoon I tackled sports. Now, please don’t imagine that that means my knee is miraculously fully recovered. I speak of reversion; not of myself, but of the horticultural variety. Variegated plants are generally selected from a sport, or mutation, of a pure green plant. The sport is then propagated by cuttings, grafting or division to retain its features. However, the mutations within these plants are not always stable and can be prone to reverting back to pure green shoots. Reversion is the name given when a cultivar known for a particular leaf shape, colour, or other striking characteristic returns to a different form found in the plant’s parentage. The term is often used to describe a variegated shrub or tree that produces non-variegated shoots.

Euonymus

This euonymus is a case in point. Jackie cut it right back last year, but it continues to revert. I took out the new, much stronger, green stems. This exercise left a few gaps.

It was a much hotter, equally humid, afternoon when I wandered around the garden and down to Roger’s fields and back.

Bug on snapdragon

Perhaps it was natural for a minute, black spotted, yellow bug to seek refuge on this snapdragon.

Echinacea

A verbascum towers at the eastern end of the Phantom Path;

Gladiolus etc

in the former compost bed a gladiolus tangoes with a viburnum bonarensis, beyond which

Echinaceas

lurk echinaceas.

Rose - lost label

Our lost label rose proves not to be an Aloha. We still don’t know what it is. Any ideas?

Hay bales

Roger’s hay bales were better lit.

Butterfly Small Skipper

I am not an expert on butterflies, but my research suggests that this very small one that, with its companions, flitted about the footpath hedgerow, tantalising me for some time before it settled, is a Small Skipper.

This evening we dined on rack of pork rib coated with barbecue sauce, and Jackie’s egg fried rice. I started on a fine bottle of Catena malbec 2013 given to me by Shelly and Ron for my birthday.

The Three Peaks Challenge

Hoverfly on verbascumMost of our verbascums have been ravaged by caterpillars. Some, perhaps protected by hoverflies, have survived. Salvia microphyllaThere are some wonderful scents in the garden. Some simply pervade the atmosphere. Others, like this salvia microphylla, a woody shrub native to Arizona and Mexico, emit their fragrance from crushed, or simply rubbed, leaves. These have odours of mint and blackcurrant. At 7 a.m. this morning, my daughter Louisa set off with her friend Claire to attempt the Three Peaks Challenge. Louisa and ClaireThey must climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon in 24 hours. Having each lost their mother to the condition, they seek sponsorship for Cancer Research. They look beautifully excited don’t they? Louisa is on the viewer’s left. She first climbed Scafell when she was about seven. This was one of my trips made in an unsuccessful attempt, accompanied by Jessica and Sam, to cure my fear of heights. As we neared the summit, the little girl slipped on some scree. That was it for me. Vertigo is much worse when there are children involved. I could go no further. The others made it to the top whilst I remained paralysed.

Today, my lovely daughter, you will make it.

Should any of my readers feel like donating, here is the link: www.justgiving.com/3peaksteamwestdaleLouisa and Claire at Ben Nevis InnLouisa and Paul at Ben Nevis Inn

Jackie shopped early this morning and bought me a nice new pair of gardening gloves. Oh, ‘frabjous (Lewis Carroll in ‘Through the Looking Glass) day’. That meant I could continue clearing the front garden. I made enough progress in this to realise that the invasive lonicera hedge and brambles from next door run down the side of the house at the front as well. I shouldn’t have been surprised really.

Late in the afternoon we drove to West End to visit Mum. The traffic was so bad that the journey took almost two hours. After spending time with Mum we collected Elizabeth and the three of us dined at Eastern Nights in Thornhill, where the food was as good as ever, and the service as friendly. With more staff on than we have known, there was no extended waiting time, either.

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On the way home we learned that the two young women and their male companion and dog had scaled Ben Nevis in four hours fifteen minutes, which was bang on target. They looked fit for their next mountain, Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

 

Owling With Attitude

The blackbird still sits on her nest. Peering through shrubs at a safe distance, sometimes her bright little eyes are visible to the viewer, sometimes her upturned tail.

Brambly bedToday’s task for me was to clear one bed of brambles and other unwelcome growth. Simple enough for a day’s work. I thought. In fact the wild blackberry bushes were the least of my problems.

As I began to feel my way into the undergrowth I came across a number of previously unseen plants. Passion flower chokedOne was a heavily-budded passion flower which had become entwined in a hebe, and, of course brambles. The necessary disentanglement was a most delicate operation.Passion flower support Having carried out the surgery I gave it a leg-up by means of netting attached to a metal post set in concrete that Jackie had found elsewhere in the garden. Another such climber had clung to the weeping branches of the birch tree, but had many stems trailing in and out of the bed grasping at anything in its path. Further similar treatment was required. This time the netting was strung between two wooden stakes.

Two types of tree that are abundantly self-seeded in this garden are hawthorn and bay. There was one of each in this bed, their roots, as always, taking shelter among those of  other plants; in this case the weeping birch and some lilies that have not yet flowered.Bed head screwed to birch I had no chance of reaching them unless I removed the wooden bed head nailed to the tree. No doubt this once had a decorative purpose of sorts.  I couldn’t prise it off. Once the rust had been scoured off the nailhead it turned out to be a screw, so dilapidated as to be bereft of a slot. I tried to make one with the trusty hacksaw. I couldn’t get it deep enough.

Then along came Superwoman, who saw that if we removed the rickety slats and the other end, we could leave the post where it was. D’oh!

That is what we did. I dug out the offending trees and replaced the rest of the bed head. Two of the joints had by now disintegrated, so nails will have to be used, when I have bought some of sufficient length. In order that it does have a decorative function, I optimistically fed a passion flower stem through the secure bit.

Jackie speaks of the June gap, which is that unproductive time between the finishing of the spring flowers and before the arrival of those of the summer. The planting here has been so well planned that there is no such hiatus. Water lilyPhiladelphusWhite bush roseRose - pink abundancePetuniasPetunias - magentaDiasca and pelargoniumBegoniaPoppiesVerbascumRodgersiaClematises Star of India and Rouge CardinalI took a break after lunch and photographed water lily, philadelphus, roses, petunias, diasca, pelargonium, begonia, poppies, verbascum, rodgersia, and clematises which are just a few of those we currently have flowering.

Our blackbird is still awaiting the emergence of her chicks. Not so the owl in my friend Hari’s tree. Her two are about three weeks old, and able to reach the ground, but do need to be returned to their Mum. If I am able to photograph our fledglings I am confident that my pictures would not be as striking as the one Hari e-mailed me today.Owling by Harri She believes the creature was displaying a mind of its own when it stared back at its rescuer. I rather like her term for a baby owl, especially one with attitude, which has provided today’s title.

This evening’s meal was Jackie’s beef and mushroom pie with mashed carrots, swede, and potatoes; and crisp cauliflower and broccoli. Tiramisu ice cream was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the tempranillo.

If you have a shop that can sell you ready prepared pastry and have saved enough beef casserole (recipe) you, too could make the pie. Simply drain off the sauce from the casserole and use it as gravy; roll out the pastry, insert the filling into it, and bake it in the oven for about half an hour on 200. The chef, when pressed for her timing, said: ‘Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t time it, I just stood and looked at it until it was the right brownness’. I don’t expect she did this for the whole time, but I think that gives you the idea.

Pick The Bucket

Just a week away from July, I was actually cold as I walked down to Seamans Corner and back this morning to post a letter.  For a city dweller it may seem hardly worth recording such a trip, but it does take twenty minutes.  I reflected on a far more painful crawl to a post box described in ‘The London Marathon’ on 25th September last year.  I omitted to mention that that receptacle was just two or three hundred yards away.

This afternoon we motored to The Firs to continue work begun yesterday.  Jackie finished trimming the edges and did a lot more planting; Compost binsI performed some maintenance work on the compost bins and finished the mowing; and Elizabeth spent the afternoon tidying up the debris corner and packing her car so that she and I could do a dump trip.

Rosa Glauca

Many plants are now thriving as a result of last year’s work, be it the planting of fresh flowers or the nurturing of existing shrubs and smaller flora.

The Rosa Glauca, VerbascumVerbascum,Geum and foxgloves Geum, and Old English scented rose I have photographed were chosen almost at random.Old English scented rose

In the early evening Elizabeth and I took her second car-load to the municipal dump.  The main purpose was to transport much rubble from the house’s recently repaired chimney stack.  We also found room for the rotting innards of a beehive; a wooden ladder that had lost most of its rungs;  several bagfuls of pruned shrubbery and brambles; and even Jackie’s wheelie shopping bag that had finally collapsed under one of its loads of bags of compost.

I have previously mentioned my sister’s propensity for bringing at least one souvenir with her back from the dump.  Today was to be no exception.  She had placed the rubble in various buckets and other receptacles and loaded them into the car.  It must have been very difficult for her to have lifted them over the rim of the boot.  Possibly as difficult as it was for me to lift them rather higher into the enormous skip labelled ‘Soil and Rubble’.  I recommend anyone trying this at home to test lift anything to go into a Council skip at least to shoulder height before attempting the task.  If you can’t lift the container, reduce its contents.

BucketsWe travelled back with an extra bucket, Elizabeth’s, for £2 for cash.  A prize is offered for the reader who correctly identifies the new bucket.  Answers in a comment please.

Whilst I was waiting for Jackie, Elizabeth and Danni to change for a trip to the Masala Lounge in Chandler’s Ford for our evening meal, I amused myself watching the still toiling bees crawling in and out of foxgloves in search of honey. FoxgloveBee in foxglove They would fly in their ungainly manner, loaded to the thighs already, silently disappear up the trumpet-shaped petals, take their fill, stagger out, and move on to another.

Our meal was excellent, and the service, albeit a little slow, friendly and efficient.  Danni, who had found the restaurant some time ago, had often suggested we go there.  It was a good recommendation.  She drank a Chilean merlot, whilst the rest of us imbibed Cobra beer.

On the way there I travelled with Elizabeth, whilst Jackie drove Danni.  At one point my driver, addressing no-one in particular, announced that she had to charge up her eye pads this evening.  As I hadn’t realised she had an ocular problem, other than the family short-sightedness, I wondered why she needed such appliances.  After all, she was at the wheel and had my life in her hands.  This sent her into helpless laughter which made me all the more nervous since she appeared likely to lose control altogether.  When able to gather herself together she explained that she now possessed two i-Pads, one specifically for work, and they both needed recharging.