April In May

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Today our April showers began. This morning Jackie continued her planting, weeding, and tidying; while I dug out a bank of sycamore seedlings dropped onto the Back Drive borders by a tree in the garden of the vacant North Breeze next door, and a large bramble from the Rose Garden.

In the variable light numerous plants like

Raindrops on saxifrage

tiny saxifrages,

various tulips,

Raindrops on honesty

honesty petals and seed cases,

rhododendrons,

Lilies

lilies,

Raindrops on lamium

and little lamiums sparkled with raindrops.

Libertia

Others, including libertias,

Geranium Phaeum

geranium Phaeums,

Clematis Montana

clematis Montanas,

Rhododendron

another rhododendron,

and the wisteria, were too sheltered to catch the rain.

Jackie with wisteria through kitchen window

The wisteria brightens Jackie’s view from the kitchen window,

in front of which hangs Pauline’s beautifully faceted light catcher.

The sun came and went above the garden paths, three views of which include the Florence sculpture;

Brick Path

and a fourth, the Brick Path.

This afternoon we drove around the forest.

Up on the moors we could watch the rainclouds sending down shafts of their precipitation, in darker indigo slashes, whilst the sun picked out the glowing gorse.

Tree on hill 1

I waited a while for the sun to pierce the cloud cover and play with this scene of stepped tree roots ascending a gravelly slope.

Brooding clouds, sunlight, gorse, and thatched roofs provided a dramatic entrance to Frogham,

beyond which we spotted our first pony foal of the season, its mother providing instruction in planting yourself firmly on the road. Notice its nice new shoes.

Between Godshill and Cadnam, alongside Roger Penny Way, another, adventurous, new baby kicked up its heels and rushed back to its mother on my approach, then continued to explore the terrain at a safe distance.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver, bacon, and sausage casserole, new potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower, followed by custard tart. She drank Peroni and I drank more of the Madiran.

The Meteorologists Kept Their Promise

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Becky, Ian, and Scooby returned, last night, to their home in Emsworth

The wisteria, sharing its perch with a red rose, is now fully in bloom;

Acquilegias

and aquilegias (columbines in U.S.) are cropping up everywhere.

We live in a fascinating microclimate where, despite the vast improvement in the accuracy of weather forecasts, our experience is often better than we are given to expect by the meteorologists. Take today, for example. We were promised an afternoon of rain.

Our gardening was therefore done this morning.

My major task was to cut the grass, after which I reshaped the Japanese maple standing on it, so that the lower branches no longer restrict our access to the small sward, and  the chimney pot planter may be viewed from the Gazebo Path.

Jackie continued tidying and weeding. The wonderful pastel shades of the peeling eucalyptus bark lead us into the first of these pictures. Not having complete faith in the promise of rain from mid-day, the Head Gardener slaked the thirst of the drooping rhododendron beside her with several buckets of water. Naturally this ensured that the meteorologists kept their word. It rained all afternoon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole, with boiled new potatoes and curly Kale. The Culinary Queen drank Peroni and I drank Reserve des Tuguets Madiran 2014.

P.S. Note exchanges with Mary and Gwen, below. We have Lemon Scented Gum ( Eucalyptus citriodora ),

An Enforced Eviction

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Wisteria

Early this morning the sun shone on the wall-bound wisteria aiming for the en suite bathroom.

Raindrops on tulip Diamond Jubilee 1

Lingering early raindrops rolled around the Diamond Jubilee tulips,

Raindrops and fly on tulip Diamond Jubilee

onto which a thirsty fly dropped for a drink.

RhododendronRhododendron and pieris

Another rhododendron, leading the eye to the pieris on the grass, is beginning to bloom.

The day dulled over as it progressed. We spent the morning working on the garden. Jackie did some general planting and weeding, and sprinkled chicken pellets over the newly composted beds. Before you imagine otherwise, we do not keep chickens. The pellets come in a large bucket and are marketed as manure.

Vinca

Vinca makes an attractive ground cover, but it does have a tendency to sprawl, take root, and make life very uncomfortable for bed-mates. So it has been for the Weeping Birch Bed. I therefore concentrated my efforts on that. Fast approaching is the warmer weather when a thinner duvet will be in order.

Ladybird on vincaSnail and ladybird on vinca leavesSnail on vinca leaf

A black-spotted ladybird and a tiny striped snail suffered an enforced eviction as I ejected  their shelter.

Brick pillar

Our stone urns and other containers are mounted on dry brick pillars. The ground under one of these subsided a bit last autumn and it fell over. We spent the last few minutes before lunch levelling a space and beginning to rebuild the column.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork and apple sauce, roast sweet and savoury potatoes, with al dente carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans; followed by rice pudding and blackberry jam.  I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2012, and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Before The Thunderstorm

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For the best part of the day there were two consistencies in the weather: it was very warm and it was dry. This meant the overnight rain soon evaporated. The sun, however, vied for dominance with the clouds.

Sack barrow

Stopping on the way to buy a necessary sack barrow from Milford Supplies, we drove to Molly’s Den in search of two more stone urns for the rose garden. We were successful and installed them into position.

Planter in wrought iron

We also bought a red-painted wrought iron planter.

Front garden

Early on, in the front garden,

Tulip and raindrops

tulips’ in-built umbrellas protected their stamens.

Clematis Montana with bee

Bees preferred the pollen from the clematis Montana. If you can’t spot this insect filling its thigh sacs, you may choose to enlarge the image,

Bee on clematis Montana

or opt for this one instead.

Aquilegia

Pearly drops slipped from aquilegias.

Viburnum plicatum 2Viburnum plicatum 1

The viburnum plicatum had benefited from the warmth and the rain.

Wisteria

Two years ago, outside the utility room door, stood the stump of a wisteria that had clearly been heavily pruned, we imagine to make way for the plumbing for the en-suite bathroom above. It has responded to nurturing the first year, and training the next, to produce a fine drapery which should increase even more next year.

Pieris

Another stump, this time on the grass patch, has recovered to produce a pieris that now shows signs of feeling crowded by the Castle Bench.

Erigeron

Offspring of the erigeron, outside the French windows to the sitting room, have been adopted by various other parts of the garden.

Urn 1

Urn 2 (Jackie reflected)

Just before the thunderstorm hit at 4.30, after Jackie had planted up the urns, I joined her for cold drinks and a rest in the rose garden.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s prize chicken jalfrezi, now nicely maturing; meat samosas, egg fried rice, onion bhajis, and parathas. I drank more of the Cotes du Rhone, while The Cook abstained.

Suburban Terraced Housing

Anne stayed the night and we got up early for coffee and seeing her off back to London before her return to Athens.

From ‘The Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers’, Jackie has established that yesterday’s unknown shrub is a Siberian lonicera tatarica, or Tartarian honeysuckle, regarded as a pernicious weed in North America. I amended the post accordingly.

Another four tons of gravel was tipped onto the back drive this morning. Hopefully that will be enough to complete the layer.

Wisteria

A light blue wash would not have been our choice of cladding for the outside of the house, but it must have been an improvement on the bright pink we understand preceded it, and we are becoming accustomed to it. I have to admit that it sets off the wisteria on the back wall rather well.

Sticky willy shadowDandelion clocks

Later this afternoon I walked a few yards down Downton Lane, where Sticky Willy or Lady’s Bedstraw cast its shadow on on the hedgerows as it began to scale the other plants; and the earliest dandelions are now demonstrating that time is running out for them.

Before that I had scanned a few more slides from November 1972, from my stay at Blackheath. On a walk, Michael posed on a park bench, while Becky was too interested in whatever she was examining to take any notice of the camera.Michael 11.72Becky 11.72 0004

Michael, Matthew & houses11.72Matthew and Becky and backs of houses 11.72Wherever there is a grassy bank it is imperative for children either to roll down it or to climb up it. The one we came across must have been too steep for a roll, but Michael and Matthew ascended it. Matthew and Becky enjoyed peering through the railings of the terraced housing, probably speculating about who lived there.Backs of houses 11.72

Land, even in the suburbs of London, is scarce. If you are rich enough you can buy a large house with plenty of space, but for ordinary people, various generations of developers have built rows and rows of these terraces, each with their own small plot of land. Although London had been growing since the Londinium of the Romans, it was the Victorians who began the serious urban sprawl.  For example, after the advent of the railway, they built the southern part of Wimbledon, where I bought my first house. Each new wave has brought its own architectural style, extending what is now known as Greater London.

Taken from YouTube, The London Evolution Animation charts the growth of the capital from Roman times to 2013. I think it repays taking up the 7 minutes playing time.

This evening Jackie’s superb savoury rice accompanied Lidl’s splendid rack of ribs in barbecue sauce, for our dinner. I imbibed more of the Merlot and Jackie drank sparkling water.

‘Not Two Peoples…….’

When you wake up at 6 a.m. in an all-electric house to find you have a power cut and cannot make your morning coffee; and you have often passed a cafe in New Milton that professes to open at 6.30, there is only one thing to do. We did it. Dopily, Jackie drove us to Sunny Side Up Cafe. When, on entering, you learn that the big breakfast contains Ferndene Farm Shop sausages, suddenly coffee doesn’t seem enough. Jackie enjoyed her poached egg on toast, but I just had to have the full works.Breakfast

And I could read about the Test match in yesterday’s Sun. Moeen Ali, permitted by the English Cricket Board to wear wrist bands bearing the legend ‘Save Gaza – Free Palestine’, had been stopped from doing so by the International Cricket Council. Steve Harmison, M.B.E., former England fast bowler has been quoted as saying that the spinner’s action on a cricket field was dangerous. Perhaps so, but Gaza has been an insurmountable problem for generations. Even without being able to unravel the rights and wrongs of the situation, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have made his statement.Unloading

Through the cafe window we watched the driver of a huge articulated lorry tidily loosening his load for delivery to Travis Perkins. We had watched him drive past the depot, presumably because he could not negotiate the left turn, and on to the next roundabout where he could backtrack and execute a right turn from our side of the road. Others were queuing, awaiting the store’s opening for their reception. From the top of the pillar box a POST OFFICE sign has been removed. Our home therefore has a shared history with the eating place, as does the Upper Dicker Village Shop, and no doubt many others of our smaller post offices which have been lost.

 

UnknownHollow branchI took a walk along the maize field and collected more flint stones, completing the head gardener’s path on my return. I blame my Dad for the visual pun, because I thought of him as I peered down a hollow tree branch lodged in the hedgerow. One day when I was very small my father appeared in the doorway with one cardboard centre of a toilet roll held up to each eye, thus forming a pair of makeshift binoculars.  Somewhat mystified, I gazed up in amazement.

‘Not two peoples’, said Dad. ‘Two peepholes’.  Yabba dabba doo!

He would have been proud of his grandson Matthew’s offering related on 31st August 2012.Bee on convolvulus

Bee in morning gloryBetween the tyre tracks on the path alongside the field, bees worked their way along ground covering convolvulus. Back home, another burrowed into a morning glory.

Compost wallJackie and wisteriaThis afternoon I dug up and stacked more of the heavy concrete blocks and a few bricks from the kitchen garden, and Jackie completed her compost wall, then pruned and trained the wisteria.

Red Admiral undersideRed AdmiralThis evening’s Red Admiral butterfly perched on a solar light, presumably waiting for it to come on in order to enhance its colour. It is of a duller, more orange, variation than, and consequently perhaps envious of, its redder and brighter relative seen yesterday.

We dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s delicious offerings. Jackie drank T’sing Tao beer and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.

Necrotising Fasciitis

La Baigneuse de ValpinconYesterday evening I read Charles Saumarez Smith’s 2010 introduction to The Folio Society’s edition of Kenneth Clark’s 1956 study, ‘The Nude’. Later, I began the book itself. As is my wont, I will comment on the work when I have finished reading it, but here I reproduce the binding illustration. Both the back and front boards are illuminated with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ magnificent 1808 oil painting, La Baigneuse de Valpincon.

This morning Jackie and I jointly undertook some more seriously scary pruning at the far end of the path by the empty house. Sports had to be removed from a euphorbia; yet another bay tree and mature suckers from an as yet unidentified  shrub had to be brought to earth; and a pyracantha and viburnum much reduced. Finally, we removed some dead sections from the snake bark maple. The log pile for winter burning on the stove increases by the day.

Against the window wall of what is now our utility room, an adjunct to the library, a mature wisteria had been cut right down to a stump, presumably in order to facilitate the insertion of the bathroom of the master suite. WisteriaHealthy new shoots have been burgeoning all summer. The first blooms have now arrived.

Early this evening, our friends Heather and Brian came for a visit and to collect books to be sold at a Charity Fun Day at Billericay Rugby Club on 3rd August, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is in aid of the Lee Spark Foundation which engages in research and disseminating information about Necrotising Fasciitis. Commonly termed the flesh eating disease, this is a condition caused by bacteria which can rapidly strip the affected areas of flesh of a human being to the bone within a couple of days, and is quite commonly fatal. Lee Spark was 19 when he died of the disease. Here is an extract on the event from Heather’s Facebook page: 10501898_10152612097232975_5661296236139084066_n

”held to support The Lee Spark NF Foundationhttp://nfsuk.org.uk/ who help with research and raise awareness of Necrotising Fasciitis known as the flesh eating bug. Their mission is to educate and inform health professionals and individuals how severe streptococcal infections may develop into necrotising fasciitis. To help them recognise the early warning signs and symptoms and to generate continued support for research into the prevention of NF.If you know me you know I went through hell for 2 years nearly losing my life and a leg to this debilitating life changing horror.

So many people suffer much worse than me and so many people lose their lives to this horrendous infection. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Should be a great day loads to do, plus craft stalls, music etc. Ill be there with a second hand book and DVD stall. Please come and support us. If you can’t support please consider a donation.”

Having loaded our visitors’ car with several boxes of books, we all four went on to dine at The Jarna where we enjoyed the usual excellent fare, and, for Jackie and me, Cobra beer. A very pleasant evening was continued at our home.