How Our Garden Does Grow

…… and so I finally get out into the garden to join Nick who has been busy on various tasks.  We are watching all the putative orchids closely.  I’ve sent pictures to various friends for corroboration, or otherwise, of my hunch that these rosettes of lily-like leaves are, indeed, wild orchids.  For what it is worth, my money is on Anacamptis morio – the Green-winged orchid.  I base this on a description of habitat, and the fact that we are in northern France where this species is more widespread, apparently, than in southern England.

Coincidentally the former supervisor of our illustrious botanical guru over in California has posted very similar photos of plants growing on the Reading University Campus, on his Facebook Plant Diversity page.  He has even placed a £1 coin next to them for scale, as I have in my most recent photos.  He has identified his plants as Orchis apifera – the Bee Orchid.  But this species prefers rather drier conditions than those that our lawn offers in St Vaast.  On verra!  If it turns out we have a flock of wild orchids in our French lawn I will give up all other gardening and focus on the wild flora.  And build upon it.  Not literally of course……….. 😉

I’ve been meaning to clear the corner near the washing-line lean-to where the large  pink Hydrangea flourishes, together with Iris unguicularis, Houttuynia cordata, Penstemon, Phlomis.  The Salvia ‘Hot Lips’  needs drastic cutting back.  This done I turn my attention to the understorey beneath the Mimosa. The ground flora here needs some encouragement.  There are more ‘orchids’, Arum italicum and several Mimosa runners too.  Primroses and Cowslips planted last year around the perimeter of the Mimosa have come through.  I will have to banish the mower from this area.

Meanwhile Nick finds it impossible not to pull the mower out for a therapeutic cut (therapy for him!).  He mows a track around the various orchid areas we have identified.  He spends some time digging out daisy plants.  He sets a few more rows of seeds and he pressure hoses the terrace.  He is addicted to mowing and washing.

I buy some seed compost from Point Vert and sow nasturtiums and three different grass varieties.  The triumph of the week is to discover that the builder says I can reinstate the Trachelospermum on the front of the house – with restraint!

On the day of departure I take my camera for a tour of the garden.  It is worth capturing the exuberant flowering of the various daffodil varieties, planted by Andrew Tompsett 4 years ago.  These bulbs have surely multiplied well in the interim.  The Camellia bushes all have flowers although the dark pink variety in heavy shade has few blooms.  The lemon tree has many fruits which still need plenty of time to ripen.  The spare Bearded iris rhizomes, which I had left over after stocking the small round bed, were planted in an arc by the side of small path around the lemon tree and I long to see what colours they will be.  Anne thinned her Iris last year and gave me some 15 or so rhizomes and I have no idea how many colours there were.

On the day of departure we start to ease ourselves out of 104 methodically, packing up in very good time but inevitably there is a last minute rush.  I fail to do the supermarket shop before lunch which is an error as I lose valuable time when I have to queue behind a gargantuan woman, buying up half the deli counter in Intermarche.  Time I had set aside for a short session on the treadmill and a relaxing bath prior to departure is reduced to 10 minutes.  We drive out of our gates with a car packed to the gunnels, as usual.

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Supermoon Days

We’re back in St Vaast with a purpose.  The builder is back from his holiday and we are on a mission to get a start date for the works to the interior of the house.  The exterior treatment has been carried out and much to my surprise and pleasure I find that it will be alright for us to reinstate the Trachelospermum wires along the front wall, below the windows.  I had quite thought that the suggestion of a climbing plant on the facade would be ‘of the wall’.  We are further pleased when we learn that the company covering the interior works to the house has signed the estimate off and a start date is in view.

In addition to the usual, there are jobs to be done; a Cornish archaeological oyster shell assemblage needs to be analysed and reported on, and numerous tubes and pots of shell material need varying levels of curation.  I complete the practical work and report relating to Restormel Castle in three days, and make good inroads into the tray of specimens for my reference collection.

It is the occasion of Supermoon.  It’s the biggest moon for 18 years; a point at which the moon reaches its perigee, when it is closest in its orbit to the Earth.  Some amazing pictures are posted on the Mail Online website which are rather superior to our attempts looking along Rue Marechal Foch on Saturday evening, as we set off for a soiree with Alain at the farm in Le Vast, he having just driven down from Paris.  Although he has plenty enough for us to drink, Alain finds his cupboard is rather bare.  He amuses Anne and me when he phones Martine to tell her this, and voices the view that it is time she came to the farm so she can do some shopping!!

With memories of our success at ormering during February, and the promise of tides that will ebb into an area normally considered to be sublittoral, we decide to try a different shore on the north coast where, Francois has told us, there are ormers to be fished.  Francois joins us on Sunday and we conduct a fruitless search on the expansive shore at Cap de Levi.  Nick finds an old very dead ormer shell and we know in our hearts that we are in ormer territory.  This is confirmed when we confer with others leaving the shore, once the tide has turned.  We acquire evidence that at least twenty ormers were collected by three different fishers.  Francois quizes one Frenchman and I join in.  I learn one crucial fact; all the ormers found were either in crevices on the lower shore, or under rocks which are sitting on other rocks.  Ormers do not like to be in immediate contact with a sandy or gravelly substrates.

There is one more day over these Springs when there is an exceptional low tide.  On Monday Nick returns to the Sunday shore with additional bits of equipment, but he draws a blank.  Maybe shores need time to recruit new individuals of molluscs that are conspicuous, found easily by those who know how to look, and live at rather low density.  I spend Monday afternoon on a reconnaisance trip, driving along the north coast as far as Cherbourg.  I spot several shores which will bear further scrutiny when we venture forth.

On Sunday night I sleep very poorly.  Waking after only a couple of hours’ sleep I fail to regain slumberland, so get up at 2.30 and sit at my laptop in the kitchen until 5.  I get another couple of hours’ sleep before dawn.  A few days later I learn from Daniel that insomnia and a full moon may go hand in hand.  I also learn that Maddy’s night, in Maiden Newton across the Channel, mirrored mine.  Neither of us is prone to insomnia.  Emsie and Lis have also reported poor sleeping over the weekend.

Supermoon days draw to a close but the fine spring weather remains.  With the practical work that kept me indoors at the beginning of our stay done and dusted, my thoughts turn to the garden……

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A Week in Winterborne

A week of mixed weather nevertheless allows for some spells in the garden.  Nick moves the compost heap and constructs a new bin, the vegetable garden is dug over and the soil sieved.  Alluvial deposits in our area mean that the soil is more than a little stony.  Some of the stones are used for drainage in the pots that are planted up.  Mauve, white and yellow pansies are potted and some of the perennials waiting in the wings can be planted out.  As the week progresses more splashes of colour appear as daffodils, hyacinths and Primula buds break.

On Saturday the Winterborne Walkers convene at the Village Hall.  We are going to do a circular walk which takes in Dancing Ledge, Seacombe, Winspit Bottom, Worth Matravers.  The day is very fine, not cold but fresh and the circuit is completed by 15 of us with no mishap, save a small tumble taken by one, landing in some very dense twiggy bushes on the steep seaward side of a cliff track.  Lucky the bushes were there.

The group lunches together in The Silent Woman, a pub on the outskirts of Wareham and we meet more fellow Winterborne K residents.  Nick learns something about a small Steam Railway running from Norden, Corfe Castle to Swanage.   He also finds himself a potential recruit to campanology.

On Sunday morning we get up and rustle around tidying up the Workshop.  Maddy and Andrew are bringing Lis to lunch.  This will be her first visit and she arrives bearing gifts, a fine bottle of red wine and is in good heart.  We celebrate the occasion with a glass of bubbles and whilst they chat around the kitchen table I bring the lunch together and serve it.  We chat on until it is time for their departure.  Cue time out for me to float on the warmth of my waterbed and finish my current read.

It’s the end of a productive week with things achieved in the wider picture of settlement at TOW.  A few more boxes have been unpacked, books stowed, photos, frames and albums tucked upstairs ready for the week I intend to set aside for overhaul and sorting.  This is one job that will need to be completed in one extended session, over several days,  using all available surfaces to lay everything out.

But there are still fundamental things that need attention.  We are off to St Vaast shortly and when we get back I need to address the matter of curtains and blinds, notably for the kitchen and my study.

Ted, the Chimpanzees and Four New Laid Eggs

Ted came to stay.  He was picked up from his mother’s office on Friday morning, and returned to same on Monday evening.  During the interlude Ted was a charming and very self-sufficient visitor at Winterborne.  He invented all sorts of games with the small play-houses with little figures which we have.  Listening to his accompanying dialogues was fascinating.  Whilst with us he retraced steps trodden by his cousins a week earlier: Monkey World had similar delights to deliver and something different too.  Ted was very taken with the Chimpanzees, particularly the ‘baby’ Bart who is able to wind up many of the adults in his vicinity.  They seem to demonstrate a mixture of aggravation and indulgence towards the minor.

On Sunday we went to lunch with Maddy and Andrew and Ted was allowed to collect the day’s eggs.  He saw the guinea pigs Willoughby and Wallace, the owl Jiminy and went for a walk with the Flossie the dog.  Boy and dog both carried a stick for most of the walk and Ted parted with his at the end when an opportunity for pooh-sticks presented itself.

On Monday we spent the morning in the garden.  Nick built a new frame for the compost heap and I put a few plants in the border.  We bought two spiral box topiaries from a passing landscape designer who was selling ‘surplus’.  After lunch we drove to Portsmouth where we took Ted to the top of the Spinnaker Tower.  After a bit of shopping we drove to Whiteley for the mother-son reunion.

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Cups Run Over

If you really want to have fun at an attraction like a Sealife Centre choose a day in February when the north wind doth blow and it is so grey it could rain any minute.  Barns and I braved the drive to Weymouth with four eager youngsters and clutching our half price vouchers for all.  I first went to the Weymouth Sealife Centre when Barney was probably not much older than Sam since when they have continued to add featured units and a small amusement park at the core.

There were very few visitors which meant we had good views of displays and tanks.  Best of all the children hardly had to queue for turns on the various rides on Adventure Island and Sam and Joel went round the Crocodile Creek water-splash four times in a row.

As the day expanded the weather improved and more visitors arrived.  But it was never busy and we left after four good hours of entertainment.

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