Gardening Notes

We have just spent the best part of six days in Normandy and achieved all the objectives we had for this visit.  We gave a supper party for friends, we have unpacked the last of the boxes in the small study on the ground floor which will now function as a snug too.  Importantly we have tackled some of the garden jobs at the top of the list.

Nick has shaped the bay tree and other rampant shrubs have been cut back.  A space has been created with the removal of a very old Fuchsia.  We will transplant a Camellia which has been unhappy since we first planted it in an over-shaded site.

There has been some dead-heading and uprooting of ugly and spent flowers whilst some seedheads are left to continue to merge happily in their canopy. Late-flowering pleasers have been Cosmos, Schizostylus, Ceratostigma, yellow Clematis, the climbing Fuchsia ubiquitous in our town, blue and pink Salvia, PenstemonCobaea , Colchicum autumnale and even a third flowering one of our Delphinium.

But perhaps our most exciting specimen is the one leaf rosette of Ophrys apifera that Nick noticed whilst he mowed the lawn.  Despite careful searching we found no more and are not sure if this is the reshooting of an existing plant, or a seedling.

Before we leave I put the two potted Fuchsia, which I had bought for the pot stands either side of the double doors, out under the Horse Chestnuts in the front, and hope they will keep good until we return later this month.

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Joie de Vivre

News of Rooney has been great.  The family have taken to him big time, and I think he probably thinks they are pretty marvellous too.  He seems to have joined some kind of love-in, which is everything a former owner could ask.

Meanwhile Nick and I have convened with a group of friends in Pembrokeshire in order to explore some shores during the Equinox tides.  The coast to the east and west of Tenby offers bays with stretches of sands from the bijou to the expansive.  These are interrupted by rocky cliffs and headlands of Old Red Sandstone.  Many of the beaches have sea caves, a minority of these being known to harbour the minute rare snail Paludinella littorina.  Bas perfects the art of finding these specks of shiny golden shell in their crevice habitat.

Just now the sands are swept pretty clean of detritus and shells.  The strandlines at the top of the shore are made up of kelp and other seaweeds, driftwood, bird feathers, much plastic detritus, a few cuttlebones.  One beach, Manorbier Bay, has a beautifully preserved example of the Portuguese Man-O-War (Physalis physalis)

Nick and I spent an enjoyable and active week with four other friends, sharing a manor house attached to the National Trust Stackpole Outdoor Learning Centre.  With a large airy kitchen and plenty of space to set up our improvised labs., we get on with processing fresh samples and in my case I continue the long haul which is the curation of years’ worth of shelly acquisitions, mostly microscopic.  The larger specimens can be dealt with promptly and easily.

At the end of the week Bas, Terry, Sonia and I went to Saundersfoot to dig the sands for sea potatoes.  You might well wonder.  Sea potato is the common name for the sea urchin Echinocardium cordatum which lives in a burrow in the sands near low water mark.  You might well wonder more when I say that the object of the exercise is not to gather seafood, but to search for the tiny white commensal bivalve that lives in the associated sands and feeds on the urchin’s detritus.  How does one explain that to curious passers-by and retain one’s dignity?!  :).  But tha’ts conchology, and field work for you.

We return to Winterborne K to be greeted by CJ and family who have sought sanctuary from their building works.  I cook my first roast for ages then on Sunday we have lunch at the Brace of Pheasants at Plush before the Perrymans head for Godalming.

The following week sees the fulfilment of various appointments and tasks. On Monday Stuart and Angela come to supper.  On Tuesday I have my Yoga session, lunch with Celia and Rollo a bit later. I have lunch with my sister, niece and mother in the Chesil Beach Cafe on Wednesday.

Nick and I collect the reframed hand-painted wallpaper pictures, designed and executed by Victoria Doran, which have been reworked by a framer using UV glass.  This was a costly mistake on our part, we should have chosen this first time around.  Fortunately we realised our mistake when we noticed that despite the placement of the pictures out of direct sunlight, the sun was shining through each of the Velux skylights as it traversed across our roof.  Victoria’s paintings are unique and look well in the ‘gallery’ setting we can give them.

On Friday we cross to St Vaast, not knowing exactly how or when we will return to WK in time for our week in Venice.  Happy to be back in the newly restored house we celebrate by having friends and neighbours to dinner on Saturday evening.  It’s quite a feast because the French often bring a dish when they are invited.  So we start with whelks and large prawns, I provide a Thai Green Curry Chicken (which is just the easiest dish I know) and some Venison sausages as an alternative for one guest.  I’ve brought a platter of English cheeses – now that’s a daring thing to do – but it is a success, they love the Blue Vinny, the Ribblesdale Goat and the Devon Oke.  Christine brings a perfect Tarte Tatin (the secret she says is to use “les Goldens”), meanwhile I have cheated and brought over some of the Gu individual cheesecakes – a bargain at half price in that awfully successful supermarket.

On Sunday afternoon I finish The Ghost Road, a real trial of a read based on the experiences of some real and fictional characters in the First World War.  It is the current Winterborne K Book Group book of the month, and I feel a sense of duty to read this, not to the group, so much as to those who made the terrible sacrifices in those 4 nightmarish years.  My paternal grandfather survived the trenches but my grandmother tells me his health never recovered and he died prematurely when my father was 13.

Nick is feeling more active than I so he sets to pruning some invasive shrubs, the Victoria Plum tree and uprooting an old and failing Fuchsia.  I think I know just what will go well in the space created.  More about this in the next post on gardening matters.  Meanwhile a slideshow to illustrate some of what we have been about……….

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