Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Amelanchier lamarckii flowering outside my window.

A monstrous bottleneck in my work/time ratio means that the last thing I should be doing, now, is writing this post.   RHS duties, proper paid work, the weeds, planting obligations and planning for future jobs should be keeping me well away from blogtopia.  But advancing age, fatigue, an excess of reading Dickens and aching joints have rather knocked the stuffing out of my zest, verve and joy de doodahs!  So I thought I'd break off to tell you about how things were a-rockin' and a-rollin' down here in frenetic South Kesteven.

This uncharacteristic lethargy was partly brought on by the bilious weather we had to endure over the Easter week end, here in the east.  And so many of you basked in tropic sunshine! Four day's keenly anticipated gardening had to be crammed into Easter Monday, since three quarters of the long week-end was such a pile of unlaundered meteorological pants.

So instead of leaping up with the lark, singing a hymn of joy and wielding my tools and wheelbarrow on Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Day, I spent most of the time huddled by the fire, reading the aforementioned Victorian novelist or working through images for forthcoming lectures and things.

The Kitchen Garden at Grimsthorpe Castle

One fragment of relief, from all this misery, was a trip to the annual horticultural highlight in these parts, the Grimsthorpe Castle Plant fair.  This is an absolute Mecca for all the planty anoraks in the region and the worse the weather, the grimmer their satisfaction seems to be. This year, there wasn't a smile to be had despite a mouthwatering array of enticing plants.

We turned up early, to beat the rarity snatchers, and were not disappointed.  Familiar and unfamiliar faces were there, among the traders, and the choice of sought-after pretties was tempting enough to drain the contents of my wallet pretty sharpish.  I'm delighted to say that no one seems to accept credit cards, at this kind of event, so as long as one's wallet is only modestly stocked with increasingly worthless tenners, one can indulge in a buying spree without breaking into the housekeeping or incurring the wrath of the family.  (She usually retaliates, in such cases, by buying a stock of taut thrillers on DVD.)

What impressed me, more than usually, among my fellow plant fanciers, was how miserable we all seemed to look.  Only bird watchers, as a community, seem more collectively suicidal, particularly when they've just seen the Siberian Chiffchaff, or the Isabelline Warbler that they travelled 193 miles, just to tick off.

Early comers to the Grimsthorpe Plant Fair, held every Easter Sunday.

My better half brought her camera, and until I saw the pictures, I thought I was the only cheerful bloke there and everyone else was miserable as sin.  But that's not so.  My mug was even more down-turned than most and although there was a biting north-easterly and a persistent drizzle which found its way down everyone's neck, there was no excuse whatever for any of us to look so totally bloody despairing.  The plants were fantastic and the surroundings sublime.  I can't think of a nicer spot in which to sell enthusiasts the things they love most.

Blogger and nurseryman, locked in an ecstatic and animated conversation about the wonderful plants on sale.

Wackiest sight of the day - even better than the beige and powder blue, bakerboy-hatted, pink rinsed lady who seemed to be just in front of me at every stall - was a someone pushing a rather posh pram in which reclined three, snugly rugged-up dogs.  Even they looked miserable, pampered as they were.  (They'd probably have preferred to be rolling in cow pats, in the park, and barking at the plantsmen.)

Pampered pets, hating it at Grimsthorpe Plant Fair.

Grimsthorpe Castle is an architectural gem, with front end by John Vanbrugh, back end much earlier, grounds and lake by Lancelot Brown and a rather superb kitchen garden by I'mnotsurewho.

Plants that I couldn't resist included:
The big, midnight blue  Muscari paradoxum
Muscari 'Valerie Finnis' - a Cambridge blue grape hyacinth which I've lusted after in the past
Tall, elegant Fritillaria pontica
Geranium clarkeii 'Kashmir White' and G. c. 'Kashmir Pink'
An outstanding form of Corydalis ochroleuca, which I suspect is a different species
Primula capitata subsp mooreana
Armeria juniperifolia 'Bevan's Variety,' 
A curious double lesser celandine named after Ken Aslett
Erythronium 'White Beauty.'  

A treasure trove of little beauties.  With all that rain, they almost planted themselves and already look as though they've been living with me for years.

I'm listening to Johnny Cash, singing Folsom Prison Blues, and also to my conscience which says STOP DOING THIS POST NOW, AND GET BACK TO WORK, YOU LAZY BASTARD!! 

This week's big film was Spartacus.  People seem divided on the strange navel in Kirk Douglas's chin.  I barely notice it but this week's photographer says it's a serious turn-off.  I'd forgotten how wonderfully ugly Charles Laughton was.

This day in 2006 I saw the first swallow.  And since drafting this post, I've been out for a bike ride - you see!  Anything but work! - and seen four swallows on the village line. My first for 2009.  

A cheery note on which to end!  

Lordy lord - yet again, this post is waaaaaaaaaaay tooo long!  So sorry to bore you.   Byeeee!


  1. Mr Colborn, you are never, ever boring. And your amelanchier is spectacular. Happy Easter!

  2. Crumbs, what funerial faces all round! OK the weather was miserable (poor you, here it was sunny and 20C)but the surroundings were great. Plants, and flowers in particular, are supposed to cheer people up. ;-)

    We both have an amelanchier in the garden, a great little tree, isn't it?

  3. Grumpy but never boring.
    I cannot be doing with the cleft in Kirk Douglas's chin either. Useful aiming point for any passing Roman legionary.
    Now get back to work.

  4. Being from Lincolnshire, I can say with some authority that this is simply the natural state of our faces in repose. Smiling is overated and simply marks you out as a foreign invader.

    I also find Dickens a strangely cheery read (not sure if that's related to my origins or not) and quite frankly your Easter weekend sounds near perfection.

  5. No, not boring. It did merit its own cup of tea though!

  6. What a tremendous spot. You are so lucky to be a drive away. I'm going to have to start to make some money, to save some up, to visit your side of the pond. Great post as always - work can always wait. It's -10C with the windchill today - not only are our faces grumpy - they're blue as well.

  7. Nigel..Just about to return home to my beloved Lincs for a while and thought I would check out nearby blotanists and here are your photos of Grimsthorpe!..wonderful!!. Only a spit from my old home. I am delighted to find your blog!I am looking forward to some beautiful May flowers, blossom and hopefully some warm weather!