Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Well, me hearties, beauties and old daarlings. Who'll be residing at the Downing Street gig on Friday? George Galloway, possibly, or might it be that nice Mr Clogg?

But enough of all that. If it's that James Campbell fellow, he'll be far too tired to run the country after campaigning nonstop for 36 hours. Couldn't someone have given him a bed?

A bit of our garden in late April, shot by the PG.
(Wish I knew how to make the pics a bit bigger on these 'ere blogs.)

Now then. A couple of announcements:

1. The swifts arrived this morning, spot on cue. Every year, they hit our parish on 5th May, bless them. Starlings have already begun nesting in Swift City, ie, under our pantiles, so I'm hoping there'll be enough des res left for the swifts.

2. A pair of swallows have been zooming in and out of our garage - which is a hole in the side of an outbuilding - all day. They did this last year, but found us wanting and left. We're crossing fingers, toes and other things, in the hopes that they'll stay this year.

3. Last week the Photographer General and I travelled to Devon to attend the Topping Out Ceremony at the Peter Buckley Learning Centre at the RHS Garden, Rosemoor. More info here.

I think I must have got entirely the wrong idea, because I thought 'topping out' was something to do with a well endowed lady bursting forth from a strapless evening gown. Perhaps, at the moment critique, there'd be a clanging of bells, a bang, a whistle, a muffled explosion, and there she'd be with all before – but done, of course, in the best possible taste.

The PG admonished me to abandon ridiculous schoolboy fantasies and to understand that 'Topping Out' happened to sky scrapers when the last widget in the apex of the roof was lowered into position amid cheering and much waving of hard, plastic hats.

Well, this ceremony was neither of those things, but was lovely. The 'building' consists of a lot of shaped concrete flooring and some rather interestingly arranged timber uprights. I'm sure it will be lovely when it's finished. There were speeches, champagne, more speeches and then a lovely dinner of coarse country pâté, poached salmon and a sort of rhubarb shortcakey thing.

Next morning we all came to earth and had a Gardens Committee Meeting preceded by a tour, in driving rain, of the garden. Watch this space, if you're artistically inclined. Rosemoor always has a superb programme of activities and some interesting exhibitions. The Beatrix Potter one a couple of years ago was great, but this summer, they're doing one on William Morris.

I don't suppose you'd call Morris the Tracey Emin of his day. Just as well, really. Anyway, he managed some jolly passable wallpapers, fabrics and nature-inspired artworks and seems to me, to have been pretty much of a good egg, in a rather Englishy, tight-knickered sort of a way. The Wikipedia entry is quite jolly. Look on those florid beards, and be afraid!

The new learning centre is tucked away in a corner, near the woods. There were hundreds of Sitka spruces, all crowding in on that part and some have had to be thinned and cleared. But like everything else carried out down there, it has been done with oceans of tact.

My good friend Chris Bailes, Curator of Rosemoor since it was given to the RHS by Lady Anne Palmer, described how that part of the plantation had been thinned just enough to allow adequate light levels in the Learning Centre, and said that the trees left un-felled had been 'snedded up.' What a wonderful expression! He meant, of course, that all the dead, whispy branches had been removed, making those immensely tall trunks smooth, clean limbed and, frankly, rather sexy. I can see, now, why some people like to shave their legs!

That word 'snedded' or to 'sned' appeals. It reminds me of the old Kentish expression, 'pethering' or to 'pether', meaning lightly forking over ground.

The spring bedding at Rosemoor is as brash and brassy as bedding should be. Shockingly glorious, especially in such a rural setting. A Ford Cortina, parked in the middle of Arcadia.

I love Rosemoor. There's something extra special about it. For me personally, it has always had fond memories and I can hardly believe that it has been in the hands of the RHS for twenty years. Under the curatorship of Chris Bailes, the garden has not only managed to retain the slightly oddball charm of its originator, but has quietly and steadily developed a special character of its own.

You'd think a Devon garden would be a piece of cake to run, with all that rain and lovely mild weather. But Rosemoor nestles at the bottom of a Devon Coombe and is therefore where all the freezing air ends up. This past winter, they suffered from temperatures of minus 16ºC for several nights running, so it is hardly surprising that many treasured, marginally tender plants have bitten the dust.

But their deaths have created wonderful planting opportunities and as the RHS President, Giles Coode-Adams so rightly said, 'I don't think we should allow these losses to make us cowardly about our planting.' Too right. Gardening is always about being daring, a little bonkers, maybe, but always pushing possibilities to the limit.

While we had our meeting, cosy and dry, the PG, looking like a drowned rat, mooched about the garden shooting some wonderfully moody pictures of rhododendrons, dripping, or Chrysoplenum davidianum glistening in the damp and of the gloriously vulgar and brash spring bedding.

Fair daffodils we weep to see
You haste away so soon:
As yet the early-rising Sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Narcissus 'Lucifer' a pre-1900 cultivar with grace and beauty and my favourite 'oldie' daff for this year. It smells quite nice, too.

4. Trillium flexipes is in flower and is heavenly. I'm so proud of it. T. luteum is flowering, too, but it's rather small and modest.

As usual, this post's pictures bear little relation to the text - hope you don't mind.

I'm listening to, for some absolutely bizarre reason, to Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring.

This week's film was The Wicker Man. Well, with Beltane and May Day, it had to be really, don't you think? Have to say, I didn't think it quite as brilliant and inspired as last time I saw it. Edwardwoodwardwardward was pretty convincing - if you believe a policeman could ever be that 'pure in heart' - and Shaffer's writing has its moments. Britt Ekland's mouthing of words she clearly didn't understand was quite funny and Christopher Lee's detached portrayal of the effete Lord Summerisle was hilarious. And all that raunchy, naked 'reeling and writhing' by Ekland, with only a thin, stud (whoops, bad choice of words) wall to divide her from the pure, let's not say prudish Edwardwoodwardwoodward was somewhat erotic. They could have taken a lesson from Pyramus and Thisbe, I suggest.

This day in 1983 we were riddling the last of our potato crop, on the farm, and having trouble with the engine of the riddling machine. It had rained for days and my diary moans about extensive sparrow damage in our little plant nursery and how I had spent ages lining up plants for sale. On the next day, a Friday, I had a piano lesson.

Toodle - ooh!


  1. Oh lawks a mercy, I can't believe how long and rambling this post is. Sorry, sorry. No time to edit. Work calls - must finish in time for The Simpsons.
    If you read it all, you're an absolute saint - of a masochist, maybe.

  2. That should read 'or a masochist.

  3. I must be feeling very masochistic because I made it to the end with no problem at all! A very lovely ramble indeed..

    Your garden is captivating and the tulips are perfectly planted. I have a feeling that I have never seen the whole of Rosemoor because it was so unseasonably bloody cold and hailing when we called in that we only made it as far as the shop!

    I'm off to sned my legs now and denude them off their winter fluff in preparation for the long hot summer we are absolutely bound to have.

  4. I meant to say that whilst most of my garden is trashed and still waiting for new fence, my heucheras are glowing like ruby jewels or copper coloured silk taffeta - you would love them. I noticed that at least one of the show gardens at Malvern is gabionized - what a shame you are not going to see it!!

    Tee hee! My WV is hairione which isn't true because I have just snedded my legs!

  5. Boring Pub Quiz Type Fact - For the naked gyrating bits they used a body double as Britt Ekland was pregnant at the time.

  6. Arabella,
    I'm gutted to think that I'll be gabion-deprived, this week end, but am feeling partially compensated by watching, finally, an episode of Landscape Man, or, as I prefer to call it, Heathcliff Goes Bush (Geddit??!!) The extravagance and ambition of last night's aspirant gardener was amazing - fried sausages, fried bacon, fried eggs, fried bread - seldom has such a gargantuan breakfast been tackled on screen anywhere, let alone, in a gardening programme.

    GM - I'm disturbed by your information and have just spent ages fantasising about what the face of the body double was like. I keep thinking of that couple in Love Actually. One thing is certain: her limbs were faultlessly snedded.

  7. BTW seriously want bigger photos? Change to Blogger's New Editor. Change template to Minima Stretch (to make space). Chose X-Large when inserting photos. But I like it as it is. Smaller photos load quicker. And now I know that pether and sned are not your own words. (Own as in - I made it myself)