Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Well, hullo my hearties!

First, the tasteless and unnecessary information:

A big NHS van arrived today, bearing - for all the village to see - a showy, white, clinical-looking raised bog contraption, a pair of crutches and special elephant feet to increase the height of the Matrimonial Bed.  The raised bog is nothing to do with peat, but perches on top of our existing khazi so that I can perform without bending at the hip more than 90ยบ. Don't ask me how one is supposed to do that! It's going to be a sharp learning curve next week.

Enough already!!

Now, as a foot note to my last post - a rather arresting comment on the radio this morning:

According to the John Innes Institute at Norwich,  More wheat will be eaten, worldwide, over the next fifty yearsthan has been harvested over the past ten thousand years.  

Something to think about?  Certainly a good reason for keeping an open mind about all forms of food production.

Helleborus purpurascens in my garden this week. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer simple wild species to fancy hybrid hellebores. They're certainly prettier than those awful doubles.  Click on pic to enlarge.

Well, well,
What do you do when the spirit is feverishly, yearningly, urgently willing but the flesh is weaker than a Methodist's whisky and soda?  You get frustrated and angry, then if you're not jolly careful, you can become resentful and moany.  But I'm hideously behind with all my garden routines.

As I type this, I'm looking out of the  window – yes, I can touch type – at the climbing rose, 'Scharlachtglut.  It has still not been pruned or trained.  It's the last one to do, but should have been finished weeks ago.  I love its  big, single, blood red flowers, with their yellow stamens, and the generous clusters of fruity orange hips which last all winter. But now they're hanging – some wrinkled, some rotten, none pretty – and the whole plant needs serious attention.  

I really am in a pickle. Half my perennials are still not cut back and I now see spring bulbs coming up among the dead stems.  There's a good day's work there, tidying, dividing plants that need it, and taking a few basal cuttings of treasures, for security.

Most of our 'lawns' are wild mini-meadow, but what little fine grass I have is, as yet, un-mown. It's tussocky here, muddy there, and where it runs up to the borders, has begun to merge with the little plants at their edges.

The 10 foot Corylus avellana 'Contorta' which I'd normally hate, and certainly didn't plant myself, has a forest of straight suckers round its grossly convoluted main stems. I have to remove these without disturbing the violets, wood anemones, epimediums, Omphalodes verna and Scilla bifolia at its feet. The suckers should have been removed in October.

Actually, that Harry Lauder's Walkingstick hazel won a reprieve when we moved here 7 years ago.  I had marked it for death, along with such other monstrosities as a big, half dead weeping willow, a 20ft Leyland 'hedge' and a mature-ish Cryptomeria, outside the back door that was so hideously pruned that it resembled a wrinkly old man with no trousers.  

But I realised that  if I pruned the hazel with guile, it could develop an open-framed, characterful plant for winter, at the entrance to our tiny woodland garden.  I'd planned a foreground of tall herbaceous stuff for summer, so that the nut's full-on ugliness, when in leaf, would be sufficiently disguised.  It looks elegantly Chinese, in winter, now, but still abominable in leaf.

A-a-a-anyway.  The reason for this horticultural tardiness is genuine and unavoidable.  My failing hip allows work for about 40 minutes, and then converts me to a staggering, limping wreck.  Getting up and down takes minutes, rather than seconds, and bending or flexing feels like feeding oneself through a very small hoop backwards, arse first.

I could have hired a gardener, but somehow, I didn't feel I could bear a stranger rummaging about in my borders.  Those beds are rather private and only I know where the really sensitive places are.  How could an outsider know where the small colony of Tulipa sprengeri lives, or why one cannot weed in the wood until one can see where submerged specials like Trilliums lie. 

And how could I bear a professional laughing at my childish habit of stuffing broken bits of plant – dianthus, helianthemum, penstemon & so on – back into the ground, hoping they'd root, even though they usually do?

The PG has repeatedly offered to help, but I forbid it. She has more than enough to deal with, without more labouring.

So I've decided that the garden – poor little mite – will just have to wait until I'm properly mobile again. It will recover, once I get my hands back on it.  And meanwhile, there'll be plenty of contemplation time while the new hip replacement beds in.  I'm told it will be 6 weeks no bending, 3 months near normal, 6 months to almost full recovery.

Next autumn, therefore, a gentle renovation will begin for parts of the garden.  But a great central re-design is on the cards.  I've had a major inspiration but may need help from a design expert.  I know pretty well what I want, but it's always worth getting others to cast their beadies over one's plans.  (I'm thinking that double barrelled geezer with the big hats.) Someone like he might spot obvious errors, idiocies and missed opportunities.  But of that, more later.

Life, I believe, needs a jolt from time to time, to buck one up and stimulate creativity. But with the pre-Christmas fire, my collapsible mother and this bloody hip, I think we've had quite enough, for now, in the jolt department.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl,' one of the best coloured chrysanthus types and a reliably tough little crocus.  This was shot by the PG a year or so ago.  Mine in the garden just budding.

I'm listening to Melvyn Tan playing Schubert's Moments Musicaux on a Broadwood Fortepiano - a recording, he's not here personally!

This day in 2006 I attended the Official Opening of Delamore Young Plants, in Wisbech Saint Mary's. Peter Seabrook was guest of honour and I lunched with a group of Israeli plant breeders.

This week's film was Social Network.  After keen anticipation, I have to say I was disappointed. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay was clever - perhaps too clever - and like his West Wing, the dialogue rattled along almost at the speed of light.  But with the modern film makers' maddening habit of boosting background noise to the max, and then picking actors with mediocre diction, I found parts of the dialogue inaudible or incomprehensible.  Even with subtitles turned on, it was a race to keep up.

But it wasn't all the film's fault. Part of the trouble was the subject. I found the characters, particularly the main protagonist and his closest associates to be such staggeringly repellent creatures, so amoral, dysfunctional, nerdicular and just plain revolting, that by the end of the film, I wanted them all to die, and their nasty gimlet-eyed lawyers with them.

I'm sure it will get scads of oscars on the forthcoming Sunday stitch up, but if it does, that might be more to do with chauvinism than merit.

No blog next week, unless I come out of hospital double quick.  So until March - toodle ooh!


  1. I suppose with the operation imminent you are even more aware of what needs to do in the garden. I was going to suggest that you have a garden party this weekend and invited friends etc to come and help but if you wont let PG help that is a pointless idea. At least when you are recouperating you can do a little gentle gardening and you will see the progress.

    Hope your op goes well

  2. All the very best of luck wih op Nigel! Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who stuffs bits of root back into the ground hoping they will root. Rest well, and enjoy the planning time - old big hat seems a good bet to me.

  3. Hope all goes well with the operation and that you are soon bending and weeding again.

  4. I hope all goes well with the op next week Nigel and that you are able to be out and moving about again as soon as possible.
    And I am so glad that I am not the only one irritated by Social Network-I found the characters appalling but I suspect that had I met them myself I would have thought that and walked away rapidly back to the garden.
    All the best .

  5. good luck with the op Nigel and I hope you're up and about in double-quick time.

    I'm with PG: get an army of us bloggers up there, we'll help you and might even do as we're told re trilliums and tulips too. And I promise we wouldn't laugh at the stuffing-things-back-in-the-ground habit: I think we all do it ourselves anyway :D

    I love that hellebore btw: exquisite.

  6. Good luck with your hip replacement next week. I had my second one done a couple of yrs. ago - put it off for a long time as I was afraid that the final outcome would result in no bending ever again! However, I'm pleased to report that all went well - and the necessary (and very annoying) limitations imposed following surgery have since been followed by many hours of gardening pleasure. I absolutely refuse to accept that I cannot get close to the garden soil for weeding, etc. and while not exactly graceful - I am perfectly capable of getting down on all fours in order to get the job done (much to the chagrin of my family!) Wishing you well, and a speedy recovery.

  7. Good luck with the operation - and hopefully after the recuperation period you will be as fit as Carol Klein who, apparently, has two new hips.

    Agree with the Constant Gardener, the Hellebore is lovely.

  8. I hope all goes well next week and you're leaping around like a new spring lamb again ASAP.

    I rather like the idea of a bloggers meet up to 'help' you with the garden though I suspect we'll be spending too much time in fits of giggles if this post is anything to go by. You do make the most unfortunate of events so screamingly funny!

  9. Nigel, good luck with the operation and recovery. I understand getting a little older. Enjoy your blog. Though we live in very different parts of the planet, gardening keeps us healthy (most of the time). You can have plants I only dream of. Here o Lake Michigan - just a little colder!! But even in Winter there is great beauty. Check it out. Any suggestions would be helpful, always learning. Jack

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