Thursday, 28 April 2011


Papaver orientale 'Saffron' Our first big poppy this year.  (Click on pix to see bigger.)

Well, hullo!  What a delightfully festive time we're living in!

Gardens in a minute - but first, this:

1.These pernicious gagging injunctions must stop at once.  What has got into the minds of the Cocklecarrot judges who are dishing out dodgy protection to anyone who can afford it, regardless of scurrilous peccadilloes or worse?  Do they not understand the crucial importance of the Fourth Estate in a democratic system - especially when we don't have a written constitution? 

The press may be populated with reptiles, but if you want freedom of speech and exposure of villainy or governmental malpractice, you have to take the vileness and gossip along with the genuine exposures which serve the public interest.  If you protect against one, you'll be giving undeserved refuge to the other.  And if you go on like that, Britain will end up like the rest of Europe - craven about bumping the pedestals of the great, regardless of their behaviour.  If we want to preserve our precious freedoms, we must have a fearless and unfettered press, however distasteful that may seem, at times.
2. About the Prime Minister's borrowing of Michael Winner's odious and infuriating catch phrase. It probably made a lot of spondies for Mr Winner, but it backfired into poor old Cameron's gut like a rotten oyster lurking among a dozen Whitstable Specials, at PM Queston Time.  He must have forgotten that there's a terrifying and semi-rational 'Rad-Fem' element woven through Old Labour and, having little else to attack him on, they saw their opportunity and pounced.  

So who was the gender chauvinist in that spat? Who were over-reacting like a batch of bolshy schoolboys?  And amid the hypocritical railing, where did parliamentary debate go?

Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' on our house.

Now then, Ahem Ahem!!

I'm inordinately proud of my Banksian rose.  People have stopped me in the village, to
congratulate me on its sublime beauty.  The fact that it's pushing tiles off the roof and threatening to obliterate the windows, doesn't seem to bother anyone but me. (I'm the poor sod who has to teeter atop the wobbly ladder, extricating rose from roof.) It's a climber I would never be without, and one of the first I planted when we moved in here, seven and a half years ago

This is the thuggiest of thug roses, but has the saving grace of being thornless and easy to handle.  I have to prune mine twice, hacking much of it away in June, after flowering, and than having to have another go, to pull it out the roof, again, each autumn.  You have to remember, though, that when you prune a spring-bloomer that late, you're removing future flowers with every snip.

The first Rosa banksiae was introduced into England in the early 1800s, I believe, by William Kerr – a Joseph Banks protégé.  This was the white form which he named 'White Lady Banks'.  It had been cultivated in Western China for centuries.  I planted this double-flowered white variety last autumn, on an outbuilding.  It has yet to flower, but I'm told the blossoms smell strongly of violets.

The double yellow, R banksiae 'Lutea' which is the easiest and most popular form, was brought to Britain by rosarian J. D. Parks in the 1820s.  I first knew this rose when our family moved into a late 17th century house, in Kent, in 1968.  A huge specimen grew on the south-facing wall, and I was determined, thereafter, to have one wherever I lived.

The flowers are supposed to smell of violets, but the white form has better scent than this more widely grown yellow.  All the flowers come in spring and there's never a repeat.

Our first oriental poppy came out this week - picture at the top of the post.  I tweeted about it earlier.  The variety is 'Saffron' and I purchased it from one Nori Pope, when he had the nursery at Hadspen House. Every plant the Popes sold was a treasure.  

 'Saffron' is usually my first Oriental, but this year is almost month early.  However, recent bitter north-east winds, and lack of rain, have stopped everything mid-stride.  Now we can only wait, while the chill breezes bruise all tender vegetation.  The picture gives it a strong hue, because it's newly emerged.  But the charm of this variety is that it quickly matures to the colour of a Buddhist monk's saffron robe.

Angelica archangelica 

After two years of sulky, vegetative growth, our angelica - we knicknamed it  'Houston' - has produced a rampantly shameless and unapologetic flower spike.  The plant grows on the threshold of our tiny vegetable enclosure and is the most self-important thing I've ever grown.  It's wrong where it is, not very graceful and I'm sure I'll never harvest the stems to make that delicious sweet green stuff that decorates cakes.  

But I wouldn't have missed this outrageous inflorescence for anything.  It's as if it's ramped itself up to present an outrageous, suggestive and decidedly rude gesture at judges, politicians, Andrew Marr and Royal Weddings.  Good on it.  I'll invite the village children to dance round it today, while chanting pagan things, à la Wicker Man.

I'm listening to An ancient recording of Victoria Spivey singing What's this Thing They're Talking about? 

This Day in 1986  I traded in a combine harvester and, since the PG was in Norfolk collecting pots to sell in our nursery, I cooked supper for myself and the kids.  Apparently, we all had pork chops and stir-fried leeks with, as a treat, pancakes to follow. What an indulgent Daddy I must have been.

This week's film was Monty Python's Life of Brian.  It's still as fresh and delicious as the first viewing.  The corpsing scene with a stammering Pilate who couldn't say 'r' is a cracker but the dissident being made to parse the Latin for Romans, Go Home, is one of the best comedic moments of all time.  Imagine being married to someone called Incontinentia Buttock!  The perfect antidote to over-saccharined religious films.  Grossly irreverent, but blasphemous?  Surely not!

Toodle ooh.  Enjoy the long week end and a happy princely wedding to all.


  1. For some bizarre reason, the type has gone tiny on this post. I've no idea why, but can't change it. Also the lines have jumped about. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  2. I get that tiny type thing too - so annoying. I'm very envious of your 'Saffron'. I'm growing 'Prince of Orange' for the first time this year, but so far not with spectacular success.
    PS: Thanks for your kind words about my review of Anne Wareham's book

  3. Hello Nigel, your Rosa banksiae is very impressive indeed. Can you tell me if you get leaf cutters using it? I'm (very slowly) compiling a list of roses that leafcutters use...

    Kate B

  4. Ha ha Angelica Houston. Very good ;)

  5. There used to be a wonderful Banksian rose on the offices at the Wisley plant centre when I worked there. made a great show each spring. Yours looks fabulous, - at least it's worth the ladder balancing

  6. Huston, Nigel, not Houston.

    Details, old chap, are frightfully important.
    Other interesting Angelicas include
    Angelica Panganiban (Actress and nominee for Best Actress at the 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival. The film was Love You,Goodbye if ever you are short of things for your film night)
    Angelica Van Buren: daughter in law of the 8th President of the USA

    (enough trawling through Wikipedia looking for Angelicas. Ed)

  7. Nigel, It’s another wonderful rainy Spring day, so I’m taking time to look over the Blogs I follow. Wanted to see what you have been up to. Always a delight to catch up on what you are up to. Makes me feel a little bit of England in my life. I do like the roses too. Seem to be a great selection. I have not heard of them around here. Will have to check the garden stores. Also like the Angelica. It is such a structural plant in the garden. Attracts attention. I'll be checking in again soon. Jack